#MeToo: what prostitution survivors say about the links between prostitution and sexual harassment and rape

The #MeToo groundswell of women’s voices challenging everyday sexual predation by men like Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen and some of our employers and friends – this is consciousness-raising and courageous activism.

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But does this big-as-the-sky sized basket of women’s voices include women in prostitution? Is their “me too” welcomed? Is the filmed prostitution of women in pornography included in #MeToo? Sexual harassment is what prostitution is. If you remove the sexual harassment, there is no prostitution. If you remove unwanted sex acts, there is no prostitution. Sex trade survivors’ voices are essential to a discussion of sexual harassment, rape, and male supremacy.

Here is what prostitution survivors say about the links between prostitution and sexual harassment and rape.

Alisa Bernard at Organization for Prostitution Survivors, Seattle:
“Prostitution is the definition of a hostile work environment. What angers me is our inability to be heard when we talk about our victimization. We are in that class of victim that society expects to be raped. People only seem to care when it’s a wealthy white woman coming forward rather than women on the streets.”

Autumn Burris, Founding Director, Survivors for Solutions:
“Prostitution is #MeToo on steroids due to the hourly sexual harassment, rape, unwanted advances/penetration and aggressive and violent behavior by white, privileged men sexually commodifying our bodies.”

Vednita Carter, founder of Breaking Free, Minneapolis:
“Weinstein and Trump are no different from everyday johns. They rape women because they can, telling themselves she wanted it or liked it.”

Evelina Giobbe, founder of WHISPER (Women Hurt in Systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt), Minneapolis:
“Prostitution isn’t like anything else. Rather, everything else is like prostitution because it is the model for women’s condition. Prostitution sets the parameters for what you can do to a woman. She’s the stand-in for all women. Why would you be surprised that men who can help with your economic advancement would demand sexual favors or rape you? That’s what men do with women who they pay for.”

Jackie Lynne, Co-Founder, Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI), Vancouver, Canada:
“The White House and Hollywood—bastions of male power/privilege—are predatory hunting grounds where every woman is “ripe for the taking”—where no woman is safe. The denial of harms, both of sexual harassment and of prostitution, are big lies mostly told by rich white men. These lies have been told for centuries and are now entrenched as social truths.”

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