A Former Sex Worker’s Thoughts About Eliot Spitzer,

A Former Sex Worker’s Thoughts About Eliot Spitzer, 

 I’m Jill Brenneman,  Project Coordinator, of  Sex Worker’s Outreach Project, SWOP-East  www.swopeast.org a chapter of Sex Worker’s Outreach Project USA www.swopusa.org and a member of the Desiree Alliance www.desireealliance.org

 It is 3AM, thoughts about Eliot Spitzer and the related farce are rolling in my head.  So I blog.  Here are my thoughts.

Eliot Spitzer is a farce, Eliot Spitzer is a disgrace.  Of course I’m speaking from a perspective far different than that of many of the political types in Albany.  I’m speaking different perspective than the faux moralist conservatives who are haughtily demanding his resignation for disgracing the office by hiring the services of a sex worker.  People who immediately feel the office has suffered a massive disgrace because Spitzer involved himself with someone viewed as socially low as a prostitute, a sex worker, a whore, as all the self righteous types want to place themselves above.  Well dear moralists, dear political pundits, dear high and mighty virtuous types, you are likely missing much of the bigger picture. 

Let me clarify some of it from the view of a former sex worker.  To me Spitzer’s disgrace isn’t about reducing the credibility of his lofty office of Governor.  If reduction of the credibility of his office is considered the greatest of his transgressions he is being viewed by people with priorities that are askew.   In his passion for self advancement Eliot “fought prostitution”, Eliot took a tough stance on “human trafficking”.  Or at least used his power to orchestrate his various battles against crime, at various times that crime being prostitution, used his office and a faux concern for victims of human trafficking to work on that issue from the same perspective of the anti trafficking czar, Randall Tobias, who, resigned for,,,,  um, hiring sex workers….   But who was looking?  Thus he had the formulas to push his career.  So what if a sex worker, no pun intended, got screwed in that process.  So what, if when one examines the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, of which Spitzer was an advocate of, turns out being a worldwide failure leading to deaths throughout the world because it denies funding for HIV prevention among other things for sex workers, as any form of assistance to working sex workers only adds to the problem of prostitution, thus better to sacrifice some people now for the greater glorious war on prostitution.  Great for Eliot, his career advanced.  Until he was caught and then everyone piled on with the condemnation, the Republicans, who forget their own politicians problems with similar issues, the politicos worried about the image of the office from Democrats rushing to get away before they be associated with him. 

Who gets lost once again?  The sex workers.  In the frenzy to finger point, to dig up whatever graphic details possible of what kind of sex Spitzer may have had for tabloidesque gossip, the impact of his farce is missed. 

I’m a former sex worker.  I still have many sex worker friends that are dear to me.  Ones who both face all the risks of being a sex worker, but also fight for sex worker rights in public.   They are at risk from the very policies of men like Spitzer.  Eliot could have done something groundbreaking.  He could have been a governor that dared to advocate for sex worker human rights.  But he didn’t.  Eliot persecuted sex workers.  He made it easier for sex workers to be exploited, to be violated, to be stigmatized, to face discrimination, to face rape, assault and other crimes.  My sex work experience while not entirely in the genre I’m about to discuss nonetheless a great deal of it was.  Facing homelessness, unable to get find a job, I was a soft target for a sadistic pimp.  Granted the average pimp isn’t like the one I had but nonetheless, there he was.  He ran an escort service that provided escorts at high prices to clients that wanted what most escorts wouldn’t do.  I was a paid submissive.  Well sort of paid,,,, criminalization of sex work tends to eliminate labor rights or going to the police, the Attorney General, the State, to have my labor rights enforced, thus the pimp got a huge percentage of the money.  This pimp was good at convincing me to go with him.  He promised a position as an actress.  I would role play.  My “interview” was at the pimp’s “studio” which was a dungeon.  My role.  I was an “actress” playing the part of “willing submissive” to men who hired women that they could hurt.  I wasn’t Elisha Cuthbert in Captivity daring to fight back in the face of torture.  I got the idea very quickly from my “audition” which was a practice session with the various equipment in the “studio” which was nothing more than a dungeon that fighting back wasn’t an option.  Neither was running away, because run to where?   Tell who?  The police?  The police who are the enforcers for the offices of attorney general’s such as Spitzer.  So I played the part.  Paid submissive.  Clients, many wealthy, many powerful, and no I won’t divulge names, paid to enact their fantasies of torture with me as the “willing victim”.  I got the money, well sort of, thus I must have been willing.  Do I oppose consenting BDSM?  No.  But consent is crucial, and the lack of the ability to give or deny consent was a huge problem for me.  The Spitzer’s of the world made none of it easier.

People would and have asked, why didn’t I just run away?  Run where?  If I had family or friends to go to I would have gone.  I didn’t.  Run to the police?  The police view prostitutes as criminals.  Plus the pimp wasn’t stupid.  He knew to exploit the concept that as a prostitute I was the scourge of society, the disgraceful woman, worse, I let men do what most prostitutes wouldn’t.  He made it clear what the likely reaction of the police would have been.  Go to social service agencies?  Most don’t take prostitutes, because prostitutes are considered criminals.  Go to a rape crisis center?  Same answer.  And please, this revelation about my past isn’t a pity party for Jill Brenneman.  That’s not the idea.  Nor what I’m driving at.  I don’t need or want pity.  What I want, need and advocate for is not the Quixote type venture that Spitzer alleged to support in his support for the misguided anti trafficking policies of the Bush Administration and it’s conservative and neo faux sensitive anti trafficking feminist types like Donna Hughes and Janice Raymond.  What I needed then and what sex workers need now are human and labor rights. 

What are those?  A brief excerpt from Sex Workers Outreach Project East Statement on Sex Worker Human Rights,

 
• Decriminalization of all aspects of sex work involving consenting adults.
• The right to form and join professional associations or unions.
• The right to work on the same basis as other independent contractors and employers and to receive the same benefits as other self-employed or contracted workers.
• No taxation without such rights and representation.
• Advocating sex worker rights to be free from coercion, violence, sexual abuse, child labor, rape and racism.
• Legal support for sex workers who want to sue those who exploit their labor.
• The right to travel across national boundaries and obtain work permits wherever we live.
• Clean and safe places to work.
• The right to choose whether to work on our own or co-operatively with other sex workers.
• The absolute right to say no.
• Access to health clinics where we do not feel stigmatized.
• Re-training programs for sex workers who want to leave the industry.
• An end to social attitudes which stigmatize those who are or have been sex workers.
• Working to end child sexual tourism 

Was Eliot Spitzer working toward human, civil and labor rights for sex workers in his campaigns against prostitution or to end human trafficking?  No.  He was working to advance his career.  At the expense of many.  Did he care until he was caught?  No.  Does he care about sex workers now?  I doubt it.  Only in how much they reveal.  Had Eliot Spitzer taken a sex worker rights approach his transgression would have been between himself and his wife and family and how much they knew and accepted with his hiring of sex workers.  Could it still be betrayal of his family if he was open about ending criminalization and advocating sex worker rights?  If he promised monogamy to his wife, then absolutely.  She is yet another victim of Eliot Spitzer as are his daughters.  How much are they and will they suffer for his hypocrisy?  Far more than he will.  He will likely resign his post in lieu of ending criminal charges and end up as some talk show host or on the lecture circuit teaching others how to avoid  the downfall that he suffered.
 

Am I opposed to the sex industry despite the difficulties I faced in a significant duration of my tenure in the sex trade?  No.  Opposing it is absurd.  There will always be a sex industry.  My experiences are my own and are not indicative of those of many if not most sex workers.  My goals come from a statement that I heard that I only wish at 3 AM  I could find the author to give due credit.  Taking away rights won’t stop the wrongs.  Thus I advocate strongly for sex worker rights.  I wonder how much different my life would be today if the above listed rights were commonplace and accepted.  I wonder how much different so many lives would be.  Different in a positive way rather than in jail cells through the actions of false public saviors like Spitzer or even more so, different in a way that meant being alive rather than deceased from serial killers because society cares so little about sex workers, from disease, because hypocritical and misguided legislation as the type that Spitzer advocated such as TVPRA caused. 

13 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting that, Jill. Looks like you have been through a lot, and I admire your dedication to the rights of sex workers.

    I agree- we would all be better off with decriminalization. I wonder how many other scandals are in the making. We know that Spitzer wasn’t the only client of Emperor’s Club VIP (after all, there were 8 before him. lol!). I wonder if the smug republican detractors will have to eat crow when one of their own is found among the clients…

    If this sexual scandal stuff keeps up, do you think they will finally go for decrim? I mean, how many fallen politicians will it take to get them to stop legislating against their fundamental desires??

  2. Jill,

    THANK YOU!

  3. Thank you for posting this Jill. This blog is becoming very public and we’re glad you are okay discussing your past with a new, huge, possibly hostile audience. Hopefully they’ll listen to your reason and not focus on the sex alone.

    XX

  4. Sister, beautifully done.

  5. Jill, excellent post. Your conviction and dedication is admirable.

  6. No worries Amanda, my past is only as valuable as my willingness to name names and want to stick to the issues of sex worker rights. My appeal to the press is limited because damn it, I want to talk about sex worker rights, not about who did what and when.

  7. “I want to talk about sex worker rights, not about who did what and when”

    Exactly. And it’s a right you should have.

    XX

  8. [...] A Former Sex Worker’s Thoughts About Eliot Spitzer, « Bound, Not Gagged “Who gets lost once again? The sex workers. In the frenzy to finger point, to dig up whatever graphic details possible of what kind of sex Spitzer may have had for tabloidesque gossip, the impact of his farce is missed.” (tags: sexwork assholes hypocrisy media msm politics Spitzer law) [...]

  9. [...] A Former Sex Worker’s Thoughts About Eliot Spitzer, [...]

  10. jill b if those things really happened to you why do you spend time trying to get other women in to the life? that’s just hostile. you should be warning women about dungens and pimps but you try to pretend that sex work can be all gussied up and men won’t want to do the horrible things they did to you. or maybe you will be able to go to the departement of prostitutes health and labor issues. that ‘s just bull.

    4 u to have gon thru what you did and then promote sex work is evil

  11. Whou, a few thoughts,

    Who am I trying to get into the life? Where in anything I’ve said does it say that I am recruiting anyone into sex work?

    That I should be warning women about dungeons and pimps. Been there, done that. At times I still do. For me to pour my entire history out on the internet again. Poor methodology. Something many forget to tell survivors that become activists is that there is a very fine line between telling your story for the sake of social change and being re-victimized repeatedly by your own past. Been there, done that too. One voice saying these terrible things happened to me and thus the only answer is to demand abolition is flawed method of macro level social change. It generalizes all sex work into one category, all sex workers into one category, and all events into one category. It doesn’t work that way. Attempting to force an abolitionist methodology based on atomist argument based on my experiences as a submissive eliminates the realities of a huge percentage of sex workers even if there are commonalities in experiences and is non productive.

    Have I said sex work can be all “gussied up”? No. Have I advocated for sex worker rights? Yes. Should sex workers have the same rights that all human beings should have? Absolutely. To deny sex worker rights as a methodology of trying to end the evil things that happen. How does that make sense.

    In reference to your closing remark. Have I promoted sex work or have I advocated for the rights of sex workers? Big difference. If I were out there advocating for kidnapping and coercing women into being tortured in dungeons against there will, especially given my past, that would be evil. If you re-read what I wrote, one of the components which I guess you feel is gussying up sex work is the absolute right to say no and working for sex worker rights to be free from coercion. Thus your attempt to make me evil is contradicted by my own statements.

    However…… If you sleep better at night living in a world where people are quickly defined and categorized as good or evil and I am evil in your view. Well, hang on that view. Share what I said with as many of your friends as possible and have them share it with theirs. Whether I’m viewed as good or evil by the reader isn’t the point of the post.

  12. Great response, Jill.

  13. Whou is the same troll as before. Shrug. I’m sure this is a real email address, whou@whou.com

    Whou’s posts are actually an enormous slap at anyone ever having been in the sex industry. Scroll through the posts and she is capable of correctly spelling four plus syllable words, only to throw an obvious misspell say to instead of too, and the text message esque type lingo to attempt to give the impression of portraying the poorly educated victim of prostitution rallying her allegedly weak grammatical skills against us whom she claims to be porn writers and unlikely candidates to having been sex workers. With the faux statement that we are too intelligent to have been sex workers and are thus part of the huge pro porn propaganda machine.

    Generally I don’t respond to this troll anymore but she left some very good opportunities to make valid points.

    I love the part about “if” I went through what I said. “If” I hadn’t gone through it, I wouldn’t be facing my fourth surgery in two years to fix injuries ultimately that result from it. Not that I can explain to the doctor when he is perplexed as to how I ended up with an unlikely combination of injuries. Or, if I explained the actual way it happened, could I ever expect to get decent painkillers for the surgery. Lesson learned long ago, once you tell a doctor you were a sex worker, they assume you are a drug addict, example from years ago, and no oh creative troll this week named whou,, this is not the sex work related injury, thus ultram for the gall bladder removal rather than something appropriate for post op gall bladder removal, since ultram is about one notch above advil and happens to be non-narcotic.

    However, as whou mentioned, I am evil for wanting to gussy up sex work by say asking for ummm,,,, •” Access to health clinics where we do not feel stigmatized”.

    Perhaps Jeff Lynne was singing about me when he wrote the lyrics to “Evil Woman”

    Whou’s heroine Farley is doing so much for sex workers, any chance she can get Farley to pay me for lost time from work in between surgery last month and surgery next month and the recovery periods? Oh wait, last time I saw Farley back in 2001 was at a restaurant in Chicago and she asked all of us at the table including me if she could borrow $200, so I guess that option is out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 815 other followers

%d bloggers like this: