This blog on this link and comments shows that at this time there is contentious debate where there needs to be collaboration. To put it succinctly though rather reductive of course, we have anti-slavery organizations baying for the end of the whole sex industry because of the atrocities of forced prostitution and slavery on one hand.
Then we have sex workers who have chosen prostitution of their free will and are fighting for not only sex workers rights and safety within the industry but also for the right to their chosen career also and larger cultural respect and acceptance. You can see easily where the conflict lies.
This is essentially what is problematic about the prostitution industry. As it stands it is deeply criminal and exploitative within a significantly large part of the sex industry. Those who work long-term trying to protect and support women having this experience unsurprisingly have very negative feelings about prostitution and so they apply this to the whole industry because they, by the nature of their work, only deal with the awful parts. In their urgent desire to end abuse they will attack even those women who control their careers, have safe careers and respectful clients and have chosen to do this for themselves. Of course, these women who have made consenting choices to be sex workers resent being told that their profession is exploiting them, that they are colluding with their exploiters and that they are complicit in the exploitation of other women and rightly so.
Recently in Melbourne there was an issue here when the Victorian Roller Derby League (VRDL) chose Project Respect as their annual charity. Project Respect does a lot of great work helping women who want to exit the sex industry and supporting trafficked women in the illegal industry here. However, they also have a blanket philosophy that the sex industry must all be ended as they believe it is innately bad. In the words of the projects creator
Project Respect “So much harm, so much heart-ache. And for what? At so high a price, what is gained? What could be worth subjecting human beings to such suffering, to exploitation that has repercussions for years and years to come? Stripped back to its core, the answer is simple, though we rarely talk about it. Women and children are delivered up, in their millions, to make sure that some men never have to contemplate being without someone to fuck, when they want, how they want, whenever they want. So weak a reason, so high a cost.”
This totally denies CONSENTING workers autonomy and refuses to acknowledge them at all as wanting this line of work or having any right to make money in their chosen career path. It is a false logic used very often to push an ulterior agenda. For example rape does not make all sex bad. Violence in marriage does not make all marriage bad. Rape and violent marriages are common but no one is saying all men and women must stop having sex and all men and women must stop getting married. Slavery does not make all prostitution bad and making this claim alienates consensual sex workers from anti-slavery efforts of which they truly are allies and not enemies.
So a lot of the VRDL supporters who are consensual sex workers in the industry and their friends, family and supporters reacted to this choice of charity because it is anti prostitution as well as anti-slavery, thus it is anti consenting prostitutes unless they're exiting the industry. It is a very sad that this charity lost support for a cause that needs as much as it can get simply because it will not relinquish its bigotry towards consensual sex work. Yes bigotry, a lot of bigotry comes from painful life experience. I hated men for a while in my 20’s because I had been abused and raped by two men and I knew this was not an uncommon female experience. I had to resolve that prejudice not by ignoring the issue of male on female abuse but by forcing myself to acknowledge that not all men do this and that my prejudice would only hinder change not help it. I needed to recognize that there were MANY men out there who abhorred these behaviors and would never treat a woman like that who did not deserve to be prejudged and hated. I had to see that if I acknowledge these men and worked with them I had a better chance of changing these cultural issues.
It continues to sadden me that the divide between these two groups grows ever bigger. This isn't specific to Melbourne either this schism is a problem in the USA and Europe as well. This issue pits two groups against each other, sex positive sex workers and advocates and organizations that help exploited sex workers get out, who actually have the same goals; to end the abuse of sex workers and women in the sex industry. The way it is right now.. the only people really loosing from this battle of advocate ideologies are sex workers... not the criminals and exploiters but the workers either willing or coerced.