Why the ‘End Demand’ Approach to Sex Work Doesn’t Work

Jun 14, 2014
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by Berlin

For the last seven years, I’ve been working as an escort in Ottawa and, most recently, in Toronto. I’ve seen approximately 100 unique clients (this does not include repeat clients) per year and not one of them has ever been anything less than respectful.

‘End demand’ campaigns, like the one suggested in a recent RH Reality Check commentary, are based on the false characterization of clients of sex workers as rapists, and perpetuated by the prostitution-as-violence camp. This is nothing but misogyny, pure and simple.

To suggest that women cannot differentiate between their work and when they have been assaulted is grossly offensive.

end demand

Yasmin Vafa’s piece, “Racial Injustice: The Case for Prosecuting Buyers as Sex Traffickers,” celebrates “demand reduction” as a trafficking prevention strategy, particularly in the case of minors. The issues of child prostitution and child trafficking are highly charged, sensitive subjects and I have no intention of diminishing the abuses that do occur. However, Vafa’s piece, while well-intentioned, is misguided in a number of ways.

In these discussions, rarely are the actors identified clearly; rather we get the generalized subjects “children” and “buyers,” leaving the reader to imagine the worst-case scenario, such as the survivor account Vafa references in her piece. These two groups are not homogenous.

First, let us examine the category of the “child.” According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is anyone under the age of 18. To further complicate things, the UN defines a “youth” as anyone between 15 and 24 years old. Even the most ardent defender of children would concede that those persons aged 15, 16, and 17 are more accurately categorized as youth and that their participation in sexual relations is different than those of younger children.

And who are the buyers really?

Research shows that a portion of buyers are actually youth purchasing sex from other youth. As Julia O’Connell Davidson has stated, “who really believes that a sexual relationship between a 19-year-old and a 17-year-old should be categorized as a sexual relationship between an ‘adult’ and a ‘child’?”


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Ernest Greene
Ernest Greene
8 years ago

The whole end demand campaign is worthy of Josef Goebbels in its conviction that a big lie told often enough will eventually be accepted as truth.

But its proponents forget that Goebbels had control of what could be said in response.

I’d say the responses to this big lie, coupled with evidence that it doesn’t work and harms the people it’s supposed to help and those people’s direct testimony that effect may have some chance of pounding a stake through its heart. Let’s hope so.

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