Domina Elle is a professional Dominatrix who hosts in her “FUNgeon” in Denver, Colorado. She is also an artist, photographer, member of the Erotic Service Providers’ Union and board member of the Erotic Service Providers’ Legal, Educational and Research Project (ESPLERP).
War has been declared upon all American erotic service providers and their clients, and as in every war a propaganda campaign has been set into motion to justify it; no one can argue with “save the children”. Certainly not the elected officials who have jumped on the legislative bandwagon to further criminalize adult consensual erotic services, and certainly not the opportunistic NGO’s participating in what has become a billion dollar federal grant program via the non profit industrial complex known to sex workers as the “rescue industry”. Certainly not the law enforcement agencies which justify arresting consenting adults, as they, too generate revenue for their employer the state. Each day there are new casualties in the war against prostitution; each day immeasurable damage is being perpetrated upon erotic service providers and the body count rises, both figuratively and literally. We must fight back. It has become more crucial than ever before that we do so, and in a solid tangible way.
The word “Decriminalization” has become a mantra chanted by sex workers around the globe. Tears of joy were shed when a council of Amnesty International recently announced its support of the decriminalization of prostitution, just as the United Nations and the World Health Organization had already done. Even the U.S. State Department, in its 2015 “Universal Periodic Review Of Human Rights“, affirmed United Nations recommendation #86, stating: “We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution”. But these declarations are as of yet merely suggestions, and have not translated into harm reduction for sex worker communities throughout the globe. To ensure that our needs are met we ourselves must transform our rallying cry into a reality, bringing about the emancipation and protections which our vast community so desperately needs. In America, this action must be accomplished through the courts; it isn’t an easy path and requires much diligence and of course a great deal of money. While the Erotic Service Providers’ Legal, Educational and Research Project’s (ESPLERP’s) legal challenge has already been filed and is in process, the truly tricky part is the continual funding of the case. Because we are criminalized and stigmatized, the US sex worker rights movement is not well funded, and the little funding which is available is not being prioritized towards striking down the unconstitutional anti-prostitution laws. So while some of the most dedicated and diligent activists I have ever known of are at the heart of supporting this challenge, without sufficient funding the case could fall apart (which is certainly what our opponents hope for).
In early August, ESPLERP members, supporters and legal representatives gathered in California to hear the lower court judge’s decision, which was that there would be no public hearing and that the ruling would be announced at a future time. ESPLERP’s lawyer Louis Sirkin stated that this type of action by the court is not uncommon, and that he wasn’t surprised at all; we were also told that there is no time limit on how long the Judge can take to render his decision, so now we wait. From day one, our plan was to take this case to the highest court possible in order for more states to be affected, and more people to be emancipated. If the lower court judge stands by the principles in the Bill Of Rights and rules in our favor, erotic service providers who are criminalized in the state of California will be free from criminalization and the real work can begin in California at least. If the judge chooses to dismiss the case, we will go up to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; if that court rules in our favor no fewer than nine states will be emancipated from the threat and devastation of criminalization, and other sex workers and organizations in other parts of the US would be able to use the ruling to file similar cases or defend themselves from charges. THIS WOULD BE HUGE!
A legal challenge such as this is no small task. My dream, as a member of the erotic service provider community, is to see the emancipation of our people, and this case could be the key to open that door. Decriminalization is hardly a panacea; it’s only the means of stopping the immediate harm caused by arrest and the life devastation which comes with it. Law enforcement agencies would no longer have the means by which they literally rape and pillage our community with impunity. Though decriminalization is only the beginning of what sex workers need to accomplish, it will give the erotic services community a safer platform upon which to openly organize in order to demand and protect our rights that much more. The storm of oppression is already here raining down upon us, and we haven’t even seen the eye just yet. We need the legal umbrella provided by decriminalization, and we can rally around this legal challenge to achieve solidarity as we never have before; it can provide a powerful and warm fire around which we can join our hearts and minds to weather the storm together. We can do this, but it requires you to be around that fire contributing your fuel to it. For more information about the challenge please visit decriminalizesexwork.com, and to donate to the legal challenge fund please go to litigatetoemancipate.com. Viva la revolution!