Anthony Comstock Would Be Proud

I’m posting this on behalf of Lailah. She recently commented on my personal blog, telling me about her arrest. I encouraged her to write her story and submit it to be posted here. Since the general public looks at this blog, I would like them to see what an arrest feels like from the perspective of a consenting adult sex worker — the most common kind of sex worker, BTW. I’m very proud she took me up on my offer.

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Lailah (not my real name). I’m a single mama, a business owner (businesses NOT adult oriented), and a professional escort. I spend my spare time cleaning house, tending children, and being a soccer mom, just like every other mother across the country. I started escorting in early May, 2010. And I stopped in June, 2010. I loved it. I absolutely loved escorting. I couldn’t see a downside to it. I like sex and money. My clients liked sex and money. They were willing to give me money to spend time with me (admittedly, we spent that time having sex), so we both got what we wanted and went away happy.

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Outdoor “street” work question answered.

I get asked a lot about street work, or as I like to call it Outdoor work.  These are my experiences and understanding, and may not be the same as someone else’s.

Briefly my experiences:  I’ve worked outdoors for a while, once while homeless, and more recently I’ve worked in front of grocery stores and the like.  I have done the ‘stroll’ type work, but only in small cities and towns, never in larger cities like LA or SF.

Experiences in larger cities, I can only speculate on, or share from friends/family that have done that type of work.  Also, I’m trans* not cisgendered, and that makes a difference in experiences as well.  I’m not trying to say these conclusions or thoughts below are always correct, but that from my perspective at this time, they seem correct.  My goal is only to help people realize that:

1) Not all outdoor work is unsafe (and that you can do any work safely)

2) It’s not like the stereotypical 3am drug addicted street walker who spends their entire career trying to avoid rape and get high, while avoiding physical abuse from their pimp, like in the movies.

YAY! On to the show and tell then:

Outdoor or (street) work is a very WIDE and BROAD subject, just like indoor work is.  People just assume the worst whenever I speak of outdoor work.
First, while 3AM walking the street in the worst neighborhoods does happen, it’s not as common in street or ‘outdoor’ work as one might think. (it’s much more common in BIG cities), but in smaller cities and towns it’s much less common.  (I’ve only worked in smaller towns and cities).
So, in outdoor work, there is homeless work, where you are always working, and your clientele is of the lower income variety.  (I’ve done this work), it’s mostly a lot of trade for sex work, and not a lot of actual cash.
Another type of work is opportunity work, i.e. someone hits on you while you are out doing your normal routine.  Most every woman has had the beginnings of this experience but few turn it into an opportunity to make money.
Another type is daytime work.  This can be waiting where people tend to congregate. Malls, grocery stores, big chain stores, stuff like that.  (I like grocery stores myself).  Obviously this is only valid during the day, and evening.  Trying to work from these places at 3AM is pointless as there is no foot traffic.
Hopefully this gives you a better idea of the varied outdoor work environments.
As for safety, some types of outdoor work can be unsafe, especially if you don’t know your fellow workers.  But to last out there you form relationships with as many as you can, and try to create a safe situation for yourself and others. Also the other difference is you get to look the client in the eyes, well before you agree to anything.  (unlike with indoor work)  All types of work require a ‘screening’ as we call it. Where we check the client over and get a feel for them as a person.  Some people do this better in person, and may be better situated for outdoor work, vs people doing this via email or telephone.  So
I wouldn’t say that it’s a LOT less safe, I would just say it’s a different type of safety.
For me, I love being outside, and would spend time out there anyway, so if there is an easy way to make a few dollars while hanging out outside, why shouldn’t I take the opportunity?

I’ll just wrap up and say one more thing about outdoor work (but also important in any work), boundaries are crazy important.  Think about and set hard firm boundaries of what you are willing and not willing to do.  Your boundaries WILL get tested, and you WILL get asked crazy ridiculous things.   Will you do Anal? Will  you do blowjobs? Condoms? Fluid Barriers for blowjobs or facials? These questions are the tip of the iceberg.

If you have experience (directly or indirectly) I’d love your thoughts and comments on what outdoor work is like for you.  I think the better we can share our experiences, the more people will come to think of street or outdoor work as not something ‘BAD’, but just different.

What I Love About Being a Sex Worker

New video from Red Light District Chicago podcast…

New York State Allows Trafficking Survivors to Vacate Prostitution Convictions

On June 15, 2010 the New York State senate passed a bill that, effective as soon as Governor Paterson signs it, enables survivors of human trafficking to vacate their convictions for prostitution-related offenses. This amendment to New York State Criminal Procedure Law grants those who were trafficked into commercial sex the opportunity to start over with a clean slate.

The Sex Workers Project (SWP) worked closely with Assembly Member Richard Gottfried to draft and introduce the bill in April 2009, which is also sponsored by Senator Thomas Duane. Supporters include the New York City Bar Association, the New York Anti-Trafficking Network, and Sex Workers Action New York.

The new legislation empowers survivors of trafficking by allowing them to move on with their lives, and function in society without the stigma of past exploitation. Survivors have a better chance of escaping re-victimization or further coercion when they do not have criminal records that often prevent them from obtaining work, getting stable housing, and adjusting their immigration status.

Who does this affect?

Over the past eight years the Sex Workers Project (SWP), a legal advocacy and services organization housed by the Urban Justice Center, has given legal assistance to many people who are in the sex industry by choice, circumstance, or coercion. As they assisted survivors of trafficking in accessing their rights and attaining safety, security, and a better future, it became clear that there was a need for a legal remedy that would allow survivors to move forward with their lives.

One client, “Carmen,” was trafficked from Mexico, and was beaten, abused and forced to do prostitution. She was arrested over 10 times during this nightmare, but her fear of the police made it impossible to inform law enforcement that she was being exploited by a third party. “Stacey” is a United States citizen who was trafficked into prostitution as a teen when she ran from an abusive home. She recovered with help from service providers, but has had trouble getting a job because of her prostitution conviction. As a result of the passage of the vacating prostitution convictions legislation, Carmen will no longer be blocked from immigration status because of her prostitution record, and Stacey will no longer have to inform potential employers of her record.

Why is this good?

People who are coerced into the sex industry and are then convicted of prostitution are handed a raw deal. In addition to being survivors of abuse and coercion, they saddled with lifelong stigma by the criminal justice system. With a prostitution conviction on their records, survivors of sex trafficking have a difficult time moving forward. This is not justice; it is harmful to survivors and can lead to re-victimization if they are unable to secure legal status in the United States and in the workforce.

The passage of this bill has shown us that it is possible for sex workers rights advocates to have their say, and that there are state legislators who will listen to our concerns. This gives us hope for changing a system that so often institutionalizes violence and discrimination against sex workers.

What’s next and what can I do about it?

If you live in New York State, this is a really great opportunity to make your Assembly and Senate representatives’ acquaintance. Send your representatives a letter (feel free to use the sample text below or write your own).

  • Find out who your Assembly member and Senator are here. Call or write to them to express your thanks!
  • To make it even easier, we’ve set up a form you can submit. Sign a “Thank you” petition on Change.org – which will automatically be sent to your representatives –  here.

There is, of course, more work to be done. There is another bill making its way through the legislature right now that, if passed, will stop police and prosecutors from using possession of condoms as evidence that people are engaging or intending to engage in prostitution. Right now in New York people who are profiled as prostitutes, very often trans women, often have their condoms confiscated as evidence of prostitution. In addition to thanking your representatives, you should urge them to support New York State Bill A10893/S01289A.

Sample letter:

Dear ______ ,

Thank you for voting in favor of New York State Bill A7670/S04429, which enables survivors of human trafficking to vacate their convictions for prostitution-related offenses.

I live in your district and I support the human rights of people who are in the sex industry by choice, circumstance, or coercion. The reasons a woman, transgender woman, man, or transgender man may enter and continue to be in the sex industry are complex and are often tied to economic instability and inequalities faced by women and LGBT people.

As you know, an advocate’s work is never done. Currently, bills A10893/S01289A are making their way through the legislature. If passed, this bill will stop police and prosecutors from using possession of condoms as evidence that people are engaging or intending to engage in prostitution. This practice affects public health initiatives promoting condom use and distributing condoms to at-risk populations. Please support this bill and remove the fear of carrying condoms among our most vulnerable populations.

Sincerely,

NAME

Address

I’m not a New Yorker. How can I advocate against harmful policies in my state?

Ask most people about government and they tend to talk about their federal representatives, the White House, or maybe their Mayor. But the state government may have the most significant impacts on our daily lives, particularly in the realm of criminal justice. Although the process from bill to law varies widely state to state, there are some common strategies sex worker advocates can take.

  • Familiarize yourself with the current laws that affect sex workers.
    • Criminal Law– find out what crimes sex workers are arrested and convicted for – it could include prostitution, solicitation, loitering, or others. Talk to sex workers in your community who have been arrested and ask them about their experiences with the law.
    • Civil Law – find out if sex workers can be evicted from their homes, denied custody of their children, or lose their jobs.
    • Exotic dancers, pro-dommes, porn actors, and others – Find out if there are laws that discriminate against these workers.
    • Ask a friendly lawyer for help!
  • Look for current bills that make changes to these laws – for better or worse. Try a search on your state’s legislative webpage for key words like “prostitution.”
  • Make allies – research local organizations that may be allied with your goals. Try LGBT orgs, public health orgs, harm reduction orgs, civil rights orgs. These organizations may have legislative advocacy staff that can help you get oriented.
  • Develop your platform. Think small – look for concrete objectives that can be accomplished with adjustments to the law. Any of these New York bills could be used as “model legislation” to make similar changes in your state. Your platform may include opposing bad bills that increase penalties for sex work.
  • Research your local representatives. Identify potential allies and opposition to sex workers rights.
  • Write, call, and meet with your legislator once you have a clear ask (“I would like to ask for your support on bill XXXXX” or “I have an idea for a piece of legislation that would accomplish…”). Assume they know nothing about sex work and may be surprised to hear from a sex worker/ally constituent.
  • Register to vote, and vote in local elections!

Sigh. Anyone feel like helping out over at “Hope for the Lost”?

Sigh. Anyone feel like helping out over at “Hope for the Lost”? The following is Victor Malarek’s response to Pye Jacobssen’s video criticizing the Swedish Model. He wrote “The Natashas” and “The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men who Buy it”.

“The pro-prostitution organizations…which are basically individuals used as fronts by the sex industry (which is only interested in making huge amounts of money), will come out of the woodwork and vociferously attack any group that fights legalization and decriminalization of the flesh trade.

The arguments put forward by the pro-prostitution groups are specious and full of lies and propaganda. The fact is that wherever legalization has been implemented, it has led to a monumental failure in all aspects of the so-called trade. It has always led to more and more women trafficked, and has not led to an improvement in the condition of women ensnared in the trade.

The pro-prostitution groups’ position against trafficking is a ruse. Their attempts to separate trafficking from legalization are a divide and conquer tactic…they know full well that huge numbers of trafficked women make up the trade. To see how bad the situation is where legalization has been implemented, read ‘The Johns’ and what has happened in Amsterdam! Moreover, the legal and illegal brothels in several Australian states which have legalized are filled with Southeast Asian women. These women do not speak English, they don’t have any money. They don’t have the business acumen to set themselves as business contractors.

It is interesting that in ALL my talks in Canada, the U.S., Australia, Britain, Ireland, Copenhagen, Madrid, Helsinki, Kiev…reps from the pro-prostitution orgs come out in force to take me on, and after my speech, not a peep! Because they know I know B.S. when I hear it and can challenge their claims with ease.

My issue here is one of social justice for the vast majority of women who are forced into the sex trade fiasco…not the minority of twits who yell and scream on behalf of the sex industry!”

You can go here to comment: http://www.hopeforthesold.com/author-victor-malarek-responds-to-swedish-sex-workers-statements/

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“If it happens in Vegas…it’s still illegal” FUNDRAISING DEADLINE June 18

Are you ready to take Las Vegas by storm with edgy public performance art that they can’t get with a buffet or vacation package in the casinos?  Are you ready to tell American tourists on the Vegas strip that indeed, prostitution contrary to popular belief in Las Vegas and in most of the U.S is still illegal?  That is the theme of our groundbreaking public performance which will take place on Thursday, July 29 from 8-10pm.  Some of you that attended the first Desiree conference in 2006 remember how the whores did a spontaneous parade on the strip that year!   The arts and entertainment committee of Desiree Alliance 2010 is using KICKSTARTER to raise all of our funding for artists and entertainers included in the conference and all the week’s happenings which include scheduled performances during the conference, the public performance, the closing party and more!  WE HAVE ONLY 16 DAYS TO REACH OUR GOAL OF $2500 so that we can make this ambitious and cutting edge stuff a reality.  PLEASE VISIT our official link at kickstarter and help us reach our goal!  Copy the link and post it on your FACEBOOK!  We need all the help we can!  ART is the best way to communicate to the masses!

Mariko Passion photo by Jenny Price 2006

Are you interested in supporting sex worker rights? Go to
http://kck.st/96VUMQ. We are seeking supporters to pledge to donate as
little as $5 to support the 2010 Desiree Alliance conference
scholarship program and performance art event “If it happens in
Vegas… it’s still illegal.” The performance “IF IT HAPPENS IN VEGAS…
IT’S STILL ILLEGAL” will be our most visible event during the
conference and will reveal that not only is sex work unjustifiably
subject to law enforcement across the United States that the same
applies in the “wild” “party” town of Las Vegas.

Donors will not only get the pleasure of supporting sex workers in a
cool way but also get exclusive access to a bunch of
photos and video about the conference/performance and event via a
passcoded website. People donating $25 or more will be able to access
a special blog where we spill the beans about how we organize and
strategize. Other supporter premiums include the Soixante-Neuf package
(for donors of $69, we send you our underwear!) and the Art Lovers
Special ($100 or more, we send you movies made by sex worker advocates
and a CD from Mariko Passion).

We have to raise $2500 in total by Friday June 18. Donations are also
tax deductible.