TAT’s Deputy Director, Kylla Lanier, had the pleasure of reading and reviewing The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth By Julie Bindel this quarter. We hope you will read the review and purchase the book to learn more!
Every couple of weeks, we hear from someone through our TAT social media platforms who wonders if legalizing prostitution and regulating it would end sex trafficking, if supporting full decriminalization of the trade would somehow end the abuses inherent in it, if prostitution is just another job, and, therefore, it deserves to be endowed with workers’ rights, etc. We send them articles about the failure legalization of prostitution has been, links to studies about the harmfulness of prostitution, why full decriminalization is not the answer, etc. But these questions still arise consistently. I’ve always wondered, why.
I don’t believe that just because someone asks these questions or thinks this is the answer, that they are automatically a buyer of commercial sex or a trafficker or brothel owner. I don’t think they are bad people who don’t care about the suffering of others. Rather, I think this confusion over the issue really speaks to the effectiveness of the pro-prostitution lobby’s work. Over the last many decades, their work has really become quite ingrained in the public’s mind, entrenched in our academic institutions, and adopted as progressive thinking. They have effectively watered down the issue, sanitized the language around prostitution and trafficking and conflated the argument with so many side issues as to confuse the masses. In so doing, they have put thousands of young women and boys at risk; they have normalized prostitution with no consideration of the majority of prostituted people who simply want to get out of the life; and they have prioritized the interests of a few over that of primarily poor, disenfranchised minority women around the world.
Does the full decriminalization or legalization of prostitution protect women’s rights? Is prostitution just another job? Are “sex worker” organizations made up primarily of those who are prostituted? Who is funding the sex worker lobby? Why does the academic world often side with the full decriminalization of prostitution to the point of denying sex trafficking exists? What are the main arguments on both sides of this issue? How is the abolitionist movement evolving? Why do survivors of the commercial sex trade tend to firmly oppose the full decriminalization of prostitution? What is the Nordic Model? What has been proven to work, and what has failed? These questions and more are explored and answered by Julie Bindel in her book, The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth.
Julie speaks with advocates on both sides of the issue from around the world. She interviews those still actively in the commercial sex industry, as well as survivors who are out of it. She speaks with academics who oppose her research, as well as those whose research reinforces her own. She speaks to those in Germany where prostitution is legal as well as those in Sweden who created the Nordic Model. She examines current research and data surrounding prostitution, the buyers, the sellers and the different models used to curtail or regulate it, as well as debunking some of the myths surrounding this pro-sex work movement.
Bindel is clearly for the abolishment of prostitution on the basis that it is a human rights abuse and an exploitative system for women (primarily), but I found her openness to share information from the other side refreshing. She weaves in perspectives that oppose her own, does not dehumanize the other side, yet firmly critiques the data and analysis in a dispassionate way.
Many people want to be on the right side of this issue, and they are truly perplexed and confused over all of the loud voices shouting their beliefs. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the pro-prostitution argument and the sex workers lobby, as well as the Nordic model and the abolitionists’ call to end all prostitution. This book walks you through the different arguments, allows you to meet notable members from all sides of this argument, and allows you to really begin to understand the issue in a much deeper way. They say knowledge is power, and this book gives you the knowledge you need to become more powerful in your advocacy!