“20/20” Report on Prostitution

What are people’s thoughts on the 2 hour report about prostitution that aired on March 21?  I thought Diane Sawyer spent way too much time trying to pathologize sex workers and delving into their personal lives, and not enough time focusing on the rights and well-being of sex workers and the perspectives of sex workers on issues affecting them, such as the criminalization of prostitution and the working conditions they would like.  Though I would had been interested in what the workers thought the legal status of prostitution should be, the only person who spoke about this on the program was a reporter for the New York Times who promoted the Swedish model, even though prostitutes in Sweden have denounced this model.  Of course, their perspectives weren’t represented either.  Please share your thoughts.

23 Responses

  1. Everybody get on 20/20’s website and swamp them with your comments, especially if you yourself are actually a sex worker and/or a sex workers rights activist !

  2. Diane Sawyer is disgusting. She is about as low as media can go. It is horrifying to think of anyone ever having suffered any oppression being interviewed by her. She positively disgusts me. I expect the media to play their roles to fit their ratings needs. I saw her do an interview with Dr. Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian Killing Fields Survivor who was also the actor that portrayed Dith Pran in the Killing Fields. She was beyond repulsive. I would love to be on her show just for the sake of having the opportunity to fight back against her elitist and very uninformed understanding of oppression. In my opinion, she is an elitist, sadist that thrives on her power as the prototypical powerbabe reporter. Henley’s “bubbleheaded bleach blonde” remark in “Dirty Laundry” should have her image in the video. Here is an excerpt of a review of her interview with Haing S Ngor. And interview I will never forget. From the excerpt

    “…All this reminds me of Haing Ngor’s (the actor who played Dith Pran in “The Killing Fields” and who won an Academy Award for the role) “choice”, which he wrote about in “A Cambodian Odessey”. He was a Cambodian physician before the Khmer Rouge came to power. One of the aspects of their reign of terror was killing anyone who was deemed part of the intelligensia, which most certainly included doctors. After numerous horrible events, including starvation and torture, the Ngor’s had a night together (the Khmer Rouge were incompetent, as opposed to the horrible competency of the Nazis) in a camp and she somehow became pregnant. After another time of separation, they met again when she was nine months pregnant, and were in a tent with two Khmer soldiers. She was giving birth, and there were complications. As a physician, he recognized the problem, and could have stepped in and saved both her life and the baby’s, but he knew if he did so, they would all be killed, so instead he chose to watch and do nothing as his wife and child died in childbirth.

    He was on a news show with Diane Sawyer after the book came out, and she publicly vilified him for his “cowardice”, claiming that “a real man would have stepped in and saved his wife and child”. He was tortured by his decision, but BITCH Sawyer thought he needed to be given shit. Ngor broke down, and begged her to stop, but she kept pouring it on. I wrote CBS and demanded she be immediately fired for her outrageous behavior, and I have refused to watch her since.”

  3. I watched the second half and was absolutely frustrated when Sawyer could not believe that the woman she was speaking to (the sw who was in shadow) did not feel some sense of emotional suffering for being a sex worker.

    When one said she suffered she believed her. Why not believe the one who said she did not? Because Sawyer herself would feel suffering if she did it, is my bet? She could not think outside her own box. Reminds me of a nurse who told me that there is no way she could ever do what I do to which I replied it is good that she is not doing it and I am because I feel just fine doing it (in my case it was porn).

    Sawyer also asked her how it felt when the sanctity of her body had been violated. The sw replied that she did not see her work that way.

    When this kind of thing gets thrown at me I wonder (often aloud) why is it acceptable to commercialize, to trade upon, one’s intellect, physical labour, appearance, etc… but not one’s sexuality. Why is sex so different? Especially heterosexual sex?

  4. It was truly the most shoddy, uninformed journalism I have ever seen. I had to prevent myself from throwing a brick through the television set. I used to respect Diane Sawyer, but this was truly a new low in her journalistic career. To think she spent two years working on that show. If it weren’t for the Spitzer scandal, it would have never aired.

  5. Did anyone catch this on the 20/20 site?

    “If you’re a viewer wondering how to help women or girls entrenched in the sex industry, or if you know someone who needs support, there are several online resources available.

    Visit the following Web sites to learn more about programs in your area, and to find out what you can do to help end commercial sexual exploitation.”

    And naturally look who is listed..

    “The SAGE Project in San Francisco stands for Standing Against Global Exploitation. It offers restorative justice programs, trauma and drug recovery programs, wellness and vocational programs and education to several hundred women and girls each week, in addition to raising awareness about commercial sexual exploitation.

  6. I’m going to post a link to this thread and the other Bound Not Gagged thread about the “20/20” report on the “20/20” discussion board about this report. This is an important form of action because people need to know what we, the sex worker advocates, are saying. We’ll never make any progress if all people are ever exposed to is the prohibitionist side that harms sex workers. I’m an optimist and I believe that more people would support us if they knew about us, our strength, and our perspectives.
    I agree with Seska Lee that Diane Saywer projected her own views onto the independent indoor worker who expressed positive attitudes about her work. Sawyer had no business doing this. What Sawyer needs to understand is that sex workers have a diversity of perspectives about our work and we have the right to define our experiences for ourselves. Also, what Sawyer didn’t address was how being ostracized and persecuted could cause emotional suffering. She acted as if providing sexual services in exchange for payment by its very nature caused emotional suffering.
    For an investigative report that took two years to do, I felt that it was very shallow and stereotypical and if you spend two years investigating prostitutution, shouldn’t you be able to do more than just promote stereotypical attitudes that harm sex workers? As I said before on another thread, I think it’s important to address these attitudes because ignoring them won’t make them go away and the more we address these attitudes in our words, the harder it is for peole to use these stereotypes against us, but addressing these attitudes doesn’t mean promoting them.
    Also, as I said before, nobody should ask sex workers questions that they wouldn’t be willing to answer themselves. Thus, I wonder if Diane Sawyer would accept being asked on national TV if she has ever done drugs or been abused as a child, since she asked the sex workers these questions.

  7. hello there,
    i’m participating in my state’s youth legislature this year and my bill for the senate is to legalize prostitution. i would love to have your thoughts on the subject. if any of you are in the sex industry, please give me some insight….the more i know the better

  8. What in Diane Sawyer’s past made her be willing to go on television, pretend to be caring, pretend to judge, pretend to be disgusted, pretend to be an advocate, pretend to be empathetic, pretend to be a therapist, a judge,,,, ?????

    Of course she doesn’t have to answer because she’s a reporter. She gets to ask the questions and pretend to have whatever response she feels will appeal to her demographic, get her ratings and get her contract renewed.

    I wonder if Diane has considered that she is playing a fantasy? Pretending to be the newsbabe from whatever perspective will get her employer and her the ratings so that she keeps her job and her employer sells the advertisements. She feels she is above others? Please…….. Ripping people open emotionally then sending them back out onto the street for the sake of her story? What did she do for the women she interviewed who were obviously in emotional pain, in difficult situations? Did she do anything to help them? Since she pretended to care so much. Or did she get her story and send them back out on the street? And move on to the next great story?

    For the sex worker she didn’t believe. Did she feel her audience wouldn’t believe it so she pretended that she didn’t? Did she feel her audience would feel scorn for the escort, so she pretended to have scorn, when in actuality she likely couldn’t have cared less.

    And if she really did feel as she acted. Here is a woman who has such a high thought of herself that she drove a genocide survivor who had to watch his wife die even though he was a doctor but could do nothing to help her because she really believes that she could somehow have done better or faced torture and death to make a point that would be missed by everyone and would just lead to her death? Please. She’s a vampire. Sucking peoples feelings, their emotions, their energy, their lives, just so she can play the role that will land her the bigger contract and perhaps someday the anchor desk.

    Diane you weren’t apparently good enough. Peter Jennings died and you didn’t get his gig. So you are stuck with the “investigative reporter” gig.

    For a two year investigation the list of resources they used could have been found in about 20 seconds. All one sided, all without thought.

    She can’t fake objectivity and she can’t even fake subjectivity well. WTF? How did this woman get as far as she did?

  9. Ode to Diane Sawyer courtesy Don Henley

    I make my living off the evening news
    Just give me something-something I can use
    People love it when you lose,
    They love dirty laundry

    Well, I coulda been an actor, but I wound up here
    I just have to look good, I dont have to be clear
    Come and whisper in my ear
    Give us dirty laundry

    Kick em when theyre up
    Kick em when theyre down
    Kick em when theyre up
    Kick em when theyre down
    Kick em when theyre up
    Kick em when theyre down
    Kick em when theyre up
    Kick em all around

    We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who
    Comes on at five
    She can tell you bout the plane crash with a gleam
    In her eye
    Its interesting when people die-
    Give us dirty laundry

    Can we film the operation?
    Is the head dead yet?
    You know, the boys in the newsroom got a
    Running bet
    Get the widow on the set!
    We need dirty laundry

    You dont really need to find out whats going on
    You dont really want to know just how far its gone
    Just leave well enough alone
    Eat your dirty laundry

    Kick em when theyre up
    Kick em when theyre down
    Kick em when theyre up
    Kick em when theyre down

    Kick em when theyre up
    Kick em when theyre down
    Kick em when theyre stiff
    Kick em all around

    Dirty little secrets
    Dirty little lies
    We got our dirty little fingers in everybodys pie
    We love to cut you down to size
    We love dirty laundry

    We can do the innuendo
    We can dance and sing
    When its said and done we havent told you a thing
    We all know that crap is king
    Give us dirty laundry!

  10. This show wasn’t all bad. I think we need to isolate the areas that were most problematic and address them directly with ABC.
    I would concentrate on the reliance on Nicholas Kristof as an “expert” without presenting anyone to criticize his ideas and those of CATW and the other anti type groups listed on the ABC website. I’d suggest getting ABC to have John Stossel do a program on the hype surrounding the human trafficking issue that could be a venue to have critics such as Ron Weitzer of George Washington University and Barb Brents of UNLV present their views of the quality of the information being presented by Kristof, Raymond, Farley, etal.

    We should also ask that 20/20 offer time to someone from the Desiree Aliance to be interviewed to try to balance the bias views presented last night.

    I don’t think its constructive to pile abrobation on Sawyer however one might feel about her interviews. This will only make network people defensive. It is very likely that even after two years she is still ignorant about the sex workers rights movement. After all once she was referred to the likes of Kristof I am sure she would have not been steered in that direction.

    Some good needs to be praised here. Although Sawyer seemed bent on pressing every sex worker to speak only negatively about their work the show didn’t go off into the la la land of Farley and Raymond screaming about millions of child prostitutes and predatory johns. Nor did the program show the police in a favorable light. Their sting operations in the context of the program looked vicous and embarrasing. It was also pointed out that the US has some of the most punitive laws in the developed world.

    Of course this progress was undone to some degree at the end of the show when the Netherlands was trashed based on Kristof’s false information and Sweden praised again base on this man’s opinions.

    One of the first lessons in politics is don’t go to war with people who buy ink by the barrel. That’s the press. We need to focus on Kristof, CATW, and others not Sawyer and ABC.

    Tracy

  11. To add to your comments about Kristof, I was also bothered that the program featured his views on what the legal status of prostitution should be, but not the prostitutes’ views. After all, the prostitutes are the people who are most affected by these policies, so what the prostitutes say about these policies is most meaningful to me, not what Kristof says. As somebody who has been a sex worker, I found it insulting that the program showed Diane Sawyer asking the prostitutes if they were on drugs, but not asking them about what they thought the legal status of prostitution should be. I think this speaks volumes for the stigmas that exist against prostitutes.
    I was also highly offendedwhen Diane Sawyer denied the right of one of the sex workers to define her perspectives for herself when she said she didn’t believe her just because the views she expressed differed from Sawyer’s views. The sex worker was still polite to Sawyer after she reacted in this way, but I don’t know if I would had been as polite. Why should I share my thoughts with anybody if they’re just going to deny them? Sawyer needs to show more respect for the people she interviews than to act like she did. After all, if it weren’t for the people who agreed to speak with her, she wouldn’t of been able to do this piece.
    You also brought up the issue of the portrayal of the police, and I think the program should had focused a lot more on law enforcement abuses against prostitutes and how the criminalization of prostitution encourages these abuses. Also, Diane Sawyer didn’t say anything about how the criminalization of prostitution caused prostitutes to work in more isolated and dangerous areas when she mentioned that all of the street workers she interviewed reported experiencing assault with a weapon. I also found Miami-Dade “trafficking” sting operation to be disturbing. What real trafficking were they stopping? All they were doing was arresting escorts in sting operations.

  12. […] “20/20″ Rport on Prostitution « Bound, Not Gagged “[T]he only person who spoke about [what the legal status of prostitution should be] on the program was a reporter for the New York Times who promoted the Swedish model, even though prostitutes in Sweden have denounced this model.” (tags: sexwork media msm assholes bullshit prostitution) […]

  13. I didn’t get to see part two but part one was inferiorating. So many stereotypes, so much sensationalism . . . passed off as investigative journalism. The visit to the Bunnyranch was the least offensive to me. And yet, as always, the message is that women can only be trusted with sex and money if a man is ultimately in charge (Dennis Hof the pimp and the male gynocologists who give weekly and monthly exams to the female providers).

    After so many years of speaking and writing about sex worker rights I wonder if we have made any headway at all? We really do need to get our academic members front and center on this. I am so tired of seeing Farley’s opinions and psuedo-research dominate the conversation. How can we publicize all the wonderful research which runs counter to conventional “wisdom?”

  14. I didn’t bother watching it. Those shows are such a waist of time in my mind. And boring, OMG so boring.
    Decriminalize prostitution now.
    http://www.espu-ca.org

  15. I was so offended that I didn’t want to keep watching this either, but I made myself continue watching it. No matter how offensive it is, I’ll generally watch anything having to do with sex work so I can hold the media accountable for how it portrays sex work and challenge this when necessary. If I’m not watching it, there are probably millions of other people who are. For many people, all they know about sex work is what is in the media and the media is how they form their views about sex work. I think this can and does really have an impact on public policies. If we watch this stuff and critique it in our words from our perspectives, we can advocate for our cause while doing this and it can be very powerful. I’m not saying anybody has to watch anything that they prefer not to, and I totally respect people’s right not to watch this stuff. I prefer not to also, but I feel a need to stay on top of how sex work and our issue are portrayed and how they need to be portrayed in the media.

  16. I wonder how much the workers were paid for their time to do the interviews? How much did the show and the network make as a result of airing such salacious crap at the whole sex industry’s expense?
    If we don’t lobby for what we’re worth, then who will?

  17. Keep in mind that 20/20 and Diane Sawyer in particular have a history of anti-sex industry and “whore as victim” propaganda. Sawyer and 20/20 did a similar hatchet job on the porn industry a couple of years back, portraying the “decent” of Belladonna and showing her crying at one point, an interview Belladonna later denounced as manipulative and edited together in such a way to make her sound like she regretted doing porn, a view she does not in fact hold. And during the DC Madam publicity, they had Melissa Farley herself on as “expert” with no counter-balancing opinions.

    I don’t think it takes much to note a definite agenda at work here.

    Keep in mind that Sawyer herself was in Republican politics before she was in the media, having some kind of position in the Nixon and Ford administrations. That background might explain a lot.

  18. Do you by any chance have any links to interviews or writings by Belladonna denouncing Sawyer’s portrayal of her? I believe what you’re saying, but I’d be very interested in reading Belladonna’s take on Sawyer’s interview with her.
    I believe that Belladonna produces videos. Does she have a production company? If Sawyer interviews Belladonna again, she should focus on portraying her as a strong, independent businesswoman. In terms of crying, I think that if Sawyer were asking people outside of the sex industry to discuss sensitive issues they have experienced in their lives, at least some of these people would probably cry too. So, when people assume sex workers are miserable people because some sex workers cry when Sawyer asks them about certain issues, don’t jump to conclusions. You might very well cry yourself if Sawyer asked you on or off national TV to talk about sensitive issues in your lives.

  19. I’ll try to dig up Belladonna’s response to this. This is something that RenEv knows more about, so if you read this Ren before I can come up with a source, please post sources yourself.

    Belladonna has her own production company, and about six months ago stopped appearing in front of the camera, but continues producing videos.

    As for what made Belladonna cry, I believe it was Sawyer asking some rather probing questions about her childhood or her personal life.

  20. Thank you, iamcuriousblue, but don’t worry about it. I mean, if you had the information handy, then great, but if not, you probably have other things to do and there’s no need to spend too much time digging this information up. Speaking of which, I’ve been so into the discussions on this board the past couple of days that I have to go focus on other stuff I need to get done, too.

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