Walk in a brothel, walk out a rapist?

Britain fights sex trafficking with a controversial new ad.

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


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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