The Corner


A Great Anti-Trafficker

People walk past a brothel in Amsterdam, April 3, 2019. (Yves Herman / Reuters)

Donna Hughes is an exceptional person, someone I have admired for many years. She is an academic, a feminist, an activist — a great foe of human trafficking, prostitution, porn, and all the rest of it. I have done a Q&A podcast with her, here.

She is a professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island. As her bio says, she is “one of the founders of the academic study of human trafficking.” In 2016, she started a publication called “Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence.”

Donna Hughes grew up on a farm in central Pennsylvania. In college, she majored in animal science. Later, she earned a Ph.D. in genetics. Indeed, she taught genetics for a while.

But she had a strong and growing interest in feminism and women’s issues. In her hometown, she volunteered at a rape crisis center. She saw a lot and learned a lot. Ultimately, she dedicated her life to this terrible subject of violence against women.

In our podcast, she stresses that sex trafficking is a form of violence. Legal prostitution, she considers “legalized abuse.”

She talks about how girls and women are recruited into prostitution. (Donna has no time for such euphemisms as “sex work,” and neither do I.) Social media make recruitment a lot easier, unfortunately. And once you get in, it’s hard to get out. Donna met someone along the way who said, “Trying to quit prostitution is like trying to quit the mob.”

After prostitutes “age out,” they often become recruiters and pimps themselves. It is the life they know, the life they are trapped in.

The work that Donna Hughes does is very important — invaluable — but it is also very difficult. For one thing, you are immersed in cruelty, depravity, and horror. But Donna speaks eloquently about one silver lining of the work: “It brings you into contact with the absolute best people in the world.” Donna has many foes, but also wonderful allies. “I get to meet some of the most courageous and moral people in the world, who aren’t afraid to look evil in the eye and say no.”

In recent days, Professor Hughes has been embroiled in controversy. You might say that her entire career has been an embroilment in controversy — but she really set the cat among the pigeons when she published a piece called “Fantasy Worlds on the Political Right and Left: QAnon and Trans-Sex Beliefs.” “A tsunami hit,” as she puts it in our podcast.

Donna has a scientific background, as you know. She says that people cannot change their sex. As you also know, she disdains euphemisms — words and phrases that fuzz up reality. Take “top surgery.” No, we’re talking about a double radical mastectomy. “People who menstruate.” Oh, come on.

By the way, CBS News published a headline on Saturday: “New CDC guidance recommends pregnant people get the COVID-19 vaccine.” (Article here.) That word “people” strikes some of us as creepy.

Donna Hughes maintains that girls are being seduced and exploited by the trans-gender movement the same as they are by the “sex industry.”

When her article was published, petitions circulated, calling for her to be fired. The administration of her university denounced her to the press. The head of her program denounced her to students. And so on and so forth.

But Donna Hughes is no violet, and she has stood tall. You will want to meet her, hear her: again, here.


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