Not a “Real” Survivor: The Price Of Opinions In The Anti-Trafficking Movement

Laura LeMoon
Published in
7 min readMay 27, 2020

// Photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

II ‘ve never been welcome in my own movement as a sex trafficking survivor, and namely that’s because I am pro sex work and anti sex trafficking. Something that stereotypical anti-porn second wave feminists like Andrea Dworkin would most assuredly say is impossible.

Sex work, for those of you not in the know, is different from sex trafficking in that it is defined by and rooted in agency, autonomy and choice.

In 2018, the divide between sex workers and sex positive communities and professional anti-sex trafficking activists became most salient with the enactment of landmark senate legislation regulating sex industry work in the name of protecting precious young girls against sex trafficking. This legislation, passed into law April 11th 2018, is known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act or ‘SESTA,’ and it was made into law literally days before the federal seizure of Backpage dot com. Another watershed moment in the lives of sex workers, sex trafficking victims and alleged victim allies.

Recently, I started a public health consulting business, LeMoon Public Health Consulting, where I go around the world to nonprofits, conferences and government agencies and give trainings on providing social service and public health services to people in the sex industry from an intersectional lens that addresses the needs of sex trafficking survivors and sex workers while respecting and honoring the unique realities and truths of both lived experiences as valid.

I emailed a local nonprofit called Seattle Against Slavery of which I knew the executive director (who now works at a huge international anti- trafficking nonprofit ) from having engaged in a panel on sex trafficking with him. Seattle Against Slavery works to end trafficking, but under the belief that all prostitution is forced (no matter what many of us sex workers say to the contrary). I emailed the executive director at the time, knowing that while he and I have very different beliefs around prostitution, I tend to operate professionally under the belief that we (sex workers) should be able to have respectful and civil debates with people who disagree with us. My email to…

Laura LeMoon

As seen in HuffPost, The Daily Beast, Bitch Magazine, Insider, and more. Former peer policy advisor to UNODC, USDOJ, CDC, City of Seattle and WHO.