o we’ve all heard it.  The story of The Trafficked Woman (it’s always a woman, and she’s always trafficked in sexwork – as opposed to agriculture or shipping or construction, where human trafficking is hella common and largely ignored – and she’s typically well-underage).  The worst-case-scenario sexworker that abolitionists dredge up again and again, like they’re the only kind out there, in the name of justifying their fight to make prostitution illegal.

 

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t women, and men, who arrive in a new country expecting one job and finding out they’ve been totally conned and are now in a seriously awful situation.  But it is to say that making prostitution illegal isn’t actually going to help anyone in that seriously awful situation.  It will, in fact, make it that much easier to keep them trapped[1].

 

But let’s take a look at this.  Let’s look at this character known as The Straw Prostitute.  Let’s see:

She’s young.  Probably about fifteen.  Young enough to be emotionally/socially a child, but old enough to be out of puberty.  She’s an abuse survivor.  Of course[4].  Sexually abused by a father/uncle/stepfather/family-friend/etc.  Ran away from home and lives on the streets, or close to it.  Poor, innocent little girl.

 

But here’s the thing.  Poor, innocent little girl she may be.  But that doesn’t make her stupid.  And it sure as hell doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to keep herself alive.  She got through, and got out of, the situation with her rapist relative, didn’t she?

 

See.  If you’re holding up a straw scenario like this… sorry, but in what world is getting out of your abuse-situation; choosing who you allow to touch your body, and how; and getting compensated for letting them do so at a rate that is 2-5 times (minimum) the rate you’d be getting if you were working in a a retail store or a restaurant (which, I gather, is fairly difficult to pull of when you are both homeless and minor, what with the whole Needing An Address business)… in what world is this a bad decision?

 

Because it is a decision.

 

It may or may not be a decision that the Character is happy about having to make.  It may be a decision between [This] and [Getting Hurt Very Badly].  But to assume that this Straw Character, or more to the point, anyone who is actually in that kind of situation, has no agency…  Now that’s criminal.

 

 

 

[1] Seriously.  If you want to stop human trafficking, get Immigration to smarten up.  Follow up on folks who are here on a temporary visa and see how they’re doing.  Rewrite the laws so that, if they’re in trouble, they at least won’t face criminal charges and/or deportation[2] if they tell somebody whose suppose to keep an eye on this stuff “I thought I was coming here to do X, but now I’m in Y situation.  Help!”[3]

 

[2] Which can mean anything from being sent back to a country you’re afraid to live in to having to deal with familial shame or social ostrasization and no second chances.

 

[3] Which is pretty damn idealistic of me to hope for, I realize.  The local immigration board has a (well-earned) reputation for losing people’s paperwork multiple times in a row.  Happened to my ex girlfriend.  It’s happening to a neighbour (probably more than one) now.  Hoy…

 

[4] Given the number of women[5] who survive sexual abuse this, at least, is not actually that far-fetched.

 

[5] Given the number of everybody