Trisha Baptie: Why prostitution, the world's oldest oppression, must be stamped out

By Trisha Baptie

The conversation that pits current prostitute against former prostitute, indoor versus outdoor, and drug-addicted versus Gucci-addicted has gone on for too long. I have fallen into all those categories. With female “choice” being the only side discussed, let’s subvert that conversation and ask the root question: As a society do we think men should be able to pay to sexually access women’s bodies?

Do we really think that is a sign of an egalitarian society?

One of the most “sex-positive” things you can do is make sure men cannot buy sex, because the buying of sex is violence against women and is a direct deterrent to women’s equality.

Women’s silence and “consent” can be bought—I remember how much mine cost—and almost 100 percent want out now. Allowing a minority of women in prostitution to argue “choice” on the backs of the majority who are out there, in perfect storm of oppression, neglect, abuse, and human trafficking, is absurd. Instead of offering them a hand to reach their full potential, we offer them up to feed the demand for paid sex whilst “choice” is argued.

Prostitution commodifies women’s bodies; this is sexual and social subordination, wherein all women are seen as a subclass of being. Tolerating prostitution affects everyone, because the inherent inequality in prostitution becomes a reference point for sexual and social relations, which are not rooted in equality, fairness, or respect.

It is not the prostituted women we must penalize but rather the men who demand access to them. Prostitution is the oldest form of patriarchal oppression, which is why we must hold accountable the men who pay for sex.

I remember working indoors and men calling in and ordering a woman: “I want brunette, small boobs, will do ____ or Asian, round face, petite.” You get the idea. How is it equality if women can be reduced to what amounts to ordering a pizza and picking the toppings? How are those men respecting, honouring, and valuing women?

What I remember about my years as a prostituted woman was how much I tried to find something empowering in what I found myself doing.

That by choosing who raped me, based on their ability to pay, I was empowered.

That by consenting to the abuse, I was free from it.

That by caving in to the demands of patriarchy; by working hard to look like what they wanted, talk like they wanted; and when submitting to sex on their terms, for which I got money, that I had somehow bested them and was now in control of them.

But I was not, for I remember how much I flinched when they moved too quickly, how I would lay under them and in my imagination be anywhere else. How they always seemed to have a sob story for why they needed to buy me, but my sob story of not wanting to be under them, not wanting to have them in my mouth, was never as urgent a need as theirs.

Saying prostitution will always be with us is cynicism and hopelessness.

Sweden, the global beacon of hope, criminalized the buying, pimping, and procuring, and decriminalized the women in 1999. It has since seen a drastic drop in prostitution. Sweden is no longer a destination country for human traffickers—to gender-equality seekers, that is a country that says, “We value our women.” Norway, Iceland, and Bulgaria have all followed Sweden’s noble lead.

They also implemented exiting strategies, adequate welfare, and a huge awareness campaign when the laws were implemented. I am a realist and know it will be a hard transition period, but I find great hope in the fact that there are 10-year-olds in Sweden growing up in a country committed to mutual equality and opportunity.

To me, it is about legacy. No prostituted women I know, myself included, wants her daughter to be a prostitute. We know firsthand that it devastates the mind, body, and spirit.

So, with every breath in me, I will work ceaselessly towards creating a world rooted in fairness and equality, that values humanity—and that will be done by stamping out prostitution, the world’s oldest oppression, which is within our grasp to do.

Trisha Baptie is the executive director of Honour Consulting & Ministries and a founding member of EVE: Exploited Voices Educating.



Happy Endings?

Jun 12, 2009 at 12:50pm

Check out Happy Endings? a documentary film on Asian massage parlors in Rhode Island where prostitution is legal behind closed doors.
This year they are trying to change the law to make it illegal again.
We followed all sides of the issue, the politicans, the police, the local residents, and the women who work in the spas.

male's opinion

Jun 13, 2009 at 1:42am

Are we going to stamp out marriage, too? Most young women unwittingly or wittingly use their beauty to trap a husband who pays the bills in exchange for sex. If marriage isn't a glorified form of prostitution, what is?


Jun 13, 2009 at 7:14am

If you get married for sexual pleasure only then you are a sap. If you think women are "trapping" you with their beauty, you are a sap. If you decide to spend your life with someone, so that you can share your life experiences with someone, sex included, then the sap has quit running.

Ha Ha Ha

Jun 13, 2009 at 11:14am

I love it when the tricks read these articles. They've always got something to say when women want to voice their opinion(s). I'd like to see them experience what it's like to be a working girl. Only then would they have a change of heart.

mid 40s male

Jun 13, 2009 at 1:30pm

You would be hard pressed to find a woman who wouldn't spread them for $1 million bucks with the promise of safe sex with a condom. Wouldn't you? What does that tell you?


Jun 14, 2009 at 10:21am

I wonder whether the intent here is to protect unwilling victims of exploitation or to express revulsion at an idea that strikes the writer as inherently objectionable. Probably a bit of both. In any case, an outright ban would criminalize the activities of consenting adults. It would infantilize women and men.

In a perfect world everyone would live in happy, loving, and sexually fulfilling relationships. No one would ever be tempted to stray and no one would ever choose to pay for casual sex (or to accept payment for it). Is it really possible to legislate such a world into existence?

Jamie Lee

Jun 14, 2009 at 1:04pm

I just wish Trisha Baptie would stick to preaching at the right-wing churches and ministries that fondly embrace her distorted moralist messaging.

We don't need the likes of a moralist like Trisha Baptie telling adults how they should govern themselves around their sexuality.Her efforts to criminalize consenting adults engaging in adult sexual behaviour must be firmly rejected.

What about Men who engage in prostitution with Adult Rent Boys. Ms Baptie wants to criminalize this adult homosexual behaviour as well it seems because there is exchange of money.

What about the Transgender Sex Worker who needs to engage in prostitution in order to pay for sex reassignment surgery because right-wing governments are refusing to pay these necessary medical health costs. Ms Baptie wants to criminalize these sex workers as well it seems.

What about the poor Aboriginal women and young males fleeing poverty-stricken reserves who come to the bigger Cities to survive economically It seems Ms Baptie wants to criminalize them also.

It goes on and on. There is nothing like an old Ho who has found redemption in the light and than comes back to preach to others about their supposed evil ways. Give me a break Ms Baptie.

Ms Baptie goes on about men having access to women and how horrible this is. I laugh at this since women in the confines of marriage often had access to the male/husband's income and often this was the only way economically for women to rear children. Under Ms Baptie's distorted thinking this should be criminalized as well.

Ms Baptie now because she had an imperfect world wants to create some fantasy of a perfect world, In her image no less. Seems to me she just replaced positioning from being in positions with the ordinary working stiff to now serving the moral upstanding men who preach intolerant messages to the converted/weak in so many of the religious institutions today. Those same institutions where Ms Baptie spreads her hurtful and hate filled messages.

Ms Baptie says she wants to stamp out the world's oldest oppression and if she is really serious about this perhaps she can start by taking on many of those religious institutions which arguably are the world's oldest oppressors. And perhaps she can leave consenting adults alone in making their own decisions and choices around sexuality and freedom issues.
Jamie Lee

WOMEN'S oppresssion

Jun 14, 2009 at 4:05pm

None of the above comments deal with what is being discussed, women's oppression. All the groups mentioned are again, men, so in discussing men we are still not talking about WOMEN. Her (Ms.Baptie)brilliant point is that this is NOT about consenting adults. It's a global problem with global implications, again the above aguments seem to not even touch on that. Seems she is onto the most logical and equality based solution.


Jun 14, 2009 at 6:09pm

Women's Oppression - and therein lies the problem.

When you take prostitution and say it is only a women's issue this only ensures that women and men in the sex trade will continue to face harm as a consequence of being sex workers. Solutions to this issue of harm will not come when you frame prostitution as one of patriarchy and women's inequality. All you are doing is placing blame and that isn't to me very solution oriented.

The real social issue of prostitution has to be framed in many different contexts and only when we do this will we be able to address the various concerns surrounding prostitution.

Continually and exclusively framing it as Ms Baptie has and which Abolitionists/Prohibitionists like her and her followers do only leads to more violence for sex workers. History has shown this to be true.

This Abolitionist/Prohibitionist agenda is no different than what the modern-day Shame the Hookers engaged in during the 70's and early 80's. They were notorious for placing blame and lobbied for the West End injunction which lead directly to hundreds of women, men and trans sex workers being murdered.

How can that be considered an equality based solution?




Jun 14, 2009 at 8:27pm

"mid 40s male" wrote: "You would be hard pressed to find a woman who wouldn't spread them for $1 million bucks with the promise of safe sex with a condom. Wouldn't you? What does that tell you?"

I think that you could similarly argue that it would be difficult to find a person who would not commit arson. perjury, fraud, or any other number of criminal activities given a sufficiently large bribe. Your statement makes me think that criminalizing the purchasers of sex is definitely a step in the right direction.