Beyonce’s Clothes Do Not Create Sex Trafficking. Pimps Do.

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, April 25, 2013 10:24 EDT
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Not responsible for violence against women.

Via Feministe, I present to you what may be the world’s worst understanding of what actually causes sex trafficking:

Variations of Beyonce’s body suit can be found in brothels, strip clubs and red light districts across the world – where sex is for sale and it happens to be dispensed through a woman’s body. That she is a human being with feelings and dreams, perhaps a sister, a mother, a leader, a teacher, a student – ALWAYS – a daughter – all of this can be forgotten. In those surroundings a suit like Beyonce’s would look far from glamorous. Maybe just downright heartbreaking as a woman somewhere becomes an object, available for the gratification of a desire – at a price dictated by her ‘managers’.

Next time you’re presented with a shortlist of people in popular culture who you should spend time with or commend, think about how many young girls want to be just like Beyonce: Beyonce who sings ‘Bow Down Bitch’ and wears sheer bodysuits and high heels, singing about making money and being independent.

Remember that in the USA, the average age of a girl when she is trafficked for sex for the first time is 13.

Insert record scratch sound here. Perhaps she did not actually mean to suggest that the existence of pop stars in sexy clothes is actually the cause of forced prostitution, because that would be asinine. But as I read further, no, I discover she actually means it.

Remember that she’s often brought into the ‘life’ by drug dealers who promise her a celebrity lifestyle, clothes like the ones Beyonce wears, and situations where she can live like Queen Bey: looking hot, being desired by alpha males, wielding power over others with her body and sexuality.

She goes on to basically argue that if pop stars covered up their bodies more, then that would somehow, I don’t know, mean that pimps wouldn’t be able to manipulate teenage girls into sex work and then keep them there with threats and beatings. She also suggests that if pop stars covered their bodies more, it would dismantle the myth that men are entitled to sex and men would stop creating demand for trafficked women.

Color me skeptical. This strikes me as a testable hypothesis, for one thing. We can ask a question: In countries that have more modest standards about what entertainers can wear, is there less sex trafficking?

The first is easy enough to examine. For instance, Iran takes “modesty” in its entertainment very seriously, to the point where tons of money is spent combing through imported movies and TV shows to digitally impose their modesty standards on it. Cracked has some hilarious examples, like this one:

But Iran has a serious problem with human trafficking in general, and sex trafficking is part of that:

As part of our continuing focus on Iran, this week RUTV will explore the sexual trafficking of girls. In a recent report by the U.S. State Department, Iran was listed among the dozen countries with the poorest record of human trafficking. In recent years, child prostitution has risen 635 percent in the country, and dozens of Iranian girls are brought to Arab countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh to be sold as sex slaves every day. Most of these girls are raped within 24 hours of their departure, according to government officials.

That entire story is incredibly depressing, because the victims are often blamed when brothels are shut down, which results in things like teenage girls being executed for “engaging in acts incompatible with chastity.”

Searching around, it was easy to find plenty of other examples of countries like Saudia Arabia and Afghanistan that have strict rules about female modesty and also have massive sex trafficking problems. Right wingers might want to blame that on Islam, but India is also notorious for its censorship standards that have only recently started to loosen up. India also has a serious sex trafficking problem.

Sex trafficking has a simple, straightforward cause: Men who believe they are entitled to control women’s bodies. Both pimps and johns that go to trafficked prostitutes simply believe women are theirs for the taking, and act on that belief. Feeling lust for a woman does not automatically translate into believing you get to use her however you like. Millions of men stare at Beyonce’s beautiful body all the time without even having a moment of thinking that they get to rape her. Sexual desire doesn’t create rape. The belief that women are property does.

I get why it’s tempting to police women’s clothing and sexual choices in an effort to stop sex trafficking and other forms of rape. It stems from a hope that there’s something women can do to stop rape: If you cover up more, behave more modestly, discourage male lusts, etc., maybe that will stop rape and trafficking! But it’s bullshit. The only thing that stops sexual abuse is to stop men from developing the belief that they’re entitled to control women’s bodies. I realize that seems like a tall, daunting order and it feels easier to tell women to cover up—even though that’s wholly ineffective—but it’s the only thing that will actually work. After all, most men do not actually rape, become pimps, or seek out trafficked prostitutes. So it’s not like it’s impossible for men to get the message.

There’s also a disturbing undercurrent to the claim that seeing someone being naked and sexy means you can’t also see that person as “a sister, a mother, a leader, a teacher, a student – ALWAYS – a daughter”. That implies that men can never really respect their sex partners, who they, duh, have seen being naked and sexy. That’s bullshit. Plenty of men look at their girlfriends and wives as awesome people who are completely deserving of respect and as hot mamas they want to stick their cocks in. It’s totally doable. Men are doing it all the time. We will never stop sexual violence by underestimating men. We can only do it by holding them to high standards—standards that plenty of men are meeting all the time, by the way.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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