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The Left and Women's Rights


I wonder where these two might stand on the mail-order brides and sex worker issues.

I get the Change.org e-mailed newsletter. I don’t often share its sentiments, but that’s actually what makes it fun to read. I open the emails expecting a little silliness, so I’m entertained when it’s as expected, and impressed when it’s not. It’s a totally different experience than reading, say, Mitt Romney’s newsletters (that typically contain sound political thoughts and/or requests for donations), and I enjoy the change of pace.

The June 8-14 2009 Change.org newsletter contained a story heralding the website’s recent success in convincing Diner’s Club to end its relationship with a mail-order bride service. In a nutshell: Diner’s Club previously announced the relationship, Change.org reacted, and DC backed down. The newsletter claimed this success demonstrated, “the power that all of us can have on matters that impact the lives of others” – and this is one of those times I end up impressed, as I agree with them. Change.org went about changing things as democracy intends—not by pushing for legislation from the bench, but by rallying people to influence the company directly. Good for them.

The newsletter’s wording made me curious, however. In describing why paying to marry a foreign stranger is objectionable, the newsletter claimed the practice’s “gross commodification of women and the vulnerability of mail-order brides to human trafficking, domestic violence, abuse, and exploitation.” My first thought was, “What about prostitution?” Surely that practice commodifies women to an equal or greater extent – and there is clearly controversy around its link to human trafficking, violence, etc. I wondered if Change.org thought of this “oldest of professions” with the same disdain as they did the mail-order bride industry.

On the contrary, a quick search on Change.org turned up an article that implied governments shouldn’t withhold dignity from sex workers by deeming their trade illegal. I thought this quote was particularly interesting:

When we think about decriminalizing prostitution we need to look beyond the various evils that are often correlated, but not causal with adult sexual solicitation such as human trafficking. Human trafficking and any type of sex slavery is illegal and always will be illegal as long as the 13th Amendment is part of the constitution.

There is no arguing that.

The continual pursuit of justice for anyone who is raped, exploited by a human trafficking scheme, or a victim of pedophilia must be of utmost interest to legal authorities.

But the condemnation of the adult sex worker industry is condemning a labor industry with an economic demand from tax paying citizens.

Couldn’t this same argument be applies to mail-order brides? Or is there something I’m missing in the liberal position that allows for the seeming discrepancy?

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ummm ... yeah by VnutZ

than reading, say, Mitt Romney’s newsletters (that typically contain sound political thoughts and/or requests for donations)

I didn’t detect any sarcasm in your font … just checking.

3 Votes  - +
Some differences by scottb

The relationship between a sex worker and client is purely a business relationship, and a short-term one, at that — it’s a single transaction, with “no strings attached”.

The marriage contract is somewhat different. It’s a very long term arrangement (permanent, unless explicitly dissolved, which is at least intended to be difficult), and in most jurisdictions includes some right of sexual “access” (usually in the sense that an ongoing refusal of sexual relations is grounds for divorce).

New immigrants are at somewhat of a social disadvantage to begin with, being unfamiliar with customs and sometimes language, so there’s a kind of built-in power imbalance in a mail-order bride scenario, too.

I would suspect that the argument centers around these differences. A mail-order bride is quite likely to end up in an abusive, exploitive situation — with little or no recourse. I suspect that sort of thing happens less often with a sex worker — especially in jurisdictions where it’s legal.

The whole idea of mail order brides is one usually born of desperation, and certainly invites huge potential for abuse. But a distant cousin on my wife’s side of the family actually did “obtain” a mail order bride. I remember meeting them back when we were first engaged at a family function. At a recent funeral/memorial for my wifes grandmother, they were there together, still married after 20 years, just like me. On the surface they appeared quite normal and happy. I wish I knew more of the details, but some things are just none of my business.

I imagine that the mail-order-bride industry has changed in 20 years. (For one thing I think it’s internet order now.) It seems like an extremely chancy endeavor to partake in for both parties, which makes the motives of the man doing this somewhat suspect to say the least. But, as I said in the case I mentioned above, sometimes it works out just as well as any relationship might, and maybe the motives can be sincere once in a while.

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