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.


Sex Worker Human Rights

Ending criminalization of sex work involving consenting adults creates opportunity for positive social change. With an end to criminalization, sex workers are no longer marginalized for abuse and victimization by customers, the legal system and law enforcement. Instead, the legal system would serve to protect sex workers, to represent them in the event they are victimized by a crime. Rather than having to fear the police and be easy targets for renegade cops abusing their positions, sex workers would be able to access assistance from the police just as any other citizen victimized by a crime. SWOP EAST’s website has many testimonials from individuals victimized in the sex industry that had no recourse due to current social views regarding sex work, criminality and the stigma and marginalization that comes with them.

Current policies of criminalization also really serve no value for those either in the sex industry in a non-consenting situation, trafficking victims or those underage. Those who; coerce, traffic or exploit both adults and youth are aware that criminalization keeps the victims from viewing law enforcement and the legal system as allies to assist them in getting out of the sex industry. The victim becomes imprisoned by a system that is allegedly setup to protect them. It is both unrealistic and simplistic not to recognize that people who prey on those who are coerced into the sex industry will use criminalization – the knowledge that the victim fears being punished by the law as a criminal – as reinforcement in a dynamic of fear that makes it difficult for such a victim to leave. Predators use criminalization and the legal system to coerce and deny access to people under their influence who want to leave the sex industry.

The right to form and join professional associations and unions allows for empowerment of sex workers to have greater authority and rights within the sex industry through the strength of a group and networking.

Sex Work, Taxation, and Representation.

Currently the Internal Revenue Service requires individuals to report income earned from illegal sources. Criminalization denies the sex worker access to legal rights and representation related to taxation as admission of how the income is earned may not be covered under client privilege. This causes denial of the ability to receive accurate and complete legal rights and representation. Ending criminalization would allow the sex worker to fulfill requirements of paying taxes, consult with tax specialists without fear of the session being used against them in court.

Coercion, violence, sexual abuse, child labor, rape and racism.

Sex workers should be entitled to protection from coercion, violence, sexual abuse, child labor, rape and racism just as any employee in any citizen working in any occupation in the United States of America is. Coercion is enforced by criminalization. Knowing that turning in the coercing party may lead to the sex worker being arrested is a substantial barrier from leaving a coercive situation. Those that coerce are aware of this dynamic realizing the victim has little recourse to escape the coercion through the legal system without significant risk. The victim is likely to think of themselves as a criminal because of current laws and social attitudes and to see the legal system and law enforcement not as those that can bring justice but as those who will likely arrest, prosecute and further victimize the person they should be protecting.

Sexual abuse and rape in sex work is virtually unaddressed as an issue. Social attitudes most often assume sex workers can not be sexually abused, assaulted or raped by virtue of being a sex worker. Sex workers are at very significant risk of sexual abuse and rape. Exchange of money for agreed upon services does not negate the fact that anything beyond what the sex worker consents to is rape. Payment of money or anything else of value is not a blank check to force any sexual act upon a sex worker. Yet, current legalities and social attitudes make bringing a rapist of a sex worker to justice virtually impossible. Many rape crisis centers either will not accept clients that are sex workers or are improperly trained to assist them. Medical care providers are also often improperly trained or not trained at all to deal with rape and sexual assault of sex workers. This along with criminalization leaves the sex worker often unable or unwilling to access medical services after an assault. Sex workers are easy targets for violence. Violent offenders realize the marginalization and criminalization aspects of sex work leave the sex worker with little legal recourse in the event of being victimized by violence. Violence sometimes extends all the way to the murder of the sex worker with little legal interest as in the case of the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway who killed dozens of prostitutes before finally being caught. Had the victims been seen as “regular women” rather than prostitutes there would likely have been a much higher emphasis on the capture and prosecution of the killer.

One of the most controversial topics is child labor related to the sex industry. The vast majority of youth in the sex industry in the US are runaway/throwaway youth. There is a significant issue that often goes unaddressed. Critics will state that youth should not be in the sex industry. They are correct. However, this requires more than press releases, position statements and pusillanimous policies of government. The youth that are in the sex industry often have no other way to earn money. They are in a situation of survival sex which is trading sex for survival needs. It is nothing short of a waste of time to state this problem exists without concrete solutions. Suggestions advising the youth to just go home are unrealistic. Often times the youth left for a reason, the street was safer than home or where thrown out. Going home may not be an option. Suggestions advising them to go to the local McDonald’s or like employer and get a “normal job” are absurd. Where do they get the work permits? What do they list as an address on the job application? What telephone number do they give for the job application? What do they do while they are waiting for this “normal job” to consider and process their application? Unless resources are created which provide food, clothing, shelter and education this will always be a problem.

In many countries outside the US, child labor is a different issue. Families so poor they have no choice but to either have the children work in the sex industry or even sell children into the sex trade are common scenarios. The basic issue is poverty and often sexism as the male child is considered more valuable, the female child more easily dispensable into the sex industry. Children are not a tourist attraction and it is the responsibility of governments to address this issue including the governments of the “first world” countries to punish their citizens that engage in child sex tours. It is simplistic to blame the parents of these children. Poverty has to be addressed as a global issue. Also, often unaddressed is the myth that a job in a sweatshop making minimal money for epic work hours is a better option for children or anyone for that matter. Both amount to little more than slave labor.

Compounding the problem is current the US Governments ban on funding unless organizations helping child sex labor victims unless they take a specific anti prostitution pledge. This is absurd. The problem isn’t going to be legislated away with a quick stroke of the pen, a nice photo op, with mission accomplished written as the answer to this problem. Access to needed resources including medical attention, prophylactics, and education on sexually transmitted diseases are being denied by an alleged effort to fight human trafficking by cutting off funding to agencies that “collaborate with traffickers”. Until the issues of poverty and other factors are addressed in realistic form, this is going to be a problem. Denial of service for political gain through the December 19, 2003: Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 is nothing but a disingenuous play to convince the world that a social problem is being addressed. What is really happening is an unrealistic US Government has aligned with some feminists and the religious right to posture about fighting trafficking while their actions endanger and often end the lives of victims around the world. Victims supposedly helped by this legislation.

Legal support or sex workers who want to sue those who exploit their labor.

The focus on fighting to end the sex industry and continuing to maintain the status quo of criminalization places too much emphasis on the punishment of men that are either pimps or clients. Forgotten is both the reality that women and transgendered bear the brunt of arrests. Also lost in the fight to end the sex industry is the reality that criminalization takes away civil remedies for sex workers that are exploited for their labor. The current social and legal environment empowers those who exploit the labor of sex workers as criminalization leaves no option for legal recourse. Knowing the legal and social implications of sex workers attempting a lawsuit to gain compensation for exploitation of their labor, those who exploit have little to fear in using current circumstances to their advantage. This leaves the sex worker vulnerable to inadequate payment for doing their job, exploited by having to pay a series of fees to work such as in the case of many strip clubs, overtime pay laws become irrelevant as many sex workers are not even paid an hourly wage but instead tips and only after paying fees to club management, bartenders, security, disc jockeys and other staff. In the event the sex worker suffers exploitation or harm there is little ability to sue for financial, physical or emotional damages. In the event of workplace injury there is often no workers compensation, disability pay or other benefits.

Ending criminalization would allow for labor rights allowing sex workers to file suit against those who exploit their labor, to seek compensation for various forms of damages, fair compensation for their work, legal benefits in the event of injury resulting from accident or negligence on the part of the employer and a much stronger legal remedy having the effect of keeping potentially predatory employers accountable for their actions.

Clean and safe places to work

Ending criminalization would bring sex work out from underground. Without fear of arrest, incarceration, criminal record and other legal issues, sex workers would have the same legal protections as an employee of any other industry. Rather than having to fear law enforcement, it would become the police’s responsibility to enforce the same laws and same rights afforded employees of other industries. Ending criminalization, stigmatization, marginalization and other forms of isolation and discrimination would provide opportunities for clean, safe work environments, access to medical services without fear of being victimized by the judgment of the medical provider or denial of services due to their occupation. Ending criminalization would allow for the same laws which protect workers in other industries from workplace hazards to be enforced providing clean and safe work environments for sex workers.

The right to choose whether to work on our own or co-operatively with other sex workers.

Current legal environments in various countries, states, provinces and municipalities either force sex workers to work together as in the case of legalized brothels in some counties in Nevada, or to not be able to work together in other areas fearing it would bring too much awareness and catch the attention of law enforcement. Sex workers need to have the right to choose their work environment just as any other individual does. That choice may be to work for an employer, to work as an independent or to create their own business of the size they choose.

The absolute right to say no.

One of the greatest flaws of criminalization is the absolute lack of protection from clients or employers refusing to respect the sex workers boundaries. There is virtually no recourse for a sex worker forced into sexual acts against their will either by a client that exceeds the agreed upon terms or an employer that forces the sex worker to go beyond personal boundaries as part of their job. The exchange of money does not eliminate the sex workers right to say no, it does not give a client the right to exceed the sex workers boundaries and does not give the employer the right to force a sex worker to engage in sexual acts against their will, ones they consider dangerous or simply ones they do not feel comfortable with. Sex workers have the right to their own bodies and if and when that is violated they need the right to recourse. Current legal and social stances often deny the sex worker the right to control what happens to their bodies.

44 Responses

  1. Yes, you have a right to your own body. However you do NOT have the legal right to sell your body.

    You are not allowed to sell a kidney for example. Now that is YOUR kidney. And you have 2! It should be up to you whether to sell it, right?

    So why do you think it might be against the law?

    Because poor and desperate people will be coerced to sell a kidney (or arm or cornea, or whatever.) and there are serious public health implications when a large portion of the population starts to sell off body parts. Eventually the public health system will have to support a bunch of people whose 1 kidney has gone bad. That is bad for everyone involved.

    Now if we just let supply and demand control the situation, rich people who wanted a kidney would just buy one when they need it and then they would bitch and moan about the high taxes they have to pay to support the rash of poor 1-kidney people seeking health care.

    So no, you do not have the right to do anything you want with your body in this country. There are other people involved and impacted by these decisions.

  2. sex workers don’t sell their body parts. They sell their labor.

  3. So Josie what is your solution? Since you are opposed to sex worker human rights. Given that prostitution is not going to ever end what are you proposing as solutions? It is easy to criticize and make unrelated correlations but not so easy to come up with solutions.

    If you are going to advocate the end of the sex industry, please tell me how and when that can happen and what happens to sex workers during that process

  4. Josie:
    You’re comment that sex workers “sell their bodies” is very degrading and demonstrates a lack of respect for sex workers as human beings. It’s so ironic how some of the people who talk about and write about how prostitution is degrading actually express degrading attitudes toward sex workers themselves.

  5. Sexworkeradvocate,

    Yes, you hit the nail on the head.

    Josie,

    Believe it or not, I’m more than an orifice or organ — even though that seems to be how you view sex workers.

    Jill asked some great questions. Do you have solutions?

    XX

  6. Yeah, johns are buying access to prostitutes bodies. What did you THINK was going on?

  7. When I hear that prostitution will never stop I think of all the other times those absolutist statements have been made.

    Slavery will never end.

    Women will never get the vote.

    Gays will never be allowed to get married (ok we’re still working on that one)

    If we keep evolving, surely johns will evolve as well (maybe with a little help from the prison system.)

    Yes, prostitution can end.

  8. Without prostitution I assume sex workers will get other jobs like steel workers and textile workers are doing.

    Let me just point out that sex workers need to get other jobs anyway when they reach a certain age and/or burn out. There’s not a huge demand for granny prostitutes.

    Here’s another area where we can agree. We need to help the women who want out. We do all agree on that, right? Even if they tell tales of prostitution that don’t support your rosey picture?

  9. Josie why the hostility? Why not look for common ground with us instead of immediately finding fault? The sex worker rights movement is an anti violence movement. We could work together on common goals yet the immediate response is always hostility
    WOP, at its most basic, is an anti-violence campaign. As a multi-state network of sex workers and advocates, we address locally and nationally the violence that sex workers experience because of their criminal status.

    Operating in one of the most prominently violent societies today, sex workers in America experience this phenomenon pointedly in the context of their criminal status. Yet, sex workers are seldom afforded protection or recourse from violent acts committed against them because of the precarious, often graft-ridden relationship between sex work and law enforcement. Society tolerates violence against sex workers because of the stigma and myths that surround prostitution. Only until these falsehoods are corrected and sex workers are legitimized will we be able to effectively prevent and minimize the structural and occupational challenges of sex work.

    Serial killers like Gary Leon Ridgeway, the Green River Killer who preyed on prostitutes, managed to evade law enforcement for over 2 decades. Meanwhile women, like Robyn Few and Shannon Williams, who as adults had consensual sex for money, are routinely targeted for elaborate high budget police stings. This gross misappropriation of public resources systematically entraps sex work to be a profession that is unsafe and stigmatized. The system, effectively, is institutional violence against the people who exchange money for sex.

    SWOP works to educate policy-makers and the public on the institutional harms committed against sex workers, and advocates for alternatives. Our first major action was to organize the first annual International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers in 2003 with the Green River Memorial to the victims of Gary Leon Ridgeway. In 2004, SWOP spearheaded a voter ballot initiative to decriminalize prostitution in Berkeley, CA. Some of our more recent work focuses on amending so called “protective” legislation like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (and now its reauthorization in 2005 with the new End Demand provisions) which has increased criminal penalties and the stigma associated with sex work.

    SWOP promotes proven and effective social policy approaches to the sex industry. In order to reach its goals, SWOP adopts the principles and practices of nonviolent action in order to reduce violence and achieve dignity and rights for sex workers.

  10. Josie, many of us are current and former sex workers and we don’t need you telling us what our jobs are like. We don’t need you talking to us like we’re totally stupid. Again, this symbolizes your lack of respect for sex workers. In response to your quote above: “Yeah, johns are buying access to prostitutes bodies. What did you THINK was going on?,” my response to this is that those of us with experience working in the sex industry what’s “going on” and we don’t need you treating us like we don’t. We’re not as stupid as you treat us like we are.
    When clients pay sex workers, they are paying for a sexual service. They are not buying bodies. People in all occupations use some part of their bodies to do their jobs. Thus, if you think sex workers “sell their bodies” then do you think people in other occupations “sell their bodies?” do you also think that married people “sell their boides” in marriage?

  11. But you didn’t answer my question.

    How will prostitution end? And what do we do to protect sex workers from harm in that process?

    If you are opposed to US policies overseas which are killing people worldwide, we could work on that as a common goal. It is so vital that radical feminists come out against TVPRA so that it can end when the vote for renewal comes up. If you are working toward ending prostitution great. I’m not opposed to your efforts but there are too many already against sex workers and feminists for us to divide against each other or to simply blindly align with someone like Farley who is out for just her own career and so willing to cut anyone else out so that she can be alpha activist.

    WOP, at its most basic, is an anti-violence campaign. As a multi-state network of sex workers and advocates, we address locally and nationally the violence that sex workers experience because of their criminal status.

    Operating in one of the most prominently violent societies today, sex workers in America experience this phenomenon pointedly in the context of their criminal status. Yet, sex workers are seldom afforded protection or recourse from violent acts committed against them because of the precarious, often graft-ridden relationship between sex work and law enforcement. Society tolerates violence against sex workers because of the stigma and myths that surround prostitution. Only until these falsehoods are corrected and sex workers are legitimized will we be able to effectively prevent and minimize the structural and occupational challenges of sex work.

    Serial killers like Gary Leon Ridgeway, the Green River Killer who preyed on prostitutes, managed to evade law enforcement for over 2 decades. Meanwhile women, like Robyn Few and Shannon Williams, who as adults had consensual sex for money, are routinely targeted for elaborate high budget police stings. This gross misappropriation of public resources systematically entraps sex work to be a profession that is unsafe and stigmatized. The system, effectively, is institutional violence against the people who exchange money for sex.

    SWOP works to educate policy-makers and the public on the institutional harms committed against sex workers, and advocates for alternatives. Our first major action was to organize the first annual International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers in 2003 with the Green River Memorial to the victims of Gary Leon Ridgeway. In 2004, SWOP spearheaded a voter ballot initiative to decriminalize prostitution in Berkeley, CA. Some of our more recent work focuses on amending so called “protective” legislation like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (and now its reauthorization in 2005 with the new End Demand provisions) which has increased criminal penalties and the stigma associated with sex work.

    SWOP promotes proven and effective social policy approaches to the sex industry. In order to reach its goals, SWOP adopts the principles and practices of nonviolent action in order to reduce violence and achieve dignity and rights for sex workers.

  12. Wait – did slavery end? Last I heard, there is a trafficking/slavery problem right here in the good ole USA. Keep in mind that the sex industry is not the only one that has a trafficking and slavery problem. The food and construction industries are prime examples. But, until Americans can stomach 8 dollar avocados, we will have a problem.

    I have read about research finding that 20 to 40 percent of the adult male population in the US has participated in a sex for money exchange. I sure don’t see any reason why we couldn’t imprison them all, do you?

  13. Look, I don’t think you are stupid at all. I just disagree with you about legalization.

    And I do think that some of you are quite thoughtless when you ignore the realities of women whose experience is not as nice as your own. Those women are experiencing real suffering, not because prostitution is illegal, but because they want out.

  14. Josie I was on the advisory board of the Women’s Recovery Center in the Twin Cities a very good program for women who want to get out.

    I was part of the project called Human Trafficking Education which is on swopeast’s webspace, http://www.thestormproject.com or http://www.humantraffickinged.com as we host a program which works with health care providers to recognize trafficking victims. Why villianize us when you don’t even know who we are. You will also see that I am not a painter of a rosie picture. But I strongly advocate sex worker rights.

  15. who are you responding to Josie?

    I don’t advocate legalization. I advocate decrim. I also suffered in the sex industry as much as 90 percent of farley’s victims.

  16. “I have read about research finding that 20 to 40 percent of the adult male population in the US has participated in a sex for money exchange. I sure don’t see any reason why we couldn’t imprison them all, do you?”

    I think the threat of arrest and a police record will be enough to slow demand. Only repeat offenders will go to prison.

  17. Josie, we’re not saying that all of our experiences are “nice” and unlike the prohibitionists, we acknowledge the voices of all sex workers as valid, not only the sex workers who share our perceptions. For some people, sex work is a horrible experience; for some people, it is a neutral way of making a living, and for some people, it is a positive experience. I accept all those as valid perspectives because I look a the big picture and recognize the right of sex workers to define their experiences for themselves and realize that not all sex workers share the same perceptions of their work.

  18. The threat of arrest and a police record are the current approach — is demand slowing?

  19. Josie, I agree tht ther are people in prostitution who would ideally prefer to be doing something else, but that doesn’t justify the criminalization of prostitution. Just because somebody doesn’t ideally want to work in prostitution doesn’t mean they want to be persecuted for working in prostitution, which is what’s happening under the criminalization of prostitution. Criminalizing prostitution does not help people wishing the exit prostitution to do so. If fact, it creates an obstacle to exiting prostition. Do you actually think that having prostitution on one’s criminal record helps them to get hired at other jobs?

  20. I still would like my answer. What is the plan?

  21. Jill: Oh come on, you know better to ask that question…

    and people can sell blood, blood plasma, and women can sell eggs….

  22. Farley advocates the decriminalization of prostitutes for those who work in it. She repeatedly calls for NO ARREST OF PROSTITUTED WOMEN!

    She was clear about this at the press conference – even the TV media got the message and reported it. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for some of you to grasp.

  23. Yeah, I’m gonna try that again for clairity.

    Farley advocates the decriminalization of prostitution for those who work in it. She repeatedly calls for NO ARREST OF PROSTITUTED WOMEN!

    She was clear about this at the press conference – even the TV media got the message and reported it. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for some of you to grasp.

  24. Sad how much I’m seeing people fighting over something they don’t know anything about. “Legalization” of prostitution means it’s only legal in a brothel setting. Since women are being hurt, trafficked, raped, beaten, starved and ripped off in the legal brothels – that doesn’t protect the prostitute. It also doesn’t provide for exit services once they leave the brothel setting. “Decriminalization” of prostitution does mean that both the johns and prostitutes will not be arrested. However – that does not afford any legal protections of the prostitute – nor does it offer exit services either. Most – and I mean most of prostitutes want to quit when they don’t have any money for the services they need at that time. There is often a need for health, mental and vocational services that certainly johns and pimps aren’t going to pay for. Decriminalization does not offer a prostitute legal protection under the law either. Look at the decriminalization of pot smoking – yes you won’t be arrested if you are caught with a joint in your car. But if you get ripped off during a drug deal buying the pot – you can’t call the cops or take the guy to small claims court. If you study the countries where they have legal and decriminalized prostitution – you will see that it’s not solving the problems it promised to solve – and does not make life better for the prostitutes. However – Swenden’s adoption of an “abolitionist” approach is working. They are protecting the women, and providing for exit services when they decide to quit. Melissa is not trying to arrest prostitutes, she’s not shaming them, or blaming them. If people would read her book or actually talk to the woman or have actually shown up at her press conference or at the UNLV panel (cough cough Ms. Brent) they would have heard what she is advocating – a system that is working to protect and serve the prostitutes like is working in Sweden. And what is wrong with a system that’s working to protect and serve the prostitutes that she studied in Sweden and is working?

  25. “. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for some of you to grasp.”

    We are all doltish trollups Josie. Our IQ’s are so low we trip over them and fall into pits

    Yet another advocate for “prostituted” women that thinks she is way above “prostituted women”,

    What’s next Marie? Let us eat cake?

    I notice my question about when and how prostitution will end and what the plan for it is was ignored. And my question about why we can’t work together on common goals was also ignored.

    But then you wouldn’t want to lower yourself to working with “prostituted women”. Unless we agree to be token survivors and have our experiences reframed through radical feminism.

    If you really want to convince sex workers to pursue other employment and work with you toward ending prostitution it might make sense to stop pontificating and talking at us and start talking with us………. Just for one minute stop evangelizing.

  26. How many times can you repeat “is working in Sweden” now? Its a bit of a mantra isn’t it, kind of an article of faith among abolitionists, really.

    Except that the Swedish approach is not really working. It has succeeded in exactly the same way that American prostitution enforcement has succeeded. Laws against outdoor prostitution are enforced, indoor prostitution is left alone. Its true in the US and its true in Sweden. The biggest differences is that when Swedish street prostitutes get picked up, they’re not criminals in theory. Nonetheless, they often are accountable to the legal system as material witnesses. If they’re foreigners (which in many cases they are), usually they’re simply deported.

    Most of the statements that the Swedish system is working are simply based on the self-serving statements of Swedish politicians without further evidence. I swear, some of the statements I hear radical feminists say about Sweden are about the most gullible things I’ve heard since way back when communists used to go on about the glories of the Soviet Union.

  27. “If people would read her book or actually talk to the woman or have actually shown up at her press conference or at the UNLV panel (cough cough Ms. Brent) they would have heard what she is advocating – a system that is working to protect and serve the prostitutes like is working in Sweden. And what is wrong with a system that’s working to protect and serve the prostitutes that she studied in Sweden and is working?”

    I saw Barb Brents at the UNLV talk, so I know she was there. And she’s also read the book, as I noticed a review posted here by someone for her.

    I have a few friends who work in Sweden, and they have an interesting story to tell. They told me that the women who were working on the streets- often the most marginalized- have simply done one of two things: they’ve moved to another European country to continue their work (with the help of “agents”), or they’ve taken up with local “agents” (read, pimps) who make their deals for them. If they choose to go it on their own, or they can’t feasibly move to another European country because they are feeding children who are in school, they simply risk making their deals faster to avoid getting their johns arrested. This means they are far more willing to get into cars with strange men without the luxury of time to be able to properly assess his personality and intent.

    Jody, decriminalization would make space for aiding sex workers in a much healthier way. For instance, we could set up proper schools for prostitutes, to prepare them for work that, like many sports, is not for everyone.

    Currently, the only way sex workers can legally get the help they need is in exit and diversion programs. What if she simply wished to be able to practice her art more safely? What if she simply wanted to learn to do it independently? She has little recourse under the current system.

    Many of the prostitutes with horror stories (and I do personally know a few of these amazing women) didn’t choose to enter prostitution the way many of us here did. But that doesn’t mean all of them would have chosen to leave prostitution if given better options while in prostitution. The point is that they should be able to choose their paths- not have it chosen for them.

    As “Sexworkeradvocate” said, for many of us, it is a means to an end. For some of us, it is a true calling (I consider myself in this group), and for some of us, it is something we hold our noses while doing, get in, get out, and never look back.

    And there are also those who were sucked in as child runaways- they certainly need social services, but are currently being put into prisons.

    All of us deserve respect. And we should all stick together.

    But the most important thing we do as sex worker advocates is empower people to make wiser choices. People who have higher self-esteem make better choices for themselves. If you are constantly told you are a victim, poor thing, or disgusting, your self-esteem will not grow and you will not take care of yourself. You’ll allow others to treat you badly and you will allow yourself to be led in dangerous ways. People will only treat you with as much respect as you treat yourself.

    So the most important thing any of us can do is treat each other with respect. And love.

    Not pity.

  28. At some point in time ALL prostitutes are going to quit. So ALL prostitutes are going at some point in time to want some kind of support to quit. I checked out the Womens’ Recovery Center in the Twin Cities and it only talks about helping women with mental health and abuse abuse issues – it says nowhere that it is set up to help prostitutes. I’m sorry but not all prostitutes have mental health or drug abuse issues. I’m one of those women who sought help for five years in exiting prostitution and could not find one agency that didn’t try and refer me to a drug treatment or mental health organization for which I needed either at the time. I in fact did not even start using drugs until I became depressed over my inability to find any resources to help me other than drug abuse organizations. Any researcher who wanted to talk to as many different women with varying experiences in the sex industry would have been visible at the UNLV panel. No one saw Barbara or Hausbeck and neither one approached or spoke to any of the panel. I specificially said I worked as an escort when I was in the biz, never was beaten, never had a pimp, never abused drugs while I was in the industry, and that I’ve worked with over 200,000 sex workers over the last 20 years. Kathleen has been working with thousands of women since about 1989, Kim was a trafficking victim that worked in a Nevada legal brothel, and both Brenda and Olivia have worked with thousands of prostitutes also. You tell me why then anyone who wants to write about, research and call themselves an “expert” on this issue wouldn’t have even said so much as a “hi” to any one of us then unless they are not open to all views of this issue. And if Melissa only gives voices to “poor little victims” then why on earth did she put me on the panel who clearly stated I had none of these traditional victim scenerios happen to me? I graduated high school and entered college at 16 years old and certainly had other job options than McDonald’s since I was working a job when I entered prostitution in the first place. For every 100 people with lung cancer from smoking tobacco – I’m sure you can find at least one person who has smoked 40 years without one bad symptom. Or can you? How do you define “no” damage? What about the 2nd hand smoke? What about the cost of smoking over that period of time? The definition of “damage” over anything changes according to the questions one asks. Melissa has spent more time really getting to know a wide variety of sex workers over a long period of time that allows her to have a much wider view of their lives than a simple 10 minute interview would afford as I”ve heard some researchers do – or the simple attacking of someone else’s research as I’ve seen many people do of her research. The motivation behind all of this is to help women. Listening to some escort rant and rave about her right to turn tricks doesn’t help me to help the women who call me at 2:00 a.m. from a payphone with not even shoes on because they just ran out of a hotel to get away from their pimp. The police won’t help. Welfare won’t help because she doesn’t have ID. I’d be willing to bet that if I called most of the women on this site and asked them to pony up an apartment for a month while I helped this woman recover from the stress, get some counseling, write up a resume, and figure out what kind of job she’d like to get to make sure she never runs into this guy again would tell me to either go fuck myself or tell this poor woman to go turn a trick to take care of herself in her situation as some kind of answer. Decriminalization of prostitution doesn’t help women like her either – it just means she doesn’t get arrested for turning tricks – period. That’s all it means – it doesn’t offer funding for the services women LIKE HER need. I tell you what – there are plenty of men out there looking for hookers to service them. What is rare are the organizations and individuals that are there for the women in crisis – and everyone agrees that women are damaged. You want to tell me that “some” women aren’t? Okay – but that doesn’t mean some women aren’t.

  29. Josie: “Yeah, I’m gonna try that again for clairity.

    Farley advocates the decriminalization of prostitution for those who work in it. She repeatedly calls for NO ARREST OF PROSTITUTED WOMEN!”

    But as we saw in the video and Jody commented, in order to end demand you have to arrest the women in order to dupe the bad guys.

    You cannot simultaneously criminalize a buyer and not adversely affect the seller. So you don’t want to see women arrested, fine. But criminalizing our clients does not make it any better. You’re still giving the police the power to choose what sort of sex is acceptable for individual women and what kind of sex is not.

    Taking the right to choose away from women is NOT a feminist value. Taking away the client does not eliminate the need to make money, it only forces women into isolation even further, making us vulnerable to assault and abuse. Stephanie said it well:

    “The bigger the demand, the more power we have. We can set our boundaries firmly, and turn down men who are disrespectful and treat us poorly. Desperation for money is part of the reason why women working the streets are subjected to far worse treatment than the rest of us. Allowing us to pick and choose who we see, and not have to “jump in the truck” with any taker translates to better treatment. Apparently Ms. Farley wants us all to suffer that way.”

    Criminalize us= jail, abuse by police, exclusion from civil life, make it impossible to access resources and assistance when needed and more.

    Criminalize the good clients=take away our ability to filter out the bad clients.

    Criminal laws are not the proper route for dealing with consensual sex and it will not make things better for anybody who is experiencing forced sex.

  30. Jody:

    Decriminalization does not offer a prostitute legal protection under the law either. Look at the decriminalization of pot smoking – yes you won’t be arrested if you are caught with a joint in your car. But if you get ripped off during a drug deal buying the pot – you can’t call the cops or take the guy to small claims court.

    I live and work in a country with decriminilized sex work. We do in fact have legislation in place that attempts to protect us, we function like any other sole contractor in terms of tax and legal recourse if we’re “ripped off”, at least on paper.

    The difference between decriminilisation and legalisation is not that we “simply don’t get arrested”… it is that we are allowed to work without having our work and lives regulated unfairly.

    The NSW system most certainly isn’t perfect, and many of those rights don’t translate into the off the paper world quite yet. But I think you’re overlooking quite a bit of what can be wrapped up in the label “decriminilisation”.

  31. Hexy- thank you for joining us. I read you blog tonight and I know you have a lot on your plate right now. I can totally relate to feeling jaded about similar issues. Welcome to our blog, you’re among family here.

    xo

  32. Wow, Jody just told you what life is like as a prostitute, as a former prostitute, an as a prostitute trying to get the hell out and y’all still whine on about your rights to be stupid.

    Nothing personal, but if you have the resources to be sitting at a computer tonight, posting on and on about your theoretical right to sell yourself, you probably are not one of the women Jody is trying to help survive tonight.

    So fuck you. And your priveldge. And your whining on an on about how it is so unfair you might not be able to exercise your theoretical right to sell yourself to any asshole who wants to ejaculate in your ass in Vegas tonight.

    Believe me, they are buying. Get your fine ass over here and you can be sucking dick within the hour.

    Lots of casinos and johns and pimps and strip club owners are more than happy to defend your right to sell whatever you want to sell.

    However, if you respect the right of women to get the hell out of this hell, then listen up to what Jody is telling you about the reality of the situation.

    It ain’t all about theory folks. We are talking about real human beings who are being treated like garbage, right now, while we type.

    Do you or do you NOT give a shit about them?

  33. Josie,

    I notice you often don’t respond to anyone’s questions or facts. You just continue to tirade from your perspective. While it is admirable that you feel strongly about your position, one that granted is very naive about sex worker rights activists and factually unsound, but perhaps you could answer my posts as I have addressed your concerns in multiple posts and have addressed Farley’s questions line by line. Answers that apply to your very questions.

    Also since you have time to be responding at this hour I’m assuming that you have the same privilege as that which you accuse us of having. Which clearly you don’t know us or what we have done. Perhaps if you did you wouldn’t make baseless accusations.

    You obviously don’t know what you are talking about when it comes to sex worker rights activists. Instead of telling us what we feel why not ask?

  34. Oh SNAP!!

  35. Josie: “Nothing personal, but if you have the resources to be sitting at a computer tonight…”

    Yes, Josie, and thank you for being in front of your computer to chat with us tonight.

    Multiple people here have stated that sex workers are very different people with different experiences and realities. As people of means and privilege, many of us are committed to utilizing that privilege to support others.

    Many of us would not have the means to support others without sex work. It’s hard to make the world a better place when you can’t pay your rent.

    Sex workers are working together to resist oppression, why do you seek to oppress us?

  36. Jill honey, which questions exactly do you need answered. I have about 20 minutes before I need to go to sleep. Anything I can help you with?

    And Karly, I do not seek to oppress you. I do however get creeped out at the thought that young women read some of the blogs and postings of people in these conversations and get a very rosey and unrealistic picture of life as sex worker. I’m looking for some reality in the conversation, that’s all.

  37. Also, I think prostitution by it’s very nature IS oppressive. That’s my opinion, I assume yours is different.

  38. Dont you all have any questions for each other? Or do you all know all the answers to all the questions?

  39. Josie writes “Jill honey,”

    You are real good comprehending boundaries aren’t you? I wonder if you didn’t view me as some doltish trollup slut if you would be so blatantly misogynist? Please tell me you are from the south where the term honey is common and is not intended as misogynist bullshit. If htat is the case, than forgive me, as I live in the south and can understand that.

    “which questions exactly do you need answered”

    I have gathered that reading comprehension isn’t a strength for you, so look at one of the newest threads on this blog. And you will see the questions. If you still are confused please let me know and I will be more specific.

    “. I have about 20 minutes before I need to go to sleep. Anything I can help you with?”

    Just keep posting the types of posts you have written to me in the last hours. You help me by making several of my points for me saving me time and giving me time to sleep.

  40. Hi Karly. Thanks for the welcome. There’s some interesting writing going on here!

    Josie: You say you want “reality” in the conversation… why do you reject ours?

    I will state now that I am and always have been a believer that discussions about the negatives of sex work and prostitution should be free of interruption by people promoting the positives. We’re not even discussing positives here, we’re discussing technicalities and legalities. Why can we as workers not be trusted to set the boundaries for our own conversations?

  41. I completely support everyone’s right to write about their reality. In fact I assume everyone here is doing just that.

    However, I don’t believe that the reality of the 5 people posting here represents all women in prostitution by any means.

    So we are all welcome to our reality, but we should not think we are the sum total of reality. A

    As far as boundaries go, I assume we all set our own.

  42. Several people have already pointed out to you that no-one here is saying the voices here represent all women in prostitution. I will add my voice to that: I don’t think I, or any of the women here, represent all sex workers, or even most sex workers. I don’t speak for anyone but myself.

  43. Me either.

  44. “Wow, Jody just told you what life is like as a prostitute, as a former prostitute, an as a prostitute trying to get the hell out and y’all still whine on about your rights to be stupid.

    Nothing personal, but if you have the resources to be sitting at a computer tonight, posting on and on about your theoretical right to sell yourself, you probably are not one of the women Jody is trying to help survive tonight.

    So fuck you. And your priveldge. And your whining on an on about how it is so unfair you might not be able to exercise your theoretical right to sell yourself to any asshole who wants to ejaculate in your ass in Vegas tonight.

    Believe me, they are buying. Get your fine ass over here and you can be sucking dick within the hour.

    Lots of casinos and johns and pimps and strip club owners are more than happy to defend your right to sell whatever you want to sell.

    However, if you respect the right of women to get the hell out of this hell, then listen up to what Jody is telling you about the reality of the situation.

    It ain’t all about theory folks. We are talking about real human beings who are being treated like garbage, right now, while we type.

    Do you or do you NOT give a shit about them?”

    No, cupcake, fuck you. I spent my night not getting fucked, but helping women in Washington DC who sure as hell do, and yeah, I am a whore. Food, condoms, free std test information, lawyers who will help them, education and child care options, even the occasional bummed cigarette and use of my cell phone. And, oh yeah, ANOTHER WHORE to talk to.

    So don’t ask how much we give a shit.

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