Renaming the Nordic Model of prostitution: the Equality Model or the Entrapment Model?
The term “Equality Model” has recently been attached to the legal framework more commonly known as the Nordic Model of prostitution. Attaching the term “equality” to this approach to prostitution law suggests that it is in the best interest of sex workers. Unequivocal evidence shows that it is not.
Nordic Model prostitution laws partially decriminalize sex work while leaving both the purchase and promotion of sex work illegal.
It may seem ironic to use the term “equality” to describe prostitution laws designed to criminalize one side of a sex work transaction. Given that implementing laws that criminalize clients clearly correlates with an increase in violence perpetrated against sex workers, perhaps the “equality” they’re referring to is how these laws equally harm everyone they touch.
In both implementation and outcomes, the Equality Model is anything but equal. Since police primarily use these laws to essentially entrap sex work clients in a soliciting prostitution charge, the Nordic Model rebranding we believe fits best is the “Entrapment Model.”
Decriminalization of Sex Work vs The Equality Model of Prostitution
We compare two types of sex work legislation: the full decriminalization of sex work and the equality model of prostitution legislation.
Decriminalization of Sex Work
The full decriminalization of sex work does the following:
* Reduces violence and exploitation while increasing public health and safety
* Recommended by Amnesty International and the World Health Organization
* Improves sex worker health and safety while reducing sex worker homelessness
* Empowers sex workers to operate independently, reducing human trafficking
The Equality Model
The Equality Model of prostitution does the following:
* Criminalizes the buying of sex but not the selling of sex
* Sex workers are financially dependent on criminalized clients
* Assumes sex workers need to be "saved" and denies them bodily autonomy
* Does not decrease exploitation in the commercial sex industry
What is the Nordic Model?
Prostitution laws have an immediate and powerful impact on the lives of real people in our communities. To advocate for the human rights and safety of sex workers across the country, it is critical to understand the distinctions between different policies. To fight the rebranding efforts of Equality Model proponents, it’s important to be ready with a quick reply when someone asks, “What is the Nordic Model?”
The Nordic Model of prostitution is based on the theory that the way to “free” sex workers from lives of prostitution is to criminalize clients and third parties. The theory assumes sex workers are victims, but in practice, the law tends to treat them more like criminals.
Sex work exists on a spectrum of choice, circumstance, and coercion. Sex work is work and no one should assume that sex workers do not have choice or autonomy. This patriarchal view of sex work is a dangerous threat to the bodily autonomy and freedom of choice that women and other marginalized groups have been fighting to achieve for so long.
Laws based on the Nordic Model target sex work clients with entrapment, making them far more likely to pursue anonymous interactions in remote locations. Keeping sex work in the dark jeopardizes the harm reduction strategies sex workers use to keep themselves safe and leaves them vulnerable to predators and criminals.
Prostitution Laws across the globe: Nordic Model failure
From added violence to malicious evictions, evidence of Nordic model failure has shown that partial decriminalization prostitution laws are simultaneously ineffective at ending exploitation in the sex trade and harmful to the people they are meant to protect.
Prostitution Laws in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland created their Entrapment-based, Nordic Model prostitution laws in a naive attempt to end demand for sex work. Rather than decrease demand, they’ve experienced an increase in online ads since implementation in 2015. A study conducted by the Department of Justice also found an increase in harassment and anti-social behaviors directed at sex workers since the policy change.
Prostitution Laws in Norway
Norway enacted prostitution laws based on the Nordic Model that intentionally evicted over 400 sex workers, mostly migrant women, from their homes. The project was aptly named “Operation Homeless” by Norwegian police.
Prostitution Laws in Sweden
Swedish prostitution laws enacted in 1999 use landlords as weapons against sex workers. These laws hold landlords liable for promoting prostitution if they don’t evict sex workers simply for having used their homes to provide sexual services.
Only 7% of Americans support entrapment model sex work legislation
A national survey completed October 1st, 2021 of likely voters in the United States asked voters whether they would support decriminalizing the sale of sex, while keeping the purchase of sex illegal. When asked about this entrapment model sex work legislation, only 7% support this model of prohibiting prostitution, while 60% oppose it, and 33% are unsure.
The vast majority of individuals involved in selling and buying sex are consenting adults. “Proponents of the entrapment model conflate human trafficking with consensual adult sex work, intentionally confusing the issue to advance their agenda of restricting sex between consenting adults. Where trafficking and prostitution are conflated, human trafficking victims are treated like criminals, and consenting adults are needlessly arrested,” said Ariela Moscowitz, director of communications at Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW), which commissioned the national poll. “There is less support for the entrapment model than there is for white supremacist views, yet legislators continue to propose the former,” Moscowitz continued.
Equality Model New York
The promoters of the newly rebranded Equality Model of prostitution have launched their U.S. campaign in New York. Despite evidence demonstrating that this model contributes to exploitation and makes sex work more dangerous, the Equality Model New York project has decided to push forward with their entrapment-focused legislation.
It’s not too late to stop New York from enacting this harmful partial decriminalization legislation! You can help by contacting the State Senators who are sponsoring bill S6040, Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act. Tell them you support protecting the safety of New York’s sex workers and demand that they keep the Equality Model out of New York State.
Senator Liz Krueger
Contact New York State Senator Liz Krueger. Senator Krueger represents the 28th Senate District and is the Chair of the Finance Committee. Liz Krueger is the primary sponsor of New York S6040.
Senator Diane Savino
Contact New York State Senator Diane Savino. Senator Savino represents the 23rd Senate District and is the Chair of the Committee on Internet and Technology. Diane Savino is a sponsor of New York S6040.
Senator Neil Breslin
Contact New York State Senator Neil Breslin. Senator Breslin represents the 44th Senate District and is the Chair of the Committee on Insurance. Neil Breslin is a sponsor of New York S6040.
Equality Model Massachusetts
A legislative campaign has also launched with the goal of implementing the Equality Model in Massachusetts. The bill they have proposed is ironically called “An Act To Strengthen Justice and Support for Sex Trade Survivors.” Unfortunately the implementation of legislation that criminalizes consensual sex work clients correlates with an increase in violence perpetrated against sex workers rather than a decrease in human trafficking.
This effort to implement the Nordic Model of prostitution in the Massachusetts uses fines charged to convicted sex work clients to fund programs meant to remove sex workers from the profession. Unfortunately the proponents of Equality Model Massachusetts seem to conflate human trafficking and consensual adult sex work in their legislative proposal which is detrimental to both victims of human trafficking and sex workers who choose the profession.
Sex worker jobs are not inherently dangerous. Criminalization makes the work dangerous.
Criminalizing clients keeps the entire sex work industry underground and makes sex worker jobs more dependent on third parties who might mean them harm, leaving them more vulnerable to exploitation.
Sex workers in countries where prostitution laws like the Entrapment Model have been implemented are frequently threatened and harassed by law enforcement. Criminalizing clients results in police raids on sex workers which are psychologically and physically harmful. These encounters also often result in sex workers experiencing isolation and stigma due to being outed to their community.
Take action! Tell your representative "I reject Entrapment Model legislation and stand with sex workers near me!"
Please send this letter to your State Representative and help reject the Entrapment Model before it gets a foothold in the United States. Your efforts will say "I reject this new Entrapment Model legislation and stand with sex workers near me!" With your support, we can fully decriminalize consensual adult sex work across the country and improve the health and safety of our communities.