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Archive for the ‘The Dark Side’ Category

That is how we ended up in the church, without knowing how it would all end, without knowing if we would get out dead or alive.  But it was really the last thing that we could do to try and save our skin.  –  Maria de Lourdes

Protest at St. Nizier's 1975Forty years ago today, the sex workers of Lyon, France protested the unrelenting torment the cops inflicted upon them by occupying the Church of St. Nizier.  Despite its bawdy reputation in the English-speaking world, France has never been friendly to whores; beginning in the 16th century the French pioneered many of the laws and tactics used to harass us throughout the world to this day, and the Code Napoleon officially gave the police power to “control” prostitution (with results any regular reader could predict).  The severity of the maltreatment ebbed and flowed throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries until the government decided to revenge its humiliation at the hands of the Nazis on the bodies of sex workers, and France became officially “abolitionist” in 1960.

By August of 1973 the cops’ depredations had become so severe a street protest was organized, but it did not end well and the police were only emboldened to make things worse.  Early in 1975 they closed down the hotels de passe, cheap establishments where street workers took their clients, then proceeded to harry them with fines; the department decreed that each girl was to receive two or three fines per day, but because multiple cops were involved it could sometimes be five or more.  If a woman went to pay her fines, she was intentionally delayed in the police station for several hours so she would lose most of her night; if she didn’t pay she would be arrested and jailed, and her children abducted by the state if there were no relatives to take them.  Meanwhile, the tax department would present them with huge bills assuming numbers of clients that would fit comfortably in the masturbatory fantasies of “sex trafficking” fetishists.

Something had to give, and on June 2nd two sex workers named Ulla and Barbara led a group of 100 prostitutes to occupy a church in hopes of calling attention to their plight.  They had an ally in Father Louis Blanc, who secured the cooperation of several other priests; they planned to occupy the Church of St.Bonaventure, but the police found out and began to prepare for mass arrests of the protesters as they arrived.  Fortunately, Ulla was tipped off in time and diverted the protesters to St. Nizier instead; volunteers waited inside to direct each arrival out through the side doors while the cops waited outside in their cars, thinking they would wait until they could get a good crop of victims before springing their trap.  Father Blanc remembers, “The police officers looked as if they were having fun in their cars.  But after a while, they were having less fun because…’what is happening?’ We have disappeared!  In the meantime the prostitutes have entered the Church of St. Nizier, where there are no police.”  The priest at St. Nizier was Father Béal, and with his help over 100 whores were able to congregate there before the cops realized where they had gone.

By the evening of June 3rd, the news of the protest had spread across France, and over the next few days to other countries as well.  Sex workers all over France began to occupy other churches; in Paris 200 whores occupied the Chapel of Saint Bernard.  The media interviewed Ulla and other sex workers, allowing them to air their grievances for all to hear and they issued a “Letter to the People of Lyon” which read, in part,

…we haven’t taken up prostitution because we are depraved.  Prostitution is the only means we have found to deal with the problems of life…People regard us as “dirty” or “abnormal” women, but at the same time they say we are needed…Prostitution is not forbidden under French law and theoretically we are citizens like everyone else.  But because society is ashamed of the fact that it needs us, it treats us as criminals, people who can be subjected to the full repressive might of the police…

Most feminists of 1975 still actually supported women’s choices, and figures like Simone de Beauvoir spoke up for the sex workers; other activists protested outside the church in a show of solidarity. Their demands were simple; as stated in a pamphlet they circulated outside, “We will only leave the church once you have given us the guarantee that you will stop throwing us in jail each time you think there is a repeat offense.  Our children do not want their mothers to go to jail.”  The protesters told the media they wished to speak to Madame Giroud, then State Secretary for Women, but before the request could even be officially made Giroud refused, claiming this was not a women’s issue at all but rather the responsibility of the Minister of Interior; the latter politician, Michel Poniatowski, decided to reply with violence, and at 5 AM on June 10th ordered the police to remove the protesters from all of the churches.

In Paris and some other places, the removal was accomplished with the usual police tactics of smashing down doors and beating women with truncheons, but at St. Nizier they decided to use a trick.  A cop called Father Béal pretending to be a reporter who wanted to speak to Ulla, and when the church door was unlocked to admit the priest with his fake message, armed cops sprang from hiding; they pushed him aside and swarmed into the building 120 strong, accompanied by 20 dogs and equipped with tear gas.  Most of the women were simply ordered out, but Ulla and Barbara were beaten so severely they had to be hospitalized.  Father Béal lodged a formal protest against the violation of the ancient principle of asylum, but Poniatowski replied that police could enter anywhere when “public order” was disturbed, citing a law from 1905 in support of his actions.

Hooking vans in LyonBut despite the government’s refusal to peacefully grant the demands, officials must have been anxious to avoid similar embarrassment in the future; the harassment stopped, the cops with the highest numbers of sex worker arrests were reassigned to other duties, and the ludicrous tax bills no longer appeared.  By 1994 the culture had shifted sufficiently for “pimping” to be defined more narrowly, thus ending for a time the harassment of partners, roommates, adult children, etc with “avails” charges.  Of course, that didn’t last long, and regular readers have seen the tide once again turn toward repression in the form of the “Swedish model“, laws against “looking like a whore” and even repeated parking fines for the vans from which most street workers now operate.  But the protesters and their successors have not passively watched all this happen:

…the whores began holding regular meetings and soon formed the French Collective of Prostitutes, on which the English Collective of Prostitutes was later modeled.  Women in a number of other countries were also inspired to form groups, and a number of these came together with Margo St. James’ COYOTE to form the International Committee for Prostitutes’ Rights (ICPR), the organization whose work and example helped to win prostitution law reform in a number of European countries and provided an example which inspired similar campaigns in many other parts of the world.  In a way, the modern sex worker rights movement was born on that June 2nd in Lyon, so we celebrate it now as International Whores’ Day.

I’ve written about this occasion before, but the greater detail in today’s column was made possible by a French-language documentary being broadcast today on both Radio France and Radio Belgium; it was produced by Australian sex worker rights activist Eurydice Aroney, who called it to my attention about six weeks ago and reminded me of it again recently.  You can listen to the show at the link above, and Eurydice kindly provided me with this English translation of the transcript.  She and I both think it’s very important that sex workers know about the history of our movement; please help us accomplish that goal by publicizing the documentary and this column on social media!

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Memory will lay its hands
Upon your breast
And you will understand
My hatred.

–  Gwendolyn Bennett

Today is the twentieth anniversary of an event I’ve alluded to often and described once, and though I did say I was going to write about it again today, I have changed my mind.  Perhaps I should’ve realized this would happen; as I wrote in the last-linked column,

By the time it was over, I felt as though my psyche had received the equivalent of a sustained beating with a wide assortment of blunt instruments; it took me years to recover from the accumulated stress, and I was still subject to panic attacks (often provoked by unpredictable stimuli) until about 2003.  Even to this day I dread being alone with my own thoughts unless I have something like writing or a book to focus on; when unoccupied by work, reading or conversation my brain is wont to start dwelling upon things best left shut up in mysterious boxes under my mental stairs…

I don’t often have panic attacks any more; not from flashbacks to the Year of Disaster, anyhow, and I’ve learned to contain them well enough that only people very close to me can tell something’s wrong.  But though my intellect says it’s ridiculous to let a specific day on the calendar affect me to that degree (no matter what else is going on in my life), I woke up in a depressive, uneasy mood Monday morning, and it took Jae hours to get me out of it; I suppose next Memorial Day will be the same, as it has been for the last 20 years.  I still prefer to avoid thinking or talking about that part of my life even when it isn’t the last week of May, so it probably won’t surprise you when I tell you that even though I had the opportunity to write this essay earlier in the week I kept putting it off and doing other things instead.  As of this writing posting time is only six hours away, and I can’t procrastinate any more…but neither do I have to punish myself further by dwelling upon awful memories.  I don’t think I will ever be able to forget the violent execution of the last pathetic vestiges of my faith in any kind of government actor, but creating more tragedy porn won’t serve any constructive purpose.  As much as it’s humanly possible, I’d rather leave those memories to howl in their crates and never give them the satisfaction of knowing with certainty that I can hear them quite as well as if I were sitting right on top of them.

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If a woman is to be believed when she asserts that she did not consent to sex, it follows that she must be believed when she asserts that she did.  –  Pandora Blake and Niki Adams

The Red Umbrella 

A lady suspected to be a prostitute has been beaten by a client…in Accra [Ghana].  According to reports, the unknown young man picked the lady up…and they had a sexual marathon…The man then suggested they go to his house…to finish off the business…but…instead of receiving her wage for the job, she received severe beatings from her client.  Her screams drew the attention of neighbours who came to her rescue…the young man is insisting he never had sex with her…

Dirty Amateurs

Anything that increases the number of amateurs having amateur sex (such as criminalizing sex work) invariably increases the STI rate:

The Rhode Island Department of Health…released data…showing that the rates of HIV and several other STDs are increasing…from 2013 to 2014…The number of infectious syphilis cases increased by 79%…The number of gonorrhea cases increased by 30%…The number of newly-identified HIV cases increased by nearly 33%…The increase has been attributed to…high-risk behaviors that have become more common in recent years…[including] using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters, having sex without a condom…and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol…

Don’t Take My Word For It

This sounds interesting on its face, but keep in mind how abysmally bad most sex work research is; note the small sample and highly questionable methodology.

Women are buying more sex than ever before, according to new research…[which] found that women who pay for sex come from all ages [and] backgrounds and it appears that one of the main reason for the transaction is they lack the time for a relationship.  Researchers…spoke to 21 escorts and are now seeking female customers to continue their study.  The study…found that advertisement profiles of men rose from 5,246 in 2010 to 15,732 this year.  Female profiles rose from 11,056 to 28,614 over the same period…

Under Every Bed 

Grodd

Though most of this is the usual hilarious pearl-clutching hysteria, note the sinister propaganda that “drug dealers are shifting to sex trafficking”; in other words, “authorities” are just using a new excuse to target the same victims they always have:

…Panelists at a forum…told a full room at Beloit Public Library…that human trafficking takes place, even in Beloit [Wisconsin, population 37,000]…“We have drug dealers shifting over to human trafficking as their crime of choice,” said Milwaukee County Prosecutor Christopher Ladwig…Sgt. Theresa Janick of the Milwaukee Police Department has worked undercover in the Sensitive Issues Unit that includes prostitution…“The average age for girls entering into human sex trafficking is 12…”The gorilla pimp…beats on his own chest”…Guns and more violent problems are all wrapped up into one giant crime scene…“Pimps…use mind control”…Detective Joe Cassioppi of the Beloit Police Department [made up] a local case of sex trafficking in which a mother of three was first victimized by an online trafficker in Ohio, then began victimizing her own children…Cassioppi said the mother in this case is now serving 30 years in prison [but presented no names or links to the story]…

My favorite bit is the pimp gorilla with mind-control powers.

Deafening Silence

“Rectification” is a particularly horrifying euphemism:

Beijing Police has ordered six entertainment venues to suspend trading for rectification after being found involved with alleged prostitution and gambling…[this] is the first major raid…in the Chinese capital this year…police has clamped down 68 criminal groups and captured more than 600 criminals charged with prostitution…

Policing for Profit 

At least they’re not pretending that this money is being paid “back” to anyone:

A brothel madam who earned a fortune running an Edinburgh prostitution racket has agreed to hand over £1m.  Margaret Paterson, 62, was jailed for five years in 2013…The crown brought an action to seize any crime profits from Paterson and a…settlement [has] been reached in the case…

Opting Out

Now, this is an interesting development:

…A leaked EU document showed that David Cameron’s approach to online pornography – have it banned by default and make people opt in – has not been viewed in positive terms in Brussels…with the EU reportedly considering making the PM’s plan illegal.  Instead, the European officials would opt for a system that allows pornography by default with users, then being able to opt into a deal where the ISP blocks such content.  The user would also be able to back out of the agreement with the ISP at any time…It [would] at least partially…[ease] the burden on ISPs who have had to deal with numerous issues thanks to the Tory government’s blanket approach…

Fever DreamTBI logo

You may remember the TBI’s bogus “sex trafficking report” from several years ago:

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced results of a week-long operation to…identify potential victims of trafficking, arrest those seeking to purchase illicit sex, and learn more about the specific nuances of this type of crime…Governor Bill Haslam signed…a…law giving TBI original jurisdiction over investigations of human trafficking [and]…the state legislature approved funding for four Special Agents, who will exclusively investigate human trafficking cases…the TBI and Vanderbilt University partnered on in-depth studies to better understand the scope of human trafficking in Tennessee…

The idea that cops are interested in the “nuances” of sex work is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has ever been involved in it in any capacity.

Original Sin (#407)

I’m sick of hearing otherwise-reasonable people declare that the use of violence to suppress consensual adult behavior is something that’s up for “debate”:

Last week the New Statesman organised a debate on “buying and selling sex”…this debate was not about sex workers with different experiences trying to find common ground.  It was not about propping up a flawed binary between “happy hooker” and “helpless victim” (categories that are both used to silence sex workers who speak up).  And it wasn’t a stimulating academic conversation exploring ideological difference.  Sex work is a survival strategy used by real people…The campaign to criminalise clients, and the industry devoted to “rescuing” sex workers from their chosen source of income, is a moralistic crusade with financial and ideological connections to fundamentalist Christianity…Many of the organisations [involved]…oppose gay marriage, sex outside marriage, and abortion.  For example, the [APPG]…choose as its secretariat Care, a notorious Christian charity which sponsored conferences promising to [“cure”] gay people…During the debate, panelist Fiona Broadfoot showed her colours when she claimed that since clients were criminalised in Sweden, the country had become “less sexually deviant” because there was less prostitution.  Are we really going back to the days when consenting sex between adults, in this case where payment is involved, is labelled deviant?…

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Sex workers know that they are generally not thought of as human by police.  –  Kristina Dolgin

Old Men and Young Women

Old people must be punished for being sexual:

…a man living in a suburban Philadelphia assisted-living facility has lost his housing subsidy after officials found a prostitute underneath his bed…the man, believed to be in his 70s, paid prostitutes using profits earned from peddling alcohol to fellow residents…

Surplus Women Lidia Pascale

A prostitute allegedly killed by one of her customers kept her working life secret from a friend, a murder trial has been told.  Lidia Pascale’s body was discovered…in a wheelie bin…two weeks after she had been killed.  Matthew Cherrington, 32, has denied murder.  Adrian Albulescu …drove [Pascale] to the address…When she failed to reappear after an hour he phoned her “many times” but her mobile was switched off…he also knocked at the door but got no reply…

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic 

Paging Dr. David Ley:

…as a sex addiction/trauma therapist…I have spent many hours reading testimonials of former sex workers, many who started their sex working career as a stripper [sic].  I have come to believe strip clubs exploit wounded women who often have severe trauma in their backgrounds…It is very difficult to disconnect emotionally for dancers who perform lap dances or oral sex for money.  Many strippers display post traumatic stress disorder symptoms and will often times self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs…Some women in the sex industry develop their own sex addiction as a result of the neuro chemical changes in their brain…Many attendees to strip clubs struggle with communication and intimacy with their wives or partners, which can promote a secret life.  A secret life also changes the neuro chemistry in the brain…Often sex addiction co-exists with another addiction such as alcohol or drugs, gambling and sexual anorexia.  So…men who go to the strip clubs are also being exploited…Recovery from sex addiction requires exposing the trauma, stopping the behavior, and a commitment to rewire the brain through therapy…

Regarding the notion that the brain can be “rewired” through therapy: that sure worked out for all the gay people who sought to be “cured”, didn’t it?

Broken Record 

Even “sex trafficking” fetishists now have to address the debunking of one of their pet myths:

…[Prohibitionists claim] they want to fight the forced sex work…that they say is sure to spike during the many Super Bowl events in the Bay Area preceding the game on Feb. 7.  And, perhaps more so, they want to use the football extravaganza…as a platform for their cause.  But the linking of human trafficking to the Super Bowl and other sporting events in recent years has prompted a backlash.  Critics say evidence of the relationship is weak and overblown, and…sex workers…say the pressure to crack down on prostitution hurts them…But [prohibitionists pretend]…it worsens around big events that draw big spenders.  They must, they say, use whatever tool they can to attack [sex work]…

King of the Hill

I literally laughed out loud reading this:

…North Carolina regularly ranks in the top 10 worst states for the illegal act.  This statistic came as a shock to audience members at a seminar…Many let out gasps…Emily Fitchpatrick…of On Eagles Wings Ministries…[said] “Charlotte is the No. 1 city for human trafficking”…the girls like it so much because they make a lot of money…[there, cop mouthpiece Joel] Shores said…“There have been no arrests, but it is a problem…It’s easier to sell a woman than it is to sell drugs…”…Shores also talked about his campaign to…[arrest people for] sexting and how it can lead to becoming part of this growing illegal industry.  “We need to let these women and girls know that they have worth [by arresting them]”…

Comfort Zone (#320)

“…immigration controls are claimed to be a mechanism of protection for migrants, rather than a mechanism of oppression…”:  “Ottawa police say 11 women will be deported after a human trafficking investigation into commercial massage parlours…All 11 were found to be working without a valid work permit…

The Roof Caves In

She’s like the proverbial bad penny:

Disgraced anti-trafficking activist Somaly Mam on Monday appeared on television to promote Afesip, the NGO that she founded…and to ask for donations from Cambodian viewers.  Ms. Mam resigned as president of the Somaly Mam Foundation last year after media reports revealed she had fabricated her backstory and coached young girls to lie about their past in order to raise funds. She resigned from Afesip in 2013…

Bad Girls (#429) 

The details surrounding 27-year-old Alix Tichelman’s arrest in Santa Cruz last July—the Lifetime-esque sting operation, the “Harbor Hooker” hook, the drugs, the Google executive with a $345K yacht—were every reporter’s wet dream.  But some activists believe the case against her has been distorted by media bias against sex workers…Kristina Dolgin…[of] Red Light Legal…reached out to Tichelman…to offer additional legal services and support; she says she wants people to remember that Tichelman is innocent until proven guilty, regardless of her profession.  “They’re using language that is clearly seeking to demonize [Tichelman], strip her of her humanity and make her less than a person—to be vilified and not protected,” Dolgin says…

Served Cold Operation Underground Railroad

If this doesn’t make you nervous, you haven’t been paying attention:

…Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced today he will testify on Thursday, May 14, 2015 at a Congressional hearing titled A Pathway to Freedom: Rescue and Refuge for Sex Trafficking Victims…Reyes participated in a rescue sting operation with Operation Underground Railroad in Colombia where he and several others liberated over 120 young children from a modern-day sex slavery ring operated by a network of human traffickers.  Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R) Founder and CEO and former CIA agent and special agent for the Department of Homeland Security Tim Ballard will also testify on the growth of NGO rescue operations and how organizations such as O.U.R. can complement government agencies in expediting human and child sex trafficking rescue and rehabilitation efforts worldwide…

Naming a fascist organization which works with government to enforce the status quo after an historical organization dedicated to opposing the government-enforced status quo makes me want to throw up.

Dutch Threat (#534)

More on Dutch sex workers’ protests, from regular reader Frans van Rossum:

As sex workers fight back against the Mayor of Amsterdam’s attempt to “legalise” violating their privacy rights, they receive some unexpected and unprecedented support from Magda Berndsen-Jansen, a member of parliament…Her parliamentary enquiry…demands answers to the very questions raised by newly founded sex worker organisation PROUD [and] proves that sex workers are finally being heard…Amsterdam’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan…[wants] city administrations nationwide to collect and…share personal data about sex workers, which the Dutch Privacy Protection Law explicitly  prohibits to be collected and shared…[in order] “to combat human trafficking effectively…and…to promote the self-reliance of prostitutes” …if this were to happen, all sex workers could consider  themselves de facto outlaws despite the fact that sex work…has been legal in the Netherlands since 1811, and still is…Berndsen-Jansen…demands no less than that sex workers are being treated equally under the law, just as anyone else…

Marching Up Their Own Arses (#535)

This story just keeps getting more horrible:

Producers employed by Relativity Media, the production company behind A&E’s 8 Minutes, manipulated sex workers and did not prioritize their privacy, [said] a person who worked…for the production’s unaired pilot…neither Relativity nor A&E had any intention of directly helping the women, but instead referred them to a local organization in Las Vegas…Mark, whose name has been changed to protect his anonymity, [said]…“Anybody can be pointed to resources …I can tell you, ‘If you’re hungry, you can go to CVS, there’s a bag of chips there that you can afford’.”  The charges of manipulation and indifference to privacy are very similar to allegations made by sex workers who were filmed for episodes of 8 Minutes that did begin airing…one of them said the “resource” she was given was just the phone number of a counselor.  The interviews with the sex workers, which Mark said usually lasted about an hour, as opposed to the eight minutes suggested by the series, lulled the women “into a false sense of security”…Early in the shoot, the production would start filming the women’s interaction with…Kevin Brown before they were aware that there were cameras; when these unwitting sex workers were surprised by the revelation that Brown is a pastor, most of them would quickly leave the hotel room…[so] the production changed tactics, informing the women beforehand that this was for a show so that they would stay…

Welcome To Our World (#536)

Looks like the expensive salons are trying to drive out their more reasonably-priced competition:

…scores of New York City women say they are disgusted that many nail salons pay their workers next to nothing, and vowed to try to help change things by seeking out higher-end shops, tipping more — or even foregoing the finger and toe pampering altogether.  “It’s just bad. It starts to feel like prostitution [with the exploitation of women],’’ said Sara Bashor…“I don’t feel good supporting it.”  Gov. Cuomo announced …that he is creating a multiagency Enforcement Task Force to fine or shut down nail salons caught violating labor laws.  The heightened regulation came [after] a report that the salon industry in and around the city was rife with exploitation as workers — mostly undocumented women — earn paltry wages while breathing in hazardous fumes and plastic dust…

The astounding ignorance of amateurs is highlighted by the notion that whores make low pay under bad conditions.

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Police don’t take well to limits on their power.  –  Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Hawaii was the last American state to criminalize prostitution; our trade was tolerated there until 1944, when the police chief of Honolulu, William Gabrielson, closed the brothels in a fit of pique after the whores went on strike against the draconian rules he had imposed on them, and the military officials at Pearl Harbor sided with the whores.  A few years later prostitution was officially criminalized as part of the process of obeisance required for the territory to become a state, and since then Hawaii in general, and Honolulu in particular, have tried to make up for the late start by coming up with some of the most grotesque anti-whore shenanigans imaginable.

Hawaii flagOne example came to light in March of last year.  As longtime readers know, cops raping sex workers as part of a “sting” operation is standard operating procedure; it’s frowned upon in some places and tolerated in others, and in PennsylvaniaIndiana and  Florida it’s shamelessly defended in court every time a victim of this government-authorized rape complains about it (the usual excuse is that sex workers are “sophisticated” while simultaneously being pathetic, infantile victims).  But Hawaii had taken the unusual step of officially granting cops the right to rape sex workers by spelling the permission out in the text of the prostitution law.  When a legislator discovered this provision and rewrote the law to scrap it, the cops demanded that their decades-old droit du seigneur remain in place, and the politicians probably would’ve fallen over each other in their haste to lick the cops’ boots had not the media gotten hold of the story and a public outcry not ensued.  Of course, reporters misstated the new law as A) granting the cops a new right they hadn’t already enjoyed for a long time, and B) being unique to Hawaii (when in fact the only thing unusual about it was the clear delineation of the raping privilege).

Apparently, being unofficially allowed to rape isn’t enough for Hawaiian cops, though, so they had to come up with a new kind of sadism to inflict upon women.  On Monday we were treated to this scintillating example of local-TV journalism:

Honolulu police have arrested more than a dozen women at various massage parlors…It’s…a huge victory for a neighborhood fed up with illegal activity…Sixteen women were arrested ranging in age from 24 to 60…“I feel safer…It’s always good to get crime off the street,” said [a local badgelicker]…They were booked for sex assault, because, as former Honolulu prosecutor Peter Carlisle explained, “the person knowingly exposes themselves to another person under circumstances that is [sic] likely to cause alarm.”  This type of of sex assault is a misdemeanor, which could mean a year in jail for the women…

Though Hawaii is as invested in “sex trafficking” hysteria as most states, there’s virtually none of that here (except for an obligatory mention at the very end to justify Homeland Security funds being illegally diverted to enforce local vice laws); this is plain old “lock up the dirty criminals” talk, right down to the asinine characterization of a private room inside a business as a “street” and the warping of normal, peaceful behavior into something “criminal” in the sick minds of cops and prosecutors.  Fortunately, most others don’t subscribe to the twisted fantasies of these sociopathic deviants, and the uproar over the ridiculous charges has been considerable; SWOP has a petition asking that the charges be dropped, and attorneys representing the women had this to say:

…The assault charge is because the women allegedly groped the officers.  But attorney Myles Breiner, who represents several of the women, said his clients were forced to touch the men after they refused the officers’ solicitations for sex.  “To charge (the women) with sex assault in the fourth degree is so ludicrous it’s such an abuse of authority”…a prostitution arrest only requires an agreement on price…Legal experts said this new approach raises legal questions because a solicitation for sex implies consent.  “It’s not a sexual assault.  It perverts what the whole statute is about”…The charge…is…usually applied when someone is accused of groping another person.  [If convicted, the sex workers would]…have their green cards revoked [and would be forced to] register as sex offenders…

Python copSpeaking of “ludicrous”, take a look again at the prosecutor’s words in the first blockquote: “the person knowingly exposes themselves to another person under circumstances that is [sic] likely to cause alarm“.  The idea that a cop out to entrap a massage parlor worker would be “alarmed” at the sight of her genitals is too absurd even for a Monty Python sketch, but the charge takes on a darker (and larger) significance when one reads the rest of the sentence the prosecutor (mis)quotes, quoted (correctly) here by Elizabeth N. Brown: “likely to alarm the other person or put the other person in fear of bodily injury.”  What’s that cops always claim when they murder a dog or human, or tase a 5-year-old, a pregnant woman or an old man in a wheelchair?  Oh yeah, “I was in fear for my life.”  Is this the next step in American cops’ unending escalation of force?  It’s only one step from a cop claiming a woman half his size put him “in fear of bodily injury” from the sight of her pussy, to tasing her or gunning her down using the same excuse.  “Aloha” can mean either “hello” or “goodbye”; though Hawaiian cops intend it to be the former for this new and horrifying anti-whore tactic, sex worker activists and our allies need to make absolutely sure it’s the latter.

 

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The fatality rate of sex workers is more than twice the rate of the most fatal “legitimate” job on the books (logging), but from what I can find, the majority of fatalities are concentrated among street workers.  A lot of the things that make street work dangerous are the same things that make it dangerous to be a taxi driver:  working at night, working alone, handling cash, etc.  But sex workers are murdered at a rate ten times higher than taxi drivers, and I think it’s because of criminalization.  Street workers avoid arrest by getting off the street as quickly as possible.  They have no time to screen, very little time to negotiate, and next to no control over their environment once they get into the car, and can’t even go to the police if anything happens.  But the majority of sex workers are “indoor” workers, and their fatality rate is much lower than street workers.  Part of it is that they’re not forced to work at night or in high crime areas, but I think it’s also important that they avoid arrest by screening and just being extremely cautious in general.  Do you think that would change if sex work was legalized?  Without the threat of arrest to keep escorts cautious, would escorting become a more dangerous profession?

Fox in the HenhouseThe murder rate for street workers is not really as high as these studies claim; they’re based in the assumption that the sex worker population can be accurately estimated, which is a mighty stretch indeed.  It is extremely likely that the total population is dramatically undercounted in these studies, but nobody cares because they want the sex work murder rate to come out much higher than it really is to provide a pretext for banning it.

That having been said, the murder rate for outdoor workers is still outrageously high, largely for the reasons you surmise but also for the fact that violent men purposefully seek out sex workers because, as Robert Pickton pointed out, nobody notices or cares when they vanish.  That simply isn’t true for indoor workers, who tend to have better social networks; their death or disappearance would be noticed just as quickly as any other woman’s.  While it’s true that escorts are forced to be even more careful because of criminalization, that vigilance all goes toward the organized predators who inflict the lion’s share of violence on sex workers: the police.  So yes, removing criminalization might make escorts less careful…but they wouldn’t need to be so cautious because the most dangerous and numerous predators would also be gone.  Under decriminalization, violence against sex workers is much lower than even in legalized regimes, and much lower than under criminalization, a system in which the foxes are set to guard the henhouse, and nobody notices or cares how many chickens they satisfy their appetites upon.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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This is the curse of our age, even the strangest aberrations are no cure for boredom.  –  Stendahl

Nearly everything that had ever gone wrong in Ned’s life was due to the fact that he was so easily bored.  He rarely finished a book or continued watching a television series past the third or fourth episode; whenever he went out to eat he preferred to go to different places each time; he never kept a car for more than a year.  Even wives and girlfriends were replaced as soon as Ned began to tire of them, and eventually he couldn’t even be bothered with relationships any more.  So it was perhaps inevitable that he start hiring escorts.

clonemaidensAt first, Ned felt that he’d never grow bored with “the hobby”; he could see as many beautiful women as he liked, as often as he liked, without any major effort at all.  He figured if he never repeated a girl he would find it exciting for many years.  Eventually, though, the women all began to blend together in his mind, and one seemed like another.  For a while he sought out the quirkiest, least-conventional providers he could; the more uneven their reviews, the more the tattoos and piercings, the more outrageous their drama, the more he liked them.  Then they, too, began to fill him with ennui, and he moved on to fetish providers, dominatrices and every other kinky type he could find.  Ned’s sexual orientation was basically vanilla, though, so that couldn’t last long; he just couldn’t justify spending so much money on women who wouldn’t even spread their legs for him.  Then he tried street girls and amateurish-seeming Backpage denizens; they soon became just as blah as all the others.  Aside from the occasional robbery attempt, freakout or other surprise, whores in general simply weren’t interesting to him any longer.

It was the paying that created the boredom, he figured; he knew that as long as he paid her fee, any prostitute he hired would put out.  There just wasn’t any unpredictability in it, and few surprises, and since being able to predict what will happen next is the very essence of boredom, Ned decided paying to play was no longer acceptable to him.  Picking up regular women was a lot more fun; he was never sure what combination of smooth talk, presents, alcohol, drugs, lies or outright coercion would work to get any of them in bed, nor what would happen when he got them there.  And if he was really lucky, something unpredictable or even dangerous night happen, thereby providing the thrills he craved.

So it was that one night, Ned found himself in a crappy dive in a strange city, hunting his usual game; he had become quite practiced at sizing up his quarry, and so he was deeply intrigued when a woman he couldn’t quite read nonetheless succumbed to his charms and invited him back to her place.  On the way there, the conversation turned to the opposite sex, and Ned (who, truth be told, had imbibed more than was strictly prudent) blurted out how bored he was with women in general:  “They’re so damned predictable, all of ’em the same.  Now you, see, you’re different; you’ve clearly got class, yet you were in that low-class place.  You’re too smart to fall for any lines and too beautiful to go for a guy like me, yet here we are together.  Other women rarely surprise me, but you?  You’re full of surprises.”

“So you like surprises?” she asked quietly, her voice almost drowned out by the hiss of the rain and the blop-blop-blop-blop of the windshield wipers.

“Oh, yeah, I mean what’s life without surprises?  I even like the unpleasant ones in a way, because at least they alleviate the same-old same-old.”

“Yes, I understand.  Well, I’m glad you find me surprising; I think I can promise you at least one more big surprise tonight.”

“Now you’ve got me even more curious.  Care to give me a hint?”

“We’re here; I’ll show you in a few minutes.”  The house was another surprise; it wasn’t quite a mansion but it was still fairly large, and situated on a rather expansive piece of property for being so close to town.  The garage was under the house, and she took his wet things before they even went in; when he turned to go up the stairs she stopped him and pointed instead to another door on the same level.  “I want to show you my playroom.”

bourbonNed felt a bit disappointed; her playroom?  Probably a kink dungeon, in other words.  Ah, well, might as well go through with it, he thought; he was already here, and at least it hadn’t cost him anything.  It had been a while since he’d done anything like this, and maybe she had an interesting twist on it.  Besides, she was offering him a glass of high-quality bourbon from what appeared to be a very well-stocked bar, and that made up for at least a little disappointment.

“When you’re ready, we can go in,” she said with a quiet smile.

“No time like the present.”

“Oh, good, I was hoping you’d say that.  Close your eyes and let me lead you in, and don’t open them until I tell you to, OK?”

“Sure, baby, whatever you say.”

He did sneak a peek, but it hardly mattered; the room she had led him into was pitch-black.  But it was only a moment before she said, “Open your eyes,” and flicked on the light.  The place wasn’t quite what Ned expected; it looked less like a sex den and more like an abattoir, replete with stainless-steel surfaces and bloody knives, and a partially-butchered carcass that Ned did not like the look of at all.

The last word he ever heard was, “Surprise!”

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