Professor encourages activist to start 'mass movement' for kids' right to sex work

A sex trafficking victim waits for customers.
A sex trafficking victim waits for customers. | REUTERS/CLARO CORTES

A Johns Hopkins University professor appeared to advise a self-described sex work activist to create a "mass movement" to promote the idea of children in the sex industry, according to audio recorded by an undercover journalist during the Socialism 2023 conference. 

Karlyn Borysenko, a psychologist and an independent reporter, attended three days of the most prominent socialist conference in the country, which took place in Chicago from Sept. 1 to Sept. 4. The conference hosts socialists and activists throughout the country for discussions on topics including Marxism and strategies for left-wing causes. 

One of the panels titled "The Politics of Childhood" featured Jules Gill-Peterson, a male associate professor at Johns Hopkins University and a scholar of "transgender history" who identifies as female.

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Sophie Lewis, the author of Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family, was another speaker on the panel. 

In a statement earlier this month to Campus Reform, Borysenko said that before she began recording, the panel discussed abolishing the age of consent. The reporter also noted that most of the audience appeared accepting of the idea of children having a "right" to solicit sex. 

"Socialists do not believe that children are the 'private property' of their parents," she told Campus Reform. "They believe children are little adults that can make all their own decisions."

The context of the clip is that there had already been a complete hour-long discussion of liberating children from their parents.

During the panel's question and answer portion, an attendee named Chanel introduced herself as a sex worker activist and said she didn't think she would ask her question if the event was live-streamed. The activist asked whether young people in the sex industry should be considered part of a "children's liberation vision." 

According to the activist, "young people in the sex industry deserve and need rights at minimum actual liberation and justice."

"There's just like a utopia I had never really thought of before because the world feels so separated, and the issue of youth and sex work is so incredibly loaded," she said. 

The activist, at one point, said that her activism includes "working at the intersection of migrants, justice, capitalism, and sex work" and that she would like to see a "liberation" movement for children that includes "highly marginalized kids on the street'" and "people selling sex to survive." 

"Are we just like walking into too much trouble to try to even address that when talking about the rights of children?" Chanel asked. 

Instead of responding to what Gill-Peterson described as "moral panics," the professor questioned what other strategies should be considered for creating "capacities of courage" and "truly a sense of solidarity." 

"If you're part of a project trying to think about the young people's role in the sex industry, one of the ways that you might feel like you're going to be able to lend time and energy to that effort is if it doesn't feel like you could be hung up to dry alone for it, right?" the professor replied. 

"So, a mass movement has a kind of persuasive value," Gill-Peterson continued. 

Johns Hopkins University and Socialism 2023 did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. The outlet attempted to reach Jules Gill-Peterson for comment Monday via his work email but received an automatic reply stating that the professor was on leave for the semester.

According to the panel's description, the discussion focused on "the urgent project — and problem — of solidarity across reproductive justice and trans justice movements." The panel takes place amid nationwidedebates about whether states should ban surgeries and the prescription of hormones for minors confused about their sex. 

In a full recording of the panel published on Borysenko's Substack, both panelists can be heard describing social concerns about children as a "moral panic," with Gill-Peterson referring to this as "one of the oldest political playbooks in [the United States]." 

Borysenko previously covered another speech Gill-Peterson gave at Lewis & Clark College as part of a gender studies symposium titled "Transition and Abortion as Vernacular Medicine." During his speech, the professor encouraged the use of do-it-yourself hormones, although he acknowledged that the practice can be "dangerous." 

"DIY is not inherently free from danger or risk, but nothing is in life," he said. "So, I think it's a question of who do we trust more to negotiate and arrange risk and manage risk and danger in a way that we feel good about."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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