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The Sex Industry’s Attack on Feminists

Posted on Jun 3, 2015

By Meghan Murphy

(Page 2)

The current climate in Anglo-Saxon feminism is one that supports witch hunts, Ekman told me. Such a witch hunt begins with “smear campaigns, appears to be coming ‘from below,’ and calls famous feminists power-crazed, elitist, ‘cis-sexist,’ racist and ‘whorephobic,’ ” she said. “It then proceeds to full-blown silencing campaigns, boycott threats, petitions, isolation of anyone who sides with the feminist and guilt by association.”

In 2003, Melissa Farley, a clinical psychologist and the founder of the nonprofit group Prostitution Research and Education, conducted a study in New Zealand about violence and post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by prostituted people, and she later testified in Parliament there about the interviews conducted. A New Zealand prostitution advocate took issue with her research and filed a complaint against her with the American Psychological Association (APA). The complaint was ignored by the APA and not taken seriously by her colleagues but is continually framed by the prostitution lobby as legitimate and used as an excuse to pressure others to dismiss her extensive and illuminating research.

Julie Bindel, a feminist journalist who has reported on the global sex trade for years, has revealed that the International Union of Sex Workers in Britain was little more than a mouthpiece for pimps and brothel owners. She has also reported on the extensive failures of legalized prostitution in Amsterdam. But in March, after complaints from prostitution lobby groups, she was removed from a panel discussing an American film about prostitution.

Prostitution survivors face silencing tactics as well. Bridget Perrier, a First Nations educator and co-founder of the Toronto-based sex-trade survivors and abolition group Sextrade101, said the efforts of the pro-prostitution lobby are focused on invalidating the experiences of women who have left the industry. Their stories are often called into question.


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Rachel Moran survived seven years in the sex trade in Ireland and has published a book about her experiences, addressing many of the myths and lies perpetuated by the sex-work lobby. For her crime—speaking the truth—she has been subjected to endless harassment, accused more than once of inventing her story.

“I have been defamed, slandered, threatened, physically confronted and screamed at,” Moran told me. “I’ve had my home address, bank details and personal email circulated amongst some of the most seemingly unhinged people, who have tweeted me portions of my home address in a clear we-know-where-to-find-you style threat.”

She added: “It is consistently contended that I was never in prostitution, although the records proving I was are held by the Irish social services and the Dublin District Children Court.”

The denial of truths that would hurt efforts to present a sanitized version of the sex industry aimed at selling prostitution as “simply a job like any other” is key to the campaign for its legalization.

Moran told me she was shocked at the lack of compassion exhibited toward her by sex-industry advocates who claim to have a vested interest in women’s safety. “They simply do not give a damn that they are constructing a deliberate and organized bullying campaign against a woman who was ritualistically sexually abused by adult males since she was 15 years old,” she said. “My truths do not suit them, so my truths must be silenced.”

In desperation, unable and unwilling to respond to basic feminist, socialist arguments against the sex industry—namely, that it exists on a foundation of male power and capitalism, perpetuating misogynist notions about male “needs” and women’s bodies as the things that exist to satisfy these socialized desires—these lobby groups resort to lies and slander.

These groups try to pass smear campaigns off as “critique,” but they are anything but, Ekman, the Swedish journalist, said. “What is going on now is not critique. Rather, it resembles a full-scale Maoist cultural revolution.”

“If you are a prominent feminist, you won’t escape this,” she continued. “If you haven’t been targeted yet, you either will be or you’re not dangerous enough.”

I have been writing about the sex industry and prostitution legislation in Canada for years now. The attacks on my character and work have been relentless. In recent weeks, a number of Canadian sex-industry lobby groups mounted a major smear campaign online, framing arguments against the objectification, exploitation and abuse of women as “bigotry” and willfully distorting my work and views beyond all recognition.

The nonsensical and baseless accusations hurled at me—“transphobic,” “whorephobic,” racist and so on—replicate those used against all women who challenge the status quo in this way. The intention is not justice, but to slander feminists so that their arguments can be ignored and dismissed and in order to bully others into doing the same. The one thing they always fail to mention is the truth.

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