Home Activism The Emperor’s New Clothes: Swedish Model Edition

The Emperor’s New Clothes: Swedish Model Edition

The Emperor’s New Clothes. (Illustration via Commons, by Helen Stratton)

Once upon a time, there was a cold little kingdom in the north—we can call it Swedala. Now, you might not believe in magical spells, frogs that turn into princes, or other imaginary things. But believe me when I tell you that in this kingdom people were living in two parallel worlds so different they might as well have been different universes.

The emperor who ruled the country had, for the longest time, tried to erase any individual forms of expression among the people, aiming for a kingdom where each and every person lived the exact same life as their neighbor. Now, you might think that the emperor was an evil man, but he was actually a simple soul, worried about receiving love and worship from his constituency. To achieve that, he hired a stable of advisers. They assured him that in order to receive the approval of the people as well as the admiration of neighboring kingdoms, it was necessary to repair the very fabric of society. They told him that magic rules to control the population were the only way that could be achieved. Sometimes the rules seemed unnecessary, complicated, or harsh to the emperor. But the few times he questioned them, it was insinuated that he might not understand the brilliance of the golden rules, for only smart men could truly grasp their innovative greatness.

Those who learned at a different pace were locked up and denied the right to have children. Others who chose to use gold dust to enjoy life were left to die in the streets, and alternative ways of expressing what it meant to be a human being were punished severely. So all those who wished to stay the way they were had to hide in the parallel world of shadows where no one could hear them—even though they could be seen, people knew to ignore them as if they were invisible. At times, the emperor had doubts about this being the right way to treat the kingdom’s citizens, but he was afraid that the advisers would find him a simpleton, and quickly pushed away his doubts.

A particularly evil adviser, the adviser of state feminism, had decided that yet another group should be sent to the shadows of the parallel world. This time. it was those who provided pleasure in exchange for gold. Pleasure was seen as something that only had value if it was provided for free. The adviser of state feminism assured the emperor that if he banished these people, all the neighboring kingdoms would not only admire but eagerly line up to emulate his magic rules. The people in Swedala applauded this new idea, as they never questioned the emperor’s wisdom, but in the shadows the pleasure providers feared for their very existence.

Our intrepid band of pleasure providers, journeying out of the shadows (Rose Alliance protest-image courtesy of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects and Rose Alliance)
Our intrepid band of pleasure providers, journeying out of the shadows. (Rose Alliance protest—photo courtesy of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects and Rose Alliance)

A group of pleasure providers started meeting regularly. They thought that maybe if they were many, and shouted loud enough, they might be heard over in the other world. The evil adviser tried to make it impossible for them to exist by creating a number of special rules; the latest aimed at eliminating them altogether. You see, the advisers chased people into the shadows, but they would have preferred that the parallel world of shadows and the people that inhabited it didn’t exist at all. This might sound strange now, but in those days everybody was not valued equally. They did all have the same duties, though, and pleasure providers were not allowed to have clients, but had to pay taxes to the kingdom just the same.

Sometimes, the group of pleasure provider friends looked at each other and said, “Maybe we are crazy, and the advisers are right?” This is what living in Swedala did to you. And now their friends in the neighboring kingdoms were under the threat of similar rules, aimed at eliminating them all. The emperor’s advisers had a plan to conquer the world by telling everybody that the magic rules could not only repair the fabric of society, but also fill it with butterflies and sparkly dildos so each and every one could have pleasure for free.

There was a debate with the adviser of the minister of justice. She had a satisfied smile plastered all over her face. “Two hundred female pleasure providers gone from the streets,” she triumphantly exclaimed, “Gone!” The group of pleasure provider friends, who for the day had dared to leave the shadows, asked her where these women were. Wasn’t anyone looking for them, and wasn’t she worried? She answered, “Yes, but it’s worth it.” She looked at the audience and shouted, “We are sending a message, that’s what’s important!” The lives of a few seem unimportant when you’re on a mission to gain the admiration of other people in power. In the newspaper, a soldier in the emperor’s army announced, “We have arrested most of the clients of the pleasure providers in the streets, now only the dangerous ones remain.” Apparently, that was a success as well, though in the parallel universe of shadows, it seemed like anything but. But no one asked what the pleasure providers themselves thought.

Suddenly the whole planet was acting like Swedala had the answer to how to repair the fabric of society and make it sparkly and new, and any crazy claim was suddenly the truth. No one seemed to remember that only a few years earlier Swedala’s advisers had said, “Look at us; we have this amazing tool to protect all women and make them equal to men! Look at us; if you just criminalize the clients of pleasure providers, your country’s women can be happy too!” The neighboring country Norwalla, that later copied the magic rules, dismissed them at the time, and the rest of the world barely paid any attention to Swedala’s PR campaign. But a few years later, the rules had been wrapped in a different paper, all shiny and new, and the world sat up and took notice. “This is how we solved it, no slavery in sight!” Swedala’s advisers chanted.

You see, at the time, it was a popular myth that pleasure was deeply unpleasurable to provide, so it was assumed that a pleasure provider work force could only be obtained through kidnapping and slavery. Many Swedalian advisers went on road trips to explain the magic of the rules, wining and dining neighboring emperors. The most prominent advisers received visitors from other kingdoms. You might wonder if they didn’t have other matters to attend to. But the quest for prestige and glory overshadowed the need to perform any mundane task.

The pleasure providers were frustrated about registering to pay taxes, if this was how the emperor intended to spend their money. In the other world, however, they failed to see that Swedala was just pretending to have given the adviser of state feminism a brand new golden thread to repair the fabric of society. She wound the imaginary fabric around herself and the emperor while explaining the magic rules. The world admired the adviser of state feminism and her self-proclaimed wisdom, and complimented her on how magnificent she and the emperor looked draped in pure gold. The pleasure providers failed to see what everyone else did. She not only looked naked to them, but plain evil.

Occasionally the little group of pleasure provider friends were visited briefly by curious advisers from other kingdoms. They claimed to want the opinions of the pleasure providers themselves, but they were enchanted by the words of the evil Swedalian advisers, such that they could not hear what was said. The pleasure providers explained that the rules were evil, not magic. They pointed to the rips in the fabric of society and said, “Can’t you see, it is not only torn, but shredded and dirty. Does this look like gold to you?”

They tried to explain that pleasure providers in Swedala could not even object to the rules, as it was a common belief that people living in the shadows lacked any form of insight into what was good and right. After all, who in their right mind would leave the real world for a shadow existence?

One of the many incarnations of the evil adviser of state feminism (Ulrica Messing, former Swedish Minister of Gender Equality in 1999, when she was one of the sponsors of the Kvinnofrid law, which passed the Swedish model of criminalizing clients into law—photo via Scanpix)
One of the many incarnations of the evil adviser of state feminism. (Ulrica Messing, former Swedish Minister of Gender Equality in 1999, when she was one of the sponsors of the Kvinnofrid law, which established the Swedish model of criminalizing clients of sex workers—photo via Scanpix)

The visitors asked, “So no client has killed a pleasure provider since the law was introduced?”

The pleasure providers said, “We lost a princess of the shadows due to the evil rules. Princess Jasmine was sentenced to a shameful existence in the shadows by the advisers, and it killed her!”

But the visitors were blinded by the emperor’s shiny clothes and their dreams of elections to come, so that they could not hear the pleasure providers.

For a short while, an adviser from the Green Western Isle stepped into the world of shadows, and expressed his concern about how easy it was for soldiers to listen in on people’s conversations. But he quickly retreated back to the land of easy solutions. From the parallel world of shadows it looked to the shadow people like there was a generation of brain washed advisers in Eurogalia. But no one stayed long enough in the world of shadows to find out how the emperor treated the people there; they were in a rush back to their own universe where they could forget that the truth wasn’t exactly what they wished it to be.

When emissaries from other kingdoms came to visit, the evil adviser seemed filled with concern for the pleasure providers. But when the visitors returned home, she raided the world of the shadows at night, in the company of soldiers and well-meaning women from the middle classes. They dragged the pleasure providers out of the shadows, pretending patience at first:”We want to save you, do not fear us. We only want to take you to safety and free you!”

The more the pleasure providers resisted, the less patient the rescue party grew: “We want to save you. If you do not appreciate it you will be punished!”

When our pleasure provider friends managed to escape back into the shadows, the adviser of state feminism screamed after them, “You have to let us save you! Become like us or disappear!”

Our brave friends huddled together in the shadows, shivering from the fear you feel when you realize you might have to stay in the shadows forever. When would people realize that the fabric of society was not repaired, but rather ripped to pieces?

After a while, no more visitors came to the world of shadows. No one wanted to spend enough time there to hear what our friends had to say. After some time, they grew more and more quiet. Later, they lost the ability to even whisper. It didn’t seem worth it to attempt to speak when no one listened. So they sat quietly in the shadows, clinging to the hope that one day someone would pass by and say “Look at that, it seems like the whole fabric of society is ripped to pieces. Want to help us mend it? You people in the shadows have seen the tears in it for such a long time—we really need your help with this.”

But no one came, and as far as we know they are still waiting quietly in the shadows for some real magic to happen.

Pye Jakobsson is a sex worker and activist from Sweden. She has worked in most fields of sex work, but is seriously lousy at talking dirty and couldn't give a decent blowjob if her life depended on it (because of a malfunction in her jaw, obviously, not because it is so boooooring). She is currently on a break from sex work, as talking about the Swedish Model leaves her unwilling to get naked with anyone, whether she's paid or not. So for now she is keeping busy with activism, entertaining the idea that one day she will find the time to write for pleasure, rather than out of frustration and anger.


  1. Thank you Pye Jakobsson. We are still a lot of people who wants to listen to your voices from the shadows.

    Bo Jensen, Denmark

  2. Interesting perspective.

    A well written historical account based on the history of human trafficking hysteria and what it all truly amounts to has just been published by Thaddeus Russell titled SEX SLAVES AND THE SURVEILLANCE STATE and is found here: http://reason.com/archives/2014/04/22/sex-slaves-and-the-surveillanc

    I’m pretty certain that they’ve figured out that this is a nifty way to expand control, expand government powers, and to fund the state on the backs of sex workers and their clients while the rest of society isn’t really paying attention to what’s really going on. This is nothing new it’s just gotten a lot worse.

  3. Thaddeus Russell’s book ‘Renegade history of the united states’ is an incredible historical read that details the moral hysteria which brought into play divorce laws and prostitution laws, all sorts of history we are not going to get in normal history classes or via the mainstream. It’s very interesting to read the history involved with all of this. Check it out if you haven’t!

  4. Just came across this, beautiful and saddening. Don’t want your voices to be silenced.
    Tack for allt du gor for sexarbetare Pye. Halsningar fran Amsterdam.

  5. So strange that Sweden does so much well. For example there are academic studies showing economies with high taxation, low debt, and balanced budgets, are prosperous economies with efficient public services that people benefit from due to the constant requirement that when you want to expand a programme you have to rigorously cut what isn’t taxpayer value.
    Countries like the UK where the govt still spends 1.17 for every 1.00 collected in taxes and has pretty average public services should be looking up to Sweden.
    But contrarily, rather than exporting the idea of big government with fiscal responsibility, Sweden wants to export almost the only thing she is getting wrong – a view that it is morally wrong for two people to negotiate a monetary value for sexy time.


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