Friday, November 28, 2008

The Truth Isn't Sexy - and it isn't the truth either!

The Salvation Army has launched a campaign to paint all sex industry workers as victims of sexual slavery. Yes, even strippers are considered to be controlled and not in the industry by choice. HAHAHAHAHA! Whoops. Did I laugh out loud?

But it's not really that funny. It's actually extremely disturbing how we've all been portrayed by this long-standing, well-reputed organization. I'd really like to find out where they get their "facts" on human trafficking and the sex industry in general?

Thank you to Shift for emailing me and many others about the propaganda being distributed by the Salvation Army so we could all respond. I sent a letter in response to their campaign and so can you. Here is the letter that Shift suggests sending but I think if you put it in your own words, it will have more impact.

The Salvation Army- Truth Isn’t Sexy Campaign

Sex workers, sex worker organizations, activists, advocates and related individuals
have expressed alarm with the above campaign. Although the campaign deals with
human trafficking, which is a huge issue to tackle and a gross violation of human
rights, the concern is that human trafficking and sex work are grouped together as
one. The messaging is confusing and generalizes all sex workers as being exploited

We believe the message about human trafficking should be a strong one and
we recognize the need for a campaign to focus specifically on this issue. However, it
is essential for the messaging to be clear and focus solely on trafficking and not
include those working in sex work. When grouped together sex workers lose their
voice, and their choice. It continues to marginalize, and discriminate one of the most
vulnerable populations in Canada. Some points in the “truth vs. lies” component of
the campaign are challenging in the fight for the rights and safety of sex workers.

THE LIE Women working in prostitution, strip clubs, escort agencies and sex massage
parlors choose their profession for the lifestyle and money. They are living the “Pretty
Woman” dream by setting their own terms of work and keeping all the money they earn.

THE TRUTH The majority of workers in the sex trade are trapped in modern sex
slavery. They are lured by a boyfriend or recruiter posing as a friend or potential
employer. Some are sold into the industry by their fathers, brothers or husbands. After
recruitment, the women are trapped by drug addiction and debt bondage to a pimp, gang
or sex trade ring.

THE FACTS: Evidence shows is that there are women, men and trans-gendered
individuals who do choose to work in the sex trade. By taking away their voice we are
making assumptions about their lives and the many reasons why people engage in
sex work. We do believe trafficked people, sex workers and people who identify as
being trafficked should have every opportunity and support to exit the sex trade.

“Every sex worker who wants to exit the sex trade needs the option to do so. All sex
workers, however, need the option to work safely, without fear of violence and
exploitation” (

People involved in sex work should also have the right to access non-judgmental
service that allows people to define their own involvement in the sex trade. Many
individuals engaged in sex work do not consider themselves to be slaves or exploited
people. We believe it is be important to allow people to define themselves and their
experiences, and determine what supports best meet their needs.

The stereotype perpetuated in this “truth” is that all sex workers are also drug
addicts. This stereotype is one that sex workers and their advocates have tried to
combat for many years. We want to make it clear that many individuals work in this
industry without using drugs and/or alcohol and are making decisions while sober.

By perpetuating the messages in this campaign it continues to increase harm, and
actually increases the risk of violence to women, men, and trans-gendered
individuals in the sex trade. The posters and messaging in this campaign continue to
perpetuate stereotypes. The women who is being shown to be choked amplifies the
perception of community that it is okay to subject sex workers to violence, once again
taking away their rights to safety and safer working conditions. The campaign
increases stigma and discrimination to one of the most vulnerable populations in

THE LIE Johns (sex trade consumers) are usually awkward, sex addicts that can’t find a
girlfriend or date.

THE TRUTH The majority of Johns are everyday men. He could be a student, a
tradesman or the CEO of a company. He could be married, divorced, widowed, in a
serious dating relationship or single. He may have a sex addiction, but he is almost
always looking for a sense of power. He may believe he is either helping the girls or that
he is not hurting anyone because both parties are consenting adults. A John is usually
looking for the “girlfriend experience”. He is often longing for help, but he doesn’t
realize he needs it.

THE FACTS: Just like there are many reasons people engage in sex work there are
diverse reasons why men purchase sexual services. Johns may be looking for
companionship and support but are often portrayed as violent oppressors. Of course,
there are some Johns who are violent and seek out workers who have been
trafficked. However, to generalize stigmatizes men who are using the services of a
person who is engaged in a legal profession.

THE LIE Prostitution is sex between two consenting adults. It’s not hurting anyone, so
it’s no big deal.

THE TRUTH It is estimated that 90% of woman are not working in the sex trade by
choice; therefore they are not consenting adults. Furthermore, many are under the age of
19 years old making prostitution rape.

THE FACTS: The main concern with this statement is that it diminishes the experience
of people who are over the age of 19 who are experiencing violence. To speak about
rape only as it occurs to individuals under the age of 19, discredits the experiences
of women over the age of 19 who are already facing multiple barriers to reporting
violent crimes, and who are most often the victims or bad or violent dates. When we
consider the continuum of sex work such as, escorting, massage parlor, adult film
and entertainment, we challenge the accuracy of the statement that “90% of women
are not working in the sex trade by choice”.

THE LIE Human trafficking is not the same as prostitution.

THE TRUTH Prostitution is human trafficking. Varying degrees of sex slavery range
from fear based bondage where a worker may have freedom to roam the streets, but is
expected to return with profit to a pimp, to physical bondage in a brothel, where women
and children have been transported away from their home and held in captivity in order
to perform sex acts that profit a sex trade ring or pimp. In both cases, threats and acts of
physical violence hold the women and children in a state of actual or perceived slavery.

THE FACTS: Human Trafficking may include kidnapping, rape, coercion, abuse,
threats and other violations. All of these abuses, within a Canadian context, are
already considered to be crimes. By focusing efforts on a savior approach to persons
involved in sex work by choice, the experiences of actual victims of human trafficking
are diminished. A better approach is to ensure that those who are trafficked have
access to appropriate supports and legal resources to deal with these crimes.
Sex workers need to be recognized as allies in the fight against human trafficking. By
perpetuating the idea that sex work is the same thing as human trafficking you are
potentially loosing a huge group of sex workers who could be helpful in your
awareness raising efforts of human trafficking.

“Women are not the only victims when trafficking is conflated with sex work. The
confusion squanders opportunities to address real victimization and to assist people
in real situations of abuse. Resources, time and energy that might actually help
trafficking victims are wasted in sensational "rescues" that are also ineffective and
often counterproductive” (

* This document was created by the Shift Program in Calgary, Alberta Canada. The
Shift program offers support, outreach and education services to people involved in
the sex trade. *


Hazel said...

Very thought provoking. I'm wishing I had more time to devote to this topic today. I agree wholeheartedly, by confusing the issues between trafficking vs prostitution, we are clouding the situation. People are trafficked every day, to work in fields, factories, other peoples homes as domestic servants. By focusing solely on sex trafficking and confusing trafficked sex slaves with sex workers we are letting a huge number of people in need down. If a trafficked person isn't involved with sex work, does any one really care they aren't free? It's hard to tell. We NEVER hear about them.

PS. Your blog looks awesome, nice new design.

Annie Temple said...

Thanks, Hazel. :) Good points you make about trafficking!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Annie for your support!

The Shift program also now has its own website: