A group is asking MSNBC to cancel the show "Sex Slaves in America".
Several organizations that advocate on behalf of both sex workers and survivors of trafficking have written a letter to MSNBC, urging them to cancel the show, saying it “exploits those in the sex trade” and misleads the viewing public about the realities of both sex work and trafficking. MSNBC previously cancelled a show called Slave Hunter that sounded even worse.
The Sex Slaves series has been running since 2013. The letter, which you can read in full here, is signed by the Sex Workers Project, the New York Anti-Trafficking Network, Freedom Network, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, and Florrie Burke, a longtime human rights advocate who specializes in combating trafficking.
The organizations say that Sex Slaves in America sensationalizes (would a TV network really do that?) a sensitive, complicated subject:
The reasons why someone may engage in sex work can include choice, circumstance, and coercion. A dearth of economic opportunity, marginalization, and the inability to access basic resources can contribute to a person’s involvement in the sex trade. Especially for youth, the lack of resources such as safe housing, living wage employment, and education can create situations where engaging in sex work is one of few options. This show addresses none of these factors and instead promotes stigma, shame, and ignorance around sex work and human trafficking, turning a complicated and nuanced reality into public spectacle.
They write that they’re particularly concerned with the way it seems to conflate sex work and human trafficking, and that it could compromise the anonymity of the women it films. Segments on the program’s Facebook page frequently show the faces of the women being arrested.
MSNBC has not commented on the letter.