Sex Trafficking

Harvey Weinstein Is Terrible. Calling Him a Sex Trafficker Is Absurd

Nonetheless, a judge will let a sex trafficking complaint against Weinstein proceed.

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According to a vast array of evidence, movie producer Harvey Weinstein is not a good man. After all, dozens of women have accused him of abuses ranging from pressuring women into sexual activity in exchange for movie roles to forcible sexual assault. But Weinstein also isn't a sex trafficker, under popular or legal conceptions of the term. And treating him as such is both an insult to actual victims of forced prostitution and a dangerous precedent to set.

Nonetheless, a federal judge has ruled that a class action lawsuit accusing Weinstein of sex trafficking may proceed. The civil suit, first filed in 2017, involves 10 named defendants seeking damages for events that allegedly occurred from 2004-2013.

On Thursday, U.S. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein dismissed all but one of the claims in the 18-count lawsuit, including all claims against defendants other than Weinstein (The Weinstein Company, Miramax Films, The Walt Disney Company, and others had also been named). However, Hellerstein denied Weinstein's motion to dismiss the claim brought against him for alleged violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.

The TVPA created a new federal criminal category for trafficking in persons, an umbrella offense that includes forced labor (a.k.a. labor trafficking); forced or coerced prostitution (a.k.a. sex trafficking); and any prostitution involving anyone under 18 years old (a.k.a. child sex trafficking). Over the past two decades, well-intentioned fervor for fighting these horrific happenings has ballooned into a massive mandate to stop all prostitution, even when it's between consenting adults. (Just look at the Florida massage parlor stings that ensnared Patriots' owner Robert Kraft for one recent example.)

And lately, we're seeing a new distortion: "sex trafficking" being used as a catch-all criminal charge against anyone accused of any sort of bad sexual behavior or alleged sexual crimes.

Actress Allison Mack and other members of the NXIVM "empowerment group"/cult were indicted on federal sex trafficking charges last year, even though no one in the group alleges any sort of prostitution happening. In both the NXIVM case and this one, proposing sexual activity that may be beneficial beyond the sex itself is enough groundwork for a sex trafficking claim.

In the NXIVM case, the feds claimed that Mack was guilty of sex trafficking because she tried to persuade some female members to sleep with the group's leader, Keith Raniere, and may have moved up the NXIVM ranks or received other in-group benefits if they did.

In the suit against Weinstein, defendants say that he promised them film opportunities or career advancement if they engaged in sexual acts with him; that he assaulted or attempted to assault them when they refused; and that because Weinstein's handlers and employees sometimes coordinated meetings between him and defendants, they were all part of a sex-trafficking enterprise together. Weinstein is apparently the "john" in this scenario, the women both the victims of trafficking and the recipient of its rewards (so, both victim and trafficker); and those who helped with Weinstein's scheduling are accomplices.

It makes no sense.

Sexual assault and rape are bad enough on their own, of course. So why the need to force these cases into a framework that doesn't fit?

Because the sex trafficking framework allows for a lot more prosecutorial possibilities. Anyone who is even remotely aware of potential trafficking can be wrapped into racketeering, money laundering, and conspiracy counts, which isn't the case with sexual assault or rape charges. A rape case against Weinstein couldn't have snared Disney, too. Nor could Allison Mack and others be indicted if Raniere was simply accused of assault.

"Sex traffickers" can be sued in federal court, while cases against rapists must go to state court. Sex trafficking convictions bring an array of mandatory fees and fines for both the government and victims; sexual assault charges do not. And proving that someone powerful offered commercial benefits for sex may prove easier than proving assault took place, especially if many years have passed.

Plus, sex trafficking is such a buzzword that cases employing it are guaranteed to get more attention.

But it's one hell of a slippery slope. If cases like these succeed, we can expect to see a whole lot more trumped-up trafficking cases, which could not only lead to unjust outcomes for those accused but also take resources away from prosecuting cases of labor exploitation and sexual abuse. Nobody will be helped by us further blurring the definitions and boundaries around things like sex trafficking, sexual assault, rape, prostitution, coercion, and consent.

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29 responses to “Harvey Weinstein Is Terrible. Calling Him a Sex Trafficker Is Absurd

  1. I would buy the charge against him if he got women to fuck other people in order to get movie roles etc. It’s unconventional, but is close enough to pimping for it to count in my eyes.

    1. Pimping still isn’t trafficking.

      And that would be procuring/pandering anyway. Which also isn’t trafficking.

    2. It still belongs in state courts. It should not be a federal crime.

    3. Sex trafficking is such a vague term that it can encompass anything. The original meaning was “sexual slavery”. Under that understanding, I think we can agree nothing of the sort was done.

    4. No, it is not absurd. What is absurd is Matt Damon implying that the women who took $100,000 payoffs from Harvery not to speak to the media about the sexual abuse were the equivalent of “whores” without acknowledging that the women tried to go to the police and file charges but the system was so unjust and unequal, the police would neither take reports or file charges because Harvey was so powerful and Hollywood was so corrupt. So accepting a payoff not to talk to the media about it was their only option at that time. Let’s not forget that police in many parts of America are all male, they do not side with women, and sometimes, women are at greater fear and risk of safety going to the police for fear of police abuse. In fact. In many cities if America, it is the police running sex trafficking and prostitution rings, so the police will assist the pimps and traffickers, not the abused women.

      Also, if charging Harvey Weinstein with sex trafficking is an absurd slippery slope, what do you think charging victims of sex-trafficking with prostitution is? (Something our patriarchal system does everyday, constantly, everywhere in America) When it comes to gender inequality, we have already gone down the slippery slope of charging victims of sex trafficking with drugs and prostitution, and sex trafficking is a huge worldwide and nationwide problem that is growing. Why not go the other way around and hold the traffickers accountable? I think Harvey Weinstein and many others should be charged with sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is not what you think it is: sex trafficking is tricky, involves high levels of manipulation and rarely appears to be what it actually is, including child sex-trafficking.

      1. There is no evidence that sex trafficking is a “huge worldwide problem” or that it is growing. Police and prosecutors have just found a new way to pad their stats on people saved and criminals stopped. One thing they often do is claim that every prostitute caught up in a dragnet is a trafficking victim and every John is a trafficker. Of course those convictions are hard to come by. You can read more on this subject in the archives.

      2. “Let’s not forget that police in many parts of America are all male, they do not side with women”

        Man and wife fight. Cops called. Who gets hauled off to prison?

      3. >>>So accepting a payoff not to talk to the media about it was their only option at that time.

        desk job in Omaha always an option

    5. “I would buy the charge against him if he got women to fuck other people in order to get movie roles etc. ”

      I’m sure the law would screw you anyway, but legally, why couldn’t a prostitute set up a “Star in Your Own Porn Movie” business?

      It’s rather odd that it’s illegal to fuck for money, but totally legally to fuck for money if a camera is rolling.

  2. I’m very much getting to the point where I think that you either get to bring criminal charges or civil charges but not both.

    1. Ditto for both state and federal charges for the same crime.

    2. So if some guy rapes a woman she would have to choose between getting compensation and putting him behind bars where he couldn’t hurt anyone else? Her neighbors might not like what she chooses…

  3. The problem is that once you label everything as sex trafficking, it becomes a meaningless term. That’s already happened to racism, of course.

    You have to start to wonder if it’s intentional. Maybe they want certain words to lose any significance. Sort of the way, among some black people, the N word started to be used to mean “friend” or even just “a random person.” In that instance, I guess they wanted to take the sting or power away from that loaded word. Why people now want to do that “sex trafficking” is anybody’s guess.

    1. “it becomes a meaningless term. That’s already happened to racism, of course.”

      The meaning is that your crimes can be tried in federal court. Weinstein could go to jail for what he’s done. This is not the way ‘people take the sting out of the word.’

    2. “I guess they wanted to take the sting or power away from that loaded word. ”

      In Hong Kong, the locals refer to people of European extraction as ‘gweilo,” or ghostmen. European residents of HK have long taken to refer to themselves as gweilo, not to take the sting out of an insult, but to revel in the notoriety of their status. Your idea that this is going on with “sex trafficking” is not your brightest, I hope.

  4. “dozens of women have accused him of abuses”
    And we know women never lie, or jump on the bandwagon when they see an opportunity to make a buck.

    1. There is evidence in the payoffs Weinstein made. Circumstantial evidence, sure, but still evidence.

      1. The payoffs would also qualify as circumstantial evidence for extortion.

  5. The ‘Sex Trafficking’ hysteria industry has to pull stunts like this to “keep up the skeer”, or somebody might notice that, outside of Islamic outrages (which the Progressive Hysterics don’t want to include) ‘Sex Trafficking’ is a just the old Victorian/Edwardian era ‘White Slavery’ panic with the serial numbers filed off.

    1. ” ‘Sex Trafficking’ is a just the old Victorian/Edwardian era ‘White Slavery’ panic with the serial numbers filed off.”

      The ‘casting couch’ refers to the practice of people in positions like Weinstein taking advantage of their position to get sexual gratification in exchange for roles. It probably goes back to the era when women first were allowed to tread the boards. Why do you think it took so long for this ‘panic’ against it to emerge?

  6. Although we are seeing overreach with this inquisition into sexual activities, it is good that the standards for workplace conduct have improved in recent decades.

    I still remember when my mom got the wife of the cop living across the street hired in her office. It’s a long story.

  7. “Nobody will be helped by us further blurring the definitions and boundaries around things like sex trafficking, sexual assault, rape, prostitution, coercion, and consent.”

    The boundaries of this are blurred already and have been for a long time. The only shift in sex-trafficking awareness is to lift the burden from women and hold men accountable in order to balance male and female equality. I think Harvey Weinstein was trafficking. What is sad is that the Hollywood police turning the eye and not allowing rape and sexually assaulted victims to file charges makes me believe that the police who refused to let the women file charges or take reports should be held accountable as welI because sex-trafficking is fabricated in a network of abuse towards women that extends upwards to the government. I think the mainstream media is over-covering Weinstein’s case and failing to cover cases of sex trafficking that happen everywhere in our communities. The government itself often behaves like the pimp, getting money from the sex industry by fining people and regulating, while the police are often the sex-traffickers. NYC finally busted the police for running prostitution and sex trafficking rounds. Who is here to protect us from our own government becoming the pimp and who is there to police the police when it comes to sex-trafficking?

    1. ” The only shift in sex-trafficking awareness is to lift the burden from women and hold men accountable in order to balance male and female equality. ”

      Holding men accountable but not women is “equality”.

  8. “After all, dozens of women have accused him of abuses ranging from pressuring women into sexual activity in exchange for movie roles”

    Why is someone in favor of legalizing sex work opposed to a *buyer* offering gigs?

  9. It seems to me that overcharging a defendant would lead some skeptical juror into stubbornly dismissing all charges.

    1. And I would be inclined to strap Harvey Weinstein to a casting couch and set it on fire in the town square.

      But sex trafficking is a charge too far and diminishes the seriousness of what actual sex trafficking entails.

  10. I love your post. This post is outstanding. Keep posting such a good article like this. Highly Rated.

    Celebily

  11. […] “Sex trafficking” means whatever “authorities” want it to mean: […]

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