John School

So today I did my first real research into the topic of john schools.

John schools, for those who don’t know – like me, two days ago – are short rehabilitation courses assigned by courts to men who are charged with soliciting prostitution, generally only first offenders. They are analogous to traffic school for moving violations. You know, where your speeding ticket gets reduced to parking and you sit in a conference room at the local VFW for four hours and watch Craig T. Nelson tell you to pay better attention to the road on a video from 1987? It’s that, only for men who pay money to engage in rape and human trafficking.

From all the sources I’ve seen, it looks like the primary focus of john school is on reminding men that they can suffer bad consequences for paying money to rape women, like herpes or their girlfriends getting angry. They talk about how prostitution hurts communities and causes strain on the justice system. Sometimes they might even bother to remind men that not every woman is a Happy Hooker™ and may be trafficked.

The Village Voice ran a May 2005 article which examined “Project Respect”, the john school in Brooklyn. The article is an enlightening read. It recounts how men responded with indignant shouts in their defense when baited by a female officer who “coyly” asks if they believe they were entrapped. The most jarring portion of the class, at least for reporter Aina Hunter, appears to have been photos of diseased genitals. Hunter portrays the personal stories of trafficked women which are given during the course as sob stories which bookend the real material, rather than the center of attention. God knows whether the men even paid attention to them.

Then again, the article goes on to subtly lionize efforts to decriminalize prostitution, so I guess we’re lucky that they even mentioned trafficking at all.

This 1996 New York Times article describes the San Francisco school, the first of the john schools, in the year after its inception. The treatment is less john-flattering than the Village Voice’s, but they describe the lectures as “six hours of abuse” without a tweak of irony. The article closes with this gem:

After class, one man vowed to change his ways. His friends had once told him that it was cheaper to spend $50 on a prostitute than having to spend the time and money dating.

“It’s cheaper financially, but not emotionally,” he said. “I’m going to be working on finding a real girlfriend.”

Because, as we all know, the purpose of having a girlfriend is to use her for on-demand sexual (power) gratification. Boy, did he learn his lesson.

In the 2002 issue of the Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, Dr. Stephanie Wahab of the University of Utah wrote “‘For Their Own Good?’: sex work, social control, and social workers, a historical perspective”. The paper looks at a few of the efforts to approach prostitution (here called “sex work”, a flag for pro-prostitution attitudes, because it implies a consensual Happy Hooker™ who of course isn’t trafficked), ranging from the Evangelical social groups of the mid-1800s to john schools of today. Wahab finds that today’s silly focus on the demand side of the problem is rooted in a silly belief that “female sex workers need to be protected from the patriarchal exploitation of women” and that “all sex workers regard themselves as victims of exploitation, and that they are incapable of speaking on their own behalf”.

This is not a fluke of a paper. This attitude is the new feminism, the result of the second wave movement being kicked out by faux-fems. This is the sort of thing you can now read on Feministing and Feministe every day. There’s no such thing as trafficking; fourteen-year-old girls love being raped four or five times a day, ignorance is truth, what about the menz.

In the Village Voice article, perhaps the most telling quote of all is attributed to Juhu Thukral, then the director of the Sex Workers project at the Urban Justice Center: “John schools are part of an effort to address the demand side of the industry, but it’s really just a revolving door.”

Thukral says this in order to support her position that all the shame, guilt, and consequences (for men) should be excised from purchasing women’s bodies for rape. The sentiment is based in the idea that men will be men, that men will always seek to rape women, that if you deny them access to street prostitutes they will simply seek out brothels and escort services. That men are dogs who have no option but rape, and that women are less than dogs and must submit themselves to rape.

Ultimately, that’s what john school is: a cop-out, a little slap on the wrist, a wink and a nod. John school is the idea that men should be allowed to rape women, that they shouldn’t face real consequences. That raping a woman is roughly equivalent to going ten over the speed limit.

Soliciting a prostitute should be a felony equivalent to rape, with the same sentencing guidelines (which ought to be the as harsh as the others of the most violent crimes). As long as men are the ones making, enforcing, and interpreting the laws, this is not going to happen.

In the Times article, a woman rescued from prostitution tells the room about “how much she loathed her customers, wanting to kill one, any one, and even kept a butcher knife in her purse just in case she got the chance”. Sounds like self-defense to me.

Would men pay to rape women if they knew that they might face the death penalty, administered by her own hand?

THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING HOTLINE: 1-888-3737-888

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