Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon.com came out with a recent article on a rather aggressive advertising campaign that has just started in the UK when it comes to the trafficking of women and children and the use of brothels. Read the article below and then some of my thoughts:
In Britain's latest attempt at fighting sex trafficking, it's simply calling johns rapists. Men visiting the loo at their local pub may soon start to notice posters showing an open door -- along what seems a wall smeared with blood or other bodily fluids -- leading to an illegal sex den. (Note that prostitution isn't illegal in Britain, but brothels are.) The advertisement reads: "Walk in a punter. Walk out a rapist." Then, in smaller text, the ad throws out a dare to any man who comes across a sex worker he suspects was trafficked: "If you're man enough, call Crimestoppers."
Not all johns are rapists, of course; and, I'm uncomfortable calling anyone who sleeps with a trafficked girl a rapist, even though she is being forced to have sex against her will. Certainly, johns who know they are having sex with a trafficked girl are rapists, and it could be argued that there are many more cases of involuntary rape caused by willful blindness -- but I don't think all men who unwittingly sleep with trafficked girls are guilty of rape.
The ad is clearly aiming to draw a line between willful and forced prostitution, but it's a matter of perspective whether the ad is applying the rapist label to all clients of trafficked prostitutes. If it is, it raises a host of questions. For instance: If a man has sex with a drug-addicted sex worker, or a prostitute who has an abusive pimp, is he a rapist?
All that being said, I salute the advertisement for pushing any man considering sex-for-pay to consider that he very well could end up unwittingly having sex with a trafficked woman.
I disagree wholeheartedly with Tracy in her statement: “Not all johns are rapists, of course; and, I'm uncomfortable calling anyone who sleeps with a trafficked girl a rapist, even though she is being forced to have sex against her will.” I am wondering what exactly a rapist would be then. What makes this scenario different? Is it because the johns are paying? Because the girls have been purchased? It seems to be we are grabbing at some pretty thin straws here. Why are we trying so hard to protect the rights of these johns that are abusing every imaginable right these women and children are supposed to have?
And why does she mean by willful blindness? Sure…some of them are CHOOSING to be there? Right? Yes, yes…let’s argue that. Although research will show that more johns then you could imagine do actually believe that the women and children they have sexual encounters with are actually “getting off” or having an enjoyable experience when with them. This is simply not true. This might be the willful blindness Tracy speaks of.
I applaud the UK for this aggressive ad campaign and hope it will scare a few people, make them think a little more before walking into a punter and perhaps save a few lives.
Here is the ad: