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

Legislators Urge Ban on Media Shown to Reduce Rape

Women’s groups have been in a state of hysteria lately over Republican efforts to restrict abortion rights, but they’ve been curiously silent about the efforts from BOTH sides of the aisle to restrict women’s other sexual rights.  For example, they’ve said nothing about the recent attempt by over 100 senators and congressmen to “crack down” on certain widely-available materials which have been demonstrated to decrease rape rates, namely porn.

Radley Balko of The Agitator isn’t a sex worker rights activist, but he’s a staunch defender of the rights of people to do what they like with their own bodies, including sex work.  In this article from April 7th, he demolishes the congressmen’s false claims about the “dangers” of porn with statistical proof of the social problems which have decreased as porn has become more widespread:

And in fact, every single one of these problems are trending in the opposite direction. And it isn’t even close:

  • Sex crimes against children: Down 53 percent between 1992 and 2006.
  • Abortion: The abortion rate has dropped by about 25 percent since 1993.
  • Teen pregnancy: In 2009, teen pregnancy hit its lowest rate in the 70 years that the federal government has been tracking the statistic.
  • Divorce: The U.S. divorce rate is at its lowest level since 1970.
  • Domestic violence: The rate of reported domestic violence in the U.S. dropped by more than half between 1993 and 2004.
  • Rape: The forcible rape rate in the U.S. has dropped from 41.1 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 28.7 in 2009. That latter figure is also an all-time low.

These numbers are overwhelming. What’s more, there are at least a couple of studies suggesting that the widespread availability of pornography is partially responsible for some of these trends, especially the drop in reported rapes.

Balko has recently been hired by Huffington Post, which means his eloquent voice for decriminalization will soon be heard by many more listeners than ever before.  I urge sex workers to read his column often; he’s definitely an ally.

change.org petition for a verified adult industry provider section

change.org is mobilizing 2 petitions: one to stop CL’s erotic svcs sec WORLDWIDE and one to go after Backpage.com ( take action by telling Village Voice Media it’s time to stop profiting from child sex trafficking now).  I CREATED THE PETITION AND IT IS LIVE!

please VOTE, TWEET, FACEBOOK!

www.change.org/petitions/view/demand_a_verified_adult_provider_section_to_stop_sex_trafficking_and_exploitation?te=npe

ARE YOU REALLY INTERESTED IN STANDING UP AGAINST PIMPS, PREVENTING EXPLOITATION OF MINORS and PREVENTING ANOTHER CRAIGSLIST KILLER TO PREY ON ADULT INDUSTRY WORKERS?

My name is Mariko Passion.  I am an adult industry worker of 13 years, over the age of 18 and I am not being forced or coerced to do any work with anyone or for anyone.  I am not being held against my well.  In other words: I am not a sex trafficking victim.  I am an advertiser on backpage.com and was a former erotic services provider on Craigslist.com. before the appearance of the Craigslist killer when things became more difficult to advertise.  I feel compelled to make this video to put a face to those that do this work and hope that I can urge you to TRULY TAKE A STAND to help those of us that are often victims of violence because we are pushed underground, forced to be ashamed and secretive about what we do and often feel that the police will not want to help us when we are victims of rape, robbery or as we saw in the Philip Markoff case: murder.

The SOLUTION to combating violence and exploitation in our industry is not to eliminate advertising sources.  Many adult providers who are NOT in human trafficking situations are also mothers, part time workers, students in college, artists, persons who would otherwise be homeless or stuck in domestic violence situations and many many other things.  Eliminating craigslist adult services and and moving onto eliminating ads in  backpage, where many of us have now advertise will hurt the last bastion of income revenue many of us.

I am proposing that advertising outlets that wish to run adult industry ads be required to create a VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER SECTION in their newspapers or websites.  This is very similar to the 2257 laws that the porn industry uses to combat claims of and actually stop the employment of underage performers in their videos.  It is also a system that is already in place by other more upscale adult provider websites like Eros.com

To advertise in this section MUST BE AFFORDABLE.  Every adult provider who comes into the advertising office to verify themselves is actually making a small contribution to STOPPING TRAFFICKING by supporting a simple verification system that helps to prevent exploitation by a 3rd party.  This system makes the adult voluntary workers and papers like LA Weekly, backpage, or others MORE responsible to the realities of possible exploitation that may exist in our work.

A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER SECTION will give verified adult providers ad space at a discounted rate that is competitive with craigslist/backpage rates per week about $35-45/week, which actually will create INDEPENDENCE from agencies or pimps that have more credit cards or capital to invest in full page buyouts of weekly papers, postcard littering campaigns on sidewalks or billboard trucks driving up and down streets.  THIS IS HOW A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER SECTION WILL TAKE A STAND AGAINST PIMPS AND AGENCIES.

A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER SECTION will ALSO be beneficial to the customers of such ads.  There will be no mistaking a A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER as a trafficked person or minor.  There will also be the added assurance for the client that the provider is only allowed to represent their own image in the ads that they run.

A VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER verifies that they are over 18 with government issued ID, are not being held against their will, are not being forced to exchange services by a third party, are entering agreements with clientele from ads willingly, AND are using REAL pictures and representing their own advertising and business decisions as listed in any ads with said publication.  They must come into the media outlet office and sign a written agreement.

Information gathered from VERIFIED ADULT PROVIDER will not contain any more information about the provider than their age and that they are not trafficked.  It shall not be used to gather information to be used against the adult providers.  NO questions in the verification process will be used to incriminate workers in any way.  They are simply verifying that they are over 18 and advertising on their own will.  It is a TRUE effort from media publications to help adult worker safety.   It is an effort to create a REASONABLE ALTERNATIVE to the strategies currently being used by the moral majority as the solution.

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.

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Anthony Comstock Would Be Proud

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

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

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Relevancy of Client Status

One thing I’ve noticed again and again is that when men make online comments in any way supporting sex workers (like on news articles or major blogs), they always hasten to add that they have never seen a sex worker and have no need of it. Obviously, they believe client-stereotypes (e.g. all clients are ugly losers) and feel a strange need to pretend they’re not clients.

I wonder why they even think the disclaimer is relevant — can’t they, as arguably intelligent people — support sex workers with or without vested interest? Why the need for qualifying their statements? And isn’t it a backhanded insult to the sex workers they’re supporting with their words?

It’s rare but refreshing to see an online supporter who openly claims to see sex workers (aside from the huge and obvious discussion/review boards). I’d like it even more if anonymous online male supporters simply made their arguments and left it at that. To me, whether or not they’re clients is irrelevant. On the other hand, someone who makes a fuss about how they’re too good to visit a sex worker does taint his comment for me — in the negative direction.

Curious about others’ reactions when they read these type of comments.

Sex Workers and Unpersons.

I haven’t written here in a while.  I spent the last few months in a wheelchair, and then healing from being in the wheelchair, and now being sick the past month and finally getting treated for pneumonia.  But I’m coming out of that now, and I’m moving forward.  These experiences has given me so much to be thankful for!

I’m thankful that I’ve had the privilege of making more friends that do disability activism, so that I can learn from their community, and their amazing strengths.  I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to really experience being in a wheelchair, however briefly, and how much I truly loved being an non-person, versus being less than a person. I’m thankful that I had the experience of being violated from their good intentions and grabbing my wheelchair and pushing me across the street without my permission or desire.

But really, I’m thankful for the huge amounts of self growth and new relationships I’ve been able to form.  And I’m so so so very glad I got to watch this video:

The video is all about being an unperson.  I was amazed at the similarities that Sex Workers share with Amanda Baggs’ experience of being an unperson.  Some of the quotes I really resonated with:

“Being an unperson means being at the mercy of the theories other people have about you”.

“An unperson can’t tell about beatings, rape, torture and murder, if  she does, she will not be believed”

“An unperson knows that the law will never come to his aid, not the way it does for real people”.

But, for all the similarities that we have, we have some very strong differences, one is that we can be selectively “unpersons”.  We have the choice of being in the closet about our Sex Work, and when in the closet, we don’t have to face being an unperson.  (Unless you get arrested by the police and they paste your picture all over town, or put you on TV like they have been known to do.)

I’m thankful for learning about my fellow brothers and sisters who are struggling for basic human rights.  Our struggles are different (and sometimes vastly different), but we have similarities and I hope that all of us can come together around the things we have in common, and respect each other’s differences.