Sex Slavery As Polite Conversation

Someone finally wrote the book, which sounds like the final word on the sex trade – that should really be the first word. An urgent and full education is needed, and this book becoming coffee-table commonplace would be the first step. The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It By Victor Malarek, peels back the sticky plastic and scrutinizes men’s involvement, and instigation of the world sex trade. This has been in the news magazines over the past few years, and only recently labeled as the slavery that it truly is – and only very recently is the accusatory gaze being leveled at the john as perpetrator without prejudice.

Certainly, this is not an eureka moment. This is the conclusion drawn by me in the last ten years of studying (in my arm-chair fashion) the role of women in the sex trade. I have spent most of my adult life deconstructing my own attitude toward sex, illicit sex, relationships and society through extensive reading, talking, observation and learning. Why? Well, why does anyone do anything?

Everyone is interested in sex. Too many people change the channel when it comes to actual dialogue about sex, the sex trade and its consequences. Why people stop thinking at the edge of their beds has always astounded me. Why sex appeal in advertising persists when it is sickeningly transparent, and why sex is the source of more humor than education has always astounded me. I have had arguments with men regarding their role as fathers and boyfriends in the sex trade. Many refuse to be viewed on par as peers to the seedy John that buys the services of sex workers. Maybe I am too blunt by placing the swimsuit calendar in the garage on par with buying an underage Asian woman for an hour. Often, I had to back down and agree to disagree. Finally you can read an entire book thoroughly exploring this very uncomfortable idea that the average white male may have a larger role in the sex trade than any whore or pimp would ever want.

The book being written by a man offers a whole new gravity to the message. With all due respect, a book like this could have, and in many ways should be written by a woman. Sadly, I feel that like most sex expose or sex education written by women, the book would be largely ignored by men. Then again, I also have great trouble classifying which breed of feminist I am, or if I am one at all. The everyday bra burning riot grrl seems to me a childish and reactionary version of the women I admire who were women of real action who could succinctly explain their goals and feelings. Far greater, I admire the 1830’s country farm wife who could do complex math, read and write like it was no big thing. It would take a very particular girl to be able to write a book like Johns and be taken with unflinching belief. Fairly any man could have written a book like Johns, and luckily the perfect one did. His previous book Natashas sparked much televised expose of the women of the sex trade – he now focuses on the men.

Regardless or creed, all people have great reason to read a book like this. Whether or not you have given this sex slavery the world is churning out a second thought, ever have or never would step foot in a strip bar, have a daughter, mother, aunt or favorite female teacher or ever been offended by a sexually charged advertisement – or on the other hand, been sexually charged by an offensive advertisement – this book is a must read.

Sure, it is an uncomfortable topic. War is uncomfortable. The decaying state of the planet is largely uncomfortable. Political views can be extremely uncomfortable. Sex should be the most comfortable thing to think about clearly since we all have it at home (or at work! lol!) in whatever form you envision. Many of us can barely articulate our true attitudes toward sex. Sex is something that we deal with nearly every day. We don’t have Parliament in our kitchens, nor war in the bathroom, and we rarely have tar ponds on our couch, yet many conversationalists act like they do.

…how many men within 20 feet of me participated in sex tourism.

We read news articles about freegans and feel better about our blue box. We read about war and feel great about our camouflage ribbons. We read about political proceedings to feel… or not feel… good about our vote. Not many people read educational texts or articles about sex that they don’t already agree with. Harlequin romance is a great example – those who read that largely agree with it as an ideal. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is a great book for those that have thought or acted outside that Harlequin Romance box. Talk Dirty To Me is an even better choice as chapters deal extensively with the (western, healthy, mostly free-thinking) sex trade workers view toward sex.

Johns is the next logical step in that trend. Hopefully, instead of having to read it in a hidden, shy way like a ‘gentlemen’s’ magazine in the seventies, those who read it will be able to have open discussion about their thoughts on the use of women here and abroad for sex. It was not long ago I wondered openly and aloud about how many men within 20 feet of me participated in sex tourism. The people I was with acted as if I had just gutted a live cat on my dinner plate. Hopefully, with a little education and time to digest, the reaction to that question will change.

Lydia Peever is a writer, photographer and student living in Ontario, Canada.


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