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Alice Glass challenges three common myths in the prostitution debate

December 9, 2017

In this article, Alice Glass brilliantly challenges three common myths in the prostitution debate: that “once the industry is fully decriminalized, prostitutes will form unions in order to fight for their workers’ rights”; that “if we don’t decriminalize prostitution it will be pushed further underground”; and that “only contemporary prostitutes should have a say in the debate, former prostitutes should not, it is no longer their business.”

Nordic Model Now!

By Alice Glass

The prostitution debate has the dubious distinction of being one of the most fervently contested discussions of the last few years. But deciding which ‘side’ you are on, for some, is less a case of careful consideration, and more a way of pinning your political identity to the mast. Being ‘pro-prostitution’, in the various slightly different ways that sentiment can be framed, has become a marker of contemporary progressivism. A solid metric for establishing someone’s right-on-ness, and a way of currying favour with contemporary post-modern politicos. The central tenets of which insist one be socially libertarian whilst, bizarrely, discourse authoritarian. Basically anyone can do almost anything to almost anyone, as long as they dot their Is and cross their Ts in a politically seemly fashion. Even delicately questioning any of the rhetoric that is used to defend the full commercialisation and legitimisation of the sex industry is…

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A Lumix G5 image vs. an iPhone 6 SE image

November 18, 2017

In my quest to better understand the difference between images from a micro four-thirds camera and other types of cameras, today I compare images from a Panasonic Lumix G5 and an Apple iPhone 6 SE. The iPhone’s camera smudges images a bit, but the images from the phone still look adequate for use on social media. Here, I compare two images, and crops of the same images. The images were shot without flash. The images were edited and compressed in Adobe Photoshop.

A Canon 130 IS Point & Shoot vs. a Lumix G5 Micro Four Thirds Camera

November 14, 2017

On a trip to NY City this weekend, I took my father’s Canon PowerShot ELPH 130 IS point and shoot (bought for around $100) and my Panasonic Lumix G5 (bought for around $500) to compare their images. Both are 16 MP cameras.

I’ve taken this Canon on several trips to NY in the past because it is very convenient to carry. But I’ve carried my Lumix micro-four thirds cameras (G5 and GH3) on other visits because they offer more control over settings and because they can shoot raw images. I took the Canon point and shoot and the Lumix G5 on this trip because I wanted to compare their images. The Lumix G5 images below were shot as jpg, not raw.

I was impressed with the Canon’s images, especially in good light, although the Lumix images are generally better. Here I post a few images to compare them.



Why prostitution must be abolished

November 5, 2017

Dr. Ingeborg Kraus recently made a great presentation on why prostitution must be abolished.

The biased scholarship behind calls to decriminalize prostitution

November 5, 2017

In the Lancet’s 2014 Series on HIV and sex workers, editors Pamela Das and Richard Horton (2014) attempt to shut down the debate over whether prostitution should be normalized or abolished by asserting that, for reducing the risk of HIV transmission among people who sell sex, “there is no alternative” to the complete decriminalization of prostitution.

Their faith that unfettered prostitution is the sole solution is unfounded. To see the inaccuracy of their assertion, one has to look no further than the article by Michele Decker et al. (2014) in the same series, which describes the existing alternatives. Among these is the Nordic model—also called the “sex buyer law” and the “abolitionist model”—which permits individuals to sell sex but prohibits pimping, brothel-running, and buying sex (Nordic Model Now! No date). The Nordic model also strengthens social services that protect people from having to sell sex for survival and that assist people who wish to exit prostitution. The Nordic model has been adopted in France, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Ireland and Northern Ireland (Batha 2017). The objective of the Nordic model is to abolish prostitution by discouraging demand for commercial sex, prohibiting the exploitation of people who sell sex, and eliminating the pressures that push people into prostitution.

But Das and Horton are not alone in their belief that decriminalization will deliver good outcomes for people who sell sex. Amnesty International and other organizations claim that decriminalization will protect the human rights of people who sell sex (Amnesty International 2016; UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights 2016). Given the hazards and harms inherent to prostitution, decriminalization is certainly one of the most counterintuitive panaceas ever imagined.

Violence against people who sell sex is common (Decker et al. 2013; Shannon et al. 2009).  In interviews of 123 people who sell sex in four countries, 122 reported having experienced violence in the context of prostitution (Bhattacharjya et al. 2015). A study of violence against prostituted women in the US found that they were 17 times as likely to be murdered as women of similar age and race (Potterat et al. 2004). Interviews with 854 people currently or recently in prostitution in nine countries found that 71% were physically assaulted and 63% were raped in prostitution, and, of 826 respondents examined, 68% met criteria for diagnosis of PTSD (Farley et al. 2003).

Substance abuse is widespread among women who sell sex, because many use intoxication to cope with the abuse that they experience from clients and pimps (Decker et al. 2013). In interviews in Kenya, two thirds of prostituted women reported engaging in sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs (NASCOP 2010). Rae Story (2016), a prostitution survivor in New Zealand, calls substance abuse on the job, “necessary intoxication.”

Prostitution puts women at high risk of HIV infection. Women who sell sex in India are over 50 times more likely to acquire HIV over their lifetime than other women of reproductive age (Baral et al. 2012).

Proponents of decriminalization cite the predictions of a mathematical model that makes improbable assumptions.

The UNFPA (2015) supports its call to decriminalize prostitution by citing a mathematical model that estimated that decriminalization of prostitution in Bellary, India, would avert 46% of HIV infections among women who sell sex and their clients between 2014 and 2024 (Shannon et al. 2014a). But this prediction is doubtful, because the model is based on some highly unrealistic assumptions. The model assumes that after decriminalization the number of women who sell sex will increase only at the rate of population growth, or 2.03% per year, and the total client volume of all FSWs does not change (Shannon et al. 2014b).

It’s very unlikely that decriminalization—which would predictably trigger the conspicuous proliferation and marketing of brothels, a surge in the number of pimps, and aggressive recruitment and trafficking of women and girls to fill brothels—would not cause the numbers of prostituted women and girls to multiply. It is also unlikely that the number of sex buyers doesn’t multiply when decriminalization reduces the stigma associated with buying sex and stimulates sharp growth in sex tourism.

In a nation in which approximately 720 million people live on $3 or less per day (Basu 2017), the normalization of prostitution and the reduction of stigma around buying sex and pimping would intensify pressures on women and girls to enter the sex trade. 

The model’s prediction that 46% of HIV infections will be averted reflects the best-case scenario, which implicitly assume[s] “that exposure to structural risks (e.g., violence, policing, unsafe work spaces) or the excess in risk of non-condom use associated with violence ceases immediately and/or that the policy that increases access to safer work environments for female sex workers has immediate effect and/or that the associated safer sexual practices (e.g., client condom use) is adopted immediately. For these reasons, our estimates reflect the maximum potential impact of the structural changes (e.g., interventions) modeled (Shannon et al. 2014b).”

Instead of expecting the best case scenario, it is more realistic and prudent to expect that decriminalizing prostitution would increase, not decrease, the number of people at high risk of HIV transmission, because decriminalization would create circumstances and unleash forces that would draw and push many more women and girls into the sex trade and increase the number of men who buy sex. The model’s failure to forecast decriminalization’s impact on HIV transmission in a realistic scenario makes the model little other than fantasy.

Three years after prostitution was decriminalized in New Zealand, a review of decriminalization’s impact on the health and safety of prostituted women found that stigma and violence against them continued (Prostitution Law Review Committee 2008). The review found that, in the 12 months preceding the study, 12.6% of the respondents experienced refusal by a client to pay, 8.3% had money stolen by a client, 9.8% had been physically assaulted by a client, 15.9% had been threatened with physical violence, 4.7% had been held against their will, and 3% had been raped by a client (Abel, Fitzgerald, and Brunton 2007).

Fortunately, decriminalization is not the only alternative. Das and Horton (2014) argue, “The persistence and ubiquity of sex work suggests only that sex, and the human desire for sex, is a normal part of human societies.” Das and Horton fail to recognize that the persistence and ubiquity of prostitution suggests only that some members of society lack the fortitude to demand and work to create a society in which the most disadvantaged are not compelled to sell sex to survive.


Abel, G., Fitzgerald, L., and Brunton, C. 2007. The Impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety Practices of Sex Workers: Report to the Prostitution Law Review Committee. Christchurch: Dept. of Public Health and General Practice, University of Otago.

Amnesty International 2016. Amnesty International Policy on State Obligations to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Human Rights of Sex Workers. POL 30/4062/2016. May 26.

Baral et al. 2012. Burden of HIV among female sex workers in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. Published online March 15. DOI:10.1016/S1473-3099(12)70066-X

Basu, M. 2017. Seeing the new India through the eyes of an invisible woman. CNN.

Batha, E. 2017. Ireland passes law making it a crime to buy sex. Reuters. 23 February.

Bhattacharjya, M. et al. 2015. The Right(s) Evidence – Sex Work, Violence and HIV in Asia: A MultiCountry Qualitative Study. Bangkok: UNFPA, UNDP and APNSW (CASAM).

Das, P. and Horton, R. 2014. Bringing sex workers to the centre of the HIV response. Lancet. Published online July 22.

Decker, M. R. et al. 2013. Violence against women in sex work and HIV risk implications differ qualitatively by perpetrator. BMC Public Health. 13:876.

Decker, M. R. et al. 2014. Human rights violations against sex workers: burden and effect on HIV. Lancet. Published online July 22.

DeRiviere, L. 2006. A human capital methodology for estimating the lifelong personal costs of young women leaving the sex trade. Feminist Economics 12(3): 367-402 DOI: 10.1080/13545700600670434

Farley, M. et al. 2003. Prostitution and trafficking in nine countries: An update on violence and posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Trauma Practice 2(3/4):33-74. DOI: 10.1300/J189v02n03_03

National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) 2010. National Guidelines for HIV/STI Programs for Sex Workers. Nairobi: Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.

Nordic Model Now! No date. What is Nordic Model?

Potterat J. J., et al. 2004. Mortality in a long-term open cohort of prostitute women. Am J Epidemiol 159: 778–85. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwh110

Prostitution Law Review Committee 2008. Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee on the Operation of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. Wellington, NZ: Ministry of Justice.

Shannon, K. et al. 2009. Prevalence and structural correlates of gender based violence among a prospective cohort of female sex workers. BMJ 339:b2939.

Shannon, K. et al. 2014a. Global epidemiology of HIV among female sex workers: Influence of structural determinants. Lancet. Published online July 22.

Shannon, K. et al. 2014b. Supplement to: Shannon K, Strathdee SA, Goldenberg SM, et al. HIV and sex workers 1: Global epidemiology of HIV among female sex workers: influence of structural determinants. Lancet 2014; published online July 22.

Story, R. 2016. Working in a New Zealand brothel was anything but ‘a job like any other’. Feminist Current. 2 May.

UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights 2016. Letter to UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka regarding UN Women’s approach to sex work. 17 December.

UNFPA 2015. Sex Work, Violence and HIV in Asia—From Evidence to Safety. Policy Brief. June. UNFPA.



Six survivors speak out about New Zealand’s punishing “sex” industry

October 22, 2017

writing by renee

Below are six testimonies from women who have all been exploited within New Zealand’s sex trade, and who have exited to become vocally critical of the trade itself and wanting to see open debate on prostitution legislation in New Zealand.

Rae Story, excerpt from Working in a New Zealand brothel was anything but ‘a job like any other’, published on Feminist Current

The boss liked us to work most nights and so the constant interference from (often) rabid men left us bruised and sore. This one particular john had a thick penis, which he liked to jab in and out of me, as hard and fast as he could. Initially, I tried to breathe deeply and relax my muscles, but the pain was excruciating. I began to hold onto his hips to slow him down, push him away from me, but he got impatient and then angry, before flouncing off…

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October 5, 2017

Rebecca Mott

I cannot leave the shadows, the ghosts of being prostituted.

I am proud to build a real life, not the living inside sick world of whoredom – but all round me is reminders pulling out words of never being allowed to fully human.

I have written for years about the lack of humanity that is the existence of being that world.

But what is unforgivable is that lack of humanity is also the existence of too many who left the sex trade.

To be exited is not to be free, to be exited is know the grief that you constantly marked with reminders of whoredom.

To be fully human is in the gaze of others.

This gaze is one that says in many word and silence – once a whore, always a whore.

In that environment, full human rights and humanity is just a bitter dream for the vast majority…

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