You Don’t Get To Read This Kind Of Piffle Everyday

Don’t get too bent out of shape, but we are going to deal with a touchy subject here and we will try to do it rationally. It’s about prostitution and a rancid piece of writing in today’s WaPo.

To begin with, the piece conflates three distinct issues:

  • prostitution between consenting adults (in a place where it’s legal, no less)
  • prostitution where the woman doesn’t consent and is often brutalized
  • prostitution of children who can’t consent to anything according to Western tradition

I think we can all agree that the last two are horrific, especially the scenario where children are involved. That’s why I think the authors chose a dishonest writing approach. They throw the word children around in the piece, but don’t use any specific instances where children are brutalized, nor do they tell us what it has to do with the World Cup. This is the most disingenuous part of the entire article.

In the case of women being physically forced into prostitution and being “trafficked” into Germany against their will, once again you’ll get no argument from me that the behaviour is monstrous. However, the authors make no distinction between these women and women who freely become prostitutes and choose to go to Germany because that’s where the football hooligans will be for the next month.

Which brings us to the last issue: legalized prostitution. Apparently prostitution is legal in Germany, just as it is in Nevada in our own country. Are the authors’ minds so enfeebled that they can’t imagine women as moral agents who are responsible for their own choices? That some women might actually choose prostitution as a career?

I guess my point is, they need to focus their efforts and ire on the second two items and let countries and states set their own policies on the first.

Soccer With a Side of Slavery
But as our organization, Polaris Project, and many others like it that work every day with people in the sex industry know, this image does not reflect the reality on the streets and in the brothels for a majority of women and children. [are children really prostitutes in Germany? In any country in the West? — ed.]

In fact this is a world where violence and psychological abuse by the pimps, traffickers and customers are nearly ubiquitous. Research has shown that those who are prostituted face a 62 percent chance of being raped or gang-raped, a 73 percent chance of being physically assaulted, and a chance of dying that is 40 times greater than that of the average person in their age group. There is nothing “pretty” about the sex industry for the majority of people it victimizes.

From our experience as service providers for victims of trafficking, we know that large sporting events, conventions and other such gatherings are closely tied to a spike in demand for commercial sex and, in turn, for sex trafficking. Behind the trophies and cheers is the hidden suffering of women and children who bear the brunt of violence and abuse resulting from the rise in demand. Because of the link between demand and sex trafficking, we are troubled to see that the State Department gave Germany a Tier 1 compliance ranking in its annual Trafficking in Persons report released earlier this week, despite the German government’s failure to address this problem. [what problem? — ed.]

Exacerbating all of the factors described above are the legalization of pimping and of the buying of commercial sex. The traffickers support legalization because they know that “regulation” has, in practice, meant a thin layer of regulated commercial sex businesses that have opted into the system, resting on top of a far larger group of illegal operations. The underground dealers have correctly calculated that greater profits can be generated through not paying taxes, ignoring basic safety standards for women and engaging in trafficking of children. Without a commensurately large, and politically unrealistic, apparatus to meaningfully monitor and police the thousands of underground operations, the increase in demand under a legalized system dramatically drives the expansion of this sector of sex trafficking. Unlike the success seen in countries such as Sweden, with its policies that decriminalize prostituted women and children but criminalize the buyers and controllers, failure has been the hallmark of the social experiment of full legalization.

The modern-day slave trade is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. There should be no country that is uncertain in its opposition to all the things that facilitate this egregious crime. Those who fail to act will surely face international condemnation now, and the judgment of history in the future. A time will come when they will be asked, “Where did you stand? What did you do?” We hope that the German government, soccer fans and governments and people everywhere, will be able to answer in sound conscience: We stood with the oppressed, and did everything in our power to stop these abuses.

The authors had the opportunity to turn this into a useful analysis and add substance to their charges by showing numbers of women who are being “trafficked” against their will and children who are being exploited. They didn’t even try, not even so much as a table, much less a regression analysis that adds substance to their assertions. Ultimately, all they have is assertions backed up with conjecture. Stated differently, they have nothing.

The ties to the slave trade are certainly real, but shouldn’t be conflated with the decisions of consenting adults. If they have evidence that slavery is happening in Germany, or that children are being exploited, call the authorities! I’m quite sure that Germany would act quickly simply because they find these two items every bit as repugnant as the rest of us.

As for legal prostitution leading to slavery or the exploitation of children, the authors need to offer some evidence (as with the other issues) that it is happening in Germany, or even another advanced democracy. Otherwise, they come across as (dishonest) international busybodies who are themselves exploiting the World Cup to make insinuations and push an agenda that is not related to the event.

Now, do I think prostitution is a good thing? No, or I might have made a trip or two to Vegas in the past. I haven’t because I think it is degrading for both participants, but my personal preferences don’t need to be written into national law.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Gender Issues, , , , , , , , ,
Robert Prather
About Robert Prather
Robert Prather contributed over 80 posts to OTB between October 2005 and July 2013. He previously blogged at the now defunct Insults Unpunished. Follow him on Twitter @RobPrather.


  1. David says:

    The association of professional sports with violence against women is a time-honored feminist trope. Remember a few years ago, when NOW or some other feminist group issued a press release just before the NFL Super Bowl claiming that there is more violence against American women on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. The MSM uncritically accepted and printed this as fact. It only came out later that the charge was a bald-faced lie that was woven out of whole cloth. The perpetrators simply wanted to make a dramatic point.

    I work in women’s health care and I have seen violence against women first hand. It is a real and tragic phenomenon which disgusts me. Why activists would want to discredit themselves, and therefore their message by such dishonest showboating is beyond me.

  2. Indeed. They also use that 40,000 number that’s been bandied about but refer to importing women, not bringing them there against their will. It’s pretty sad when this kind of garbage can be passed along uncritically, and without substantive support.

  3. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    I grew up in Las Vegas back in the 60’s and at that time, prostitution, which is legal in all but two counties of Nevada (Clark County being one of them, where Las Vegas is located) was considered a “major industry” of the state. At the same time, on a per-capita basis, Las Vegas had more schools, churches, and boy scout troops than any other city in the nation.

    Go figure!

  4. db says:

    I’ve seen a few reports here in Canada about human trafficking in Eastern Europe. Studies and reports seem to indicate that only about 10% of the girls are genuinely duped into prostitution, another 20% suspect that is what they are being hired for, but close their eyes and hope for the best that their new job is legitimate. The rest are willful participants, escaping small villages where there are no jobs, men (they left for the cities), or opportunity. It’s a sad situation that needs to be addressed, but far from the cries of slavery you usually hear.

  5. floyd says:

    robert, why do we not legalize theft by deception and let the buyer beware. stop pretending that every law doesn’t have a moral basis. some are twisted in logic, but every law passed is a reflection of someone’s morallity being forced on the public.

  6. floyd,

    I don’t think I was arguing that laws don’t have a moral basis. Even in areas where prostitution — even consensual — is illegal there is a basis in morality.

    What I dislike is people being dishonest, conflating different issues and dissembling in the process. They’re complaining that Germany wasn’t rated negatively by our State Department based on…what? That they believe there will be some trafficking at a later time that will coincide with the World Cup. Why should our State Department “punish” Germany for something that hasn’t happened yet?

    They’re arguing completely from emotion and being dishonest about it to boot, even if it is based on morality. My morality tells me they should focus on instances of coercion and let states decide whether consensual prostitution is legal or not.

  7. floyd says:

    robert; point taken.the first sentence, second & third paragraph, in your reply sounds like the american left’s typical tedious approach. i agree with your reasoning at least.

  8. Imagine an MSM that would regularly expose people crying wolf and act as an amplifier for those who are making a legitimate claim. It isn’t that there are no cases of sex slavery or child prostitution in Germany (I would suspect that there are in any industrialized nation if not every nation). The question is really is the level of the problem and is the government dealing with the issue acknowledging the restraints of civil liberty. We don’t live in a perfect world. While child prostitution is certainly reprehensible, we shouldn’t expect Germany or any other government to exclusively apply its police resources to stopping that crime. There will always be a trade off between the resources and priorities.

    If I remember correctly, one of the former government’s ministers was found to have helped make it easier to issue visa’s for Ukrainian women to go to Germany to be prostitutes. As it became a story, it helped the German voter’s to do something about it and get rid of that government.

  9. yetanotherjohn,

    I agree. I want them to stop conflating issues and crack down on the actual crimes: child prostitution and women forced into prostitution.