Top 10 Anti-Sex Trafficking Campaigns

by Charlotte Shane on July 27, 2011 · 6 comments

in Trafficking, Videos

I’m a little nervous to have been tasked with following in the footsteps of Kat’s outrageously hysterical Top 10 Anti-Sex Work Billboards. Mostly just because hers was so good but also because, as Kutchergate proved, anyone who criticizes the methodology around anti-trafficking measures may be automatically labeled a trafficking-loving monster. But I’ve probably already made my bed on that front, and dammit, somebody’s got to talk about how ridiculous these ads are.

10. I couldn’t rank this project higher because I couldn’t get too far into the website with either Safari or Chome and I think Lion is destroying my computer. What I did get to see was a super cute guy sucking on his fingers and grabbing his crotch, which totally did it for me even though I’m sure he was mistaking me for a man. Then I came back for seconds and got a Suicide Girl with a rockin’ bod dancing around like she was in a music video. (I suspect the video might be for that great rock classic, “Surprise! She seems willing but you’re a rapist.”)

Spoiler Alert: Bubbles filled me in on what happens after the point where my screen froze up: “The boy dances around some, then the scene changes to the boy being a junkie and sitting at the feet of some ominous looking dude. Then it says something about how a picture of a man who understands is worth a thousand words and offers you the chance to share your link on various social networking sites. It is not entirely clear what the point is? And hey, the girl gets beaten instead of drugs.” Of course she does.

9. It’s fascinating to me when an organization doesn’t even try to hide its continuation of the (universally discredited) white slavery panic. Apparently, lots of white British girls are forcibly abducted by strangers and the most important role of the general public is to “not be oblivious.” Come on, no one even suggests self defense classes as a more useful response? What really bugs me about this video is how the menacing guy’s just beat the crap out of victim girl’s face and head, and her first response is to tug down the hem of her already knee-length skirt even though nothing he’s done up to that point has been remotely sexual. Preserving her unthreatened innocence is a higher priority than preventing brain damage.

8. What grocery store devotes this much horizontal shelf space to pickles? And are those baby dills kosher? Zing!

7. Seriously, this is one wacky Superfresh. I’d complain about the butcher skimping on the blondes. You expect me to pay “XXX” for that?

6. From what I could discern, the above idea was the weak predecessor to a Luxembourg campaign where these trays were actually placed in the butchery section of markets. Because it’s never problematic to perpetuate the exact mentality you’re criticizing. The text translates to, “If you’re buying a prostitute, you’re financing human trading.” (Or that woman’s rent or her kid’s meals, but hey, let’s not split hairs.)

5. You’re going to be distracted by a few things while watching this ad, like wondering why the girl is told to sing and how a thirteen year old got the money to pay someone to smuggle her into another country. But here’s what you should really think about: this ad, made by US Border Control, aired in Mexico and Central America and only later in a few of the Southernmost United States. What earthly purpose does it serve besides trying to terrorize young women out of immigrating and frightening those who’ve already crossed the border into telling family members that it’s not safe to join them? This ad is not anti-victimization, it’s anti-immigration.

4. Ass Crack here really gets my dander up. Why do we have to see so much butt cleavage to understand that this woman probably shouldn’t be incompetently wound up in packing tape? Would a clothed bound woman, or even a chastely taped nude woman, not be sufficiently attention-getting? How can the viewer take seriously the instruction to stop “exploiting” women when the image itself can be considered exploitative? (Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon would ban at least 90% of contemporary trafficking campaigns.) Most of these ads are titillating in order to shame the viewer’s titillation as malevolent and criminal. But if being attracted to this woman’s ass crack is bad, why are you baring her ass crack to me!?

3. It’s convenient that we don’t see the face of the woman in the above ad because trafficked women don’t have uses for their faces anyway—they’re basically mutes who don’t need to be listened to but who rather require a bunch of completely uneducated strangers to speak “for” them. Tyra Banks would not be down with these weak facial expressions, Ladies. My guess is they’re all thinking about the better-paying fashion shoots they were heading to after this.

2. Last year’s “Women To Go” window display in Tel Aviv set off a frenzy of media coverage. You have to watch to the halfway mark of this video, where the guest imagines pleased men saying, “this is great—I can get a woman to go!” only to have their hopes cruelly dashed moments later when they realize they’ve been tricked. (Even the news anchor is like, “Say what?”) As with most trafficking campaigns, this seems less concerned with the idea that someone might work in bad conditions, earning unfair wages, without recourse against those mistreating them, than it is with the idea of “buying” women, aka prostitution itself.

1. There can be no others before Amnesty International’s Socialite. Hairless, toned white legs with pedicured toes clad in Jimmy Choo heels, ferociously chained in 24 karat gold jewelry from Kiki De Montparnasse? Now that’s what I call trafficking! Let’s not be oblivious: this woman needs our voice to help her schedule her next leg wax. Citizen, are you up to the task?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen July 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Great work putting this together.

It is also interesting to look at the exploitative images used in media reports on trafficking. Like this: http://honoluluweekly.com/cover/2011/03/how-much-is-your-daughter-worth/ (apologies for linking to a truly awful article)

and this: http://www.slate.com/id/2120331/

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Iamcuriousblue July 31, 2011 at 2:26 am

I stopped with the “Do You Want Me?” site when it demanded a webcam connection. Online privacy violation much?

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Elle Elle August 25, 2011 at 5:57 am

Some of these are definitely borderline confusing, not because I’m stupid, but….I don’t know…I guess I just don’t see the point of view of some of these people who created the ads.

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Katie Elizabeth September 1, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I’ve never been able to get my hooks into this human trafficking thing because it is always so closely linked to prostitution in general, as the spokeswoman for the “Woman to Go” campaign so clearly outlined. Even before I became a sex worker I knew that a 14-year-old who is abducted and forced into sex is not the same thing as a 25-year-old who sells sex because she appreciates the work and financial freedom. And where is the focus on actually punishing the traffickers? All we ever see are bruised young girls fashioned into marionettes, which keeps the focus on that image and reminds us that all young women in the sex industry are voiceless and non-consenting, and that whoever is holding the strings just doesn’t even really exist. So don’t worry about it. Just keep looking at the feeble young girl with ripped stockings. This is what all prostitutes look like.

The connection between human trafficking and consensual prostitution makes about as much sense as comparing illegal dog fighting with some damn puppies playing in the park. Because a small percentage of people have abused and debased some poor animals, does that mean all dog socialization should be outlawed? To be fair I don’t know a damn thing about the realities of human trafficking, but I think that only proves my point. It probably takes a helluva lot longer for my “dirty money” to reach the hands of those with ill intent than, say, the billions of dollars spent at Exxon stations, fast food restaurants, and Gymboree every damn year. Yes, concerned citizens, this greedy whore MUST be stopped from purchasing $7 goat cheese at her local farmer’s market! It can only perpetuate the disgusting manufacture of…more goat cheese! Best to prosecute me, destroy every facet of my life, and force me to work at the Gap until my debt to society is repaid. Sounds a lot more like slavery to me, folks.

I see anti-sex work campaigns (in general) as undoubtedly intended to evoke an emotional response from people who have no personal connection to the good work itself, otherwise no one would buy this shit (ooh, there’s a good pun there!). Honestly, I would like to know what’s up with human trafficking; as someone who chooses sex work as a living, it feels important to be aware of the dark flip side. But I don’t want the bias, bologna and bullshit shoved down my otherwise perfectly willing throat. This “all prostitution is trafficking” crap is just nonsense and in my eyes destroys the credibility of those who are working honorably to get the story told right.

On that note, ARE there pro-sex worker/anti-human trafficker activists out there?

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Emily March 20, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Hi, I’d like to out myself as a pro-sex worker/anti-human trafficker activist. I work directly with female identified youth under the age of 18, who, predominately, are coerced or otherwise manipulated into exploitation at the hands of a pimp. The organization I work for (who I won’t mention) maintains the support of letting women/adults decide what work is best for them, while wanting to help those under 18 who feel harmed by their involvement in the sex industry. It’s an extremely polarizing topic and I find a lot of fault with the tactics of anti-traffickers. The phrase ‘modern-day slavery’ makes me want to punch myself in the face. I am an ex-sex worker myself and am often conflicted. However, working directly with these youth has shown me a side of trafficking that is hard for me to swallow. I desperately wish there was more understanding on both sides but fear that the anti-trafficking movement has attracted some moralistic, white-male-savior attention that has pushed it over into the alarmist, extremist realm which makes me very uncomfortable. That being said, I still can’t get behind the idea that we shouldn’t be intervening when 13 year olds are in the sex industry (and I’m not saying this is the pro sex-work stance at all). I can’t say the stories I hear from my very real, very alive clients are invalid, or ‘inflated’, one in a million. And even if there was just a smattering of girls experiencing this, as a feminist, I want it addressed.

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