Choice and ‘sex work’

“If you had to choose between eating rotten, maggoty food and starving to death, would you call that food a meal?

If you had to choose between sleeping under a plastic sheet on a rainy night and sleeping exposed to the rain, would you call that sheet a home?

If you had to choose between marrying your rapist and being stoned to death (as in some traditional Muslim cultures), would you call that rapist a husband?

Can we honestly call any of these acts–eating rotten food, sleeping under a sheet, marrying your attacker–“choices” in the sense that this word is commonly understood?

Kristyn Komarnicki, editor of PRISM magazine, has written an extraordinary opinion letter (responding to columnists Amy Ernst and Nicholas Kristof) on the issue of sex work.  As she unpacks the life circumstances surround this “choice”, Kristyn challenges our understanding of the issue – and the language we use to describe this horror.

“Work implies a level of dignity and choice that is completely absent from these women’s lives,” she writes.  “The people who have choices are the johns and the traffickers, and the choices they make every day are deadly to the world’s most vulnerable people.”

I’ve reprinted the letter below.  Please take a moment to read this; to be challenged; and to pray!

“…In your article you write about “sex work,” saying “I’ve realized it’s not a job, it’s a desperate last resort.”

I’m an editor, and words are my meat and potatoes. You and Kristof are writers, so you will understand what I mean when I say how important, and how powerful, words are. They either point to the truth, or they obscure and mislead. With this in mind, I really struggle with calling these women ‘sex workers.’ Work implies a level of dignity and choice that is completely absent from these women’s lives.

If you had to choose between eating rotten, maggoty food and starving to death, would you call that food a meal?

If you had to choose between sleeping under a plastic sheet on a rainy night and sleeping exposed to the rain, would you call that sheet a home?

If you had to choose between marrying your rapist and being stoned to death (as in some traditional Muslim cultures), would you call that rapist a husband?

Can we honestly call any of these acts–eating rotten food, sleeping under a sheet, marrying your attacker–“choices” in the sense that this word is commonly understood?

I take issue with calling prostitution “work.” I take issue with lots of things I read in the newspapers, as in the all-too-common headlines announcing an arrest for “having sex with a child” (that’s actually called “rape,” and for good reason). But when people like you and Kristof, who clearly CARE about these women, use the wrong words, it really makes me mad.

In his video “The Madonna and the Whore“, Kristof uses the word “whore” to describe a woman he only seconds before says was lured by a promise of legitimate work before being trapped and held against her will in a brothel–that’s called kidnapping and sexual trafficking.

Calling victims derogatory names or calling the pitiable situations they are forced into “work” is wrong and does a disservice to us all, because it puts a legitimate sheen on criminal oppression and sends the unconscious message that these Congolese women–or any of the world’s downtrodden, prostituted women, children, and men–have choices. The people who have choices are the johns and the traffickers, and the choices they make every day are deadly to the world’s most vulnerable people. PLEASE align your words with what your heart already clearly believes.

Thank you,

Kristyn Komarnicki

editor,

PRISM magazine


Advertisements

~ by Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag on March 2, 2011.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: