Melissa Farley Get a Life!

I mostly don’t care what Melissa Farley thinks, I know that her position is weak and illogical. But her opinion piece opens with a question that I’d very much like to address:

WHAT do we know about the woman Gov. Eliot Spitzer allegedly hired as a prostitute? She was the one person he ignored in his apology. What is she going through now? Is she in danger from organized crime because of what she knows? Is anyone offering her legal counsel or alternatives to prostitution?

What we know about Kristen is that she was able to walk into a room with a man, take over 4K from him and STILL INSIST ON SAFE SEX. Hmmm, Kristen must be a very confident, intelligent woman who respects herself. Kristen is a hero. She understands that the quality of an intimate sexual experience does not have to be compromised by safe sex. KRISTEN could probably give young women some good ideas about setting sexual boundaries and communicating about them.

She doesn’t need an apology from him- not in the sense that Farley is suggesting. He needs to have some balls and say that he made a decision to employ the services of a woman with whom he enjoys spending time and he’s sorry for all involved that they’re in the public eye. He ought to thank, not apologize to her.

Her purpose, as a man who knew patiently explained, is “renting” out an organ for 10 minutes.

How does she justify objectifying language like this? We are not fractured and damaged beings as she repeatedly claims. Since when is ‘a man who knew’ a legitimate source of information?

Whose theory is it that prostitution is victimless? It’s the men who buy prostitutes who spew the myths that women choose prostitution, that they get rich, that it’s glamorous and that it turns women on.

Um, to many of the women who do it, that’s not just a theory. Do their voices matter at all? Unlike you, Ms. Farley, we actually have some experience to base our perspective on and we understand the realities of the sex industry better than you ever will because your perspective is limited to theory- ours is reality.

Do you actually believe that women are so incapable and ignorant that men have programmed us into announcing to the world that we like what we do and we don’t want jail and we don’t want diversion programs. We do want access to health and education resources so that all sex workers have the agency to make informed decisions without risk of economic coercion. Yeah, the men brainwashed that into us.

But most women in prostitution, including those working for escort services, have been sexually abused as children, studies show. Incest sets young women up for prostitution — by letting them know what they’re worth and what’s expected of them. Other forces that channel women into escort prostitution are economic hardship and racism.

I would really be thrilled to read any of your research or research supporting your argument that has been peer-reviewed and has sound investigation methods. Still waiting…

Economic and race issues are always relevant when discussing the sex industry. The Eliot Spitzer story does not play into the traditional stereotypes. Which is good in most ways and has some major downsides…. exclusion and a glossing over of the issues involved with the practical enforcement of prostitution laws, etc. This case did not surface because of a traditional prostitution bust. This was about him specifically. Keeping prostitution illegal will always create a tool for political maneuvering. However, this has given the public an opportunity to look at a new angle of the industry that it was pretty much completely ignored before. And if all of us, in all levels of the industry, don’t start saying something, the media and Farley will continue to speak for us. So perhaps this is a critical point for the industry, can this be a situation that sparks new alliances and awareness among a more economically diverse group of sex workers?

The Emperor’s Club often required that the women provide sex twice an hour. One woman who was wiretapped indicated that she couldn’t handle that pressure.

As often noted by sex workers, myself included, this work isn’t for everybody. Some women enjoy stripping but would never do prostitution, some women enjoy prostitution but are too shy to get on stage in dance clubs. The point is- we need to be free to select the situations that we choose to work in, to have a legal environment that does not criminalize our right to COMMUNICATE (because, after all, that IS the only difference between the pro’s- pre-nups included- and non-pro’s) about those boundaries. If you can’t do it twice in an hour, that isn’t the right agency for you- find another one. Or better yet- work for yourself.

Telephone operators at the Emperor’s Club criticized one of the women for cutting sessions with buyers short so that she could pick up her children at school. “As a general rule,” one said, “girls with children tend to have a little more baggage going on.”

Again, this is an issue of choice. A professional is responsible for her schedule. If the schedule is not flexible enough for her, she needs to be able to work elsewhere (or for herself!)- not get out of prostitution. Sex work enables many mothers to afford their monthly expenses while still spending as much time as possible with their children. She needs to have choices within sex work. Limiting the public perspective on sex work to these extremes- either the rarest high-end situation or the saddest of poverty-stricken situations- prevents people from understanding the true nature of the work and associated circumstances that can limit one’s ability to choose.

Whether the woman is in a hotel room or on a side street in someone’s car, whether she’s trafficked from New York to Washington or from Mexico to Florida or from the city to the suburbs, the experience of being prostituted causes her immense psychological and physical harm. And it all starts with the buyer.

*Yawn* Okay, yeah, it’s all because of the natural biological human sex drive which women are expected to suppress and men are supposed to lie about. It makes perfect sense, it’s like how breathing creates air pollution.

22 Responses

  1. I loathe this woman. Really. Farley too can suck my strap on in hell.

    She’s a zealot that anyone and everyone in the sex industry needs saving, from themselves, for their own good.

    Someone needs to remind her that he isn’t the messiah, nor authorized to speak for anyone other than herself.

  2. Ahem’ “That thinks anyone and everyone”

  3. Thanks for this post – I read that Farley piece earlier today, with the usual jaded loathing, and I’m glad to see a sensible response to it.

  4. […] Melissa Farley Get a Life! « Bound, Not Gagged “How does she justify objectifying language like this? We are not fractured and damaged beings as she repeatedly claims. Since when is ‘a man who knew’ a legitimate source of information?” (tags: objectification assholes hypocrisy bullshit media msm prostitution sexwork Spitzer) […]

  5. Who the fuck is Farley to be issuing critiques of Spitzer? He is one of her fucking henchman in the “war on trafficking”. If she wants credibility how about she resigns as prostitution expert. Given the fact that she is not. Her research if one can call it that, is slanted propaganda that exploits victimized sex workers and uses their victimization to advance her career and cut the rights of sex workers. What is she doing for those she studies? Has she set up shelters for them? Has she provided them job skills to exit the sex industry? Has she developed programs to assist them? What exactly does Farley do other than faux independent studies that further victimize? I knew she’d find a way to jump into this.

    Sorry Farley but we aren’t up for messiah authorized kool aid.

  6. What have you done 4 sex workers?

    So what are your credentials again? What gives you any right to talk about these issues. We’re suppposed to believe you are sex workers, right? You don’t talk like sex workers. You tak like pimps. Most of you seem to old to be real sex worker. Men don’t like old ladies. Don’t pay as much. So you come here and complain. ‘

    At least Farley knows that sex work sux. you know nothin.

  7. […] Melissa Farley Get a Life! […]

  8. Whou,

    And you’re a sex worker? Do tell. Please. And, while you’re at it, let us know what wonderful things you do for sex workers since you’ve already made it clear you think we’re scum. (Product of a great childhood indeed. Your parents must be so proud you can only type in text-message.)

  9. Sorry Amanda, Whou has the same IP address as the other trolls.

    How bout them cowboys?

  10. I had wondered about that but didn’t check. Thanks for letting me know.

    XX

  11. This op-ed had me fuming. Two things about the Spitzor coverage really bother me: (1) that when it comes to prostitution, the NY Times gives itself licence to behave like the NY Post (but with longer words and more use of dependent clauses), (2) public comments, even on the Times site, show me just how clueless people are about sex (not just erotic labor, but the fact that humans can have sex without religious and state permission, and still be decent, loving, non-misogynistic — and indeed pro-feminist — people).

    A few additional points on the op-ed:

    (1) Paying someone train fare from NYC to DC in order to hire their services tor several thousand dollars counts as *trafficking*?

    (2) It most certainly does not start with the buyer. It starts with a decision by the provider to be that sie’s going to offer hir services.

    (3) Looking at the past or present circumstances (sexual abuse, economic hardship) of prostitutes says little about the effect of prostitution. It just says that the barriers to entry for sex-workers are less biased than those of other professions. To really make the argument she’s making, she needs to show that prostitutes are, in most cases, worse off economically and mentally after several years of work than they were beforehand.

    (4) This is rather obvious, but I guess it’s apt since the op-ed seems to advocate enforcement: ever looked at mental health issues among police officers or military personnel? Should we ban those dangerous occupations as well, on the basis that cops and soldiers are too mentally feeble to decide for themselves what occupation they desire?

    “What we know about Kristen is that she was able to walk into a room with a man, take over 4K from him and STILL INSIST ON SAFE SEX. Hmmm, Kristen must be a very confident, intelligent woman who respects herself. Kristen is a hero. … [Spitzor] ought to thank, not apologize to her.”

    I love you for having written that!!! I wish we could get it into the mainstream media’s discourse though.

  12. Arjuna,

    1) Under current laws, yes, that is trafficking.

    XX

  13. Is there no escape from the tin foil hat lady?

    http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/Advice/TheHappyHookerFantasyHasGotToGo.aspx

    Farley quoted on the Money page of MSN?!

  14. In a quote in the article above, she talked about men buying prostitutes, and by using that type of language, she’s dehumanizing prostitutes by talking about them like objects for sale rather than human beings with minds and feelings making a living.
    She also said it was a myth that women choose to work in prostitution, but speaking of myths, it’s a myth to believe that Melissa Farley has any business speaking for prostitutes and based on the dehumanizing attitudes she has expressed toward prostitutes, it seems like a myth to believe that she actually cares at all about prostitutes. Another myth she spreads is that the criminalization of prostitutes doesn’t further endangers prostitutes. Also, speaking of choices, prostitutes aren’t choosing to be persecuted or have Farley speak over them. They’re not choosing to have Farley write about them like they’re nothing more than objects for sale.

  15. testing to see if this works

  16. hey amanda, jill, ren etc–

    i’ve been reading bng a bit the past few days to get the groups opinions on all this. I did want to comment on this Blog (imagine that — it is about Farley lol). I just read the farely editorial and despite whether you agree with her opinions, research methods etc, I’m glad she criticized Spitzor the hypocrite. As you know, he supported laws that she herself did and I’m glad she publically stated her opinion against him. I think it does show sincerity to her politically activism as well that she will openly write against anyone who is a john, no matter what he might have “supported” in public. I wrote this because I think you all are too harsh on Farley about that article.

    Two things we definitly all agree on — he is a hypocrite and I wish the media had not outed Kristen!!!!! They are scum too.

  17. Hi Gretchen:
    I’ve read various things Farley has written and I feel that the criticisms toward are are justified, so I disagree about with you about us being too harsh on her. However, I agree about Spitzor’s hypocracy and that the media should not had outed Spector.
    Yet, I find Farley to be hypocritical too, especially after reading the sarcastic piece she co-authored with Nikki Craft in which they made fun of prostitutes. I believe the title was “Why I Choose to Become a Prostitute”…..or something like that. Have you read it? We were discussing it on Bound Not Gagged a while back and though I used to like to think that Farley was at least well intended, pieces such as that one make it harder for me to do so. It went beyond just being bad satire. It was downright disgusting. I find it hypocritcal to call prostitution rape and violence against women on the one hand, but on the other hand, turn around and start mocking prostitutes. If they really care about prostitutes, then they should be promoting respect rather than disrespect toward sex workers in prostitution.

  18. Oops, I meant to say that I agree that the media should not had outed Kristen, rather not Specter.

  19. Oos, I meant to say that I agree that the media should not had outed Kristen, not Spitzer. I’m sorry if this message posts twice.

  20. sex worker advocate,

    yeah, i read “Why I choose to become a prostitute” and found it offensive. I thought it had some satire on academia, “sex positive” feminism, and the use of the word “choice” and wondered if it was directed more towards upper/middle class women who use that rhetoric. However, most of it i didn’t care for. she doesn’t have it up on her site though and that is the only time I’ve seen something of that sort from her. So despite that, I still think her intentions are good and her every other articles I’ve read are compassionate and am open to leaning why and under what circumstances that piece was written. I’ve written stuff too that was harsh that doesn’t represent who I really am.
    Did you think Andrea Dworkin cared about women and had good intentions? Despite your disagreements.

  21. That’s a thought provoking question about Andrea Dworkin. I found some of the language she used to be offensive, such as how she used labels that have been used against sex workers in negative ways. I realize that there are people in various groups who have taken words that have been used against them and used them in positive ways, but when such words are used in negative ways, I consider that to be hate speech.
    I don’t have any really strong opinions about whether Dworkin was well intended, but I think she was so consumed by negative energy and that affected the negative attitudes she expressed toward sexuality, and she was seemed unable to see it as anything other than negative. It wasn’t just prostitution that she denounced, but sex in the broader sense. She once wrote that “all heterosexual sex is rape.” I believe it was in the book “Intercourse” where she wrote this.
    We can better address the negatives and solve the problems and harms in this word if we allow in positive energy, and unfortunately, Dworkin was so consumed by negative energy that she seemed unable to do this. When people are consumed by negative engery, the consequences are negative, so negativity leads to more negativity.
    I’m not saying it was entirely her fault that she was this way, but it’s just my impression of her. She had the right to be angry as we all do, but I think it’s important for us to stay in control of our anger rather than let our anger control us.
    Also, something else we agree on is that the sarcastic piece we commented on by Melissa Farley and Nikki Craft was offensive. Though it may had in some ways been directed toward sex positive feminism, they still made fun of prostitutes in this piece and they mentioned prostitutes rather than sex positive feminists (not that it would be ok to make fun of sex positive feminists either). This has the potential to promote and further negative stereotypes and prejudices that exist against prostitutes. It really didn’t do anything to benefit sex workers or promote sex workers’ rights. Even if it was in part geared toward sex positive feminism, that doesn’t make it any less offensive to me.

  22. Gretchen,

    This may not be the most popular answer on this blog but having had some interaction with Andrea my answer would be yes she did care about women and did have good intentions. I may not always have agreed with her, but in my opinion in intentions for women and girls were very good.

    I will also say this. Even after I had broken ranks with many radical feminists and was outspokenly opposed to the right wing shift and in my opinion a very poor decision by many radical feminists to conflate trafficking and sex work, Andrea did something very kind and humanist. While she probably didn’t care for my abandonment of radical feminism, my shift to harm reduction and sex worker rights she advocated on my behalf against a very close colleague and long time friend of hers named Nikki Craft. In response to my being the public face of the political realignment of a once radical feminist abolitionist org to a sex worker rights/harm reduction org, Nikki built an extensive website about my experiences in prostitution, quoting and misquoting from my openness as a survivor of rape and violence during much of my time in the sex industry calling them delusions and lies among other things in a large hate website specifically targeting me. Nikki took it upon herself to do what is the fear of virtually any public rape victim/survivor and mock, attempt to discredit through distortions, misquotes and blatant fabrications in an effort by her own public admission on her website to both harm me and attempt to force the shutdown of the org that I took on a path from radical feminism to what is now SWOP, Sex Workers Outreach East. She used my past as a rape victim/survivor as a weapon in an effort to achieve both a personal gain of harming me and a shutdown of what is now SWOP East.

    While many radical feminists would not take a stand against Nikki despite the ethical violation of blatantly trashing a rape survivor. Andrea did. Despite what I would guess was her disappointment in my choices and actions, she contacted NIkki about the ethical breach Nikki had committed and Nikki pulled down the website under pressure from Andrea.

    Andrea stood for her conviction of backing the rights and dignity of a survivor, of a former sex worker, even if she disagreed with my political decisions. Even if it meant challenging the owner of the Andrea Dworkin Online Library and a woman, Nikki Craft, who was a long time friend and ally of hers.

    Andrea always treated me with kindness and respect and at a time she could have joined a large chorus of her allies in unfairly condemning and vilifying me, she put political aside. Actions often say much more than words. I can’t and won’t speak for anyone else on this blog. But I believe Andrea truly cared and had good intentions and that activism for social justice and especially radical feminist activism have suffered a loss with her passing.

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