How to fight human trafficking: Ban the term ‘sex work’

My belief in human rights is inseparably tied with my belief in individual autonomy and liberty. I cannot conceive how one can speak of human rights by denying individual choice. As I have said many times to people often too shocked to respond, in my view, liberty includes the freedom to do sex work. You have a right to prostitute yourself.

This is one of the cutting questions that cleave one kind of human rights campaigners from another. The other kind is undoubtedly impassioned about righting social ills that deny the best possible life to people — I have nothing but respect for their energy and dedication — but they work with very different starting assumptions. They reserve to themselves the right to define what are ills and what “best possible life” means, and in the name of human rights, work to lift people towards those goals.

I not only think this is too paternalistic, I see a huge irony between speaking of human rights and denying others the right to choose.

Recently, I found myself confronting and arguing against this other conception of human rights.

* * * * *

It was at a conference on Human Rights and Gender Equality, held in Manila from 7 – 9 July 2010, and organised by the Asia-Europe Meeting/Foundation. One of the sessions was on the Philippine effort to combat human trafficking, and one of the five speakers in this session was Prof Aurora Javate de Dios, executive director of the Women and Gender Institute (WAGI).

De Dios’ presentation bothered me from start to finish. To show how serious the problem of human trafficking was, she provided statistics about the sales revenue of sex-related businesses, such as online pornography. To show an example of what her organisation is doing about it, she spoke about Men’s Camps, workshops in which young men are led to confront the horrors of prostitution, humanised in “what-if” scenarios with their mothers, sisters or girlfriends as prostitutes. She also used the term “sexual exploitation” in ways interchangeable with prostitution and pornography, and then by further extension, interchangeable with human trafficking.

It struck me that de Dios

(a) saw all prostitution and pornography as human trafficking, and
(b) saw only female victims and male predators.

I found this very jarring, especially after nearly three days of conferencing where participants wrestled with issues of gender stereotyping and freedom of choice regardless of one’s sex.

Come question time, I stood up to speak.  I pointed out that she made rather sweeping generalisations that would only provide ammunition to critics of her organisation’s  mission of combatting human trafficking, an objective I fully agreed with. Such generalisations I feared would only give reason to resisters to take issue with semantics and thus distract or delay worthwhile action against the real problem. One of those generalisations, I pointed out, was the conflation of prostitution with human trafficking when it was important to recognise the distinction between sex work and trafficked persons forced to provide sexual services. The other error was the essentialising of women as victims and men as predators.

On the second point, I reminded her that there was a significant male prostitution scene right here in Manila itself. A significant proportion, perhaps even a majority, of the buyers were elite and upper-middle-class women.

What I didn’t say because I wanted to keep my comments short was that just the very night before, I had gone to the Malate district of Manila with a Finnish gay activist, where we spent some time inside a male stripper bar (the picture below is of a different stripper bar). Both of us noticed that women customers outnumbered men. This was hardly the first time I’ve been in such a bar, so I knew that what we saw in that particular bar was not untypical. Nonetheless, the fact that we were in one bar just the previous night gave me full confidence that the scene continued to exist.

This simple observation of a male prostitution scene serving women contradicts the appropriateness of drawing a boundary between buyers and sellers of sex along gender lines. If at all one wants to draw a boundary, it would be much more accurate to draw it along class lines. Yet, here we have a leader of an organisation showing the world how confused they are about what they are doing. And this too in a conference dedicated to gender equality.

My example of male prostitution means that at best only one of her two assertions could be right, not both. Either:

(a) all prostitution was indeed human trafficking, but then victims were both male and female, which meant that essentialising females as victims and males as predators was false, or

(b) if essentialising the sexes was correct, then to say all prostitution equalled trafficking would be false, because then she would be also saying that male prostitution was not trafficking since males were predators, never victims.

In my view, both assertions were wrong. Human trafficking is not co-terminous with prostitution, let alone pornography, neither male nor female. There may be a lot of overlap, especially in female prostitution, but a distinction must be recognised between sex work and trafficked sexual exploitation.

* * * * *

In reply, de Dios stood by her remarks. She insisted that all prostitution should be considered human trafficking, because evidence showed that there was such a connection in very many cases. Taking her point further, she then made what I thought was the most stunning statement: In her and her NGO’s view, there is no such thing as sex work. This term should not be used, she added. In support of her contention, she pointed out that  under a UN definition, human trafficking is said to occur even if consent is given.

Immediately, another conference participant — I think she was from India — stood up to say she was not convinced: “I second what Alex said. It is important not to conflate prostitution with trafficking.”

* * * * *

Later that evening, I mentioned this incident to a few other Filipino activists  for lesbian and gay rights, and they said that they were familiar with her organisation’s very judgemental and moralistic stand. One said it got in the way of his HIV prevention work too. In HIV work, it is critical to remain non-judgemental in order to earn the trust of those we have to interact with, whether they are providers or buyers of sexual services.

While none of us, I’m sure, will condone human trafficking, it is important to be very clear what it is. De Dios was committing the error of over-inclusion and under-inclusion. Over-inclusion occurs when all prostitution is treated as human trafficking. More seriously, the essentialisation of the female as victim and male as predator makes an organisation’s work under-inclusive. Its starting assumptions will blindside them to male prostitution, when women buy sexual services from men, with the result that they are likely to miss or dismiss instances of human trafficking, if it were to occur on that front.

As for the UN guideline which de Dios cited, one must be careful what it really means. Basically, it says consent does not disprove human trafficking. In other words, it reminds us to be sceptical when someone says he or she is willingly doing whatever he or she is doing, because victims of trafficking are often compelled to deny that they are under someone else’s control; they are unable to tell us the truth.  But the guideline doesn’t mean that the reply “No, I’m not a trafficking victim” should automatically be understood as “Yes, I am a trafficking victim” in an Alice-in-Wonderland way.  It only means that a “No” should not be taken at face value as a “No”.

We have to look for other evidence whether human trafficking is taking place. If there is no other evidence that human trafficking is taking place, and the sex provider also says, “I am doing this willingly”, then we have to allow the possibility that he or she is indeed doing it of his/her own volition; that indeed this instance of sex work is by free choice and is not human trafficking. Banning the term does not eradicate the reality.

Consider another angle: Human trafficking also applies to cases where people are put into forced labour, or are tricked to providing labour without the promised employment rewards. Suppose we find some men working in shipyards, doing dirty and dangerous jobs, who have been trafficked into doing so. Does that all men working in shipyards are victims of human trafficking? Some of them will say, “No, we have chosen to do this work.”

Would de Dios then reply “But consent is immaterial according to the UN definition of human trafficking”? Once logic has crossed this bridge, one would be able to ban the term “shipyard work” and decree that everybody involved in shipyard work is a victim of human trafficking. You and I will know this would be ridiculous, yet it is exactly the same logic she and her organisation was applying to sex work.

What was actually happening was that underlying her work was a moral distaste against the commercialisation of sex. It was convenient to label all prostitution and pornography as human trafficking because it suited her moral agenda.

This is what I mean when I said there is a kind of human rights campaigners who reserve to themselves the definition of the ills they set out to save people from. They do not allow an element of choice to others to do the things they consider morally unacceptable.

* * * * *

Moralism warps intelligent endeavour. This is true whether we’re dealing with teenage pregnancies, HIV prevention or human trafficking. Much otherwise good work is stymied and made controversial because there is a hidden agenda beneath it, usually driven by unspoken moralistic aims.

In combatting teenage pregnancies, they would insist we speak only of abstinence and never mention contraception. Why? Because the unspoken agenda is not teenage pregnancies, but the eradication of sex outside marriage. Ditto when some people argue that in combatting HIV, we shouldn’t speak non-judgementally about homosex, we shouldn’t remove the stigma or laws against homosexuality (an essential step for public health officials to successfully engage the gay community) because their agenda is not HIV prevention but a campaign against non-heterosexual orientation.

These moralistic aims can remain unspoken because large numbers of people implicitly buy in to it, to the extent that the contradiction between avowed aims and true underlying objectives is not even noticed. And when it is pointed out, those who do the pointing out are dismissed as ultra-radicals and as irresponsible people who want to see immorality spread, when in fact they are doing no more than stating the obvious: That teenagers will still have sex, men and women will still be gay and some folks will want to make a career out of providing sexual services, whether through pornography or in person. And every one of these are human rights.

54 Responses to “How to fight human trafficking: Ban the term ‘sex work’”


  1. 1 Beast 23 July 2010 at 22:47

    The issue with regards to prostitution, I think goes beyond simple morals. Obviously, there is the women involved, and the men (or women) who buy their services.

    If you ask me, the sex industry should be regulated (I think to a certain extent, I do applaud our government’s stand towards regulated prostitution, though not completely) just like any other industry, with trade unions and so on, to protect women from abuse, and to ensure a high quality or standard of hygiene (To prevent STDs).

    To me, sex for sale is just like another commodity in the capitalist market. Is it exploitation? Sure it is. But no more than the Mc Donald’s guy serving you your Mc Breakfast on minimum wage.

  2. 2 Beast 23 July 2010 at 22:51

    Apologies. I forgot to add, men will also be involved in the sex industry.

  3. 3 yuen 24 July 2010 at 04:38

    sorry but where does “banning the term ‘sex work'” fit into all this? how does that reduce moralistic attitudes or human trafficking?

    I have nothing against “freedom of choice”, but it is a bit like “national sovereignty”; both are used against external interference in the name of “human rights”

    • 4 Beast 24 July 2010 at 07:32

      I think what Alex is saying is that the negativity surrounding prostitution should be stopped so that such jobs can be more legitimized in a way and be more acceptable to society.

      I may be wrong though.

      • 5 yawningbread 24 July 2010 at 11:44

        You are partly right.

        My greater point is that when human rights campaigners go tilting at windmills Don Quixote-style (i.e. for someone to imagine windmills to be threatening giants and then go charging at them), they destroy their own credibility. They make themselves laughing stocks among those who can see windmills as windmills. When the campaigners make themselves laughing stocks, the real victims do not get the full benefit of the campaigners’ attention and work, which is a pity.

        The most likely reason why campaigners tilt at windmills is because they start by imagining a boarder set of evils than really exist, whether we’re talking about prostitution, pornography, sex among teenagers or non-heterosexual orientation, due to their own moral worldview. Campaigners must self-reflect on what exactly it is that motivates them before going out to fight “evil”.

  4. 6 KiWeTO 24 July 2010 at 14:41

    must be some irony somewhere that the “world’s oldest profession” still cannot be made acceptable in most upstanding societies.

    Does labour that potentially involve sexual acts (penetration[?]) require less effort? What does greater societies over the eons have against it?

    Can one not catch a disease from working on bacterial/viral-active soil, or be permanently medically disabled from accidental exposure to radiation or chemicals? Why then should STDs be viewed differently from other work-related injuries?

    Economics just views it supply and demand. Alex seeks that supply be truly ‘willing’ and given fair/equal support of the state as given to any other industry.

    As YB posits, there is a difference in human trafficking vs sexual trafficking. Messing up those lines makes a mess of one’s position in a debate. Which seems to be what he is describing.

    What drives moralistic approaches to improving society? Fear of? Straying partners? Progeny’s future participation? Shame by association?

    The weight of such internalized guilt these societies bear.
    Is freedom from such soul-weariness to much to ask?

    E.o.M.

  5. 7 Beast 24 July 2010 at 17:42

    Sexual trafficking? Odd choice of words, to me.

    In any case, I don’t think pornography or prostitution is wrong only in the context of religious and outmoded social values (although it must be said not all cultures treated prostitution negatively. Temples in ancient Rome used to be populated with temple prostitutes).

    Like all other commodities, there is always a supply and demand: If there is no demand for sex, prostitutes would like have to find some other work or starve to death. Because a market exists, then it is imperative that some measure of control exists to regulate it, just like how other industries can be regulated.

    Banning prostitution is not a solution. Enforcing such a ban is time and cost consuming, and only serves to aggravate the situation by driving it underground, where it exists unregulated, allowing STDs to thrive.

  6. 8 yuen 25 July 2010 at 03:24

    since legal brothels exist, prostitution as such is not banned in Singapore; though sporadic attempts to clear prostitutes from the streets are made, this is not responsible for the occurrence of human trafficking; visa regulations that ban people on tourist visas from working here make the activities of foreign prostitutes illegal, but I doubt anyone wishes to change these regulations, considering that importing foreigners on work permits has already aroused much complaint

    how would changing social attitudes help? maybe more local women/men would take up the work, making it unprofitable for foreign prostitutes to be trafficked? again, I doubt anyone want to advocate that; alternatively, if local women are sexually more open, without the need to be romantically wooed and wined/dined, then there would be no need to bring in foreign women; but again, I doubt anyone would want to advocate this

    in short, there is no simple solution to the problem, and moralistic condemnation and well intentional hand wringing are both futile

  7. 9 A Singaporean historian 25 July 2010 at 21:07

    I would position myself as a defendant of de Dios’ argument. First, I agree with Alex that her essentialising of male/female vs. victim/predator is incorrect because in heterosexual prostitution, the woman can be a victim and a predator, and the man can also be a victim and predator, depends on your angle of argument. ‘She’ offers to sell and ‘he’ offers to buy; trade unions and consumer protectionists (e.g. CASE) exist for related reasons to justify the above thesis.

    Secondly, I disagree with YB and agree with de Dios that all prostitution and pornography (P&P) is human trafficking(HT), that is, P&P is a subset of HT. If the definition of HT is the commercial exploitation (whether of sex or otherwise) wrt the human, then the demand for P&P is a result of the HT industry, and vice versa, resulting in a chicken-and-egg issue. HT becomes an inconvenient jargon.

    My next rebuttal is this: a P&P labourer might have a choice, but is he/she making an INFORMED choice? The operator of HT is said to be more informed than the P&P labourer and should therefore be criticised. However, not all organisations operate this way, one being the local government. Another important concept not mentioned here is ‘DUTY’, moral or otherwise. Anyone involved in the P&P industry is ignorant of their duty to another person outside the industry. Based solely on a deontological thesis, I support de Dios’ argument for the liquidation of the P&P and HT industries.

    • 10 Beast 25 July 2010 at 23:39

      Liquidation of Pornography and Prostitution? Which planet do you live on? Mars?

      Much as some puritans dislike prostitution, the fact is that prostitution does exist, and like it or not, like other forms of trade, it exists because there is a supply and a demand. Just because you don’t like my food, you don’t have to blow up the kitchen.

      As for pornography, it exists in many forms. Pornography has a positive role in society too: Spices up the sex life, more babies, yadda yadda.

      Liquidation of pornography and prostitution? Boy. Try living in a communist state (The last I heard there were many ex commie bloc chicks in Geylang. Nice blondes are doing big business in our back lanes. Talk about foreign talent…….)

      • 11 ZX 26 July 2010 at 00:18

        Try understanding his/her opinion more carefully before throwing insults. Your “supply and demand” non-explanation does not even begin to address his deontological premise against P&P.

  8. 12 yawningbread 26 July 2010 at 00:49

    Singapore historian wrote: “Anyone involved in the P&P industry is ignorant of their duty to another person outside the industry.”

    What exactly is this duty of which you speak?

    You also wrote: “The operator of HT is said to be more informed than the P&P labourer and should therefore be criticised.”

    How do you account for self-made porn, or prostitution without the services of any pimp?

  9. 13 KiWeTO 26 July 2010 at 01:54

    So what happens to homosexual prostitution in “A Singaporean historian’s” reality?

    Or is that like S377A – that lesbians do not exist. Thus, female/female “predation” is an impossibility? Or international-travelling-baggage-carrying rent boys?

    In the “historian’s” reality, How then is a HT labourer (non P&P) more informed than his/her P&P counterpart? What happens when someone who willingly chooses to be trafficked into manual labour finds himself trapped into P&P labour? Was he/she better informed?

    Human (labour) trafficking is human trafficking. It is the trafficking that raises the question of what real choice a human (or unit of economic labour) has in being moved away from its originating residence for economic sustenance. The core cause is economic inequality, and economic improverishment.

    Pornography is pornography – the imagery may be obtained without permission – and its transmission can be international, but the abuse of the human is usually local.
    (economically cheaper to produce in situ instead of moving bodies internationally!)

    Prostitution also can be local – no traffic except sexual favours from seller to buyer. That does not fall under human trafficking.

    If only involuntary P&P falls within HT, then for social activists against P&P to wage war against P&P by grouping it absolutely within HT betrays their crusading roots against all evils instead of specific evils, and distort the focus on Human Trafficking.

    Human trafficking’s focus is on the illegal movement of labour. Anti-prostitution crusaders should go back to railing from their pulpits (or equivalent stumps) for fire and brimstone and the end times.

    E.o.M.
    [and we haven’t even gotten started on “legal” yet “economically distorting” movements of labour in Singapore yet.😉 ]

  10. 14 Beast 26 July 2010 at 09:38

    Deontological arguments are based on moral precepts with a particular slant towards subservience towards an imaginary deity, i.e God.

    Such arguments are basically non-arguments in my view because:

    1. God does not exist;

    2. Even if God exists, he hasn’t really given us an utopia of a world to live in. We live in a world ravaged by natural disasters, diseases, and all manner of suffering. To base our ethics based on this tyrannical god will be akin to obeying Hitler’s laws;

    3. Humans will always be humans. In order to argue for or against prostitution, we need to take a humanistic point of view, not God or gods.

    In my earlier comments, I do agree that prostitution exists as a form of exploitation. That much cannot be argued. It is the same when the Mc Donald’s kid serves you a Mc breakfast and is paid on minimum wage. That’s a form of exploitation, but it exists because that is how a capitalism system works, like it or not.

    Likewise, to talk about banning prostitution is a no brainer, because even in deeply religious countries such as Saudi Arabia, prostitution exists. And it exists in all echelons of society, ranging from highly paid prostitution rings (Think Heidi Fleiss) to the prostitute-for-a-pint-of-beer varieties.

    I apologize for coming off a little crude in my earlier comments, simply because I find it ludicrous to view such a human issue based on the rules of an invisible deity, or many deities.

    • 15 ZX 28 July 2010 at 23:27

      “Deontological arguments are based on moral precepts with a particular slant towards subservience towards an imaginary deity”

      Have you even heard of Kant?

      Even if I grant you, which is untrue, that all deontological ethics are based on the divine command theory, your only valid argument is “1. God does not exist” (which you did not, by the way, bother to argue). Arguments 2 (God is a tyrant because He did not create a utopia for us) and 3 (Even if God exists, our humanistic perspective/solution trumps His) are patently flawed or bizzare.

      I have definitely much to read up on before I can defend either a full-fledged moral theory for or against prostitution; but may I suggest you pick up a book or two on basic ethics or theology as well.

      • 16 Beast 29 July 2010 at 00:08

        Sorry, bro. I am a technical man. No offense but I have absolutely no interest in theology, which to me is simply religious mumbo jumbo. I’d be better off reading karma sutra.

        Speaking of philosophy, I do read the works of the French author, Marquis de Sade. You might want to check him out. He has some very interesting things to say about religion.

  11. 17 KT 26 July 2010 at 09:55

    ‘My next rebuttal is this: a P&P labourer might have a choice, but is he/she making an INFORMED choice?’

    Your arrogance and self superiority has completely blinded you. And you can’t see that you are blind because you are blind.

    How do you know if the ‘labourer’ is not making an ‘informed’ choice? Because his/her choice isn’t YOUR choice?

    People like you and de Dios find sex work (and probably sex in general) so repugnant that you simply cannot understand how or why anyone would want to be a sex worker, no matter what they say.

    At the end of the day, if you hate your job, is there really a huge difference between peddling what’s inbetween your legs vs your ears?

    • 18 Beast 26 July 2010 at 12:44

      KT: You probably say it better than what I was trying to get at.

      While it may be true that most prostitutes hate their jobs (hell, most people would hate their day jobs: That probably explains the long queues behind toto counters), but that alone is not enough to demonize prostitution.

      Sure, prostitution has its risks (Such as catching STDs and being abused by customers) but so are most jobs anyway. If you drive a cab, you risk being robbed by customers on a daily basis (according to the latest crime watch program, an offender remarked that taxis were akin to “automatic teller machines). Or if you work on a construction site, you risk being killed by falling debris. But that doesn’t necessarily make a job bad. You simply have no choice but to take the necessary precautions.

      Under the most utopian of conditions, everyone will be a millionaire and most of us wouldn’t be exploited by our bosses. But this is not how society works. At least not in our lifetimes, anyway.

      • 19 Beast 26 July 2010 at 12:49

        My opinion is that, most prostitutes will be duty bound to feed their families.

        It is easy to talk about “looking at society’s bigger picture” when you don’t have a whole family full of starving old folks and children.

        You may be high and almighty, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone.

  12. 20 Anonymous 27 July 2010 at 06:40

    i think prostitution should not be categorized as work.
    there is definitely a reason why the so-called “oldest profession in the world” has never received official acknowledgement as a legalized occupation.

    there are many possible reasons why this is so:

    1.sex is not common human acitvity that can be offered as a form of service and even if one is willing to sell himself/herself,the law should ban this “transaction” (all known ones at least) because this transcation will never be a fair one.

    2.morality and values warrants order in society.that is why we need to respect it, prostitution however is against a lot of our moral values of self-respect and dignity

    3.while it is important to address reality of existence of prostitutes everywhere, it is also important to see a problem as a problem and not as a mere variable to normal life.
    it is common knowledge that no normal humans with sufficient education would want to prostitute themselves. those willing to do so are usually at their wits end or didnt knew any better regarding the consequences (aka not very educated) and the unfair costs they are bearing or maybe even misinformed.
    it is then important to see this situation as below ideal and not let this problem deteriorate any further.

  13. 21 KT 27 July 2010 at 09:34

    ‘it is also important to see a problem as a problem and not as a mere variable to normal life . . . those willing to do so are usually at their wits end or didnt knew any better regarding the consequences (aka not very educated) and the unfair costs they are bearing or maybe even misinformed.’

    Oh please! Stop stereotyping prostitutes as stupid, ignorant, miserable victims of circumstances who are clueless about what their job involves! You are insulting them! How many sex workers do you know personally? In what ways might they be ‘misinformed’?

    I also dislike your presumption that the selling and buying of sexual services is necessarily immoral, and that immoral transactions should be made illegal. Care to dismount from your moral high horse and explain?

    I do not disagree that there are some people who turn to sex work because they are ‘at their wit’s end’. Would banning prostitution help them? No, it would just make the ‘unfair costs’ you referred to even more unfair.

    Last but not least, I offer you the suggestion that a wife is just a long-term, legalized prostitute. But of course moralists like you would never see that!

    • 22 indra ardiansyah 27 July 2010 at 13:10

      well if im insulting them by saying that they dont understand what these transactions entails, you are insulting them even more by saying that they deserve jobs that lower a person’s dignity and self-respect, one that will forever have them at the losing end.
      pray tell, since you must be the type to know prostitutes consummately, what is the market rate for a blow-job?and is it worth the degradation of kneeling in front of a stranger and the shame of having to reveal one’s body parts? isnt all these against cultural and moral values that is the backbone of order in every society?
      the truth is there is no way to put down a value for smthg complex as sex as service because of the psychological consequences not to mention physical ailments that might follow and the belittling by society now that he/she has betrayed societal conventions
      in terms of needy ppl i dont think theres ever a situation so desperate that it requires one to prostitute oneself, especially in developed country such as singapore, where one could easily seek help from religious insitutions
      and i must say im very shocked to see such outrageous statement about wife being equated to long term prostitutes!
      ur lucky this is someone’s blog,had you mention this to me in the face i would have definitely hurled some terms appropriate for ppl like you!

      • 23 J 27 July 2010 at 15:26

        “pray tell, since you must be the type to know prostitutes consummately, what is the market rate for a blow-job?”

        I love how much this statement shows about you. The article and KT’s reply are talking about voluntary vs coerced prostitution, but all you can think about is a blow job. It seems you are unable to view a sex worker as a person, and can only define him/her in terms of sexual services provided. I was going to ask you why prostitution is a job that necessarily lowers one’s dignity, but now I think it’s a redundant question.

        Please spare us the lecture about cultural and morals values, and societal conventions. More often than not these simply mean ‘my values’.

        While you have not explicitly stated so, the fact that you mentioned religious institutions and that sex is something complex leads me to believe you are coming from a religious background. See above point.

        “in terms of needy ppl i dont think theres ever a situation so desperate that it requires one to prostitute oneself, especially in developed country such as singapore, where one could easily seek help from religious insitutions
        and i must say im very shocked to see such outrageous statement about wife being equated to long term prostitutes!”

        Either you think that people can never fall into such a desperate situation to warrant prostituion, or that you consider prostitution to be so low that even people in the most desperate situations we know of should not resort to it. Which one is it?

        Please explain your outrage. I find it a proper analogy, at least in some patriarchal societies.

        “ur lucky this is someone’s blog,had you mention this to me in the face i would have definitely hurled some terms appropriate for ppl like you!”

        Ahh, yes of course.

  14. 24 indra ardiansyah 27 July 2010 at 16:16

    there is no need for such attacking tone.
    we are but in a mere discussion arent we?
    yes it is a redundant question, i have mentioned blowjob as example and explained how degrading part of the process is,not to mention other fetishes that the “customers” may have.
    and about values, you disagree that there exists a sort of societal conventions?one that says that prostitutes if ever is a profession is a somewhat less dignified ones?
    and hahaha im not from religious background, what the relevance anw?
    and yes i think there is never a situation so desperate that warrants one person in a developed country to resort to prostitution because it is a low and shameful job so both your questions combined actually.
    im actually confused at ppl who thinks prostitution are allright, i mean one can be jailed for just groping but you guys are saying its allright if one does worse to a perfect stranger if he just pays for it??have all of you ppl of developed world have become so materialistic and so money-oriented that you think money can compensate for anything??
    and about wife well im sorry i refuse to even answer to this hugely preposterous idea and because even at this early age i have to control my temper and my blood pressure and prevent from practically bursting out in outrage.

    • 25 J 27 July 2010 at 22:23

      Ok, so I take it that according to you, if a person is broke and homeless and has no one to turn to (and this is possible even in developed countries, mind you), he or she should not be so materialistic and money minded to make use of the only asset left (the body). Rather, said person should maintain his or her dignity because dignity is edible and nutritious.

      What societal conventions are you referring to? The shame of having to reveal one’s body parts? Oh no, I think all the nude beaches around the world need to be shut down. All college streakers must be stopped! And medical examinations ought to be outlawed!

      And maybe, just maybe, prostitutes wouldn’t have to deal with society belittling them if people such as yourself would stop belittling them?

      About the wife, so it appears you feel so strongly about the idea that you refuse to even debate it. You know, that intellectual position isn’t going to win you many arguments.

  15. 26 Beast 27 July 2010 at 17:13

    Weird.

    There are, even in the minority, people who want to be degraded; hence there are sex themes amongst small groups pertaining to the sado-masochistic culture.

    Of course, I think we do agree, to a large extent, that prostitutes are largely “coerced” or “forced”, if you want to put it that way, into prostitution. Some may be traumatized, others not.

    But there again, so is any other job, particularly the construction line, where people risk life and limb everyday so that you can have nice buildings to stay in. And they work for a pittance or a fraction of what you earn sitting in your posh office. Exploitation? Definitely!

    Also, the idea that prostitute is not a job is merely a technical argument. As long as a service is provided in exchange for cash (And I am arguing along the lines of Contract Law), then it is a job, like it or not.

    Of course you can argue about the dignity of jobs, but there again, try telling the road sweeper that his job is “undignified”. Let’s see what kind of a reaction you will get.

  16. 27 Beast 27 July 2010 at 17:17

    “in terms of needy ppl i dont think theres ever a situation so desperate that it requires one to prostitute oneself, especially in developed country such as singapore, where one could easily seek help from religious insitutions
    and i must say im very shocked to see such outrageous statement about wife being equated to long term prostitutes!”

    You speak in jest. Just the other day I had the opportunity to see a homeless chap sleeping at the void deck under my HDB flat.

    Not sure why he sleeps there, but chances are, well…..he’s needy, and no one wants to employ him.

    There’s also another old man who picks up cans in the recycling bin so as to make a living (Don’t tell me he’s doing this for a hobby. Not that it is impossible, but highly unlikely).

    You may live a cushy life, but not everyone shares the same fortunate lifestyle.

  17. 28 Beast 27 July 2010 at 17:20

    “im actually confused at ppl who thinks prostitution are allright, i mean one can be jailed for just groping but you guys are saying its allright if one does worse to a perfect stranger if he just pays for it??”

    I am trying to figure out whether your ethical or moral compass is somewhat faulty. But there again, you may simply be provoking a quarrel.

    When you grope a woman, the woman never gives her consent. That makes it a crime. Same as this line of logic: If I give you money, and you take it, it is not a crime. If you snatch money from me without my consent, then you are guilty of buglary.

    When you pay for sex, she is actually giving consent for you to use her body for one (or few) round of sexual gratification. It becomes a voluntary trade. Technically this is not criminal, unless one party is underaged.

  18. 29 Beast 27 July 2010 at 17:35

    “ur lucky this is someone’s blog,had you mention this to me in the face i would have definitely hurled some terms appropriate for ppl like you!”

    Hmm. What will you do? Use the “F” word?

    Let me see. Why don’t you take a baseball bat and wack his head? To people like you, liberals like myself don’t deserve anything but violence, ain’t it?

    Seriously, dude, I think you should grow up. Most people are no stranger to vulgarity, unless, of course, you are being misled by our local media that the word “fuck” does not appear in the average Singaporean’s vocabulary.

  19. 30 indra ardiansyah 27 July 2010 at 18:43

    @beast:
    brits used to sell opium to chinese to make up for the huge trade imbalance that they have with china.
    and had they followed your logic, i think this would have been a long-lasting biz for the brits indeed.
    after all consent is given, money is given in exchange for products,all criterias for the “voluntary trade” you mentioned seems to have all been fulfilled,what possibly made it stop then?

    and you may want to use more known examples than man sleeping in the void deck of flat the next time coz you are as clueless to his motives like i do.

    • 31 Beast 27 July 2010 at 19:25

      Hmm…. Opium is still being traded in some countries. And if you don’t know, let me tell you that I do not support the war against drugs: It is a waste of time, resources, and really, come to think of it, isn’t really a crime at all.

      Try sleeping in the void deck 365 days a year and tell me if you enjoy it. I see this guy sleeping at the HDB void deck, or at the park I past by, every other damn day.

  20. 32 KT 27 July 2010 at 19:18

    indra ardiansyah

    The good news is: sometimes, the customer pays and then he/she does the kneeling, not the prostitute! And, as Beast implied, the prostitute may even get to whip the customer, amongst other things. How about that?!

    More good news: the world is in fact getting less materialistic, judging from the increasing amount of unpaid sex between ‘perfect strangers’. But I suspect you do not approve of such casual liaisons either! Maybe you would like to ban one night stands as well?

    How much is a blow job? Well now, let’s see . . . . It ranges from $0 (refer to above paragraph) to if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it for high-end prostitutes.

    As for revealing body parts, usually both payee and payer do so but there may be payers who request to be blindfolded. Like you said, they have . . . ‘fetishes’. Would you find sex work for a blindfolded or blind stranger more acceptable?

    You seem to have an objection to ‘strangers’, mentioning them more than once. Would it help if the prostitute and customer have a cup of tea first and introduce themselves before they start kneeling? Are repeat customers more acceptable since they are no longer strangers? I suppose they must be to you, since you seem to hold in high regard the ultimate repeat customer, the spouse. Of course, some lucky people marry for love. The not so lucky ones marry for money (or even food, in poorer countries). You don’t think they get the money without providing something in return, do you? What is that if not prostitution?

  21. 34 KT 27 July 2010 at 19:21

    On a more serious note, you are confusing two issues: (1) whether a person has the right to prostitute himself/herself; and (2) whether prostitution is right.

    (2) really has nothing to do with (1). Every person should have the right to decide what he/she wants to do with his/her body.

    To you, however, prostitution is wrong and hence, no one should be a prostitute. Why is prostitution wrong and even if it were, what gives you the right to impose your – or the ‘society’s’ – view on an individual?

  22. 35 KT 27 July 2010 at 19:50

    ‘brits used to sell opium to chinese . . . consent is given, money is given in exchange for products,all criterias for the “voluntary trade” you mentioned seems to have all been fulfilled,what possibly made it stop then?’

    The addicts could not work properly and had to resort to illegal means so as to get the money they needed for buying opium. This led to an increase in crime rate and economic problems for their dependants.

    Prostitution, on the other hand, raises economic productivity and reduces crime rate by relieving sexual tension. It improves the economy by increasing consumption. It creates employment, obviously.🙂

  23. 36 Beast 27 July 2010 at 20:06

    By that logic, we should ban IR as well. According to the news there are now more and more gambling addicts.

  24. 37 KT 27 July 2010 at 20:22

    ‘i dont think theres ever a situation so desperate that it requires one to prostitute oneself, especially in developed country such as singapore’

    I find this statement particularly objectionable!

  25. 38 indra ardiansyah 27 July 2010 at 20:42

    @KT:
    well im actually discussing in the context of whether govt should acknowledge prostitution as legalized occupation or not

    and im not confusing the issues of one’s right to prostitute him/herself and whether prostitution is right,they are in essence inter-related issues when it comes to govt policies which ideally should aim for maximum order in society.
    individual rights should not interfere with this objective of order by the govt and if found to be so, they must be subjected to lawful consequences.
    prostitution is an unfair transaction because :
    1.there is no way to value a complex act such as sex
    2.one thing for sure is that money is never enough to compensate for sexual favours.

    sexual liaison between strangers, if entirely innocent, will not have any adverse impact towards order of society.
    on the other hand prostitution should not be officially acknowledged because it is transaction involving sex which will bring on to the table moral issues and values.
    and like opium trade,govt also need to observe how fair transaction are and prevent unfairness from creeping into daily lives of the people. they can do this by looking at the bigger picture of long term prospects and impacts of this transaction.
    opium trade is as unfair as prostitution, both drugs and prostitution will feasibly continue to exist but it doesnt mean we should accept them, let alone for govt to acknowledge them.

    • 39 Beast 27 July 2010 at 20:55

      Gosh, I think I shall stop these the two salient points of your argument:

      1.”there is no way to value a complex act such as sex”

      How then, do you explain the fact that patriarchal societies value virgin girls more than non-virgin girls? We do place a premium on sex; that is why women who have numerous liaisons with men are given derogatory titles, such as “sluts”;

      In prostitution circles, there are also different classes of prostitutes catering to men (or women) of various classes.

      Like it or not, sex is not as complex as you make it up to be. Strip, and be merry.

      2.one thing for sure is that money is never enough to compensate for sexual favours.

      Really……..how many women will do anything to marry a rich man………even the old, ugly ones.

      Money sure can’t buy everything, but it buys A LOT OF THINGS.

  26. 40 Beast 27 July 2010 at 20:59

    “on the other hand prostitution should not be officially acknowledged because it is transaction involving sex which will bring on to the table moral issues and values.”

    What moral values are you benchmarking against? Christianity’s moral values? You might want to check out the old testament. You might be in for a rude shock.

    The thing about moral values of this sort is that it is never about the individual, or even the society at large. It is about following a blind valley and getting stuck in dark alleyways without asking: “Why are we doing this?” or “Why are we not doing this”. Dogma is not a good way to guide our behavior.

    For example, a dogmatic man will say that stealing under any circumstances is wrong. However, what happens if you are stuck with a boatful of hungry children in a flood, and you chanced upon this 7-ll store on high ground? Will you break into the abandoned store to feed the children?

  27. 41 Beast 27 July 2010 at 21:00

    “sexual liaison between strangers, if entirely innocent, will not have any adverse impact towards order of society.”

    Probably most of us will have sexual liaisons with strangers at some point of time, be it simple flirty or hot monkey sex.

    I don’t think we are the worst for it. Do you?😛

  28. 42 indra ardiansyah 27 July 2010 at 21:38

    @beast:
    to pursue the subject of what is the type or category of moral we should benchmark against is gonna be a long wasted and futile effort.
    why dont we try to confirm the facts already made known first?
    1.we wear clothes and one of the reasons is because we want to cover ourselves as societal conventions says that its shameful and rude to expose genitals
    2.we do not view having sex in exchange for money as smthg respectable mainly because one will then not be selecting anymore but rather will be up to selection. this , by natural human instinct is less desirable.we may even view this action as lust for money aka greed which is looked down upon as smthg shallow.
    3.we cant value sexual acts. the fact that virgin girls are valued more than non-virgin girls by the pimps and the customers and prostitutes themselves cannot be assumed as the viewpoint of the general public.

    these are some undeniable and known facts about our society , ones that show prostitution is against the norm of our society.

    regarding dogma and starving children,
    well if i m to choose strictly between stealing and letting the kids starve,in normal situation of singapore today,i would still choose not to steal.
    the logic of this is that you dont want to add trouble to your already troubled world.
    it may be heartening to see kids cry because they are starving but like what stewardess would teach you before flying is that you put your own mask on first before tying those of your child because only if u remain well that you can help others to be well.

    • 43 Beast 27 July 2010 at 22:29

      Well you probably did a lot more to answer my question: Moral values are probably more harmful than most people think.

      In the starving children scenario, I would have robbed the 7-11, simply because I place the value of children’s lives higher than property due to the gravity of the situation. You, sir, choose otherwise. Who is the wiser of the both of us? Let the audience decide.

      Back to your salient points:

      1.”we wear clothes and one of the reasons is because we want to cover ourselves as societal conventions says that its shameful and rude to expose genitals”

      We wear clothes because we are furless creatures; unlike other animals who have fur, other than our skins, we are defenseless against the extremities of the environment. That was how the first man got his clothes.

      The idea that people without clothes are “shameful” is really a recent notion in evolutionary terms. Our earliest ancestors are unlikely to be too bothered about naked loins, and if you manage to go to some tribes in Asia or even in the Americas, women will happily flash their breasts and their cunts (and men, their dicks) in your face (Punt intended).

      2.”we do not view having sex in exchange for money as smthg respectable mainly because one will then not be selecting anymore but rather will be up to selection. this , by natural human instinct is less desirable.we may even view this action as lust for money aka greed which is looked down upon as smthg shallow.”

      Shallow? Lolz. Without greed, spending power wanes, the economy will slow down, and people will lose their jobs. Get the drift?

      Lust? Without lust, how then would you have sex? You can’t have babies without the sex (without the help of science, that is). Lust is good, babe.

      3.”we cant value sexual acts. the fact that virgin girls are valued more than non-virgin girls by the pimps and the customers and prostitutes themselves cannot be assumed as the viewpoint of the general public.”

      Can’t value sexual acts? What the fuck are you talking about? No wonder our birth rates are so freaking low! Maybe you have been hiding somewhere in the closet wanking yourself?

      4. “these are some undeniable and known facts about our society , ones that show prostitution is against the norm of our society.”

      Prostitution is exactly the desire of society, not against the norm. If it were so “against the norm”, you wouldn’t expect it to flourish. Even in the most barbaric and religious states, such as Saudi Arabia, where being seen with a man will end the girl’s life via stoning, prostitution exists. Against the norm?
      Go figure.

    • 44 J 27 July 2010 at 22:40

      1. See my reply above.

      2. What. on. earth. If one is doing the selecting, the other partner is by definition up for selection.

      3. But the customers ARE the public!

      “these are some undeniable and known facts about our society , ones that show prostitution is against the norm of our society.”

      Is this written in our constitution somewhere?

      “regarding dogma and starving children,
      well if i m to choose strictly between stealing and letting the kids starve,in normal situation of singapore today,i would still choose not to steal.
      the logic of this is that you dont want to add trouble to your already troubled world.”

      “it may be heartening to see kids cry because they are starving but like what stewardess would teach you before flying is that you put your own mask on first before tying those of your child because only if u remain well that you can help others to be well.”

      Do you even read what you are typing? You feel you should remain well by not stealing, so that you will be in a position to help others?? Are you trying to say that the act of stealing automatically renders you incapable of helping anyone after that? And just so you can keep your moral slate clean, you prefer to let all the children starve?

  29. 47 KT 27 July 2010 at 22:22

    indra ardiansyah

    What planet are you from? Sexual services are valued, in money and in kind, and transacted all the time. I guess you’re saying the transacted price isn’t the true value of the sexual service, despite the seller and owner of the sexual service saying otherwise. Are you the self-appointed valuer of global sexual services? I hope you’re licensed?

    Are you sure you can afford any prostitute in the world? Don’t assume it’s always the customer who does the selection. In fact, an indiscriminating prostitute wouldn’t last very long.

    You wrote: ‘sexual liaison between strangers, if entirely innocent, will not have any adverse impact towards order of society’

    What if it’s not ‘entirely innocent’ and there is money paid? What ‘adverse impact’ will there be? Oh yes, we will be morally bankrupt. Societal order will be lost. Life will grind to a halt. It will be the end of the world! Oh . . . dear.

    Is there any ‘societal convention’ you would challenge, ever? Or do you follow all of them, always?

  30. 48 KT 27 July 2010 at 22:54

    Forgot to say:

    I AM NOT ASHAMED OF MY GENITALIA!

  31. 49 indra ardiansyah 27 July 2010 at 23:46

    @kt:
    precisely because its hard to value that i say its unfair transaction and no amount of money can pay for its cost which in turn is why govt shouldnt acknowledge prostitution as a profession.

    regarding impact well i admit it isnt smthg that will cause tsunami tomorrow but a govt should still be watchful of unfair transactions just like when they catch those insider traders and other frauds, and also be aware of long term adverse impacts like for example today you have person A becoming prostitute tomorrow you ll have person B thinking that hey i could make a buck pimping them and then the next day there will be person C thinking hey this is profitable, i should do it in larger numbers and suddenly youll have a human trafficker!
    so my point is if u suppress it from step one, it wont get worse!
    i mean why is this insistence to get a prostitute anw?
    not up to getting laid the traditional way? think that you have money so you can do anything to ppl who dont?
    regarding societal conventions well its always up to challenge if u ask me, namely us now discussing prostitution, and many others discussing other topics and hopefully the readers and perrhaps also the writers can choose well.

    • 50 Beast 27 July 2010 at 23:55

      That’s total crap (Bad dictation not withstanding).

      It is because prostitution can be abused, that the government should legalize it (as it has done). When you legitimize a industry, you can regulate it, and hopefully minimize the abuse that goes on within that industry.

      The idea that oh, A does a bad thing, B does something worst and so on (exponential factor), that it has to be nipped in the bud doesn’t really make sense, considering that most legitimate businesses and activities can be abused (e.g drunk driving)

  32. 51 indra ardiansyah 28 July 2010 at 00:02

    @beast:
    well if regarding the starving children thingy, really, we’re wasting our time. we can keep adding one detail at one time to prove our points but then its an empty a4 man you can write anything on it.can we just lay it off to rest?

    regarding customers as public well not true i think.
    at least in terms of 20s male ,in singapore, i daresay definitely more than half belongs to never-attempted-b4 category and i dareasay they are definitely the better half if in terms of education, economic health and also life accomplishment.these doesnt mean theyre not getting laid, they just dont do for-hire ones thats all.

    and about babies rate being low,well i suppose if ur the type to marry the pros after shes knocked up then it shouldnt be a bad thing actually, but its more likely for pregnancies to become extra burden and consequence to bear for those prostitutes, not to mention the fate of the poor baby and how this particular activity of the mother will affect his/her well being later on.

    prostitution’s existence is true but its smthg below ideal, nobody should ever be so down and out to think of this as last resort or nobody should be receive so little education that didnt make them reject such lowly activities to earn money.

    • 52 Beast 28 July 2010 at 00:23

      “prostitution’s existence is true but its smthg below ideal, nobody should ever be so down and out to think of this as last resort or nobody should be receive so little education that didnt make them reject such lowly activities to earn money.”

      Talk is cheap when you live a comfy life. I have been to places where poverty is so pervasive, you shudder to even contemplate their lifestyles.

      Yes, yes, we can keep going point by point, and I do get your point really, but seriously, I have to think that your thinking is pretty warped.

      When I was mentioning the birthrate issue, I wasn’t particularly relating it to prostitution, rather your opinion that “we shouldn’t value sex”, which I find it to be particularly odd. Even the PAP masters won’t say that kind of nonsense outright.

      To a certain extent, I do agree that prostitution is not ideal (Barring some who really enjoy to be prostitutes), but we don’t live in cloud 9 or some utopia world. Some people do shit jobs and barely fit themselves. This is an unfortunate fact of life. But you insist on degrading prostitution not based on the nature of the business, but your opinion of the business.

  33. 53 indra ardiansyah 28 July 2010 at 00:22

    @beast:
    well its true that legalizing a biz makes it possible to regulate it.
    but legalizing prostitution is smthg i stand against,
    there will never be an effective way to regulate it since there is no way to value services rendered.
    i wish sg good luck now that they have legalized casinos as well, a few more decisions like these and there’ll be a completely diff singapore in near future i can assure you.

    • 54 Beast 28 July 2010 at 00:25

      When I speak about regulating prostitution, I am not talking about restricting prostitution. I am talking about protecting prostitutes, such as providing free check ups, free condoms, proper institutions (in nevada, for example, prostitution is so legitimized that their sex workers are very well protected by security and health issurance) and so on and so forth.


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