We Need To Talk

In this article, from the Las Vegas CBS-affiliate KBAL, the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking is said to have the following goals: “What they would really like to see is some help for prostitutes who want to get out of the business. They would also like tougher penalties against people who pay for prostitutes.”

I would be very surprised to hear that any worker in the sex industry objected to their first goal. Yes, it should absolutely be easier to transition from the sex industry to other professions; I’d love to see programs that aimed to help workers leave the industry if such was their wish. Unfortunately, far too many of such programs in existence today seek to assist workers, while also framing their work in shameful, moralistic overtones. For this practice, Melissa Farley ‘s work is an exceptional guidebook.

Contrary to the Coalition’s guiding light, some people actually choose to work in the sex industry—not all, I’m sure, for in any given profession, you’re apt to find at least a few people who wish they were doing something else. How many books about career transitions can you find at any bookstore? But in how many other professions does one face so much social stigma at point A as to make the thought of transitioning to Point B unfathomable? Forcing a transitioning worker to view her past with such disdain only serves to make the task of leaving the industry seem more insurmountable.

So, if one wants to leave, it should be easier. We can agree on that point at least. The methods of achieving the transition and the inevitable reality that not all want to leave, is that what we can’t see eye to eye on? Are both sides trying to mend that divide? My daily reality, as sex worker and feminist, tells me the answer to that second question is most definitely a resounding ‘no’.

What’s interesting from my perspective is that most of my sex worker friends know about my political leanings, while most of my feminist friends either don’t know or don’t want to know my thoughts concerning sex work. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Jill many months ago, wherein I asked her if she had lost friends because of her stance on sex worker rights. I don’t remember her precise words, but the answer was a resounding ‘yes’.

What is it about the issue of sex work that makes women turn their back on other women? And it’s often feminist-identified women who are rejecting their own allies! Feminists supposedly want what’s best for women. Likewise, workers tend to want what’s best for other workers. Those two points should be common-sense.

But when you realize that the radical feminists want what they, alone, think is best for other women, then it isn’t as hard to understand that they could see a worker wanting what said worker, alone, thinks is best other workers. If that worker wants to leave the sex industry, then they must want all workers to leave the industry. If that worker wants to stay in the industry, then they must want to make all workers stay in the industry, or at the very least, make it more difficult for them to leave.

The aforementioned logic is dumb-founding. Really, read it several times and you’ll see the connection there. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around because it’s such a one-sided, and short-sided, view. One size fits all isn’t appropriate for the sex industry, and it shouldn’t be for feminism either.

Ok. Ok. I went on a tiny tangent there, but I hope you get my point.

Now, on to the second goal of the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking, as stated by KBAL: “They would also like tougher penalties against people who pay for prostitutes.”

This is a call for textbook “demand” legislation. For counterpoints here, I refer to the Urban Justice Center’s Working Group on Sex Work and Human Rights and their briefing paper “The Truth About Demand”. To quote, [in the sex industry and related trafficking in persons],
“It is not the number of customers but economic trends and social conditions such as unemployment and a shortage of living wage opportunities that determine the number of sex workers at any given time.” (It must be noted that human trafficking occurs in a number of industries, and is not unique to the sex industry.)

You could take away every customer, but you’d still have a person with very real economic needs searching for a way to meet those needs. Economic need is the driving factor here, not “demand”, unless we’re talking about my landlord who is demanding to be paid.

What we can see in this juxtaposition of transitional opportunities and economic realities is the need for understanding among those who strive to improve the fabric of workers’ lives. To reach understanding, we must begin to talk to one another, to share experience and ideas. You, Melissa Farley and the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking must start listening to us. In fact, we demand it.

Jessica Land

Vegas Degrades Women?

Personally, the most offensive thing about Vegas are the quickie-marriage places. I think that’s perpetuating a system of female-enslavement!

Amanda Brooks

PS: My much longer take on Las Vegas/female degradation on my personal blog.

Sex Workers Challenge Manipulative Research

For Immediate Release
Media Contact:
http://www.BoundNotGagged.com
BoundNotGagged@gmail.com

Outraged by the latest ‘research’  targeting them, sex workers organize to challenge the unsubstantiated (and federally funded) claims by ‘an academic run amok.’ The sex workers of Desiree Alliance (see DesireeAlliance.org) are presenting an online press conference to challenge a recent self-published diatribe by anti-porn, anti-prostitution zealot, Melissa Farley which targets Nevada’s legal prostitution industry and claims that legal commercial adult sex promotes human trafficking.


In conjunction with the sex worker blogsite, BoundNotGagged.com, sex industry workers, including prostitutes, escorts, exotic dancers and pornography performers will be holding this virtual press conference on Monday, September 17th, 5pm PST.

“Something like this, a self-published effort, would be of little concern except for the moralists’ lust for this type of thing. It’s constructed as a tool to limit sex workers’ options in the name of saving them,” says Robyn Few, founder of SWOP-USA, a member organization of Desiree Alliance.

“For decades prostitutes’ rights advocates have advocated for decriminalization and have been quite vocal about the limitations of the legal rubric on Nevada,” says Ginger, a former escort. “But at least you’re safe, safe from the cops and from the threat of arrest. Farley feigns concern for our safety but she only accepts us if we are victimized. Basically she’s one of the victimizers.”

 “We’ve heard claims about Farley’s deceptive ‘research’’ methods from allies around the world, so we expected as much from her report, but now that she’s federally funded, we thought it might be time to discuss our research on her research,” says Carol Leigh, director of BAYSWAN, Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network in San Francisco.


“Women’s experiences working in the sex industry are far more complex and varied than Melissa Farley’s research or Bob Herbert’s column suggest,” says Lynn Comella, assistant professor in Women’s Studies at UNLV.  “If you start with the premise that prostitution is inherently harmful and dangerous to women, it is not difficult to find examples to support this premise, and to ignore those examples that do not.”

Crystal Jackson, graduate student and researcher on sex work at UNLV, and Desiree Alliance member, agrees that this issue is far more complex than the publicity surrounding it allows. “Women have many different reasons for entering the industry. It is important to hear all voices of those involved. By only focusing on the research funded by the U.S. Administration, and ignoring other research, you are automatically taking a biased view. The anti-prostitution oath required in order to receive federal funding predetermines the conclusions of any research undertaken by agencies that receive that federal funding, and thus, diverse voices are not heard.”

The virtual press conference will give media outlets an opportunity to access people who actually work in the adult industry, to hear first-hand accounts of the real experiences that people working in the sex industry have. “Farley is just one example of researchers who use flawed research methods to misrepresent and discredit women working in the sex industry,” said Linda Gomez, online escort and sex industry researcher, “Sex workers have no avenues for recourse or public arenas to debate this misinformation.”

“BoundNotGagged.com was developed by the Desiree Alliance as an on-line resource for sex workers to respond publicly to distorted facts presented by people such as Farley,” says Stacey Swimme, a member of the Desiree Alliance. “We had to create a safe space for sex workers to speak for themselves without fear of legal retaliation. They are the real experts on the sex industry, but criminal laws and social ostracism keep their voices muted.” Initially created in early 2007 in response to the Deborah Jeane Palfrey “DC Madam” scandals that rocked Washington, DC, the site has evolved into a space where politically-savvy sex workers go to comment on current events that affect their work. BoundNotGagged.com will continue to grow as a resource for journalists who wish to interview and quote people working in the sex industry. In-person and telephone interviews can be arranged by contacting Sue Lewis at the number above.


The Desiree Alliance is a coalition of sex workers, advocates and academic allies who work to promote civil, labor and human rights for people working in the sex industry. More information can be found at http://www.DesireeAlliance.org

Who: Sex Workers: Prostitutes, Escorts, Exotic Dancers, Porn Performers and more
What: Virtual Press Conference on federally funded “research’ targeting Nevada’s Legal Sex Industry
When: Monday, September 17, 2007 5pm PST
Where: http://www.BoundNotGagged.com
Why: To challenge misinformation spread by Farley and the Nevada Coalition Against Trafficking
Contact:
http://www.BoundNotGagged.com
BoundNotGagged@gmail.com