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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