Randall Tobias: Of Pledges and Prostitutes

from remarks introducing Taking the Pledge at the UC Berkeley Labor Center, May 3rd, 2007

As a sex worker rights activist, based primarily in the US, one of my biggest frustrations is that the rhetoric of anti-prostitution activists mobilizing against trafficking attempts to draw a connection between the sex industry in the US and what they call “sex trafficking” or “commercial sexual exploitation” globally.

What’s very challenging as a US-based advocate is to get a solid, evidence-based view of how the sex industry operates in the places that anti-prostitution activists focus on: the global south, the former Soviet republics, and especially, Southeast Asia.

In March of 2006, I had the honor of representing the Desiree Alliance’s US network at the Sexual Health and Rights Project’s annual meeting, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The meeting brought together members of the international sex workers’ rights movements to strategize a global agenda for sex worker’s human rights. You will see, in Taking the Pledge, members of many these groups and workers and allies who were present.

We were privileged to meet members of Cambodia’s sex worker rights organizations, the Women’s Network for Unity and Womyn’s Agenda for Change, two groups that organize sex workers & advocate for their health & safety, civil and labor rights. These are two of many sex worker organizations who have had their HIV prevention and human rights work significantly curbed or halted by the anti-prostitution policies set by the US government as part of their own strategies – non-strategies, really – to combat HIV and human trafficking – as if a better solution to preventing AIDS and forced labor is to jail someone, not to educate them about their health and rights.

Now here is a place where the sex industry in the US, the sex industry in the developing world, and the anti-prostitution movement do connect, and it’s a story that you already know, if you’ve been following the news this week: at least, a small part of this story is hitting the press.

Deborah Jean Palfrey is the former proprietor of an adult fantasy and escort service, who, in October of last year, woke up to find her bank accounts frozen. She quickly learned that she was under Federal investigation alleging that her money had been made illegally through running a prostitution business. Now on the eve of her trial, as part of making a case in her defense, she is releasing forty sevens pounds of cell phone records from her business to the media, and this week, making them available one page at a time on her website. Now the media is consumed with extrapolating names from these telephone numbers. So far, only one man named as a customer has confirmed that he did, in fact, use Ms. Palfrey’s escort service, and this is a name that no one in this room should forget: Randall Tobias.

Randall Tobias was the Bush appointed administrator of the United States Agency of International Development, or USAID. He has been called the Bush administration’s “AIDS Czar,” and, until his unexpected resignation last Friday, was responsible for holding NGO’s and CBO’s to what we in the sex worker rights movement call “the pledge,” a signed loyalty oath stating that their organization opposes prostitution. As of 2003, under Tobias, organizations around the globe – with histories stretching to the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, who, through peer education, direct services, community education and organizing have a proven record of increasing the health and welfare of sex workers – were now condemned for doing anything that the US believes to be “promoting” prostitution.

Drop-in centers in Bangladesh serving some of the country’s the most vulnerable and impoverished women and children were shutdown because they accepted sex workers into their programs. English language education programs in Thailand were defunded because they taught sex workers. Condoms for sex workers in East Africa became so hard to come by that sex workers would wash and reuse them out of desperation. In Brazil, in resistance, $40 million of USAID funds were returned to the US on the grounds that excluding sex workers from their work was a public health and human rights failure too great to risk any money over.

If the “pledge” were, as the Bush administration and its supporters in the anti-prostitution movement contend, an effective strategy to end violence and human rights violations against vulnerable workers, then why are its only measurable effects the closing of social service programs that better the health and welfare of sex workers, and the increased kidnapping and incarceration of sex workers “for their own good”?

When you watch this video, I want you to reflect on the fact that the government agency, the very man himself responsible for enforcing this “pledge” is himself a client of sex workers. Tobias does not deny that he’s used Ms. Palfrey’s services – in fact, he’s bragged to ABC news how easy it was to invite “gals over to the condo for massages.” We, in this room… well, those of us who can or do who pay taxes… pay his salary, with which he hires sex workers for his own pleasure and robs other sex workers of their human rights to education, health, and safety. But Randall Tobias isn’t to be condemned for his desire for erotic companionship – rather, for his utter hypocrisy and his agency’s direct role in violating the human rights of the very people it claims to serve.

We in the US – sex worker rights advocates and our networks of supporters – all have a role to play in ensuring the wellbeing of sex workers around the world, and holding policies like those of USAID and its most celebrated now-former administrator accountable – are one of the most sound steps we can take, as our actions against these polices are, unlike the policies themselves, based in evidence of these programs failures, the hypocrisy of their administrators, and the requests of sex workers themselves around the world to take a stand in their name, for our collective good.

Now, Taking the Pledge.

– Melissa Gira

9 Responses

  1. “We in the US – sex worker rights advocates and our networks of supporters – all have a role to play in ensuring the wellbeing of sex workers around the world,”

    I can only assume you are kidding. Sex work is slavery my friend. People are being bought and sold and used. Trying to legitimize the fact that poor women have to have a dozen strangers’ penises down their thoat to survive for another day is not a legitimate moral position.

    The way to end the abuse is to end the prostitution.

    Yeah, Tobias is a creep and a hypocrite. Yes, abstinence has no place in any public policy. But don’t try to tie that all up in some pro-prostitution, “sex work” nonsense.

    Prostitution hurts people. Period.

  2. I have never heard a reasonable, realistic plan to end prostitution. Most are woven of such fantasy stuff that honestly, I feel like I ought to be getting paid $2.99/minute to listen to them.

    Taking away prostitutes’ rights to health care because they are prostitutes hurts people. Turning needy prostitutes away from access to food, clothing, and shelter because they are prostitutes hurts people. Jailing people for prostitution hurts people. How are these actions morally defensible, either?

  3. Hypocrisy exposed! Leader of Bush Administration agency that condemns
    prostitution caught in prostitution scandal

    by Carol Leigh and Robyn Few
    May 1, 2007

    The whore blogs and sex worker email lists are abuzz with latest Republican scandal. Escorts and masseuses banter smugly, debating the ethics of outing clients as a decriminalization strategy.

    According to the ‘Brian Ross and Justin Rood Report’ on abc.com, “Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.”

    Tobias, 65, was director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), overseeing global AIDS funding to other countries. Tobias was responsible for enforcing a U.S. policy, enacted during the Bush administration,that requires recipients to swear they oppose prostitution and sex trafficking.

    This policy, according to journalist Jodi Jacobson, “has led to the closure of drop-in centers, classes, and health clinics serving the needs of sex workers in several countries in Asia, and has turned health professionals into snitches for the Administration ”

    “The extreme hypocrisy of Tobias’ promotion of an agenda to stop prostitution is obvious. Tobias, is an actual ‘trick’ who ‘robs’ programs of money to fight HIV on the grounds that they don’t oppose prostitution, all-the-while indulging in these private services in Washington,” writes San Francisco sex worker, Scarlot Harlot.

    “Of course zealous efforts to stop commercial sex through punitive policies and criminalization have historically been championed by manipulative politicians-who have also been guilty clients, and religious and ideological fundamentalists,” claims Scarlot. “Historically, these bouts of moralism regarding prostitution usually end in scandal.”

    As Deborah Palfrey’s list is revealed and the hypocrisies of the Republican administration’s moralism unravel, the sex workers debate Palfrey’s strategy and wonder if this scandal might effect their legal status.

    “I’ve always thought that at least when the clients are holier than thou fundamentalists, law and order gung ho politicians, etc., then when the provider gets arrested, all bets are off. If more of those hypocrites were exposed, perhaps the laws would change,” says long time COYOTE activist, Priscilla Alexander.

    Although many are gleeful, there is debate amongst the hookers. Some express concern over their security, explaining, “there is a presumption of privacy and discretion and our relationships with clients and security depends on this trust and our ability to screen them.”

    “Does it break some sacred spy compact, then, to go public with one’s client records?” asks Melissa Gira of sexerati.com. “Are sex workers a sexual clergy, oathbound to a client’s secrets, or really, are sex workers more akin to double agents, whose allegiance, at the end of the day, is to their own cause and those who would support them?”

    Air America host Rachel Maddow pointed out that sex workers are, once again, the victims. “This besmirches honorable sex workers who wind up getting involved with these creeps,” says Maddow.

    Sex workers are in fact the victims in Palfrey’s case, but not because of the politics of the clients, as former exotic dancer and member of Desiree Alliance, Simone Coles, points out.

    Part of Palfrey’s contract signed by the escorts stated that they would not engage in prostitution. If any one is forced to testify, and forced to admit to engaging in prostitution under threat of perjury, Palfrey is apparently suing them in civil court for breach of contract.

    “This brings to light a problem that is common practice in the adult entertainment industry in strip clubs across the country,” writes Simone. “Prostitution prohibition creates an impetus for managers to coerce them to sign contracts that misrepresent the real nature of the work, denying employee status, and now, leaving them vulnerable to lawsuits. The real crime against sex workers are the criminal prohibitions that set the stage for employers to force them into coercive contracts that can later be used to pit madam against escort in criminal investigations.”

    “These prohibitionist policies breed all sorts of corruption, demanding abstinence of the lawmakers and enforcers. Reports of police and politicians using the services of sex workers are frequent fodder for juicy news,” adds Robyn Few, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) Founder.

    The first name was revealed by Palfrey in a ‘Pro Se Motion for Reconsideration of Appointment of Counsel’ dated April 11, 2007 in which she argued that she required funds to hire an ‘experienced and fearless’ attorney with a team of investigators’ as her list of defendants will include dozens of officials who will be required to testify. As an example she names neo-con propagandist, and military strategist Harlan K. Ullman, creator of the “shock and awe” combat theory as a regular customer.

    Tobias is the second prominent man to be identified as a customer of the Palfrey’s “sexual fantasy service.’ He is yet another ‘well qualified’ Bush appointee who came to this job with a resume including a stint as CEO of drug manufacturer Eli Lilly Co. Along with his wife, Marianne, Tobias donated over $100,000 to Republican candidates and political committees, according to the campaign finance Web site OpenSecrets.org.

    “This is just the tip of the…,” writes Scarlot Harlot. “Not that I blame Tobias for receiving a ‘massage’. ”

    According to Ross and Rood, Tobias said he contacted the escort service “to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage” and that there had been “no sex” involved.

    “No sex? That means he probably got a hand job or a blowjob in US speak. As far as I know that’s still considered prostitution no matter what your definition of is is. Anyway, I hope he used a condom in his condo.”

    As the Bush administration’s so-called “AIDS czar,” Tobias was criticized by some for emphasizing faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS.

    ThinkProgress.org points out the central hypocrisy to this revelation, that Tobias “oversaw a controversial policy advocated by the religious right that required any US-based group receiving anti-AIDS funds to take an anti-prostitution ‘loyalty oath.’ ”

    Hypocrites and Moralists: The History of the USAID Gag Order

    Dictating a moral agenda by manipulating policies of other nations through allocation of funding of health programs began in this administration as Bush instituted gag orders around discussion of abortions by withholding funding to women’s health programs. The next target was a gag order/loyalty oath condemning prostitution.

    Think Progress reports that “Aid groups bitterly opposed the policy, charging that it ‘was so broad – and applied even to their private funds – that it would obstruct their outreach to sex workers who are at high risk of transmitting the AIDS virus.’ But President Bush wouldn’t budge. He signed a 2003 National Security Presidential Directive saying prostitution” and related activities” were ‘inherently harmful and dehumanizing.’

    In fact, the policy was not advocated solely by the religious right. This policy was promoted by a coalition of Bushies, ‘fundamentalist’ feminists, neo-cons and right-wing religious fundamentalists. It was also tacitly supported by Democrats who have been silent in the wake of the repercussions.

    Internationally, progressives have rallied against this policy. In 2005
    200 AIDS and human rights groups around the world submitted a petition of protest. Lawsuits were filed on behalf of Open Society International (OSI) and DKT International to challenge the gag order/loyalty oath. The anti-sex zealots, Bushies, right wingers and fundamentalist feminists stood strong as Amicus briefs were filed by San Francisco anti-prostitution advocates Melissa Farley and Norma Hotaling.

    In May of 2006 the court permanently enjoined USAID from enforcing the prostitution policy against DKT, holding U.S. policy requiring overseas HIV/AIDS groups to condemn commercial sex work violates free speech.

    In March 2007 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed DKT International case with little media attention. If the Alliance for Open Society International (OSI) is not reversed, this would split the two circuits and could lead to a Supreme Court review.

    Manipulating foreign countries to adopt these prohibitions through funding policies is just another example of the tactics of US imperialism.

    “It sounds like our lawmakers and enforcers get pulled by discreet escorts while pulling the plug on poor women around the world for their ideologies and AIDS prevention strategies,” writes Scarlot.

    According to Ross and Rood, Tobias also admitted that “…recently he had been using another service “with Central Americans” to provide massages.”
    In fact in 2005 their neighbors in Brazil resisted US imperials and turned down $40 million in funding for HIV prevention.

    “Why did Tobias start talking about employing ‘Central Americans? Nobody asked him. He must have a very guilty conscience. According to the new US Trafficking Victims Protection Act, ALL commercial sex is trafficking! So Tobias is involved in a sex trafficking ring which is also par for the course in these cases,” notes Scarlot.

    According to the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP.ORG), other programs that have been effected include: “…a class that taught English to sex workers in Thailand that lost funding as a result of this policy” and “In Bangladesh, 16 drop-in centers lost funding when the agency that supported them signed the Pledge the sex workers affected by this describe it as having lost their home, their family, and their sense of community and safety…”

    A new video, produced by NSWP, Taking The Pledge (available on the web) demonstrates the Tobias has done to ‘escorts’ around the world while enjoying their services in Washington. See http://sexworkerspresent.blip.tv/file/181155/

    Some sex worker organizations have been drumming up support for another Kiss and Tell Campaign like The National Task Force on Prostitution launched in the 1979. “When will sex workers have their human rights — when every esteemed American is outed as a client? Prostitutes may be for rent, but they are not for sale.”

    Sources
    http://www.deborahjeanepalfrey.com
    http://www.bayswan.org/gagorder/mainpage_gag.html
    http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/senior_official.html
    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/04/28/tobias-prostitution/
    http://www.seattleweekly.com/2004-08-25/news/the-new-abolitionists.php
    http://www.sexerati.com/2007/05/02/johns-gone-wild-a-full-unrushed-months-phone-records-with-complete-release/
    http://www.unrepentantwhore.com
    http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hcescorts.artmay02,0,4098017.story?page=1&coll=hc-headlines-politics-state

  4. Hypocrisy exposed! Leader of Bush Administration agency that condemns
    prostitution caught in prostitution scandal

    by Carol Leigh and Robyn Few
    carol@bayswan.org
    415-751-1659
    May 1, 2007

    The whore blogs and sex worker email lists are abuzz with latest Republican scandal. Escorts and masseuses banter smugly, debating the ethics of outing clients as a decriminalization strategy.

    According to the ‘Brian Ross and Justin Rood Report’ on abc.com, “Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.”

    Tobias, 65, was director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), overseeing global AIDS funding to other countries. Tobias was responsible for enforcing a U.S. policy, enacted during the Bush administration,that requires recipients to swear they oppose prostitution and sex trafficking.

    This policy, according to journalist Jodi Jacobson, “has led to the closure of drop-in centers, classes, and health clinics serving the needs of sex workers in several countries in Asia, and has turned health professionals into snitches for the Administration ”

    “The extreme hypocrisy of Tobias’ promotion of an agenda to stop prostitution is obvious. Tobias, is an actual ‘trick’ who ‘robs’ programs of money to fight HIV on the grounds that they don’t oppose prostitution, all-the-while indulging in these private services in Washington,” writes San Francisco sex worker, Scarlot Harlot.

    “Of course zealous efforts to stop commercial sex through punitive policies and criminalization have historically been championed by manipulative politicians-who have also been guilty clients, and religious and ideological fundamentalists,” claims Scarlot. “Historically, these bouts of moralism regarding prostitution usually end in scandal.”

    As Deborah Palfrey’s list is revealed and the hypocrisies of the Republican administration’s moralism unravel, the sex workers debate Palfrey’s strategy and wonder if this scandal might effect their legal status.

    “I’ve always thought that at least when the clients are holier than thou fundamentalists, law and order gung ho politicians, etc., then when the provider gets arrested, all bets are off. If more of those hypocrites were exposed, perhaps the laws would change,” says long time COYOTE activist, Priscilla Alexander.

    Although many are gleeful, there is debate amongst the hookers. Some express concern over their security, explaining, “there is a presumption of privacy and discretion and our relationships with clients and security depends on this trust and our ability to screen them.”

    “Does it break some sacred spy compact, then, to go public with one’s client records?” asks Melissa Gira of sexerati.com. “Are sex workers a sexual clergy, oathbound to a client’s secrets, or really, are sex workers more akin to double agents, whose allegiance, at the end of the day, is to their own cause and those who would support them?”

    Air America host Rachel Maddow pointed out that sex workers are, once again, the victims. “This besmirches honorable sex workers who wind up getting involved with these creeps,” says Maddow.

    Sex workers are in fact the victims in Palfrey’s case, but not because of the politics of the clients, as former exotic dancer and member of Desiree Alliance, Simone Coles, points out.

    Part of Palfrey’s contract signed by the escorts stated that they would not engage in prostitution. If any one is forced to testify, and forced to admit to engaging in prostitution under threat of perjury, Palfrey is apparently suing them in civil court for breach of contract.

    “This brings to light a problem that is common practice in the adult entertainment industry in strip clubs across the country,” writes Simone. “Prostitution prohibition creates an impetus for managers to coerce them to sign contracts that misrepresent the real nature of the work, denying employee status, and now, leaving them vulnerable to lawsuits. The real crime against sex workers are the criminal prohibitions that set the stage for employers to force them into coercive contracts that can later be used to pit madam against escort in criminal investigations.”

    “These prohibitionist policies breed all sorts of corruption, demanding abstinence of the lawmakers and enforcers. Reports of police and politicians using the services of sex workers are frequent fodder for juicy news,” adds Robyn Few, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) Founder.

    The first name was revealed by Palfrey in a ‘Pro Se Motion for Reconsideration of Appointment of Counsel’ dated April 11, 2007 in which she argued that she required funds to hire an ‘experienced and fearless’ attorney with a team of investigators’ as her list of defendants will include dozens of officials who will be required to testify. As an example she names neo-con propagandist, and military strategist Harlan K. Ullman, creator of the “shock and awe” combat theory as a regular customer.

    Tobias is the second prominent man to be identified as a customer of the Palfrey’s “sexual fantasy service.’ He is yet another ‘well qualified’ Bush appointee who came to this job with a resume including a stint as CEO of drug manufacturer Eli Lilly Co. Along with his wife, Marianne, Tobias donated over $100,000 to Republican candidates and political committees, according to the campaign finance Web site OpenSecrets.org.

    “This is just the tip of the…,” writes Scarlot Harlot. “Not that I blame Tobias for receiving a ‘massage’. ”

    According to Ross and Rood, Tobias said he contacted the escort service “to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage” and that there had been “no sex” involved.

    “No sex? That means he probably got a hand job or a blowjob in US speak. As far as I know that’s still considered prostitution no matter what your definition of is is. Anyway, I hope he used a condom in his condo.”

    As the Bush administration’s so-called “AIDS czar,” Tobias was criticized by some for emphasizing faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS.

    ThinkProgress.org points out the central hypocrisy to this revelation, that Tobias “oversaw a controversial policy advocated by the religious right that required any US-based group receiving anti-AIDS funds to take an anti-prostitution ‘loyalty oath.’ ”

    Hypocrites and Moralists: The History of the USAID Gag Order

    Dictating a moral agenda by manipulating policies of other nations through allocation of funding of health programs began in this administration as Bush instituted gag orders around discussion of abortions by withholding funding to women’s health programs. The next target was a gag order/loyalty oath condemning prostitution.

    Think Progress reports that “Aid groups bitterly opposed the policy, charging that it ‘was so broad – and applied even to their private funds – that it would obstruct their outreach to sex workers who are at high risk of transmitting the AIDS virus.’ But President Bush wouldn’t budge. He signed a 2003 National Security Presidential Directive saying prostitution” and related activities” were ‘inherently harmful and dehumanizing.’

    In fact, the policy was not advocated solely by the religious right. This policy was promoted by a coalition of Bushies, ‘fundamentalist’ feminists, neo-cons and right-wing religious fundamentalists. It was also tacitly supported by Democrats who have been silent in the wake of the repercussions.

    Internationally, progressives have rallied against this policy. In 2005
    200 AIDS and human rights groups around the world submitted a petition of protest. Lawsuits were filed on behalf of Open Society International (OSI) and DKT International to challenge the gag order/loyalty oath. The anti-sex zealots, Bushies, right wingers and fundamentalist feminists stood strong as Amicus briefs were filed by San Francisco anti-prostitution advocates Melissa Farley and Norma Hotaling.

    In May of 2006 the court permanently enjoined USAID from enforcing the prostitution policy against DKT, holding U.S. policy requiring overseas HIV/AIDS groups to condemn commercial sex work violates free speech.

    In March 2007 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed DKT International case with little media attention. If the Alliance for Open Society International (OSI) is not reversed, this would split the two circuits and could lead to a Supreme Court review.

    Manipulating foreign countries to adopt these prohibitions through funding policies is just another example of the tactics of US imperialism.

    “It sounds like our lawmakers and enforcers get pulled by discreet escorts while pulling the plug on poor women around the world for their ideologies and AIDS prevention strategies,” writes Scarlot.

    According to Ross and Rood, Tobias also admitted that “…recently he had been using another service “with Central Americans” to provide massages.”
    In fact in 2005 their neighbors in Brazil resisted US imperials and turned down $40 million in funding for HIV prevention.

    “Why did Tobias start talking about employing ‘Central Americans? Nobody asked him. He must have a very guilty conscience. According to the new US Trafficking Victims Protection Act, ALL commercial sex is trafficking! So Tobias is involved in a sex trafficking ring which is also par for the course in these cases,” notes Scarlot.

    According to the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP.ORG), other programs that have been effected include: “…a class that taught English to sex workers in Thailand that lost funding as a result of this policy” and “In Bangladesh, 16 drop-in centers lost funding when the agency that supported them signed the Pledge the sex workers affected by this describe it as having lost their home, their family, and their sense of community and safety…”

    A new video, produced by NSWP, Taking The Pledge (available on the web) demonstrates the Tobias has done to ‘escorts’ around the world while enjoying their services in Washington. See http://sexworkerspresent.blip.tv/file/181155/

    Some sex worker organizations have been drumming up support for another Kiss and Tell Campaign like The National Task Force on Prostitution launched in the 1979. “When will sex workers have their human rights — when every esteemed American is outed as a client? Prostitutes may be for rent, but they are not for sale.”

    Sources
    http://www.deborahjeanepalfrey.com
    http://www.bayswan.org/gagorder/mainpage_gag.html
    http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/senior_official.html
    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/04/28/tobias-prostitution/
    http://www.seattleweekly.com/2004-08-25/news/the-new-abolitionists.php
    http://www.sexerati.com/2007/05/02/johns-gone-wild-a-full-unrushed-months-phone-records-with-complete-release/
    http://www.unrepentantwhore.com
    http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hcescorts.artmay02,0,4098017.story?page=1&coll=hc-headlines-politics-state

  5. This is a great picture from 1979 that goes with my story.

  6. Hypocrisy exposed! Leader of Bush Administration agency that condemns
    prostitution caught in prostitution scandal

    by Carol Leigh and Robyn Few
    carol@bayswan.org
    415-751-1659
    May 1, 2007

    The whore blogs and sex worker email lists are abuzz with latest Republican scandal. Escorts and masseuses banter smugly, debating the ethics of outing clients as a decriminalization strategy.

    According to the ‘Brian Ross and Justin Rood Report’ on abc.com, “Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.”

    Tobias, 65, was director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), overseeing global AIDS funding to other countries. Tobias was responsible for enforcing a U.S. policy, enacted during the Bush administration,that requires recipients to swear they oppose prostitution and sex trafficking.

    This policy, according to journalist Jodi Jacobson, “has led to the closure of drop-in centers, classes, and health clinics serving the needs of sex workers in several countries in Asia, and has turned health professionals into snitches for the Administration ”

    “The extreme hypocrisy of Tobias’ promotion of an agenda to stop prostitution is obvious. Tobias, is an actual ‘trick’ who ‘robs’ programs of money to fight HIV on the grounds that they don’t oppose prostitution, all-the-while indulging in these private services in Washington,” writes San Francisco sex worker, Scarlot Harlot.

    “Of course zealous efforts to stop commercial sex through punitive policies and criminalization have historically been championed by manipulative politicians-who have also been guilty clients, and religious and ideological fundamentalists,” claims Scarlot. “Historically, these bouts of moralism regarding prostitution usually end in scandal.”

    As Deborah Palfrey’s list is revealed and the hypocrisies of the Republican administration’s moralism unravel, the sex workers debate Palfrey’s strategy and wonder if this scandal might effect their legal status.

    “I’ve always thought that at least when the clients are holier than thou fundamentalists, law and order gung ho politicians, etc., then when the provider gets arrested, all bets are off. If more of those hypocrites were exposed, perhaps the laws would change,” says long time COYOTE activist, Priscilla Alexander.

    Although many are gleeful, there is debate amongst the hookers. Some express concern over their security, explaining, “there is a presumption of privacy and discretion and our relationships with clients and security depends on this trust and our ability to screen them.”

    “Does it break some sacred spy compact, then, to go public with one’s client records?” asks Melissa Gira of sexerati.com. “Are sex workers a sexual clergy, oathbound to a client’s secrets, or really, are sex workers more akin to double agents, whose allegiance, at the end of the day, is to their own cause and those who would support them?”

    Air America host Rachel Maddow pointed out that sex workers are, once again, the victims. “This besmirches honorable sex workers who wind up getting involved with these creeps,” says Maddow.

    Sex workers are in fact the victims in Palfrey’s case, but not because of the politics of the clients, as former exotic dancer and member of Desiree Alliance, Simone Coles, points out.

    Part of Palfrey’s contract signed by the escorts stated that they would not engage in prostitution. If any one is forced to testify, and forced to admit to engaging in prostitution under threat of perjury, Palfrey is apparently suing them in civil court for breach of contract.

    “This brings to light a problem that is common practice in the adult entertainment industry in strip clubs across the country,” writes Simone. “Prostitution prohibition creates an impetus for managers to coerce them to sign contracts that misrepresent the real nature of the work, denying employee status, and now, leaving them vulnerable to lawsuits. The real crime against sex workers are the criminal prohibitions that set the stage for employers to force them into coercive contracts that can later be used to pit madam against escort in criminal investigations.”

    “These prohibitionist policies breed all sorts of corruption, demanding abstinence of the lawmakers and enforcers. Reports of police and politicians using the services of sex workers are frequent fodder for juicy news,” adds Robyn Few, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) Founder.

    The first name was revealed by Palfrey in a ‘Pro Se Motion for Reconsideration of Appointment of Counsel’ dated April 11, 2007 in which she argued that she required funds to hire an ‘experienced and fearless’ attorney with a team of investigators’ as her list of defendants will include dozens of officials who will be required to testify. As an example she names neo-con propagandist, and military strategist Harlan K. Ullman, creator of the “shock and awe” combat theory as a regular customer.

    Tobias is the second prominent man to be identified as a customer of the Palfrey’s “sexual fantasy service.’ He is yet another ‘well qualified’ Bush appointee who came to this job with a resume including a stint as CEO of drug manufacturer Eli Lilly Co. Along with his wife, Marianne, Tobias donated over $100,000 to Republican candidates and political committees, according to the campaign finance Web site OpenSecrets.org.

    “This is just the tip of the…,” writes Scarlot Harlot. “Not that I blame Tobias for receiving a ‘massage’. ”

    According to Ross and Rood, Tobias said he contacted the escort service “to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage” and that there had been “no sex” involved.

    “No sex? That means he probably got a hand job or a blowjob in US speak. As far as I know that’s still considered prostitution no matter what your definition of is is. Anyway, I hope he used a condom in his condo.”

    As the Bush administration’s so-called “AIDS czar,” Tobias was criticized by some for emphasizing faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS.

    ThinkProgress.org points out the central hypocrisy to this revelation, that Tobias “oversaw a controversial policy advocated by the religious right that required any US-based group receiving anti-AIDS funds to take an anti-prostitution ‘loyalty oath.’ ”

    Hypocrites and Moralists: The History of the USAID Gag Order

    Dictating a moral agenda by manipulating policies of other nations through allocation of funding of health programs began in this administration as Bush instituted gag orders around discussion of abortions by withholding funding to women’s health programs. The next target was a gag order/loyalty oath condemning prostitution.

    Think Progress reports that “Aid groups bitterly opposed the policy, charging that it ‘was so broad – and applied even to their private funds – that it would obstruct their outreach to sex workers who are at high risk of transmitting the AIDS virus.’ But President Bush wouldn’t budge. He signed a 2003 National Security Presidential Directive saying prostitution” and related activities” were ‘inherently harmful and dehumanizing.’

    In fact, the policy was not advocated solely by the religious right. This policy was promoted by a coalition of Bushies, ‘fundamentalist’ feminists, neo-cons and right-wing religious fundamentalists. It was also tacitly supported by Democrats who have been silent in the wake of the repercussions.

    Internationally, progressives have rallied against this policy. In 2005
    200 AIDS and human rights groups around the world submitted a petition of protest. Lawsuits were filed on behalf of Open Society International (OSI) and DKT International to challenge the gag order/loyalty oath. The anti-sex zealots, Bushies, right wingers and fundamentalist feminists stood strong as Amicus briefs were filed by San Francisco anti-prostitution advocates Melissa Farley and Norma Hotaling.

    In May of 2006 the court permanently enjoined USAID from enforcing the prostitution policy against DKT, holding U.S. policy requiring overseas HIV/AIDS groups to condemn commercial sex work violates free speech.

    In March 2007 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed DKT International case with little media attention. If the Alliance for Open Society International (OSI) is not reversed, this would split the two circuits and could lead to a Supreme Court review.

    Manipulating foreign countries to adopt these prohibitions through funding policies is just another example of the tactics of US imperialism.

    “It sounds like our lawmakers and enforcers get pulled by discreet escorts while pulling the plug on poor women around the world for their ideologies and AIDS prevention strategies,” writes Scarlot.

    According to Ross and Rood, Tobias also admitted that “…recently he had been using another service “with Central Americans” to provide massages.”
    In fact in 2005 their neighbors in Brazil resisted US imperials and turned down $40 million in funding for HIV prevention.

    “Why did Tobias start talking about employing ‘Central Americans? Nobody asked him. He must have a very guilty conscience. According to the new US Trafficking Victims Protection Act, ALL commercial sex is trafficking! So Tobias is involved in a sex trafficking ring which is also par for the course in these cases,” notes Scarlot.

    According to the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP.ORG), other programs that have been effected include: “…a class that taught English to sex workers in Thailand that lost funding as a result of this policy” and “In Bangladesh, 16 drop-in centers lost funding when the agency that supported them signed the Pledge the sex workers affected by this describe it as having lost their home, their family, and their sense of community and safety…”

    A new video, produced by NSWP, Taking The Pledge (available on the web) demonstrates the Tobias has done to ‘escorts’ around the world while enjoying their services in Washington. See http://sexworkerspresent.blip.tv/file/181155/

    Some sex worker organizations have been drumming up support for another Kiss and Tell Campaign like The National Task Force on Prostitution launched in the 1979. “When will sex workers have their human rights — when every esteemed American is outed as a client? Prostitutes may be for rent, but they are not for sale.”

    Sources
    http://www.deborahjeanepalfrey.com
    http://www.bayswan.org/gagorder/mainpage_gag.html
    http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/senior_official.html
    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/04/28/tobias-prostitution/
    http://www.seattleweekly.com/2004-08-25/news/the-new-abolitionists.php
    http://www.sexerati.com/2007/05/02/johns-gone-wild-a-full-unrushed-months-phone-records-with-complete-release/
    http://www.unrepentantwhore.com
    http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hcescorts.artmay02,0,4098017.story?page=1&coll=hc-headlines-politics-state

  7. The problem with U.S. foreign policy, and the debate about sex work domestically, is that neither is based in reality. We effectively construct alternate realities and then create policy based on misperceptions and lies. This dysfunction, unfortunately, results in the death of many women, both in the U.S. and abroad.

    Not only do we suppress any meaningful dialog about sex in the U.S. by applying puritanical (and highly unrealistic) standards for society, we also ignore the plight of sex workers by implicitly holding them accountable for “breaking the rules” of moral purity. Never mind that the antagonist, invariably the patriarch, gets to decide what defines acceptable behavior.

    We really want to believe that we can end prostitution by “teaching” abstinence in the global south or, more insidiously, by revoking funding from programs that are providing health care to vulnerable women. It is inexcusable to design policies that punish people most at risk, rather than to accept the reality that certain sexual behavior exists and to make decisions based on scientific evidence (i.e. condoms save lives).

    Sex workers come to the trade for many different reasons. Rather than make assumptions about one’s motivations and do nothing to address a clear public health and human rights issue, we should desperately be searching for ways to offer protection from violence and exploitation.

    If the “scandal” around Tobias and his hypocrisy is to have any positive and lasting impact, it will be to open up the dialog in the U.S. about sex and how we exert our puritanical ideals on not only ourselves, but also people in other countries. Through honest and open dialog, we can create policies that better take into consideration the harsh realities of the HIV pandemic and the oppression of women.

    It’s about time.

  8. That was pretty neatly written. Its such a mess when relating to Bangladesh, isnt it ? Check out what I found out about Bangladesh Government Sites!.

  9. […] people learned of the hypocrisy with which such policies are implemented and of the exposure of Randall Tobias, former Deputy Secretary of State who said that “it was just like ordering pizza” when he’d […]

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