The Morning After

I got up this morning intending to catch up on all of the posts and comments that I didn’t get to last night. To my surprise I came across Melissa Farley’s letter to us in my mailbox. I received it in a strange sort of round about way, I’m not sure why it wasn’t just sent directly to me or to the blog administrators. Anyway, I was bummed that I didn’t receive it last night so that it could be posted for our live bloggers to see, so I posted it this morning in hopes that maybe there would be some folks awake early enough on the East Coast to post some responses.

To my delight, we had some heavy-hitters from the West Coast all over it practically the moment that it was live. You’ve got to love it when you see RF, MD and SH finding common cause!

September 17th-18th our blog had more traffic than it’s ever had. It’s thrilling to see that sex worker’s voices are being heard by a growing audience. We owe so much of this growth to our contributing authors and all the bloggers who linked to us and encouraged their readers to “listen to sex workers.” Thanks to everybody who contributed their time and energy!

The debate around legal prostitution and trafficking in Nevada was still getting coverage in Las Vegas  as late as Monday, September 17th.

We sent out a press release  about the live blog event, but we eren’t that surprised that we didn’t get any mainstream media coverage, considering that the release went out pretty last minute.

Meanwhile, another politician announces resignation after being caught in a prostitution scandal.

Barb Brents reviewed Melissa Farley’s new book and Iamcuriousblue provided some discussion about her methodology.

We got some great comments from sex workers in different places.

Stephanie comments:

I believe that Melissa Farley is motivated by compassion towards sex workers, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s played a pivotal role in hurting many of us around the globe. I even wrote her a somewhat lengthy e-mail several years ago (before I realized that she was irrational and too blinded by anger to truly care about our well being). I started the letter by praising her for her efforts in helping women who want out, to escape their bad situations. I have always believed it was a noble cause to assist women needing help to improve their lives. It is unfortunate that she got so caught up in her anger towards all sex work that she lost sight of what she started out doing- helping women.

We were joined by two of Farley’s supporters, Jody Williams and Josie. They kept the debate interesting and we thank them for their participation. I hope that these conversations will evolve into cooperative problem-solving. I strongly encourage readers to check out all of the comments sections.

We also inspired the creation of a new blog! (Or is it just coincidence that the blog was created yesterday?) I came across it while checking out SkyBabe’s blog.

This morning we were mentioned over at Reno and Its Discontents as well as at the $pread Magazine Blog

And finally, Renegade Evolution breaks it down feminist expat style.

Thanks again to everybody who participated! More live blogging to come!

In solidarity,

Stacey

A message to us from Melissa Farley

Please forward this statement to the bloggers attacking my research, thanks.

Melissa Farley has never taken a ” federal antiprostitution oath” whatever that is. Her research was supported 70% by Prostitution Research & Education and 30% by the Trafficking in Persons Office of the US State Dept. No agency has influenced Farley’s findings or her conclusions, including the US government. Farley’s opinions are her own.

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Outstanding!!!!

Our live blog was wonderful!!!! Thank you everyone who participated. It is important that all of our opinions be heard! Thank you for your efforts in raising awareness for social justice for sex workers!

Jill Brenneman

Farley’s methodology

(To start out with, I just wanted to thank Stacey Swimme for the inviting me to have the privilege of guest blogging here.)

The scientific reliability of Farley’s findings are open to question. Its something she’s been called on before in this critique by sociologist Ronald Weitzer (2005):

What about Farley’s own research procedures? Much is left opaque. In one study, Farley and Barkan (1998) interviewed street prostitutes in San Francisco. No indication is given of the breadth or diversity of their sample, or the method of approaching people on the street. In another study, Farley, Baral, Kiremire, and Sizgin (1998) interviewed workers in several countries: In Turkey, they interviewed 50 women who were brought to a hospital by the police for the purpose of venereal disease control; in Zambia, they interviewed 117 women at an organization that offers support services to prostitutes; in Thailand, respondents were interviewed on the street, in a beauty parlor, and in an organization offering support services; in South Africa, people were interviewed on the street, in brothels, and at a drop-in center. No information is provided as to how these locations were selected, or whether alternative locations were rejected for some reason. We know that people accessed at agencies providing services are likely to be particularly distressed. Finally, though Farley lists the topics covered in the interviews, none of the actual questions is presented. It is especially important to know the exact wording of questions, especially on this topic, because question wording may skew the answers.

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Photographs

The cover of Melissa’s book depicts a brothel that looks to the uninitiated viewer like a photograph of a prison, and like others must be, I was horrified to think that brothels actually had fences like that to keep women inside. But the closer I looked, the more I realized that the placement of the barbed wire actually looks like it is meant to keep people out rather than in. Which would, of course, make more sense to someone who lives in Las Vegas and has friends who’ve worked in the brothels. Imagine the peeping toms that must come along! I know if I were working at a brothel, I wouldn’t want the possibility of someone peeping into my wndow to see what I might be up to at any given time, so I think I would like the security such a fence offered for my protection.

But below I have pasted a photograph of a fence around an actual prison. The barbed wire part, you’ll notice, is facing inwards– to prevent people from getting out. That makes much more sense to me.

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What are we doing to help women get out of prostitution?

by Robyn Few

Melissa Farley wants to know, ‘What is Desiree Alliance doing to help women get out? What are the UNLV faculty and their students doing to help women get out of prostitution?” That is always the question asked by the prohibitionist.

Well Miss Farley, what makes you think that is our focus. There are tons of non-profit and governmental agencies focused on saving women from prostitution and they are funded. Unfortunately, there are very few agencies that focus on the sex workers who have chosen to work in the sex industry and support improving conditions in their workplace. Billions of dollars are wasted trying to abate prostitution in this country while zero dollars are spent enforcing labor laws in the sex industry workplace.

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Law Enforcement Abuse against Sex Workers

With all the writing and talking that prohibitionists do about how bad prostitution is and how prostitution should be criminalized, I never noticed any of them say anything about how some cops use the prohibitionist policies they (the prohibitionists) promote to get away with abusing sex workers. For example, some cops have extorted free sexual favors out of prostitutes by saying they would arrest them for prostitution if they refused to give them free sexual favors. Of course, it’s not like the prostitutes could simply go and report this abuse to law enforcement. For one thing, law enforcement officials are perpetrating the abuse in such cases. For another thing, under the criminalization of prostitution, prostitutes cannot report abuse by cops or anybody else without incriminating themselves in the process. This is not equal protection under the law.

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Sex Worker Human Rights Statement

Perhaps posting the Sex Worker Human Rights Statement that I authored will clarify some of the judgments based on a segment of feminists views of sex worker rights activists and what we are seeking in terms of social justice.

SWOP EAST’s position of Sex Worker Rights being Human Rights

written by Jill Brenneman

Sex Worker Rights are Human Rights was a leading slogan in a July 2006 protest on the Las Vegas Strip by sex workers and allies. The concept brought mixed reaction from the crowd. Some supportive, some mixed, some filled with vitriol. Without a doubt this will be a controversial piece on the SWOP EAST website. SWOP EAST advocates the concept of sex worker rights being a human rights issue.

Criminalization of sex work and sex workers that are legal adults and consenting solves nothing. Criminalization should be focused on actual criminals, those who commit crimes against sex workers, those who force sex work in non consenting situations, those who traffic in human beings for the purpose of forced labor both related and unrelated to sex work and certainly those who prey on children. Children are not tourist attractions either in the United States or any other country. Sex with children is pedophilia. Pedophiles belong in prison. However, one must also consider the factors that cause children to be in the sex industry. Unless the causes are addressed and alternatives created, there will be many children that end up in the sex industry. Runaway and homeless teens require some source of income. Simply stating the problem exists and trying to legislate it as a criminal offense without bringing resources to the homeless and runaway youth is pointless. Children in the United States and other countries are often forced into the sex industry by families desperately poor and seeing no other choice. This is a social issue that has to be addressed at the source.

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Challenging Bob Herbert’s Xenophobic Statement

I found the following statement in Bob Herbert’s editorial titled “City as Predator” to be so xenophobic:

“Huge numbers of foreign women are trafficked into
Vegas. The legions of Asian women in the massage
parlors and escort services did not come flocking to
Vegas from suburban U.S.A.”

 

Here’s the comment I wrote to challenge this:

“The above statement is xenophobic. Despite the
stereotypes, not all Asian women who work in massage
parlors or for escort services are trafficking
victims. Amidst this xenophobia, migrant workers in
the sex industry, many of whom are of Asian descent,
are being subject to raids, arrests, and mass
deportations. This does nothing to advance the status
of sex workers rights or decrease forced labor in any
industry. If these raids are mainly about rescuing
trafficking victims and fighting forced labor, then
why are sex workers being arrested and deported?
In response to Herbert’s comment that these women
aren’t ‘flocking to Vegas from suburban U.S.A.,’ I say
that the U.S.A. is a very diverse country and there
are people of Asian descent who live in ‘suburban
U.S.A.’ Even if these women don’t come from the
suburbs or from the U.S.A., that doesn’t mean that
they are all trafficking victims.

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Farley Promoting US Imperialism in Anti Prostitution Agenda

I would like to invite people to view a video which interviews sex workers and advocates around the world about the results of the policies Farley promotes. The US has a policy, an ‘anti-prostitution loyalty oath,’ which prohibits organizations from receiving funds from the US government unless they explicitly sign a statement that they oppose prostitution. Although real progressive organizations around the world (about 200 of them) have protested this, and Soros sued the government over this policy, Farley wrote an amicus brief IN SUPPORT of the Bush administration policies. Now with her close relationship with ‘Ambassador’ John Miller, darling of Bush’s religious right wing constituency, and with her federal funding, she has found her niche. Human rights advocates are quite aware of the harms of this type of zealotry, but this Bush administration tactic of focusing on knee jerk and simplistic moralism masks the true damage of US imperialism. Farley is yet another ‘Ambassador’ of this moralism in the guise of feminist concerns, while promoting xenophobia. Watch the video.

The video:
http://sexworkerspresent.blip.tv/file/181155/

This link discusses the issue:
http://www.genderhealth.org/loyaltyoath.php?TOPIC=PRG

Another video made by sex workers in Thailand challenges the type of imperialism that Farley promotes in her support for the Bush admin. policies:

http://sexworkerspresent.blip.tv/file/310429/

Melissa Farley, words, actions, ethics and ambition

Author of post is Jill Brenneman

Melissa Farley presents herself as an expert in the field of prostitution. Her basis of expertise is her research interviewing women she selected for her studies. She talks often about the feelings of women in prostitution speaking of their feelings as the basis of her message of being their messenger, their potential messiah, struggling to free them from her self described “systems of prostitution” which she states In order to understand prostitution, it is necessary to understand: stripping, exotic dancing, nude dancing, table dancing, phone sex, trafficking, child and adult pornography, lap dancing, massage brothels, and peep shows as prostitution”. Yet in 1996, this self proclaimed expert in prostitution co-authored a piece entitled “Why I Made the Choice to Become a Prostitute”.

The piece below co-authored by Farley is a blistering statement on her perceptions of prostitutes and their motivations. As you read through the list below consider the following. This expert on prostitution implies prostitutes are attracted to their stepfathers and so compelled by this attraction they further find a way to make money for it. She states that women base their decision to work as a prostitute because they saw movies and liked the clothes or believed they could easily make a million dollars while having fun doing it. She mocks prostitutes that are gang raped, insults their intelligence, career choices, educational choices and relationship decisions.

She conflates a decision to do sex work for the purpose of earning a living in the same sentence as being an illegal drug user and needing vast amounts of money for plastic surgery. Perhaps number 17 states her actual feelings about sex workers in the most graphic context “It’s complicated, but I thought that working in the sex industry would increase my self-esteem. It’s sort of like saying to the world, “I am the best Grade A ground beef” and being the cow.” A statement such as the one from the previous sentence makes it hard to fathom that Melissa Farley is an expert in the psychology, lives or feelings of those she researches, claims to represent and postures that she is trying to liberate.

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Choice is key

When it comes to how we use our own bodies as humans, I think it is important to keep in mind the element of choice. We have fought hard for the right to be able to choose to become mothers or not, but we find ourselves today fighting for the right to have sex on our own terms- even if those terms change every day.

When our voices are ignored or trivialized, as Ms. Farley seems wont to do in her book, “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada, Making the Connections,” we suffer the same degradation she claims to be fighting against. She writes, on pg. 22, “I knew that they would minimize how bad it was,” and that the women she interviewed would “ignore bad things or pretended that unpleasantness will go away, or they call the degrading abuse of prostitution by another name that sounds better.”

I know many of us here are wondering why she would silence us before we even speak.

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