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Victims of the Same Fiction

Guest Post by Gay Dalton

Last night I sat up till midnight to download and read A Girl Worth More by Joanne Phillips and Shannon Kyle because it is the story of a lovely woman I will always think of as my friend Telford. I recommend you read it, it’s beautifully written, fair, objective and full of real 3 dimensional people who have whole lives outside the pages of the book.

I don’t doubt a word of it, I can’t. One of the tricks that trained interrogators use to seperate facts from fiction is based on the observation that even when a fictional narrative comes from deep personal denial or post-hypnotic suggestion there is “no wallpaper on the walls”, so interrogators constantly inquire into small unimportant details to see if they can be recalled consistently and without hesitation. Nobody remembers every tiny background detail of their past, but everybody remembers a lot more than they think they do.

In this book I found myself inside a life that was often very different to my own, but was also, metaphorically, lived in, or next to, some of the same rooms. Where that happened the details never clashed with my own recollection and sometimes fitted perfectly into the gaps in my recollection of the scenery of my own life too. There is no way to artificially replicate that effect, it’s too complex.

In a similar way the narrative fitted perfectly into some recent research of my own.

The abolitionist/Nordic Model narrative, and the industry that has arisen around it, are frequently challenged over conflating sex work with sex trafficking in lieu of presenting hard evidence. I started to check that out and find myself amazed by just how little actual evidence supports their case, as well as the huge volume of first hand testimony that contradicts it, only to be silenced, ignored, dismissed and plastered over with layers of self references that lead back to unsubstantiated opinion, estimates, tabloid journalism or worse. I do not think I managed to find any hard evidence for anything, not even the basics like prevalence. They are all estimates, many of them blind estimates at that. On the rare occaisions that research consults first hand testimony it makes a lot of use of leading and closed questions and seems more focussed on extracting specific answers to agenda than doing what research is supposed to do and finding ways to explore the facts of what is happening.

There is no excuse for conflating sex work with trafficking in lieu of establishing the hard facts, but at least that is recognised to some extent and the voices raised in informed, evidence based, objection get stronger and gain momentum every day.

What is not recognised, and has begun to horrify me more, the deeper I look into it, is that there may be no more factual basis, or evidence, to support the sex trafficking narrative itself. I can see a real possibility that sex work has been conflated with an account of sex trafficking based almost entirely on guesswork, supposition and ideological bias with very little formal first hand testimony at all.

Nobody, at all, seems to be challenging that.

I cannot even find enough hard fact and first hand testimony to inform a valid opinion on whether, or not, sex-trafficking happens at all, either way.

When all anyone is willing to discuss is a fictional narrative, the facts do not go away, they just become invisible.

While everyone is busy throwing media attention, funding, and resources, at a fictional narrative, nobody sees the real victims at all, let alone has anything of use to offer them, so the real victims drown unseen in a sea of wasted plenty.

Now I know where my internal rage comes from.

This is the point at which people who are driven to sell sex to survive and the victims of sex trafficking can be safely conflated because they are all trapped in intolerable circumstances as the real victims of the same lies.

When you designate a user group with cause to be unable, or too afraid, to assert their needs in public you can attribute anything you like to them, and then demand funding for it without challenge. It seems nobody will ever check, or challenge, the outcomes.

I am not naive enough to think that would begin, and end, with survival sex workers and victims of trafficking.

Gaye Dalton is Irelands oldest sex work rights activist with knowledge of related issues in 4 countries that goes back to 1972. You can follow her on Twitter @GayeDalton. The original link to this guest post can be found on her blog at Mythbuster

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