AF3IRM calls out CNN segment for normalization of prostitution, commodification of women’s bodies

AF3IRM and abolition allies demand equal time after Sunday’s ‘This Is Life’ segment denied airtime to the sex industry’s most vulnerable women.

While we acknowledge CNN and Lisa Ling’s efforts in her This Is Life segment titled “Sex Work, Past, Present and Future” (aired on Sunday, October 24), to take on the controversial and complex issue of prostitution, it was irresponsible and dangerous coverage that failed to uncover the hard truth about the $99 billion sex industry.

CNN claims it offers unbiased news reporting and fact checks its claims. But instead, the segment perpetuated factually inaccurate, imperialist racist tropes when it ran with “the world’s oldest profession” in its promotional ads. In fact, prostitution is the world’s oldest oppression. (Read why here) Additionally, we are calling on CNN to grant equal time – 25 minutes – to the women who are victims of the industry and are seeking a way out, the time granted to the sex trade expansion advocates.

CNN instead propagated the franchising of a woman’s body in exchange for legalization and profiteering of a broken system of subjugation, benefitting mostly affluent white men. What the segment presented as ‘empowerment’ and ‘agency’ is actually the continued male privilege of sexual access to mostly women and girls’ bodies who are disproportionately young, poor, powerless, and from communities of color.  

We are disappointed in CNN for its callous disregard of the majority women of color, indigenous women, trans women and girls that have been trafficked and coerced into this violent industry.  What this segment made clear is that normalization of the commodification of bodies of women is necessary to maintain and expand this exploitative and dangerous industry.

The segment’s misguided differentiation of sex trafficking vs “sex work” is extremely dangerous. The reality is the line is non-existent. It is impossible to monitor and regulate a brutal and lethal industry. The hard truth is: The majority of women who engage in prostitution do so under the constant threat of racial, physical and sexual violence.

The segments’ interviewees spoke about oppressive working conditions that led to so many deaths of their friends in the trade. Yet it is disturbing that Lisa Ling failed to delve into the root cause of these cyclical tragedies. Her response to promote “full decriminalization” without reducing the threat of racial, physical and sexual violence is nothing but reactionary–that will continue to benefit exploiters in the industry, including  pimps, brothel-owners, and johns.

As our sister Esperanza Fonseca says: “The reserve army of women which populate the global sex trade are recruited from the most destitute classes of society. As long as imperialism exists — where the poverty of oppressed nations is maintained in order for imperialist nations to grow their wealth — the forces of coercion will be strongest among the lowest classes of women in oppressed nations.” 

AF3IRM’s stance on the ‘sex trade’ is informed by proletarian Black, Indigenous, and women of color who are survivors of the sex trade, currently in the sex trade (including members across chapters), and descendants of people who were in the sex trade.  

AF3IRM opposes the normalization and acceptance of women’s bodies as commodities, as objects for use. We believe in centering the voices of the majority of women who must be heard, the most marginalized and vulnerable.  

Our guiding principles present our vision for genuine liberation:

  1. We oppose full and general legalization of the sex trade, the world’s oldest oppression. We oppose full and general decriminalization of the sex trade as it means non-accountability for sexual and economic exploitation by pimps, johns, traffickers, and brothel-owners.
  2. AF3IRM advocates for the decriminalization of people being bought and sold.  Pimping, trafficking, brothel-keeping, and the buying of sex should remain anathematized, as these are the agencies of exploitation.
  3. AF3IRM prefers community-based measures and the establishment of Trafficking-Free Zones to end the practice of grooming and recruitment of minors, young women and migrants into the sex trade.
  4. AF3IRM condemns any system of exploitation specifically targeting women of color and (im)migrant women.   
  5. AF3IRM’s strategic objective in its Purple Rose Campaign is to reject the male self-entitlement to sexual access and control, on the basis of an advantage of wealth, power, strength and/or deception ability, to the bodies of the female and feminized, of the young and vulnerable, of the poor and the powerless.”

We stand with the victims of the industry who deserve a safe exit. We call for an end to the disinformation campaign against the women and victims of the $99 billion global sex industry.

For more information follow us @af3irm (IG, Twitter), af3irm.org. For media inquiries contact [email protected]

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