Essay 1: Why No Liberation? An Introduction

In 1996, California enacted legislation legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Today twenty nine states permit such use. Ten states allow recreational use as well. In August 2013 the U. S. Attorney General announced that the Justice Department would not interfere with the new policies even though federal prohibitions against any marijuana use remain in place (this may change under the Trump Administration, although it hasn’t as of early 2019).

Before 2004, no state recognized same-sex marriage. By 2015, when the Supreme Court announced that same sex-marriage was a fundamental right, more than thirty states, through the ballot box or court decree, had already made room for it.

Historians will look back on the last seventy years as an era of astonishing changes in public attitudes and legal policies. A series of “liberation” movements, beginning with the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Liberation Movement, have swept away deeply-held and widespread prejudices, and thoroughly changed the country’s institutions and practices. In particular, the rapidity of the shift in opinion on gay rights and drug enforcement is remarkable.

These revolutions in opinion and policy throw a sharp glare on a remaining stigmatized class that still lives and works under state repression: prostitutes. Why, in a country keen to protect personal liberties, has there been no similar “liberation” movement affecting the rights and well-being of this burdened class?

A Canadian report some years back described the United States approach to prostitution as “draconian.” This was not an overstatement. The United States retains on its books laws more repressive than those in any other Western industrialized nation. Public opinion remains unfavorable to prostitution reform. In a 2012 poll by the website, 38% of respondents thought prostitution should be legalized while 48% thought not and 13% remained uncertain. A 2008 Quinnipiac University poll of New Yorkers showed 62% opposed to legalization, 30% in favor.

Prostitutes in the United States remain largely unorganized; the associations that speak for them are few and ineffectual. Where they are organized, they meet failure. A 2004 ballot measure in Berkeley, California that would have made enforcement of anti-prostitution laws a “low priority” in that city failed 36% to 63%. A similar 2008 ballot choice in San Francisco failed by 42% to 58%.

By contrast, those hostile to prostitution are well-organized, funded, vocal, and effective. The intellectual shape of this hostility is driven not only by conservative Christians, from whom one expects moral distaste for prostitution, but by a community of “abolitionist” feminists. This alliance between feminists and religious conservatives has been able to do two things: to insist that all prostitution degrades all women – women who prostitute and women who do not – and to link prostitution to human trafficking, indeed, to elide the difference between them.

This convergence of Christians and abolitionist feminists on a common theme was especially instrumental to the Bush Administration’s committing the United States government to an explicitly anti-prostitution position. In major legislation in 2003 authorizing distribution to NGOs of billions of dollars to fight the spread of HIV around the world, Congress forbade funding to any organization “that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” This provision derived from a Congressional “finding” that “[p]rostitution and other sexual victimization are degrading to women and children and it should be the policy of the United States to eradicate such practices.”[1] After several years of litigation, the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down this requirement as a violation of the First Amendment. According to the Court, the requirement went far beyond any practical need Congress had to assure that its funds would be put to effective use. It blatantly compelled NGOs to profess a controversial position, favored by Congress, as their own.[2]

Likewise, abolitionist groups have been effective in creating or influencing “prostitution exit” organizations that assist women in leaving prostitution. Exit groups have mushroomed across the country, in both governmental and non-governmental forms, because the federal government gives millions in grants to local police departments and social service organizations to implement the goals of its anti-trafficking legislation, first authorized in 2000 and then reauthorized periodically since. Scores of organizations at the local and national levels make up a formidable network, most focused on a simple nostrum: “end demand.”

Equality Now, an advocacy group international in scope, with offices in New York, London, and Nairobi, declares that

the most effective way to end sex trafficking is by addressing demand for prostitution. Such a strategy would include criminalizing traffickers and buyers of sex while decriminalizing victims and providing them with rehabilitative and other services.[3]

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), with offices in several countries, likewise favors a legal approach that “criminalizes the purchase of commercial sex and offers the exploited an exit strategy.”[4]

CATW and Equality Now joined together to urge the Supreme Court in the Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International case to uphold the anti-prostitution pledge embodied in the 2003 federal legislation. CATW and Equality Now argued that prostitution, “which most often takes the form of sex trafficking,” endangers the family and the community. “The prostitution and sex-trafficking industry is inherently harmful [and] opposing the legalization and legitimization of prostitution lies at the heart of any effective program aimed at eradicating HIV/AIDS.”[5]

Other groups with broad national reach echo the same themes. These include the Demand Abolition group, funded by the Hunt Foundation; Shared Hope International; and Demand Forum, a project of the Abt Associates, a major policy advocacy group with funding from large foundations, corporations, and the U. S. Government. At the local level, numerous organizations add their voices to the chorus.

Arrayed against this tide of anti-prostitution voices in the United States are a handful of ill-funded and barely functioning sex worker organizations. For example, the Global Network of Sex Works Projects, an international umbrella group, lists only a few member organizations from the United States, all of them minor-leaguers compared to their adversaries.[6]


In 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), defining the crime of “trafficking in persons” and augmenting penal sanctions for it. The Act authorized grants to state and local agencies to combat trafficking and assist trafficking victims; obliged the President to assess the anti-trafficking efforts of every nation in the world and take certain actions against those that fail to meet minimum standards; and required the State Department to make an annual report on the progress of nations in fighting trafficking.[7] The legislation coincided with the United Nation’s adoption of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Convention’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Palermo Protocol). In the following years, various U.S. states passed their own anti-trafficking legislation.

The Palermo Protocol defines trafficking as the exploitation of persons for labor or sexual services by use of force or fraud.[8] The TVPA uses different terminology. “Sex trafficking” means “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” Sex trafficking that utilizes “force, fraud, or coercion,” or involves a minor, counts as a “severe” form of trafficking.[9] Just as TVPA defines “trafficking” differently than the Palermo Protocol, state laws offer up many variations of their own. (Throughout all the essays that follow, when I refer to “trafficking,” I shall mean what the TVPA calls “severe trafficking.”)

The federal and state governments have always had legal power against the elements of trafficking, which include kidnapping, battery, extortion, pandering, and other common crimes. The new trafficking legislation purportedly makes it easier to prosecute these crimes, and adds tougher penalties, authorizes substantial funding, and integrates enforcement with victim assistance.

Trafficking has always existed but the Palermo Protocol and the TVPA raised awareness about it in the United States, an awareness further enhanced through media campaigns and the proliferation of anti-trafficking NGOs. Images of foreign girls tricked and transported to the U. S. or other countries and brutally forced into sexually servicing scores of men a day make compelling newspaper copy and TV imagery. Municipal and state police forces now have special trafficking units (typically located in their vice divisions) that make many well-reported trafficking arrests. Sex trafficking in its most horrendous forms has come to dominate the contemporary discussion of prostitution, making it easy to collapse the one into the other. Every current prostitution debate in this country and around the world takes place in the shadow of sex trafficking alarmism.


The Palermo Protocol and the United States federal legislation on trafficking emerged at a pivotal moment in the “new prostitution wars.” In 1999, Sweden had made purchasing but not selling sexual services a criminal offense. The sex purchase ban rested on the premise that “it is shameful and unacceptable that, in a gender equal society, men obtain casual sexual relations with women in return for payment.”[10] Sweden touted its pioneering approach to abolishing prostitution and set up institutions to evangelize the rest of the world.[11] In 1996, Norway adopted similar legislation. In December 2013, the French National Assembly passed a bill banning the purchase of sex, although in the summer of 2014 the French Senate stripped out the ban. In 2016 the Assembly prevailed and the sex purchase ban went into effect.[12] In October 2014, the legislature of Northern Ireland passed a sex purchase ban; and the legislature of the Republic of Ireland has recently adopted its own ban.[13]

Not all of Europe followed Sweden’s lead, however. In 2002, The German Federal Republic enacted the Prostitution Act, which sought to regularize prostitution as legitimate work like any other. The law has had limited effect, however, because the different German Länder (states) persist in regulating prostitution as they have for more than a century, tolerating its existence on their own restrictive terms.[14] In 2000, the Netherlands passed legislation lifting the ban on brothels (whose existence had long been tolerated). Even so, local authorities retain considerable discretionary power about licensing brothels, controlling permitted zones of street prostitution, and the like.[15] In 1999, Denmark made it no longer a criminal offense to sell sex but left prostitutes in a legal limbo, since almost anything a prostitute might do to make her enterprise safe and successful remains under a legal cloud.[16]

Elsewhere in the world, in Australia, Victoria legalized brothels in 1994; New South Wales decriminalized prostitution half a decade earlier; Queensland legalized brothels in 1999. In all three states, streetwalking is circumscribed to a greater or lesser degree. In Western Australia and South Australia, brothels are illegal, as is soliciting in or near any public place.[17] New Zealand in 2003 legislated sweeping changes in its treatment of prostitution. It permits streetwalking, regulated large brothels, and unregulated small owner-occupied brothels.[18]

In 2014, the Canadian Supreme Court eviscerated Canada’s prostitution laws. Although it is not illegal in Canada to sell sex, before the Court ruling it was illegal to solicit customers, to earn income from a prostitute, and to maintain a brothel. The Court found that these limitations on an otherwise legal activity made it dangerous and inefficient, and did so for no compelling reason. Thus, these limitations violated prostitutes’ rights. The Court stayed its ruling to allow Parliament time to enact new legislation. The conservative government in Canada responded with Bill C-36, passed into law, which follows the Swedish model in banning the purchase of sex (though selling sex remains lawful and though prostitutes may now employ aides and managers, work in brothels, and solicit openly in areas where children do not congregate).[19]

The contest between “end demand” abolitionists and their opponents shows up in cross-national debates as well. In 2013, the organization UN Women circulated a note among international NGOs warning that “[t]he conflation of consensual sex work and sex trafficking leads to inappropriate responses that fail to assist sex workers and victims of trafficking in realizing their rights. Furthermore, failing to distinguish between these groups infringes on sex workers’ right to health and self-determination and can impede efforts to prevent and prosecute trafficking.”[20] The note generated a number of hostile responses and defensive counter-responses. The Swedish Women’s Lobby demanded the note be officially withdrawn:

We are aware that the so called “sex workers” movement is pushing at all levels for a positioning that would distinguish between prostitution and trafficking. While we support the urgent need to stop criminalising women and girls in prostitution and protecting them from all forms of violence and human rights violation, we strongly believe that any purchase of sex, whether the prostituted person has been trafficked/exploited or not, is fuelling trafficking, normalising the sex industry and perpetuating inequality between women and men.[21]

In its 2012 report, “Rights, Risk, and Health,” the UN’s Global Commission on HIV and the Law, like UN Women, deplored the tendency to conflate sex work and sex trafficking, and declared, “Decriminalisation is the first step toward better working conditions” for prostitutes. Likewise, UNAIDS’ 2012 “Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work” insisted that “[a]ll adult sex workers have the right to determine whether to remain in or leave sex work.” Its Advisory Committee was more direct: “States should move away from criminalising sex work or activities associated with it.” Similarly, the UNAIDS report on “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific” advised decriminalization.[22] These reports drew fire from Equality Now and other abolitionists. The latter, in turn, took comfort from the 2013 report of the European Parliament’s Commission on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, which pronounced prostitution to be “a form of slavery incompatible with human dignity and fundamental human rights.” “Prostitution,” it maintained, “is a very obvious and utterly appalling violation of human dignity” and to legalize it “is to legalise sexual slavery.”[23]


Every scholarly study and responsible report about prostitution and trafficking begins the same way: there’s a “relative dearth of thorough-going empirical studies” about prostitution; “[o]ne of the biggest challenges of doing research on human trafficking is the scarcity of reliable and comparable data;” “numerous articles have been published in scholarly journals but few are based on systematic primary data collection. . . . [w]ith few empirical studies available, imagination seems to have filled the gaps of our knowledge.”[24]

Imagination – and reckless imagination at that – has indeed filled the “gaps of knowledge” with an amazing array of “factoids.” Here are a few, easily accessed on websites or stumbled across in the written literature:

  • People in prostitution face a “workplace” homicide rate 51 times higher than the next most dangerous job for women (working in a liquor store).[25]
  • The average age of death of prostitutes is 34.[26]
  • There are 40 million prostitutes worldwide (or 200 million or 13 million).[27]
  • The average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen (or twelve).[28]
  • Only an estimated 100-300 women in the U. S. actually choose prostitution.[29]
  • One in five [pornographic] images on the internet is of underage girls.[30]
  • 400,000 children in the U. S. are lured into the sex trade every year.[31]
  • Only 2% of prostitutes ever get out.[32]
  • The average life expectancy for a child forced into sexual slavery is 7 years.[33]
  • The international sex trafficking industry is yearly worth $32, or $44, or $58 billion.[34]
  • There are 12½ million slaves in the world today (1.5 out of every thousand people); or 27 million; or more than 30 million.[35]
  • 79% of all human trafficking in the world is for sexual purposes, or 87%.[36]
  • 50,000 women and children are trafficked annually for sexual exploitation into the United States, or it might be 18,000-20,000.[37]

The list could be expanded indefinitely.[38] Unfortunately, these factoids not only find their way into popular commentary, advocacy websites, and the like, they often show up in academic writing as well. I call them “factoids” because sometimes they have a mangled though tenuous relation to real facts. Other times they are plainly made up. For example, the idea that you can pick out 100 to 300 prostitutes among the alleged one million (or the alleged 84,000) that ply their trade in the U. S. as the ones who freely choose their occupation is risible.[39]

Other “factoids” have their origins in facts. Take for example the ubiquitous claim that the mortality rate for prostitutes is extremely high. This claim arises from a study by John Potterat and fellow researchers. They kept track of prostitutes in Colorado Springs between 1967-1999, gathering enough information to identify death rates and causes of death among them. Ninety-four percent were street prostitutes and many if not most were drug users. Drugs and alcohol accounted for 27% of the deaths. Homicide accounted for 19%, accident 12%, and AIDS 9%. Overall, the mortality rate among these prostitutes was very high, indeed, and their murder rate was 18 times higher than for women in general aged 15-44. What the study showed is that drug-taking street prostitutes lead a dangerous life. And one can hardly blame less-than-careful readers for extrapolating these numbers to prostitutes as a whole, since Potterat and his colleagues made this same leap: “The high homicide and overall mortality rates observed in our cohort probably reflect circumstances for nearly all prostitutes in the United States.”[40] On the contrary, they probably don’t. Potterat and his colleagues supplied no justification for their claim. Yet if streetwalkers represent only 10% or 20% of the total prostitution population in the United States, a figure commonly cited by studies,[41] then the fate of streetwalkers does not necessarily represent the fate of prostitutes in general. The relevant comparison class to those Colorado Springs streetwalkers is the one composed of other drug-taking young women not selling sex on the street but dealing drugs, stealing, and engaging in other risky illegal activities. Their mortality rate is likely to be quite high too.

A second claim arising from the Potterat study, found in lots of abolitionist literature, warrants no excuse at all. This is the claim that the average age of death of prostitutes is 34, a claim peddled by, among others, Nicholas Kristoff in his New York Times column of March 13, 2008.

In the Colorado Springs study, the average age of death of the 100 prostitutes who died during the study was 34, not the average age of death of the 1600-plus prostitutes studied, almost all of whom hadn’t died yet in 1999 and many of whom are likely still alive today. Such sloppy and inattentive reading, joined to an obvious desire to bandy about the most extreme or shocking “facts” characterizes so much of the abolitionist ouvre, in print and on-line. Consider, for example, the report of the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, mentioned above. Twice it reports that there are 40-42 million persons involved in prostitution worldwide. It further reports that prostitution generates revenues of $186 billion per year.[42] However, the site ( from which it takes the $186 billion figure puts the number of prostitutes worldwide at 13,265,900. The Committee hadn’t the slightest interest in this figure and never bothered to reconcile it with the much higher claim of 40-42 million it presented in its report.[43] However, if the Committee couldn’t take seriously Havoscope’s low-balling the number of prostitutes, how could it put any credence in  dollar figures on worldwide revenue? There’s an easy answer: the Committee wanted the most dramatic figures it could get. It had no interest in reconciling the numbers. This is not a very generous interpretation, to be sure, but one only needs to read the report to see how the cards are stacked.

“Only 2 percent of prostitutes ever get out.”

“The average life expectancy for a child forced into sexual slavery is 7 years.”

Do you believe these figures? I set the reader a challenge: find the source of the claim that children forced into sexual slavery have a life expectancy of seven years. Any number of websites that make this assertion refer to “FBI” without further description. Find the FBI source and then find its basis for the claim. Good luck.


We know very little about prostitution. Most studies and reports acknowledge this. Even the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality observes “that the lack of reliable, accurate and comparable data among countries, owing mainly to the illegal and often invisible nature of prostitution and trafficking, keeps the prostitution market opaque and hinders political decision-making. . . . [M]ore analysis and statistical evidence is needed” in order to make sound policy choices: either to decriminalize prostitution or to impose sex-purchase bans.[44]

However, like so many reports, it then proceeds without caution or qualification to opt for a sex-purchase ban, a policy that presupposes that the “more analysis and statistical evidence” called for will in fact show prostitution to take one shape rather than another. The report makes frequent references to cherry-picked “studies,” offering the illusion of that its own recommendations are thoroughly fact-based. They are not.

If we really cared about the facts, how would we find them? Where could we place our trust and reliance? I start to answer this question in Essay 2.



[1] United States Code, Title 22, Chap. 83, §7601 (23). During the same period Janice Raymond of the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women was urging Congress in its anti-trafficking legislation to take an abolitionist position against prostitution. See CATW>Best Practices>Legislative Advocacy>Testimony. According to Penelope Saunders, the split among feminist groups on the issue of prostitution hampered lobbying by liberal forces against the “must-oppose-prostitution-pledge” in the HIV legislation; Penelope Saunders, “Prohibiting Sex Work Projects, Restricting Women’s Rights: The International Impact of the 2003 U.S. Global AIDS Act,” Health and Human Rights, 7 (2004), pp. 179-192. A New York Times article describes a meeting of evangelicals and feminists in 2006 to give their stamp of approval to John Miller to head the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. His attraction to both groups lay in his willingness to endorse that the claims that prostitution is “inherently hurtful and dehumanizing” and that it, along with other sex work, “[fuels] the modern-day slavery known as sex trafficking.” Joel Brinkley, “A Modern-Day Abolitionist Battles Slavery Worldwide,” New York Times, February 4, 2006.

[2] Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, 133 S. Ct. 2321 (2013). Congress imposed its requirement on all recipient organizations “except . . . the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative . . . [and] any United Nations Agency.” The United States still imposes this requirement on other foreign NGOs, who are not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and thus not covered by the ruling in Agency v Alliance.

[3] Equality Now>Our Work>Trafficking,

[4] CATW>Projects and Campaigns>Redefining Prostitution Law,

[5] Supreme Court of the United States, Agency for International Development et al., Petitioners, v Alliance for Open Society International Inc., et al., Respondents. ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT. BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE COALITION AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN, EQUALITY NOW, ET AL., IN SUPPORT OF REVERSAL, pp. 5, 9, In a footnote at p. 6, CATW and Equality Now write: “While amici do not conflate prostitution and trafficking and acknowledge that not all individuals in the commercial sex industry are or were under the control of a trafficker, we have learned both from our work on the ground with victims and survivors and from available research, that most individuals in the industry entered as children exploited by adults, as recognized by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, 22 U.S.C. § 7101(b)(4) (2006); that the vast majority of people in prostitution are induced into it by ‘the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability,’ a means of trafficking identified by the Palermo Protocol . . . and that once in the commercial sex industry, it is extraordinarily difficult for prostituted people to exit, as the result of addiction, trauma and other psychological injury, and subtle and not so subtle tactics of coercion employed by sex industry profiteers.”

[6] They include several chapters of SWOP (Sex Worker Outreach Project, headquartered in San Francisco), the Red Umbrella Project, Desiree Alliance, and HIPS, a twenty-year old Washington, DC project with some public as well as private support. The Sex Workers Project in New York City, part of the Urban Justice Center, is perhaps the best supported, and provides both policy advocacy and assistance – psychological, material, and legal – to sex workers in the city. SWOP USA gets along on about $25,000 a year; the combined budgets of Equality Now and CATW are nearly 200 times as large.

[7] See for links to the original legislation and subsequent reauthorizations.

[8] The Protocol’s full definition: “Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs; (b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used; (c) The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered ‘trafficking in persons’ even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article; (d) ‘Child’ shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.” Article 3,

[9] Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Section 103,

[10] Förbud mot köp av sexuell tjänst: En utvärdering 1999–2008 (Prohibiting the purchase of sexual services: An evaluation 1999-2008), SOU 2010:49, p. 29,

[11] May-Len Skilbrei and Charlotta Holmstrom, Prostitution Policy in the Nordic Region: Ambiguous Sympathies (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2013), p. 118.

[12] Proposition de Loi-Renforçant la Lutte Contre le Système Prostitutionnel, Chapter IV, Article 16 (National Assembly, November 30, 2013); Proposition de Loi Adoptée par L’Assemblée, Renforçant la Lutte Contre le Système Prostitutionnel, Texte de la Commission Spéciale, Chapter IV, Article 16 Supprimé (Deleted), July 8, 2014,

[13] BBC News, “Human Trafficking Bill: Paying for Sex to Become a Crime in Northern Ireland”, December 9, 2014,; Marie O’Halloran, “Bill to Criminalise Purchase of Sex Includes on-the-spot Fines and Jail for Repeat Offenders,” Irish Times, May 3, 2013,

[14] Prostitutionsgesetz vom 20. Dezember 2001 (BGBl. I S. 3983), For the limited effect of the law, see Rebecca Pates, “Liberal Laws Juxtaposed with Rigid Control: an Analysis of the Logics of Governing Sex Work in Germany,” Sexuality Research & Social Policy, vol. 9, no. 3 (September 2012), pp. 212–222.

[15] See A.L. Daalder, Prostitution in the Netherlands since the Lifting of the Brothel Ban, Scientific Research and Documentation, Ministry of Justice, Netherlands, 2007.

[16] See “Danish stance on prostitution,”

[17] See these websites: Scarlet Alliance,; Coalition Against Trafficking in Women in Australia,

[18] See “Prostitution Law Reform in New Zealand,” July 2012,

[19] Canada v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72,; C-36, Second Session, Forty-first Parliament, House of Commons of Canada, 2013-2014,

[20] Global Network of Sex Work Projects,

[21] Swedish Women’s Lobby,

[22] UN Secretariat, Global Commission on HIV and the Law, “Risk, Rights, and Health,” July 2012, p. 40,; UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work, April 2012, p. 17; Annex 1, p. 6,; John Godwin, Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific: Laws, HIV and Human Rights in the Context of Sex Work, UNAIDS, October 2012, p. 14,

[23] Mary Honeyball, Report on Sexual Exploitation and Prostitution and Its Impact on Gender Equality, European Parliament, Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, February 2013, p. 16,

[24] Margaret A. Baldwin, “Pornography and the Traffic in Women,” Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, vol. 1 (Spring 1989), p. 124; Seo-Young Cho et al, “Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Trafficking,” World Development, 41 (January 2013), p. 69; Sheldon X. Zhang, “Beyond the ‘Natasha’ Story – A Review and Critique of Current Research on Sex Trafficking,” Global Crime, 10, (August 2009), p. 178.

[25] Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Fact Sheet, “Misconception: Prostitution is Just Another Job,”

[26] Nicholas Kristoff, “Do as He Said,” New York Times, March 13, 2008,; Helen Mees, “Does Legalizing Prostitution Work?”(2009), posted in the Carnegie Council on-line journal Policy Innovations,

[27] The Stats on Prostitution,; Michael Chan et al., “Regulating the Oldest Profession in the New Economy: A Study of Online and Cyberprostitution in the Netherlands, the United States, China, and Hong Kong,”; Havoscope: Illegal Markets-Prostitution Statistics-Number of Prostitutes Worldwide: 13,265,900, The figure given by Chan et al. illustrates the sloppiness of research in this area. They posit 200,000,000 prostitutes worldwide based on a claim by Donna Hughes. They give the wrong date for their citation of Hughes, but they are relying on her essay “Pimps and Predators on the Internet: Globalizing Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children” (no longer on the CATW website Chang et al cites but available at this site:, where she asserts, “There are approximately 200 million people around the world who are forced to live as sexual or economic slaves (emphasis added).” Since Hughes counts all prostitutes as slaves, everything depends on how many non-prostitute “slaves” there are in the world (e.g., children and adults coerced into street begging, agricultural production, manufacturing, tuna fishing, and the like). If “forced labor” exceeds by far ”forced prostitution” or prostitution in general, then the Chan et al figures are way off base (as they almost certainly are).

[28] Vednita Carter and Evalina Giobbe, “Duet: Prostitution, Racism and Feminist Discourse,” Hastings Women’s Law Journal, 37 (1999), p. 45; Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Florida,

[29] Robert Brannon, “Does Consensual Prostitution Exist?” NOMAS Task Group on Pornography and Prostitution,

[30] Safe House of Hope, Baltimore, MD,

[31] San Diego Youth Services-The Action Network,

[32] Leslie Fain, “Why Do It for Free?” Human Life Review (Summer 2013),

[33] Traffic 911 Innocence Taken, Or see the many variations: “The average life expectancy of a child who enters prostitution before the age of 18 is only 7 years,”; “The average life expectancy of a prostitute is 7 years,”; “The average life span of a child caught in the sex slave trade is two years,”

[34] Massachusetts Attorney General,; Lord McColl, Parliamentary Debate, United Kingdom 2009,; The Stats on Prostitution,

[35] Melissa Dess, “Walking the Freedom Trail: An Analysis of the Massachusetts Human Trafficking Statute,” Boston College Journal of Law and Social Justice, 33 (2013), p. 154; Bangor (Maine) Daily News, October 5, 2012,; Not for Sale Campaign,

[36] Speaking of Prostitution Website,; Melissa Farley, Prostitution & Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections (San Francisco: Prostitution Research and Education, 2007), p. 1. Here we have another example of the sloppy treatment of evidence common across the board. The Speaking of Prostitution website and Melissa Farley both rely on an apparently impeccable source, a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (Farley uses a 2006 version, Speaking of Prostitution a 2009 version). However, both brush over an important qualifier made by UNODC: “[S]exual exploitation is by far the most commonly identified form of human trafficking (79%), followed by forced labour (18%). This may be the result of statistical bias. By and large the exploitation of women tends to be visible, in city centres, or along highways. Because it is more frequently reported, sexual exploitation has become the most documented type of trafficking in aggregate statistics. In comparison, other forms of exploitation are under-reported.” (Emphasis added.) Moreover, here is what the International Labour Organization currently says about forced labor: Almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys; almost 19 million victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises and over 2 million by state institutions or rebel groups; of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation. International Labour Organization,–en/index.htm.

[37] U.S. State Department, TIP Report 2001; U.S. State Department, TIP Report 2003.the TIP Trafficking Persons) reports for each year can be found at

[38] For further examples of baseless claims, consider these. Gloria Steinem, amplifying on the baleful consequences that would follow if prostitution were legalized, claims that “[t]he women’s movement had to march to keep the state government [in Nevada] from denying welfare, unemployment and other benefits to women who wouldn’t take this job [of prostituting at one of Nevada’s legal brothels] — because it was presented as ‘work like any other.’ In Germany, too, legalisation turned the government into a procurer — until there were massive objections.” Interview of Gloria Steinem by Rakhshanda Jalil, June 18, 2012, The Germany allusion is based on a newspaper article in the Telegraph (London) in 2005 by Clare Chapman, who reported that an unemployed German woman got a call through a job center offering her a job. The job was in a brothel. Chapman then quotes an individual who conjectures that unemployed women who refuse to take brothel jobs could have their benefits reduced, Since then countless stories, without attribution, have reported this conjecture as fact. The “massive objections” in Germany that Steinem refers to never happened. As to the Nevada part of Steinem’s claim, it’s impossible to find any sourcing for it. Nevada state government has little to do with prostitution, which is authorized and regulated at the county level. Moreover, those who work in brothels in Nevada are not “employees” with “jobs;” they are independent contractors. Nevada unemployment benefit rules do not require any jobless person to set himself or herself up as an independent contractor of any sort. Otherwise, no one would be eligible for unemployment benefits. The Nevada rules today and in the past mirror all state rules: “A person must accept an offer of suitable employment when made and must go on referrals to suitable work as directed by this Division. Suitable work is defined as work which the individual customarily performs and that pays the prevailing (average) wage for that type of work in the area that the work is being performed” (emphasis added),

A similarly made-up “datum” is the frequently quoted contention that human trafficking is the third or second most lucrative illegal trade in the world. In recent comments at a conference, Kevin Bales, co-author of The Slave Next Door (University of California Press, 2009), recounts:” I know exactly where [that claim] came from and exactly how it happened, because I said it. In a meeting, at the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, I was the consultant on human trafficking for the establishment of the ‘trafficking’ part of ODC in the year 2000. It was a closed meeting and someone said ‘so where do you think this lands in terms of other types of organised crime that we’re working on here at the Office on Drugs and Crime, drugs and arms, like that?’ And they turned to me because I was the data guy and I said, ‘Listen, no one knows the answer to that question, it’s impossible to answer that question. If I had to guess I would say it was third, but no one could answer that question.’ Soon this figure found its way into a report, and then into nearly every book and essay on human trafficking.” The comments by Bales were made at a speech by Ronald Weitzer at Queens University in Belfast, April 2013. The transcript is at

[39] The number 1,000,000 is provided by the web-site Havoscope,, the 84,000 estimate is in John H. Potterat, Donald E. Woodhouse, John B. Muth, and Stephen Q. Muth, “Estimating the Prevalence and Career Longevity of Prostitute Women,” Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 27 (May 1990), pp. 233-243.

[40] John J. Potterat, Devon D. Brewer, Stephen Q. Muth, Richard B. Rothenberg, Donald E. Woodhouse, John B. Muth, Heather K. Stites, and Stuart Brody, “Mortality in a Long-term Open Cohort of Prostitute Women,” American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 159, no. 8 (2004), p. 784.

[41] In a prior report, Potterat and associates remark: “Colorado Springs female prostitutes work in a variety of settings: on the stroll (street), in bars, dance halls, hotels, bawdy houses, massage parlors, and through various services advertised in newspapers. It has been our experience that the same woman may work in different settings, simultaneously or sequentially.” John J. Potterat, Donald Woodhouse, John B. Muth, and Stephen Q. Muth, “Estimating the Prevalence and Career Longevity of Prostitute Women,” Journal of Sex Research, vol. 27 (May 1990), p. 234. However, they  offer no further support for this observation, nor further elaboration; earlier work by Potterat and associates focused only on street prostitution (John J. Potterat, Richard Rothenberg, and Donald C. Cross, “Gonorrhea in Street Prostitutes: Epidemiologic and Legal Implications,” Sexually Transmitted Diseases, vol. 6 [April-June 1979], pp. 58-63). In the current study, a high percentage of the prostitutes were injecting drug users, a characteristic of street prostitutes but not of off-street prostitutes.

On the estimation of street prostitutes numbers generally, see Michael S. Scott & Kelly Dedel, Street Prostitution, 2nd Edition (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2006), p. 2; Tamara O’Doherty, “Victimization in Off-Street Sex Industry Work,” Violence Against Women, Vol. 17 (2011), p. 945; Frances M. Shaver, “Prostitution,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, article posted online 2011,; Christine Stark and Carol Hodgson, “Sister Oppressions: A Comparison of Wife Battering and Prostitution,” Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2 (Summer 2003), p. 19; Frances M. Boyle et al., “Psychological Distress Among Female Sex Workers,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Vol. 21 (1997), pp. 643-44; Jody Raphael and Deborah L. Shapiro, Sisters Speak Out: The Lives and Needs of Prostituted Women in Chicago (Chicago: Center for Impact Studies, 2002), p. 8; John Lowman, testimony, Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, 38th Parliament, 1st Session, Monday, February 21, 2005, § 1825; Jane Scoular and Maggie O’Neill, “Legal Incursions into Supply/Demand: Criminalising and Responsibilising the Buyers and Sellers of Sex in the UK,” in Vanessa E. Munro, and Marina Della Giusta, Demanding Sex: Critical Reflections on the Regulation of Prostitution (New York: Ashgate, 2008), p. 17; Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee on the Operation of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, Ministry of Justice, Government of New Zealand, May 2008, pp. 34, 118; Meredith L. Dank, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (El Paso, TX: LFB Scholarly Publishing, 2001), p. 13.

[42] “Prostitution is a major factor in organised crime, second only to drugs in its scope and reach and the amount of money involved. The Havocscope website estimates prostitution revenue at around $186 billion per year worldwide.” Mary Honeyball, Report on Sexual Exploitation and Prostitution and Its Impact on Gender Equality, European Parliament, Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, February 2013, p. 15,

[43] “According to a 2012 report by Fondation Scelles, prostitution has a global dimension involving around 40-42 million people, 90% of whom are dependent on a procurer.” Mary Honeyball, Report of Women’s Committee, p. 15.

[44] Mary Honeyball, Report of Women’s Committee, p. 9.