Melissa Farley sends someone to the Naked Anthropologist to rant

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

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

You are making women like me invisible.

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

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

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

Complaint Filed Against Melissa Farley

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the full text of the complaint here.

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

Newsweek Article Bashing Sex Work Clients

I’m surprised this hasn’t been brought up on BNG yet, but many of you may be aware of the Newsweek article titled “The John Next Door” bashing our clients and focused on Melissa Farley’s input.
Though several pages of comments were posted (many of which very critical of the article), only the most recent page of comments now appears, so many excellent comments are no longer visible.
Considering that, I provided a forum on my blog where people can comment along with at link to the article: http://veganvixen1.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/newsweek-article-bashing-sex-work-clients/ .

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

Proposition K to Decriminalize Prostitution in San Francisco Endorsed by the Democratic Central Committee

When Scarlot Harlot put out the rallying call, we listened.

With only two days notice, a sizable group of sex workers, allies, and supporters showed up last night to the public testimony meeting of the DCC to solicit endorsement for the newly named Prop K. Each speaker had one minute to plea their case ranging from endorsing Eric Quezada for District 9 Supervisor (that advertising worked on my susceptible mind; I heard his name so many times I’m sold!) to a large group of mostly Asian high school students and their teachers testifying to the  importance and positive impact on students’ lives of the Junior ROTC. That was an amusing intersection for sure, as well as a depressing eye-opener; apparently the only way these children are learning life skills, self-confidence, structure, as well as getting male African American role-models (mentioned several times as 75% of the JROTC counselors or teachers or Sargents or whatever the term is are African American men) is through this military based model.

Anyhoo, the hos came out in force and had a consistent string of voices heard throughout the beginning of the clusterfuck that was the sign-up process (There was literally a yellow legal pad and a first-come, first served policy for signing up to speak, which meant that all of the speakers for all of the topics petitioned were all mixed together, and adults are not necessarily sensible nor fair about this sort of thing).  Our opposition; including Melissa Farley and her cronies, did not show up until about half way through the speakers and were still outnumbered by the impassioned assemblage of well-spoken supporters by quite a margin. Maxine Dougan videotaped the proceedings, and among the speakers were: Robyn Few, Patrasha, Lady Monster,  Maxine Dougan, Melissa Gira, Scarlot Harlot, Scarlot Harlot’s mom, Violet Palmer, Bacchus (representing the client’s perspective) as well as many other sex workers, the founder of the City Clinic, a number of lawyers and several other articulate, professional looking men to lend that special brand of validity to those who need  articulate, professional looking  men to believe the good word. I spoke and passed out several of the “Brief Lesson on San Francisco’s Historic Whores”cards,  which detail some of the contributions of sex workers throughout SF’s history.  These flyers were made for the Sex Worker Pride Float and available at the Desiree Alliance Conference in Chicago, and the panel seemed to enjoy reading them throughout the proceedings.

Despite two incidents of furor over our presence, the panel listened more or less intently and seemed to take us fairly seriously, in fact at one point one of the panel members asked for a copy of the legislation from us but no one hand one on hand.  The first incident was when a panel member spoke in the middle of the public testimony to the chair, informing him that as the chapter of the DCC for the city, they really had no jurisdiction over the prostitution decriminalization issue and were obliged to follow the lead of the decision of the California DCC, or something to that affect. Basically it seemed like this gentleman just did not want to hear any more about the measure and wanted to let us know we were barking up the wrong tree, though many of his colleagues made “what the hell is he talking about!?” and “oh, gimme a break” faces at his interruption. The second incident, which seemed somewhat juvenile, occurred after one supportive speaker brought up the point that statistically there were likely several former sex workers and former clients on the panel who couldn’t speak up about their position based on stigma. This broke the proceedings for a moment so that the majority of the panel could have a could chuckle over that ‘improbability’ and jokingly speculate, accuse and lay false claim to their involvement in the industry as sexual laborers or consumers.

At about 10pm I got the call from Scarlot that the DCC had decided to endorse Prop K, created by the Erotic Service Providers Union,  with a 18-12 vote in favor. Currently Prop K is also endorsed by the Harvey Milk Club and the Lawyer’s Guild.

I was so proud of us, thank you to all those who came and all those who spoke, we are working to set a crucial precedent.

RedLightDistrictChicago Plays “Truth or False?” On Prostitution Stats

RedLight reporter kittenINFINITE hits the streets of Chicago to find out what citizens really think about the statistics reported in last month’s study on prostitutes in Chicago, as well as those stated on Melissa Farley’s prostitution research site

New Interviews With Nevada Brothel Workers

The controversy about the Nevada brothel system impelled a journalist to go and interview brothel workers herself. They, not her, refute Farley’s claims. They don’t go out of their way to paint a rosy picture. Their view tends to be one like a lot of workers — the job works for them but it’s not perfect. They like the potential money. They also like the freedom to do their job without the threat of arrest hanging over their heads.

Farley is quoted in the article as wanting to stamp out legal prostitution. I don’t have a problem with that — this is the perfect opportunity for Nevada to try some decriminalization.