Sex traffickers convicted; 18% of British men have visited a prostitute.

// 4 November 2008

A gang of six men have been handed down sentences of up to 14 years for their treatment of a 16 year old girl and 22 year old woman who they trafficked into sexual slavery:

Their 16-year-old Slovakian victim had cried in the dock as she described spending nearly a year-and-a-half working as a prostitute after being lured to Britain with the promise of a job in a pub.

She was repeatedly raped, beaten and threatened and was sold on from owner to owner.

A second victim was 22 when she left her six-month-old baby daughter with relatives in Lithuania, after being convinced by one of her brother’s old classmates that she could earn good money in a warehouse in Britain to provide a better future for them both.

London’s Southwark crown court heard she too was made to work as a prostitute.

The men were found guilty of child prostitution, human trafficking, brothel keeping and controlling prostitution for gain. While the case only involved two victims, the judge pointed out that the brothels owned by these men “employed” around 50 eastern European women, at least some of whom were “almost certainly” not there by choice.

I’m pleased these scum bags are going to be locked away, but it makes me sick to think that the men who raped and abused these women are still out there, most likely raping and abusing other vulnerable women who, be it through trafficking, drug abuse or economic desperation, find themselves working as prostitutes.

According to The Observer’s latest survey on British people’s attitudes to sex, Sex Uncovered, 18% of British men have used prostitutes*. A further 9% would consider doing so. Together, that’s over a quarter of the male population. And from my point of view that means one in four UK men would be willing to put their sexual gratification over women’s human rights. Because, while I accept that some women do actively choose to engage in sex work, many do not make that active choice, and I’m willing to bet that there is little these man can or would do to distinguish between these women and use the services of the former.

Now, I don’t think that a quarter of the male population of Great Britain are monsters, rather that they have grown up in a culture that emphasises men’s “right” to access women’s bodies. It is this culture and this message that need to be tackled. While some of these men may genuinely not care less that they could well be raping the prostitute they’ve paid for (and a few no doubt get off on this power trip), I think (at least I hope) that others simply don’t question what they are doing because they believe in their right to sex, because prostitution is becoming more normalised, because it’s a fair exchange of money for services etc etc.

I want these men to realise that it’s not that simple. That the woman they are about to have sex with could well be there under force, be that through being trafficked and imprisoned or because she is desperate for the money. That having sex with someone who does not want to have sex with you is rape. That their desire to orgasm is of inconsequential importance compared to another human being’s right not to be violated.

The case above is just one indication that British men’s demand for women’s bodies and sexual service cannot be met by willing sex workers. It is this demand, these men’s selfishness, that leads to the exploitation and abuse of women across the globe.

Would it really be so hard to just have a wank instead?

*From The Observer website:

A sample of 1,044 UK adults aged 16+ were interviewed by ICM Research in September 2008.

Participants completed a confidential questionnaire, which was then placed in a sealed envelope. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

Comments From You

figleaf // Posted 5 November 2008 at 6:09 am

Hi Laura,

Two points I think are overlooked in this development.

1) The minor child was sixteen when she *testified.* She would have been *fourteen* when she was first sold to men by her traffickers. This is significant because few prostitution apologists can make mouth-noises about age of consent for someone that young.

2) It’s good to hear that the traffickers were convicted for, among their other offenses, of child prostitution for selling sexual access to a minor girl. In too much of the world the mere fact of being a prostitute seems to erase one’s minor status. On the other hand any and all customers of the traffickers who had sex with her have *not* been brought to justice for pedophilia, child molestation, rape of a child or other crimes: charges that again, were the assaults *not* for money, would have, and should have been brought.

Considering how many people evidently enter prostitution as minor children (voluntarily or by conscription) it’s a shame anti-prostitution activists, let alone prosecutors, rarely put such potent tools on the table.


Leigh // Posted 5 November 2008 at 10:18 am

“That having sex with someone who does not want to have sex with you is rape.”

Having sex with someone who has no ability to choose not to is rape, surely?

Laura // Posted 5 November 2008 at 4:28 pm

That too, Leigh, yes.

Anne Onne // Posted 5 November 2008 at 5:15 pm

Amen. I don’t personally believe sex work is inherently degrading to anybody, and in an equal world, where nobody would be coerced into it, and sex workers (of ALL genders) would be protected by law, and treated like the human beings they are, visiting a prostitute would not be an ethical problem in my eyes.

But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where girls from underprivileged countries are lured here with the promise of a better life, then sold to a life of sexual slavery, whilst the government does nothing. We live in a world where prostitutes are blamed for the ills of society, whilst the men who rape them and use them are seen as ‘just men’.

We need to fully support and protect those who are kept in prostitution against their will, and give them the chance to leave they deserve. At the same time, it’s important we don’t make life harder for those who wish to stay in sex work, because they have enough crap to deal with (which they shouldn’t have to!) without us passing judgement on their work. Sex workers, whatever their position on the subject, deserve our attention, help and support.

The men who visit them, who have no idea whether the teenage girl they slept with last night was even old enuogh to consent, anyway? The men who feel no guilt about sleeping with a foreign woman who is probably being kept hostage by her pimp because she’s here illegally? The men who never once think that the woman they are about to sleep with wouldn’t have a chance to say no? The men who don’t care who they infect? They don’t have my sympathy, because they give theirs to no one. I wouldn’t blink an eyelid if they are ALL charged for rape, because they made no effort, nor cared if they have raped someone.

Whilst my sisters are raped and abused, held in prostitution against their will, or mistreated because some douchebag thinks that paying to sleep with a woman means you own her, I don’t give a flying fuck whether the men had any idea that it was rape. Not being arsed to think about a crime does not absolve you of it. Not thinking you are taking advantage of someone doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

I don’t hate men, but to be honest, I’m thinking it’s a good enough reason for men to have to prove that they actually don’t hate women. It’s not enough to simply be nice to your wife or daughters or female co-workers if you then go and rape women to unwind. It’s not enough to not do this if you join in to all the misogyny your male friends commit when ‘respectable women’ aren’t around. It’s not enough to stick up for your mates when they do something this wrong.

This has got me so pissed off and upset. I was feeling so hopeful earlier, and now…

With any luck (and lots of hard work), I want to pass on a world to the next generation where stories like this are history, or at least really, really rare. I don’t want this to be our daughters’ or granddaughters’ reality.

Lawtears // Posted 6 November 2008 at 2:47 pm

1) Men do not have access “rights” to woman’s bodies. WRT prostitution, that “right” has to be gained by payment. What rights have you paid for?

2) Surely a more useful suggestion would be to ask men to ask women they are paying for if they are ok. Since there is no guaranteed way of ensuring that the woman you are about to have sex with is a bona fide worker, that kinda leaves it up to the men to work it out. Bearing in mind that men are emotionally retarted anyway they’re not off to a good start.

To be truthful, there are male brutes out there. But I honestly believe that should a worker whisper “I’m a sex slave here, please help” the vast majority of men would say “ok” and do something.

Not all of us are stupid thugs.


Anne Onne // Posted 7 November 2008 at 1:28 am

1) Oh yeah, they’re not supposed to. Doesn’t mean they (some of them) don’t THINK they have every right to women’s bodies. Why else would I and other women get harassed whilst minding our own business? Why would men grope women who are minding their own business? Why would men spike drinks, ply already tipsy women with drinks until they are comatose? Why would men sleep with prostitutes younger than their daughters? If men didn’t think they were entitled to women’s bodies, they wouldn’t expect everything aimed at them to be sold with a side dish of bare female flesh for their delectation. If men weren’t brought up to believe they are owed women, they wouldn’t visit a brothel where in every likelihood the women are sex slaves just because they feel horny. They wouldn’t expect that their every sexual whim has to be fulfilled at the expense of everyone else. They wouldn’t pressure women into sex. They wouldn’t

I don’t have to PAY for my right to not be raped and to be treated as a human being in my own right. I DESERVE my right to walk down the street and not have to fear that the man walking past with the leer on his face might verbally abuse me, or grope me or rape me as he sees fit. I deserve the right to not be raped, it’s as simple as that. I deserve the right for men not to assume that because they insist on paying for a date/opening a door that I owe them sex. I deserve the right to not ‘owe’ anyone sex, because sex with me is NOBODY’S right. Men aren’t assumed to have to have sex with anybody that is interested in them –

they are, word has it, supposed to lust after every ‘attractive’ woman, but of course recoil at the thought of an older woman, fat woman transperson or man wanting to sleep with them.

And nobody purchases the ‘right’ to someone’s body. That’s slavery. Sex work entails the purchase of a ‘service’, which the seller should, like any other contract, be allowed to terminate for whatever reason they see fit (provided money is reimbursed). That is what non-patriarchical prostitution might look like: a ses worker offering a service, where both can back out as long as they compensate the other party. In current reality, men visiting a prostitute beleive they own HER to do as they wish, whether she consents or not, whether it was what they agreed or not, whether they pay or not, or whether she begs them to stop or not. That’s believing you own a person, not that they’re giving you a service. And nobody should believe they own someone else.

2) Yeah, because whenever some stranger asks me if I’m OK, I tell them all about my life. Nice try, but no. Women who are being coerced into sex and held prisoner won’t exactly be trusting if their 20th john of the day starts prying into their life. Admitting something like that requires hoping that something might change, and trusting someone when you feel that there is nobody to trust. Admitting you are being raped or abused is NOT something people do lightly, and especially when it is very likely to get them into trouble (with their pimp, the john or the law), it’s very unlikely that even if a woman was being raped and held prisoner, she’s flat out tell a man she’d known for two seconds who she probably thinks is no better than the other rapists who abuse her.

They might also not be in a good place psychologically or emotionally, in which case they might not realise that life doesn’t have to be that way: that the terrible realities of their life could be any better. An alcoholic may not admit they are an alcoholic, and most abusers don’t believe they are abusive, so it’s unrealistic to expect that women who may be in a very difficult position would

Also, if she says she’s not, what the hell would the guy do? Really? Tell her pimp? Go somewhere else and get her beaten as a result?

And men aren’t emotionally retarded. That’s a disrespect to men, and a disrespect to people with real emotional awareness problems. Problems can be worked on, and if men don’t feel they have a good emotional understanding of people, its up to them to work on it. Ironically, plenty of men actually manage to get out of the caveman stereotype, but they’re usually the ones who don’t have their fingers in their ears singing ‘I can’t hear you la la laaa!’ when women say anything.

I don’t doubt that some men would do something. But I don’t share your optimism to believe it’s most men. It’s not exactly a secret that most prostitutes walking the streets are desperate and pressured into prostitution because of a habit or children to support, and that the vast majority of women and girls in brothels are here illegaly, with no legal recourse, likely to get shipped back if found, and held against their will.* Every few weeks there’s talk on another raid on a ‘massage parlour’ come brothel where foreign girls are kept prisoner for men’s abuse. We know this. Men know this, though many choose not to acknowledge it.

And what could a man do, even if he was told that? How much work would it involve? When I see someone faint on the tube, or when people witness an argument that escalates, most people do nothing, even if someone needs help. Why? Because they don’t know what to do. Getting someone out of a dangerous situation is not easy, and your average man (or woman or anybody) would not know what to do in such a situation, let alone achieve it in a way that won’t get the woman in trouble, get either of them beaten up or killed, or her deported.

That’s OK, because not all of us know how to handle these kinds of situations. That’s why we’re not counsellors/social services/police/etc. But if we really want to help, wouldn’t the best option be donating to the charities/shelters who help these women? Not all of us can afford to contribute, and I don’t expect all men to. But the very least they can do, is to avoid patronising establishments where they cannot be 100% sure that the woman is not being forced into this (bearing in mind that very few women would tell them if they were).

This will probably mean that they won’t be able to use nearly all prostitutes (and couldn’t afford the ones who really do have a choice), but that just means that if men really honestly don’t want to rape women, they just don’t pay for sex. Sure, sometimes they will want sex and not be able to have it (this happens to women, too, would you believe, only we’re much less likely to resort to rape) but on the plus side, they will know that they have not been raping women. I understand that sex is a privilege because some people find it very hard to find consenting partners,and it saddens me because it should be something everybody should have a right to enjoy if they wish. But sad as it is that some people will want sex and not be able to have it, it is still better to err on the side of caution, and prostitutes’ rights to not be raped trump men’s rights to have sex, because the right to bodily integrity and not be coerced trump the right to gain a desired something. Just like legally I can’t and shouldn’t be forced to give my kidney to dying relatives because my bodily integrity trumps their need, so the rights of prostitutes trumps that of men who want sex.

How about men just find willing, legally able to consent women to have sex with? It’s really not like most women don’t want to have sex. If men can’t find a willing partner a particular night, get creative solo, or move on.

Sometimes you just have to make do, because sex at any one particular moment is not a right. Yes, people all deserve the chance to find someone consenting and have sex, but if they can’t, they aren’t owed it. This is the problem at the core. Women have been taught it’s not up to them to enjoy sex, and that sex is something they owe to men as a duty. Men have been taught sex is something they deserve, they are owed and should do anything to get. My, how that has fucked up the world.

We’ll probably have to agree to disagree. I’ve seen too many accounts of what ‘normal looking’ men can do to view this issue through this kind of lens.

*I’m not denying that some women who choose sex work have agency, but by definition the women with any power in this industry are ones who can take it on their terms, not under the charge of gangmasters or out on the streets. I don’t believe that the women on the streets should be abandoned: they deserve much more support from the government. All sex workers do.

Leigh // Posted 7 November 2008 at 9:54 am

That too, Leigh, yes.

Well it is possible to have sex with someone you don’t want to in because you are feeling masochistic. There’s no desire, but there is choice.

Donna // Posted 19 January 2009 at 8:09 am

Sexual predators and traffickers should be given the death penalty all across the globe.

rutiger // Posted 11 May 2009 at 7:15 pm

hello, i am glad those vile thugs who abused those poor women have been locked up.but i wan’t to say something about prostitution.the majority of prostitutes in england are not trafficked or are they forced into is only a small minority that are trafficked and forced into it.i believe that trafficked women should get all the help they deserve and traffickers should be locked up indefintley as they are the worst type of people.most prostitutes are not not street girls,they are a minority or are they drug addicts.the majority of prostitutes in england work in massage parlours and do it out of choice.

Anne Onne // Posted 11 May 2009 at 8:58 pm

Rutiger, how do you really know what proportion of women are forced into sex work? How do we define ‘forced’ into it? The ones literally shipped into the country, who have their passports taken away whilst they are locked into a house to be used as sex slaves? What about the ones who have lived their entire lives on the recieving end of abuse, who have no options, nobody to help them, and have emotional and psychological needs that are not met? What about those who have children to feed and nothing else

Until we can be sure that every sex worker is there through choice, using sex workers is not ethical. Until we have a set up where sex workers are protected, are not brushed under the carpet, and are free to leave the work if they wish, using sex workers is not ethical. Until the women who want to be in sex work are protected, have the same rights as other workers, and have the options to choose other employment should they wish to, using sex workers is not ethical. Until any woman can get out of sex work unless she wants to, using prostitutes is not ethical.

I have no doubt there are plenty of women men and everyone in between in sex work through their choice, and I want to support their right to work safely and have the rights they deserve. That people understand that they are purchasing a service, not a person. And that a sex worker isn’t a plaything with no feelings.

But, whilst there are still so many women forced into sex work, so many raped and abused and trapped in a cycle they can’t get out of, whilst sex work is for so many people nothing like the industry I imagine it can be in an ideal world, I believe simply saying’ ah, most of them consent, what’s the problem?’ to be nothing more than a way for people who really don’t care all that much about protecting the victims to persuade themselves that their supporting the sex industry as it stands has nothing to do with the women trafficked into the country to be used by our men. Yeah, right. Sex trafficking exists because there are millions of men here who couldn’t care less whether the women they are fucking are in it because they enjoy sex work.

And there are NO figures to suggest that trafficked women are some tiny minority, or that sex workers who don’t feel they have any choice but sex work, and feel abused by the system are a minority. The system needs reform, because it’s letting everyone down. The women who have no choice, and those who want to do sex work, but are let down by the current system.

The only people it benefits is (predominantly) men who get to do whatever they want with no repercussions, and don’t give a thought to the fact that they are contributing to a system that abuses women. Patriarchy wins.

rutiger // Posted 14 May 2009 at 7:23 pm

i respect your opinion mrs Onne but i dissagree with you.i don’t believe it is unethical for men to use prostitutes only if they knowingly were to say sleep with trafficked women and forced women.i don’t believe that there are many “punters” who would knowingly sleep with trafficked/and forced women.

as i have said trafficked women are a minority,the official statistics on how many trafficked women there are in the country is mathmatically incorrect.even the government themselves admitted it was exagerated.i am not denying that sex trafficking and pimping exists.and they are terrible things but as i already stated in my last post a lot of people seem to lump prostitution and trafficking together.trafficked women are sex slaves,not prostitutes.and most prostitutes in england work in parlours were they are there by choice.i think that the majority of men that use prostitutes do see them as people and probably not as a piece of meat.i think that if the government legalised prostitution it would be so much better and safer for prostitutes to work.i also believe that most people would not agree with sex trafficking.

Anne Onne // Posted 14 May 2009 at 11:15 pm

I agree that legalisation could be a step in the right direction. I don’t want to stop women who honestly want to do sex work from doing it, I want them to be protected and have the rights that they deserve.

The thing is though, women are trafficked into this country for sex. whatever the figure is, it is not inconsequential. Given the figures for people smuggling and illegal immigration, there is no doubt that should unscrupulous people wish to smuggle foreign women into the country to be used as sex slaves, there is very little stopping them, and more than likely there are more than we would expect in this position.

These women are used by men. They are raped. To me, it doesn’t matter whether these men know these women have been trafficked, if they are, at the end of the day, raping them and contributing to an industry rife with the suffering of women. I don’t believe that most men actively go out of their way to look for women to oppress, but neither do they really think about whether these women are actually consenting. If they did, if men really were so discerning and didn’t patronise any sex worker they didn’t think was explicitly her own boss and wanting to do the work, there would be no such thing as people trafficking to supply this demand. It’s about defining ‘knowingly’. Because I don’t think many people want to consider too deeply why a particular woman is in sex work, and if that woman actually has a choice. I don’t think people are necessarily malignant, but I do think a lot of people choose to not think about the issue of trafficking or lack of consent because it makes them uncomfortable.

This trafficking happens because there is a market willing to pay for pussy at any price, or at least, clients who aren’t too bothered about it. All it takes is not really thinking about it.

So, theoretically, if a man goes out of his way to find an independent sex worker who is confident, has the right to stop whenever they want, and is very clear that they choose sex work, in other words if this theoretical client takes the time and effort to find a sex worker that is much more likely to have consented to the work, then maybe it’s not unacceptable. *

But I doubt most men spend the time to talk to a sex worker, let alone try to find out if she’s in it through choice. Or if she even speaks English, or if she’s part of a posse of girls and she has a pimp. Or if she’s on the streets and is doing this because there is nothing else for her. Laziness isn’t an excuse, it only allows us to continue feeling like OK people because we haven’t found anything to the contrary, despite not having looked.

The problem is, current society doesn’t allow people who actively choose sex work to thrive or be differentiated from those forced into it.

* Laying aside how society often pressures women to choose sex work because there is little else.

spicy // Posted 15 May 2009 at 9:07 am

i don’t believe that there are many “punters” who would knowingly sleep with trafficked/and forced women.

Oh really? Research evidence would suggest otherwise


“For some men their sense of entitlement was supported by both sexism and consumerism:

A couple of places I visited, it was Slovenian and Polish girls and I wondered whether they were kind of being forced into it. But I never discussed it with them because I went there just for sex. Although I did wonder whether they were being

forced into it. (Q10)

I’ve done it with women, that I know who don’t want to do it… in the sense that you can just – I suppose you can just tell… when they come and see you first, you can see like they don’t want to – as in like they’re not very happy, or they might act a little bit stroppy. (Q1)”


“Revealingly, none of the men arrested for kerb crawling reported that they would stop paying for sex if they knew a woman was forced into selling sex.”

rutiger // Posted 16 May 2009 at 6:06 pm

firstly Mrs Onne i respect your opinion and i to believe in rights for sex workers.i believe that if it were legalised it would be a lot safer for prostitutes.but as i have already stated that prostitution and sex trafficking is lumped together.i think that even you agree with me that if a sex worker works in a massage parlour (and they are english) that they are hardly forced into it as parlours do not allow girls who take drugs,or are underage etc. the “street girls” are the drug addicts etc and they are the ones who i believe need the most help.i understand when you say there must be some sort of market for trafficked girls or they wouldn’t be trafficking them.i agree with you.and of course the government and police should do all there best to stop this sick exploitation of women.but what i do not like about the government and for that matter the media is the way they make out most of the “punters” are monsters who don’t care about the women.this simply is not true,take punternet for instance,if you look at that site they have a number to report trafficked/forced women.

secondly Spicy

i respect your opinion but i have seen the link you have given to me is of London.maybe it is like that there.and if so then they are a disgrace.

i come from north west,i don’t really hear of anyone speaking like that here.

i think maybe the best thing for people to do is acturally speak to sex workers and punters and ak there opinions on prostitution.i have done this.

rutiger // Posted 19 May 2009 at 10:52 am

i think you all may be interested in this link

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