A lot of people, some of whom I respect and some of whom I don’t, are very concerned about what, these days, is called Human Trafficking. The concern is that young women from low economic backgrounds, or in socially vulnerable positions, are forced into prostitution and become, basically, sex-slaves. If true, this is a major issue.
The problem I have with it is that it closely resembles a recurring public hysteria, the White Slavery panic, that has on several occasions proved to be so much piddle and wind. The 19th century saw either several separate White Slavery scares in American and England, or one long one that waxed and waned. White Slavery also became a popular trope in the 1920’s. Retrospective examination of these scares has tended to the conclusion that they were largely illusory, based on several factors including but not limited to social concern about increasing license among young women, immigrant populations that didn’t adhere to the sexual mores of the status quo, and the need to sell newspapers.
So, what about the current concern about Human Trafficking? Is this more of the same, or is it a genuine problem? Or is there are genuine problem AND a certain amount of bovine excreta? It isn’t all that easy to tell. In common with the historical White Slavery panics, the Human Trafficking narrative tends to assume that all Prostitutes are victims who couldn’t possibly choose to sell sex. This seems a very upper-class white woman’s view of the world, and historical studies have repeatedly shown that, at least in the past, there wasn’t a great deal of truth to it. But it is easy to dismiss the Victorian and Neo-Victorian attitudes about sex and condemn all concern about Prostitution as growing out of them. Some women dislike sex and are miserable when engaged in it. I feel much the same way about the vast majority of sports; there were one or two that I liked in school, but most of them were wastes of time at best and miserable impositions at worst. Neither of us is necessarily wrong, maladjusted, or evil. But we aren’t a good sole basis for making public policy about either of these popular human pastimes. And at the same time, our odd reaction to said pastimes does not invalidate all concerns about their regulation or the possibility that people are being coerced into ‘playing’.
All Politically Correct invocations of Multicultural Understanding aside, Islamic societies have historically spread their customs of slavery and the subjugation of women, and the current crop do not seem to represent a change in this regard. I would be unsurprised to discover that Islamic countries around the world, and Islamic communities in the West were practicing Human Trafficking on a significant scale. But, for the most part, the people who are publicly involved in the fight against Human Trafficking do not seem to be focused on Islam. Further, their proposed solutions simply assume that no woman wants to be a prostitute; they don’t concentrate on protecting women from pressure to make choices they might choose to make differently if they could, they make the entire subject of sex for money taboo. That doesn’t stop the trade, puts the girls in a position of horrible vulnerability, and encourages government corruption.
It also, of course, keeps the (mostly) White, Middle Class women who are the backbone of any women’s movement from having to compete with sex-for-pay. Given the way that they have managed to skew divorce proceedings, child custody, and other such issues against men, one can readily see why they would feel the need for such protection. There is scant rational reason for a single man to marry these days. Now, I am married, and I am VERY happy with my irrational reasons. But marriage, as it exists today in light of numerous court decisions and social changes, is a trap for men. And far too many feminists apparently consider sex the the bait in that trap.
I think that Human Trafficking probably does exist. To the extent that it exists outside of barbaric societies (such as Fundamentalist Islam) it would seem to require the anti-prostitute policies being touted by the anti-trafficking advocates. I don’t insist that that is a goal, but it clearly seems to be a symptom. I think, on consideration, that my response to the Call To Arms over Human Trafficking is to want to legalize Prostitution, so that the women who engage in it can seek the protection of the Law if they so desire, and the oppression of the more disgusting Islamic customs, such as stoning rape victims, forced marriages, and anything that smacks of slavery. And let the women who want to have vapors over strippers, prostitution, and pornography retire to their fainting couches.