Getting Mainstream Attention – Judging Trafficking Evidence

I finally got the attention of a mainstream-type blog, an interesting one called Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing. This site shows all kinds of pictures and asks people to (sociologically) consider the assumptions they embody. I sent them the link to my recent post called  Sex trafficking v Prostitution: How do we judge the evidence? because it gives a video that purports to show television-news audiences an instance of sex trafficking.

The video is actually hilarious and well worth a visit, as the intrepid girl reporter, all dressed up in safari gear, bravely watches prostitutes through binoculars, whispering her comments dramatically. But more important is the amazing LACK of evidence in the video itself, which just shows men and women in a field somewhere. As I say in the post, we might be seeing an outdoor brothel but we are given no evidence of trafficking because we don’t get to hear what any of the women say (or the men, for that matter).

I’ve been trying for some time to figure out how to question the evidence about victims and sex without participating in the impossible battle of statistics, where no one agrees about what the basic words mean in the first place.  So it feels significant that Sociological Images gave the post a good spread, and called it Thinking Critically about Sex Trafficking, and it might be a good idea to visit the site and reinforce some of the message.  The blog is one of a bunch of sociological ones clustered at Contexts.org, which means talking to folks who are often fairly clueless about the sex industry.

Laura Agustín

National March For Sex Worker Rights in DC Video

Sorry for the delay on this, but as promised, here’s a longer video of the DC March, including excerpts from most of the speeches before and after the march and more footage of the march itself. It runs about 18 minutes.

Cool event in Chicago next Spring

Announcing a National Radical Queer Convergence

QueerAnarcha-Queers! Trannies! Fairies! Perverts! Sex-Workers! Sex-Radicals! Allies!

Bash Back! is ecstatic to announce a national radical queer convergence to take place in Chicago, May 28th through May 31st of 2009! We are pleased to invite all radical-queers for a a weekend of debauchery and mischief.

The last weekend of May will prove to be four solid days of workshops, discussions, performances, games, dancing and street action! We’ll handle the food and the housing. Ya’ll bring the orgy, riot, and decadence!

We’re looking for folks to facilitate discussions, put on workshops, organize caucuses, share games, tell stories, get heavy in some theory, or bottom-line a dance party. More specifically we’re looking for workshops themed around queer and trans liberation, anti-racism, confronting patriarchy, sex work, ableism, self defense, DIY mental and sexual health, radical history, pornography, or queer theory.

We are also looking for copious amounts of glitter, safer sex products, zines, home-made sex toys, balaclavas, pink and black flags, sequins, bondage gear, rad porn, flowers, strap-ons, and assorted dumpstered goodies.

You down?

To RSVP, volunteer for a workshop, get more information, or send us dirty pictures:

email – radicalqueer2009@gmail.com
and check out – BashBackNews.Wordpress.Com

Lubing-up the social war,
Bash Back!

http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=20081218164102573

Tina Fey on Strippers (we need to protest her)

I found this on one of my google alerts. I am disgusted by it. I think we need to act on this somehow. Letter to Vanity Fair? Protest? Blogging here?

But I love Sasha’s response.

Randy roundup 2008

From Love Bites, EYE Weekly

BY Sasha   December 23, 2008 21:12

“I love to play strippers and to imitate them,” says America’s newly crowned sweetheart Tina Fey in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. “I love using that idea for comedy, but the idea of actually going there? I feel like we all need to be better than that. That industry needs to die, by all of us being a little better than that.”

Tina, you assclown, what is it that you think whores do? If you’re not sure, you know, because you’ve never actually had a reasonable conversation with one or set foot in their workplace because you’ve been too busy mocking them in the squeaky clean world of television, let me make it perfectly clear for you: they act like whores for money — so, like, what you do when you play one on television. Well, OK, maybe not exactly. See, what you’re doing more specifically is profiting off the dodgy status of sex workers while simultaneously stigmatizing real ones, which is even more despicable than actually being one, if you ask me. To quote one of Hollywood’s most excellent silver-screen strippers, Nomi Malone from Showgirls, “Fucker. Fuck off.”

http://www.eyeweekly.com/lovebites/article/48322

Holy Shit

This is absolutely imperative for everyone here to read. It was posted on Feministe on December 17th- unbelievably appropriate. We must contact this young lady somehow to let her know we are there for her.

“Perhaps she should have cracked a legal textbook before coming in to the police station to talk about this,” Ann Arbor Detective Sgt. Richard Kinsey said.

This is a direct cut-and-paste:

The Michigan 2L Speaks Out

Posted by: Jill in Crime, Law, Law School, Sex Work

The woman who was charged for reporting her assault has spoken out, sending an email to law school networks and posting a comment on Above the Law. A lot of people have been talking about her and she certainly deserves space to respond and to tell her story, so I’m posting her comment in full below.

My word of (unsolicited) advice for her, should she read this: You have people behind you. Really. You have me. You have a whole community of women and men who read this blog, some of whom are commenting on this post to show their support for you. You are incredibly brave and strong for reporting your assault. You are incredibly selfless and kind in thinking about the other women who might be protected by your report. You do not deserve the treatment you’ve gotten.

Don’t bother with the comments on ATL, or worry about what the loudest law students will say on a private listserve. I haven’t read them, but I know from some experience that a lot of people who sit around commenting anonymously on law school and legal practice websites are among the nastiest on the internet. They do not represent most lawyers or most law students or most people. You have people, all over the country, who are supporting you, and we’re all sending our best wishes your way. If there’s anything the Feministe community can do to show our support, feel free to email me.

For this thread, I will be deleting any nasty comments, or comments that treat the Michigan 2L like a hypothetical and not like a real person. That said, I do ask that Feministe readers — even lurkers! — leave messages of support for the Michigan 2L, in case she reads this.

2L, I am so sorry that this happened to you. Keep fighting. You have an army of supporters right behind you.

______________________________________________
Dear Law School,

I’m the girl who got into the mess with the professor. I posted a version of this in the comments on ATL, because using my uniquename email on lawopen means outing myself, which gives the press permission to publish my name. Fortunately, one of my classmates has offered to transmit this message to you on my behalf. Those of you who don’t know who I am yet will find out soon enough.

Most of you probably don’t know what it’s like to push a boxcutter into your own wrist and neck. Or what it’s like to walk home from the psych ward, and set to the task of cleaning a room covered in your own blood. Or how humiliating and degrading it is to be penetrated against your will. You probably read the newspaper story, but you should know that it contained factual errors, and that it omitted significant details from the police report. I had no idea what I was walking into, and I’m lucky that I’ve made it through alive.

A month after I was assaulted, I attempted suicide over the whole mess. I’ve been unable to sleep or study, for fear of this story being published. I’ve had PTSD rape dreams. Everything I’ve worked for my entire life, personally, academically, professionally, has been harmed, and I’ve spent $20,000 trying to put it all right again. And I have, in fact, been prosecuted and will be required to pay a debt to society. All I can hope is that the bar will see that this was an aberrant moment in the life of a severely depressed, suicidal, isolated person.

Reading some of your comments makes me want to go crawl under a rock and never come out. But some of your comments have made me think that maybe I can show my face again. It’s difficult reading all of these things written about me without being able to offer an explanation/defense/vignette:

I worked my way through undergrad on my own, doing crazy hours on top of a full course-load. In fact, I’ve worked every kind of menial, low-paid job since I was 15; I’ve never thought I was above any kind of work, or better than anyone else I worked with, because we were all there together. But last semester I’d been so depressed that I could barely even get myself to class, let alone keep up with my finances. In April I realized I couldn’t pay the rent for May, and my parents weren’t an option. Nor was anyone else, because there weren’t really very many people in my life at that time. The housing crisis made it so that I couldn’t get an additional loan without a co-signer. I should have found some other way, but at the time none of my thoughts were very healthy.

I love the law just as much as you do, and I like to think about the ways that it shapes the world we live in. I watch a lot of movies, and go to the gym when I can. I have dear friends at other law schools who I try to keep in touch with. I’m a quiet, introverted, sensitive person; I think I’ve read every post on lawopen and ATL, and taken them all very personally. I used to be a proud atheist, but now I know that God saved my life the night I tried to take it. I also know that God kept the man in that hotel room from killing me, because he was completely out-of-control.

I went to the police the following morning because my vision was blurred from having been hit in the face. The bruises from his belt didn’t go away for a week. I later found out that this man had targeted other sex workers, making him a serial sexual sadist. Violent men target sex workers because they know sex workers are isolated, fearful, and ashamed, and won’t go to the police.

Going to the police seems like a stupid move, as many of you have pointed out. But I was afraid for the next woman he “contracted with.” And I felt so worthless and used that I didn’t care about throwing everything I’d ever worked for. I felt so terrible, and I thought that the police would make it right… that’s what the justice system is about, right?

It’s clear to me now that the AAPD thinks this is funny. That’s why they’re not going through with the assault charge.

What I did was wrong, and I’m a criminal for having done it. But if this had been any other misdemeanor like drug use/possession, DUI, public intoxication, open container, gambling, vandalism, petty theft, or simple assault, there wouldn’t have been a two-page article in the paper. And if you got rid of all of the lawyers who had done one of the above at some point, there’d be a severe shortage.

I also feel compelled to say that despite what many of you have expressed, I am not disease-ridden; my lifetime number is still under 20. I consider myself to be well-informed in the area of reproductive rights and health, and I think everyone has a responsibility to inform their partners of their sexual history, not just sex workers. I’m recently tested, and I don’t have AIDS, herpes, Hep B, syphilis, the clap, or chancroid. And I don’t judge those people who have contracted an STD at some point, because if you’re not a virgin, you take a calculated risk every time you have sex. If you have had sex with more than one person and you don’t have a viral STD, it’s because you’re lucky.

I’m not writing because I want pity. I’m writing because the future lawyers who read this need to understand that the answer is seldom ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but often ‘it depends.’ Good people do bad things sometimes, for a variety of reasons. The reason we have ‘bright line’ rules is because there is so much gray out there. And it’s only through compassion and understanding that anyone is able to make sense of it all. My crime was a cry for help.

Finally, I wish to apologize for having brought negative attention to this prestigious law school. But I expect that every amazing thing you do will outshine my mistake- it really is an honor to be a member of such an accomplished community of people. I hope that you won’t shun me, or completely expel me from social/academic/service life at the University. Many seem to think about this as if it were some complicated hypothetical on a Torts exam. But, I’m still the same girl you knew before. And right now I’m struggling with the reality of public humiliation. I haven’t directly talked to any of you about this because I imagine some of you will want to distance yourselves from me, and I don’t wish to impose myself upon you; I don’t really know who I can still call a friend, but I’ll find out soon enough.

– That 2L Girl (’A’ & ‘384′ on ATL)

PLEASE, PLEASE go there and read the comments.

Happy Holidays!!

To each of you!  Please know what a wonderful gift each of you have been to me, how much I cherish each of you, your activism, your commitment to social justice and a moment at Christmas to remember what the gift that each of you, your friendship, warmth, passion and the movement as a whole has been to me.

My warmest wishes and affection!

xoxoxo

Jill

Trouble Viewing Dec. 17 Videos on BNG

I’m having trouble viewing the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers videos posted on BNG from my computer.  They’re coming up as empty squares with a box in the upper corner.  Is anybody else having this problem?

NYC’s December 17th Vigil: Audacia Ray’s Speech

In New York City, about 30 people gathered in Washington Square Park to light candles and remember the sex workers who were murdered this past year. Here’s the speech I gave – in video and text form.

Every year I come to this event, and every year, in the hour before the vigil, I seriously consider not showing up, because it’s hard to be here, hard to stay present and be witness to the sadness and struggles of this community. Sex workers and our allies are strong – no doubt – but we are also vulnerable. And those two words -strength and vulnerability- are exactly why the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers exists.

Today, on the 6th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, there are gatherings in 20 cities around the world, including places like Tucson, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Copenhagen, and Sydney. There’s a National March that happened earlier today in Washington DC, culminating in a rally in front of the Department of Justice. And here we are, a little chilly but resilient. Our movement is growing, and though we have many obstacles, we are moving forward toward a world in which sex workers’ rights are recognized as human rights, where we are free to choose what we do with our bodies and how we make our livings – whether that means working in the sex industry or keeping far away from it because we have viable economic alternatives.

In a minute we’ll read the SWOP demands for ensuring justice and safety for sex workers, but I also wanted to add in my very own demand – and it’s not directed to policy makers, health care providers, law enforcement, or any other official organization. It’s directed to the people standing right here today. My demand is this: take care of yourselves, ask for help when you need it, and offer support to others when you can. And by support, I mean the purest and most human form of support – listen to sex workers and allies about their experiences, their struggles, their doubts. It’s true that we have a lot of work to do, and sex workers are dying while we’re trying to do that work. But it’s also true that we can’t be of service, we can’t fight the good fight, if we don’t take care of ourselves and each other. When we’re done with the program today – after we read the SWOP demands and the list of names of sex workers who were murdered this year, I want to encourage you to hang out a while, decompress, and just talk to each other and offer support.

This day is a hard one to face, a hard one to be present for, but the purpose of any memorial service is to create a space for the living to show respect for those who have lost their lives and to be there for one another. So let’s do that – not just today but throughout the year.

Check out the SWOP demands here.

December 17th Vigil at Center For Sex And Culture in San Francisco

On December 17, 2008, about forty-five of us (sex workers, allies, a few Johns, and some others) gathered to remember sex workers who have been (or will become)victims of violence of various kinds; rape, murder, arrests, police brutality, suicide when facing jail time, robbery… and hate crimes. The Center for Sex and Culture was a lovely, safe, and comfortable environment for our ritual—- sexy even– with all its velvety couches and an exhibit of lively paintings of Madison Young in bondage! It felt like a sex worker safe house.

Half the folks that attended had marched up from the jail a few blocks away doing a “politically focused peaceful action” carrying signs and lit candles with photos of our dead on them. They had the most beautiful signs and candles I’ve ever seen at such a march. When the marchers got to the CSC they placed their signs around an altar-like table we had created with calla lilies, photos, candles, sage, and other items of meaning. It was a powerful visual, and the energy in the room was palpable.

For about an hour and a half, we passed ’round a microphone to share our thoughts, feelings, realizations, memories, writings, ideas, stories, and more. There were several musical interludes from music Lady Monster had picked out. There were some tears, laughs, some anger, fears released, hope given, ideas bandied, and more. Reverend Jen did a lovely closing.

It was a wonderful group of folks, and I felt really great about having done this event. Many of us have never been victims of violence, but its good to once a year acknowledge the sad truth is that some of us are. It felt good to feel connected with all the other vigils and events on this International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I was a bit worried that some of the working whores might get scared and paranoid from the readings of the names of the dead–it was heavy. But perhaps its good to have a reality check. And as Dolores French once said, “Working in a convenience store or as a taxi driver is more dangerous than being a whore.”

Attached is a photo taken of a few of us just after our memorial; Kirk Read, Madison Young, Carol Queen, Reverend Jen, Mistress Minax, myself and others. As far as I know, there wasn’t any press. But that’s OK. We didn’t push for it either.

Next year I’ll be happy to facilitate something happening again. (The Christmas caroling idea is a good one.) Observing this annual event warms my heart and soul and ultimately makes me feel happy and well balanced. Hope it was good for you too.

In whore solidarity,
Annie Sprinkle
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Norma Hotaling Dies

Since I didn’t see it mentioned here, thought I would post a link to the article. Norma Hotaling died last Tuesday.

Stop Shaming Us to Death: First National Sex Workers’ Rally, USA

More video from the DC March, by PJ Starr:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

More From the DC March!

San Francisco Day to End Violence Live Videos

These are the raw, archived videos from the livestream of the event. More polished, edited video to come:

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Sadie Lune performs “I Want You” & Kirk Read welcomes us to 850 Bryant

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Shelly on her experiences with the law enforcement, Acire from SWOP-Sacramento, Melissa Gira reads sex workers’ demands, & Naomi Akers from St. James Infirmary

December 17th Media Round-Up

Washington DC:

Sex Workers Criticize Law Enforcement- Washington Post

Dozens of sex workers marched through the streets of downtown Washington yesterday, demanding better treatment from law enforcement officials of prostitutes who become crime victims.

What Sex Workers Want – News Week

Prostitution is legal in only a few parts of Nevada, but legalization initiatives elsewhere in the United States have failed. On Nov. 4, San Franciscans voted down a proposal that would have prevented city government from using city funds to prosecute either johns or prostitutes. Sex worker activists and the San Francisco Democratic Party supported the legalization efforts. But whether legalization would help reduce violence against sex workers is unclear.

London:

Sex worker singalong – New Statesman

Whether it’s a group of sex workers gathering together to share an evening of informal solidarity, to public actions; from the confrontational – a mass die-in in Chicago in 2007 – to the quirky – carol-singing hookers scampering round Soho in Father Christmas hats, this evening (17 December) in London.

Sydney:

Bringing sex workers into the light – LiveNews

Yesterday morning I joined a group of Sydneysiders gathered at a Darlinghurst café for some morning tea.

Like any other group they basked in the sun passing around chocolate biscuits, sipping on coffee and puffing on cigarettes.

Nova Scotia:

Gathering marks sex workers’ deaths – The Chronicle Herald

Current and former sex workers from around Halifax Regional Municipality will gather privately today to remember others who have been killed in the sex trade.

Calgary:

Sex workers face violence: Expert – Metro

Jayme knows the stigmatism surrounding the sex-trade industry, but she knows the dangers within the industry even more.

*Post more links in comments and I will add them!

National March For Sex Workers Rights Video

We’re drunk and we’re celebrating and it took us a while to get the fucking video up and it’s rough but d.c. was amazing today! Here’s a taste of what happened today…more to come later. The March was a great success! Today, sex workers of all colors, all genders, and all religions joined together  in support of ending violence against sex workers.

March in Washington Video!

One of our allies, at bureaucrash.com made a video from todays march in Washington. It’s quick, but fun! Great for those of us that were not able to make it to the event.

Int’l Day to End Violence, San Francisco: Hall of Justice, 5pm vigil, procession + memorial

Sex Workers Urge SF DA Kamala Harris to Help Stop Violence

On Wednesday December 17, 2008, sex workers will gather at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco to demand an end to violence and exploitation. This vigil marks the 6th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, honoring sex workers who’ve been murdered or assaulted. Sex workers urge San Francisco’s public officials, including District Attorney Kamala Harris, to enact policy changes that would prevent violence.

Harris has identified herself as concerned with the health, safety, and rights of those working in the sex industry. However, her support for the ongoing criminalization of sex workers based on their employment status does nothing to end the violence that she says she stands against. Sex workers demand she also end the exploitation and violence they face at the hands of those she claims will protect them — San Francisco law enforcement.

“Our research shows that arresting sex workers makes them more likely to experience violence and test positive for HIV & STIs,” said Naomi Akers, MPH, Executive Director of St. James Infirmary, a community health clinic for sex workers. “When sex work is criminalized, many are afraid to report crimes committed against them. When they do report violence, they seldom receive justice.”

Sex workers systematically face violence and sexual assault from law enforcement. According to a recent UCSF study, 1 out of 7 sex workers in San Francisco have been threatened with arrest by police officers unless they have sex with them, and 1 out of 5 sex workers in San Francisco report that police officers have paid them for sex. In addition, the Police Department and the district attorney use condoms that sex workers carry in order to stay safe as evidence against them.

“For most sex workers, their criminal status keeps them from working in safer conditions and seeking out assistance from law enforcement if assaulted or robbed,” said Tara Sawyer, Board Chair of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA), a national peer-led network of sex workers who initiated this day in 2003 when Gary Leon Ridgway aka the Green River Killer was convicted for murdering 48 prostitutes over a 21-year period near Seattle, WA. Said Sawyer, “Sex workers are the experts at identifying harm in the sex industry and developing solutions.”

Interviews are available with sex workers attending the vigil in San Francisco as well as nationwide by using the contact info above. Media and the public are welcome at the SF vigil: Continue reading

Int’l Day to End Violence, New York City: 7-8pm, Vigil

Sex Workers Outreach Project, Sex Work Awareness, $pread Magazine, and Sex Workers Action New York are co-sponsoring a vigil tonight in New York City from 7 to 8 pm in Washington Square Park:

March in Washington

Over 100 people are marching the streets of washington, DC right now!

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Thanks to @furrygirl for the picture, and more live pictures can be found here.

There are many more events happening all around the world today, for December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Love and Solidarity on IDEVASW Day

Almost 100 years ago, some seriously radical women, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, inspired women across the country to join the National Woman’s Party.  The women who joined the movement for equal voting rights were fiercely passionate and what they did was VERY revolutionary for their time.  They suffered stigmatism, criminalization (jailed for picketing the White House on trumped up charges), they endured abuse at the hands of government officials (force feeding in jail while on a hunger strike).   They were ostracized not just by polite society, but many lost their children, husbands and home and financial security.  For the cause.  And in August, 1920, they WON.

The sex worker rights movement is just as radical in our day and age. We each have our stories of sacrifices and stigma, of our own revolutionary acts, both big and small. While December 17th is a solemn day of remembrance, it holds in its heart the great dream of justice we all envision will be ours some day, and an end to violence and death suffered solely for who we are and what we do.  “We shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts…” read the hand-stitched banners our suffragist sisters held on the picket lines.  Tomorrow, red umbrellas, hot chocolate, banners, songs, poems and candles will embody our ever growing, quiet yet powerful revolution.

With much love to all our sisters across the nation tomorrow, and with best wishes to those marching in Washington, DC (we are with you!!), heartfelt blessings to one and all.

In solidarity,

SWOP-Tucson