By: Jillian Gilchrest
On October 26, the New Haven police department made 14 arrests “targeting the illegal sex industry.” In a statement about the arrests, a detective said, “children needn’t see dirty condoms littering alley-ways on their way to school.” Agreed, but then why is it that all 14 arrests were of women? Don’t men wear condoms?
Way too often police operations, and public discourse, on the illegal sex industry focus on the women selling sex, not the men who pay women for sex. In fact, in the last 10 years in Connecticut, prostituted individuals were convicted at a rate 7 times that of those buying sex. In this case, all 14 women who were arrested were from New Haven. I know this because the article includes each of their names, ages, town, and picture.
While some may challenge me on a woman’s agency within the illegal sex industry, I’m interested in sharing what I’ve learned about prostitution in Connecticut’s cities, which most often is between someone from the city selling sex to someone from outside. From what I’ve learned, selling sex is a means of survival–whether that be for money, drugs, or housing. From what I’ve learned, selling sex is a reaction to trauma and repeated abuse. From what I’ve learned, selling sex is forced or coerced by an intimate partner, family member, gang leader, or trafficker. I was told by a Judge that the smallest amount of money he ever saw a woman sold for was a quarter.
All of this means that there are men who are buying these women. There are men who choose to buy drug addicted women for sex. Men who choose to pay a woman next to nothing for sex. Men who pay to have sex with a victim of sexual abuse. Why aren’t we arresting these men? The article does go on to say that the New Haven police department plans on targeting “johns.”
I hope they do. I also hope that we stop calling the men who buy sex “johns.” We need to start naming them, showing their pictures, listing where they’re from, and calling attention to what they’re doing. After all, they’re the ones leaving all those condoms around…