Any law which violates the indefeasible rights of man is essentially unjust and tyrannical; it is not a law at all. – Maximilien Robespierre
Some of you may have noticed that my columns are posting earlier as of this week; I realized that if I posted them at 10:01 UTC every day, all my readers would be able to see (or at least be notified) of them on the proper date (even though it ranges from late evening in New Zealand to one minute past midnight in Hawaii). That probably won’t matter to most of you, but it corrects a deficiency that’s been annoying me for some time.
I’m Sure You Feel Safer Now
The brave police of Manatee, Florida have announced their heroic capture of a dangerous criminal …a street woman so desperate she offered sex in exchange for two McDonald’s dollar-menu cheeseburgers. I’m sure my Floridian readers will sleep more soundly tonight knowing this menace was removed from the streets.
Crime Against Society (February 26th, 2011)
Though Louisiana’s oppressive “Crime Against Nature By Solicitation” law was reduced to a misdemeanor last year (thus removing the requirement for sex offender registration), Doe vs. Jindal continued because the state refused to release those previously condemned. On March 29th the judge decided in favor of the sex workers:
…U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said state lawmakers had no “rational basis” for requiring people to register as sex offenders if they were convicted of a “crime against nature by solicitation”… “The defendants fail to credibly serve up even one unique legitimating governmental interest that can rationally explain the registration requirement imposed on those convicted of Crime Against Nature by Solicitation,” Feldman wrote. “The Court is left with no other conclusion but that the relationship between the classification is so shallow as to render the distinction wholly arbitrary”…
This is a victory not only for the approximately 400 people released from the tyrannical regime of “sex offender” registration, but for all those fighting to get armed busybodies out of people’s personal lives.
The Soft Weapon (March 24th, 2011)
I exposed the Schapiro Group’s lies twice before the Village Voice did last March, but their voice is much louder than mine, and apparently quite a few heard it because a new petition on Change.org has called for criminal investigation of both the Schapiro Group and the “Women’s Funding Network” (one of billionaire prohibitionist Swanee Hunt’s fronts):
Recently the Village Voice exposed the Schapiro Group…and the Women’s Funding Network…for knowingly deceiving both congress and the public using false data manufactured through fraudulent research…[when] legitimate organizations that serve exploited…minors…are not able to report that they have reached numbers of youth comparable to the inflated numbers of victims…it jeopardizes their credibility and funding…[also] increased funding for law enforcement efforts to combat a vastly inflated threat…is channeled instead into police actions directed not at traffickers, but rather against consenting adult sex workers…We reject the concept that criminalizing members of any population is an effective way to rescue them…Therefore, we, the undersigned, call on the United States Dept. of Justice to investigate the Schapiro Group and the Women’s Funding Network for conspiracy to commit fraud against their donors, the public and the US government…
Needless to say, I urge you all to sign!
Sales Pitch (May 22nd, 2011)
Here’s another study which proves that the “Swedish Model” doesn’t work; this one is from human trafficking expert Ann Jordan, who called the law “a failed experiment in social engineering” and pointed out that “the Swedish government has been unable to prove that the law has reduced the number of sex buyers or sellers or stopped trafficking.”
The Leading Players in the Field, Not (June 15th, 2011)
Umpteen Thousand People Can’t Be Wrong (November 12th, 2011)
The New York Times continues its crusade against sex workers, this time via a slanted article which refers to a 17-year-old as a “child” and blames Backpage (rather than the unexamined conditions at home which caused her to run away twice) for her becoming an underage prostitute. Apparently the Times is hoping that Village Voice loses its nerve and backs down on the Backpage adult ads, because it would be forced to reverse course and oppose the fanatics (rather than getting in bed with them) if they succeed in enacting laws that make websites (like that run by the Times) responsible for user-generated content.
Held Together With Lies (April 2nd, 2012)
The UN has released its latest “estimate” of “human trafficking victims”, and though it’s less than 9% of the popular figure popularized by fanatics, it’s still both unsubstantiated and inflated by at least two orders of magnitude:
The U.N. crime-fighting office said Tuesday that 2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are being exploited as sexual slaves. Yuri Fedotov, the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime…said $32 billion is being earned every year by unscrupulous criminals running human trafficking networks, and two out of every three victims are women…According to Fedotov’s Vienna-based office, only one out of 100 victims of trafficking is ever rescued…
In other words, Fedotov can only support 1% of his claim, or 24,000 people in the entire world. That’s a lot more believable, but it wouldn’t generate the necessary panic so fanatics multiply it by over 1000x, then refuse to produce even the most tenuous evidence in support of the exaggerated claim.
An Example To the West (April 3rd, 2012)
This article by researcher Matthias Lehmann on the harm criminalization does to Korean sex workers largely covers familiar ground, but also mentions that the prohibitionist Korean laws enacted in 2004 were strongly influenced by the “Swedish Model” and linked this strong criticism of the laws by two Swedish legislators. Lehmann points out that “sex workers…remain criminalised unless they claim to be victims”, dividing women into “’good women who are worthy of help’ and ‘bad ones who need to be punished’, thus continuing the stigmatisation of women who sell sex.” Unsurprisingly, this is the version of Swedish legislation now infiltrating the US as well. The article quotes many of the same sources and developments I’ve reported previously, but I found this announcement very intriguing:
Sex workers often rightly criticise researchers, politicians or the media for distorting the reality of the sex industry. I am therefore working together with Woo Yun Jin, a Korean visual artist, to develop a graphic novel entirely based on experiences shared with us by sex workers in Korea…[it] will be made available [later this year] in both English and Korean…we [hope this helps] people to better understand that sex workers are part of their communities and deserve the same rights just as everyone else.
Lehmann also provides links to “Research Project Korea” and a number of news articles and resources.
The Rape Question (April 4th, 2012)
More information is better than less, but I’m concerned this could make rape trials even more of a “he said/she said” affair than they already are:
…An in-depth study comparing rape victims with nursing students at the University of Southern Denmark reveals that vaginal injuries are just as likely to result from consensual sex as rape. [Researcher] Birgitte Schmidt Astrup [said] ‘…The nursing students experience just as frequent vaginal injuries as rape victims, and so these injuries cannot be used for much more than to establish that intercourse has taken place.’ She added that in cases of convictions based on evidence of vaginal injuries, there could now be discussions as to whether there have been miscarriages of justice…all [of the subjects] were examined less than 28 hours after sexual intercourse…vaginal injuries were found in 36 per cent of rape victims and in 34 per cent of the nursing students. The…students’ results were not affected by whether they had engaged in rough or gentle sex, or whether they had used condoms or sex toys…
Feet of Clay (April 5th, 2012)
The outcry against Nicholas Kristof and his anti-whore crusade continues to grow and generalize; this week I discovered a well-written article from a member of the Occupy movement denouncing Kristof’s transparent attempt to call attention away from his own lies and exaggerations by branding the much-hated Goldman-Sachs “financiers of sex trafficking”:
…It was with some horror…that…I observed several Occupy-affiliated Twitter accounts sharing a link to an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, entitled “Financiers and Sex Trafficking”…It’s easy to see how this could appear to fit in the widespread populist anger against the financial sector that powers Occupy Wall Street…[but] Backpage is mostly used by consenting adults, and Nicholas D. Kristof is a man with a history of trying to use the specters of trafficking and child prostitution as leverage for a campaign that seeks ultimately to further criminalize sex workers…his “rescue” work in developing countries has basically involved riding along with law enforcement and live-tweeting brothel raids, writing himself into the story as the white savior (consequences be damned). In other words, he is a buffoon, a prime member of the Liberal Class that preserves the status quo by defining the acceptable limits of dissent…Meg…[of] SWOP Chicago…[explained that] “The anti-trafficking crusade is a top-down movement, led by (among others) two right-wing religious conservatives from the Bush Administration (Laura Lederer, Swanee Hunt)…if Occupy Wall Street jumps on the anti-trafficking bandwagon, they’re really just swallowing rhetoric designed by one of the nation’s best consulting firms to further the particular agenda of a few members of the top .0001%”…Trafficking and child prostitution have been invoked to justify criminalizing…sex work since at least the end of the last century…Demand Abolition’s own material [confirms] this…[its] Nation Strategy emphasizes that “Framing the Campaign’s key target as sexual slavery might garner more support and less resistance, while framing the Campaign as combating prostitution may be less likely to mobilize similar levels of support and to stimulate stronger opposition.”
…If Occupy wants to add justice for sex workers to its cause (and it should), then it can carry on doing what the movement has generally done very well: Don’t pay much attention at all to the self-appointed pundit class at the likes of the New York Times. Listen to actual workers, the people for whom these issues are an everyday reality, not a hot topic…
It turn out that the push to impose the Swedish Model on Western Australia is largely a one-woman campaign enabled by a sleazy political deal:
…The government’s prostitution bill proposes to make sex work in residential areas illegal and requires brothel owners, managers and sex workers…to register…Labor is opposed to the legislation…[along with two prominent] Liberal MPs…[so] the government will need [the support of] independent MPs Janet Woollard and Adele Carles…[who] wants…three amendments…[which] would [shift] the criminal focus…to clients…Carles said she had visited Sweden…”They determined that prostitution is not a job. Prostitution is violence against women”…
But while Carles is the typical neofeminist Swedish dupe , Woollard refuses to back the law unless it bans brothels entirely in five years. Since that won’t happen, the law probably won’t pass, but I’ll report as the situation develops.
Ron Weitzer’s article on the recent Canadian decision clarifies a detail I had missed: “The court gave the government 12 months to appeal the decision allowing bawdy houses, 30 days to rewrite the ‘living off the avails’ law to restrict it to exploitation, and allowed the parties 60 days to appeal the decision to uphold the solicitation/communication law.” Obviously the government will appeal to keep its brothel ban and these workers will appeal the upholding of the “communicating” law, but as I understand it the avails law is a dead duck in its present form, which is certainly good news.
One Year Ago Today
“Neither Cold Nor Hot” looks at Jezebel’s weird ambivalence about sex work.