Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

The prostitute is the scapegoat for everyone’s sins, and few people care whether she is justly treated or not.  Good people have spent thousands of pounds in efforts to reform her, poets have written about her, essayists and orators have made her the subject of some of their most striking rhetoric; perhaps no class of people has been so much abused, and alternatively sentimentalized over as prostitutes have been but one thing they have never yet had, and that is simple legal justice.  –  Alison Neilans

Today is International Sex Workers’ Rights Day, which started in 2001 as a huge sex worker festival (with an estimated 25,000 attendees) organized in Calcutta by the Indian sex worker rights group Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee.  Prohibitionist groups tried to pressure the government to revoke their permit, but DMSC prevailed and the following year decided to celebrate their victory by establishing the event as an annual one.  As I wrote in my column of one year ago today,

Perhaps its Asian origin has slowed the day’s “catching on” in Europe and the Americas, but in the light of the current trafficking hysteria and the growing problem of American “rescue” organizations in Asia, I think it’s time to remedy that.  Whores and regular readers of this column are acutely aware of the paternalistic attitude taken toward prostitutes by governments, soi-disant feminists and many others, and it’s no secret that many Westerners still have very colonial, “white man’s burden” ideas about Asia; imagine then the incredible paternalism to which Asian sex workers are subjected by American busybodies!  I therefore think it’s a FANTASTIC idea to popularize a sex worker rights day which began in India; its very existence is a repudiation of much of the propaganda which trafficking fetishists foist upon the ignorant public.

As I’ve written in the past, American cultural imperialism in Asia is still very much a fact; despite our loathsome record on civil rights the US State Department presumes to judge other countries on their response to so-called “human trafficking”, based on secret criteria which obviously include classifying all foreign sex workers in a given country as “trafficked persons”.  The annual “Trafficking in Persons Report” results in cuts in foreign aid to countries which don’t suppress their prostitutes brutally enough to please their American overlords, and therefore provokes mass arrests and mass deportations in the countries so targeted.  Nor are these operations instigated only by governments; wealthy NGOs, enabled by money from big corporations looking for a tax dodge, from empty-headed celebrities in search of good publicity, and from clueless Americans desperate to “do something”, invade Asian countries and abduct prostitutes, forcing them into “rehabilitation”  which consists largely of imprisonment under inhumane conditions and brainwashing them to perform menial labor for grueling 72-hour weeks at one-tenth of their former income.  When the women escape from “rescue centers” or protest, they are said to be suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome” and their children are abducted and given away.

Nor is this sort of violence restricted to Asia; local US police agencies, often financed by wealthy prohibitionists like Swanee Hunt, routinely use prostitution as an excuse for mass arrests, robbery and grotesque intimidation tactics:

Tania Ouaknine is convinced the police are watching her.  She’s not paranoid — it says as much on the red sign painted along the side on the hulking armored truck that’s been parked in front of her eight-room Parisian Motel for several days:  “Warning:  You are under video surveillance”…From the front bumper of the menacing vehicle, another sign taunts:  “Whatcha gonna do when we come for you?”…[it’s loaded with] surveillance equipment…and [decorated]…with [Fort Lauderdale, Florida] police emblems…[which they] leave…parked in front of trouble spots…”They say I am running a whorehouse,” said the 60-year-old innkeeper…[who has] been the subject of an undercover operation targeting prostitution starting in September.  Ouaknine was arrested on Oct. 28 on three counts of renting rooms to prostitutes for $20 an hour…She says she’s doing nothing illegal.  “They’ve tried everything to shut me down and have failed,” she said.  “Now they bring this truck to intimidate me and my customers.”  Some neighbors surrounding the Parisian Motel say the truck is another form of constant police harassment.  On a recent afternoon, Leo Cooper watched as two undercover…[cops molested] a group of men gathered at the corner.  Within minutes, one of the men ran away.  A second man was charged with loitering.  “This is what happens here every day.  We can’t sit outside without being harassed,” said Cooper…

This is why sex worker rights should concern everyone, even those who aren’t prostitutes, don’t know any prostitutes, have never hired a prostitute and don’t give a damn about the human rights of strangers:  prostitution, especially as it’s viewed through the lens of “human trafficking” mythology and “end demand” propaganda, is simply the latest excuse employed by governments in their campaign to control everything and everyone.  The 2005 re-authorization of the so-called “Violence Against Women Act”…

…permitted the collection and indefinite retention of DNA from, as the Center for Constitutional Rights understood at the time, “anyone arrested for any crime whether or not they are convicted, any non-U.S. citizen detained or stopped by federal authorities for any reason, and everyone in federal prison.”

Using this, Swanee Hunt (through her “Demand Abolition” organization) is now pushing for collection and retention of DNA from every man cops can accuse of patronizing a sex worker…which given the low standards of “suspicion” favored by police, means essentially any male found by cops in certain neighborhoods or in the company of a woman to whom he isn’t married.  While fanaticism-blinded neofeminists cheer, the war on “violence against women” (and by extension prostitution, which is defined as exactly that by neofeminists) is used to justify the same kind of egregious civil rights violations as those resulting from the “wars” on drugs and terrorism.

I think I can safely speak for virtually all sex workers when I say that we don’t want to be passive tools used by governments and NGOs as the excuse for tyranny; we simply want to be left alone to live our lives like anyone else, with the same rights, privileges, duties and legal protections as people in every other profession.  We are not children, moral imbeciles or victims (except of governments, cops and NGOs), and we do not require “rescue”, “rehabilitation” or special laws to “protect” us from our clients, boyfriends, employers or families to a greater degree than other citizens.  And we certainly don’t need others to speak for us no matter how much they insist we do.  Almost a year ago, Elena Jeffreys published an article entitled “It’s Time to Fund Sex Worker NGOs” and I wholeheartedly agree; furthermore, I would argue that it’s long past time to defund “rescue” organizations and all the others who presume to speak for sex workers while excluding us from the discussion.  How can someone who hates a given group and opposes everything its members want be considered a valid representative of that group?  It would be like allowing MADD and Carrie Nation’s Anti-Saloon League to represent distilleries and bar owners.  The very idea is absurd; yet that’s exactly what governments do, even in some countries where our trade isn’t criminal.  Millions of people claim to care about the welfare of prostitutes, yet contribute to groups who advocate that we be marginalized, criminalized, censored, hounded, persecuted, registered, confined, stripped of our rights, robbed of our livelihoods and enslaved…all because they don’t like what we do for a living.  It’s a lot like contributing to the KKK because you claim to be concerned about minorities.

If you actually care about the rights of women, or want to look like you do; if you’re opposed to imperialism and police brutality; if you support the right of people to earn a living in the jobs of their choice, and to organize for better work conditions; or even if you just want to protect yourself from yet another head of the ever-growing hydra of government surveillance, you should consider supporting the cause of sex worker rights.  Fight prohibitionist propaganda, speak out for decriminalization, contribute to sex worker organizations, vote against candidates who espouse prohibitionist rhetoric, and oppose local efforts to increase criminal penalties against whores and/or our clients.  And if anyone asks why you care, please feel free to quote from this essay or just hand them a copy.  Sex worker rights are human rights, and laws or procedures that harm sex workers harm everyone.

(Cross-posted from The Honest Courtesan)

Friday the Thirteenth

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.  –  P.J. O’Rourke

Today is the third Friday the Thirteenth since I’ve been writing The Honest Courtesan, and there will be three such days this year (today, April 13th and July 13th); as it so happens, three is the maximum number of such days in any given year, though each year has at least one.  In my very first column on the subject (Friday, August 13th, 2010) I explained how the superstition arose and why even superstitious whores should consider it lucky for us rather than unlucky:

Given the origin of beliefs about Friday the 13th…even the superstitious whore has nothing to worry about…since Friday is the day sacred to our patron goddess, and 13 the most feminine of numbers, Friday the 13th should be good luck for whores even if it really were bad luck for Christian men.  Now, I’m not really superstitious; I don’t believe that a day can bring either good luck or bad.  But considering that the reasons for fear of this day are so closely related to the reasons our profession is maligned and suppressed, perhaps whores and those who support our rights should make every Friday the Thirteenth a day to speak out in favor of full decriminalization and an end to the institutionalized persecution of prostitutes.

Nine months later (on Friday, May 13th, 2011) I explained why it’s especially important for my readers who aren’t sex workers to speak out:

A number of advocates are working to respond to the lies, propaganda and misinformation wherever we find them, but…we’re often accused of distorting facts to make ourselves look good, and no matter how assiduously we work to present a balanced view this is a natural and credible accusation against anyone who advocates for some issue which directly concerns her.  That’s why allies are so important; it’s much harder for the prohibitionists to shout down people who don’t have a dog in the fight, but merely support prostitutes’ rights on moral grounds.  Every Friday the Thirteenth I will ask my readers, especially those of you who aren’t yourselves sex workers, to speak up for us in some way; talk about the issue with someone who will listen, make a post on a discussion board, comment on a news story which spreads disinformation, or even just post a link to this column.  If you aren’t confident in your ability to debate, even a simple phrase like “I think adult women should have the right to decide why and with whom they want to have sex” or “everyone has the right to equal protection under the law” might have a tiny but important impact on those who overhear.  Because in the final analysis, they’re the ones we have to convince; rational people already support some type of prostitution-law reform and fanatics cannot be convinced by argument because their minds are already made up, but the silent majority – the fence-sitters and swing-voters, the ones who answer “unsure” or “no comment” on polls – are the ones who can and must be made to understand that we are not intrinsically different from other women and deserve the same freedoms and protections that non-harlots take for granted.

Last time around I also offered a synopsis of prohibitionist victories since the last such day, but since I already offered a similar list just two weeks ago I think that would be inexcusably repetitious.  And though there are several other days dedicated to fighting for sex worker rights (namely International Sex Workers’ Rights Day on March 3rd,  International Whores’ Day on June 2nd and International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th), human rights are not something to be discussed only once a year; even six occasions to speak out on the subject are not enough.  For me and many others, every day is Friday the Thirteenth, and so it must remain until people wake up and understand that no collective, “authority” or government has the right to tell women what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.

(Cross-posted from The Honest Courtesan)

Decriminalization Petition

I’m not sure how much good online petitions do, but here’s one to the president for the decriminalization of prostitution.  Since that issue is handled state by state I don’t think the president can really do anything, but it doesn’t hurt to let him know that there are people who support the idea.

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

Human Trafficking Program in Chicago

One of my regular readers in the Chicago area forwarded this to me.  SWOP Chicago is involved, and some points we often make are on the agenda so those who will be in Chicago in two weeks may be interested.

THURSDAY April 14
6:30-8:30pm
Human Trafficking: Strategies and Solutions
*Featuring our own Serpent Libertine!

http://www.uic.edu/jaddams/hull/_programsevents/_upcomingevents/_2011/_human%20Trafficking/apr14.html

Human trafficking, for sex, for other forms of labor, or any purpose of involuntary servitude, is an exploitative practice that is prevalent in countries all around the globe, including the United States.

Activists and scholars fervently debate the definition of trafficking, moral distinctions that are often made between labor and sex work, various understandings of victimhood, and questions about the intent and success rate of “rescue operations.” In addition, there are complexities of migration to consider and debates about the relationship between forced labor and the global economy.

Join us for an evening of discussion and education. Scholars and activists working to end trafficking will discuss their strategies and positions. Hull-House history and Jane Addams’ relationship with the movement to end “white slavery” will be highlighted.

Panelists represent the following organizations:
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
The International Organization for Adolescents
National Immigrant Justice Center at the Heartland Alliance
Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago

Making sense of the UPR.

So, with all the news happening in the Sex Worker activism camps around the UPR process, I thought it would be wise to try and make sense of it all, which I will be trying to do with this post.

UPR is the Universal Periodic Review, and each of the 192 countries in United Nations Human Rights Council are reviewed every 4 years.  This year (well 2010-2011) is the review period for the United States, and is the first time the US has been reviewed.  Basically the US writes a report about their status in regards to human rights and each of the 192 countries gets a chance to tell the US how they feel about the report, and anything else in regards to human rights.  Next, the United States gets to respond. In their response for each item the countries told the US about, they can support or not support the item.  But of course since we are talking about whole countries this process takes a long time (about a year total). Since we as sex workers are part of the Human Rights world, we are interested in what happens, and below is what happens as it concerns us as sex workers:

So in August of 2010, the US gave their report (PDF).

In November of 2010, the countries told the US what they thought of their report.  This is where it finally gets interesting to us as sex workers, for Uruguay had this to say (report in PDF):

92.86. Undertake awareness-raising campaigns for combating stereotypes and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, and ensure access to public services paying attention to the special vulnerability of sexual workers to violence and human rights abuses (Uruguay);

We of course were VERY pleased with what Uruguay said, and promptly started organizing, to see how we can get the US to accept this recommendation and show their support.  So we started organizing, and we built a special group for this process with lots of broad support (See our group’s webpage for more information).  With all of this organizing we managed some success, and this is what the United States said in response:

86. We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution, as this recommendation suggests.

This is of course awesome, but our work is not yet done, for that we’ve started a new campaign that takes place this Wed March 18th called 86 the violence, don’t let us be a target. A brief video about it is here:

Hopefully this helps make this whole process easier to understand!

CALL TO ACTION: UGANDA: Government should break the chains of injustices against sexual minorities and lift decision to ban Sex Workers Human Rights workshop.

20 November 2010

On the 17th of November 2010 the State Minister for Ethics and Integrity Hon Nsaba Buturo called off a conference organized by Akina Mama wa Afrika a Pan African Women’s Non Governmental Organisation based in Kampala, Uganda. He did so by sending a strong worded letter to the Hotel General Manager giving “directives not to host a Prostitutes Conference run by Akina Mama wa Afrika and if they do so, will be abetting illegality in Uganda”. It should be noted that Akina Mama sent a letter to the Minister informing him about the details of the conference. He never responded to it, but instead, sent a threatening letter to the hotel management with the objective to suspend the meeting.

The Minister’s actions are in open contradiction to the constitution of Uganda which guarantees the Freedom of Assembly, Speech and non discrimination said Kasha Jacqueline Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda. Commercial sex workers constitute a minority group that has the right to assemble, share ideas and forge ways on how to protect themselves against violence, abuse and HIV/AIDS as well as empower themselves, as any other Ugandan citizen.

Stopping this conference repeats a known pattern, as in 2008 the same Minister also cancelled a scheduled conference organized by the same group and host organization. While many other groups can meet freely in Uganda without being stopped or harassed, commercial sex workers, who experience high levels of vulnerability, inequality and discrimination can not exercise their right to freedom of assembly and speech” “ This is an injustice, a violation of their political and civil rights as well as of the right to work of these young women” lamented FARUG Communications Manager.

The Ugandan Ministry of Health, as it is well known, has acknowledged that Commercial Sex Workers are among Most At Risk Populations (MARPs) and has included them as main partners of the National HIV/AIDS program, which is guided among others by the UNGASS guidelines. Therefore the actions preformed by Mr Buturo are at odds with the national policy guidelines and will evidently undermine the investments made by the Ministry of Health to prevent and treat groups and persons affected by HIV/AIDS.

It should also be noted that, since 2003, Uganda has received eight grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. As its known worldwide the Global Funds guidelines are also very clear to state that the various populations affected by HIV/AIDS should be part of the efforts to prevent and treat the pandemic and, not as it is happening in Uganda, be systematically brutalized by criminalization. As it has been analyzed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Mr. Anand Grover in his report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2010:

“Criminalization represents a barrier to participation and collective action, through the suppression of activities of civil society and individual advocates. The participation of sex workers in interventions has been shown to have significant benefits. Organizations representing sex workers took an early lead in attempting to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, through the promotion of condom use, the development of AIDS education programs and inclusive research studies”

Stopping the conference being organized by Akina Mama was Afrika openly contradicts these recommendations and guidelines to fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

We call on the Minister and Government of Uganda to apologies for the trouble his intervention has caused and reverse his absurd decision.

For more details contact:

Solome Nakaweesi on Email: snkimbugwe@gmail.com or call +256772463154
Kasha Jacqueline on Email: kasha@faruganda.org or call +256772463161

To support our call, send letters to:

Min of Ethics and Integrity. Hon Nsaba butruo
Email: info@dei.go.ug
Min of Internal Affairs.Hon Kirunda Kivejinja
Email: info@mia.go.ug or Tel +256 41 231 059
Min of Gender & Equal opportunity Commission. Hon Opio Gabriel
Email: ps@mglsd.go.ug or Tel +256-41-347854 Phone 2: +256-41-347855
Min of Health. Hon Stephen Malinga
Email: info@health.go.ug or Tel: +256 41340884
Uganda Human Rights Commission
Email:uhrc@uhcr.org or Tel +25641 34800718 or +256 41233757

You are not FREE until everyone is FREE
“BREAK THE CHAINS”

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

Recent Discussion of PEPFAR’s Anti-Prostitution Clause

Melissa Ditmore discussing the ramifications of PEPFAR’s anti-prostitution policy on sex workers over at the Global Health Magazine blog.

Since we’re on the subject, especially in light of the amazing protests at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna last month, this is not a bad time to suggest you review the amazing short film “Taking The Pledge”

Prohibitionists and Consequences

Do the prohibitionists realize, or care, that their campaign to “end prostitution” actually ends rights?  A recent very poor experience with a client could have had a different ending.   Or perhaps not happened at all had there been sex worker human rights.    With sex worker rights and full decriminalization, I could have gone to the police and charged him with physical assault, sexual assault, probably a couple of other things.

Does handcuffing an unwilling participant and putting a trash bag over my head to use as leverage for negotiation count as a crime?  Or making me  eat a used condom?  How about forced anal sex while I was focused on asphyxiation?  Perhaps if we had sex worker rights and full decriminalization, he wouldn’t have done what he did at all.   Does the concussion count?   How do I explain how this happened to the doctor?  To my non sex work employer?  Oh, and why am I doing sex work?  Because I can’t live on the wages of my “straight job”, and they won’t post the schedule until 24 hours before it is valid.  Making most straight jobs impossible.

Thanks prohibitionists, you’re doing such a great job saving us………..

Citizens Against Trafficking, the brainchild of Donna M. Hughes and Melanie Shapiro state on their website:   CAT (Citizens Against Trafficking)  believes decriminalized prostitution in Rhode Island enabled the expansion of the sex industry, an industry vulnerable to trafficking.  Decriminalized prostitution meant that we were unable to identify and assist victims of trafficking.  We were unable to use some federal laws or participate in federal initiatives to combat trafficking.

So what trafficking victims were assisted Ms. Hughes and Ms. Shapiro?  North Carolina is a state where prostitution is fully criminalized.  Yet it is still here.   Where are the trafficking victims being saved here in North Carolina?

Back to the original point.  Federal initiatives?  The perpetrator was a federal law enforcement employee.  And please don’t tell me I have “rights”.  I’ve seen that process before.   You can not take on the federal government.

Thank you Donna M. Hughes, Melanie Shapiro, you made a difficult situation so much better with your “work”  Either of you ever been bagged and shagged?   Or are you safe at URI making decisions for others?

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

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.

Public Service Announcement for December 17th

SWIRL was kind enough to send in a PSA for December 17th.  Most college/independent radio stations are happy to play PSA’s, some more mainstream stations sometimes will.  So why not try emailing this to your local radio station?  Also good for webcasts, podcasts, etc.

MP3: PSA

Text (transcription): December 17th, is International Day to end Violence Against Sex Workers, This event was created to call attention against sex workers all over the globe it was originally thought up by Annie Sprinkle and started by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River killer in Seattle WashingtonInternational Day to end Violence Against Sex Workers , has empowered sex workers in over 100 cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations will be staging actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers.  visit http://www.swopusa.org/dec17 to find out about an action or vigil in your area or to help organize one.  Again that’s http://www.swopusa.org/dec17.

serial killer targets “a certain profile of a woman”

I am so upset.  Again, women have been assaulted, raped and murdered by a serial killer: Again, the “justice system” has turned a blind eye.  A blind eye to a women who was “bleeding and injured” because she wasn’t “credible.”  Read: a prostitute.

While this article does not use the exact term “prostitute,” nor does anyone in the interviews, we can read @#&*#!

Advocates fear that sensitivities including shame, checkered backgrounds and mistrust on the part of the women he tended to befriend might make it tricky to learn of more victims…

…Another woman, 43-year-old Tanja Doss, told The Associated Press two weeks ago that she was attacked by Sowell in April at his home and escaped the next morning. She said she didn’t tell police because she felt her past conviction on a drug charge made it unlikely they would take her seriously.

Any other survivors need to know “no matter what walk of life you chose, were actually pushed into, you’re still a person. Don’t give up on people that sometimes choose a different path of life, as they call them ‘throwaways’,'” Davis said…

…Sherri Smith, who works with churches in the Sowell neighborhood and has encouraged rape victims to seek help, said some might be hesitant for fear of being seen as “a certain profile of the women” that he allegedly targeted.

I feel sick to my stomach.  For all of those who adhere to armchair feminist theory that supports cracking down on prostitution in order to “save” women, for all of those who supposedly want to protect women from harm by lobbying for legislation to police them more, and for all those who try to silence the voices of sex workers who demand a right to safety by way of decriminalization, you should know that you efforts amount to this:

It soon emerged that a prosecutor declined to file charges after a woman fled Sowell’s home last December, bleeding and injured, because she wasn’t considered credible.

Read the whole article from the Huffington Post HERE

Also, an article from the NY Times, where “Nobody did anything because she is a girl walking around the streets.”

Comments by “Citizens against Trafficking” about Photo of Cambodian Sex Workers Protesting Law Enforcement Brutality

“Citizens against Trafficking” (CAT)  wrote the following about a photo of Cambodian sex workers protesting law enforcement brutality under U.S. imposed anti-prostitution legislation: 

“Look at this photo from a ‘sex workers’ rally’ in Cambodia. The writing on their t-shirts says ‘Sex Work is Work: Defend the Right to Livelihood.’ Look at the faces of these women. Do they look like happy, empowered women and girls rallying to demand their right to be prostitutes? Or do they look like victims of trafficking told to put on t-shirts and sit while someone takes their picture?

A Rhode Island police officer who has been in the brothel-spas looked at this photo and said, ‘The women I saw in the spa looked just like that.”

Well, of course these sex workers look unhappy considering that they were protesting the rapes, beatings, and theft that Cambodian sex workers have been subject to by police and prison guards under U.S. imposed anti-prostitutuion legislation.  Yet, CAT mentions nothing about this oppressive legislation.  CAT mentions nothing about how sex workers have been incarerated and subject to police brutality under anti-prostitution policies like what this organization promotes, in which the issue of human trafficking is exploited to promote policies against sex workers.  Well, this is a tragic example of what happens when people  exploit the seriousness of human trafficking to promote oppressive laws against sex workers.   The quote above was on page 3 of an article “Sex Radicals Vision for Rhode Island.”   Here’s a link:  http://www.citizensagainsttrafficking.org/attachments/File/sex_radical_vision_for_ri_92309.pdf .

Also, here’s an online documentary about the human rights abuses Cambodian sex workers are being subject to by law enforcement under U.S. imposed anti-prostitution legislation: http://www.blip.tv/file/970833/ .

Here’s an article which uses the same photo of Cambodian sex workers protesting that CAT used, but the difference is that this article used the photo in context: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/20080604/cambodian-prostitutes-protest-police-crackdown_all.htm .