I love how this headline at CNN reads “Operation Frees Dozens of Child Prostitutes” rather than “Over 500 Prostitutes Arrested Under Guise of Saving Children.”
In the three-day operation, which began Thursday night, the FBI, along with local and state law enforcement agencies, took the 46 girls and one boy — all of them U.S. citizens ages 13 to 17 — into protective custody.
“Operation Cross Country II” involved efforts in 29 cities and resulted in the arrest of 73 pimps and 518 adult prostitutes, the FBI said.
Those arrested could face federal or state charges, depending on their alleged activities.
Nice, eh? I mean, yes, excellent — 47 children were rescued from a rape trade. Surely, that’s a good thing and worth the huge sums of money spent. But is it necessarily worth over 500 female adults being laden with these serious charges, and ultimately I’m sure being subjected to intense public humiliation, for doing nothing more than attempting to make the best living they know how?
And far more importantly and far less fraught than that question: why do we assume that in order to do one, we must do the other?
The article above is a few months old. But it is indeed still relevant. Because the number of arrests eventually climbed to over 600, though the number of children rescued remained static. And because the operation continues, and on Friday, yet more arrests were made.
A guest at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf said she and her mother were on their way to their room after checking in shortly after midnight yesterday when they encountered a raucous scene in a sixth-floor hallway as some 17 FBI agents and plainclothes officers were struggling to arrest two kicking and screaming young women.
“It was a huge scene,” said the guest, who asked not to be identified, adding that it was frightening to have to walk by a gauntlet of investigators to get to their room as one of the women screamed at the top of her lungs, then rolled around on the floor hyperventilating.
[. . .]
The goal of the sweeps, being conducted in over 30 cities, is to target pimps, rescue juveniles, and gather intelligence, according to law enforcement officials.
The Boston sting led to the arrests of five women, ages 19 to 33, who allegedly showed up at the Marriott after agreeing to provide sex for up to $300 an hour to undercover officers. The officers had responded to advertisements posted on the Craigslist website, according to Boston police reports.
The first three women to show up were arrested outside the hotel, but police arrested the other two women in a hallway around 12:30 a.m. when one shoved the other in an apparent dispute over who should collect the $300 fee for promised sexual services, according to the police report.
Really, can someone explain to me how that is targeting pimps and rescuing juveniles, as they so claim? Does one usually book the services of a sex worker, only to have her pimp show up in her place? Where they just thinking that maybe the women in question might be underage and if they weren’t, hey they get to make some arrests anyway?
Or really, is this just exactly what it looks like: an effort to round up, shame and give permanent records to adult women, under the much more palatable pretense of saving children?
To target child prostitution and trafficking is one thing. To scapegoat sex workers and crackdown on prostitution in the name of preventing trafficking is a horse of a different color. It’s a waste of money and it’s a waste of tax-payer resources. And if you really care about “rescuing” sex workers, why the fuck are you giving them felony records?
Indeed. Even if you’re one of those people who thinks that prostitution is never, or extremely rarely, made under the circumstances of free choice — or think that making the decision to be a sex worker when comparing it against other poor options doesn’t count as a free choice, even when working at Wal-Mart seemingly does — how is this in any way helpful? How will this help those women who do want to get out of the business, or may want to get out someday? The scarlet letter of a criminal conviction for prostitution is going to serve them well?
Of course it’s fucking not. Because this isn’t about helping women. That would just be paternalism, but this is straight up misogyny. This is about enforcing standards of morality around how women “should” behave, and outing and humiliating those women who don’t live up to those standards for whatever reason, whether it be choice or desperate circumstances. It’s about deciding that if they don’t live up to some stupid, sexist social requirement, they deserve incarceration and to never be able to find other employment.
And it’s about saying that legally, women are not allowed to use their own bodies as they so please. Not “men aren’t allowed to use women’s bodies at their will,” because no clients were arrested here. It’s about saying that women cannot make choices about their bodies.
And if they do make a choice? Even if it’s not a choice, and another person or circumstance forces them into it? They’re going to jail.