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.

33 charged in the massive raids of the Sedona Temple and the Phoenix Goddess Temple

Dear BnG community.  These raids have hit us hard in Arizona, and we are devastated for the loss of the Temples.  Please stay with us as we will be putting out much more information, calls to action, and ways that you can get involved.  To begin, won’t you please go to http://goddessbless.org and sign their petition?  And will you or your organization consider signing on to this letter of support?
love and rage,
Surgeon
For Immediate Release9/17/2011, Tucson AZ

September 7th, 2011 Yavapai County and Maricopa County Sherrifs raided the Sedona and Phoenix Goddess Temples and arrested eighteen people.  A SWAT Team descended on the two temples detaining practitioners at gunpoint.  To date thirty-three  people have been charged, and the temples are being investigated as brothels.  Temple practitioners were paraded in front of the waiting media, and their mug shots and legal names publicized.

Both Temples hold legal status as churches, and no minors, weapons, or drugs were found on the premises of either Temple.  Tracy Elise, the founder and High Priestess of both Temples is still in jail along with 7 other people and her bail is set at an astonishingly high half a million dollars.

These arrests came after six months of undercover operations by the Yavapai County and Maricopa County Police Departments.  It is the largest sex work related bust in Arizona since 2008, when the Desert Divas prostitution ring was busted, with over 100 people charged, including phone operators and photographers.  There were no minors found in that investigation either.

We believe that these arrests, and all other arrests of consenting adults engaged in healing or sexual practices equate to a modern day witch hunt.   In many cases, the money being spent by the police force to arrest, intimidate, and establish undercover sting operations is coming from large scale anti-trafficking campaigns intended to target child prostitution.  Instead, the money donated by a public horrified by images of young children in cages, and sensationalized stories of sexual slavery is diverted into operations like the so called “Operation Goddess Temple.”

In press conferences, Police spokesmen say that Temple practitioners were engaging in acts of prostitution under the guise of religion.  We say that the Arizona Police are using valuable funds, and unnecessary force to arrest consenting adults under the guise of protecting citizens and saving children.

Whether one believes in the validity of Tantra or sexual healing practices as a religion, it is not the charge of the government to legislate morality.  Sex is legal in this society.  Criminalizing prostitution, massage, and healing sexual practices bears all the injustice and inefficacy of prohibition, sodomy laws, and religious intolerance.

We demand the immediate release of all those arrested in affiliation with the Phoenix and Sedona Temples.  We demand an end to police raids for non-violent crimes.  We demand an end to the persecution of practitioners of sexual healing, and the decriminalization of prostitution.

To support the Goddess Temple directly, please visit http://goddessbless.org
To take action and support decriminalization, please visit http://swop-tucson.org

Sincerely,
SWOP-Tucson (Sex Workers’ Outreach Project, Tucson chapter)

For further information, or to speak directly to a spokesperson from SWOP-Tucson for press or media, please email info@swop-tucson.org

Dutch government wants their cut from sex workers

From the Huffington Post:

Nobody knows exactly how many prostitutes there are or how many of them pay tax, since legal ones are registered as one-women businesses, not brothels. But an Amsterdam-chartered study in October estimated there are slightly fewer than 8,000 prostitutes of all kinds in the city, and 3,000 working behind windows. An industry think-tank called the SOR Institute believes around 40 percent of window prostitutes already pay some income tax.

“It’s more all the time – though of course there are some sex workers who refuse,” says Mariska Majoor, a former prostitute who now runs an information center in the district.

“Their attitude is, we are stigmatized, made to feel that we are not part of society, we have trouble in getting a bank account – why should we pay taxes?”

Full Story Here

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.

Continue reading

National US health care plan, what does ‘public option’ mean?

Thank you to Melora from SWOP-Boston for putting this all together.

Primary Source: TIME magazine
Secondary Sources: wikipedia.org, healthreform.gov, nytimes.com, various google searches (checking search lists for irregularities, will only site every source used upon request)

Note:

If you do not fall under one of the categories below, you will experience no change in coverage or costs. For the purposes of the following, Medicare means both Medicare, and Medicaid.

Have questions? Ask!

Have opinions? Dare to debate.

Effective 2010:

  • Uninsured with pre-existing condition receive immediate coverage (though i have not yet put together HOW – it depends on a plethora of factors that vary from one individual to another including income, employment, and geographic.
  • Uninsured and age 26 or younger are now approved to be covered by their parents’ insurance
  • Insurers no longer allowed to deny care to a patient who becomes sick (currently private companies are able to suspend coverage of individuals who develop certain illnesses, despite having paid their premiums)
  • Insurers no longer allowed to end coverage after a patient reaches a certain age (many companies will not cover you if you live past 80, for example)
  • Insurers no longer allowed to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions
  • Employers of small businesses to receive tax credits if they purchase insurance plans for their employees.
  • Medicare prescription drug beneficiaries receive $250 as a stipend when they hit the doughnut hole.
  • What is the doughnut hole? A rule in medicare part D prescription drug coverage that states that once Medicare has paid $2,700 in prescription drug coverage for an individual, they are then on their own to cover the full cost of prescription medications until they have reached $6,154 in prescription drug expenses.

Effective 2011:

  • Insurers required to spend 80% of premiums collected on medical services.
  • Medicare Prescription Drug Beneficiaries receive 50% the cost of prescriptions while in the doughnut hole.

Effective 2013:

  • Medicare taxes on unearned income increase for individuals earning $200,000+/yr or families earning $250,000+

Effective 2014:

  • Everyone must either be insured or pay a fine, whichever is less expensive. (the way the government will know whether you are insured is by making demonstrating proof of coverage a part of filing taxes.)
  • Families earning less than four times the federal poverty level ($22,000 x 4 = $88,000) receive subsidies to help them cover the cost of insurance
  • Public healthcare options provided by states (similar to the insurance already available in Massachusetts) become available to anyone in the country who does not have insurance coverage via either their parents, their employer, or medicare.
  • Insurers officially banned from denying anyone with a pre-existing condition
  • Insurers limited in their abilities to price coverage based on pre-existing conditions
  • Employers of 50 or more people must provide coverage to their employees or pay a fine, whichever is less expensive.

Effective 2018:

  • Insurers that bill individuals $10,200+ or families $27,500+ annually are subject to a 40% excise tax

Effective 2020:

  • The doughnut hole is eliminated.

A small bit about forcing people to have insurance:

  • The costs will be low (in MA current costs are about $25/month), and you get help if your family makes less than $88,000/yr.
  • This process does effectively ensure that public option healthcare can remain affordable and available to those of us who are dying and need it, and helps support emergency care, which is the most expensive and the most used by the uninsured who wait until they’re on their death beds to seek medical assistance.
  • You’ll be impressed how affordable it is for people as poor as us.

public option health insurance will bill on a scale according to income, not health status. private insurers will not be allowed to base prices on a patient’s medical status either. that was the main reason sited for why they pushed this bill so fast: so many people right now are sick and dying because they can’t afford health care.
however, there’s no way to know now what the exact numbers are yet, and this makes people uneasy. when it comes to costs, it’s still a couple years before the public option will be available, and each state will have its own variables that it has to grapple with in constructing their public option. While MA’s successful and extremely affordable public option healthcare (which began in 2006) will likely be a model for other states, it’s impossible to predict whether other states will be as generous with their benefits as MA.
this is an exact quote from TIME, which I take at face value based on the fact that the magazine is right wing and therefore has no motives to make the healthcare bill look good. the sources cited for the article from which i quote directly are the Congressional Budget Office, US Census Beaureau, Kaisser Family Foundation, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Commonwealth Fund:

if you [have a pre-existing condition and] plan to buy your own coverage, you will be able to get it from any insurer selling in your area, and you will pay the same as anyone else in your age group. insurers won’t be able to place annual or lifetime limits on your coverage, and regulations will limit your out of pocket spending. 36% of Americans were turned down or charged higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions in 2007.

Again, thank you to Melora of SWOP Boston for putting this all together for us, and for helping make it easily digestable, and for Time Magazine for being such a great source of information.

So, what are your thoughts, now that we can understand it?  For or against, call or email your congressman and senators and let them know!  Personally I’m for it now.  I think it could go a lot farther, but this is way better than what we currently have!!

update (3/29/10 8:20PM PST): fixed up the bit about forcing people to have insurance and costs, the original was by me (Tara) and this new update is by Melora, because she’s so much smarter then I am about this stuff!

update (3/3/10 2:20PM PST): Some of this may be incorrect, we are working on resolving these issues.. sorry! a 2,000+ page document boiled down to something someone can understand is hard!!!

update (3/30/10 5:48PM PST): Ok, apparently nobody knows what’s up with the above $$ part, so take all of the stuff like this with a grain of salt, a HUGE grain of salt.  If and when congress/senate ever make up their minds, then we’ll know.  Right now that’s the big debate they are fighting over, so if  you feel it should be one way or another, now is the time to contact our congress and senate.  The rest of the article stands as fact for now.

They’re funny things, Accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.

A month ago, I was riding my Empowerment Vehicle (motorcycle) home from a friends house at 2AM one Sunday night.  I had a lapse in judgement, and ended up flying over the motorcycle, landing on pavement, sliding across an exit ramp, and landing in the bushes.  This obviously wasn’t planned, or wanted.  I have no health insurance, and it hasn’t been overly pleasant.  I’m temporarily in a wheelchair, and will be for another month it looks like.

These life accidents happen to all of us at one time or another. I’m blessed to have many good close friends who care about me, and are doing their best to help me navigate life from a disabled perspective.  And I’ve been lucky enough to put a positive spin on this, and see it as a great learning experience about experiencing life on 4 wheels instead of 2.  But I want to talk about savings (or the lack there of).

It’s the loss of income that’s really sucked.  I haven’t been able to work much at all! Provided there are no more unexpected expenses that rise up, it looks like I’ll pull through this ok financially, and end up with a manageable debt of about 5-6 thousand.

I know that I’m really blessed in this way, I’ve had many friends who have gone thru unexpected life changes that have altered their income, and raised there expenses and are still trying to recover.  It doesn’t take much.  For me it was about 30 seconds all told, and will lead to 2 months of wheelchair time, and lots of asking for help, and lots of brand new expenses!

This has made me think about how to save and plan for these events.  They WILL happen in your life, they happen to all of us in different degrees, but how we manage to plan ahead for these, and how we handle them when they come up make a world of difference.

Lots of Financial experts(cause I was off searching about this) will say we need 3 months of living expenses (but they really want us to have 6!) in a Money Market or Savings account just lying about, and banks give you huge deals and love  you WAY more when you are able to have that kind of money it turns out.  For me three months is only about $3,500.00 or so all told (I live cheaply), but even this is a big number to have laying about!

Financial experts seem to always come across like we can easily come up with this kind of money, but so many of us already live directly off of our income, and have no wiggle room.  But even if we can only put 10% of a single call a week away, it will add up.  The hardest part, is deciding what constitutes an emergency to go spend that money.  For me, it’s the new motorcycle protective gear, so I can go feel empowered and graduate once again from 4 wheels to 2.

P.S. If you can tell the author of the title of this post, you’ll know one of the smartest people I know in all the world!!

Legalizing Las Vegas Brothels

My knee-jerk reaction to this news is: so the state is suffering. They decide they want to make money off the backs of sex workers? How is this not exploitative? I also want to know exactly how they plan on taxing one business but not other businesses as Nevada is known for being a business-friendly state, tax-wise. (Corrections or elightenment on Nevada’s business-tax law are welcome.)

Caring about sex workers does not mean registering and regulating us to within an inch of our lives. I’ve tried to work in Vegas strip clubs recently – not good. All they care about is getting their house fee and selling alcohol (even if you don’t really want to drink). A Vegas, casino-sponsored brothel? I can’t imagine the situation being any better.

Of course I support decriminalization. But that doesn’t put money into the state coffers, nor directly into the pockets of casino owners – which is really the crux of the matter. They don’t care about the dangers criminalized street workers face, the exploitation of the local agency girls or the arrest-risk independent escorts have to handle. They simply see a way of making money – off the backs of female sex workers — and magically, somehow brothels are supposed to be good for women. (I can only assume that transgendered and male sex workers are not part of this discussion at all.)

Brothel-work does indeed work for many women. And I have no doubt a lot sex workers would welcome casino-sponsored brothels in Las Vegas. I do not want to close down that option for sex workers because it is an option. My concern is that these brothels will become the one and only answer for sex work in Vegas – leading to rampant arrest and abuse of all other unregulated sex workers. Brothel work or no work – that’s not a choice and smacks of coercion to me.

Incidentally, love how Melissa Farley manages not to offer any sort of answer to the problem of criminalizing prostitution other than maintaining the status quo. Way to protect the rights of sex workers, Farley.

More news reading:
original Las Vegas Sun piece
an editiorial piece