Following the death of Michaela Dunn, Australian “sex worker rights” advocates disseminated arguments designed to confuse the public about the cause of her death – arguments to distract and dissuade public-policy action against the country’s lucrative sex industry as a profiteer from trafficking, degradation, injury and death. Sound familiar?
The lobby published pieces warning journalists against broadcasting information about the murder victim being in the sex industry. Its advocates tried to argue both that the victim was a mere worker harmed in her “workplace,” and so the circumstances of her death were unremarkable enough to be left unmentioned – and, simultaneously, that, because people in prostitution have a right to “privacy,” journalists should not mention circumstances of their deaths. They likened being bought for prostitution by a parade of men visiting one’s apartment to operating a “home-based counselling business,” and described prostitution as an employment activity no more dangerous than any other “profession.”
These arguments are contradicted by an avalanche of social science research produced in Australia and around the world. Murder rates for women in prostitution are reported to be ten times higher than those facing even bottle-shop workers. More than customers of “home-based counselling businesses,” men who buy women for prostitution exhibit anti-social behaviours, are prone to petty crime, harbour negative views of women and consume hours of pornography. Research from Western Australia shows these men badgering women for sex without condoms: one respondent in a brothel testified that, “probably 90% of people will ask for a natural service.” The researchers explained that women acquiesced to this harassment at the threat of “poor online reviews.”