Sent to Me : Another View on Debbie Nathan, Author of Sybil Exposed

Here’s another view on Nathan.

Author(s):Melissa Farley Unequal*
Melissa Farley
August 30, 2005 (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women)
This article was written in response to Debbie Nathan’s ‘Oversexed’ (Nation, August 29, 2005). Nathan sympathizes with those on the Left who consider prostitution to be a form of labor rather than violence against women. Nathan criticizes abolitionist feminists who think that women in prostitution deserve more in life than a condom and a cup of coffee. In fact, we feminists think that women in prostitution deserve the right NOT to prostitute. That’s what almost all women in prostitution tell us they want: to get out. ‘Unequal’ criticizes the use of HIV prevention funds as a means to promote legalized prostitution….

Over the years, Debbie Nathan has hung out with the sexual-violence-denying faction of the Left who are apologists for pornographers, pedophiles, incest perps who claim their kids have false memories, and nice johns who only use prostitutes indoors….Nathan questions – no, not the existence, just the scientific prevalence – of sexual violence against women and children in this man’s world.

Pedophilia and ritual abuse (highly organized groups of pedophiles who make a religion out of sexually torturing children yes they really exist) are described by Nathan as a “sex abuse panic.” Public outcry against adults having sex with kids and taking pictures of that is penned by Nathan as “kiddy porn panic.” Now she writes about a “sex-slave panic.” She uses our own discomfort against us. If we’re uncomfortable at witnessing sexual violence, at the renting or buying of people for sex, our discomfort is sneered at, labeled “panic.” It’s fiendishly effective strategy that colludes with peoples’ stubborn refusal to know about the cruelty of sexual violence. Most people are relieved to avoid the painful awareness of one more instance of suffering in this world. Violence against women and children is left in place, hidden in plain sight.

Claiming that Lourdes Portillo’s accounts of the murders of hundreds of women on the Juarez-El Paso border are exaggerated, Debbie Nathan worried that some people may think her analysis sounds “like the nasty arithmetic of Holocaust deniers.“ She has a point there. Nathan’s modus operandi is to question the accuracy of numbers, focusing on the absolutely proven body count rather than – for example – the existence of the gas chambers. She questions the accuracy of numbers as a way of denying the roots of the problem. She does this in Aug 29 2005 Nation by noting that accounts of the actual numbers of US trafficking victims vary from study to study. Trafficking victims are under extreme duress, and they hide because they’re terrified of pimps, johns, families, police, and governments all of whom might once again betray them. Yes there is difficulty in accurately counting them. It’s great that there are scholars who revise inaccurate or incomplete numbers whenever they can.

Nathan even suggests that some women consent to being trafficked: “I’ve never met a Thai woman smuggled in for sex work who didn’t know that’s what she’d be coming here to do.” That’s pimp-speak. As in “hey girl this is a dog-eat-dog world and you got gold between your legs. You already been fucked so why not get paid for it?” Is Nathan saying that she knows what’s going to happen to her so that means she deserves what she gets? Is Nathan suggesting that we stand by and watch as she gives up her human rights?

It’s a cold, mean world for some girls but Nathan isn’t objecting. It’s not sex trafficking, it’s ‘migration for sex work.’ Nathan dismisses the overwhelming damage that comes from sucking 10 strangers’ dicks a day, from getting raped weekly, and from getting the shit beaten out of you if you don’t do whatever pimps or johns want. Nathan considers “imprisonment in a sweatshop” just as severe as trafficking for prostitution. Sweatshops are vicious but they don’t involve invasion of all your body’s orifices on a daily basis for years into the future – or having to smile and say you like it when some foul-smelling man your grandfather’s age comes on your face. Ironically, in her dogmatic refusal to notice sexual abuse anywhere, Nathan also fails to point out the fact that women and girls imprisoned in gender-stratified sweatshops are usually sexually exploited as well as having their labor exploited.

Nathan article

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