Demand: Clients who want to know who’s free

I receive requests from clients asking how they can distinguish between coerced or trafficked sex workers and those more or less freely on the game. Given all the anti-demand and hate-men projects around, it’s a fair question. And, obviously, sensible clients don’t want to be told to just ask the sex workers themselves. Some say that they have met women they believed worked voluntarily, but afterwards it turned out they had been forced into it.

It’s easy to snicker at re-education projects like Johns’ Schools and say what seems obvious, which is that anyone who gets picked up while negotiating with a worker in the street probably just turns to another area of the sex industry, such as the Internet or indoor venues like massage parlours. And I don’t want to exaggerate, as some might, the significance of clients who help rescue people in trouble, but I did write about this once long ago: They Speak, but Who Listens?

The UK’s Home Secretary has proposed legislation not criminalising all buying of sex – the so-called Swedish Model – but only the buying of services from people ‘controlled for another’s gain’, which I wrote about in the Guardian recently in The Shadowy World of Sex Across Borders. And which, I learned yesterday in Copenhagen, is the Finnish Model.

In this context, I would like to come up with some advice to clients. I’m wondering what other working people advise, since I tend to think that any client genuinely worried about this should stop paying human beings for sex and move onto some other form of commercial pleasure. Why? Because, as I write ad infinitum, it is vexingly difficult to distinguish levels of will and choice, except at the extremes of the continuum where pure freedom and pure slavery supposedly exist.
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