Walk in a brothel, walk out a rapist?

Britain fights sex trafficking with a controversial new ad.


Tracy Clark-Flory
May 8, 2008 1:30PM (UTC)

In Britain's latest attempt at fighting sex trafficking, it's simply calling johns rapists. Men visiting the loo at their local pub may soon start to notice posters showing an open door -- along what seems a wall smeared with blood or other bodily fluids -- leading to an illegal sex den. (Note that prostitution isn't illegal in Britain, but brothels are.) The advertisement reads: "Walk in a punter. Walk out a rapist." Then, in smaller text, the ad throws out a dare to any man who comes across a sex worker he suspects was trafficked: "If you're man enough, call Crimestoppers."

Not all johns are rapists, of course; and, I'm uncomfortable calling anyone who sleeps with a trafficked girl a rapist, even though she is being forced to have sex against her will. Certainly, johns who know they are having sex with a trafficked girl are rapists, and it could be argued that there are many more cases of involuntary rape caused by willful blindness -- but I don't think all men who unwittingly sleep with trafficked girls are guilty of rape.

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The ad is clearly aiming to draw a line between willful and forced prostitution, but it's a matter of perspective whether the ad is applying the rapist label to all clients of trafficked prostitutes. If it is, it raises a host of questions. For instance: If a man has sex with a drug-addicted sex worker, or a prostitute who has an abusive pimp, is he a rapist?

All that being said, I salute the advertisement for pushing any man considering sex-for-pay to consider that he very well could end up unwittingly having sex with a trafficked woman.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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