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Should the terminology to do with forced prostitution change to describe what it really is?

(32 Posts)
Creeping Fri 10-Jan-14 23:09:50

Somehow, when I read this today, it dawned on me that the terminology to with sex trafficking and forced prostitution is all wrong. The use of the terms prostitution and sex is I feel a euphemism for what is really happening, possibly enabling society to close its eyes to it. Isn't it time to change the terminology?

Forced sex is rape. It's as simple as that.

I think if we used terms like "organised rape", "rape ring" instead of "sex ring", "rape trafficking" instead of "sex trafficking", "rape slavery" instead of "sex slavery" it would become a whole lot more difficult to ignore what is really happening and it would gain more of an urgent, serious crime association when we read about it in the media, thereby possibly helping an attitude change towards these crimes.

Thoughts? Which terms are "wrong" and what would be better?

sashh Sat 11-Jan-14 08:59:01


Also 'child prostitute', no such thing, just because someone pays doesn't stop them being an abused child.

horsetowater Sat 11-Jan-14 09:06:21

I think they hae changed terms regarding child 'porn' to child sex abuse images.

The trouble with using the word rape is because rape imples intercourse, where as sex abuse or assault can cover varous things.

I think they should use the term 'sex abuse ring / trafficking would do the trick.

NeoFaust Sat 11-Jan-14 09:06:30

It makes sense. It ends the conflation between legitimate voluntary prostitution and rape slavery.

mydoorisalwaysopen Sat 11-Jan-14 10:12:02

couldn't agree more.

Creeping Sat 11-Jan-14 11:01:01

Glad I'm not the only one!

It's true that rape probably doesn't cover all of the abuse that may happen, so sex abuse might be more correct.

I am wondering though if on some level the word sex abuse suggests that rape doesn't happen? I know that sexual abuse can imply rape as well, but I'm just thinking of the assocations that will be made unconsciously. Like how I think when I hear the term sexual assault that there hasn't been a rape, but perhaps an attempted rape or other forced sex acts. Not that those aren't serious crimes, and to the victim there may not be a difference in the felt violation, but in the eyes of the public rape is probably the ultimate sexual crime...

Just thinking out loud here...

ArtetasSwollenAnkle Sat 11-Jan-14 11:14:22

Would such a separation of descriptions between forced and unforced prostitution indicate that some forms of prostitution is acceptable? Would this not conflict with the beliefs of some feminists, who think that all prostitution is unacceptable?

Beachcomber Sat 11-Jan-14 11:36:39

I would be one of those feminists. I agree that the language around prostitution is often inappropriate and masks reality, but I take issue with the notion of 'legitimate' prostitution.

This phrase from NeoFaust is concerning; It ends the conflation between legitimate voluntary prostitution and rape slavery.

The vast majority of women in prostitution entered the life as minors - to talk of legitimate prostitution is to ignore that.

Melissa Farley is very good on this subject and how the debate around prostitution is always about when/how to get away with calling rape, sex and calling a rape victim a sex worker.

The notion that paid for intercourse with a minor is rape but on that same minor's 18th birthday, the act of rape becomes a legitimate purchase is as blinkered as it is misogynistic.

We should use the word trafficking more and properly - if you take the accepted human rights definition, the vast majority of people in prostitution would be considered trafficked.

From this paper

In the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, “’Sex trafficking’ means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” A commercial sex act is defined as “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.” For criminal charges to be brought against perpetrators, their activities must meet the criteria of “severe form of trafficking in persons,” which is “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”
In the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime
“trafficking in persons” is defined as follows:
(a) ‘Trafficking in persons’ shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, or abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments of benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Creeping Sat 11-Jan-14 12:52:05

Thanks for the explanation about trafficking, Beachcomber. We don't have these definitions in our heads however, when we read about it. For me, the word itself, "trafficking" and even "sex trafficking" does not convey that it involves people being raped, if you see what I mean. I get a vision of people being transported and smuggled over borders with trafficking, and with sex trafficking that they are brought to brothels. Not the actual sex crimes themselves. It may just be me, but I think I'm not special or an exception. That's why I thought that perhaps we need more explicit terms, especially in the media.

Beachcomber Sat 11-Jan-14 14:18:52

Don't get me wrong, Creeping - I totally agree with what you say in your OP. We should use words like rape, organised rape, etc as you say.

And I also agree with you that most people have an idea in their head that trafficking involves crossing borders, smuggling people, etc. I did too until I read the paper I linked to above.

The reality of sex trafficking is that any woman who has a pimp or a boyfriend living off her earnings is trafficked. As is a woman in a brothel, sauna, etc.

I only raise the subject because I think it isn't widely known and that 'ignorance' significantly colors attitudes to prostitution.

For example a person naively arguing for legal prostitution is in fact arguing for trafficking to be legal. It changes the frame of the debate when you put it in such terms. That's all I wanted to say - I wasn't disagreeing with what you say - just that I would apply it to the institution of prostitution as a whole.

BriarRainbowshimmer Sat 11-Jan-14 16:07:52

I didn't know that about trafficking Beachcomber.
I also agree that words used for it should be as clear as possible so the horror of it won't be minimized.
However, newspapers and other media already have a problem with not describing rape as rape. They often use "sex" instead, even if it's rape of children.

TeiTetua Sat 11-Jan-14 17:08:37

On the other hand, to use the word "rape" in anything but its commonly understood meaning may have the effect of devaluing that meaning--that's something that I've heard people say, and it's especially forceful when it comes from a woman who's endured rape. I'm not saying it's wrong in this case, but I'd be very careful about spreading the use of the word.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sat 11-Jan-14 23:14:12

I agree with beach.

Rape is rape. Consent is consent.

However, I do reserve particular disgust for the phrase 'child prostitute' for the reasons sash gives. And I think it is very telling that the phrase even exists - I think it is revealing of the fact that, not so deep down, everyone knows what is going on and uses language to distance the fact.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sat 11-Jan-14 23:17:56

Sorry, I must left this open and posted later, because tei's post ahs only shown up for me.

tei, isn't that tricky, because the 'commonly understood meaning' of rape excludes 'sex with someone you know,' 'sex when you were drunk,' 'sex when you'd had sex with them before', etc. etc. These aren't the opinions of tiny minorities.

There are loads of people who are genuinely shocked and stunned if you say that 'rape' might mean 'sex with your wife, whom you've had loads of sex with before, when you've told her it's been weeks and you're not happy, and she's finally said yes'.

Before 1991, loads of people would have been shocked at the concept that forced sex in marriage in England and Wales could be 'rape'.

Frankly, given the world we live in, I think it is far more dangerous not to alert people to the meanings of the word they may not commonly understand.

Creeping Sat 11-Jan-14 23:56:07

I think what Tei is referring to is the use of words like "rapy" and "frape" which have nothing to do with real rape but do contribute to the acceptance of rape as something that just happens.

However, I don't agree with Tei that this should be a reason not to use the word rape when real rape is actually happening. Forced sex, coerced sex, sex because you haven't got the realistic option to say no, is rape. This is not about "spreading the use of the word rape", it is about using it appropriately!!!!

Child prostitution as a term should not even exist. It's a rape apologist term as far as I'm concerned.

scallopsrgreat Sun 12-Jan-14 00:00:19

I don't think Tei was referring to frape and other such words. I thought she was referring to using the word rape in conjunction with prostituted women who have are pimped and trafficked. I don't see how that devalues the word rape. I could see how not using the word rape would devalue those women's experiences though.

Creeping Sun 12-Jan-14 00:16:07

I agree Scallop. I think using the word rape is totally appropriate in those situations, which is why I started the thread.

Tei, would you care to enlighten us? What use of the word rape do you have in mind that devalues its meaning?

scallopsrgreat Sun 12-Jan-14 00:24:11

Sorry Creeping I realise you thought that. After that first sentence I was really commenting on what Tei had said, not you. Not that clear having reread. Yes perhaps it's best if Tei clarifies (if she wants to) as I may have misconstrued.

Creeping Sun 12-Jan-14 00:43:44

No need to say sorry Scallop, I know you weren't referring to me. I was agreeing with what you said and knew you agreed with me while interpreting Tei's comment differently to you.


LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 12-Jan-14 00:53:41

creeping - I agree 'frape' and similar terms are horrible and inappropriate. I didn't think tei meant that, and I've never known her not to say what she means.

I am sure she will explain, but I think she was simply worrying about the near-inevitable backlash.

It was the same when marital rape was criminalized, if I understand rightly. Reading opinons from then, people were up in arms wanting to say 'but it's surely not as bad as a stranger, is it?!'. And my dad would still feel the same. This is a really disturbing thing, to me.

I think it is a consequence of the fact whe live in a society where rape happens, that we will do this. And when I say 'we' I don't mean the pious 'you, really ... I myself am enlightened'. I am absolutely certain there will be things we do which, in 100 years time, people will be shocked we didn't condemn.

BriarRainbowshimmer Sun 12-Jan-14 08:32:17

Interesting, I don't think I have ever heard people question the term "child prostitution" before. What really upsets me is when people use "sex worker" to describe little children and teens angry
I've seen it used by writers who should know better - for instance, serious articles about trafficking (in other words, kidnapping and rape of young girls) in India.

PleaseJustLeaveYourBrotherAlon Sun 12-Jan-14 10:30:41


I also want to read articles where they use the term rape and not "had sex with the minor" or "sex with the child".

Makes me furious.

BriarRainbowshimmer Sun 12-Jan-14 15:34:51

Me too. It makes it sound like something consensual and equal, and like they side with the abuser.

StyleLife Mon 13-Jan-14 01:36:16

The reality of sex trafficking is that any woman who has a pimp or a boyfriend living off her earnings is trafficked. As is a woman in a brothel, sauna, etc.

Wrong. Sex trafficking means one has been forced/coerced into prostitution against his/her will. Just because a woman is in a brothel or has a pimp/agent/manager does not necessarily mean she has been trafficked. It has nothing to do with being foreign or crossing borders either, all it means is being forced against one's will.

CaptChaos Mon 13-Jan-14 05:58:44

Sex trafficking means one has been forced/coerced into prostitution against his/her will.

Wrong. Trafficking means to deal or trade in something illegal. Therefore the owners of a sauna, brothel etc are guilty of trafficking, as is a pimp or 'boyfriend' who lives off the earnings of a prostituted woman.

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