Thoughts on Modern Prostitution, liberty and the Sex Trade after reading Emma Goldman’s ‘The Traffic in Women’

A stream of thoughts prompted by a conversation. 


“Men should be equally prosecuted for their part in prostitution” – Anon

I start this one off trembling… because I am a man and this is not a question of my body, it is a problem that doesn’t concern me directly, so I must tread carefully with my words.

I don’t want to make this post sound alarmist but though I should start with saying that, as in prostitution is it overwhelmingly men who are the consumers, and women the ‘producers’ if you will – the product being themselves in an (often) black market.

However these producers are not often so much as producers as cattle, often hoarded out by violent street gangs and pimps in areas where it is unregulated. But then even in places where it is regulated such as Amsterdam and US, problems still emerge and women are still coerced into a life of (often) degrading sex work.

Is there an alternative from a historical perspective?

Let’s see what Emma Goldman had to say on the issue. I am new to exploring her as a thinker, so if anyone disagrees strongly with my line on this, please let me know why.


Prostitution has been, and is, a widespread evil, yet mankind goes on its business, perfectly indifferent to the sufferings and distress of the victims of prostitution. As indifferent, indeed, as mankind has remained to our industrial system, or to economic prostitution.

Source :

I found this pretty thought provoking and direct, from the same article.

We must rise above our foolish notions of “better than thou,” and learn to recognize in the prostitute a product of social conditions. Such a realization will sweep away the attitude of hypocrisy, and insure a greater understanding and more humane treatment. As to a thorough eradication of prostitution, nothing can accomplish that save a complete transvaluation of all accepted values especially the moral ones – coupled with the abolition of industrial slavery.

I believe we all have a complex relationship to how we see our relationship to prostitution, I myself have never had sex with a prostitutes, but I am complicit in consuming pornography for at least 12 years online, and then before as a teenager (late night EuroTrash etc etc you get the picture). This muddies my perception.

I am a man stuck in the modern industrial machine of this trade – namely the digital industry which feeds on my natural desire to watch and consume sexual imagery. And I expect I shall probably expand on my thoughts on the digital economy and porn later.

This is the home of my anarchist approach to the question of prostitution – namely, shame, and loneliness.  I think that is where most men go when they feel that, however I feel nothing but disdain for men personally who find refuge in the arms of prostitutes, revisiting the original quote, I think men should be punished for visiting and supporting the illegal sex trade and that the only possible way to fix this trade is to have an uprising in sex worker consciousness so that sex workers can protect themselves.

It is just an unfortunate fact I think that some people want to do sex work, not a nice fact, not a easy to digest fact but an unfortunate one. So my position is one of a lesser evil, namely…

Unionise Sex Work?

Which brings me to the big question I am pondering? Is it beneficial to unionise sex work so that the prostitutes have a stake in their own work, or would a harder line be better i.e make prostitution 100% illegal, therefore in my view probably creating a black market?

This is a liberty vs authority question and not an easy or a simple one one.

When in doubt I always veer towards Liberty of the individual

Human Rights of sex workers

  • Individuals have rights over their own body
  • The rights to have sex, wherever for pleasure or profit is determined by the  individuals involved
  • Individuals have the right to decide what is right in a sexual relationship
  • Making an individual an object and only that, dehumanises and degrades the individual

Stop the illegal trade of prostitution and hand control of sex and sexuality back in to the hands of the producers i.e sex workers, who should organise themselves into unions, and deal with internal conflicts in a co-operative manner providing protection for those who choose sex work.

That is my view, what is yours?





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