Should Police Ignore High-End Prostitution?

Stacey Swimme quoted in:

Should Police Ignore High-End Prostitution?

May 07, 2007 3:00 PM

Justin Rood Reports:

Should_police_i_mn As the D.C. Madam scandal continues to unfold, some are calling for an end to prosecutions of discreet, higher-end prostitution operations — the very kind alleged by federal prosecutors in the case of Deborah Jeane Palfrey.

“We should have nonenforcement against ‘indoor’ prostitution,” said Ron Weitzer, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and an expert on criminology and the sex industry. Weitzer defined the term “indoor” prostitution as including escort services, “massage parlors” and independent operators, as long as the women involved are not victims of human trafficking.

Palfrey maintains she did not run a prostitution ring but a legal “sexual fantasy service,” in which she charged $300 for women to spend 90 minutes with male clients, to whom they provided “sexual and erotic services across the spectrum of adult sexual behavior” but which did not include oral sex or intercourse.

In Weitzer’s view, such operators work in hotel rooms, private homes or on the premises of their own business and do not generate the community issues that arise from prostitutes who walk streets looking for business. And the women, he says, are much less likely to be victims of violence or exploitation.

Weitzer acknowledges his is “not the most popular” view, although he believes it has been quietly embraced by law enforcement officials around the United States. According to Weitzer, some police departments currently prosecute prostitutes and johns involved in street prostitution but ignore discreet “indoor” services despite laws banning their operation.  But Weitzer said the departments will not publicize their policies, fearing it might attract more of such businesses as well as spark a public outcry.

Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.

Other experts disagree with Weitzer. Melissa Farley of the anti-prostitution group Prostitution Research & Education believes that men caught soliciting prostitutes should be subject to harsher penalties, and that prostitution itself should be a felony offense. 

“Prostitution is not a victimless crime,” Farley told ABC News.  Even discreet “professional” outfits are dangerous and harmful to the women who they employ, according to her.

“Escort prostitution is really cell phone prostitution…if prostitution takes place in an expensive hotel or an expensive home, people think it is vastly different from prostitution that takes place in the back seat of a car. In fact, for the person who’s in prostitution, it’s pretty much the same,” she said.

Farley said that regardless of venue, prostitutes are subject to psychological exploitation, sexual harassment, verbal abuse and the possibility of rape and extreme violence.

Others say Weitzer’s proposal doesn’t go far enough. “The act of exchanging sex for money, that should not be illegal,” said Stacey Swimme of the California-based Sex Workers’ Outreach Project, which advocates for the legalization of prostitution.

Other laws, including those against pedophilia and human trafficking, can protect women, children and the public, Swimme argues, without making prostitution itself a crime.

Once prostitution is legalized, her group reasons, sex workers can finally obtain the occupational health and safety rights that other employees have.

Statistics show, that regardless of current laws and enforcement policies, buying sex is still popular: nearly 13 percent of American men say they have exchanged money for sex at some point in their adult lives, according to a 2004 survey.  By comparison, 1.2 percent of women answered yes to the question, according to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, which conducted the study.

Dana Hughes contributed to this report.

10 Responses

  1. On this Farley quote: “Escort prostitution is really cell phone prostitution…if prostitution takes place in an expensive hotel or an expensive home, people think it is vastly different from prostitution that takes place in the back seat of a car. In fact, for the person who’s in prostitution, it’s pretty much the same,” how does she know? Really? What is her basis for this statement? Who has done research on the occupational experiences of “cell phone prostitutes”? I’d love to see it. Hell, I’d love to do that research.

  2. My thoughts exactly. Does she have experience as both types of worker? Who is she to say, anyway?

  3. I just noticed that an entire comment I posted on the article earlier has been removed. Interesting.

  4. That Farley is constantly even considered an “expert” on prostitution is just her education and shrewd self marketing on her part.

    She did a piggybacked study and is somehow now this great expert in the field of prostitution? Her “expertise” is based upon researching the lives of others and using their experiences to fit her views.

    How about real world experience in sex work? Does Farley have any? No. Which is why her work is so skewed. She makes statistics and analysis match to her worldview then presents it as expertise.

    Stacey Swimme, who has done sex work on the other hand can speak from experience. Her perspective is real world and honest. Unlike Farley, Stacey’s activism is based on actual experience. Thus why Stacey talks about relevant issues in first person while Farley presents in a sideway perspective with little relevance to most of the sex worker population

    Stacey’s activism is about her hopes, goals for sex worker human rights, labor rights, civil rights. Farley’s activism is based on fear. Creation of fear, creation of enemies, constantly analyzing her perspective on harm without ever offering ways to end that harm and methodology to achieve the end.

  5. What study is that, Skybabe?

    Do you have a link or a reference? I would love to see it.

  6. Farley has made her career on the extrapolation of select data which is then passed off to be far more encompassing than it truly is and employing shock tactics, and yes, exploitation to inspire knee jerk recations in people to win them to her cause. Such things are all too typical of she and her associates. Yes, they will listen to sex workers, so long as those workers say what they want to hear. They will fight porn, yet use the images of women in porn without their consent, without knowing how the women feel about having their images used for anti porn purposes, without even knowing who the women are, and when called on it? Well, apparently their ends justify their means, damn the women in the photos.

    It’s charming, really.

  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melissa_Farley

    The link above is the entry about Ms. Farley, with quite a few links to her studies. She is one of many people in many of these studies it appears.
    Hmmmm…

  8. I only had a minute to look at her “prostitution in 9 countries” piece.

    Not exactly a shining example of rigorous research.

    Her instrumentation consists of 2 psychological tests and “The Prostitution Questionnaire”
    she mentions the reliability and validity of the two psych. instruments, but of course, there is absolutely ZERO information about The Prostitution Questionairre – which is the instrument from which she draws most of her conclusions.

    Also, the overwhelming majority of her sample consists of women she found in drop-in centers, vocational rehab programs, medical centers, and “agencies offering services’ to women who need help. This is extremely bad — it is not an accurate representation of prostitutes in general. She is sampling from women who are already seeking help! Of course they are reporting bad shit in thier life! Where in her sample are sex workers who like what they do? I know they exist (despite any rad fem claims to the contrary).

    Also, good research will acknowledge its limitations. Her article contains no such information. Must be perfect research then, huh?

  9. Though I don’t agree with every side presented in this article, tt’s nice to see that this news article that is balanced and presents different sides of the issue, unlike the “20’20” report in which Melissa Farley was give a voice but no sex worker rights advocates were interviewed.
    I noticed Ronald Weitzer was quoted in this article. I read some stuff he has written and he has really done a great job of challenging Melissa Farley’s research and other claims by sex work prohibitionists. He cited various flaws in Farley’s research and noted how much of the her claims really aren’t ammenable to research, so they’re just like personal opinions.
    The only thing I disagree with Weitzer on is the issue of street prostitution. I feel that consensual sex for payment, regardless of whether one works the streets or indoors, must be decriminalized.

  10. You all really don’t want to deal with the question raised by this article, do you? The article is asking if women who can pass as “high-end” should be allowed to be prostitutes to rich men while “low end” prostitutes should be arrested.

    You don’t want to deal with it because you want to identify with the “high-end” prostitute. You want to believe you are in the movie Pretty Woman”, that you are a courtesan, that “high end” prostitution is glamorous and not connected at all with street prostitution.

    You want to be elitiest prostitutes. And that doesn’t go very well with your whole class structure philosophy, and so rather than face the fact of your own selfishness, you attack some spokesperson for the other side who as far as I can tell is an academic and fairly harmless.

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