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An Open Letter to Oregon Commentator, a UO publication that called me an advocate for sex trafficking

Date: May 23, 2011

I knew that something like this was bound to happen, but here it goes: Oregon Commentator, a conservative student publication of University of Oregon, alleges that I “advocated sex trafficking” in my May 19 presentation at the Eugene campus. Criticizing The Student Insurgent, which hosted my presentation, Oregon Commentator Editor-in-Chief Lyzi Diamond writes:

The Student Insurgent, in a surprising turn of events, is actually doing something. I would be proud, if their actions weren’t entirely asinine.

First, they hosted a guest speaker last week who advocated sex trafficking. No joke.

Following this, Diamond quotes the description for my UO lecture from The Student Insurgent blog:

War on Terror & War on Trafficking:
Why Irrational Panic over ‘Modern Day Slavery’ Harms Women

Thursday May 19th, from 6-730pm in Condon 104, University of Oregon.

Presented by Emi Koyama, War on Terror & War on Trafficking examines “facts” promoted by the anti-trafficking groups and “experts,” and exposes how they have distorted our conversations about sex trafficking and prostitution and harmed women, sex workers, immigrants, and others.

The presentation also explores many ways in which the new War on Trafficking resembles the so-called War on Terror in its worldview, approach, and devastating impact on vulnerable communities. […]

Come to find out why:

  • Average age of entry into prostitution is not 12-14 year old
  • 300,000 children are not at risk of being trafficked
  • A third of runaway youth are not trafficked within first 48 hours
  • Super Bowl and World Cup did not contribute to human trafficking
  • Portland is not “Pornland, Oregon”
  • “End Demand” approach targeting “johns” harms women
  • Anti-trafficking “experts” should not be trusted (remember Bill Hillar?)
  • Trafficking is often the State’s excuse to raid immigrants and communities of color
  • Anti-trafficking movement distorts reality and misleads public policy

Diamond’s inaccurate and highly offensive (and libelous) characterization of me actually proves a point I made in my presentation: The “you are with us or with the terrorists” mentality from the War on Terror has permeated the anti-trafficking movement, making it difficult to have a rational conversations about what to do about the issue. But perhaps it’s irrelevant what I said in the presentation, because as far as I know Lyzi Diamond or anyone else affiliated with Oregon Commentator actually did not come and listen to my presentation.

That said, I am sending them the following message as an open letter to Oregon Commentator:

Lyzi Diamond, the Editor-in-Chief
Oregon Commentator

May 23, 2011

I am writing in response to your May 22 blog post, in which you describe me as an advocate of sex trafficking. Such characterization is false and highly offensive, especially since you did not attend my presentation to hear what I actually have to say, and I request that you formally retract it.

Your mission statement states that you “believe that the University should be a forum for rational and informed debate.” Further, it states that you “believe that it is important for the University community to view the world realistically, intelligently, and above all, rationally.” I believe that you have failed to live up to these commitments when you describe me as an advocate for sex trafficking.

The main point of my presentation was precisely that our conversations about sex trafficking had been based on false premises, which precluded our ability to view the world realistically and to enact rational policies and responses to combat human trafficking. For you to suggest that raising such criticism amounts to advocacy of sex trafficking does not help contribute to the rational and informed debate; in fact, it is reminiscent of the same political climate of ideological dogma and mob mentality that you so despise.

Even though I am a feminist and a liberal, one of the things I respect about the tradition of conservative political philosophy from Edmund Burke on is its healthy skepticism toward human perfectibility. Liberals and progressives too often propose laws and regulations to resolve real or perceived social problems without fully recognizing or understanding the long chain of unintended consequences that might prove more harmful than the original problem the policy is designed to solve. My critiques of the anti-trafficking movement are made in the same vein: many policies that are intended to combat sex trafficking are actually counter-productive, despite their good intentions.

In “A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles,” prominent conservative thinker Thomas Sowell argues that liberals tend to associate good intentions with good results, and therefore they attribute negative intentions for those who do not agree with them. Conservative on the other hand do not automatically associate good intentions with good results, so they are more capable of criticizing others’ positions and ideas without accusing them of having ill intentions. I find your assault on my intent (i.e. alleging that I advocate for sex trafficking) rather than my ideas to be characteristically liberal in Sowell’s sense, and uncharacteristic for someone who espouses to be a conservative.

Even though I consider myself a feminist and a liberal, I make a point to try to treat my opponents with basic human respect and dignity, as you will see if you read my blog posts about two conservative rallies that I attended (see below for URLs). I hope that you agree with me that partisan name-calling has no place in a rational and intelligent debate over important social and political issues such as human trafficking, and begin your part by retracting the libelous claim that I somehow advocate for sex trafficking. Once that is out of the way, I would be happy to continue the dialogue over how we should combat sex trafficking in the United States. The University community deserves to hear more than just one side that is advocated by the anti-trafficking campus group.

A report on the Tea Party tax day rally:

A report on the Oregon Right to Life rally:


Emi Koyama
Activist and Writer


  1. Hi Emi,
    While I was unable to attend your presentation, you have piqued my interest with your debate against the Commentator. I work 24-7 in the anti-trafficking movement for an organization that is partly responsible for creating the statistics that you proposed to refute. So, without making any snap judgements, I’d like to hear what you have to say. I’m quite curious about your thoughts and am eager to hear about the intense research you put into forming this perspective. I look forward to your email.

    Comment by Elizabeth — May 23, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  2. […] So Emi Koyama, the “activist and writer” I referenced in my last post about the Student Insurgent, has written an open letter to me and the Commentator regarding my characterization of her as an advocate for sex trafficking. Apparently, she is not. Her letter can be found here. […]

    Pingback by Oregon Commentator » Blog Archive » The Oregon Commentator: offensive, libelous, etc. — May 23, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

  3. Hello Elizabeth – Perhaps the quickest place to read my thoughts on the topic would be the new zine, “War on Terror and War on Trafficking: A Sex Worker Activist Confronts the Anti-Trafficking Movement.” You can download and read the whole zine from

    I really appreciate that you commented on this post because I’ve emailed the organization you work for when I first began questioning some of the “statistics,” but have not been able to get any reply. I would love to receive your feedback about the zine. You can contact me at emi AT eminism DOT org.

    Comment by emigrl — May 23, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

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