Interested in a "BS Moralistic" Badge?

I recently posted a video presentation “Don’t Buy Sex” (see below) about the health risk of prostitution and probability purchased women are victims of human trafficking.   Specifically, I was speaking to the Johns and their belief that it is ok to buy sex.  Someone I don’t know, he appears to be a light-skinned male who lists his location in a local Texas suburb, responded: “Human trafficking is the lowest in countries that legalize prostitution.  So this is like asking a teenager to use abstinence.  It is not a zero sum game. Legalize it and [p]ut regulation and taxation around it and it will cut the amount of disease and human trafficking.  Look for real solutions and not BS moralistic pap.” 

Appreciating the involvement in the conversation, I responded with my belief that the Nordic Model might be the best compromise for a very complicated issue.  The Nordic Model supports selling as legal and buying as illegal to shift the focus on the demand and “Johns” (this is limited to adult prostitution).  However, I’m not sure the Texas Legislature is ready to implement such a change.

Even so, former sex workers responses to a survey we did for our SAFE (Survivors Acquiring Freedom and Empowerment) Court graduates challenges my thinking.

As a way of background, SAFE Court is for people caught in the “game” of prostitution between ages 17-25, who don’t currently have a defense warranted by Texas Penal Code 43.02(d) as a current victim of human trafficking.  It is important for people to understand the history of SAFE Court.  In attempting to increase our identification of human trafficking victims, we kept hearing from a lot of people trapped in the “game” since teenage years (when they would have been considered victims), but were not caught or identified by law enforcement until over the age of 18 when the defense is not so readily available. 

Also, the Children Assessment Center recognizes about 90% of human trafficking victims suffered prior forms of child abuse.   During my time at the District Attorney’s Office, we recognized the breadth of our local victimization problem and created a program, consistent with and honoring the law, yet giving one an avenue of support and the opportunity to avoid conviction, which often starts the costly cycle of the revolving door of criminal justice.  SAFE Court is the result of a Department of Justice / Smart Prosecution Grant Award and is monitored by a research partner at Sam Houston State University. 

Back to the survey, the survey asked our first few graduates if they favor legalization of prostitution.  To my surprise, all said … “No.”  This answer challenged me to think more about it.  What if your family was starving and our society said its ok for you to be subjected to sex with anyone, when they want, in order to make a living?  Would you do it?  Would you feel the need to have to do it if you have nothing else

Former sex workers made it clear they don’t want to do it and reminded me none of us would want our mothers, wives or daughters having to do the same.  If this view makes me “BS moralistic,” please get me a badge; I’ll wear it proudly.      

Brains or Vaginas?

I recently re-entered the private sector following years in public service working on human trafficking; by better identifying victims who were brought into the system as “prostitutes” and investigating and prosecuting pimps and johns. 

One of my greatest honors in public services, as I believe it should be, is you work for the elected official, public and the victims.  I took the position that I would step away from politics and speaking out because I did not want any personal views to taint a jury pool against the case or victim.  As a lawyer, it’s not about you, it’s about your client.  As a public servant, it’s not about you, it’s about the public and the elected official. 

Having gotten into Twitter, I read an article titled “These Vagina Necklaces Are So Amazing, They Crashed This Etsy Shop, Don’t worry: they’ll be back.” on Teen Vogue.  I replied to “@TeenVogue – Why advertise such on “teen” most ages legally unable to consent to sex, Vogue?”  Someone responded to me and Teen Vogue “It’s a vagina.  They aren’t saying go out and have sex.  It’s not something women should be ashamed of etc.”  There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your vagina, but there’s also something to be said for respecting it enough to not have to show it to the world.

Same also noted “Please actually read the article.” I read the article and looked into the jewelry maker.  Emily Fitzgerald is from Australia and her jewelry design "Yoni" went “viral” and she has been unable to keep up with orders given the high demand. Best I can tell, she’s an adult in business – you go girl. 

My issue is not with her or her design.  It’s with Teen Vogue.  Change your name if you want, but “teen” is defined as 13-19.  Thirteen year olds can’t consent to sex.  At least in Texas, and fourteen to seventeen-year olds can only consent to a sex with someone within 3 years of their age.  States have similar age protections and Romeo/Juliet type laws.

Having worked with and interviewed hundreds of women caught in the sex trade, sex at a young age is not always a good thing especially when it’s with an adult who is manipulating or forcing you into the “choice.”  Same for Teen Vogue, you’re an adult business and you’re pushing a product presumably for “clicks” or "likes" because kids get brave, and or at-risk, on social media.  Many sexual exploitation victims are “recruited” by pimps who target them based on activity on social media, such as dancing or “twerking” in not age appropriate clothes.  A typical response from the person who bought them would be “they look so old.”  As you can tell from Teen Vogue, you can dress anyone up to look older.  This is often used against the child and many struggle with the belief they did something wrong to deserve their repeated rapes

We all should start to recognize our part in enabling victim blaming.  Children, you’re the minor, your brains are not yet fully developed.  Teen Vogue, how about you promote jewelry of a brain to signify the need for further development of your targeted audience and that your smarts should be valued more than vaginas.