On Kristof’s “On the Ground” May 1

Nicholas Kristof is a columnist for the New York Times who writes on issues of human rights. He also has a blog at nytimes.com, On the Ground. His post on May 1, “Human Trafficking, There and Here”, struck me. The article spoke entirely about trafficked girls and their pimps, noting that underage girls are often prosecuted for prostitution while their pimps go uninvestigated. Then I read this among the closing lines and snorted (emphasis mine):

And the way to end this kind of exploitation is to arrest the pimps and throw them in prison, not to go after the girls as criminals. There’s also some evidence that going after johns will help.

Once again, a man looks at the situation and decides that the supply side is the bigger problem. Kristof, all I have to say is that when people didn’t buy New Coke, they stopped making it.

Perhaps more interestingly, the entry prompted commenter Charles Duwel to say something notable. An excerpt:

We know trading sex for money is not a crime since in California you can have all of the sex for money you want and [sic] as long as you show some intent to share it with the public (the porn business), but if you have sex for money in private (prostitution) you are still a criminal.

[…] What would you do if your boss started asking for sexual favors, taking kickbacks out of your pay and beating you up? You would do what any sensible person would do – call the cops, NLRB, OSHA, the news media or buy yourself a little recorder, get the evidence, get a lawyer and retire on the results of the law suit. This is because the law protects most employees. Why does it single out people who trade sex for money and deny them the protections they are entitled to by the U.S. Constitution?

His comment vacillates enough that I’m not really sure where he stands on porn and prostitution – he calls traffickers “people who actually are criminals”, at least – but it was unusual to hear a male commenter state the circumstances so baldly. Put nicely, men use women for sex and give no consideration in return, even when the law is watching. Duwel didn’t mention legal prostitution in nearby Nevada, where abuses are also a given for every woman in the industry, legally or illegally, but the authorities keep out of matters there as well (and when they get “involved”, it’s rarely good for the women).


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