Melissa Farley sends someone to the Naked Anthropologist to rant

I am keeping up with the tendency to change language again, so that what people were calling prostitution and then trafficking now becomes, increasingly, slavery. The other day I critiqued a review of a film set in a 19th-century Paris brothel and wondered if there may be a desire for slavery to come back. Melissa Farley seems to have sent someone to rant at me just there, but perhaps the post was chosen at random. I wonder if anyone from here would like to reply to the commenter, who is called Stella Marr? Her comment includes

Ms. Agustin, you describe yourself as a feminist. I feel compelled to tell you how horrifying it is to me to read work like yours. Because, perhaps unintentionally, you are pumping for the pimps and massive organized criminal and economic interests that sexually exploit women.

You are making women like me invisible.

I can take care of myself regarding such accusations, but there is a lot more there to reply to: a real Farleyesque assortment, and as if I speak for all feminists and she for all sex workers.

She also quotes from an angry anti-prostitution book I was forced to reply to because the publisher did not fact-check and allowed many errors to be published: Note to anti-prostitutionists: Sex worker movements are nothing to sneer at. There is a long translation from the Swedish original, so perhaps that book is slated to be published in English, in which case the publisher had better do that fact-checking!

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

Protest Against BackPage Harms Sex Workers AND Trafficking Victims

The coming November 16, 2011 protest against Backpage by CATW, NOW-NYC and Prostitution Research and Education is another example of harmful actions and campaigns by elitist feminist academics against both consenting sex workers and trafficking victims.  These alleged feminist activists claim they are fighting human trafficking by protesting Backpage  to force the closure of its adult advertising, but his is theatrical garbage activism that is toxic to the very people they purport to be trying to help.

 

I am a consenting sex worker.  I was, at one time, a human trafficking victim.  I am still doing sex work in my 40′s because I need the money to pay bills, including medical needs related to multiple blood clots in my lungs; without sex work I could not afford the medical care that I need to survive.  It is not the right of alleged feminists to take my income or that of so many of those like me.  We work to live and to pay our bills, just like you high and mighty CATW, PRE and NOW-NY activists…well, most of you anyway; many of your ranks are college students that know little about the issues faced by those of us who did not get high school or college options.

 

Backpage adult advertisers are nearly all independent sex workers who are neither pimped nor trafficked, and shutting down Backpage would eliminate a major advertising venue that we use to stay independent.  You would know this if you asked us rather than feigning expertise.  We need our jobs and will keep them, but the closure of advertising spaces makes us vulnerable to the very pimps and traffickers that this garbage activism claims to be fighting.  When our independence is taken away we become vulnerable to predators that will exploit our labor because we lack options.  When I was a teenage trafficking victim and advertising venues closed for whatever reason, I wasn’t freed from prostitution.  My sadist pimp didn’t suddenly end my captivity and free me; he just put me on the street instead, which was far more dangerous to my safety and exposed me to the harsh elements.  I would truly like to see these supposed experts work the street for weeks in the winter in a northern city and come back and tell me that I was better off because advertising failed and I was out in the cold.  Still a slave, just a much colder and much more vulnerable one getting into cars alone.

 

You high and mighty abolitionist activists disgust me; if you knew anything about this issue you wouldn’t be taking this rubbish approach.  Yes, you can trot out your “survivor” activists who were harmed in the sex industry to advance your position, but these survivors are allowing their pain to misguide them into promoting a criminalization model in order to ostensibly end harm to prostitutes by ending prostitution.   I, too worked to advance that garbage until I woke up and realized the harm I was causing as an abolitionist filled with the bullshit lies of abolitionist feminism, a movement led by vacuous intellectuals who were never prostitutes and choose to assuage their pain by tearing away the rights of those in the sex industry.

 

Let me tell you what your efforts to “eliminate” prostitution actually accomplish:  You team with law enforcement officers who disingenuously claim to care about trafficking victims but are actually seeking to arrest more prostitutes.  We suffer as a result of your alleged “concern”; the risk of arrest keeps us from having access to law enforcement when we are the victims of crime while doing our jobs.  Pimps and violent clients know that we can’t go to the police and won’t because we fear the police, getting arrested and all the consequences that come with arrest.  We can’t be honest with our doctors when we suffer brutal rapes and assaults because we can’t explain our injuries without exposing ourselves to legal risk.  You think that’s a positive?  Try having a violent LEO client brutally rape you, suffocate you with a trash bag and hit you in the head so many times that you are taken via ambulance to the ER, incoherent with a major concussion, and are not even able to honestly explain how you were injured.

 

You think it’s worthwhile abolitionists?  Try meeting with a “reputable” businessman who realizes you are legally defenseless and so feels safe in overpowering you, tying you to a bed and beating and sodomizing you with a bamboo cane while forcing you to count the strokes.  You take 493 violent blows all over your body as I did; the bastard shoved my underwear and fee into my mouth and left me blindfolded, bleeding and tied to a bed.  Please….  Come tell me feminist anti prostitution activists protesting Backpage how I benefit from your activism.  Tell the other sex workers who saw me immediately following these assaults if I was better off with your criminalization.  And now you wish to further criminalize prostitution AND close our advertising venues.  Great.  So I and others like me can be criminalized and shoved into the hands of pimps and traffickers.  You and your activism disgust me.

 

Tell me how your efforts helped me or the “submissive girlfriend” of a man who wished to beat her so hard before my eyes that I truly doubted that “girlfriend” actually consented.  I’ve seen these people first hand.  I’ve been harmed by them.  I’ve been absolutely vulnerable to them, and this man was one of them.  I could do nothing but reject his offer to hire me; I had no way to report my suspicions to the police without risking arrest myself, and as a prostitute I had zero social credibility even if I did go to the police.  Likewise, the “girlfriend” had no protection from being arrested if she was ever found.  I went to a friend who is also a police officer and asked for advice, and was told to leave it alone:  there wasn’t enough evidence and as a sex worker I wouldn’t be deemed credible enough for law enforcement to take action, yet I would expose myself without helping her.  Maybe she will get lucky like I did and get away through a fluke, but it sure as hell won’t be because Backpage was shut down or because we are all made criminals; instead, there will be far more like her.  Perhaps some who are independent escorts now will end up like her, brutally harmed because their options for safety were taken away by grandstanding activists and their clueless and self advancing politician and law enforcement allies.

 

Feminist anti-prostitution activists protesting Backpage:  you are harming both consenting sex workers and trafficking victims.  You can write all the pretty press releases about fighting trafficking, sexual slavery and pimps that you want to, but I have lived the reality of your “work”.  Someone has to expose your lies and self-serving career advancement tactics that harm the rest of us.  I have been hurt in the sex industry – a lot – and the hurt continued because I was and am a criminal, deprived of rights.  I can call you on your BS from the perspective of someone who has been harmed because of you, and I am happy to do it because you are toxic, harmful frauds.  Preach to your choir and get your support there because those of us that are hurt by you know who you are; we know what you are doing and we are paying the price for your toxic activism.  Now come tell me how I benefit from your “work”.

Major Sociological Association Supports Decriminalizing Prostitution

The Society for the Study of Social Problems accepted a resolution supporting the decriminalization of prostitution written by Jenny Heineman, co-coordinator of the Sex Workers’ Outeach Project-Las Vegas (SWOP-LV),  plus they honored  SWOP-LV at a banquet in Aug. 2011 for the organization’s social justice advocacy.  Here’s a link to the resolution:  http://www.sssp1.org/index.cfm/pageid/1516#R3 .

I appreciate how the resolution addresses human trafficking without conflating all sex work with trafficking or using this issue to promote the harmful laws against sex workers.  This shows how being anti-slavery and anti-trafficking doesn’t have to mean being anti-sex work.

Complaint Filed Against Melissa Farley

Dr. Callum Bennachie, from the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, filed a complaint with the American Psychology Association asking that they rescind the membership of Melissa Farley.

In the introduction to the complaint, Dr. Bennachie writes:

Over the years, Dr Farley has published a number of papers and documents about sex work, making claims that all sex work is a form of violence against women.  She has used several of her studies to back this up.

In 2008 Dr Farley published the paper What Really Happened in New Zealand after Prostitution was Decriminalized in 2003? on her website critiquing the Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee.  This critique contains several errors of fact that appear to be deliberately designed to mislead people.  Many of the false allegations made by Dr. Farley in this paper have been repeated by her in her efforts to stigmatise sex workers and keep them criminal.  Dr. Farley appears to have read the complete report, but has only reported or critiqued those parts that match her ideology.  In investigating her comments on this paper further, it was discovered that Dr Farley had completed research in New Zealand in 2003 without seeking ethical approval from the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS).  It was also discovered that during the course of this research, she claimed to be able to diagnose sex workers as having post-traumatic stress disorder, despite using a flawed questionnaire, and not doing in depth interviews.

It is noted that Dr Farley has also completed other studies overseas, and investigations this year indicate that she never sought ethical approval, and sought to deliberately deceive the groups who facilitated the research for her.  She has also been cited as an expert witness, yet the testimony given is false or misleading.  Finally, the Canadian courts have found Dr Farley to be a less than reliable witness, finding her evidence “to be problematic”.  For the reasons in the text below, I believe her work is unethical, unbecoming of a psychologist, and is in breach of at least sections 5.01 and 8.10 of the APA’s Code of Ethics, perhaps more.  I believe that because of these breaches, Dr Farley should be removed from the membership of the APA.

You can read the full text of the complaint here.

I applaud Dr. Bennachie for taking this action. I hope something comes from his complaint, and that other medical professionals are finally ready to open their eyes to the sham research Melissa Farley has paraded around for far too long. Furthermore, please let the impressionable future scholars who look up to her see that she offers a solid lesson in what not to do, and does not represent a figure that any respectable academic should aspire to become.

Sugar Babies=Sex Workers?

Excerpt from “Seeking Arrangement: College Students Using ‘Sugar Daddies’ To Pay Off Loan Debt” by Amanda Fairbanks

“When people think about sex work, they think of a poor, drug-addicted woman living in the street with a pimp, down on their luck,” says Barb Brents, [Professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas] who co-authored “The State of Sex: Tourism, Sex and Sin in the New American Heartland.” “In reality, the culture is exceedingly diverse and college students using these sites are but another example of this kind of diversity.”

With the exception of women who consider sex work their profession, Brents finds that nearly all the women she encounters in her research describe it as a temporary, part-time, stopgap kind of measure.

“These college women didn’t see themselves as sex workers, but women doing straight-up prostitution often don’t see themselves that way either,” says Brents. “Drawing that line and making that distinction may be necessary psychologically, but in material facts it’s quite a blurry line.”

Read the whole article at the Huffington Post HERE

Average Age of Entry

We’ve all heard the popular prohibitionist claim that the “average age of entry into prostitution is 13”.  And though we all know that’s rubbish, we’ve never had any kind of figures on what the REAL average age of entry might be…until now.

A friend of mine who is still a working escort recently conducted a poll of 100 escorts who frequent a message board of which she is a member.  She asked at what age they started the trade, and her results were as follows:

Younger than 15: 3%
15-17: 11%
18-20: 13%
21-23: 18%
24-26: 16%
27-29: 10%
30-32: 10%
Older than 32: 19%

She polled the “older than 32” respondents separately and the average age for that category was 42; she estimated the average for the “under 15” category at 13.  Given these figures, the average age of entry into prostitution for American escorts is 26.46.

It’s difficult to know what percentage of all American prostitutes are escorts, but I would suspect 60% is a good guesstimate; the National Taskforce on Prostitution estimates about 15% are streetwalkers, so that allows 25% in brothels and massage parlors.  Estimating the average age of streetwalkers is tricky; I’m going to be really generous and pretend that HALF of all streetwalkers are underage.  Now, by all reasonable estimates that’s much higher than the reality but I want to err on the side of caution.  Let’s presume adult streetwalkers enter at roughly the same times as escorts (average 26); what’s the average for underage girls?  Well, guess what; it still isn’t 13 even for them.  As explained in this analysis, it’s about 16.  If we average the two figures (26 for adult streetwalkers and 16 for underage) we arrive at an average streetwalker entry age of 21, a far cry from 13 even if we assume HALF of streetwalkers are underage!  We have no stats on brothel or massage girls, so again I’m going to be incredibly generous to the liars and fanatics and estimate that the average for that group is the same as among streetwalkers, namely 21.

So let’s crunch the numbers:  if 60% start at an average age of 26 and 40% at an average age of 21, the average age at which American prostitutes enter the profession is 24, which I think everyone can agree is safely into the adult range.   Obviously, this is a rough estimate, but it’s a lot closer to reality than that ridiculous “13” figure; maybe if we all start spreading these figures around we can combat some of the misinformation, at least in the minds of those who are willing to listen.

Looking at the Schapiro Group “Scientific” Survey

This survey was done in the fall of 2009, several months after CraigsList changed the Erotic Services section to Adult Services so that it could begin charging for ads and handing over the information to authorities if requested. Remember, this was in response to a huge national campaign accusing CraigsList of being a haven for underage prostitutes. It stands to reason that men who want the simplicity of paying for sex with an underage girl would look to CraigsList. The media did all the advertising work necessary for both sides of the possible exploitation equation (pimps and clients). Not to mention that since CraigsList was getting a lot of media attention, lots of people were perusing the Adult Services section, regardless of age preferences.

Their study finds that 23% of men in Georgia have tried to buy sex in one month. This is probably true. The usual self-reporting surveys in the US yield numbers of 6-15%, which any sex worker can tell you is artificially low. Quite honestly, the vast majority of clients are not on CraigsList, which means the percentage of clients could be even higher than 23%. They have to be to support the number of sex workers out there. The vast majority of these unnoticed interactions are between adults, not teens.

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