Posts tagged violence against women

Pistorius has taught abusers everywhere that they can come up with the flimsiest of lies and will be believed. Women everywhere have learned that their partners can terrorize and abuse and and even murder them and get away with it.

She must have been terrified.

You can bet Palmer feels empathy and sympathy for Rice. She probably does love him. She more-than-likely hopes and believes he will change. He has probably promised to change many times. This is old hat. Women who have been in abusive relationships know exactly how it goes and how it feels. It’s not easy to believe that someone who claims to love you and who you feel love towards would hurt you. Of course we hope they will stop. Of course we want them to change and want to believe they will. Abusive men aren’t all abusive 24 hours a day. We hang on to the good moments — that’s why we stay.

Abuse is a mindfuck. We are made to feel dependent on our abusers. We feel embarrassed and ashamed at what we’ve been put through, what we’ve “put up with,” at the verbal and emotional abuse we’ve been subjected to. At the reality of our lives and the crazy, humiliating, inexplicable behaviour we’ve witnessed. How can you tell someone those things? Surely no one will understand… Our self-esteem deteriorates. We become isolated from our support systems. We feel we can’t ask for help because we’ve left and gone back so many times over and we know our friends and family are sick of it. We feel judged and we feel stupid and we feel weak. We are strong women and we know better. We feel like we can take it. We can cope. We compartmentalize — shutting the bad stuff out. We tell ourselves it isn’t so bad. We really, really want it to get better. He says he’ll go to counseling. He says he’ll stop drinking. He says if only we’d change our tone of voice or our body language or be gentler or kinder or more thoughtful… If only. We stop trusting ourselves. Is it our fault? Is this normal? Maybe I did provoke him…

Abuse isn’t as simple as you want it to be. It isn’t clear cut. It isn’t easy to leave. It isn’t easy to give up on someone we care about and have invested time and energy and emotion into. But no matter what Palmer does, no matter what she feels or says, it doesn’t make his actions ok. And it doesn’t mean she deserved it.

Though Koppenhaver’s stopped whining on Twitter, the 32-year-old’s attorney, Brandon Sua, has taken over on his behalf, stating to Los Angeles television station KTLA:

“The hardest thing for my client is seeing the responses from the media, the public. There’s been a lot of statements on one side. The media has done a good job of painting my client as a monster, but my client is not a monster. He is a good guy.”

A good guy, folks. A good guy who regularly beat his girlfriend, this time within an inch of her life (because he loved her so much — all he wanted was to propose!), who spent two years in prison in 2010 for attacking a female bartender, and who spoke publicly of Mack as “his property.”

Actual evidence shows the Nordic model works 

A study commissioned by Norway’s government shows that criminalizing the purchase of sex has decreased trafficking and has not caused violence against women to increase, as some have claimed.

Johns have been criminalized in Norway since 2009, following in Sweden’s footsteps.

Reuters reports:

"The nearly 200-page report is based on six months of research, including interviews with male and female prostitutes, police and support organizations.

The Norwegian law applies to all its citizens anywhere, making it illegal for Norwegians to buy sex even in countries where the activity is accepted.

Penalties for breaking the law are set by local municipalities. In Oslo, Norway’s largest city, convicted sex buyers face a 25,000 crown ($4,000) fine.”

Since criminalizing the purchase of sex in 1999, the number of men who buy sex in Sweden went from one in eight to one in 13.

Opponents of the Nordic model tell us that criminalizing the purchase of sex will make it more dangerous and push the trade “underground.” Despite the fact that there is zero evidence to back up these claims and that, in truth, the “underground”/illegal sex trade thrives under legalization, this myth persists, thanks to this oft-repeated misinformation.

The truth is that criminalizing the purchase of sex makes countries that do so less desirable for pimps, johns, and traffickers. It is no real surprise that organized crime has taken over the trade in places that have legalized — it’s simply easier to buy and sell women in places where the practice is normalized and legal. Women and girls are trafficked because there just aren’t enough of them who enter the trade willingly — demand begets exploitation; reduce demand, reduce exploitation.

Meanwhile, claims that legalizing or decriminalizing the purchase of sex and the exploitation of women would make the trade safer, have not proven to be true. As a result, countries like Germany and New Zealand are reconsidering their laws.

In 2012, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that he didn’t think the Prostitution Law Reform Act 2003 had reduced street prostitution or underage prostitutes, stating:

“The argument was that it would eliminate all the street workers and underage people, particularly girls, and the reports that we see in places like South Auckland is that it hasn’t actually worked… I think it’s been marginally successful, if at all.”

The study is timely as the Canadian government has recently put forward a bill that, if passed (which it most-likely will), will target demand and criminalize pimps and johns.

Rather than take a moment to consider the larger picture Hornaday is trying to show us and look at the ways in which mass media and our culture at large excuse and perpetuate violence against women in perhaps less overt ways than men like Apatow and Rogen are prepared to accept, they strike back. Because defending your ego is clearly more important than having conversations about male entitlement and violence against women amirite?
The gender of the perpetrator is the single most important factor, and yet it’s not talked about in that way in most mainstream conversations.

I’ve watched my abusive ex continue to thrive in his community — join all the boards, the parent-teacher groups, spearhead community initiatives. What a guy! And hey, he didn’t abuse you, so WHO’S TO SAY. And who cares when there’s progressive work to be done! Real progressive work. Work that matters. Not just the girl shit. They’re all crazy anyway — the girls.

So keep starting your startups and having your protests and your meetings and keep writing your articles and having your very important discussions about climate change and poverty and union politics and Donald Sterling is such a racist, isn’t he. We’ll all support you, I guess, because we have no other choice. Because where do we go? Where is our community? Where is our Next Top Progressive Website? Where’s our Jacobin? When we launch it will we get profiled in The New York Times?

Oh. No. We don’t get one. We aren’t serious enough. It’s just women’s issues after all. Not Serious Politics. Oh. Because you still want your buddies and your porn and your class of women to fuck and ogle and to listen to your fucking baby-child emotions and to comfort you and support you and be there for you while you work through your fucking damage even though we had to work through ours all on our own. When is it our turn? When will you listen to us?

Supreme Court of Canada to make a decision on prostitution law Dec. 20 

On Friday, December 20th, the Supreme Court of Canada will make a decision on whether to throw out Canada’s current prostitution laws, keep them, or look to an alternative.

The decision is precipitated by Bedford v. Canada, a legal challenge arguing the current laws are unconstitutional.

It isn’t technically illegal to buy sex in Canada, but many of the laws surrounding prostitution criminalize it: communicating for the purposes of prostitution, operating a bawdy house (brothel), or living off the avails of prostitution (pimping).

Back in March 2012, Ontario’s Appeal Court ruled to strike down the law against bawdy houses but upheld the communication law. The court found that “living on the avails” of prostitution should apply only in “circumstances of exploitation.” The Federal Government appealed the decision and the rulings were put on hold pending a decision at the Supreme Court.

Feminists organizations, Aboriginal women’s groups, sexual assault centres, and transition houses hope the Court will consider the human rights of women in this ruling and that the government will look towards the Nordic model as an option. France recently approved a bill that would make it illegal to pay for sex, after considering the success of this law in Sweden and other progressive countries. A similar model could easily be adopted in Canada.

Canada has an opportunity to take a position on women’s rights and make marginalized women a priority with this ruling. We hope they do the right thing.

10 myths about prostitution, trafficking and the Nordic model 

By Meagan Tyler

When the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA) announced the release of our new report on the Nordic Model, supporters of the sex industry began targeting our Facebook page.

When I followed up with an opinion piece for The Conversation on the success of the Nordic Model, a handful of men, and one prominent Australian feminist , spent hours trading inaccuracies about the Nordic approach to prostitution policy and disparaging anyone stupid enough to think that a booming industry which trades in women’s bodies is anything but inevitable.

These falsities and fabrications will be familiar to anyone who has written or said anything that publicly criticizes the sex industry. The same claims, usually without reference to relevant evidence, are repeated so frequently in certain spheres that they have practically become mantras. If you say it often enough, it becomes true, right?

In the interests of being able to offer more than 140 character responses to these predictable criticisms, here’s a list of responses to the most common myths I’ve had thrown at me.

1. I’m a sex worker, I choose sex work and I love it

This is one of the most popular retorts de jour and is treated by many who use it as a sort of checkmate argument, as though any one person stating that they enjoy sex work makes all of the other evidence about violence, post-traumatic stress disorder and trafficking in prostitution, magically disappear.

Maud Olivier, the Socialist MP who recently introduced the Bill to prohibit the purchase of sexual services in France, slammed the “hypocrisy” of such criticisms: “So is it enough for one prostitute to say she is free for the enslavement of others to be respectable and acceptable?” she asked her fellow parliamentarians.

But the “I love sex work” refrain is put forward as a powerful argument because it is seen to counter a supposedly all-encompassing claim by radical feminists and others that systems of prostitution are harmful to women.

This relies on misunderstandings of radical politics, the concept of structural oppression and tired old debates about false consciousness. Just because you like something doesn’t mean that it can’t be harmful (just as liking something doesn’t automatically make it feminist). Radical feminists criticize beauty practices as harmful too, and saying you choose to wear high-heels doesn’t make that critique wrong. Nor does it mean these feminists hate you for wearing high heels (I’ve heard that one wheeled out in many an undergraduate tutorial) or being in prostitution.

Similarly, when anyone practicing radical politics points out that free choice is a fairytale, and that all our actions are constrained within certain material conditions, this does not equate to saying we’re all infantilized, little drones unable to make decisions for ourselves. It just means we’re not all floating around in a cultural vacuum making decisions completely unaffected by structural issues like systemic economic inequality, racism and sexism.

2. Only sex workers are qualified to comment on prostitution

This myth is often used in tandem with the first. And here’s the best/worst example I’ve had sent my way.

While such exchanges may be part of a wider problem of attempting to spuriously employ personal experience to trump research and disprove wider social trends (sexism doesn’t exist because I’ve never seen it!), there is more to these interactions in the context of prostitution. Repeating that only current sex workers are qualified to talk about the sex industry is an attempt to silence survivor’s voices and pretend that the consequences of prostitution apply only to those in prostitution.

It is true that much feminist opposition to prostitution has focused on the harms to women in prostitution, and rightly so, these harms are serious and endemic. But, as advocates of the Nordic Model point out, the existence of systems of prostitution is also a barrier to gender equality.

As long as women (and yes there are men in prostitution, but please, let’s be honest and admit that using “people” here would only obfuscate the fact that the vast majority of those in prostitution are women) can be bought and sold like commodities for sex is an issue for all women. The Swedes recognized this when they introduced the original ban on buying sex in 1999, and the French women’s rights minister is busy explaining it again at the moment.

3. All sex workers oppose the Nordic Model

Firstly, it is important to point out that for every sex worker rights organization that opposes the Nordic Model, there’s a survivor organization that advocates for it.

The idea that every woman with any experience in the sex industry detests the Nordic Model is tactical claim by a number of sex worker rights’ organizations around the world and it relies heavily on myth number two. This claim is, more often than not, followed by a link to Petra Ostergren’s blog which proves (we’re told) that all women in prostitution hate the Nordic Model and would prefer legalization.

It is clear that there are a number of very vocal opponents of the Nordic Model within the sex industry who have a significant platform. But it can hardly be said that these organizations represent all women in prostitution around the world, or that the odd blog post (light on references or other evidence) proves that the Nordic Model is a failure.

4. The Nordic Model denies sex workers’ agency

One of the things that critics seem to find so difficult to comprehend about the Nordic Model is that it is actually about restricting buyers, not about restricting those in prostitution. That is why it decriminalizes prostituted persons. The Model doesn’t discount the possibility of prostitution by “choice” but rather establishes that the buying of women in systems of prostitution is something that the state should actively discourage.

It’s pretty simple really. The Nordic Model acknowledges that less demand for prostitution and less demand for trafficking = less prostitution and less trafficking ∴ reducing the number of women exposed to these particular types of abuse and creating a better chance of achieving gender equality.

If you think that the state should encourage the growth of the prostitution industry and treat it as a form of gainful employment for women, then you’re bound to disagree, but that doesn’t mean the Model denies anybody’s agency.

5. The Nordic Model conflates prostitution and trafficking.

Many proponents of the Nordic Model adopt the understanding of trafficking advanced by the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children [http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/ProtocolTraffickingInPersons.aspx] (see Article 3a). This is a more nuanced understanding of trafficking than the “people moved across international borders at gun point” version that is popular in much of the mainstream press. Perhaps this is where the confusion sets in.

But even in employing this more realistic, UN-supported understanding of the mechanics of coercion and trafficking, the Nordic Model does not assume that every woman in prostitution is necessarily trafficked.

What the Nordic Model does do is recognize that there is a connection between the market for prostitution and sex trafficking, specifically that the demand for sexual services fuels sex trafficking. So, if you want less sex trafficking, then you need to shrink the market for prostitution.

This logic was further supported by a recent study of 150 countries, conducted by economists in the UK and Germany, showing that “the scale effect of legalized prostitution leads to an expansion of the prostitution market, increasing human trafficking.”

6. The Nordic Model doesn’t work / pushes prostitution “underground”.

The contention that the Nordic Model has not reduced demand for prostitution is one often repeated without evidence, but occasionally it is claimed that the Swedish government’s own review of their legislation showed the failure of the Model. As legal scholar Max Waltman has demonstrated, it did no such thing. Research commissioned by the Swedish government for its official review showed that street prostitution had halved.

“Ha!” The critics say, “That study employed a flawed methodology and prostitution has just gone underground.” Perhaps, but that overlooks other sources, including research indicating the number of people in Sweden buying sex has fallen and that police report having intercepted communications from traffickers declaring that Sweden is a “bad market.”

It’s also worth considering what “underground” is supposed to mean in this context, as in legalized and decriminalized systems, like some in Australia, “underground” is taken to mean street prostitution. So if prostitution has moved off the streets, where has it gone? Online and indoors, is the assertion of critics, which is quite odd given that advocates of legalization frequently tout the benefits of indoor prostitution.

7. The Nordic Model deprives women of a living.

This myth is the most intriguing because it is actually an admission that the Nordic Model works, directly contradicting myth six. The Model can only deprive women of a living if it does, in fact, reduce the demand for prostitution. What’s more, comprehensive exit programs are a critical part of the Model, involving access to a wide variety of services including retraining and employment support.

Hashtags like #nothingaboutuswithoutus (used by a number of groups, not just sex industry organizations) regularly appear alongside this claim as though the only satisfactory option available is for everyone to accept a flourishing prostitution market because some people want it that way.

Not just any people though, of course – workers – if you buy the “sex work is work” line. Leaving aside the problems with the concept that prostitution is a job like any other, if we accept this premise, then the argument doesn’t follow, as workers in any given industry don’t get to determine whether or not that industry continues.

Take the brown coal or forestry industries in Australia, for example. These are sectors that have been deemed by governments to be harmful in a number of ways and that, as a result – while they are still potentially profitable – they no longer have a social license to continue operating uninhibited. Workers in these industries are often outraged at seeing their jobs threatened, which is why unions advocate for “just transitions,” providing retraining and facilitated access to social and employment services for those workers affected (sound familiar?). For the most part, these unions have given up arguing that the harmful industry in question should continue simply to avoid employment disruption for workers.

If sex work is work, and prostitution is just another industry, then it is open for wider public discussion and policy changes like other industry, including the possibility that governments will no longer want it to function.

8. The Nordic Model has made prostitution unsafe.

First things first, prostitution is unsafe. To suggest that the Nordic Model is what makes it dangerous is disingenuous. Such declarations also ignore research showing that traditional forms of legalization and decriminalization do virtually nothing to protect women in prostitution from very high odds of physical and sexual violence as well as psychological trauma.

Systems of legalization foster greater demand and create an expanding illegal industry surrounding them, so it is a fallacy to pretend that in localities where prostitution is legalized, all women are actually in legal forms of prostitution. In addition, rates of trauma are similar across legalized, decriminalized and criminalized systems of prostitution.

Sadly, even the Nordic Model is not capable of fully protecting women still in prostitution from many of these conditions – as long as there is prostitution there will be harm – but the idea that it makes conditions worse is spurious.

The “more violence” claims mostly relate to a widely cited ProSentret study which found that women in prostitution had reported an increase in certain forms of violent acts from johns, including hair pulling and biting, after the introduction of the Nordic Model in Norway. What is often left out from these accounts, however, is that the study also found women reported a sharp decline in other forms of violence, including punching and rape.

As for women in prostitution not being able to access adequate social services, this may well be a problem on the ground. If so, it absolutely needs to be addressed. But this is an issue of implementation rather than a flaw in the Model itself.

The original version of the Nordic Model, introduced in Sweden, was part of the Kvinnofrid reforms to funnel more government money and support to a variety of services tackling violence against women, including specifically in prostitution. We’ve seen this again in France, with laws decriminalizing those in prostitution brought in alongside measures to curb other forms of violence against women.

9. The Nordic Model is really a moral crusade in disguise.

Despite the evidence-based policy of the Nordic Model being introduced by progressive and socialist governments, the notion persists that this is some kind of underhanded religious or conservative attempt to curtail sexual expression, rather than an effective way of tackling trafficking and violence against women.

But perhaps this all depends on how you define “moral crusade.” If you view the movement for women’s equality as a “moral crusade”, then I suppose it is. It you are determined to dismiss all of the evidence in support of the Nordic Model and instead want to debate this on a “moral” level, then by all means do. Those who think violence against women is a bad thing are bound to win that argument.

10. Academics who research prostitution make money off the backs of women in prostitution.

This is a relatively new addition to the list of silencing techniques used against those feminists who challenge the sex industry. The first time I came across such an accusation was via the comment section here and then in the follow up emails helpfully advising me that I was just like men who rape women in prostitution because I was using the experiences of sex workers without paying.

So let me be very clear: academics conduct research. For many, like me, this often involves collating existing research and, using that evidence, creating an argument that can be defended. That is our job. And it is our job, regardless of the topic or area that we’re researching.

Engaging in public debates about the Nordic Model, and citing relevant research, is in no way an attempt to speak for women in prostitution. It is an attempt to bring the findings of that research to a broader audience. If this is perceived as threatening by the sex industry, then surely that suggests the Nordic Model is effective?

 

Meagan Tyler is a lecturer in Sociology at Victoria University, Australia. Her research interests are based mainly around the social construction of gender and sexuality. Her work in this area has been published in Women’s Studies International Forum and Women and Therapy as well as several edited collections including ‘Everyday Pornography’ (Boyle ed., 2010) and ‘Prostitution, Harm and Gender Inequality’ (Coy ed., 2012). Meagan’s first book, ‘Selling Sex Short: The pornographic and sexological construction of women’s sexuality in the West’, was released in July, 2011.

On 'gendered violence' and remembering the Montreal Massacre 

Today is December 6. Twenty four years ago, 14 women were murdered at École Polytechnique in Montreal by a man who shouted: “You’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!”

Today is also the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Though some have been commenting on “gendered violence” today, I prefer a more specific description. This is about male violence against women.

Indeed, this violence is gendered, but to talk about “gendered violence” is too vague. What this term signifies is fear — and, indeed, that fear exists with good reason. Feminists are targeted because they name the problem. We target patriarchy, male dominance, female oppression, and male violence against women. Men are threatened by feminism because we refuse to mask the problem with ambiguous words, tepid critique, and polite requests.

On December 6, 1989, 14 women were murdered because a man was afraid to lose the power and privilege he believed he was entitled to. He was so angered by the notion that women might usurp that power and privilege, that he resorted to violence.

He is no anomaly.

Male violence happens to women on a daily basis, throughout the world. Depending on our various locations, economic status, class, and race, we may be more vulnerable. Our Indigenous sisters, for example, are prostituted, abused, and incarcerated at disproportionate rates. Indigenous women are five times to seven times more likely than other women to die as the result of violence. Poor women are trafficked daily to satisfy the desires of Western men. Here in Vancouver, on the Downtown Eastside, women with few to no other options are forced to resort to prostitution in order to survive and are subjected to abuse and inhumane conditions as a daily reality.

To be sure, all women are vulnerable to male violence. We know this, as women. We feel it every day when we walk down the street at night, listening for footsteps behind us, assessing the men walking towards us, planning our defense. We feel it when we take public transit and wonder whether we will be harassed or assaulted, trying to plan our response should the man next to us turn out to be a perpetrator. We guard our drinks at the bar, we avoid eye contact on the street, we wonder whether someone will crawl in our windows at night, we fear the cab drivers who we rely on to get us home safely at night. Many of us fear of the very men we live with — our fathers, our brothers, our husbands, our boyfriends.

The feminist movement is our response. The feminist movement names men as our attackers and our oppressors. Perhaps not all individual men, but many individual men, and certainly men as a class.

“Gendered violence” is polite. It doesn’t offend. It doesn’t point fingers. It isn’t enough. Male violence against women is the truth.

Solidarity.

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