Controversy swirls around Amnesty International’s celebration of their new policy on prostitution, which calls for the decriminalization of pimps and johns. Pimps, johns, and sexists around the world are celebrating, which is telling. Punternet and the many other john forums out there give insights into what Amnesty have helped to legitimize: Stories of bruised and battered women, attempted assaults, underage girls being solicited, women being harassed by pimps during sex, women crying and dissociating during sex, women being choked and gagged until they vomit (which is deemed “good service”), young Indigenous and homeless women solicited with food, and how “third world poor is key” for punters.
None of this comes as a surprise to those who have long been fighting to speak out about that abuse. Rachel Moran is one such activist — a sex trade survivor who has worked for decades on behalf of survivors, speaking out about the industry. Moran was 15 years old when she found herself homeless on the streets of Dublin. After several months in state care facilities, she was forced to turn to the sex industry. Violence became an everyday reality and funerals of her friends and associates were a regular occurrence. Moran says she was not trafficked, but like the group of teen girls she worked with, she was exploited because she was vulnerable, and was abused and traumatized. According to trauma research, Moran’s experiences are the hallmark of the sex trade.
Although stories like Moran’s are less popular than the “empowered sex worker” narrative, hers is not an uncommon one. And the situation is even worse throughout the global south. It’s estimated that 70 per cent of single men travelling to Asia are going to seek out sex. Thai and Indian estimates show around 40 per cent of the Asian sex industry is made up of children. Research shows that market continues to grow as johns falsely believe younger girls are STI-free. Yet, to an outside observer following the media coverage of Amnesty’s “sex work” policy, one would be forgiven for thinking that sexual exploitation is the exception rather than the rule …..