Sex Work Issues — SE Asia and China

Here are two videos I found today via Facebook. Compare and contrast:

http://www.lauraagustin.com/migrant-sex-workers-in-china-massage-parlours-hair-salons-hotel-rooms (though this one is from 2007, the scene is still the same)

Child Sex Trafficking Victim in Prison

This has recently come to my attention. A child prostitute (i.e. sex trafficking victim) killed her pimp when she was 16. She was sentenced to life in prison for killing her exploiter. She’s now 31. Has anyone heard of this case before?

A website about Sara Kruzan: http://www.freesarakruzan.org/

Adult Services Gone

Craigslist confirmed in the hearing before Congress that it had removed the Adult Services section permanently from US CL (and assuming Adult Gigs will stay down too). Nothing was said about the international Erotic Services section.

Two articles:
briefly on CNET

slightly longer article

There are other articles but none that I’ve found have looked at the hearings in any sincere or deeply-informed manner.

Also odd: I placed a new ad in a new international city and had to give my email address to create an account. This is not SOP for international ads. Worrisome.

CraigsList: Future Thinking

Assuming that CraigsList Adult Services stay down, where will everyone go? Granted, the majority of those in the business in the US aren’t advertising on CL anymore. But now civilians are enjoying the thrill of discovering what’s been online for the past 10-15 years and are publicly speculating what sites advertisers will flock to.

On the one hand, other advertising sites have been obvious all this time if you know how to use Google. The current public attention might help some girls get a little extra business in what I know is a sagging economy and a seasonally slow time of year (beginning of school). On the other hand, I’m very worried by the attention thrown at other sites. The motivation for this current state of affairs goes far beyond the usual cat-and-mouse game played by local cops. The anti-trafficking Nazis have one possible victory with CraigsList and probably feel ready to go stomping on any other site adult sex workers use.

Because it’s about ending prostitution. It’s not about helping victims.

Continue reading

Singapore, the US, CraigsList, Sex Trafficking and WTF

(This was originally posted at SWOP-East’s blog here.)

Singapore is a tiny country in SE Asia one day ahead of the US. The US is a big country known the world over for many things. The two countries actually have an ongoing and amiable relationship. Their militaries, finance sectors and tourism are intertwined. Each country also has relationships with other countries, of course. It’s just one relationship among many for both countries.

The US is well-known for criminalizing prostitution nation-wide (the exceptions being the 30ish legal brothels in Nevada — not much of an exception). While prostitution itself is criminalized at the local and state levels, there are plenty of federal laws regarding prostitution: when the arrangements cross state lines, when a minor is involved, when money crosses state lines and a few variations on these themes.

Singapore has a more tolerant view of prostitution. It has a licensed red-light district (Geylang and a street in Chinatown) and local hotspots known for easy pickings if you’re looking for a sex worker. To be honest, the entire island is a prostitution hotspot. The predominant Chinese culture and other Asian cultures in Singapore all have a wide-open view of prostitution. Prostitution is ingrained in the male Asian culture. Singapore is not really a sex-tourism destination because it’s considered way too expensive. The vast majority of the business is supported by locals, not tourists. (Which is why the vast majority of the business occurs in non-tourist areas.) Recently it was discovered that online prostitution exists in Singapore too!

Continue reading

Prohibitionists’ comparing sex work and straight work: they are dead wrong.

Authorization to repost granted, except if material is used to replace an actual interview with one sourced by this.

Prohibitionists’ comparing sex work and straight work: they are dead wrong.

There are people who believe ending sex work (abolishing prostitution, pornography, and other forms of erotic labor) will end harm being done to women in these fields. These sex work prohibitionists coolly assume that jobs in the “straight world” are safe, protected, equitable—all the things they believe sex work is not.

They are wrong. Many of these people are a certain breed of feminist academic elite, comfortably ensconced in their Ivory towers. They may be well intentioned. As I know some of them like Donna M. Hughes myself, I’d even say they are genuine in their desire to advance constructive social change.

But reality can shatter even the best of intentions.

My journey into and out of sex work is unique. My first experience in sex work lasted 3 years. I was (literally) a sex slave: no safe words were needed, and I didn’t even know safe words existed. I was coerced.

The coercion was the true injustice I endured, as millions of Americans suffer the injustice of coercive workplaces that have nothing to do with sex work. That’s the reality “end the sex industry and get a real job activists” routinely and tragically dismiss.

10 years after I was trafficked, I returned to sex work as a stripper. While I worked occasionally at clubs, I mostly did outcall bachelor’s parties. The agent got 40 percent, I got 60 percent. That’s 60 percent more than when I was a sex trafficking victim.

Later still, I gave up on stripping and went to work on my own as an independent escort. I was my own boss and there were no comparable problems. No one hurt me, I set my own boundaries, I got paid what I asked for—all 100 percent of it.

While it wasn’t the greatest job in the world, it was work; it was nothing like my coerced experience. Anti-trafficking activists like Donna M. Hughes, anti-pornography activists like Gail Dines and Shelly Lubben, anti-prostitution activists like Melissa Farley willfully ignore this fact: there is a world of difference between being a sex trafficking victim and being a sex worker.

Make no mistake: ending sexual slavery is a great thing. Ending sex work is not. The two are entirely distinct. Conflating them is deadly for trafficking victims and for sex workers.

Now, let’s talk about the reality of “straight jobs.” I’ve worked a bunch of them in many different industries, usually as an entry-level employee. A lot of my experience is in the air travel industry.

I’ve been assaulted by airline customers more times than I can count. I’ve been kicked in the face while trying to screen a passenger’s leg while working for the TSA. I’ve been spit on. The list goes on.

The result is always the same: the company sends the customer on their way without reprimand because they don’t want to lose business or risk the bad press. In other words, I get told: let it go, or get fired.

I’ve had 6 surgeries from injuries suffered at work. In my State of the Union (North Carolina), workers comp is highly regulated in favor of the employer. That means you can’t pick your doctor, and so you have to see the doctor the carrier chooses. Needless to say, you get biased doctors. You also get a “nurse case manager” (appointed by the carrier) who joins you at every appointment and diligently argues with your already-biased doctor to avoid any expensive diagnostics, medicines, and other treatments, and also reminds the doctor that you are to be returned to work immediately.

When I was working as a valet parking attendant, I was sent back to work for 10 days with a fractured knee, torn MCL, and two torn menisci (one in each knee). The job required running three-tenths of a mile. Three-tenths of a mile for each customer. Three-tenths of a mile for each customer in the 95 degree heat of North Carolina’s Summer.

Why did I take that job? Why did I run three-tenths of a mile on a fractured knee for 10 days at the behest of my “nurse case manager” in my mid 40’s? Because, thanks to the emphasis misguided activist academics like Donna M. Hughes have placed on “rescuing” trafficking victims, the police are so indiscriminately arresting sex workers in my area that running on fractured knees as a valet parking attendant was actually safer than working as an independent escort. Safer, perhaps—I don’t need a jail sentence—but not better.

By the way, it took 6 months for the workers comp carrier to approve surgery to repair the fracture. Oh, and given the recession, it took me 10 weeks just to find that valet job.

When I worked for the TSA, my job entailed lifting 100 pound bags all day because it was more cost effective to have employees do it than to have a conveyor put in. Unsurprisingly, I was struck with repetitive injuries. Surgery was ultimately needed for these injuries, too. The TSA paid nothing as they didn’t feel it was “work-related.” I could appeal that decision, of course, in which case my motion would be decided by the TSA’s appeal board. The TSA’s appeal board, in case it isn’t clear, works for the TSA and, naturally, sides with their employer.

So after working the straight jobs, many times I’ve ended up just like the worst experiences in sex work: no rights, no food, and in a lot of pain.

Go beyond the economic coercion embedded in this capitalist system, however, and you’ll find that straight jobs are not, in and of themselves, safer for women sexually, either.

Back at the TSA, I was sexually assaulted on a federal checkpoint by a male co worker. The assault was filmed by a security camera tape and there were 6 witnesses (5 male and 1 female). They all went to court with me to support my restraining order efforts against my workplace harasser. Now, it isn’t often that men will side with a woman in situations like this, but these 5 men did. The harasser plead no contest—all but an admission of guilt.

However, the TSA management were buddies with the Greensboro Police Department and Guilford County Sheriffs Department, the agencies that would enforce the restraining order. The same day the restraining order was issued, a Greensboro PD officer told me he didn’t believe my claims, and that filing a false police report was a crime. He threatened me with arrest if he or the department could find any proof I was lying. (They never found any.)

Neither the Greensboro PD or Guilford County Sheriffs department enforced the restraining order, the TSA management assigned me to the same work station with my harasser and when I attempted to transfer, that motion was blocked. The manager that supported me was terminated. Same with the supervisor that supported me in court. My other supporters were moved to other stations or had their careers stalled—passed up for promotion time and again.

I went to DC and filed a formal complaint with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, the TSA has its own EEOC. Needless to say, they sided with the TSA. I pressed on, eventually speaking to Internal Affairs, but I quickly learned their role is risk management (damage control), not justice. My harasser, who I learned had confessed to Human Resources was terminated a month later for sexually assaulting a third woman; I was the second. And his confession? The audio tape failed because the HR investigator “failed to push the record button,” and the video tapes of the assaults “could not be located” by the airport police.

Now I work at a job in which I have no breaks regardless of the length of my shift (no lunches either), and an expectation that I will never be sick, injured or need personal days or I may be terminated. Yes, this is all legal in North Carolina. I could go on, but I think this makes my point.

To anyone who believes that ending the sex industry and forcing sex workers to take on straight jobs is some great achievement, please look at the reality. The devil is in the details. Ask those of us who have gone from sex work to straight jobs what really transpired.

Please, do continue to rescue trafficking victims but stop conflating sex trafficking with sex work. Start focusing on realities rather than just mass-rescues that do us real harm, that hurts and kills sex workers, and often has no real basis in the reality of the lives of those involved.

I have been far more harmed by “straight jobs” than I ever was as either a stripper or an independent escort.

Who feeds me when injuries knock me out for weeks and I have no more income? Does Melissa Farley’s Prostitution Research Education provide these services? Does Donna M. Hughes’ Citizens Against Trafficking? Does Gail Dines’ Stop Porn Culture? Does Shelly Lubben’s Pink Cross?

Melissa Farley, Donna M. Hughes: where is the justice you promise to bring us trafficking victims? Do you even care about us?

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.

Continue reading