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Not “Sex”, Not “Sexual Activity”: It is the Global “Sexualized” Exploitation Industry

March 24, 2016 at 10:10 AM

Linda and I have just returned from presenting on a parallel event panel during the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).  The panel was titled, The world's Oldest Oppression: Violence and Torture Against Women and Girls: Prostitution, Trafficking, and Non-State Torture.  We were asked why we utilize this phrase, "the global sexualized exploitation industry", more specifically, why we use the word "sexualized" versus the word "sexual".  To answer, I'll start with this question: What is the significance and importance of "ize" being added to a word such as "sexual"?

Answering this question about why we add "ize" to the word "sexual" meant beginning by examining the working definitions relating to the words "sex" and "sexual".  These words do not fit for describing the work Linda and I do regarding "sexualized" torture victimization perpetrated by private persons or groups known as non-State actors nor do these words fit for other forms of sexualized violence because, for instance:

1. The word "sex" in its most universally general sense, when not referring to biology, is understood to mean "sexual activity";[1]

2. "Sexual activity" assumes the activity of "sex" is carried out in a relationship of consent and equal power and

3. When forms of violence such as an assault, exploitation, force, or unequal or coercive conditions are present "sex" or "sexual activity" immediately ceases; the acts become a human rights violations and criminal.[2]

According to Merriam Webster,[3] "ize" means to "become like" or "treat like".  By adding "ize" to the term "sexual" transforms the word into "sexualized" which portrays more realistically the true descriptive meaning when acts of violence, exploitation, force, or unequal power or coercive conditions exist whereby "sex" or "sexual activity" is no longer present but the violent or coercive acts become understood to be "like" but not "sex" or "sexual activity".  When considering acts of "classic" non-State torture,[4] Linda and I do not say sexual non-State torture victimization because being so tortured is not and is never about "sex" or "sexual activity", it is always about violence--about torture to be exact. However, by saying "sexualized" non-State torture victimization we can convey the meaning that it is "like" although not "sex" or "sexual activity".  Such naming helps distinguish "sexualized" non-State torture victimizations from physical non-State torture victimizations, for example.  Differentiating various forms of violence is also present when identifying abuse violations, for instance, differentiating between "sexualized", physical, or emotional abuse.  The differentiation helps to understand, to place correct language, to the crime and human rights violation suffered.

The word "exploitation" when referring to trafficking in persons for example, refers, at a minimum, to the "sexualized" prostitution of others, predominately of women and girls as described in article 3 of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  Being an exploited prostituted person--a woman or girl person--means that crimes are being committed against the woman or girl prostituted.  The "sexualized" victimizations are neither "sex" nor "sexual activity"; rather crimes are being inflicted--"sexualized" violent exploitative crimes and human right violations.  

Turning my attention to victimized and exploited children, too often Linda and I read and comment on how frequently wrongful language is used to define crime scene images of pedophilic pornography.  Descriptive phrases such as "depicting explicit sexual acts" or "sex acts" including using words such as "bondage",[5] which reinforce a socio-cultural normalization concept of 'sex with children' and even BDSM with children.  What is the message being delivered to children--that it is OK for adults to have "sex" with them? When, in fact, it is not OK for adults to have "sex" or "sexual activity" with a child.  The child's victimization is "sexualized" exploitation; it is never "sex" or "sexual activity" and needs always to be considered a criminal violation of their human rights as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 34.  Although the term "sexual" is used in this referenced Convention this reflects the language at the time of its passing; this does not mean we must refrain from developing a deeper evolving awareness of defining the meaning of our language and the impact on how it is used.

As to the use of the word "industry", it presently reflects the global reality that many countries permit and legalize women and girls being prostituted, pornofied, oppressed, commodified, commericalized, objectified, and dehumanized.  Industries that are legalized with patriarchal and misogynistic frameworks that yield financial profits or other material benefits to those who manage, manufacture, enslave, trade, rent, buy, devalue, and dismiss women's and girls' human equality by otherizing them.  The lens of naming "sexualized" violence as "sex" and "sexual activity" reinforces the above global socio-cultural distorting framwork that braids "sex" or "sexual activity" together with the many forms of violence that exist including normalizing non-State torture victimization in torture pornigraphy of women and girls and of non-State torture as BDSM 'consented' to by prostituted women or girls for example.  The socio-cultural and legal normalization of "sexualized" violence as "sex" or "sexual activity" including of non-State torture became evident to Linda and I when I received the following email response from Statistics Canada.  I had emailed them to ask how, "the crime of non-state actor torture (NSAT) that occurs in the 'domestic' or private sphere . . . is distinguished from other forms of violence against women/children such as physical or sexual abuse/assault" within the legal framework (July 27, 2009).  The response said:

"If How ever [sic] the state is not involved, it is just regular torture between two individuals and called non-state actor torture.  This is usually charged instead as assault . . . with intent, and the torture element often comes out at the trial stage (re: motive) and believe it or not there are all kinds of implications and exceptions for S&M (re: consent to torture)" (email communication July 27, 2009, emphasis added).

For Linda and I we needed to do better than this; we needed to do better for women and girls so victimized.  Therefore, we decided to reject the bonds that bind "sex" and "sexual activity" to violence, assault, abuse, and torture, thus evolved our use of the word "sexualized" and its inclusion in the phrase, "the global sexualized exploitation industry".

Jeanne Sarson, 24 March 2016

www.nonstatetorture.org

References

[1] WHO, hhtp://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/sexual_health/sh_definitions/en/  

[2] UN Secretary-General's Bulletin, ST/SGB/2003/13; Criminal Code of Canada.

[3] Merriam Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-ize

[4] Fact Sheet: Torture in the Private Sphere, http://nonstatetorture.org/files/9714/5334/1349/factsheettortureprivatesphere.pdf

[5] Cribb, R. (2015). Underground child porn trade moving toward youngest victims. The Hamilton Spectator.



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Jeanne Sarson

As a writer my focus is on sharing the supportive and research work that began for Linda and I in August of 1993 when a woman ‘introduced’ us to the reality of the torture victimization she suffered, that was inflicted by private individuals or ‘non-state actors’. Linda and I hold a relational feminist and human rights perspective so my writings reflect this position, as does the editing that Linda and I do. Being entrusted with person’s victimization knowledge and healing work our goal also includes sharing their voices in our articles. Without this participatory partnership we could not break the global patriarchal socio-cultural resistance that has silenced the existence of the many forms of non-state torture (NST) victimization that can be/are inflicted from birth. Writings share our wisdom and focuses on gaining the human rights of victimized persons not to be subjected to torture, and to assert the necessity that NST must be specifically and distinctly criminalized in all nations on this planet.


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