Whore stigma, buttressed by law enforcement

Bob Herbert identifies the Whore stigma, buttressed by law enforcement in his piece yesterday

“If no money is involved, the youngster is considered a victim. But if the man pays for the sex — even if the money is going to the pimp, which is so often the case — the child is considered a prostitute and thus subject in many venues to arrest and incarceration.”

 This is clearly because prostitution is considered so low that even a child forced into it is sullied by its nature. He goes on to say:

“What’s needed is a paradigm shift. Society (and thus law enforcement) needs to view any adult who sexually exploits a child as a villain, and the exploited child as a victim of that villainy. If a 35-year-old pimp puts a 16-year-old girl on the street and a 30-year-old john pays to have sex with her, how is it reasonable that the girl is most often the point in that triangle that is targeted by law enforcement?

A measure of how far we still have to go is the fact that some enlightened officials in the state of New York tried to shift that paradigm last year and failed. The proposed Safe Harbor Act would have ended the practice of criminalizing kids too young to legally consent to sex. Under the law, authorities would have no longer been able to charge children with prostitution, but would have had to offer such youngsters emotional counseling, medical care and shelter, if necessary.

Legislative passage was thwarted in large part because prosecutors made the case that it was necessary to hold the threat of jail over the heads of these children as a way of coercing them to testify against pimps. In other words: If you don’t tell us who hurt you, little girl, we’re going to put you in jail.”

Sadly, this is common across the country, and children are not the only victims of violence in these situations. Herbert identifies the trouble with threatening jail to those who would not turn in their pimps. Have they considered that some of the violent men who control females of any age in these situations would be certain to have any witnesses against him hurt badly? That to insist that the girl turn in her pimp coulod mean a death sentence- or at the least an act of violence against her?

As much as I dislike the fact that Herbert is far too uncritical of the likes of Farley and her “research,” I think he has a point here. Sadly, he may be too blind to notice his own subscription to the whore stigma.

8 Responses

  1. I liked the piece because he at least starts to question some of the laws around prostitution. This is a big leap for him considering his pieces last fall based on Farley’s book. There’s hope for him yet.

    Maybe DA could send him an invite to the conference this summer. Not as a presenter, simply as someone who is willing to listen and learn

    XX

  2. Thank you, Bob Herbert, by providing an arguement to support the decriminalization of prosititution, even if it was unintentional. You mentioned that children in prostitution are treated like prostitutes and incarcerated, which I agree with, but that would not be the case if prostitution were decriminalized. If prostitution were decriminalized, child prostitution would still be criminalized under laws criminalizing sex with minors, but the children would not be the considered the criminals and they would not be incarcerated.

  3. SWA,

    Yes! Great way of turning things around.

    Now, how do we get this message out from here?

    XX

  4. […] Whore stigma, buttressed by law enforcement « Bound, Not Gagged “Herbert identifies the trouble with threatening jail to those who would not turn in their pimps. Have they considered that some of the violent men who control females of any age in these situations would be certain to have any witnesses against him hurt (tags: prostitution law violence society stigma) […]

  5. SWA, I believe one has 7 days to be able to submit a response. Please try sending a letter to the NYT in response to Herbert’s article!

  6. Good idea, swoplv. Do you have a link or an address to where we can send replies to the article?

  7. I am not sure which one to send it to, but here is a link to contacts at NYT:

    http://nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/infoservdirectory.html

  8. Thank you for the link, swoplv, and I submitted a letter to the editor. I strongly encourage y’all to do the same. The more letters we submit, the better. If if the NY Times doesn’t publish all of our letter, it will hopefully at least publish some. Please e-mail letters to the editor to letters@nytimes.com and letters should be 150 works or under.
    Also, the NY Times requires the following information with letter to the editor submissions:
    Name
    Address
    Current Location
    Evening Phone Number
    (Your address and evening phone number won’t appear if your letter is published in the newspaper, but it is just in case the paper needs to contact you.)
    Has anybody else written letters to the editor in response to Bob Herbert’s columns and were these letters published?

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