Salvation Army plays into the fear and paranoia around sex work
Recently I read a great little article, "The Worst Predator of All: The Ever-Growing Fear of Predators," by sex therapist Marty Klein. Dr Klein argues that the paranoia-based society we've created not only influences collective mental health but also limits how we see ourselves as sexual beings. He says that this extends to structural levels as well:
"Public policy that appeals to emotion rather than logic is dangerous. Lots of public policy designed to "deal with" sexual exploitation does nothing to reduce risk, but encourages other problems."
That got me thinking about the new campaign by the BC Salvation Army that mixes misinformation and paranoia in a pretty toxic way: With its The Truth Isn't Sexy campaign, the Salvation Army a vocal opponent of the decriminalization of sex work attempts to portray all sex industry workers as victims of sexual slavery. The campaign image above claims there are 250,000 of us slaves in North America alone! (Many of us earning far more per hour than you, dear reader...)
How can people really fall for this kind of fear-based propaganda? The Shift project at the AIDS Committee of Calgary writes: "Although the campaign deals with human trafficking, which is a huge issue to tackle and a gross violation of human rights, the concern is that human trafficking and sex work are grouped together as one. The messaging is confusing and generalizes all sex workers as being exploited victims.
"We believe the message about human trafficking should be a strong one and we recognize the need for a campaign to focus specifically on this issue. However, it is essential for the messaging to be clear and focus solely on trafficking and not include those working in sex work. When grouped together sex workers lose their voice, and their choice. It continues to marginalize, and discriminate one of the most vulnerable populations in Canada."
To be clear, then: no one is opposing campaigns that seek to end genuine, forced migration of individuals. But it's pretty disingenuous to conflate that issue with the fact that, because we live in an inequitable, capitalist system where every form of labour has a price, some people make the difficult choice to leave their homes and families to cross borders to engage in work that they would otherwise choose not to do. Check out the front cover of the Oct 11, 2008 Ottawa Sun, which depicts Jamaican migrant workers as "happy" to work in Ontario fields during the pumpkin harvest.