Chicago Sex Workers in OpEdNews

Spare Us Paternalism, Say Organizing Chicago Sex Workers

I really liked this article. And, yes, SWOP Chicago gets representation!

$pread Magazine Launches 2008 Voter Guide For Sex Workers

$pread Magazine launched the $pread 2008 Voter Guide today as part of Grind The Vote 2008, a voter registration drive covered by Bound, Not Gagged here.

The Voter Guide taps into the positions of the two major-party presidential candidates and their positions on health care, immigration, reproduction rights, LGBT rights, labor rights, drugs and harm reduction, and affordable housing.

From the Voter Guide:

In an effort to connect the dots of party politics, $pread Magazine has compiled this voter guide setting forth the positions of the two major-party presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, on issues of particular importance to sex workers. Nothing in this guide should be understood to imply endorsement of or support for either candidate – its purpose is only to provide sex workers and their allies with information to help them decide on an individual basis which, if either, of these candidates to support.

To learn more about Grind The Vote or to download your own copy of the Spread 2008 Voter Guide, click here.

Orgasms

(Because this blog can’t be all work and no play! 😉 WARNING: Explicit language. Please do not read if you are offended by such matter or are under 18. And this is not meant to be literary perfection- it is simply my reflection on a perfect afternoon.)

So I recently flew to California at the request of one of my favorite clients. He’d suddenly had a day open and all to himself, and he suggested I join him in the country for an afternoon of decadence. He’d reserved a room for the day at a resort in an idyllic location with a breath-taking view of rolling hills covered with oak trees. He said he had a special treat to share with me- someone he promised I’d like.

My client- we’ll call him Bob- is seriously one of the two best lovers I have ever had. Every time I leave his bed, I ponder the fact that I’ve just been paid to have some of the best sex of my life. He’s passionate, incredibly fit, and the perfect combination of animal and man. He is as interested in my pleasure as he is in his own- actually, my pleasure is his own. And of course, vice-versa. His kisses are like butter…his touch  electric, arousing, and adept. And he adores women- every inch of them.

So I arrived for our lunch date in a very feminine sundress at noon on a glorious sunny California summer day, and Bob had just said goodbye to the room service waiter. I always catch my breath when I first see him: at once my body remembers his touch and reacts with a delicate ache in my groin followed by the swelling of my vaginal lips and an involuntary surge of moisture. He smiled his beautful smile, took me in his arms, and encouraged yet more moisture with his deep and hungry kisses. I could have had him right then and there, but I didn’t want to be greedy, as I knew another guest would shortly arrive.

Our lunch was spread out on a table on the deck overlooking the hills: wine, cheese, crackers, fruit, caviar, smoked salmon, bread, olives, nuts… all foods that could be eaten from each other’s fingers. He poured me a glass of chardonnay, and we toasted the beginning of a wonderful adventure. At about that moment, the doorbell rang, and he opened the door to a gorgeous brunette- the special treat he’d promised. This would indeed be a fun afternoon.

The brunette (we’ll call her Danielle) was another companion I’d wanted to meet for some time, and during lunch we got to know more about each other. She was just delightful, and with every sip of wine and bite of cheese, the sexual tension grew. She was waif-like and willowy, with long legs and a tiny little waist, and mesmerizing blue-green eyes. I very much looked forward to kissing her. I watched her lips intently as she told me more about herself.

I wasn’t wearing panties, and my moisture increased. I decided to initiate the physical interplay by pushing Bob back on the chase lounge and unbuttoning his shirt. Danielle was quick to join me and together we had him nude in seconds. We then began undressing each other- sensuously, slowly, deliberately- purely for his benefit. She and I finally kissed. She was delicious. We engaged in a three-way kiss with Bob, and made our way to the shower built for at least two people…probably more.

As the afternoon progressed, I lost count of all of my orgasms. I kept coming and coming- with his tongue, her tongue, her fingers, his fingers and tongue together, his cock, his thigh, his cock, his cock- and multiples- so many multiples. Does each orgasm in a multiple count as a separate orgasm? She came too; both Bob and I had the pleasure of eliciting moans of delight from her. When Bob finally came, it was inside of me, and I felt each throb as his cock explosively released his pent-up desire. I came again.

We lay there- a spent, sweaty threesome- caressing each other and enjoying the afterglow of a perfect romp. More stories, more wine… and we ordered room service again because we’d worked up a hunger. Food is always a perfect accompaniment to sex.

In the end, we’d had each other on the bed, on the deck, in the shower, in the bath, and Bob came at least 4 times, Danielle several more than that, and I’d lost count at 30 something. We ended our afternoon tryst in the early evening by bathing in an oversized tub by candlelight. More stories, more sharing, more caresses, more kisses, exquisite after-glow.

Seven hours after our first kiss that day, Bob dressed, collected his belongings, and gently kissed both Danielle and me on the lips as he made his way to the door. He promised we’d do this again, and that he might invite another lady to join us next time. We suggested he invite two more.

Danielle and I stayed on in the hotel room, enjoying each other’s (physical and intellectual) company about an hour longer, and finally she also had to take leave of me.

I wasn’t due to fly out until the next day, so I spent the evening lost in the memories of an unbelievably decadent afternoon. Bob is sexual perfection, and I still can’t believe I am paid for the pleasure of his company.

Oh, The Possiblities!

Group considers relaxing internet naming rules

If ICANN [Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers] approves the proposals, the world of .com and .org and country names like .jp or .fr would be opened to a much wider choice, such as .hotel or .sex.

Just the thought of .sex has bloggers predicting an auction frenzy, as almost any word in any language could become a domain name extension.

“You can almost guarantee the most highly sought-after one will, unfortunately, probably be dot-sex,” said Bryan Glick of Computing Magazine.

Miami Busts

As reported in the Miami Herald:

Leah Harriss, Princess Thigpen and Kimberly Daniels allegedly lured the potential clients aboard and, along with Leighann Redding, offered sex for cash.

And Christine Morteh, 29, was their madame, police say.

These six tooled through South Beach in a massive limo bus last weekend in what police are calling a brothel-on-wheels.

Their enterprise came to a screeching halt at 3:15 Sunday morning, when they picked up the wrong fare — three undercover Miami Beach cops — within walking distance of the police station.

”It was very brazen,” said Detective Juan Sanchez, a Miami Beach police spokesman. “They were offering everything from lap dances to sex.”

The arrests were part of a city-wide crackdown on prostitution over the weekend that led to 78 arrests, including at least seven felonies, and helped recover a missing person.

The sweep also netted a large cache of evidence, including drugs, a firearm and money.

But the highest-profile bust was the bus. . .

No mention as to whether that missing person was missing by force or choice. And, of course, there’s never a mention of why a criminalized activity might be around additional criminalized activities, as if those felonies and firearms were only present because the prostitution existed and not because they would be out there even if the prostitution disappeared.

Also in USA Today, which is clearly the inferior of the two articles. Though that’s not to say that either article is respectable.

Edit: Mentioned on perezhilton.com, although I’m not sure what Charlie Sheen has to do with this case.

Newly Appointed UN Special Rapporteur Brings Hope: Human Rights for Sex Workers and Migrants

The information below was posted on the website from the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. The appointment of Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo Emekekwue of Nigeria is a very positive step . The former UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Sigma Huda, was clearly at odds with a human rights agenda. Quoting below, you see she was “criticized by human rights and anti-trafficking groups for not being based on the core human rights conventions or on a verifiable evidence base, and for being biased and ideologically driven in their approach to trafficking.” Sigma Huda, who worked in conjunction with CATW (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women), is now in prison.

We can hope that this appointment might have a substantial effect on international responses to trafficking.

For more information about Sigma Huda:
http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=1694

Carol Leigh,
http://www.bayswan.org/traffick/

Good News from the Secretariat OF GAATW

from The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) http://www.gaatw.net/

We are writing to share the wonderful news that Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo Emekekwue of Nigeria has been selected as the new Special Rapporteur on Trafficking.

This decision still has to be approved and confirmed by the Human Rights Council on Wednesday 18 June, so it is not official until that date. However, we still wanted to share the news and send our many thanks to you for your rapid support for Joy. Our letter of endorsement was supported by 82 signatories from around the world! Thank you for all your support.

In solidarity,
GAATW International Secretariat
http://www.gaatw.net/

The information below was included in the GAATW recommendation for this candidate.

“The Special Rapporteur has the power to play a valuable role in identifying the human rights violations that make certain people, often women and children, vulnerable to trafficking, as well as the violations that occur during and after the trafficking process. In addition, the Special Rapporteur can also advise states about how to centre the rights of trafficked persons in anti-trafficking strategies. An enormous amount of work remains to be done in this area.”

“To date, however, the Special Procedure on trafficking has been profoundly disappointing and even detrimental to the situation of trafficked persons. For the past one year, the mandate-holder has been in prison on charges of corruption, leaving the mandate effectively inactive. Furthermore, the thematic reports produced in the first two years of her mandate, when she was still in office, were criticized by human rights and anti-trafficking groups for not being based on the core human rights conventions or on a verifiable evidence base, and for being biased and ideologically driven in their approach to trafficking.”

“…we support the candidature of Joy Ngozi Ezeilo Emekekwue. She has a strong human rights academic and advocacy background and a record of grassroots research and advocacy. She has experience in working with governments, as per her appointment as the Honorable Commissioner for Women’s Affairs and Social Development in Enugu State, Nigeria, as well as excellent experience in writing, research and analysis on women’s human rights issues throughout her academic career.”

“Her human rights experience in Nigeria, a significant origin country for women trafficked to Europe, and a destination country for men, women and children trafficked from around West Africa, places her in a unique position of understanding both of the imperatives that drive people into trafficking situations, and the need for better protections in destination countries.”

Sex Workers at San Francisco Pride!

** Please distribute widely!

Sex Workers and Allies will be out and proud with SF Pride this year, come see all the great things we are doing:

Saturday June 28th, 2008:
* Sex Workers Outreach Project USA will be @ the Dyke March, Sat. June 28th, 2008. It’s located @ 18th & Dolores. (16th st mission BART, or 18th & church muni stop) Starting about 3PM, with the march starting @ 7PM. Come help us carry our banner in the march or hang out under our Umbrella.
* We will also have a booth at SF pride (C12 on Grove between larkin & Market) starting @ NOON and ending at 6PM (Civic Center BART). We will be sharing this booth with ESPU-CA, which will be collecting signatures for the upcoming vote to decriminalize prostitution.
Sunday June 29th, 2008:
* Sex Workers, SJI, CSC and others will be riding a trolley Gold Rush Style down Market street starting @ 10:30 AM from Market and Beale (Embarcadero BART) down Market and finishing on 8th St (Civic Center BART). Costumed Ho’s and allies welcome to join the contingent, to get the most updated info email Sadie at sadiewantsawife@gmail.com
* SWOP-Norcal will be serving drinks from booth B5 (Civic Center BART – on Golden Gate st near Polk st — in between federal and state building), noon till 6PM. We still need volunteers, definitely come help!! email: vafeldman@ucdavis.edu
* SWOP-USA will have a booth (C12 on Grove between larkin & Market) with ESPU (again collecting signatures) from NOON till 6PM. Come by our booth and say hi!
We will have amazing Professional Bumper Stickers and t-shirts for donation, and will have pamphlets, flyers, Legal and Know Your Rights information and amazing people(with a few Celebrities!) hanging out and spreading the Sex Worker Rights Message!
For more information email: tara@swopusa.org.

Prostitute’s Protective Society, 1966

Uhm… sex workers fighting violence against sex workers, the Early Years. Prostitute’s Protective Society.  (Sorry, video doesn’t want to embed.)

Sex Workers & HIV/AIDS: Reality Check

Melissa Ditmore’s latest piece at http://www.realitycheck.com: Punishing Sex Workers Won’t Cure HIV/AIDS, Says Ban Ki-moon

Add United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the list of people who understand that arresting and punishing sex workers is counter-productive in the battle against HIV/AIDS. And take the government of Cambodia off that list.

The Global Working Group on HIV and Sex Work Policy wrote to Ban in June to applaud his statement commending the findings of a March report that favored decriminalizing sex work. The Report of the Commission on AIDS in Asia noted that sex workers are part of the solution to preventing the spread of HIV, and advised countries to “avoid programs that accentuate AIDS-related stigma and can be counterproductive. Such programs may include ‘crack-downs’ on red-light areas and arrest of sex workers.”

To express their gratitude for this understanding, sex workers and advocates circulated a statement at the June 11-12 UN High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS as Ban spoke to the gathering in New York. “Sex workers thank [Ban] for his support of their efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” the statement said.

The March report strongly advised countries to enlist sex workers in the effort to prevent the spread of HIV. It included firm recommendations against punitive measures targeting sex work and other frowned-upon behaviors, on the grounds that such approaches have proven counter-productive. The UN Secretary-General supported these recommendations in his statement and sex workers everywhere are grateful.

Unfortunately, some governments continue to deny reality.

Under pressure from the United States, Cambodia outlawed prostitution in February. The government’s promotion of a “no condoms, no sex” program in legal brothels there had succeeded in reducing HIV infection rates, but now those brothels have closed or gone underground, along with bars, karaoke clubs and street areas. Hundreds of women have been arrested, jailed or displaced, while dozens have been raped and beaten by police and prison guards. The HIV prevention and care programs that were working have collapsed.

Grind the Vote 2008 : Sex Workers From Pole to Poll


On Thursday July 3, $pread Magazine, in conjunction with SWANK (Sex Workers Action New York) and SWOP-NYC (Sex Workers Outreach Project), is proud to host their first pre-fourth of July burlesque bash and voter registration event, Grind The Vote, at The Slipper Room on New York’s Lower East Side. A national effort– with events from Sin City to the Windy City, the Capital to the Big Apple– sex workers and their allies are organizing into an electoral force in the pursuit of political and economic justice.

“Grind The Vote is the first-ever national voter awareness and registration event for sex workers and their allies in the United States,” says Carol Leigh of BAYSWAN (Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network). “Our fast growing movement has learned much about the political process and how crucial our political participation is. This day is a milestone in the history of political participation and self-representation in the USA.”


Grind The Vote 2008 will register voters and create awareness around the issues most concerning sex workers throughout the country. “Sex workers are often only considered newsworthy when they are stereotyped in sensational scandals, as in the case of former governor Eliot Spitzer or the profiles of those murdered by serial killer Robert Pickton,” says Shakti Ziller, Director of Communications for $pread Magazine. “The public is generally unaware that sex workers are a strong political force organizing for our rights. Grind The Vote 2008 is our national coming out party.”  As a part of this effort, $pread has produced fact sheets summarizing the stances of the presidential candidates on the most pressing political issues affecting sex workers and their allies. These include issues as diverse as our communities themselves, from immigration and labor rights,  to health care and reproductive justice.


“We are ready, willing and available to talk to the public about so much more than just our hourly rates. We are vibrant, opinionated, informed. Our voices have been silenced and our characters condemned for far too long. At the polls and in the media, sex workers are stepping up to demand that we be heard.” says Dylan Wolfe of SWANK.


Local burlesque stars have shown overwhelming support for Grind The Vote, volunteering their time and energy for a political cause they believe in. Among those performing on July 3rd are Pookie Patootie, La John Joseph, Nasty Canasta, Bastard Keith, and AuroraBoobRealis of Brown Girls Burlesque. Doors open at 8pm, the burlesque show begins at 9pm. Interested media representatives should RSVP to the event. More details can be found at www.spreadmagazine.org/grindthevote/ or by contacting these organizations’ various representatives.

Historical Ho’s Take to the Streets! SF Sex Worker Pride Float!

We are working on putting together a contingent and “float” for this
year’s SF pride parade on June 29th, with the support of the Center
for Sex and Culture and the St. James Infirmary. During last year’s
very successful historic sex worker bike tour, Sex On Wheels,
organized by Jenny Worley, Sadie learned that in the Barbary Coast
days, before the turn of the century (1900, not 2000) brothels would
parade their girls down Market Streets in carriages as advertising.

Prostitute Pride Parade! Between 1849 and 1906, madams and sex workers from each of San Francisco’s brothels would pile into open carriages and drive up and down Market Street to advertise their businesses and show off their fabulousness. This Saturday afternoon prostitutes’ parade was a San Francisco establishment from the gold rush until the great quake.”

Our vision is to create a nostalgic homage to our predecessors with a
contingent of sex workers (all genders and genres welcome!) dressed in
vintage lingerie and transported by trolley as well as traipsing and
strutting while throwing rose petals down Market St.
The goal is to bring some visibility to sex workers, especially queer
sex workers while giving a little history lesson to the invaluable
role sex workers have played in building this city; as well as looking
gorgeous and sexy, having fun, and who knows, maybe even inadvertently
advertising!
The trolley is all taken care of, and will fit up to 25 sex workers,
but there’s still a bunch more to do to make this gorgeous image a
reality!

If you are interested in helping, please contact Sadie at
sadiewantsawife@gmail.com.

Preference for the riders on the trolley will be given to those who
who help and volunteer before the day-of the parade. Other contingent
participants are welcome and we’ll have space to walk alongside and
behind the trolley.

Sex Workers need your drawers!

We also need donations of lacey undies and vintage-esque lingerie to clad ourselves, (but barely) so that the float is accessible and any worker who wants to join us will have an awesome outfit to wear.
Please donate your fancy lacey/frilly undies (especially in pink, black, red and purple) and vintage-style (1840’s-1930’s) lingerie for all genders to the Sex Workers Pride Float!
Too small for that corset? Haven’t worn bloomers in years? Always dreamed of seeing a fabulous person-of-the-evening donning your unmentionables? Give ‘em to a good cause, to promote queer/sex worker visibility and SF history.

If you know someone you think would *love* to get involved, please
forward this to them!

The Erotic Review: Axis of Evil

Love em or hate em, TER is going to be around for awhile, I’m afraid, and even Dave Elms and his alleged unethical shenanigans aren’t going to change a thing. Do the math. TER’s ads on the Village Voice’s Backpage advertise they have “almost a million members.” The ad neglects to tell us what constitutes a “member” since one can be registered and not pay a dime, or choose to pay a monthly fee to access the VIP portions of the site. However, if even one-fourth of the “almost a million members” are paying $20 a month for membership, that’s $5 million dollars a month (or $60 million a year) in gross revenue. According to Quantcast, they maintain in excess of 866,000 unique hits per month, 93% of which are either “regulars” or “addict.” Even if Dave Elms got caught on an R. Kelly-style video pissing on a barely legal teen, TER would still be the Walmart of escort review sites. They’re not going anywhere.

As an escort, I’ve come to terms with my love-hate relationship with escort reviews in general, adopting a sort of “nature of the beast” attitude. What offends me about TER, however, is the exceedingly negative, hostile attitude toward working girls in general. Here’s a direct quote from the Backpage ad: “DID YOU GET RIPPED OFF AGAIN? Didn’t read her reviews, did you? Don’t let them get away with it. The reason why these rip-offs exist is because up until now there was nothing you could do about it. By submitting a review you are not only warning thousands of guys in your area, you hitting them where it hurts…”.

Well, here’s a big, fat, cherry-flavored FUCK YOU to all those who feel compelled to perpetrate the hooker-as-social-deviant myth while happily profiting from the very thing they seem to despise. There’s a revolution on the horizon, and it’s wearing ass-kicking stilettos.

See related New York Times article, “Sex Trade Monitors a Key Figure’s Woes

Calling All Lesbian Writers!

(Re-posting from an email):
Below is an announcement for this year’s Lesbian Writers Fund. The deadline for application is Monday, June 30th. Please feel free to forward this widely to anyone you think may be interested.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at grants@astraeafoundation.org, or call me at 212-529-8021ext22.

Warmly,
Lorraine Ramirez
Program Associate
********************

$10,000 to Lesbian Writers! Deadline: Monday, June 30, 2008 (for receipt in Astraea’s office)

The Lesbian Writers Fund of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

For emerging lesbian poets and fiction writers within the U.S. First place awardees and two runners-up in the poetry and fiction categories will receive cash awards ($10,000 for awardee, $1,500 for runners-up). Thanks to Skip’s Sappho Fund, at least one grant will be awarded to a lesbian writer who is based west of the Mississippi River. Please note that the application is in two documents – please read both thoroughly before compiling and sending in your application. Please make sure to read the guidelines thoroughly for eligibility criteria and submission instructions. There will not be an ID number on your application. Please call the Astraea office, or email us, for an ID number prior to applying.

For more information, or a copy of guidelines and application for the above grants, please contact us at: 212-529-8021, ext. 22 or via email at: grants@astraeafoundation.org. Guidelines and application forms are also available online at: http://www.astraeafoundation.org/PHP/Grants/DeadlinesAllGrants.php4

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice works for social, racial and economic justice in the U.S. and internationally. Our grantmaking and philanthropic advocacy programs help lesbians and allied communities challenge oppression and claim their human rights.

TheEroticReview’s Dave Elms in Jail — Now What?

I’ve been quiet in these parts lately because I’ve been following the story of TheEroticReview.com’s Dave Elms over at Valleywag. I’ve got two articles up today with interviews with women who use TER, who’ve had run-in’s with Elms where he tried to get sex from them for free, and when they refused, he pulled their reviews:

This is probably not news to most BNG readers who’ve dealt with TER, but it was to The New York Times, who have been trying to get sex workers to talk to them on the record about Elms and TER, and have yet to run their story. Sex workers’ concerns with going to the Times were the subject of my second article today:

And The Next Plea Deal Goes To . . .

3rd Guilty Plea in “Prostitution Ring”

A 62-year-old former tax specialist who ran the high-priced online escort service that was patronized by Eliot Spitzer pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal prostitution and money laundering charges.

I know we’ve touched on this here before, but the use of “prostitution ring” irritates me. What does that mean, really?

Sex Workers Thank UN Secretary General for His Support

Contact:
Laxshmi Narayan Tripiti, Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, laxmirakasha@yahoo.co.in
Melissa Ditmore, Network of Sex Work Projects, +1 646-242-1658
Prostitutes of New York, pony@panix.com
Women’s Network for Unity, +855-12-222-171

Sex Workers Thank UN Secretary General for His Support

Sex workers from around the world unfurled a banner reading “Sex workers support Ban Ki Moon” during his speech at the opening plenary of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. Sex workers thank United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki moon for his support of their efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

On March 26, 2008, the Report of the Commission on AIDS in Asia was released with a statement from the Secretary General. This excellent report calls for the decriminalization of sex work, and counsels governments and other actors to, “Avoid programmes that accentuate AIDS-related stigma and can be counterproductive. Such programmes may include ‘crack-downs’ on red-light areas and arrest of sex workers.” Realistic efforts to include affected populations including sex workers are critical to combat the spread of HIV – in fact, sex workers are generally leaders in sexual health when their human rights are respected. The report further promotes the needs of marginalized populations including drug users for efficacious and ethical solutions, such as harm reduction methodologies, to the HIV epidemic. The report further promotes the needs of marginalized populations including drug users for efficacious and ethical solutions, such as harm reduction methodologies, to the HIV epidemic.

Unfortunately, some Asian governments have not adopted the methods recommended in this report. Cambodia has recently outlawed prostitution and since then brothels, bars, street areas, and karaoke clubs across the country have been closed or gone underground. Hundreds of women have been arrested and imprisoned, or have had to move. Dozens have been raped and beaten by police and prison guards. HIV prevention and care programs have collapsed. This law makes sex workers easier prey for traffickers, and makes it impossible for sex workers to use condoms. Sex workers in Cambodia protested this law on June 4, calling for repeal of the law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation and for an end to raids on sex workers. They said, “Don’t be fooled by talk of rescuing ‘sex slaves’ until you have heard our testimonials and seen video evidence of the brutality and misery this new law is causing.” http://blip.tv/file/970833

Melissa Hope Ditmore, Ph.D.
Coordinator
Network of Sex Work Projects
rights@nswp.org, secretariat@nswp.org

P.O. Box 20853
New York, NY 10009
USA

“Prostitutes have turned to the Internet and small, independently operated message boards as a means of empowerment.”

Oldest Profession 2.0: A new generation of local “providers” and “hobbyists” create a virtual red light district

An escort herself, the site’s creator says she founded STLASP in June of last year after moving to the St. Louis area from Southern California, where she’d been involved in a nearly identical online community. She found that the message board not only made her job safer by allowing her to screen her clients, it also created a tight-knit network of the region’s online escorts, providing a forum for them to share knowledge, including concerns about potentially dangerous johns.

“I’m trying to educate the women and give them a chance to feel safe and feel a connection with others that are in the same industry,” says the woman, who agreed to be interviewed for this story on the condition that she not reveal her real name and that she be referred to as “Mac.”

“There’s a lot of power in numbers. I’m trying to educate them to be as independent as they can and make smart choices.”

The idea of escorts on the Internet is nothing new — the oldest profession has long embraced 21st-century technology. But according to Stacey Swimme, co-founder of
sex worker-rights organizations the Desiree Alliance and the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Mac’s site is part of an emerging national trend: Prostitutes have turned to the Internet and small, independently operated message boards as a means of empowerment.

“From what I’ve been researching about the sex industry over the past 25 years, that is the biggest change,” Swimme says. “Providers are talking to each other. That is a force to be reckoned with. That is where political power comes from, is that sort of community-building.”

RedLightDistrictChicago Plays “Truth or False?” On Prostitution Stats

RedLight reporter kittenINFINITE hits the streets of Chicago to find out what citizens really think about the statistics reported in last month’s study on prostitutes in Chicago, as well as those stated on Melissa Farley’s prostitution research site

Sex Workers Against Rape XBN 8 p.m. EST June 8, 2008

Title: Sex Workers Against Rape

Description: Jill Brenneman discusses her visions for Sex Workers Against Rape, an organization she is in the process of starting. Topics to be discussed include sex workers rights approaches to stopping abuse and how the criminalization of prostitution encourages abuse, including abuse by some police officers. Jill also discusses how she transitioned from being part of the sex work prohibitionist segment of the feminist movement to a leader in the sex workers’ rights movement.  You can listen to the program at www.xxbn.net .

EMPOWER FOUNDATION SELECTED AS WINNER OF RED RIBBON AWARD 2008

Congratulations to the Empower Foundation from Thailand for being selected as a winner of the Red Ribbon Award 2008! This initiative is a partnership between the UNAIDS family and the Leadership and Community Program Committees of the XVII International AIDS Conference. The award honors exceptional grassroots leadership in responding to the AIDS epidemic, and will be presented at the AIDS Conference in Mexico City in August 2008.  Empower was selected from a pool of over 560 applicants.

Empower writes:

We are workers who use our brain and our skills to earn an income. We are proud to support ourselves and our extended families. We look after each other at work; we fight for safe and fair standards in our industry and equal rights within society. We are a major part of the Thai economy, bringing in lots of tourist dollars.  We are active citizens on every issue…politics, economics, environment, laws, rights, etc. We try and find the space in society to stand up and be heard. Some see us as problem makers but actually we are part of the solution. We are sex workers; we are Empower.

Visit Empower at http://www.empowerfoundation.org/