Archive for June 4th, 2013

For the life of me I have never met a person even remotely like the stereotypical pimp, and yet I “know” they exist, largely because I have been told so over and over again.  –  Brooke Magnanti

Grigori RasputinMyths don’t just lay down and die; they take a whole lot of killing, and like Rasputin they often get right back up again after one thinks they’re done for.  After all, I’m sure most of you who remember the Satanic Panic thought it was gone for good once it was laid to rest in the mid-nineties; you couldn’t have known it would be back a decade later in a new guise.  So even though regular readers have watched me hack apart the myth that Nevada is sex work-friendly on several occasions, my axe will not rest until it’s completely dismembered and its mangled bits are burned together with the remains of the sex trafficking hysteria (with which it has become entangled the past few years).  The Nevada variety of the panic is even more fixated on the lurid, racist stereotype of the “pimp” than is typical in other places, and that is particularly evident in this article; every passage in which the word appears irresistibly brings into my mind the rather revolting image of a telephone interview in which the reporter-interviewer and cop-interviewee are both masturbating furiously while sharing the fantasy which any sex worker or ethical researcher will tell you has essentially no basis in fact whatsoever  despite its popularity with the aforementioned cops and reporters.  And now that I’ve infected you with that mindworm, let’s take a look at the work of fiction in question:

There was a time when the term “human trafficking” stirred images of Third World immigrants working their fingers to the bone in sweat shops, sewing the latest fashions at a warehouse in the garment district of some major American city…Over the past decade or so, however, the definition of human trafficking has been evolving to include the women working the bars, strip joints, dance clubs, outcall or escort services, massage parlors and street corners in search of tricks or johns.  And now a modern-day abolitionist movement that includes Las Vegas law enforcement officials, the state attorney general’s office, legislators and grass-roots activists — supported in many cases from local pulpits — wants to reclassify the pimps who dominate the world’s oldest profession as modern-day slave traders…

Reporter Tom Ragan wastes no time in packing as many distortions, dysphemisms, euphemisms and other departures from fact as he possibly can in his opening lines.  No, there was never a time when “human trafficking” meant sweatshops to the average American; in the ‘90s the term was largely used as a synonym for “people smuggling” (carrying willing but undocumented immigrants across borders for a fee), and when the panic was recycled from the old “white slavery” and Satanic panics by a coalition of neofeminists and religious fundamentalists in the first few years of this century, it was already synonymous with prostitution.  The direction of “evolution” in the narrative was from “sex trafficking” to labor trafficking rather than vice-versa, and that happened because governments recognized they could use it as an excuse for restricting immigration.  Cops use it as a way to get the feds to pay for their hooker-rolling parties, and prosecutors as a weapon with which to cage people for decades for consensual activities; they both love it as another means of gathering loot and for putting down uppity whores by pretending that we’re “dominated” by pimps despite the fact that few of us have even ever met a pimp, much less been “dominated” by one.  But by far the vilest bit of propaganda here is that word “abolitionist”, which is used by prohibitionists to pretend they’re all about “freeing” people when in reality they’re only interested in grinding peaceful adults under their boots and “helping” them into prison.  And given the highly-uneven racial application of every kind of prohibitionist law, including those against sex work, the word “abolition” in this context is a slap in the face to black Americans.

The next paragraph lauds AB 67, which I’ve already discussed, and contains this scintillating quote:

 “The heat is on the pimps; they’re just users and abusers,” said Alexis Kennedy, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas criminal justice professor…“And it’s important to address them first and foremost.  When you reduce the supply, you reduce the business.  The places that have been most successful are the ones who go after the customers and the pimps, not the prostitutes.”

muppet pimpsKennedy is either an ignoramus or a liar, and I honestly don’t know which is worse in an academic; there is no evidence that ANY criminalization strategy has ever reduced  prostitution, no matter who they “go after”.  Any fool could understand this; pimps are so rare that even if the law executed them all there would be no discernible effect on the trade, and since clients are just typical men every “end demand” strategy ends up targeting the hookers again anyhow.  “End demand” is effective at one thing, though: reinforcing the legal precedent that women are moral imbeciles who cannot be trusted to make decisions about sex.  This is briefly mentioned in the next section of the article, which contains its only good quote:

…Michael Horowitz, the conservative think tank fellow considered the father of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, has even harsher words for what has become of…the anti-trafficking movement…“Now it’s just one big federal entitlement program, and everybody is more worried about where they’re going to get their next grant and whether they are going to get it.”

But that is little more than an aside, and the story soon returns to sexier fare:

…the [Las Vegas] Police Department…painted a grim picture…in a pitch for a federal grant to combat human trafficking:  “Trafficking of minor girls to Las Vegas…for the purposes of prostitution, has and continues to be a highly desired destination for pimps”…

After that, the exercise devolves into a succession of hilariously-wrong claims and tortured, pearl-clutching statements.  Strip clubs are “where pimps/traffickers lure young women from…around the world to be groomed as ‘Exotic dancers.’  These pimps look to ‘Turn them out’ into a life of prostitution after exposing them to ways to sexualize their interaction with men through exotic dance.”  A prohibitionist “appears in churches…to recount horrific stories of abuse by pimps…[but] offers few details.”  Touring escorts are said to have been “trafficked into…Las Vegas, their bodies exploited and sold for sex.”  The words “daddy”, “family” and “bottom” are said to be “slang associated with prostitution”.  The Salvation Army’s profitable ($500,000) slice of the “anti-trafficking” pie is mentioned, and the incestuous interaction between vice cops and fundamentalist churches is described at length.  But while the prohibitionists compare whores to Biblical slaves (meaning the Hebrews in Egypt, not the slaves held “justly” by the Hebrews throughout the rest of the book), they ignore the fact that the founder of their religion enjoyed socializing with sex workers, and once said to his own culture’s equivalent of cops and government lawyers:  “Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”  Amen.

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