The ‘Swedish Model’ of sex work: chronicle of a disaster foretold

The will to power, the will to use human beings in social experiments, is to be distrusted at all times. The impulse to create, or even to propose, what [Martin] Amis calls “the perfect society” is likewise to be suspected. At several points he states with near perfect simplicity that ideology is hostile to human nature, and implies that teleological socialism was uniquely or particularly so . . . Corruptio optimi pessima: No greater cruelty will be devised than by those who are sure, or are assured, that they are doing good.
 — Christopher Hitchens, in The Atlantic, September 2002

Below is an excerpt from a powerful academic piece published at openDemocracy about the catastrophic Swedish Model (a.k.a. the Nordic Model), a policy framework premised on denials of both biological imperatives and human nature that are straight out of Marxist theory.

Specifically, the Swedish Model is promoted by feminists who believe one can a actually “end demand” for sexual services.

The article asks and answers, ‘What happens when policymakers are guided by their biases, instead of the voices of the people they are trying to help?’


Between March 2014 and March 2015, two of the authors (Mai and Giametta) conducted a survey with 500 migrant and non-migrant sex workers in France in order to understand their views on the proposed law aiming to criminalize their clients. The law was discussed by the French Parliament recurrently in 2014 and 2015, before its final approval in April 2016 (law n° 2016-444). This survey was part of the project Emborders: Problematising Sexual Humanitarianism through Experimental Filmmaking, based at the Laboratory of Mediterranean Sociology at Aix-Marseille University between January 2014 and December 2015. . . . We compared the effects of humanitarian interventions targeting migrant sex workers and sexual minority asylum seekers in the United Kingdom and France.

The main aim of Emborders was to understand the effects in France and the United Kingdom of ‘sexual humanitarianism’, a concept developed by Nicola Mai to analyze how migrant sex workers are impacted by policymaking and social interventions based on their presumed vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation.

Crucially, the concept of sexual humanitarianism refers to the global hegemony of a neo-abolitionist discourse, which systematically conflates prostitution with trafficking, framing prostitution as “paradigmatic of a system of male power” and seeking its abolition by removing the demand for sexual services.

The 'Swedish model' of sex work in France: chronicle of a disaster foretold

This trend is best exemplified by the global resonance of the “Swedish model” – a policymaking framework aiming to reduce the demand for prostitution by decriminalizing sex work and criminalizing the purchase of sex – as an ideal instrument to fight trafficking.

Continue reading at openDemocracy

The executive summary for the 2018 ‘What do sex workers think about the French prostitution act?’ report is available here.

The full 2018 report (in French is available) here.

247210cookie-checkThe ‘Swedish Model’ of sex work: chronicle of a disaster foretold

The ‘Swedish Model’ of sex work: chronicle of a disaster foretold

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