My interview with Michelle Goldberg for The Nation
So today an article was published in The Nation, an American political magazine I did an interview with a while ago. The article focuses on the question if the Nordic model is better than legalizing prostitution. You can find the article here.
I'm very pleased with this article since first of all my words haven't been twisted, something many sex workers have complained about throughout the years, but after two interviews I can honestly say my experiences thus far have been good with journalists. But another reason I'm very pleased with this article, is because the article doesn't seem take sides, something rarely to been found these days in journalism, especially in American journalism, so my compliments to Michelle Goldberg for that.

The article focuses on the question if buying sex should be illegal or not, and it compares the Dutch prostitution model with the Swedish prostitution model. But in stead of picking sides for either one of these, Michelle Goldberg choose to leave the decisions to that up to the audience in a very clever way.
In stead of choosing for the Swedish model and thereby criminalizing sex work or choosing for the Dutch model which leaves more room for error, basically the answer is left up to the reader, to decide if whether or not people would see me (yes, me!) as a victim or not. Of course you could choose to see me as a victim, but then again I would strongly disagree with you. If I'm a victim of anything at all, I'm a victim of the constant stigmatization of being seen as a victim. In other words, if you see me as a victim, you turn me into one as I don't consider myself to be a victim, nor does anyone else I personally know who know my story.
I also think it's a bit of a weird idea that people can be a victim of something, even though they strongly disagree on it, just because other people tell you that you're a victim. Isn't that forced victimizing instead of forced prostitution?

The true answer is of course that I am not a victim of anything. Even though technically the law sees me as a victim, I have not experienced anything I would consider to be a crime or wrong. So in the end this says perhaps more about the faults in our laws, then the faults in prostitution. And I can point out directly the law I am talking about, which is from the Dutch law book article number 273f 1 sub 3 (source) which states one is guilty of human trafficking when one:
  • Recruits, takes with or abducts a person with the intention to make that person available in another country for sexual acts with another person in exchange for payment.
This particular article mentions nothing about being forced or exploited. Yes, it talks about being abducted, which is obviously a crime. But recruiting someone by default for prostitution is in my eyes not a crime, unless that person is being misled or exploited, but those things are already crimes regardless of this article. But the weirdest one, is that 'takes with' is also a crime. So regardless of the fact whether or not a person agrees with it, as soon as you take someone with you to another country to work in prostitution (forced or not!), it's automatically human trafficking. 
And this is precisely the article I'm talking about when I say that officially I'm a victim of human trafficking, but that I'm not really a victim. After all, if someone would make a law that states you are a victim if you buy chocolate, then technically that makes you a victim by law, but just because the law sees you as a victim doesn't mean you really are one. 
I find it hard to believe that this is a mistake the policy makers missed out on when they created the law, especially since this law is in effect since 15-11-2013. So it's not like it's a very old law or something, it's actually brand new! 
So apparently the policy makers in The Hague automatically seem to think that any woman receiving assistance to come to another country to work in prostitution is a victim of human trafficking. A strange thing, since I cannot recall this being the case for any other jobs in Holland, except for prostitution. In fact, recruiting and or taking people with you into other countries to perform work in exchange for payment is exactly what many employment agencies do. So why is it just human trafficking when it comes to prostitution, and not for any other jobs?

The Swedish people in this article state that prostitution has been reduced, yet my question is: are you fighting crime or a profession here? After all, shouldn't human trafficking be going down rather then prostitution, wasn't that the whole point?
But more importantly, how can one try to save victims if one can not find them? After all, yes, prostitution may have been reduced, at least, the prostitution that is visible. But then again, that's pretty much a logical reaction to the criminalization of the clients, thus forcing prostitutes to go underground. 
Yes, Holland has higher human trafficking statistics, but then again, that isn't that weird if it's easier to find it because it is legal. And just because the Swedish people can't find it, because the criminalized it, doesn't mean it isn't there. Or just like those people always claim that warn you about human trafficking: 'open your eyes'. 
It is logical that if things are legal, more people will also feel safe to report crimes happening, and that when things are not legal, people will be reluctant to report crimes, since they could end up in jail themselves. After all, if a client in Sweden comes across a victim, he would never go to the police to report it, since he's the criminal over there, while here in Holland there have been many reports from clients, of which fortunately only a small portion turned out to be actual cases of human trafficking (read more about that here).
It basically comes down to this. Would you rather have your daughter having sex somewhere else, with someone you don't know and can't check upon, causing the possibilities that your daughter may get in trouble? Or do you allow your daughter to experiment her sexuality safely at home, so you can keep an eye on things, and make sure things don't happen that you both will regret later?

Prostitution will continue, with or without the approval of governments, the same way it has always done. The only question is, do we provide safety for these women, both those who do this job willingly and ensuring they have a safe environment to work in, and the victims by making them easier to find by making it legal. Or do we let them stand alone, stigmatizing prostitutes who choose to do this job as victims by default, and thereby also making it more difficult to identify the real victims from the girls who are not victims. That is, if you can find them at all, since prostitution goes underground and is very hard to trace back?

Another interesting thing is that somewhere in the article it mentions: 'Do we want a society where it’s OK to buy another person?' In my eyes it just shows how much those people don't understand anything about prostitution. My clients don't buy me. They don't own me. They hire my services, which is something different then 'selling my body' as so many people often say about prostitution.
It just shows how much those people have no clue as to what this profession is, or how it's done in reality. No client buys a prostitute. Buying implies that you own it, that you can do with it what you want, and if you're tired throw it away or do whatever you want with it. That is however not the case. You can buy a phone. You can take that home with you, use it as you please, destroy it if you feel like it. 
A service however is something another person offers, like for instance a massage. We also don't say about a masseur that he is selling his hands. A masseur offers a service, a service he performs with his hands, just like how a prostitute offers a service, a service she provides with her body. You can't take it home with you afterwards, you can't do with it what you want. It is the person offering the service that decides what happens, how and when, since they are the professionals and they know what they are doing. A client can have requests, just like a client can request a certain type of massage, or massaging one particular part of the body they have problems with for instance. But in the end it's up to the masseur to decide how he does that, and if he does that at all, just like how prostitutes decide this.

Some other interesting notes I found about the article was the mentioning of my boyfriends 'jewelry'. His necklace and bracelet (a gift from me for his birthday) where apparently no match for my unmentioned pure gold necklace and diamond engagement ring I got from him. 
Or another interesting note that the article mentions the killing of a sex worker in 2009 in Holland. I seem to miss the importance of it, or it must be to prove that sex work isn't entirely without risk. But then again I wonder how many jewelry shop owners get killed when they get robbed, does that also prove jewelry shops aren't safe? Just because one person got killed, how sad that may be, that doesn't mean it's unsafe. Yes, sex work brings risks, but just because it brings risks doesn't mean we shouldn't protect it, or even worse, make it completely unprotected by implementing the Swedish model, causing no protection from the police whatsoever. At least we get protection from the police, which is something I can not say for all those sex workers working in Sweden. 
And the fact that Sweden was not able to present a victim to talk to in the article, which is weird, since isn't that what it's all about? Holland has been open enough to let the journalist talk to a sex worker which it promotes so much, yet Sweden was not able to present a single victim to talk to. Is that because they're scared of what the victim might say? That perhaps the Swedish model did not work in her favor, as it became more difficult for the police to find her, because all of her customers where too scared to report it to them? Or is it perhaps because Sweden has trouble to find victims in the first place, meaning they can't find them at all, which would really worry me, since that would mean that all those victims out there still haven't gotten any help!

Let me make one last thing very clear for you people. I am not a victim. I don't care what the law states. Just because the law states for example that homosexuality is forbidden, doesn't make it right, does it? 
So why should I accept a law that states that I am a victim, because other people HELPED me, rather then forced or tricked or exploited me into prostitution? Since when is helping someone a crime?

Dutch version
8 Responses
  1. Bobby Says:

    Ugh, I hate the "men buying women's bodies" narrative. It's only meant to sound shocking when everyone with a bit of a brain realises that it's not the case of actual buying but rather renting or, more correctly as you say, buying a service. It's like saying that "electrical repairing is a system where women pay to use men's bodies" and we can probably safely assume that "the overwhelming majority of those providing electrical services are men and those buying them - women, therefore electrical services are an obstacle to gender equality and all electricians should be seen as victims of the gender imbalances in society and the matriarchal oppression of men! :-D

    The main difference between the two is that sex workers sell sex and as a society we still have a problem to accept sex (outside the missionary position between a married heterosexual couple) as something normal and natural between people who want it.

    And all the debates on prostitution conveniently miss the fact that men sell sex too, both to other men and to women (men or women paying for sex with men - an obstacle to gender equality?)


  2. Frans Says:

    The fundamental difference between the Swedish and Dutch laws is in the purpose. The Swedish law, according to the 2010 Government review (quoted on p.4 of the article in The Nation) intends "indeed to combat prostitution." The purpose of the Dutch law from 2000 (which was an amendment to an existing law) is “that the amendment of the law should result in an improvement of the prostitutes’ position.” (quoted on p.2 of the Nation's article). Apparently Swedish society puts society's well-being over the rights or well-being of individuals ( p.5: “We don’t base our legislation on individuals’ experiences; we base it on the society we want,” says Olga Persson, secretary general of the Swedish Association of Women’s Shelters and Young Women’s Empowerment Centres - not explaining who decides on who "we" is). Dutch society in general is traditionally more inclined to think that if EACH and ALL members are doing okay, society will be okay, and so the law (at least in theory) wants to improve EACH sex worker's position. But it was never clear what was meant by "position."

    I personally think that the sex workers' position can only improve by combating and eliminating social stigmatization of prostitution, and of sex in general. The core problem is not the law, not even the trafficking law. The clear fact that the law is failing so far is because the national government and most local administrations have done and do EVERYTHING they can to stigmatize sex work: they show and tell society (1) that sex work attracts crime, (2) that sex work and crime are the same, (3) that sex work is dangerous and risky by definition, PLUS (4) that the average sex worker is a poor pitiful vulnerable girl without other choices and as a human being therefore at risk. So a sex worker asks for rescue and protection by default (so let's forget about improving her position).
    The sex workers' position is generally worse than it was 15 years ago BECAUSE THE DUTCH GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN VERY EFFECTIVE IN WAGING A MORAL STIGMATIZATION CAMPAIGN.
    the worst and most perverse thing is that the government, seeing the failure, blames this either on the prostitution branch or on problems with the law itself, and not on its own stigmatization tactics. I believe that the real problem are the politicians and law makers, individually and as a team, THEIR stigmatization tactics are the problem. If the government is really serious about improving the position of sex workers, it must launch a massive, long-term public anti-stigmatization campaign and promote the fact that sex work is a legal branch. and, whether you like it or not, that society has A MORAL AND CIVIL OBLIGATION to treat it as any other profession. The government and each member personally should be a shining role model of civil obedience. You can't have it both, as it is now: say it's okay and legal, and treat it as illegal and criminal.

    BTW, your translation of the law article left out the fundamental word "er toe brengen" ("to bring someone to..") which makes the article even less clear. The complete version reads
    "the person who recruits, takes along or abducts another person with the intention to persuade / convince / coerce that person to make himself / herself available in another country to carry out sexual acts, etc.," (“er toe brengen” says nothing about how one brings someone to do something. Is it by kind persuasion or brute force, or something in between?)
    This article can also not be separated from article 6, which defines the assumed “vulnerable position” of the “trafficked person” in questionably vague terms: “a situation in which a person has no other real or acceptable choice than to submit to the abuse.” What is “real” or “acceptable?” This is subjective; it could depend on someone's level of agency!


  3. Rootman Says:

    You did your very best. But unfortunately, you also gave away many ´half truths´.

    I may assume that Marc assists you in translation and smoothing out idiom ( sayings in a foreign language).

    I have seen many Russian blogs about the civil war in Ukraine: Google or Yandex translations, or kind efforts of volunteers. The result is sometimes incomprehensible, cryptic, wrong , or of course, right.

    Marc does a great job! However the article positions him as a ´half pimp´, suggesting minor exploitation and at least some mental control.

    The versions of numbers of exploited women in NL mentioned in the article seem to me WAY too high! Within the legal system infinitesimal, in the illegal system very minimal (only some junkies and some borderliners). In the normal population a few % have psychiatric, or domestic abuse problems as well! I would think the percentage in the ´normal´ population is probably a lot higher than among sex workers (because sex workers most likely score quite high in psychological tests - when properly corrected for language and cultural differences).

    My own favorite sex worker (with now a complicated leg fracture! 6 months no work and afterwards a big scar!!!) is not intelligent (her words). But she is a social genius! Until I see her again I am like dead.


  4. Richard Says:

    Excellent comments by Frans and Rootman. According to The Honest Courtesan the number for domestic violence is about 2% and roughly the same as coerced prostitutes.

    There is a lot of talk about legalisation and I've seen you and your boyfriend do that as well, but you should be advocating decriminalisation. If you are unclear about the difference, find out what it entails and I think you will agree.

    Rootman, sorry to hear about that injury. Always a sad thing when someone dear is hurt. Six months is a long time and the desire will rise and rise....However you can now try and find someone who might be good as well! At least she will return.

    Richard


  5. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Rootman
    I'm giving away 'half truths'?
    Could you explain this? As last time I checked, I was the prostitute, and not you. So what would make you think you would know things better about my own job than myself?


  6. Felicia Anna Says:

    @Rootman
    And if people think because my boyfriend helps me, he's a half-pimp, then I'm sorry for those people who think that.

    In my opinion a pimp would never let his girl spend time talking to people, but only make as much money for him as possible. A real pimp has no interested to talk, or to let his girl talk, to the media. A pimp is all about making money with the girl, nothing else. Do you really think a pimp would take time (and money) to let her talk to the media, plus risking that she might say something he doesn't agree with?


  7. Anonymous Says:

    Slow down! Rootman wasn't being critical. He was saying, "This is how it might come across to a third party - and that is not helpful to your argument." ( I paraphrase on his behalf.) I, too, would be interested in the 'half truths', but I am less concerned than you.

    AND

    I like d Frans' analysis.


  8. Cliente X Says:

    Haha. Dont worry, Felicia, first blog in Spain of a prostitute (the one of Montse Neira, aka "Marien") that born in 2007 was very criticized by abolitionists. They said first that the blog was written by a man, bcause it supported a pro-prostitution view. Then, when she appeared on media (even on TV, u can watch her here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_vXEfatbO8), they said that she had support of "the lobby of pimps" bcause she spoke so well and her articles were well written as urs. OMG HOW MACHISTS THEY ARE! They can't stand that the own prostitutes speak, specially if they show themselves as competent persons. So, well done Felicia, u are doing a wonderful job!

    Later I will read all this post, now I just wanted to comment about what Rootman wrote.


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    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.