John Schools, Farley, Actions vs. words

Melissa Farley recently posted her thoughts on an LA Times article about John School.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/comments_blog/2009/02/sex-school.html

I have posted on the john school topic in the LA Times Blog but am not sure I will clear moderation with thoughts on Farley.  So I am bringing them here.

Melissa Farley writes in italics  ”

Thank you for asking if the crime of buying a human being for sex should be a misdemeanor. I think that buying sex should be a felony”,

That would make every man that hires a sex worker a felon.  Even from a logistical standpoint this would be an astonishing strain on the legal system that would divert enormous resources away from crimes that tend to be much more destructive such as rape, murder, ……   Great so prisons would be filled with men that are convicted felons just for hiring a prostitute.  Not for raping one, not for murdering one, not for,,,,,,,
So we incarcerate them as felons.  Brilliant.

although those who are bought by johns in prostitution should not be arrested.

Well, at the most basic level I agree with Melissa on this.  The sex worker shouldn’t be arrested.  Although Melissa needs to recognize her words and actions don’t equal each other.  When the time came that she could have supported and done something to keep women from being arrested via Proposition K,  Melissa was an outspoken opponent of decriminalizing the women she purports to want decrminialized.

It seems much more important than the women in prostitution she professes expertise of and advocacy for, she felt the women should remain the majority of arrests, persecuted by the legal system at a much greater rate then the men she wishes to be felons.   She voted and strongly advocated for the status quo in which women are a huge majority of the arrests in order to pursue her vision of making men felons for hiring a sex worker.   Not for raping one, not for assaulting one, but just for hiring one.  She was outspoken in her support of a system that makes the very women she claims to be an expert in, the very women that she claims advocacy for, to continue to suffer.  All so that she can have her vision of punishing men.  Not to mention, if it were decriminalized, her allied projects like John School would not have johns anymore and business for prohibitionists would suffer.

Also, while I tend to dislike splitting hairs on individual words.   Men buying women, buying is a very limited context situation.  Buying implies ownership.  Not hiring for a service.  Buying essentially is equal to buying a slave.  Sorry Melissa but despite the rhetoric, a huge majority of women in prostitution aren’t slaves.  They may have, in many cases, very poor working conditions but slavery is an extreme that should not be implied to mean all.  It is a huge disservice to conflate the slave with the woman hired for a sexual service.   Hired for a sexual service, perhaps even rented, but bought,,,, bought is a very poor choice of words that represents an enormous and unrealistic conflation.

Melissa Farley states “They should be offered housing, drug treatment, and other services.”

Well, they should be offered those anyway, if needed.  Everyone should.  Oops, sorry my socialistic tendencies are coming out in this.   But Melissa’s activism has demonstrated repeatedly she believes these services should be provided after the prostitute has been arrested/rescued, and under TVPRA only by limited providers.  Answers to this kind of issue for the women that are in the sex industry because of housing, drug treatment and other service related needs, those need to be addressed proactively not reactionary.   Getting arrested is not the right avenue to insert these services into the sex workers life.

No disrespect intended to anyone from the west coast or more progressive cities, but,  there is often a misunderstanding by people like Melissa, who have grown up in an academic setting and live in progressive west coast cities.  Services in many areas of the country are not easily accessed.  They take a long time to access and it is going to take a lot more than a few projects like SAGE in progressive US cities.  For the woman, that has immediate needs such as housing, chemical dependency, hunger, these issues need financial answers that are immediate.  Often that answer may have to come in the form of sex work.   Perhaps not a great option in many cases but then again neither is homelessness.

Perhaps a better solution than Melissa’s would be to take the money that would be spent on incarcerating all the men for felonies that Melissa wishes to be incarcerated, thus housed, fed, medical care, and instead offer those to the women being advocated for.  Given that Melissa is implying, and in many cases this is an accurate representation of needs, but given that she is implying this need into the equation, if the needs are met, many of the women that are in the sex industry that shouldn’t be.  Well, they wouldn’t be.

But once again, Melissa’s actions speak volumes to the fact she is prioritizing the importance of her macro level radical feminist viewpoint over the lives of the people she is the expert of and representing.

Melissa Farley states “Sweden put this abolitiionist law into effect in 2000. Since then, trafficking into Sweden has plummeted. It’s a law that works.”

Melissa again fails to match word with action.  She couches her statements in the framework that she is all about helping the women in prostitution and supporting their decriminalization.  Melissa could have advocated for compromise.  Proposition K would have done just that.   Proposition K would not have taken away prosecution of those who rape prostitutes, those who assault them, those who traffick them, those who have sex with anyone not consenting, those who are underage.  The same laws that protect them now would still have been in force.  The only change is that those hiring a woman strictly for sex, without the crimes referenced in the previous sentence would not have faced prosecution.  Neither would the prostitute.   But protecting the women wasn’t priority for Melissa.  Persecuting the men was.  And if the women suffer still at a hugely disproportiate rate then the men.  Well, sucks to be the women.

Then Melissa advocates for john schools for what she believes should be a felony.  Why would there be diversionary one day program sentencing for what she argues should be a felony?   Except that she and her allies are stakeholders in the current system and profit from it.

Melissa’s statement that the Swedish model is an abolitionist law.  It is not.  It isn’t abolishing anything and isn’t going to.  Prohibtionist yes, abolitionist no.  And where is the Melissa Farley activism on the Swedish model?  She politics for TVPRA and Bush Administration policies which are not even remotely close to Sweden’s model.

She needs men criminalized to continue her position as an expert, to continue the court mandated financial cow of court imposed john schools at 600 dollars per client.   Melissa is fine with the status quo in which the prostitutes are the huge majority that suffer not only to the oppression and crimes she discusses but also at the whim of the justice system and legal system that are supposed to be rescuing them.   Melissa is concerned about her speaking events, her position as an expert, advancing her theoretical feminist worldview over pragmatism.  But then again, it isn’t her suffering, it is the women she studies that are.

Melissa states “Since then, trafficking into Sweden has plummeted. It’s a law that works.”

Well that’s great Melissa.  Except for a few things.  One, trafficking and prostitution aren’t the same thing.  There are prostitutes trafficked as there are many others, migrant workers are another, there isn’t trafficking in every scenario of prostitution.   From personal experience being trafficked was not the greatest concern of being coerced into and to remain in prostitution many years ago.  The trafficking itself doesn’t change much.   One can be raped in their own home and suffer as much as being brought over a state or country line.

One does not have to be trafficked to have suffered in prostitution.  Nor should being trafficked be any type of vector to determine level of suffering.   Of course Melissa has never been trafficked, she has likely never been in prostitution, probably not ever in need of the services she discusses,   It’ s easy to have out of context perceptions when one has no real experience with any of the issues.



3 Responses

  1. “John’s Schools” do not benefit sex workers, but rather, they reinforce existing stigmas and prejudices against sex workers by trying to scare clients into thinking that they will get robbed, murdered, or catch sexually transmitted infections if they keep seeing sex workers.
    I also agree that Melissa Farley’s words contradict her actions, which is very common among the prohibitionists. Though Melissa says she doesn’t think sex workers should be arrested, she is doing nothing to stop the arrests of sex workers, but rather is fighting against those of us who are trying to stop these arrests. This was clear in her opposition to both Measure Q in Berkeley and Prop. K in San Francisco. Because these initiatives didn’t pass, sex workers in prostitution still are being incarerated in these cities under legislation that she fought to keep in place by opposing Prop. K and Measure Q. I guess it’s easy for some people to fight to keep prostitution criminalized when they aren’t sex workers being incarcerated under these laws. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.”

  2. Melissa Farley also promoted the Swedish model, mentioning that trafficking plummeted in Sweden, but the report out of New Zealand evaluating the decriminalized system found not evidence of sex trafficking either. Yet, Melissa continues to denounce the New Zealand decriminalized model. Also, Melissa isn’t telling us about how the Swedish model has further endagered sex workers, resulting in a higher percentage of clients demanding unsafe sex acts (such as sex with no condom) and sex workers have less agency to turn down such clients. Also under the Swedish model, more sex workers are working out of cars, where prostitution is more dangerous, and sex workers are less likely to work in legal establishments where there are other people around, which is safer. Though Melissa said the Swedish model is a law that works, that’s not what Swedish sex workers are saying. This information about the Swedish model comes from a study by Petra Ostergren, which is posted online.

  3. I hadn’t ever really thought this through until now.

    Melissa Farley states

    “Thank you for asking if the crime of buying a human being for sex should be a misdemeanor. I think that buying sex should be a felony”,”

    The same woman who feels buying sex from a consenting adult should be a felony advocates for the alleged felons to be let out of a misdemeanor on diversionary sentencing so long as ideologically allied organizations are making money from them. While via opposition to Proposition K opposing the decriminalization of the prostitutes who are in her argument inherently victims of felons.

    Am I missing something here? Or is this as corrupt as it seems?

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