Reason Podcast

Why Does the Press Routinely Misidentify Prostitution as 'Sex Trafficking'?: Podcast

Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown on libertarian feminism, how to encrypt your email, and more


"You needn't be engaged in espionage, or anything illegal, to benefit from better digital privacy practices," writes Associate Editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown in the controversial, provocative "Burn After Reading" issue of Reason. In "Personal Encryption 101," Brown lays out easy steps to keep your online communications safe from the clutches of "surveillance-happy state actors and data-harvesting advertisers."

That said, since joining Reason in 2014, Brown's writing has focused on all sorts of black- and gray-market activities—especially sex work—that definitely do benefit from being secured. In this Reason Podcast, we talk with Brown about her award-winning work debunking press hysterics who routinely misidentify all prostitution as "sex trafficking," her belief that the psychological "harms that are unique to sex work right now are all harms that are related to the black-market aspects of it rather than the industry itself," what libertarian feminism looks like, and more. Brown is one of the founders of Feminists for Liberty, a group that is "anti-sexism & anti-statism, pro-markets & pro-choice."

This podcast was recorded live at FEEcon, the annual gathering in Atlanta sponsored by the Foundation for Economic Education.

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Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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NEXT: 'I Am Absolutely a Product of the Libertarian-Industrial Complex': Podcast

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Because they are stupid and dishonest?

    1. To be fair, that’s probably better than clever and dishonest.

      1. Unfortunately, the people really driving the narrative probably are that.

    2. Because half the ‘sex trafficking’ hysteria is based on the vicarious thrills middle class punters get from imagining the plight of ‘sex slaves’, and that sells newspapers. Far more interesting than the unglamourous untitilating business of making a living.

  2. Ftr, I am not one of those commenters who thinks ENB is a closet prog. I think she really is a pro market feminist. But personally I don’t see the point. The ideology is basically a way to market increased state control to women under the guise of equal rights. For the most part there is no real concern for women because they ignore actual atrocities against women in other countries in favor of advocating for increased regulations here based on BS reasons that only spoiled westerners care about

    1. And even if there was a way to call oneself a feminist without the statist association, why do you need that label to care about real problems that affect women? Aren’t they human? Can’t you just say you are in favor of human rights? And then people won’t immediately think you want to force businesses to change their practices to meet superficial measures of “equality”

      1. Individualism obsoletes feminism (and all other interest groups).

        1. Hardly, women have a long way to go in their fight for equality. There’s nothing wrong with watching out for her own. Just like there’s nothing wrong with men having exclusive social clubs. It’s strange that some of my fellow libertarians have an issue with women fighting for equality and freedom as promised in the Constitution.

      2. Can’t you just say you are in favor of human rights?

        You mean gay marriage? /sarc/notsarc

  3. I’d rather see the article: “Why do proggies and wanna be libertarians routinely misidentify illegal immigrants with immigrants?”

    1. Yeah, it’s fake libertarians who think that a purely legal distinction is the most important thing to consider when categorizing people.

      1. I guess it’s ok to misrepresent facts in arguments as long as it’s for your determined good cause?

        1. That’s not what I said.

          Perhaps I misunderstood your initial statement. Your use of “with” makes things unclear. What does it mean to identify illegal immigrants with immigrants? I assumed you meant something like “misidentify illegal immigrants as immigrants”. Which would be a silly assertion since illegal immigrants are in fact immigrants.

        2. As long as it’s ok to misrepresent individualism and collectivism.

  4. Why Does the Press Routinely Misidentify Prostitution as ‘Sex Trafficking’?

    Because they *can*.

  5. They need to justify the hysteria they are whipping up.

    1. Also, they are deeply unoriginal and ‘sex trafficking’ is just ‘white slavery’ with the serial numbers filed off. No need to actually do anything like real WORK.

    2. So what about solar-powered sex robots? Goood or baaad?

  6. Why does the government call prostitution “sex work”? well, it is, yet we have been programmed to buy the labels of words; and sex should be play, no? Some women want $100, some women want your house; which woman is more honest, no?

  7. And sex trafficking is meant to describe the world wide horrific slave trade of coerced sex “workers”, no? Such is not good, to state the obvious; such is a horror, no?..yes

  8. Why is the handshake blocking our view of the woman’s vagina left handed?

    1. They’re doing something else with their right hands.

    2. Laugh! Someday you will be Simon Legree, explaining in manacles how you deliberately trafficked your electric lawnmower into involuntary servitude. Today they come for your toys, tomorrow your appliances and finally, the electric socket that is the true Avatar of Satan and root of all evil!

  9. So the Comstock-inspired New York Society for the Suppression of Vice now teams up with Tatsuya Ishida of Sinfest to put a stop to these R. Buckminster Fuller energy slaves and bring back honest-to-goodness anatomically-correct chattel slavery. Houston was once an easy place to find a quadroon ball, so who knows?

  10. When people are asked to use gut instinct to stop real but rare horrors, relying on racial stereotypes and other biases tends to rule.

    Is that why the cops pulled a gun on my friend the day I moved him and his babby mamma into my town. It’s strange how one of the other regulars at the Wellness Center died of a drug overdoes latter that night in the Wellness Center bathroom.

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