The latest stop in the Melissa Farley traveling roadshow

While not wanting to distract from the more important and tragic news of Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s death, I just wanted to point out that Melissa Farley has been in the news again, this time in Scotland, co-authoring a new report on Scottish johns, just in time for the Scottish Parliament’s consideration of Swedish-style laws against the purchase of sex for Scotland.

The report is signature Farley – a mix of shabby pseudo-sociology and high rhetoric. Elizabeth at Sex in the Public Square has an excellent analysis of the new report:

Melissa Farley and her fringe research mill Prostitution Research and Education have teamed up with a Scottish anti-prostitution group to produce a new ‘research’ report with the problematic title “Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland: A research report based on interviews with 110 men who bought women in prostitution”.

Readers of this site will understandably be rolling their eyes and groaning, “not again!” But it is important to remember, awful though it is, that other folks take Farley’s research seriously and that it deserves serious attention to help mitigate the damage it can do to real efforts to advocate for women’s safety and sex worker safety. Such ‘studies’ play to particular political positions, in this case pressure to export the Swedish ‘solution’ through Europe, but political expedience is not the same as sound policy. Check today’s Daily Record (Scotland) for the most recent orchestrated flood of bad news coverage of a poor study to support wrongheaded policy.

It is important to stress, again and again, that Farley’s research cannot be considered reliable and certainly doesn’t approach even basic scientific standards. The problems with the current study are many but can be summed up in terms of ethical concerns, bias and inadequate attention to detail in the write up. The write up is problematic enough that it is hard to judge the quality of the research, but the very clear bias is enough to call the findings into question. The bias also leads to the making of recommendations that are not proportional to the findings. Below I address just a few of the major problems. (Watch this space for links to critiques by other feminist sex worker advocates and researchers.)

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A PDF of the Farley and company report can be found here. A response to the Farley report drafted by some 20 academics and activists (including such familiar names as Michael Goodyear, Ronald Weitzer, and Petra Boynton), and also submitted to the Scottish Parliament, can be found here. An op-ed in The Scotsman by Margo MacDonald, a member of the Scottish Parliament who is against the proposed Swedish-style law, can be found here.

Bound, not Gagged Community Responds to the Loss of Deborah Jeane Palfrey

Yesterday when I came by BNG to post the news of Palfrey’s death, mizviv already had a post going. A year ago, that would have been unimaginable — not just that we could lose Deborah Jeane, but that here, in a matter of minutes, we’d have gathered, would have spread this news to our friends and community so quickly, had this place to duck into for sanity throughout the day. All I could do was try to approve comments quickly enough, so they would come in a torrent, a dozen at a time.

I know I’m not alone now in figuring out how to express my own sense of grief and frustration. Some deeply personal and astute posts have already come out of our community:

Amber Rhea: RIP, Deborah Jeane Palfrey; More Thoughts

Audacia Ray: Deborah Jean Palfrey: Double Standards Lead to Death

Ren: We don’t put murderers and rapists away for 55 years most of the time, yet this woman, who hurt no one…

Molly Crabapple: “This punched me in the gut.”

Susie Bright: Deborah Jeane Palfrey Checks Out, with audio interview & transcript

Anthony Kennerson: Deborah Jeane Palfrey: Another Casaulty of the War On Sex

If I missed yours, can you please link in the comments and I’ll add to this list?