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The Millionaire Abolitionist: Oil Heiress Swanee Hunt’s Crusade to Stamp Out Sex Work
10-01-2018, 12:57 AM
Post: #1
The Millionaire Abolitionist: Oil Heiress Swanee Hunt’s Crusade to Stamp Out Sex Work
9/27/2018 - Swanee Hunt has used her vast fortune to push an agenda that seeks to abolish commercial sex among consenting adults. Swanee Hunt, is the youngest daughter of the late Texas oil magnate H.L. Hunt.

One group she funds, Demand Abolition, provides funding to law-enforcement agencies with the provision that those agencies will work in concert with the group to emphasize enforcement on the consumer end of the exchange of commercial sex — and to adopt its terminology.

“Acknowledge the possibility that a small minority of women in the sex trade are there in] their own free will.” The stated rationale: “Public still sees this as being a choice for some people.”

And: “Use ‘forced prostitution’ instead of just ‘prostitution.'” Rationale: “‘Forced prostitution’ is accurate because a majority of women in sex trade are coerced. Takes out any ambiguity the public may have about choice.”

Associated reports are by Luntz Global- the namesake of its founder, famed Republican pollster Frank Luntz, a public opinion savant, responsible for creating slippery, GOP-friendly phrases, such as “climate change” instead of global warming, and “death tax,” instead of estate tax. The company utilizes targeted focus groups to render judgment on which phrases and talking points are most effective.

A review of Demand Abolition’s annual filings with the Internal Revenue Service reveals Demand Abolition shelled out nearly $10 million in 2014 to get its message across. (public reports are a few years old)

Demand Abolition’s online propaganda conflates the terms sex trafficking and prostitution — a common ploy among anti-sex-work groups.

Hunt asserts that the distinction between sex trafficking and consensual adult prostitution is “problematic” and “more fiction than fact.”

As Hunt sees it, “trafficking is, for practical purposes, often interchangeable with prostitution, since most pimps use ‘force, fraud or coercion,’ and minors cannot legally consent…. [E]stablishing exactly who at any given time is in the minority of adults ‘willingly’ selling their bodies is not a pragmatic or reliable exercise, and it is an insidious distraction from stopping the abuse of the great majority.”

Hunt also frowns on “the use of pornography to masturbate” and seems to take a dim view of the male sex drive in general. As for the right of sex workers to make choices for themselves, she opines that “every decision must be weighed in the terms of the overall effect on the community, even at the cost of the impingement on personal freedom.”

Let the Sex Buyer Beware
Demand Abolition’s donations to law-enforcement agencies have secured the kind of enforcement against “sex buyers” that Hunt favors.

In a groundbreaking article published in The Intercept, Alison Bass, a professor of journalism at West Virginia University and the author of Getting Screwed: Sex Work and the Law, details how Demand Abolition’s donations to law-enforcement agencies in several cities helped fund local crackdowns on johns.

Bass found that from 2013 through 2018, Demand Abolition’s Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation Network (CEASE) donated millions of dollars to nonprofits and public agencies nationwide.

But as Bass also discovered, the money came with strings. By obtaining public records from the district attorney’s office in King County (Seattle), Bass showed how Demand Abolition’s $191,667 in donations over a four-year period allowed the organization to dictate timelines for prosecutors and law enforcement to carry out dragnets that targeted customers of the sex trade.

Demand Abolition’s donations to law-enforcement agencies came with strings attached: timelines, quotas, and frequent use of the term “sex trafficking”

King County prosecutors reportedly tailored their language to suit Demand Abolition’s ideology and allowed consultants hired by Demand Abolition to rewrite press releases, inserting the word “sex trafficking” despite the fact that prosecutors preferred the term “commercial sexual exploitation.”

King County prosecutors signed statements declaring that they agreed with Demand Abolition’s ideology regarding the harmful effects of the commercial sex industry.

As one consultant explained in an email to prosecutors, “Removing all references to sex trafficking will hurt our ability to grab reporters’ attention.”

In a controversial 2016 sting that involved eleven men and a website called The Review Board (on which clients posted reviews of their encounters with sex workers), prosecutors filed unprecedented state felony charges such as promoting prostitution in the second degree.

Though the Review Board case did not include allegations of force or coercion, police and prosecutors referred to the busts as involving “sex trafficking” and “sex slavery.” Bass quoted legal experts who said the prosecutor’s office stepped over ethical lines in its partnership with Demand Abolition. Three defendants in the Review Board case sued King County for defamation, citing the influence Hunt’s organization wielded over the prosecutor’s office.

Demand Abolition funded similar programs through CEASE in other jurisdictions, most notably in Cook County (Chicago), Illinois, where Sheriff Tom Dart leads a semiannual National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI). Dart bills the initiative as a massive “sex trafficking” bust, heedless of the fact the operation rarely nabs any sex traffickers. Press releases from Dart’s office regarding the sweep thank Demand Abolition for its backing.

In an interview, Bass told Front Page Confidential that Demand Abolition halted its campaign to influence prosecutors “because they realized they were crossing the line.”

Indeed, Demand Abolition’s website speaks of the program in the past tense, stating that the organization’s “funding and direct oversight ended in March 2018” (though it continues to “collaborate informally” with cooperating cities in an effort to “to combat demand for paid sex”).

In her article, Bass explained that Demand Abolition has encouraged state and federal lawmakers to enact harsher statutes criminalizing prostitution, such as the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which Congress passed in late March 2018. The law essentially makes it a federal crime to advertise prostitution online.

Bass rejects Demand Abolition’s premise that adult women cannot consent to be part of the sex trade. Minors in the commercial sex industry are automatically considered trafficking victims under federal law. But Bass says most sex workers in the U.S. who are over the age of eighteen are not trafficked.

“They are selling sex by choice,” Bass told Front Page Confidential. “And so it is erroneous to call this ‘trafficking.’ And I don’t care what Demand Abolition says; that’s not what the law says.”

H.L. Hunt: Rich Man, Bigamist
Swanee Hunt’s father, oil magnate and infamous bigamist .
The last of fifteen children sired by Texas billionaire, oil tycoon, and fervent anti-communist Haroldson Lafayette “H. L.” Hunt Jr., who died in 1974 at the age of 85, Swanee Hunt has access to untold millions. She uses some of that money to bankroll her Hunt Alternatives foundation, which reported nearly $60 million in disbursements from 2011 to 2016 (including funding for Demand Abolition), according to public filings with the IRS.

Alison Bass describes Hunt as a “second wave feminist,” referring to feminists who came of age in the 1960s, some of whom view prostitution and pornography as the consequences of a male-dominated society.

She likens Hunt to prominent feminists such as Gloria Steinem, Catharine MacKinnon, and Andrea Dworkin, who believe that all sex work is exploitive and objectifies women.

Bass believes that while sex work can be exploitive, some women feel empowered by it.

For Hunt, sex workers are female victims in need of rescue from the male pimps and johns who must be reined in by the law.

In a 2016 interview with CNN, Hunt explained that she began Demand Abolition in 2008 and traveled to Sweden and Norway to research what’s referred to as the “Nordic model,” in which law-enforcement agencies target the consumer side of consensual commercial sex.

“And so we looked at this model and said, ‘Would this work in the United States?'” Hunt told CNN. “Gee, we’d have to get all these laws that say it’s illegal for the men to buy [sex]. And then we discovered, no, we don’t have to — the laws are already there.”

In “Deconstructing Demand,” Hunt bolsters her arguments in favor of a war on sex buyers by citing a number of myths about prostitution and sex trafficking that have been repeatedly disproven but persist nonetheless.

Hunt states that the average age of girls entering prostitution is thirteen; that as many as 300,000 children are sold for sex every year in the United States; and that sex trafficking is a $9.5 billion-a-year business. All three purported factoids have long been discredited.

Hunt also trots out the spurious claim that the National Football League’s “machismo-driven” Super Bowl amounts to a sex-trafficking extravaganza. The assertion, a favorite of Hunt’s fellow multimillionaire heiress Cindy McCain, has been thoroughly debunked.

Though Hunt genuinely seems to want to help women, Demand Abolition’s efforts are making sex work more dangerous, not less, according to many advocates of sex workers’ rights. Those advocates contend that the passage of FOSTA and the seizure of the online listings giant — both of which Hunt supported — have robbed sex workers of the ability to screen customers and share information online about bad clients.

Bass pointed to a 2017 study by researchers at Baylor and West Virginia universities, which found that adult ads on Craigslist reduced the overall homicide rate for women by more than 17 percent on average.

In places where prostitution is not criminalized, Bass said, sex workers cooperate with police to capture actual sex traffickers and are more likely to practice safe sex, resulting in lower rates of HIV infection.

But there may be more at work in Hunt’s worldview than radical feminism.

Her father, H.L. Hunt, was an infamous philanderer who maintained two secret families in addition to the one he shared with his first wife, Lyda Bunker Hunt.

Swanee is the daughter of the woman who would become Hunt’s second wife, Ruth Ray Hunt, following the death of the first Mrs. Hunt. In her aptly titled 2006 memoir Half-Life of a Zealot — the writing of which she claims spared her “endless hours of psychotherapy” — Swanee Hunt describes how her intensely religious mother was a kept woman who was “completely dependent on my father” and lived with her four children, including Swanee, in a Dallas home within driving distance of the mansion where H.L. lived with Lyda Bunker Hunt.

The billionaire oilman would visit his second family when his first wife was off playing bridge, Swanee Hunt writes in her memoir. She describes her mother’s “anguish” at the situation, noting that because of it, Ruth Ray Hunt remained convinced that she was “an embarrassment to her children.”

(To further complicate matters, after Hunt’s death it was revealed that the rascally billionaire — said to be the model for J.R. Ewing in the TV series Dallas — had yet another family in Florida with a woman named Frania Tye, with whom he sired four children. Frania claimed to have secretly married Hunt in 1925.)

Her mother’s relationship to H.L. was a mystery in the early years of Swanee’s life, and she admits to wondering as a kid why she “didn’t have a daddy like the children next door” — one who’d come home at the end of the day, toss her in the air, and carry her on his shoulders.

Such lachrymose reminiscences may add some context to her anti-prostitution jeremiad.

Take, for instance, this passage from “Deconstructing Demand”:

With most monogamous couples, fidelity includes not only abstaining from sex with another person, but also honesty and transparency. Buying sex, however, is largely a secret affair that requires a web of deception involving one’s location, time, and money. Often buyers try to convince themselves and others that they are unfaithful because their partners do not fulfill their needs, shifting the blame. Even so, guilt stands between the two and further damages or destroys their relationship. When the truth comes out, partners may break up. Children’s lives are strained and they may well become disillusioned with their fathers.

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