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Archive for September 16th, 2011

It’s my custom to send courtesy copies of an article in which someone is mentioned prominently to that person (unless he’s a celebrity, public official or prohibitionist) so he can alert me to any mistakes or additional information prior to publication.  Well, when I sent Tuesday’s column to Norma Jean Almodovar, she replied with an essay she had written and wanted to publish as soon as possible, but had no specific venue in mind.  I offered to publish it here if she liked, and she accepted; I am therefore honored to present my very first guest columnist, veteran sex worker rights activist Norma Jean Almodovar, author of Cop To Call Girl, founder and president of the International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture and Education and executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of COYOTE .  For those of you who just can’t go a day without reading some of my own writing, I point you to my column of one year ago today, “BDSM (Part Two)” .  Now without further ado, I turn this space over to Norma Jean.

Just as they did a year ago with Craigslist, a bunch of politically grandstanding States Attorneys General- cheered on by an overbearing, vociferous gaggle of anti- prostitution zealots and their sycophants from the far left and the far right-  got together and wrote a letter to the owners of Backpage.com, demanding that the adult ads on their classified website be shut down “to stop sex trafficking.”  Despite the fact that they don’t have a constitutional leg to stand on, these blowhards decided they must force the closure of the adult ads section in this and any other online adult ad classified advertising site.

Although there are numerous other sites which cater solely to the adult crowd seeking other adults for adult activity, such as RentBoy- where virulently anti- gay Christian Psychologist Reverend George Rekers found his young stud travel companion on a trip to Italy- and countless other similar sites, it does not appear that these Attorneys General have much interest in pursuing those sites because many are for gay commercial sex and it is not politically correct to prosecute gays for the same ‘crimes’ they prosecute heterosexual adults.  Governments and religious institutions throughout history have attempted to eradicate what many call a scourge (but many others like me feel it is the best job we ever had), but none have been successful even when the punishment faced by those who violate the law is death.  So what motivates these particular politicians to attempt to “eliminate” all prostitution at whatever cost?

There are a number of studies which support the premise that the more vocal one is in denouncing another’s ‘immoral’ activities and demanding that they cease, the more likely it is that such a loudmouth is engaged in the very activity that he/she condemns.  It is a cliché that sanctimonious politicians pontificate on the importance of family values while having extra-marital affairs, buying the services of a prostitute (underage and adult) or sending text messages to persons who are not their spouses; the vehemently anti-gay politicians and preachers who secretly engage in homosexual relationships.  When it is a female politician, look for her husband to be a client of prostitutes, like U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D. Michigan).

Considering the enormous pressure being exerted on Backpage -and Craigslist a year ago- if one were cynical, one might think that those who are the most vocal in their demands to shut down adult ads because of the possibility that those ads are for prostitution- are being blackmailed or extorted by those abolitionists.  Consider that Eliot Spitzer, who, as New York’s State Attorney General, passionately denounced the evils of prostitution as he vigorously enforced laws against prostitution by day and paid for his ‘sex slaves’ by night… in some cases going out of state and violating the Mann Act, a federal crime called ‘sex trafficking’.  Spitzer rose to governorship on the back of political reform and cleaning up corruption.  According to many sources, his was a ‘scorched earth’ policy when it came to prosecuting white collar crimes.  One target of his wrath were ‘prostitution rings’  against which he had publicly vented with “revulsion and anger announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a select prostitution ring” in 2004.  He dispatched his brand of justice in short order and sent them to prison.  In hindsight one could speculate that his show of revulsion and anger came not from a sense of moral repugnance at the thought of paid sex professionals but that the ‘select prostitution ring’ he targeted had perhaps been too selective and refused his business in the past?  Or did he feel a sense of pride at being able to prosecute the competition of those who did provide him with their sexual services?

Or perhaps the abolitionists knew of Spitzer’s indiscretions and used that information to extort him to be aggressive in prosecuting others who engaged in buying or selling sex?  There is no doubt in my mind that if he had not been caught with his pants down, he would be joining the other politicians in their strident crusade to shut down adult ads.  So it is not unreasonable to suggest that perhaps some or many of the signers of this letter are in a similar position.  History – both distant and recent- suggests that this may be the case…

In July 2011, a high ranking Albuquerque Criminal Judge, Pat Murdoch, was arrested for raping a prostitute.  It was not the first time he had hired a sex worker, because the prostitute he hired admitted to previous engagements with the judge.  And surely the police were aware of his activities with prostitutes, which may explain why, in 2009, he was so lenient toward an Albuquerque Police Officer -David Maes– who was also charged with raping a prostitute.  Thoughtfully, after Maes plead ‘no contest’ to the charges, District Court Judge Pat Murdoch said “sending him to prison would be a harsh sentence for an ex-cop” and gave him 5 years probation.  After Judge Murdoch was charged with raping a prostitute, he resigned, and most likely none of his colleague judges will impose a prison sentence on him, knowing that when and if they ever get caught doing the same thing, they will want leniency from the judges who oversee their cases.

Judges like Federal Judge Jack Camp… or Judge Michael Hecht... or Edward Nottingham, the chief federal judge in Denver, Colorado.  Despite the fact that an ordinary citizen charged with violating the same laws that Reagan appointee Judge Jack Camp did would have been sentenced to multiple years- perhaps decades- in prison, Judge Camp was allowed to retire at full pension, sentenced to 30 days in prison and 400 hours of community service.  He served 15 days.

Back to the States Attorneys General- are they pursuing this because they are being extorted by the prohibitionists or because they really believe that shutting down adult ads is going to somehow stop human trafficking?  Surely they are not that naïve, are they?  Having been lawyers before they became prosecutors, they know exactly how things work and that prostitution was around long before the internet and will be around long after the internet shuts the sex workers out (or moves them to other websites).

They feign concern for the sexual exploitation of underage persons through the use of adult ads, commenting that “More than 50 cases of trafficking or attempted trafficking of minors on Backpage.com have been filed in 22 states in the past three years…”  But none of them mention that in 2011 alone, more than 100 cases of pedophile and child porn possessing police/ district attorneys/ judges were brought to court... NONE of those cases involved Backpage or Craigslist or any other classified website offering adult ads – just a bunch of perverted cops, judges, FBI agents etc. who had access to these young people because they are persons in authority whom no one suspects of diddling their children.  These numbers do not include the teachers, preachers, priests, boy scout leaders, Hollywood producers and other persons who are trusted by the community and who do not find their victims on Backpage.  The US Government reports that 90% of the cases of child sexual exploitation are at the hands of someone the child knows, like the above cops, teachers, etc. and 68% of the cases of child sexual abuse are at the hands of a family member.  So if, as the prohibitionists and their misinformed spokespeople suggest, there are between  ‘100,000 to 300,000’ children trafficked into the sex trade every year, and if that represents only ten percent of the victims of child sexual exploitation from strangers, then the number of those sexually exploited by an acquaintance or family member must be in the millions per year.  As I mentioned earlier, however, the US Government’s own report says that these hundreds of thousands of human trafficking (which includes adults and those trafficked into many other areas of labor) can’t be found, with all the millions of dollars that they spend and all the government funded agencies looking for them.

Tragically, as many cases as there are of the victims mentioned above, there is an even greater number of underage persons who are subjected to rape and sexual exploitation by persons in authority, and the government is quite aware of it and yet does little to prevent it.  In fact, those juveniles are deliberately put in harms’ way at the insistence of the rabid prohibitions who claim they are ‘saving their lives.’  No doubt when the media reports that the FBI or other government agencies have ‘rescued’ dozens of ‘victims of child sexual trafficking’ during a sting operation (and arrest hundreds of adult prostitutes in the process), the general public envisions a militaristic style raid much like our armed forces conduct when they storm into an occupied country and free the enslaved citizens, who then jubilantly rally around our heroic soldiers with cries of gratitude.  Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth for the underage victims of sex trafficking.  What the media and the government do not tell you is that ‘rescued’ means ‘arrested.’

When the cops and the feds – and for that matter, government agents anywhere in the world- conduct a ‘rescue’ raid, all persons of any age who are suspected of being prostitutes or of being ‘victims of sex trafficking’ are rounded up and herded into custody.  Handcuffed.  Chained to each other.  Put into jail cells.  Strip-searched.  Treated like vicious criminals.  And that is as it should be, according to some wonderful Christian ladies of the Georgia Eagle Forum, or as I like to call their national group- the “Spread Eagle Forum.”  Women like Sue Ella Deadwyler, publisher of Georgia Insight, who stated – in opposition to the Republican Georgia state senator Renee Unterman who introduced a bill that would steer girls under the age of 16 into diversionary programs instead of arresting them as prostitutes – “Arrest is a valuable life-saving tool that must be used. We need to hire more cops to arrest the prostitutes.”  She said that she believes that arrest is a better deterrent than a proposal for rehabilitation — no matter the age.  “Sure there are those who are forced into prostitution, but I think most of them volunteer,” Deadwyler said of under 16-year-old prostitutes.  “Many, many children have been scared straight because of arrest.”  Of course.

One of her colleagues argues, “We cannot repeal the prostitution law for children, because that law acts as a very real barrier that protects children from sexual predators that would, otherwise, feel free to lure them into prostitution….Have we forgotten that correction oftentimes turns a life around?”

They aren’t the only ones who believe that arresting victims is actually good for them.  Newser Staff writer Evann Gastaldo, wrote in her  March 4th, 2011 article: “Why We Must Arrest Child Prostitutes:  IT MAY SOUND CRUEL, BUT IT COULD BE THE ONLY THING THAT SAVES THEM.  Says she “Decriminalizing child prostitution (and not arresting them) means effectively ‘removing the only safe and secure protection these vulnerable children have from the pimps—being arrested and placed under the protective custody of law enforcement.’” And after one major ‘rescue’ of such victims, the Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, stated “We may not be able to return their innocence but we can remove them from this cycle of abuse and violence.”

Umm, I wonder if either he or those nice Christian ladies or the States Attorneys General who are demanding the shutdown of adult ads on Backpage.com have read the US Government Justice Department’s own report on what happens to those children (and adult prostitutes) who are ‘placed under the protective custody of law enforcement…’- the report entitled “Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2008-09”?

As the May 5th, 2011 issue of the Economist states, “Sexual abuse in prison is distressingly common: the Justice Department estimated that more than 217,000 prisoners, including at least 17,000 juveniles, were raped or sexually abused in America in 2008.  A total of 12% of juvenile detainees… surveyed between 2008 and 2009 reported being forced into sex.  And that is the number of people, not incidents; most victims are abused more than once.  More inmates reported being abused by staff than by other inmates.”  So we arrest the victims and put them in jail where they are raped by those who are supposedly protecting them from sexual predators... like themselves.  And this of course will ‘turn their lives around’… actually it probably will; if this doesn’t mess up their heads and screw up their lives forever.  After the well-meaning Christian ladies and legislators tell them that it is for their own good to experience the trauma of being arrested and going to jail where they are raped by government agents in whose custody they are supposed to be safe, well, they would have to have an extremely strong character to survive the ‘rescue’ envisioned by these moral zealots.

To be concluded tomorrow.

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