Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review

“A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-face with modern day slavery”
By E. Benjamin Skinner

It would have been better had the author named his book “The Downtrodden of the World.” But he chose to refer to the diverse victims of many societies as modern “slaves,” which, to my mind, is not quite accurate. His stories of the modern-day slaves are pretty gruesome. The author took great personal risks writing this book, both in terms of his safety and health. I commend him for it.

A good part of the book is devoted to sexual slaves, women who under a variety of pretexts, are trafficked from their home countries to distant parts of the word and forced into prostitution. In this review I will not discuss child sexual slavery, like the male and female Restav èk in Haiti, where sex is often included in their duties.

In my first book about sex work (“A Consumer’s Guide to Male Hustlers,”) I wrote at length about the differences between male and female prostitutes. My editor thought that this part was superfluous and wanted me to delete it. I refused, because the difference between male and female adult sex workers is between free male independent contractors and enslaved women.

I have never encountered a pimp for male sex workers anywhere in the world. I have heard of unpleasant incidents that adult male sex workers have with their clients (usually not being paid and, very rarely, a physical altercation) but, by and large, for male sex workers, it just a contractual job. In many cases, the customer is at much greater risk. For example, in 1997, the famous designer Gianni Versace was murdered by his expensive and deranged hustler. There are many male sex workers all over the world who ply their trade in a country where their immigration status is illegal. But they do that of their free will, usually making more money than working at the few menial jobs available to them. They are not lured to that country under false pretenses or controlled by vicious pimps, who abuse them physically, confiscate their passports or threaten their families in their homeland.

In my book, “Escapades of a Gay Traveler: Sexual, cultural and spiritual encounters,” I tell the story of a Sri Lankan sex worker in Zurich, Switzerland. The Sri Lankan, Maitri, had been stuck in Zurich trying, without success, to immigrate first to Canada, where his boyfriend lived, then to England. Both attempts failed. He lived with a Swiss family that had some connection with Sri Lanka. They housed and fed him, though he had overstayed his welcome. He had no money at all for his personal needs, as a tourist couldn’t obtain a legal job, and his Swiss visa was running out or had already expired.

Maitri was an engineer by profession. A handsome, dark guy, dressed in a white tennis outfit, he stood out at the Zurich railway station where local and foreign hustlers waited for their johns. It seemed to me that Maitri liked what he was doing-maybe I was lucky and he enjoyed being with me-but certainly it was an easier job than working illegally for a pittance. (Many years ago I saw an Italian film “The Chocolate Soldier,” about illegal immigrants in Switzerland, eking of a miserable living.) For business reasons, I had to be in Zurich a number of times. I saw Maitri for two summers in a row. Waiting for sex customers in front of the railway station was not an engineering job. But it made it possible for Maitri to have some money for his needs and, more importantly, not run afoul of the Swiss authorities by holding a regular job. Maitri who took his meals with the Swiss family who hosted him, was able to control his schedule and work as much or as little as he wanted. Nobody trafficked him, no pimp threatened him and, as far as I know, no customer brutalized him. Maitri had been a semiprofessional tennis player in Sri Lanka. He could take care of himself if it came to a physical confrontation.

The author of the book gives a lot of credit to the US for fighting against trafficking. He gives very little credit to other countries, Holland, for example, for doing anything positive about this phenomenon. Foremost in this fight under the Bush administration were American evangelicals.

Here is a direct quote from Skinner’s book: “For the American neo-abolitionists, [many of them evangelical Christians] Amsterdam was a latter-day Sodom. In addition to prostitution, gay marriage was legal in the Netherlands.” (P. 184.) Comparing gay marriage to prostitution demonstrates the great love the evangelicals have towards their fellow human beings.

The kinkier point is that there are a good number of gay males who advertise, say on Craigslist, that they want to be slaves, find brutal masters, or be “whored out.” Of course, some advertisers just play mind games. Though others are deadly serious about it and get their kicks by being ordered to have sex with men they don’t like. The main difference between them and coerced female prostitutes is that usually they can bring the game to an end when they feel like it, whereas the slavery of women is for real.


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