Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Internet and Sexual Exploitation of Women

We had a good discussion in class of Donna Hughes’ article "Use of the Internet for Global Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children" (1998) in which she describes very clearly how the web is used to perpetuate prostitution and sexual trafficking of women.

  • Web sites where men can exchange info about “desirable” prostitutes and where to find them
  • The promotion of sex tourism
  • Mail order bride web sites (cheaper on web than old fashioned print catalogs) and concomitant “X-Rated Escorted Tours”
  • Live sex shows via video conferencing

A student raised a concern that Hughes’ seemed overly focused on regulating the Internet, ignoring the dangers that over-regulation might bring (like filtering software that prevents students from doing research on breast cancer or possible censorship of sites run by human rights advocates attempting to stop international trafficking). I was pleased to see the student related her concern to Patricia Hill Collin’s concept that we must analyze both the oppressive and the liberatory aspects of an institution. While the Internet can certainly be used to oppress women via forced prostitution, it can also be a powerful tool to resist the sexual exploitation of women.

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