Reducing the sex industry to human trafficking silences the sex workers fighting for their labor rights.
But what about the children?” has long been liberals’ refrain when mocking social conservatives for their moral panic over sex and the law.
Yet when it comes to the sale of sexual services by consenting adults — and especially when sex workers make a case for their rights — many resort to this tired rhetoric, conjuring up the image of a helpless girl that is supposed to be the primary representative of commercial sex.
“The children” functions, then, as a trump card through which discourse about commercial sex decriminalization is shifted away from women advocating on their own behalves to the invisible children about which sex workers supposedly care little.
The introduction of trafficking victims is a way of saying to sex workers, “Here is your chance to play Madonna, you whore.” Those who comply must cannibalize their own assertions that sex work is legitimate labor by apologizing for the scourge of trafficking. Those who do not comply are punished as self-interested creatures whose femininity has been disfigured by the depravity of their trade.