The NYT series gives a glimpse of how the anti-trafficking message is being put together, with creative uses of both the age-old idea of Indian women being fundamentally oppressed, as well as a newer idea that there is a feminist movement there positioned to resolve sexism, in part by abolishing prostitution.
Women working in the sex work industry -- be it pornography, stripping or prostitution -- sit in the cross-hairs of an enduring controversy, surfacing questions surrounding everything from sexuality and health to economics and morality. Is female sex work empowering, enslaving... or a lot more complicated than either?
I understand that there are women who are indeed coerced into sex work, who are abused by pimps, mistreated by johns, raped and bullied by men on the streets. But that simply was not my story. I made a conscious decision to enter the sex industry. When I wanted to quit, I did. So yes, for me, a job in the sex industry certainly made more sense than a job at Walmart.
The view that prostitution subordinates and victimizes women and girls is not particularly popular, but I have seen it first-hand when I lived on Granville Street in the early 1970's and in Vancouver's west end in the 80's. The image of a "happy hooker" is a Madison Avenue gimmick that has no basis in reality. When my husband, Doug, ran the Vancouver Vice Squad, I saw again the squalor and exploitation of young, addicted woman, both tragic and poignant.