Prostitutes: They Know Not What They Do

by Eubie on June 6, 2013

In the last few years, the criminal justice system has been redefining prostitution into the more serious crime of sex trafficking. The idea is that all women (and the effort has been aimed almost entirely at female prostitutes) who work in ‘the life’ are coerced into it and exploited by their pimps (almost always men), and that these men should be punished under the more stringent legal rubric of ‘sex trafficking’ so that the courts can levy more serious penalties, such as long prison sentences and higher fines. The belief underlying this is that all female prostitutes are victims of greedy, violent men, and that society needs to take a more vigorous approach to prosecuting those men in order to free women from the shackles not only of a life of prostitution, but also from themselves.

Now comes this story from the state of New York. Most interesting are the testimonial quotes of some of the women who worked for these men on trial for sex trafficking, and from the prosecutors going after them. The women repeat that they are not victims, and that they made their own choices and were prepared to live with them. The prosecution and victims advocates, on the other hand, argue that these women are, in essence, not capable of making such decisions, that they need the guidance of those (the prosecution and victims advocates) who know better. This is a common thread we’ve found in these ‘battle of the sexes’ issues. On the one hand, women are disadvantaged, treated unfairly, and are quite capable of living in a so-called ‘man’s world’ as the equals of men (our position on this last part is that we agree, women can do anything men can do). On the other hand, women are infantilized, treated as though they don’t know what’s good for them, and that they are not only direct victims of individual and societal forces, but they are indirect victims of their own frailties and weaknesses.

Take the issue of the rising incidence of babies born addicted to drugs. Mothers are treated as victims and offered treatment, even though the lives of their infants may be substantially (and negatively) affected by their drug use during pregnancy–effects that include death. Men who struggle with drug abuse issues are not treated this way, but rather are punished with incarceration for their drug abuse issues. The message is: women are children and need to be coddled, while men are adults and need to be held accountable for their transgressions because they are capable of being responsible. We, personally, tend to fall on the side of treating every addict as a person in need of help, not punishment, and welcome a shift in social norms that encourages a more balanced approach toward how we treat both sexes.

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