September 30, 2005

White slavery in the UK Police in Birmingham, UK, are reported to have rescued nineteen women from ten countries from white slavery. (The term is archaic; the practice, sadly, isn't.) They were allegedly being locked in the establishment at night, and kept in by day with the assistance of an electric fence around the back garden.

I'm personally interested because I used to live in Birmingham, and the plethora of bordellos masquerading as massage parlours was a very poorly kept secret. In fact, a quick web search yields evidence (text only, but may not be safe for your work) that the parlour in question appears to have been operating as a house of ill repute since at least 1995. West Midlands Police have not enjoyed the best of reputations in the past, but they surely could not have been unaware of the true nature of these businesses. Instead of turning a blind eye, would openly legalised and regulated prostitution help to prevent the type of abuse alleged in Birmingham? And perhaps a more relaxed approach to immigration would pull the carpet from under the feet of people traffickers. However, is it just out of the frying pan, into the fire for them? Even once such women are freed, they are still illegal immigrants in the eyes of the law and can expect detention and repatriation. The European Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings would allow them temporary residence and state support, but the UK has not signed up to it. There are, however, others who are willing to help. Anecdote: several years ago, one of my friends in Birmingham had his girlfriend over for the weekend, and she wanted to get a massage. He called around several "massage parlours" advertised in the phone book without success; one of them said, "Well, I suppose one of the girls could do that..."

  • Sadly, this happens very frequently and around the world every day. Human trafficking *is* big business. The lure seems to be the same across different cultures as well - preying upon those who are poor, uneducated, or just trying to make a better life for themselves (not to mention the trafficking of children). The *known* statistics are mind-numbing...
  • The world is a very miserable place for many people. I think it's important to ponder why there is such a large consumer demand without which such places could never flourish.
  • I'd appreciate it if in the futue people would use the term "sexual slavery" instead; there's even a Wikipedia article about that. And as for bordello prostitution in general, isn't it possible that some adults freely choose to become sex workers? And that some who perform sex work, willingly or not, are men? I'm not objecting to your post TDM, only the "archaic" and unnecessary phraselogy. The heterosexist bias of the Guardian article isn't your fault, and anyway I'd be surprised if there were anywhere near many imported male prostitutes in the UK -- and even more surprised if many of those few imported male prostitutes were brought in to service women. And fish tick, I long ago realized that people suck -- even people (like me) who try not to. Raising one's expectations is asking for disappointment.
  • anywhere near many Er, 'anywhere near AS many'.
  • I'd appreciate it if in the futue people would use the term "sexual slavery" instead; there's even a Wikipedia article about that. I seriously debated whether to use the wording I did, because I wondered if it might offend. I decided to go ahead for a number of reasons. First, I've heard it used a lot recently but with the misunderstanding that the expression has a racial meaning. Second, I wanted to point out that just because a word has gone away, the underlying situation has not. Third, it was more specific in meaning than "sexual slavery". Fourth, I thought that it made for a more interesting title. In the end, though, I couldn't actually find any reason why it should be any more offensive than innocent but sometimes misunderstood words like "blackboard" or "niggardly". If, however, there are specific reasons why the term "white slavery" should be avoided, it would be helpful to see them spelt out, and, perhaps, added to the Wikipedia entry.
  • White slavery does not refer to race, though sometimes throughout history the fear was targeted at non-whites enslaving white women. The term white slavery is also used in revisionist and white supremacy literature to refer to any slavery of people with light skin. This wikipedia entry does nothing but confuse the meaning of the phrase.
  • ThreeDayMonk, I was initially put off by your use of the term, but upon reading the Wikipedia link that you provided, found much to think about, as well as some fascinating further reading.
  • And that some who perform sex work, willingly or not, are men? This is a good point Big Davey. NYC subways are plastered with advertisments for Lifetime Channel's upcoming special on Human Trafficking, that say "Every day young girls are bought and sold." My immediate reaction was, "what about the boys that are bought and sold?" It's not an issue of gender, race or religion.
  • IMHO anyway...
  • You're right that males are trafficked as well as females. However, the reason for the "heterosexist bias" of the Guardian article (and, perhaps, my post as well) is simple: the event being reported exclusively concerns women in a brothel catering to a heterosexual male clientele.
  • Women and children, SMT. Women and children are the primary victims. Fish tick: I'm with you. Consumer demand is the reason for this sickening practice. It's hard not to rage at the entire male contingent of our species when something like this is considered. I know there are many decent men, but the number of unmitigated assholes out there that lie and smile and are predators beneath is scary. Men in power, in particular, seem to get want to prey on the helpless.
  • Yep - makes one leery of whether the ol' 'first into the lifeboat' bit isn't a trap! Okay, that was uncalled-for, but it is a frightening world of testosterone-poisoning out there!
  • Monkeyfilter: Women and children are the primary victims.
  • Correct GramMa, I do agree with your intelligent correction of my stated opinion. Indeed, women and children. My brain was thinking in terms of "young girls and young boys" with regards to my comment about gender not being an issue. Yes, in fact some men are victims of trafficking, however it does not compare to the vast numbers of women who are victimized...
  • Great post, great discussion.
  • This became a bitter discussion the other day, with some acquaintances from a client's studio. About prostitution, if complete tolerance would be better, etc. What became a hot point was that of demand: all those east european, southamerican girls end up tricked into lapdance bars and brothels because it's a great business, there's a *paying public*. Would fully legalizing it, regulating it end up the mob trafficking, the extortion, the brutalization? How can one deny our own involvement on such practices if one is to pay those services? This has been the dilemma: how to keep the freedom of some who might want to lead that ocuppation, and at the same time, look after the well-being of those that end up forced into it.
  • There will always be a black market for sexual services because even when it's legalized there are some activities that will never be legal, and the criminal element will concentrate on them. There also will always be those who got into it, like me, because it's my gig, and I don't want any pimp, be it some dick named Ray or the Canadian government. Also, a big reason US escorts have much higher rates than comparable Canadian girls is because of the illegal nature of the business; they need to pay for lawyers and bail so they build that into the fee. Rates will drop if it's legal, and not all the ladies are going to like the slashed income. If they are young and stupid, they feel immortal and they'll take the higher rates over increased safety. What legalization would do is stop so many of the girls getting killed. In the US, if some client tells an escort, "By the way, bitch, I'm not paying, and I'm going to take all the money in your purse, and if you don't give it up, I'm going to break your jaw and nose and put you out of business", they can't do a damn thing about it. Or he just kills her, takes her purse and leaves. In Canada, some shitbird says that, I'm in the bathroom with my purse and cell screaming my head off and calling 9-11. That'd not be the reaction they are looking for. As far as I'm concerned, cops and hotel security are my best friends.
  • Would fully legalizing it, regulating it end up the mob trafficking, the extortion, the brutalization? How can one deny our own involvement on such practices if one is to pay those services? Actually, there's a pretty easy way to avoid supporting traffickers; do not use the services of agencies. Do not use the services of any agency establishment where you have to go to a specific location to see the girl, and she has a 'driver'. There are some agencies that will try and pass their girls off as indies, but they're relatively easy to spot; it's obvious the website or directory pages are generic. Go for single escort websites or directory listings that have a bit of individuality and the sense of it representing a real person rather than a generic sexual fantasy figure. This will not always work. There are many agencies that are perfectly respectable and want absolutely nothing to do with any woman there being coerced or because of a drug problem; it's bad for upscale business. But it will lessen the possibility of visiting someone who's not in it by choice.