New York Times opinion piece mischaracterizes the movement to end demand

Posted by on September 28, 2012 in News
In the Sept. 23rd edition of the New York Times Sunday Review, journalist Noy Thrupkaew pigeonholes the movement to end demand for illegal commercial sex as a misguided moral crusade. The following response by Demand Abolition Director Lina Nealon sets the record straight.

In “A Misguided Moral Crusade,” Ms. Thrupkaew makes a passionate case that we must protect and support society’s most vulnerable children, women, and men trapped in prostitution, while holding those who abuse them accountable.

We couldn’t agree more.

The sex trade is inherently exploitative – pimps and traffickers profit off desperate individuals who are purchased by buyers (mostly men, mostly rich, mostly married) hungry to exert power as much as satisfy sexual urges.

Survivors will tell you, and research reinforces (including the John Jay study referenced in the article) that whether they’re “in the life” by physical force, mental manipulation, or economic coercion (often a combination of all three), the vast majority want out.

And though a small minority may “freely” choose to sell their bodies, they’re the rare exception – and we don’t create policy on the experience of a few when the evidence of harm to many is so crushing.

“No demand, no supply” is not a “catchphrase,” it’s a logical economic model. As the author states, anti-demand tactics have gained significant momentum. Why? Because they work.

However, targeting demand is just one critical component of what must be a comprehensive approach to ending the commercial sex industry; one that includes:

  • expanded and improved social and legal services to survivors,
  • prosecution of those who abuse and grow rich at the expense of prostituted individuals, and
  • prevention mechanisms to ensure buyers don’t buy in the first place and individuals like “Donna” have choices other than selling sex to survive.

Ms. Thrupkaew calls the demand approach “misguided” and states that criminal justice interventions are even more harmful than pimps and traffickers themselves.

Police more abusive than pimps? What a gross affront to survivors who have suffered at the fists of their “masters.” In truth, Ms. Thrupkaew’s argument seems to be lifted from a pimp’s “how to” book on mental manipulation and control– “No one cares about you but me.”

To minimize the harm of the sex trade is to overlook an egregious, complex human rights violation. The sex trade must be abolished, and we’re honored to be part of a movement that crosses race, gender, political affiliation, religion, professional sector, and class to ensure this happens in our lifetime.

Read letters to the editor by Carolyn B. Maloney, representative of New York’s 14th District in the House and co-chairwoman of the anti-sex-trafficking caucus in Congress, Lauren Hersh, New York Director of Equality Now, and Rachel Durchslag, executive director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation and a co-founder of End Demand Illinois.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation’s Response
The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation has posted a response to the article to its website. Please show your support.

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women’s Response
Norma Ramos of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women penned a poignant response and posted it to the organization’s Facebook page. Like it and help us set the record straight.