Dr. Melissa Farley - Fracking & Trafficking

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In this podcast, psychologist Melissa Farley explains her understanding of the intimately connected  exploitation of women and exploitation of the earth. Multinational corporations and governments designate so-called "sacrifice zones" for resource extraction and in the process they exploit both men and women.  Poor men are exploited for their labor, and women are provided to pacify them after what is usually miserable and dangerous labor. Eventually, when the resources are depleted or the land is destroyed, or environmentalists protest, and the resource extraction stops, the sex trade nonetheless continues. In sexist cultures where women can't make enough to survive, prostitution becomes entrenched. Melissa Farley quotes Lisa Brunner, White Earth Ojibwe at the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, and anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday.

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Dr. Melissa Farley on Fracking & Trafficking: Making the Connection

Listen to our Interview with Melissa Below: 

PRE’s research has been used by governments in South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Ghana, Spain, Sweden, Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States for education and policy development on prostitution and trafficking.

In this podcast, psychologist Melissa Farley explains her understanding of the connections between exploitation of women and exploitation of the earth. The connections between exploitation of the earth and exploitation of women is explained by Indigenous women, some animal rights activists but not PETA, Eco-Feminists and academics worldwide. There is a relationship between how women are treated and how the land is treated.

Melissa Farley quotes Lisa Brunner, White Earth Ojibwe at the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center: “They treat Mother Earth like they treat women. They think they can own us, buy us, sell us, trade us, rent us, poison us, rape us, destroy us, use us as entertainment and kill us. I’m happy to see that we are talking about the level of violence that is occurring against Mother Earth because it equates to us. What happens to her happens to us.”

Farley notes the work of anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday who also described the connections between how the earth is exploited and how women are exploited 35 years ago.  Sanday studied 156 cultures categorized as either rape-free or rape-prone and found a relationship between how the land was treated and how the women were treated. In cultures where sexual violence  was minimal or nonexistent, the earth was relatively free of exploitation and destruction. And where there was environmental degradation, Sanday observed simultaneous high levels of sexual violence.

Historically, colonizers have extracted resources while perpetuating the notion that they have the right to take whatever they want from People's homelands. Today, everything is for sale: animals, trees, the ocean, as well as human beings. 

Climate Change: Desertification in Africa is causing girls to walk increasingly farther distances to get water for their families. This puts them at risk for sexual assault and also leaves them too tired to attend school. Educating girls is one way they are able to avoid the sex trade. In 2015, California Representative Barbara Lee introduced a congressional resolution recognizing that climate change disproportionately affects poor women. In her resolution, Barbara Lee noted that as a result of climate change, these women were likely to turn to prostitution.

Lies & Denial: Climate change denial is similar to the denial of prostitution's harms.  Both create doubts in peoples' minds about the facts."Compartmentalization or disconnection is the primary tool of patriarchy." Robin Morgan wrote many years ago.  Compartmentalization is a primary method of denial of the intimate connections between prostitution, trafficking, resource extraction, and climate change.

Prostitiution & Trafficking: Melissa Farley started work on the sex trade in San Francisco twenty-five years ago in order to counteract the lies and myths about prostitution from pimps and their allies, for example that it is a reasonable job for poor women, a job where women get rich or that prostitution is an activity where you don't get hurt. Prostitution Research & Education (PRE) was created to amplify the voices of sex trade survivors and to learn from them.

Decriminalization of Prostitution for those Being Sold but no Decriminalized Pimping and Sex BuyingEveryone agrees that women in prostitution should not be arrested - they are victims of crime rather than criminals themselves. However, when the decriminalization of prostitution is promoted by organizations like Amnesty International, the objective is to decriminalize not only the women theselves but also pimps and sex buyers.  Groups like Amnesty, UNAIDS, Human Rights Watch, World Health Organization, Physicians for Human Rights -may do some good work on some issues.  But when it comes to prostitution, they are truly reactionary.  They advocate decriminalization of pimps and mainstreaming the sex trade as a mode of survival.  They avoid the obvious which is that if you listed to what women really want - they're not asking for a prostitute union.  Instead, they're asking for help staying out of prostitution and they tell us they need physical safety, housing, food, and education. In the U.S., there are women prostituting for a tank of gas or a hamburger. If you see an attempt to stop safetynets for those most vulnerable, like education funding, food stamps, housing subsidies, please become an antitrafficking activist and fight these cruel attempts to put more money in the hands of the 1%.

Prostitution is a result of systemic sexism, racism, and poverty, also child neglect and abuse The institution of prostitution arises out of inequality between men and women, between white people and people of color, and between the rich and the poor.  Men are taught that they have the right to treat women like  commodities. One sex buyer explained that prostitution is "renting an organ for 10 minutes."

Homicide rates are higher among women in prostitution than any other group of women.

Trafficking is third party control over another person. A trafficker is a pimp, thugs who manipulate women and use them over and over again. 84% of adult women in prostitution are in third party control and are being trafficked by a pimp.

Internet Advertising and Trafficking: 90% of the sex trade is now online. Escort prostitution is cell phone prostitution, and it is based on the pimps' instructions. Women can be rented along with a car at the airport. Tracking pimps is easier now for law enforcement using evidence trails created online.

 Resoure Extraction, Climate Change, and Trafficking for Prostitution: North Dakota and Montana's Bakkan oil fields employ large numbers of men who are engaged in exhausting, often exploitive employmen.  In order to pacify them, pimps sell women in the "man camps" where the men live.  I've seen photos of school buses used as mobile brothel advertisements.  Pimps are capitalizing on resource extraction by exploiting not only the workers themselves but the women used to pacify the workers.


Seattle & Sweden: Seattle is enforcing laws against sex buyers, but they are not arresting women in prostitution. Seattle has made it an unwelcome climate for sex buyers and pimps. This is a human rights approach to prostitution like Sweden, which decriminalizes only women selling sex but also made it a felony to buy sex in 1999. We know that legal or tolerated prostitution is connected with increased trafficking. Sweden is intolerant of the institution of prostitution because the Swedes understand prostitution as an institution that systematically discriminates against women, the poor, and those who are ethnically marginalized. Sweden now has the lowest rate of trafficking in the European Union. The government of Sweden also provides exit services for anyone who wants to leave prostitution.  That  is necessary if you want to help women survive without prostitution.

PRE Resources: Services for Survivors

Donate to PRE: Research, public education, and immediate resources for survivors - all are part of the mission of Prostitution Research & Education.  

See  Prostitution and #MeToo Here

Dr. Melissa Farley, is a research and clinical psychologist who founded Prostitution Research & Education a nonprofit organization in San Francisco in 1994. PRE conducts research on prostitution, pornography, and trafficking, and offers education and consultation to researchers, survivors, the public, and policymakers.

PRE’s goal is to abolish the institution of prostitution while at the same time advocating for alternatives to trafficking and prostitution 
including emotional and physical healthcare for women in prostitution.

The PRE website,, includes a survivors' blog, research on pornography, prostitution and trafficking.  An online library provides much information.

You can learn more about how advocates and policymakers and researchers use the work of Prostitution Research & Education at

Please join PRE's Newsletter and Donate to PRE and the important work they do in whatever amount you can.


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