Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when others believe him. - Charles DeGaulle
As I said last month, it’s amazing how many of these stories seem to crop up around the holidays! So without further ado, here’s the first batch of the year.
Real People (February 6th, 2011)
It’s a classic Catch-22; because of criminalization prostitutes need to be discreet, but anonymity allows the prohibitionists to invent lies about us that further support for criminalization. So it’s always good to see articles that show sex workers are people like anyone else; this one is from the December 12th Daily Sundial, the student newspaper of California State University, Northridge:
“I started stripping when I was 19 because I had huge debt…” said Jane Doe, 32, a doctoral student at USC…“I loved it…Of all the shit jobs I had ever had, it was the only shit job that was not a shit job.” Doe’s story is not atypical; according to a recent study on…sex work by Widener University’s Sarah Elspeth Patterson…“10 percent of students know of students who engage in sex work in order to promote themselves financially, with 16.5 percent indicating that they might be willing to engage in sex work to pay for their education”…
For Jessie Nicole, 25, sex work was the only employment option that allowed her to make ends meet and remain a full-time student. “I was broke,” Nicole said. “I had a scholarship that paid my tuition and 70 percent of my books, but that doesn’t pay your rent, that doesn’t give you food, and you still have 30 percent of your books.” Nicole, now the director of SWOP’s Los Angeles chapter, began dating “sugar daddies” when she was a 19-year-old undergraduate at Florida State University, but turned to escorting when she moved to Chicago for graduate school. “One of the easiest things about escorting in grad school was that I could pay to live and work a couple of hours a week,” Nicole said. “That was so crucial to me. I had a thesis to write…[My] time [was] really precious.”
Though sex work helped pay for both Doe and Nicole’s schooling, the cost of education left each of them in an incredible amount of debt. According to the Widener University study, 2010 college graduates are carrying an average of $25,250 worth of debt…“I did sex work to live and be a student and then I graduated and couldn’t find a job because I have a master’s in humanities,” Nicole said. “…So I kept doing sex work. And I’m still using sex work to pay off my student loans”…According to Nicole…many who critique and condemn sex work see the industry as coercive and degrading. “(Sex work) is a job like any other job,” Nicole said…according to [her], there are more student sex workers than one might think. “I didn’t (out myself) when I was in school,” Nicole said. “When I did come out, I found at least three other friends that were doing sex work in Tallahassee at the same time that I was. I was like, ‘are you fucking kidding? Is this just my group of friends or is everyone carrying this around? Why didn’t we work together?’”…
The story also interviews a professional submissive and has a short section on neofeminist anti-whore rhetoric. Nicole’s last point is very true; in my experience university students are the second largest group among escorts, after young divorcees with kids.
Heroines (May 16th, 2011)
OK, so breast self-examination is a little off-topic, but I’ve mentioned superheroines before so I just had to tell you about this PSA from Mozambique in which Wonder Woman gives herself an exam. Other ads in the series feature She-Hulk, Catwoman and Storm of the X-Men. The only thing I want to say is that I find it easier to do my exams topless, but I guess then we wouldn’t know who they were (except for She-Hulk, who’s pretty recognizable in any state of dress).
A Procrustean Bed (May 19th, 2011)
Though this essay was about a Massachusetts law, the principle applies to any part of the US:
…trafficking mythology…requires that the state produce victims other than the amorphous “public decency” or the faceless “state”. A “human trafficker” requires a human to “traffick”, so the law amputates prostitutes’ legal “legs” (i.e. the presumption of adult self-determination), reducing us to victims unable to walk into or out of prostitution on our own. And if all whores are victims, all those who assist us in our work must therefore be victimizers…[such laws define] anyone who “manages” a prostitute (of course, “manage” is not specifically defined) as a “pimp” and all pimps as “human traffickers”, thus stretching escort service owners, drivers, boyfriends and husbands into international gangsters.
Here’s the Big Apple’s version, courtesy of the December 14th New York Times:
…As prostitution has shifted off the streets and into hotels and apartments, the drivers who transport prostitutes have emerged as some of the industry’s most powerful players. Sofia, who uses a pseudonym because she fears retribution from traffickers, said that when she was enslaved as a prostitute, her drivers organized her schedule, drove her to appointments and took half of her earnings before she turned over the remainder to her pimp…On Wednesday, Sofia will testify, from behind a screen, before a joint hearing of the City Council’s Transportation and Women’s Issues Committees, on two pieces of proposed legislation that would penalize drivers who knowingly transport prostitutes. The first proposal…would raise the fines on drivers who knowingly transport trafficking victims, and would direct the Taxi and Limousine Commission to add training for all its drivers on the subject of sex trafficking…Sofia estimates that she worked with 70 drivers, who brought her to 5,000 clients…Sofia said that the drivers rarely spoke to her, except when they tried to recruit her away from her pimp. “They promised us a better life,” Sofia said. “I know a lot of girls who said they left the pimp they were working with. In the end they just worked for the driver.”
Is there any truth at all to this story? Who knows? It’s hard to take seriously an article whose very first sentence is based in a fallacy (that the majority of prostitution used to take place on the street, which it never has), and which characterizes low-end employees as “the industry’s most powerful players”. It also uses the phrase “enslaved as a prostitute” but then at the end states that the so-called “slaves” can work for whoever they like (including, logically, themselves). The huge numbers (70 different drivers? 5000 clients?) sound suspiciously like “reframed experiences” to me, and a lot of dubious assertions are trotted out to justify giving pigs and prosecutors the power to railroad (mostly immigrant) cab drivers as “human traffickers” for the “crime” of giving rides to hookers.
The Enlightenment Police (October 1st, 2011)
French prosecutors with nothing productive to do now want to send Hind Ahmas (whom we met in this column) to prison, as explained in this December 13th article from the Daily Mail:
A 32-year-old mother from France is set to become the first woman ever to be sent to prison for wearing an Islamic veil. Hind Ahmas refuses to accept the legitimacy of a Paris court which has ordered her to spend 15 days learning her civic duties…Ahmas was not allowed into the hearing…because she refused to remove her face covering. But prosecutors made it clear to her lawyer, Gilles Devers, that Ahmas now faces two years in prison and a £27,000 fine. ‘There is no possibility of me removing the veil,’ Ahmas said. ‘I’m not taking it off. The judge needs citizenship lessons, not me.’ Ahmas, who has already refused to pay a fine of around £100 for wearing a veil on another occasion, intends to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights…If Ahmas does become the first woman in the world to go to prison for wearing a veil, then it will be seen as a huge propaganda coup for Islamic-rights campaigners.
Mr Sarkozy said the ban on head coverings was not aimed at persecuting Muslims, but merely to make France a more tolerant, inclusive society…But the sight of a young mother being led away to the cells merely because she refuses to take off her veil will cause outrage around the world. Mr Devers said the veil ban was ‘unconstitutional’, while senior police officers have told judges that it is unenforceable without persecuting women…
Only a politician could believe that it’s possible to create a “more tolerant, inclusive society” by being intolerant and exclusive.
One Year Ago Today
“The Cold, Grey Light of Dawn” provides several examples of “the first feeble rays of light…[creeping] into the brains of those who, while perhaps not actually prohibitionists themselves, have always gone along with government policy on the matter.”