The Girlfriend Experience

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In our culture today there is a dangerous cover narrative propagated by those profiting from the sex industry that promotes prostitution as a glamorous, exciting, and legitimate form of work for women in need of a little extra cash. This narrative is in no way based on reality or research—it is a fairytale that deceives the public into believing what can be called “The Pretty Woman Myth”.

The new Starz series “The Girlfriend Experience” is just one more in a long line of sex industry propaganda pieces. The director of the series, Steven Soderbergh, is either extremely naive in his views of prostitution, or is a peddler of harmful lies about what the sex industry is really like for the women in it—and his misrepresentations have serious consequences for the lives of millions of women around the globe who are, or who will become, victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Usually a skilled filmmaker would spend considerable time in research about the subject of his project. It sadly appears though that Soderbergh did no such thing regarding prostitution.

The storyline of the “Girlfriend Experience” is one of a young law student named Christine who gets enticed by a friend into a lifestyle of “high end” escort prostitution, which she does “on the side” in order to earn exorbitant amounts of money. Her life is presented by Soderbergh as exciting, alluring, sexy, lucrative, and yes… empowering.  

In describing the way that Soderbergh sees the evolution of Christine’s character, he says,”[s]he becomes aware of the fact that she has an effect on men and starts thinking like a superhero who’s just discovering what powers she has,” Soderbergh continues, “She’s sort of pushing the boundaries of, how far do these powers that I think I have extend?”  

What Soderbergh refuses to see is that the concept of empowerment is antithetical to prostitution. Prostitution, properly understood, is a system of institutionalized gender inequality and violence against women. If this were not so we would see men selling their bodies to women at the same rate that women are being sold to men. This is not the case. Even men who are in prostitution are primarily feminized and transgendered, often called “lady boys,” and are treated by their male buyers with the same brutality and lack of humanity that women in prostitution are. Prostitution is a system of violence, because everywhere in the world where prostitution has been studied in any depth, extreme harm perpetrated against prostituted women is a consistent phenomenon—in both legal and illegal markets.

If Soderbergh wanted to create a fantasy series then he is spot on—if he was trying to create a series based on reality with an honest and truthful look at the experiences for most women in prostitution, including “high end” escorts, then he has completely missed the mark.

At the end of the trailer advertising the series, a male buyer sits across from the table and asks Christine the question, “do you want to?” and she answers with an assuring and confident “YES.” This hits on another misconception perpetuated by Soderbergh —that of what consent means in the context of prostitution.  All of the evidence of the harms of the sex industry seem to be instantly dismissed by those who defend it with the old and tired argument that prostitution is “just” sex between “two consenting adults.” Nothing could be a more juvenile understanding of the nature of prostitution and the strong forces of injustice that propel women into it. There is a vast and powerful coercive landscape that is the background for a woman’s so called “choice” to enter prostitution that must be understood in order to grasp what is really happening to women in the industry. The magnetic forces that push and pull women to sell their bodies include poverty, gender inequality, racism, sexism, prior sexual abuse, and a culture of objectification.  

Women in the 21st century deserve more than the false notion of “empowerment” that says taking money to get naked in front of a stranger who sees them as his merchandise, and perform sex acts that they would never do outside of being paid, is what it means to have power. In these scenarios the ones with the real power are the men handing over the money to women who are desperate for it. It is a misogynistic system of pure inequality where men dominate, abuse, and force the women they buy to perform for them.

True empowerment is the ability of a woman to accomplish what her heart deeply desires without having to crumble to the cultures’ sexist demands. Women who are genuinely empowered are women who get what they want in life without having to pay for it with their stripped down bodies at the expense of their ravaged minds and destroyed souls. And at the end of the day what really empowers a woman is dignity, equality, respect, relationship, love, and freedom from oppression—and those things cannot be bought.


The U.S. government turns a blind eye to policies that fuel sex trafficking (Washington Post)

Mark P. Lagon is president of Freedom House and a former U.S. ambassador at large for human trafficking from 2007 to 2009. Laila Mickelwait is director of abolition at the advocacy group Exodus Cry.

Washington Post, February 1, 2016

The International Labor Organization reported in 2014 that forced commercial sexual exploitation generates a startling $99 billion per year. Every day, millions of women and girls around the globe are being coerced to have sex for the financial gain of the pimps and traffickers who abuse and exploit them.

Whenever strategies for the elimination of sex trafficking are discussed, one theme consistently emerges: the importance of prevention through demand reduction. It seems like a no-brainer that reducing demand for commercial sex will reduce the exploitation of women and girls in the commercial sex industry. When a country allows for the legal purchase of sex, demand increases, as does the supply of women and girls needed to meet that demand. The reverse is also true: When countries prohibit the purchase of sex, fewer men buy, and fewer women and girls are trafficked. Legislation aimed at curbing demand for commercial sex can prevent sex trafficking.

In 2004, the State Department noted that, “where prostitution is legalized or tolerated, there is a greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery.” This view has been shared by Republican and Democratic administrations. Last year, the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons reiterated: “If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today. This reality underscores the need for continued strong efforts to enact policies and promote cultural norms that disallow paying for sex.”

So the State Department continues to talk the talk, but unfortunately it is unwilling to walk the walk. Year after year, the department sidesteps the most critical aspect of determining whether nations are truly “making serious and sustained efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex,” as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act mandates. Punishing those who seek to purchase commercial sex is the one proven indicator of whether a country is making efforts to reduce demand. But it seems the department doesn’t want to ruffle feathers by turning words into action.

Take Spain, where purchasing sex is legal and most detected trafficking cases are for the purpose of prostitution. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime noted that 39 percent of the male population in Spain admitted to purchasing sex at least once. According to a 2007 Spanish government study, sex is purchased between 900,000 and 1.5 million times a day in a nation of 47 million. Cities attract and cater to tourists for whom purchasing sex is an expected part of the nightlife. Club Paradise in La Jonquera, one of the largest brothels in Europe, boasts of having more than “200 girls” who work in 101 rooms to cater to the desires of men who are free to buy sex without consequence.

According to the State Department’s global Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, there may be as many as 400,000 women being prostituted in Spain, and up to 90 percent of these women are trafficked and coerced into prostitution by organized crime — meaning up to 360,000 women are victimized. Yet for the past 14 years, Spain has received a “Tier 1” ranking in the report, meaning the country is in full compliance with minimum standards set forth to eliminate trafficking. There has been no mention of the fact that the legality of purchasing sex in Spain is a magnet for human trafficking. In the 2014 TIP report , the department even gives Spain credit for prevention of trafficking: “the government [of Spain] continued prevention efforts through a variety of public awareness campaigns involving flyers, banners, exhibits, and other displays.” No amount of flyers should warrant giving a nation that allows men to buy sex with impunity a “passing” grade on prevention of human trafficking.

Enough is enough. Any national government having the authority to criminalize the purchase of commercial sex should do so. It’s time for Congress to pass pending legislation sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) that would update the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to require future TIP reports to assess sex-purchase laws when determining whether nations are making serious efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex.

The grades that the United States gives in its global TIP report matter. They can sometimes cause diplomatic indigestion, but they have propelled nations to improve their conduct. They would be a stronger tool if they took seriously the need for nations to hold to account the men who would buy women and girls for sex. It is high time to stop saying “boys will be boys” and recognize that abolishing sex trafficking requires placing the stigma on the purchaser rather than the commodified women and girls they buy.


A Reflection on the Casualties of Playboy

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At first glance Playboy magazine’s decision to stop including nude photos appears to be cause for celebration–and in a way it is, as one less outlet of exploitation is a good thing. However, we also know the underlying reason for the change is cause for lament.   Porn has become so ubiquitous and easily accessible via technology, that Playboy magazine is no longer commercially viable nor culturally relevant– and therefore they have decided to change course. Playboy has essentially been devoured by the monster they helped to create. In the words of Playboy’s own chief executive, “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”[1]

In December of 1953 the first issue of Playboy was printed. Hugh Hefner’s biographer later reflected on the creation of that first magazine, noting that, “with an $8,000 loan ($1,000 from his mother, who had hoped he’d become a missionary), the 27-year-old Hefner produced a pasted-together magazine. He bought the rights to an old pin-up picture of Marilyn Monroe and used it as centerfold bait to drum up 70,000 advance orders.” [2] Since that time, countless women have been objectified, exposed and exploited through the publication. Even children such as the underage Brooke Shields, and others were stripped naked for profit, by Playboy. And now, with the production of the Playboy online archive, it is something they may never be able to fully escape. Just as heartbreaking, are the countless porn addicted boys and men (as well as girls and women) who were initially exposed to pornography through the magazine.

The early success and profitability of Hefner’s concept to mass distribute naked women’s bodies quickly spawned copycats such as Hustler and Penthouse, who in order to keep up continued to produce increasingly more “hardcore” content. Nearly twenty years later in the early to mid seventies–inspired no doubt by Hefner–filmmakers began to produce and send to the big screen, pornographic films such as Deep Throat, The Green Door and others that ushered in what was dubbed “the Golden Age of Porn”.  Then, almost suddenly, in the early nineties the proliferation of pornography exploded with the advent of the Internet.  The pornography industry transformed from a handful of prominent magazines and films- to hundreds, thousands and then millions of easy to access websites, each one containing hundreds of individual pages of content. For perspective, in 1991 there were fewer than ninety different pornographic magazines published in America, in 1997 there were about 900 pornographic sites on the Web, in 2011 the Internet filtering software Cyber Sitter blocked 2.5 million pornographic websites.  By now that number has increased exponentially. It is important to see that behind each number is a person. Every woman exposed in a glossy image or high definition film, has a name and a story–and usually that story is a tragic one of prior sexual abuse, abandonment, poverty, coercion, manipulation and the abuse of their positions of vulnerability.

This historic moment is a time to reflect and take an inventory of what damage has been done over the past sixty years through the normalization of pornography– a body count in essence, of the casualties of this war on our sexuality, our children, our families, our marriages, our identity as men and women–and to consider what lies ahead for a generation who are being sexually educated through hardcore violent porn.

As we mourn our great losses, may we emerge from our grief with hope, and a new vision for men and women. A vision for women of a culture that doesn’t require sexual objectification as a qualifier of value and worth– and a vision for men, which sees them not as insatiable, unfeeling consumers of female bodies–but as ones who can protect and love, instead of use and exploit.


AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTS PIMPS, TRAFFICKERS, AND SEX BUYERS

On August 11, Amnesty International made an egregious decision by voting to adopt a resolution that blatantly protects pimps and johns at the expense of millions of women and girls throughout the world who are prostituted, abused and trafficked in the sex industry. anmestyBy calling for the complete decriminalization of all aspects of the sex industry, Amnesty International has now essentially declared it a “human right” for men to buy women, for pimps to sell women, and for traffickers to profit off an unhindered demand for women’s bodies.

Although couched in deceptive language that appears to have the intention of protecting the rights of so-called “sex workers,” if one looks behind the thin facade, it is easy to see that this resolution and subsequent policy are attempts to further a specific “pro-sex work” agenda. If Amnesty International claims to protect human rights, this decision has clearly stated to the world that they don’t consider prostituted women to be human.

If Amnesty International claims to protect human rights, this decision has clearly stated to the world that they don’t consider prostituted women to be human.

In order to quickly debunk the myth of Amnesty’s resolution I will list each specific point of the resolution, verbatim, and provide rebuttals that will demonstrate the ludicrousy and hypocrisy of the statements:

The [Amnesty International] International Council requests the International Board to adopt a policy that seeks attainment of the highest possible protection of the human rights of sex workers, through measures that include the decriminalisation of sex work…

First off, the notion of the “highest possible protection” of prostituted women is incompatible with the enabling of pimps and johns to use and abuse women’s bodies with impunity, as is called for in this promotion of a policy model of full decriminalisation.

[The policy will] take into account:

1. The starting point of preventing and redressing human rights violations against sex workers, and in particular the need for states to not only review and repeal laws that make sex workers vulnerable to human rights violations, but also refrain from enacting such laws.

The true starting point for preventing the abuse of those in prostitution is to recognize that the only way to fully protect them is to get them out of prostitution. Research has demonstrated that prostitution is inherently harmful whether legal, decriminalized or illegal. Research has also shown that legal/decriminalized prostitution increases the demand for commercial sex, and thus increases the number of women and girls who end up being coerced into the industry and vice versa.

Legal/decriminalized prostitution increases the demand for commercial sex, and thus increases the number of women and girls who end up being coerced into the industry

Sex trafficking and the serious abuse of women and girls in the sex industry are certainly human rights violations, (which Amnesty is claiming to redress), and the cause is the uninhibited demand, which is a result of legal and decriminalized commercial sex policy models.

2. Amnesty International’s overarching commitment to advancing gender equality and women’s rights.

Supporting and protecting men’s entitlement to women’s bodies is incompatible with the purported commitment to the “advancement of gender equality and women’s rights.” Prostitution is a manifestation of gender inequality.

Prostitution is a manifestation of gender inequality.

If this were not so, then we would see women buying men for sex at the same rate that men are buying women—and we would see men selling sex at the same rate that women are selling sex. Anyone who has any knowledge of the sex industry knows that this is not the case. Men are overwhelmingly those who buy women’s bodies for sex, and the women and girls they buy are the marginalized, disadvantaged, abused, and impoverished. Even the relatively small amount of men who sell sex are feminized (often called “lady boys”), and men are the ones who buy these feminized men. These feminized men are abused and marginalized as well, due to their positions in society as disadvantaged females. This reality highlights the fact that prostitution is a highly gendered injustice, where men are in positions of power as buyers, and women (and feminized men) are the ones being subordinated and dehumanized as merchandise.

By Amnesty advocating for decriminalization of the sex industry, Amnesty is promoting and enabling an institution of gender inequality that works against women’s rights and hinders any meaningful progress toward gender equality.

3. The obligation of states to protect every individual in their jurisdiction from discriminatory policies, laws and practices, given that the status and experience of being discriminated against are often key factors in what leads people to engage in sex work, as well as in increasing vulnerability to human rights violations while engaged in sex work and in limiting options for voluntarily ceasing involvement in sex work.

Decriminalizing or legalizing the commercial sex industry does not remove the stigma of prostitution and the accompanying discrimination. For example, in Germany, where the sex trade is legal, the service union ver.di offered union membership to Germany’s prostituted population. Those in the industry would have been entitled to health care, legal aid, thirty paid holiday days a year, a five-day work week, and Christmas and holiday bonuses. Out of an estimated 400,000 in prostitution, only 100 joined the union. That’s .00025% of those engaging in prostitution. The same phenomenon (not joining prostitution unions) is true in the Netherlands. Legalization and decriminalization never erases the stigma of prostitution and could even make women more vulnerable if they must lose anonymity.

4. The harm reduction principle.

The harm reduction principle is one that acquiesces to the idea that women in prostitution will always be subordinated, dehumanized, bought and sold—and aims at trying to minimize the inherent harms that come part and parcel with the buying and selling of people’s bodies for sexual use and abuse. The problem here is two-fold. First off, by decriminalizing pimps and johns, Amnesty International is actually seeking to reduce any harms for the male buyers and exploiters–not prostituted women.

Under this model, johns and pimps will be able to continue to buy and sell, profit and pleasure, without any consequence or harm to them.

On a public health level the harm reduction model seeks to protect johns from prostituted women’s diseases, not protect prostituted women from the diseases that the men transmit to them. Condom use is rarely, if ever, enforced and study after study has demonstrated that men will pay a higher price for sex without a condom—and pimps who are after a profit will coerce the prostituted women to comply with men’s demands. When STD testing is done to women in prostitution they are often given cards that they are able to show to men buyers to prove that they are STD free. Men are never required to be tested for diseases to prove to the prostituted women that they are free of deadly diseases, which they might actually give to the women they have unprotected sex with. This type of harm reduction public health policy is sexist to the core and not adopted in the best interest of those who truly need protection—the prostituted women. Harm reduction should never be the goal of policy, harm elimination should be—and that should be focused on the ones who are vulnerable, not on those in advantaged positions and the exploiters.

5. States have the obligation to prevent and combat trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and to protect the human rights of victims of trafficking.

You cannot separate prostitution from sex trafficking because they are inextricably linked. Trafficking flourishes where there is a demand for commercial sex and that demand increases when there are legal and decriminalized sex markets.4 Pimps and traffickers will always exploit women and girls when there is a profit to be made.

Pimps and traffickers will always exploit women and girls when there is a profit to be made.

Legalization and decriminalization of the sex industry increases the demand for prostituted women and thus increases the demand for victims of sex trafficking as well.5 The U.S. Department of State “Trafficking in Persons Report,” has stated: “Sex trafficking would not exist without the demand for commercial sex flourishing around the world. Prostitution and related activities—including pimping and patronizing or maintaining brothels—encourage the growth of modern-day slavery by providing a façade behind which traffickers for sexual exploitation operate. Where prostitution is tolerated, there is a greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery.”

The former director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Ambassador Mark Lagon, has said that “prostitution is inherently harmful and dehumanizing and fuels trafficking in persons. Turning people into dehumanized commodities creates an enabling environment for human trafficking. The United States Government opposes prostitution and any related activities, including pimping, pandering, or maintaining brothels as contributing to the phenomenon of trafficking in persons. These activities should not be regulated as a legitimate form of work for any human being.”

6. States have an obligation to ensure that sex workers are protected from exploitation and can use criminal law to address acts of exploitation.

The truth is that when states adopt laws that decriminalize and legalize the sex industry as Amnesty is recommending that they do, not only do they abandon their obligation to protect prostituted women from exploitation,in fact, they increase the amount of exploitation that they face. An uninhibited demand for sex will produce an uninhibited supply of vulnerable prostituted women.

An uninhibited demand for sex will produce an uninhibited supply of vulnerable prostituted women.

Under the model of decriminalization, pimping is encouraged as there is no consequence for exploitation. Furthermore, exploitation via trafficking is encouraged as well, because an unhindered demand creates an attractive profit for those who seek to exploit vulnerable women in order to make significant amounts of money. Amnesty’s recommended policy seeks not to encourage states to protect the exploited but in fact Amnesty’s policy seeks to increase and encourage exploitation.

7. Any act related to the sexual exploitation of a child must be criminalized. Recognizing that a child involved in a commercial sex act is a victim of sexual exploitation, entitled to support, reparations, and remedies, in line with international human rights law, and that states must take all appropriate measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Anyone who has studied prostitution in depth knows that in many, if not most cases, females enter into the sex trade underage. Thus, according to the internationally accepted definition of human trafficking laid out in the United Nation’s Palermo Protocols, most in prostitution entered into the industry as victims of human trafficking. So at what point does Amnesty think that these human trafficking victims magically change into consenting adults? What happens during the moment between when a girl is seventeen (and a trafficking victim by definition) and when she is eighteen? Does she no longer deserve the protections afforded to child sex trafficking victims because she had a birthday? No, the reality is that these are the same people at different times in their lives who deserve the same protections and support. Women in prostitution must be seen in the appropriate light—as those who were exploited at young and vulnerable ages and who got stuck in a system of exploitation, and need help to get out.

Women in prostitution must be seen in the appropriate light—as those who were exploited at young and vulnerable ages and who got stuck in a system of exploitation, and need help to get out.

8. Evidence that sex workers often engage in sex work due to marginalisation and limited choices, and that therefore Amnesty International will urge states to take appropriate measures to realize the economic, social and cultural rights of all people so that no person enters sex work against their will or is compelled to rely on it as their only means of survival, and to ensure that people are able to stop sex work if and when they choose.

This is one of Amnesty’s most ludicrous and contradictory statements regarding those who are being sold in the commercial sex industry. First off, they recognize that evidence demonstrates that most prostituted people enter into the sex industry because of marginalization and limited choices. If they were to simply and objectively look at the research and listen to those who are survivors of the industry (which they did not do and have yet to produce any evidence for their positions), they would easily know that if there were such a unicorn nation where total equality and justice in the economic, cultural, and social spheres was achieved for women, then prostitution would not exist at all. This statement is, in essence, Amnesty admitting that the only reason women enter the sex industry is because they lack equality, social status, and economic status and there are no other legitimate choices for them. A bad choice among worse choices is not a legitimate choice. In addition, exiting the industry once a person is in it is not something that the state can guarantee to any degree as long as pimps operate with impunity—as decriminalization would ensure.

9. Ensuring that the policy seeks to maximize protection of the full range of human rights – in addition to gender equality, women’s rights, and non-discrimination – related to sex work, in particular security of the person, the rights of children, access to justice, the right to health, the rights of Indigenous peoples and the right to a livelihood.

See points above.

10. Recognizing and respecting the agency of sex workers to articulate their own experiences and define the most appropriate solutions to ensure their own welfare and safety, while also complying with broader, relevant international human rights principles regarding participation in decision-making, such as the principle of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent with respect to Indigenous peoples.

If you listen to the outrage of survivors and reputable advocates of women’s rights to Amnesty’s decision it is clear that Amnesty did not listen to the experiences of those who survived the industry. They didn’t allow those who were abused in the industry to articulate their experiences, they ignored them, instead opting to listen to and protect the profiteers.

11. The evidence from Amnesty International’s and external research on the lived experiences of sex workers, and on the human rights impact of various criminal law and regulatory approaches to sex work.

Amnesty has yet to produce this so-called evidence. However, those opposed to Amnesty’s position have been able to produce large amounts of research and evidence from the “lived experiences” of those prostituted and the human rights impacts of various laws. (See points and citations above)

12. The policy will be fully consistent with Amnesty International’s positions with respect to consent to sexual activity, including in contexts that involve abuse of power or positions of authority.

The concept of consent here is moot when a woman is given no other legitimate choices. If someone holds a gun to your head and tells you to hand over your wallet, when you choose between losing your money and dying of a gunshot wound to the head, choosing to hand over the wallet can’t be seen as exercising true agency, consent, and choice—and doesn’t justify the actions of the one who is coercing the “consent.” If a woman has to choose, and thus consent to the abuse of selling her body, or choose to allow her child to go hungry, such a choice is not exercising agency nor true consent.

13. Amnesty International does not take a position on whether sex work should be formally recognized as work for the purposes of regulation. States can impose legitimate restrictions on the sale of sexual services, provided that such restrictions comply with international human rights law, in particular in that they must be for a legitimate purpose, provided by law, necessary for and proportionate to the legitimate aim sought to be achieved, and not discriminatory.

It is interesting that Amnesty has decided to present this final clause—to allow states to impose restriction on the sale of sex (basically giving the green light for states to require taxes, paid permits, etc.). BUT they did not even mention allowing for restrictions on the PURCHASE of sex. This final statement is a final nail in the coffin for Amnesty, as it proves they are only interested in protecting those who can profit or pleasure off the sale of women’s bodies (pimps, johns, traffickers and the state). Amnesty has no true interest in protecting those whose bodies are used to make that profit and produce that sick pleasure.

In conclusion, we call on those interested in the rights of women and girls to withdraw support for this sham of a human rights organization. Amnesty International has decided to side with the exploiters, traffickers, and profiteers at the expense of those they claim to protect.

#AmnestyInternational #Shamnesty #NoAmnesty4Pimps #ICM2015


Cosmo Promotes the Illegal Torture of Women by Featuring Torture Porn Site Kink.com #CosmoSellsTorture

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The popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise over recent years has brought the “genre” of pornography called Bondage and Discipline Sadomasochism (BDSM) into the homes of mainstream society. In fact, Fifty Shades of Grey has been so widely accepted that it has even been labeled as “mommy porn” due to its popularity with mothers around the globe. Now it appears that even Cosmopolitan magazine has decided to jump on the BDSM wagon and has gone so far as to become a champion of the torture of women by featuring the torture porn website Kink.com in their recent “Top 15 Porn Sites for Women” article.   Cosmopolitan Magazine has been considered by many women’s rights advocates as an enemy of progress, however, Cosmopolitan has now plummeted to new lows.

Kink.com is one of the most popular companies creating and disseminating Bondage and Discipline Sadomasichism (BDSM) torture porn for incredible financial gain. The acts inflicted on film and live webcams include flogging, whipping, caning, electrocution, submersion in water, cutting, hog-tying, defecating on, urinating on, public humiliation and simulating gang rape. These are just small samples of what is involved in the degradation of women on the site that Cosmopolitan magazine has chosen to promote. Women’s rights advocate Dr. Gail Dines has said that “if you were to take some of those images on Kink.com and you were to put them on an Amnesty International website, you would see them for what they are, which is pure torture.”

Those such as Kink.com CEO Peter Acworth, who profit off of the abuse of women, tout the idea of consent as a justification for anything and everything. “She signed the consent form so it’s ok,” is what they use as their defense. However it is important for everyone to know that defense does not hold up in a court of law. In fact, there is an established precedent both internationally and in the United States that has been set by numerous courts, demonstrating that consent is not a defense to a charge of assault arising from BDSM practices.

In addition to having precedent internationally, one would be hard pressed to find an appellate court decision anywhere in the United States of America that has accepted consent as a defense in an assault or abuse prosecution arising from BDSM acts.  Any act of harm that is not considered to be “athletic” or “medical” is defined as a criminal act when serious bodily injury occurs, and courts have come to judge “any injury caused during a sadomasochistic encounter as being serious.”

In the U.S. case of People V. Samuels, which was cited as recently as 2006, the court not only rejected the defense of consent in this case, but also held that any such consent would be “some form of mental aberration.” In another 2004 BDSM case, State v. Van, the court held that “Our statutes defining first and second degree assault include no reference to consent…” This court has held that “all attempts to do physical violence which amount to a statutory assault are unlawful and a breach of the peace, and a person cannot consent to an unlawful assault.”

The abuse of Cameron Bay is one tragic example of what Kink.com has been able to get away with. In an exclusive interview, Bay described with tears in her eyes the details of her torture at the hands of Kink.com, which ultimately put her in the hospital for severe breast injury and may have been correlated with her subsequent diagnosis of having contracted HIV/AIDS.

Bay said: [DISCLAIMER: SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL BELOW]

“I got there[Kink], they did my makeup and they’re just, oh, you’re so beautiful you know, this is gonna be so amazing…we did my first photos in a padded cell in the basement, did my first, my initial interview down there, so I figured we were gonna shoot at there…[but] they put us in a van and we went to a bar somewhere… and we show up at a bar and it’s literally a bar, and there are people drinking, hanging out, you know, not tested… just random people and all you have to do is give your ID so they have your name and, we started there, I got tied up, I got bound and led into the area and while I’m being led to the table, one of the extras hit me on my left breast twice, which later on ended up being deep tissue damage, and now I have to get my breasts redone because of it, but, yeah, the scene was very rough, very in your face… and it’s crazy because when people sit and watch this for entertainment, they don’t realize the mindset that you have to be in in order to do this and it’s scary, it’s very scary, ‘cause you, you just blank out, I don’t really remember much of anything I just remember starting, I remember stopping because of an incident and then ending…it felt like an out of body experience and that’s what’s so scary about it, because I can’t take it back… I have one regret and that’s not putting my foot down and protecting myself…”

Further describing the scene, she said:

“[T]here were about 50 people in this very small room, it was a portion of the bar, I was completely surrounded, I couldn’t see over a sea of people at all..I was being laid on people, on top of people, while doing sexual acts, there were people rubbing my legs… I saw a picture of a guy, one of the extras, he was squatting near me and there was a condom on the floor, like he was gonna try to get in on the action… that wasn’t what I had signed up for…during the scene, the talent, the male talent that was shooting with me… nicked the tip of his penis, when he pulled out, he thought I was bleeding and it came to find out that he had a cut on the tip of his penis and it was bleeding like onto the floor and he had to like pinch it and hold it and it was traumatic, very, very traumatic, they cleaned it up immediately and did an incident report…after the incident report, they said okay, let’s start shooting again and we continued to shoot without protection…”

Shortly after that scene Cameron discovered she was HIV positive. When asked if she felt “taken advantage of,” Cameron replied in tears, “Very, very, very, very much so… there was nobody to stop it from happening, I was tied up, I couldn’t stop it from happening…”

What happened to Cameron Bay and many other women like her is truly an injustice. I call on the California Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, to pursue the prosecution of those perpetrating abuse through Kink.com, to the full extent of the law, for crimes of assault on those who have suffered serious bodily injury, because Kink.com desires to inflict torture for profit. I also call on Cosmopolitan magazine to issue an apology for promoting sexual violence against women. Kink.com continues to assault with impunity and it is time to put an end to it. Remember, consent is not a defense.

TAKE ACTION AND SIGN THE PETITION HERE


The Ugly Reality of Pretty Woman

Today marks 25 years since the film Pretty Woman was released, and the cast has reunited for the first time to reminisce about the making of a film that has become one of the most popular love stories for a generation of moviegoers.

I have to admit that as a teenager, I too loved the story of Pretty Woman. However, as I journeyed down the path that led to my life’s work and my passion for advocating for women trapped in the prostitution industry, I have often looked back on my approval of that film with a sense of regret. I have learned from research and my first-hand contact with women in the sex industry that the reality of prostitution is not a romantic fantasy but a tragic horror story. Sadly, in my work with Exodus Cry, my colleagues and I have encountered young women who have told us thatPretty Women lured them into the sex industry by leading them to believe that prostitution was glamorous and romantic. We interviewed one such girl for our documentary about sex trafficking. Stephanie was sexually abused as a child and entered into prostitution underage. She was dominated by an abusive, controlling pimp and trafficked for sex. Her experience was extremely brutal. She told us, “I watched the movie, Pretty Woman, and I was like, well gosh, look at her, she’s beautiful, she’s making money, she’s meeting guys, and she fell in love with this guy, and she’s living in this nice hotel suite, and has everything she wants, and she’s fallen in love, man I need to become a ho. That’s what I thought, so, that’s what I did. I experienced nothing like Pretty Woman, it’s totally, totally different. I’ve been held hostage at gunpoint, raped, robbed, strangled, beaten up, everything, by customers.”

How many young, naive, and unsuspecting women over the last 25 years were deceived by the fairy tale of Pretty Woman and led into a life of abuse, trauma, and slavery? We can only estimate the role—however big or small—that this film played in adding to the vulnerability of young women at risk for being coerced into the industry. As such, the cast today should be issuing an apology to those women and raising awareness about the plight of girls trafficked in the commercial sex industry, as well as the inherent and serious harms of prostitution. You see, Julia Roberts’ teethy smile is not the true face of prostitution. The real face of prostitution is the battered and bruised face of Maria, an actual prostituted woman in Eastern Europe who is depicted in this award-winning photograph. Maria, like 75 percent of women in prostitution, has been raped.1 Maria, like 95 percent of women in prostitution has been seriously physically abused and battered.2 Maria, like 68 percent of women in prostitution suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to her “job”.3 Maria most likely entered into prostitution as a child after a history of sexual abuse, as most women in prostitution do. And Maria is probably under the brutally abusive control of a pimp, as most women in prostitution are. Maria is a victim of sex trafficking. Julia’s role was indeed a fantasy. The reality isn’t pretty. Don’t believe the myth.

prettywoman

Footnotes

1. Farley, Melissa et al. “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.” Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2, No. 3/4: 33-74. 2003.; and Farley, Melissa. ed. Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress. Haworth Press, New York. 2003.

2. Ibid

3. Ibid

4. Photo Credit: Brent Stirton’s award-winning photo of Maria.

5. Photo Credit: Julia Roberts in a scene from Pretty Woman.


Fifty Shades of Violence Against Women

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There is nothing sexy or empowering about whips and chains, intimidation, humiliation, torture, and signing slave contracts. Fifty Shades of Grey is normalizing violence against women. Anyone who cares aboutthe plight of women facing oppression and abuse should NOT support this movie.(or the book)

This film is a public celebration of sexual violence, and it is important to understand the way that media changes societal norms. As one who is committed to battling the sexual slavery of women around the world, I find it necessary to comment on this film and call for others to see beyond the facade of “mere entertainment”, and understand the effect this kind of media is having upon our society.

Research has shown that there is a measurable phenomenon called the “media effect”. This is when visual media influences societal norms and even preferences. Research done over the past 30 years has demonstrated that viewing violent sexual content has the effect of powerfully and significantly changing attitudes toward sexual violence, including rape, for both men and women. After viewing violent sexual media, men think women deserve the treatment (even rape), secretly desire it, and enjoy it. Women who view violent sexual content begin to believe that they should accept that behavior, desire it, and that they should enjoy it (if they don’t, they should act like they do). Sexually violent media specifically in research has been shown to have the ability to CHANGE attitudes about violence and rape… It produces what is called “permission giving beliefs”… These are beliefs that make sexual violence permissible from both the victim and perpetrators’ standpoint.

Furthermore, the detrimental effect of sexually violent media and its ability to normalize abuse, goes beyond the bedroom. Women who are victims of prostitution almost unanimously report that violent pornography influenced the abuses that are done to them. Violent pornography changes the sexual template of men (and women) meaning it changes what kind of sex they desire. Sex buyers begin to desire the kind of sex they see, and they demand it from the trafficked women they have sex with. If you heard some of the horrific sexual abuses that these women face because men want to act out what they have seen on film, it would break your heart.

That is only the beginning of what I could say about this topic. But for the sake of time I’ll stop there.