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The above Guardian article purports in the video to detail the experiences of a trafficked woman. I do not contest the authenticity of the experiences of this person because I do not know her. What I contest most strongly is the proposition that the experiences shown in a very theatrical and emotionally challenging manner are the realities of all sex workers or the realities of all foreign sex workers. I also contend her assumptions that criminalising men for buying sexual services is somehow going to right the wrongs committed against genuine trafficked victims. The problem Emma Thompson is that real life is not a piece of choreographed drama.
Emma Thomson has revealed a disturbing innocence about the sex industry and has made misguided assumptions that reveal a lack of knowledge of the experiences of sex workers which are many and varied some good and some sadly bad. It is easy and lazy to adopt a stance on an issue as controversial and stigmatised as sex work and to then endorse views that emotionalise negative experiences suffered by some women with out giving regard to the consequences for others. It is easy to achieve publicity by simplifying an issue into black and white and to find scapegoats that society can easily identify and demonise. It is convenient to ignore the other experiences of other sex workers and to dismiss their voices as unimportant. It is easier to endorse existing discrimination and even encourage more bad laws and to emphasise with opinions that will further disenfranchise sex workers than it is to challenge stigma and assumptions made by society about those socially disenfranchised. This however is what Emma Thomson has done and it is morally reprehensible from somehow who says that they care about women’s rights and one presumes human rights.
The assumption from Emma’s article and the accompanying video is that we have to assume that every Eastern European man is an evil trafficker/pimp and every foreign woman buying condoms in boots is a sex slave. Presumably we are to call the Poppy project at once and then the home office to let them know that we have found one at least of the four thousand sex slaves they seem to be unable to find yet still claim are around somewhere. It is a crude and dangerous naivety that in any other circumstances would quite rightly be denounced as racist. You see Emma Thomson nothing to do with sex is simple. To be foreign does not always mean you are trafficked by exploitative pimps and making assumptions about men who buy sex is naive and dangerous because by encouraging bad laws that criminalise men who buy sex is to not only criminalise the consensual sexual activity of many but worse alienates the very people ie clients and fellow sex workers who are best placed to inform on real cases of abuse and real cases of trafficking. Further criminalising an already criminalised industry will push it further underground which may make Emma Thomson and her friends feel better because it become invisible but it does nothing to help the vulnerable and actually creates an exploitable and corruptible market.
In the article Emma Thomson claims not to wish to return to Victorian values. Emma Thomson however adopts the attitudes that would have been very familiar to her Victorian sisters who using very similar language sallied forth to rescue fallen women. She like many who speak from privilege refuse to engage with the multifaceted industry she finds repugnant. Instead she like many of her fellow anti sex work sisters adopt attitudes of despair and despondency at any idea that women (men and trans persons who sell sex are usually excluded because it is harder to objectify us as victims) can and do make qualified choices to sell sexual services. Hidden behind the emotionalism of the video and the scattering of comments about sex and the despairing attitude toward the business of selling sex is a prudishness about sex and the affirmation of the age old patriarchal assumptions of good women and bad women. Worse with Emma Thomson there is it would appear a need on her part to save fallen foreign women because to her they are vulnerable. In much the same way as some men prey on vulnerable women in order to exploit them as seen in the video Emma’s Thomson likewise exploits those same women in order to feel useful and needed and to justify her squeamishness about human sexuality and in particular female sexuality. Some ageing actresses open rescue homes for stray animals. Emma Thomson now rescues foreign women if they like it or not. There is nothing wrong with being anti trafficking in deed it is laudable but in this article Emma Thomson reveals her distaste for any sexual behaviour which does not fit the prescribed normality she and others in the very lucrative rescue industry subscribe to.
Next time Emma Thomson totters on her Jimmy Choos for luncheon at the Ivy she should perhaps remember that nothing is black and white and that criminalising human behaviour of which sex is the most basic never works but actually creates more problems and more abuse. History exists to teach us this fact if we care to learn.