And really, what it comes down to is the fact that I started this conversation, engaged in it, and must be responsible. To allow very problematic comments to remain uncriticized and unchallenged when Tumblr is a public forum indexed by Google would be no different from if I were to allow racism to pass me unchecked.
I made a commitment when I started this blog, and I want to make sure I follow through on that commitment.
While it is true that the entire discussion has completely derailed my initial purpose, which was a critique of culturally appropriated, racist, sexist costumes that exotify and fetishize Asian American women and inscribe the worth of their bodies as cheap sexual commodities, I feel that talking about the reality of sex slavery and sex trafficking is equally as important. It is also my contention that there is a direct correlation and relationship between the trading and enslavement of human bodies, and the exotification of Asians in America. I believe this relationship is one of contingency, insomuch as exotification creates demand, as well as much of the contemporary issues APIA women struggle with on a daily basis.
The response I am currently working on is interdisciplinary. Due to lack of time to conduct actual field work myself, I am drawing from pre-existing work which include government hearings and reports, international and NGO reports, and academic studies performed in postcolonial studies, economics, sociology, and by specialized programs such as Harvard’s Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. I have also already reached out to world experts such as Siddharth Kara, whose recent book, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (2009) is considered one of the foremost academic texts/case reports on sex slavery in circulation today. While his work is predominately centered outside the U.S. in countries designated as Tier II and Tier III by the United States State Department’s trafficking watch list, it can be understood that the problems he examines are transnational in nature.
My intention is to first begin by summarizing the state of the field, which is bifurcated between: 1.) sex trafficking and slavery; and 2.) free sex work and migration. The largest relation between these two fields rests upon a huge body of work by experts in the second field whose main point of entrance into the critical conversation is through discourse analysis of the conflation of prostitution and migration with trafficking by anti-trafficking organizations (both government and NGO) and abolitionist activists. Virtually all of them agree upon the need to recognize a difference between free sex work and sex slavery. Some of them argue for a rethinking of the term “trafficking victim,” though this is a point of contestation even amongst that particular group.
I will then demonstrate the difference between the two fields and cite interviews and statements from both emancipated sex slaves and sex slaves who are still presumed to be enslaved. As we have so far, in this conversation, only read a few statements from free sex workers, it is important to now bring into the discussion the voices of sex slaves. My point in doing this is to crush the claim some neo-liberal sex-positive activists make in stating that “sex trafficking” is a myth which must be destroyed with irrefutable testimony. I will then demonstrate why these neo-liberal activists have adopted this rhetoric, which comes from field 2 academics. Largely the appropriation of such rhetoric is a gross misunderstanding and misreading of the call for deconstructing myth and ideology by field 2 academics whose collective project has nothing to do with the denial of or suggestion that sex slavery and trafficking is not in fact a very real reality, but rather, deals explicitly with the discourse of anti-trafficking; the conflation of prostitution and migration with trafficking; and the rhetoric of victimization when applied to free migrant sex workers amongst other issues.
Moving from this point, it will be important to address what I mean by “the reality of sex slavery and trafficking,” which does not consist solely of prostitution, but also forced production of pornography, both adult and child.
Returning back to the original conversation, I will revisit ardhra’s comments of Asian feminists’ criticism of exotification mentioned in her first post to bring this discussion back into the context of its inception: with the costume. The point in doing this is to situate the discussion of sex trafficking within the larger discourse of exotification and demand for commodified female Asian bodies and sexualities. I will demonstrate that there is, in fact, a relationship between both international and domestic sex trafficking in the United States and the processes of exotification and fetishization that generates demand as well as the discourses which code all APIA female bodies. It is in this way that my own experience is directly related to the experiences of migrant sex workers and slaves.
I am not yet sure how I will conclude my discussion. I know that this response will be extremely long, and may take a few days to formulate — especially as I am still waiting to hear back from quite a few people. I know that I want to return back to the discourse of “whore,” the ways in which bodies are inscribed and coded, and also consider to what extent does such inscription of APIA female bodies as such strip us of agency in simultaneous devaluation and commodification?
All of the above pretty much summarizes the response I am currently thinking through and working on. If anyone has any suggestions as to talking points I might want to address/include, please feel free to let me know.
I’ve reblogged this conversation within the larger one for the sole purpose of continuity, and to keep those following it updated.
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