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The Naked Anthropologist · My Texas talk on anti-trafficking and the denial of women's consent | The Naked Anthropologist

My Texas talk on anti-trafficking and the denial of women’s consent

ladywithaguncYou can now watch sessions from the University of Texas at Austin November 22-24 conference on Sexual Citizenship and Human Rights: What Can the US Learn from the EU and European Law? The panel called Sex Work, Migration and Trafficking was held on the 23rd, where my original talk was called ‘Contentious and contradictory: Prostitution-law campaigns in Europe‘.

But when I saw that the other two speakers on the panel were speaking on trafficking, one of them from a Rescue-Industry standpoint and the other juridical, I threw out that talk and gave another, hoping to give a humanist context to the other presentations. I called the new talk Denial of Consent, because consent had been mentioned frequently at this event in regard to adolescents’ right to have sex, which was even claimed to be a human-rights concept. I was struck that no one mentioned the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines everyone under 18 as a child and is constantly used by anti-prostitution campaigners to claim that adolescents who sell sex cannot consent. One might think consent is easily granted to boys and not to girls.

It’s a mistake, in a three-day conference dedicated to the subtleties of sexual citizenship, to dump three deep topics – Sex Work, Migration and Trafficking- into a single panel. Each of those deserves a panel of its own, or alternatively a panel could be devoted to just one of those, making sure all the speakers address it. I ended up doing double work, and it was not easy to limit my introduction to only 30 minutes. A lot is omitted in what you hear below, so I hope it all makes sense. The event was held in a Law School, which explains the rather dramatic courtroom setting, with me a witness in the box.

The session is introduced at 01:30 in the below video by Gloria González López of the Center for Mexican American Studies. My talk begins a minute later and ends at 35:58. The third speaker (Janet Halley) was present via Skype, so you cannot see but perhaps you can hear her. Should the videos fail, you can watch on youtube.

Other conference sessions can be viewed here.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist


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  1. Thanks – I never get tired of hearing you speak!!!


    1. i’m amazed and grateful!


    2. I am fascinated by your history in this video. It sounds so much like me. I did not working in NGOs. I worked for the US State Dept. But I was divorced late in life and bought a small house in a fenced community in Sosua Dominican Republic. I two had some previous experience with prostitution as mostly an observer in German in 1970/71. I traveled around Europe with my backpack for several months. Now I am appalled by America’s imperialist behavior of forcing anti-trafficking laws on other countries. I am appalled by America, as I say, exporting their conservative sex culture onto the rest of the world. I am so interested in this that I am applying now for the PhD program at a major university here in Thailand. I am learning more than I expected already but the PhD seems like a credential that will help we get something published. I love your understanding and what you write. I am just your little fan who wishes I could write as well as you do. We need more of us to counter US funding of a moralistic anti-women process with no future as the world becomes more crowded. Keep up the good work.


      1. Thank you but remember this is a performance, not a reliable account of my life.


      2. Your talk is so clear and concise yet clearly so deeply-informed by your own and others’ scholarship. Because it casts a wide net, I feel like this talk might make such a nice, brief introduction to your work for beginning students, or for feminists just learning a critique of the trafficking discourse. Have you ever had it transcribed for print circulation? Or would you be open to considering it? Thank you, as well for your work: we haven’t communicated before but I have very deep respect for your analysis and for the way that you model critical and public work as an anthropologist.


      3. What a lovely comment – thank you. I was never sent a transcript of that talk myself. I went to the event planning to talk about something less
        fundamental, but when I saw a bonafide Rescue Industry member was to speak after me I threw it out and talked as I did. I blogged so much on this, did so many basic such talks in the years after my book was published and wrote so many media articles that it feels to me as though that talk is already out there somewhere. But perhaps it isn’t? And perhaps it would be helpful if published – I don’t know!



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