Elizabeth Pisani:

Finally, a major paper has bothered to deconstruct the mythical numbers that are bandied about to justify the UK government’s idiotic conflation of sex work with sex trafficking. The fact that raids on over 800 brothels didn’t net any traffickers doesn’t mean that there isn’t anyone in the UK selling sex against their will. But (I’ve said it before and in today’s Guardian I say it again) trying to wipe out the sex trade completely only makes things worse for the minority who are forced into it.

There is little one can do to change the minds of those who object, viscerally, to the commodification of sex. And the numbers will always be open to dispute, as they are with any illegal activity. But a lot of good researchers have spent a lot of time and effort trying to get a handle on trafficking in the sex trade you can find excellent references here and here, and there’s a pretty good discussion thread over at Badscience. It’s like the massive, hidden HIV epidemic in the Middle East if we haven’t found it after two decades of looking, maybe it really isn’t so massive after all.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.