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Posts Tagged ‘consensual crime’

An adult who chooses to engage in sexual activity, whether for recreation, procreation or in exchange for something of value, makes a private, individual choice that should not be subject to criminal sanctions.  –  Jeanne LoCicero and Udi Ofer

Something Rotten in Sweden

The 5th installment of the Tits and Sass series “Big Mother is Watching You” profiles notable American proponents of “end demand” and the Swedish model, namely  Rachel Durchslag, Tom DartBeth Klein, Shirley Franklin, Yasmin Vafa and  Dominique Roe-Sepowitz.

A False Dichotomy 

They “see it as a business transaction” because that’s exactly what it is:

…in recent interviews conducted to understand what is driving [migrants] into the hands of human traffickers, it is clear that those involved see the risk they are taking as a business transaction, not a crime.  Malick Traore of Mali…said…“It is even more risky to live in misery in my own home country with a family always having tears in their eyes from hungers…the traffickers…do not call the migrant from their homes, or force them to cross the sea.  It is just an agreement between shipman and client”…Mariam Camara…is a widow with two daughters…[she said] “the criminal is Malian government but not the traffickers.”  Hamidou Thierro…says:  “I do not see those traffickers as criminals, because they are helping the poor migrants who are sacrificing their life to get into Europe to help back their families and plan better life for their children.  The traffickers are not human life protection agent but normal transporter as air plane or train”…

Lawheads just can’t get that normal people don’t really give a shit about their bullshit regulations.

Gorged With Meaning

Just about everything you need to know about this craptastic mixture of the obvious, the pearl-clutching and the dead wrong is that the author interviews the sociopathic narcissist Meghan Murphy instead of one of the many sex workers who write on the subject (such as, oh, ME for example), and approvingly quotes her as saying that raping a sex worker is no big deal.  That, and the fact that it’s named “The New Prostitution Economy” because it pretends that young women trading sex to older men for resources is some kind of new thing.

Follow Your Bliss 

Again, don’t think this is unique to Oakland:

When Leneka Pendergrass’ seventeen-year-old daughter…escaped…a pimp…Pendergrass turned to an organization that had previously helped.  She called Patrick Mims…of the Sexually Exploited Minors program at Bay Area Women Against Rape…the lead East Bay nonprofit organization in the state’s Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force…BAWAR works closely with Oakland police…to [indoctrinate] them about child sex trafficking.  And BAWAR employees…accompany Oakland cops on their anti-[sex worker] sting operations…Pendergrass…and Mims frequently texted the first few nights after she and her daughter escaped…Then…less than a week [later]…Mims came to her apartment and they had sex…[this continued for six weeks, then] Mims suddenly stopped responding to her calls and texts…[and] her daughter’s case was no longer a priority for BAWAR.  She felt Mims abused his position of power.  Feelings of confusion and remorse grew intense, she said.  She worried that her access to OPD and the DA was being curtailed, too…Pendergrass also wrote a letter to the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, an umbrella organization of rape-crisis centers like BAWAR…nothing ever came of her letter, or the police report…BAWAR…appears to never have acknowledged what happened…Jacqueline Montero

The Public Eye 

It’s always heartening to see a sex worker run for office, especially when she wins:

…Jacqueline Montero…worked as a prostitute for years to feed her children.  Now, after a decade of activism for women’s rights in the Dominican Republic, she hopes to put her life experience to work following her election to the Chamber of Deputies as part of an opposition coalition…The 46-year-old wants to focus on improving opportunities for women, a significant challenge in a country where about 35 percent of households are led by single mothers in poverty…She plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit discrimination against…LGBT, sex workers, people with AIDS and the elderly.  The walls of her office are adorned with diplomas and posters from international conferences dealing with sex work…Activists say the significance of her election transcends her relatively minor legislative position because she will be a powerful voice for largely unrepresented people…

Cops and Condoms (#313)

Remember Bill Gates’ $100,000 grant to develop “the next generation of condom”?  Well, the first results are in:

…After weeding through 953 applications, the foundation awarded grants to 26 applicants.  Among them was Richard Chartoff, a polymer scientist at Oregon State University, who developed an idea for ultra-thin condoms made from polyurethane elastic polymers that respond to body heat and conform to the penis’s shape…the HEX condom, developed by luxury sex toy company LELO…[features a] “hexagonal net design [which] effectively holds together the condom,” [founder Filip] Sedic explains, “so we were able to make the majority of the condom’s surface very thin without forfeiting strength”…the hexagonal design gripped his penis without squeezing it.  My husband’s sensations were less dulled than usual, too, since it was the thinnest traditionally shaped condom we used…myONE Perfect Fit from ONE Condoms will bring 56 different sizes to the market, allowing men to use a kit…to measure their penis length and width to determine the best size for them…

Devil’s Advocate

This guy seems like a real scumbag…so why isn’t Thailand asking for Norway to extradite him for prosecution there? Do you really want a precedent that people can be prosecuted in one jurisdiction for things they did in another jurisdiction where their actions weren’t illegal?

A 34-year-old Swedish businessman based in Oslo is facing trial in Norway accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl in Thailand for several years – including making her pregnant…the girl…is from a poor family and had started working as a prostitute straight after finishing school…at the age of 14 she gave birth to the baby…DNA records have shown that the man is the child’s biological father…Police launched their investigation after he was arrested for…drugs two years ago.  During a search of his home in Oslo officers found indecent images…and 51 movies showing children being sexually abused.  They also found pictures of the Thai girl…

Guinea Pigs 

This is one of those potpourris of hysteria that could fit into any of several headings, but I think the most important one is yet another surveillance tool for hunting down sex workers:

…Tim Wedge, a Forensics Science professor…in Defiance, Ohio…[created] FAGIN, Facial Analysis to Gain Information Now, a basic crude prototype…[which] is designed to take…pictures of missing children, run it through the facial analysis software by comparing them to pictures in ads for people being sold for sex online, and produce a report whenever there’s a match…Wedge says FAGIN has the possibility of rescuing a shocking amount of victims…800,000 children are reported missing each year.  One in five of them are sex trafficking victims…

Can this “science professor” even do math?  Because the reporter sure can’t.  But more importantly: the same program could also compare pics from ads to, say, a driver’s license database, thus giving cops an escort’s legal name and address.

Aloha, Oy!

Hawaii was the last state to criminalize prostitution, and now it’s become the last state to fully rebrand it as “sex trafficking”:

Hawaii has become the last state in the nation to explicitly ban sex trafficking.  Gov. David Ige signed the bill…[which] makes [acts that were already illegal illegal again], expands the statewide witness protection program to include sex trafficking and provides victims access to criminal injury compensation.  “It’s a historic day for Hawaii.  Now, from sea to sea, the United States can say it [criminalized some crimes twice],” said Kris Coffield…[a “sex trafficking” profiteer]…

What Were You All Waiting For? (#622) 

Is the ACLU finally beginning to do the right thing, at long last?

In honor of International [Whores’] Day, activists marched on Atlantic City on June 3 to call for the decriminalization of sex work…This is a goal the American Civil Liberties Union…strongly supports.  Since 1975, the ACLU has believed that prostitution…should be decriminalized…It’s time to stop sweeping consenting adult sex workers into the criminal justice system.  We need models that protect their rights, their health and their safety…Amnesty International adopted a policy advocating the decriminalization of adult consensual sex work in its efforts to prevent human rights violations.  Amnesty isn’t alone.  They joined the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, Human Rights Watch, the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects and many other…groups in calling for the decriminalization of sex work to stem the abuse, discrimination and violence that too frequently plague the lives of sex workers…

King of the Hill (#623) The Keep

One of the more amusing tropes of this moral panic: labeling a particular street a “hotbed” of sex work or “trafficking”:

For more than three decades now, the corner of Cypress Avenue and Starr Street has been known as one of the old-school New York prostitution hotbeds.  Even as gentrification of the area rapidly progresses, prostitution as a symptom of the “bad old times” continues…Unbeknownst to the owners at the time of the opening, [a bar named] The Keep became somewhat of a local epicenter for…“Operation Losing Proposition,” the goal of which is to lock up johns as they solicit sex from undercover [sows who use]…the bathrooms at The Keep [without permission] to change into their [costumes]…Eli B. Silverman explains that the initiative was designed by CEU attorneys who researched the law that allows for [asset seizure]…In this case, johns’ cars could be seized…the operation has been yielding incredible [profits]…and [Silverman pretends] prostitution has been greatly reduced…the operation has been consistently dubbed a success, but 26 years later, one has to wonder whether the number of arrested johns is the correct indicator of success, or whether the operation opened a bottomless well of meaningless arrests…

To Molest and Rape (#651)

No, you fucking filthy liar, it’s not “unique” and you fucking know it:

Alameda County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Ray Kelly, a former sex crimes investigator who serves as the agency’s spokesman, said several members of his department were investigated but a review showed none had done anything illegal or against policy. Kelly would not say if the deputies had sex with [Celeste Guap]…“This case is unique, and it’s not a good example of the relationships between sex crimes victims and police officers,” he said…

In typical tone-deaf LA Times fashion, the reporter concludes a story about people abusing women under the guise of “rescuing” them from their choices by praising someone who abuses women under the guise of “rescuing” them from their choices:

…[Sylvia] Vigil…has been preaching to the girls she [condescendingly dehumanizes] as “twilight treasures” since 1982…when she founded the Oakland branch of Victory Outreach…On [a] recent visit to International Boulevard, Vigil shook her head as she watched [a] young woman enter [a client’s] car, said a prayer, then brought her van’s engine to life and hit the gas…As the man in the Cutlass attempted to drive away, Vigil pulled her van in front of his car, blocking him in.  A colleague from the ministry who sat in Vigil’s van held up a Victory Outreach business card and shouted “not tonight” at the man…

Naturally, Vigil didn’t offer to pay the girl for the client she scared away, so the girl probably didn’t eat that night. But I’m sure the knowledge that she had been “saved” from dirty, filthy sex assuaged her hunger.

The End of the Beginning (#653)

Another in an anti-registry series from Vox:

When I first became a public defender, I believed the worst punishment that my clients would face would be time in jail.  Since then, I’ve learned that incarceration is not the…worst…punishment the criminal justice system can impose.  The registration requirements imposed on those convicted of sex offenses are unfairly harsh and punitive…I had always assumed that sex offender registration was limited to those who committed the most egregious and dangerous offenses.  I had also trusted that the Supreme Court was right when, in 2003, it stated that sex offender registration laws are not punishments but merely administrative requirements to protect public safety.  But I realize now that many of my clients would choose…anything to avoid being labeled a sex offender for life…because our current…laws apply an…inhumane one-size-fits-all approach that does not prevent future sex crimes and in fact makes us all less safe…The registration process appears designed to make people fail.  The rules are so complicated that few non-attorneys can keep up with them…

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There are two futures, the future of desire and the future of fate, and man’s reason has never learned to separate them.  –  John Desmond Bernal

Some astute readers have pointed out that it sometimes seems as though I’m contradicting myself when talking about the future.  On the one hand, I am optimistic that sex work will eventually be decriminalized, that prohibition as a concept will be tossed onto the ash-heap of history, and that future historians will look back at our ugly, warped, fear-haunted culture with wonder and pity.  On the other hand, I say that the United States is a decaying fascist empire which has already passed the point at which future historians will declare it a different entity than the American republic which came before, just as they consider the Byzantine Empire a separate entity from the Roman even though the Byzantine rulers themselves made no such distinction.  But these two points aren’t contradictory at all; I think the confusion derives from a kind of chauvinism which can’t conceive of a future in which the US either does not exist or doesn’t play a major role.  But that’s not realistic, and I certainly don’t imagine the world that way; quite the opposite, in fact.  I not only recognize that the US, like every single country which has preceded it since the invention of the nation-state and every single one which will follow it until that concept is itself tossed onto the aforementioned historical ash-heap, is mortal and will one day die; my optimistic predictions are predicated upon it.

I am an American, and I love the ideas that the American government was founded upon:  minimal government, individual liberty and justice for all.  But those ideas were neither understood nor believed nor practiced by the vast majority of Americans even at the time when the Constitution was drawn up; even the Founders themselves, the men who codified those concepts and built institutions upon them, made plenty of exceptions, compromises and caveats to their high-sounding principles (chief among which was tolerance of the odious notion that one human being could own another).  And as time marched on and successive generations inherited the machinery of government, the safeguards installed by the Founders were undermined, abrogated, annulled, ignored and repealed to make way for laws and practices based upon the real beliefs of the majority of Americans: fear, hate, superstition, intolerance, greed, violence, control-freakishness, lust for power and, above all, prudishness.  The intersection of all of these vile principles is the crowning achievement of the warped American mind:  Prohibition, the deranged belief that some ruling elite has the right and duty to decide what’s best for everyone else, to ban everything that the elite decides is “bad”, and to dispatch an army of violent thugs to enforce those prohibitions by any means necessary, including (but not limited to) mass surveillance, witch hunts, perjury, robbery, rape, mayhem, murder and mass enslavement.  The last, at least, was predictable; if even the men who so fervently believed in liberty for all that they founded a country on it were unable to let go of slavery, how could their barbaric inheritors be expected to?

I’m sure some of you will object that legal prohibitions have existed since the beginning of civilization, and you’d be right; however, isolated bans on this or that are no more equivalent to capital-P Prohibition as it exists in the United States, than isolated murders are equivalent to War.  The idea that vast social resources should be devoted to warring upon the country’s own citizenry in order to stop them from consensual activities that the rulers disapprove of is a distinctly American form of collective madness, and the powerful influence American culture has exerted on the world for the past century (since the advent of mass media & American domination of same) is the only reason it has become at all prevalent in the rest of the world.  After the United States dies, the evil of prohibition will (albeit gradually) follow it into Hell.  The United States is but the latest in a long succession of great Western empires, each descending from the one before; it was originally a colony of Great Britain, which was in earlier times a province of the Roman Empire, which borrowed much of its culture from Greece, which previously conquered Persia, which rose to prominence after destroying Assyria, which had generations before conquered Babylonia, which had ruled over the cities that once made up Sumer.ruins of Washington  The next inheritor of this legacy probably already exists in one form or another; it will be up to that people to take the next step in the evolution of human civilization.  And when they do, they will admire America for the ways in which she was great, and criticize her for the ways in which she was awful, just as Americans do the civilizations which came before her.  And tourists from that future nation will one day visit the ruins of the great American cities, fascinated by the quaint customs of the locals, and enjoying the immense buying power their healthy currency has in the economically-devastated remnant of what was once the greatest power on Earth.

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When sexual minorities burned, we burned together.  –  Jillian Keenan

Aversions

It’s not just many pros who dislike oral sex; some amateurs don’t either:

…While 91 percent of women perform oral on their male partners, only 79 percent of men perform oral on their female partners.  But…the discrepancy…has a lot to do with the fact that some women just don’t want to receive oral sex…I had orgasms a handful of times while receiving oral sex, but considering how rare it had been over the years…I finally decided to come clean with my partners…

The author lists 11 reasons, of which I’m with her on 2-7 and 11.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

More “questionable” than being a vice cop?

A Seattle [cop] has been placed on paid leave [after]…he…was found, in his off-duty time, to be frequenting the Dancing Bare on Aurora Avenue…which was the target of a vice operation related to alleged prostitution activities…he…was not arrested and has not been accused of a crime.  He is under investigation after he was found to be “hanging around” the club and engaging in questionable conduct…

Cognitive Impairment tasteless Israeli sculpture

“Artists” claim that if a woman puts her phone number on a card, a fragment of her being is transferred to the card, and anything done to it happens to her.  I am not making this up:

…A 10-foot-high vagina sculpture was installed on a Tel Aviv thoroughfare…Artists Sasha Kurbatov and Vanane Borian crafted the giant vulva from cards that advertise sex work services.  A 50-foot trail of the same type of cards leads to the work…Hundreds of brothels operating illegally in Tel Aviv are reportedly responsible for the cards strewn about city sidewalks…“All the fragments of women that are on the floor, people are stepping on them, they see it, and there is no longer any value to it,” [said] Borian…”A woman simply loses all value and becomes an object, not even a complete object”…

But symbolizing the totality of a woman with a grotesque, cartoonish sculpture of a twat isn’t dehumanizing, no sirree.

The Scarlet Letter

A good, thorough article on the use of shaming tactics against sex workers’ clients:

…Tapping into the new power of the internet, along with our very old obsession with transgressive sex…officials hope to wield the fear of public judgment in the name of the public good, arguing that prostitution is linked to far more serious crimes than we ever thought.  But by taking punishment out of the hands of law enforcement and placing it in the hands of the public, whose emotions and reactions lie beyond their control, shaming campaigns can also be messy and unpredictable.  And the resulting stigma can last indefinitely…

The article pays especial attention to the horrendous “Flush the Johns” debacle.

The Clueless Leading the Hysterical 

So very many people completely bereft of the capacity for rational thought:

By buying a plush toy with a heart on it, Tampa mom Nicole O’Kelly unwittingly alerted predators that her little girl “is ready to be traded for sex”…correspondent Melanie Michael told viewers that the toy, a pink stuffed truck recently purchased at a Monster Jam event, “held a sick secret; a disgusting calling card for creeps. The heart on the toy was a symbol for pedophiles”…While presenting  no evidence whatsoever that the toy was made to be, or perceived as, some kind of secret signaling device, the reporter interviewed the toy-buying mom, who seemed as distraught as if her child had narrowly escaped a windowless van…Detective Anthony Bassone…said the hearts are used for girls while a separate symbol with triangles targets boys…

The Widening Gyre

The Facts“.  Seriously.

Just imagine…You’re glad to be home.  You crawl into bed and wrap yourself in your favorite blanket…Suddenly, a rustling in the next room jolts you awake…A bag is thrown over your head.  You’re carried away…No one knows where you are.  You have no hope of rescue.  You’ve vanished…The average age of a modern day slave is 12 years old…

These moronic tripe is full of “facts” like “traffickers profit $150 billion a year” though “the average price of a slave is less than that of a new cell phone”.  Obviously, these “facts” don’t include any math.

Worse Than I Thought

Keep in mind, all this requires is the “testimony” of a lying cop out to score arrests:

People who purchase illicit sex in South Carolina could soon be placed on the sex offender registry and pay stiffer fines…[blah blah “end demand”] the…bill…includes…stiffer consequences…for those soliciting sex from people who are “profoundly mentally disabled”…

This kind of tyranny is contagious; right next door in Georgia:

A bill…would go after the pimps and the people who pay for prostitution…It would…[make] solicitation a felony upon a second conviction…[and] put…twice-convicted customers on the state’s sex offender registry…

Want a good laugh? Look at the masthead of the TV station printing this bootlicking filth.

Checklist

There’s so very much stupidity here, but I guess the main thing is the “signs”:

Victims of human trafficking often can be the children in classrooms who frequently act up, who show abrupt changes in behavior and are picked up from school by a man who isn’t a family member…Rep. Ann Wagner [fantasized] that the victims are “hiding in plain sight”…St. Louis is one of the most active human trafficking locations in the country…schools are increasingly targets for recruitment…Students might wind up at a party with a friend whose boyfriend is a predator, or be enticed with expensive clothes or cellphones…”it could happen overnight,” said [“trafficking” fetishist] Jenee Littrell…It is estimated that at least 100,000 children across the United States are sexually exploited annually…But the real numbers may be significantly higher.  The average age of children who fall victim to human trafficking is 12 to 14 years old

Frequently Told Lies

It’s so good to see debunking spreading to the mainstream press:

…police do…dramatic busts…because of widely believed myths about sex work, which endlessly echo back and forth between policy and pop culture.  The politicians and activists who perpetuate these myths believe they’re saving people, but only through careful examination of the facts can governments begin to reduce the violence and marginalization that sex workers suffer.  Here are three myths in particular that impact legislation and enforcement (and help keep those harmful stereotypes alive in our heads).  Myth 1. The average age of entry into sex work is between 12 and 14…Myth 2….sex trafficking is the most common form of [coerced labor]…Myth 3. “Target the demand” works…

Feet of Clay (#416)extra-stupid kristof

The buffoonish Nick Kristof is up on his anti-Backpage hobby horse again, and as usual he’s not too concerned with the truth:

…we as a society are complicit…by allowing a popular website called Backpage.com to be used to arrange child rape…Backpage…has about 80 percent of the U.S. market for online sex ads in America, mostly for consenting adults but many also for women who are forcibly trafficked or for underage girls…Children in at least 47 states have been sold on Backpage…If there were a major American website openly selling heroin or anthrax, there would be an outcry.  Yet we Americans tolerate a site like Backpage.com that is regularly used to peddle children…

It’s interesting that Kristof mentioned anthrax, given his major role in destroying a man’s career over paranoid delusions about it.

Challenge (#615)

A legal bid to overturn the ban on paying for sex in Northern Ireland is being partly funded by an escort website.  Sex worker Laura Lee is leading the High Court challenge.  She was questioned about her financial support by members of the Home Affairs Committee…Ms Lee…said…”a lot of the sex workers that advertise on [Escort Ireland] put pressure on them to support me and said it was only fair, since they make money from the industry, that they should support my efforts of keeping our industry safe.”

Too Close To Home (#618)

Seattle Times‘ bootlicking editor Thanh Tan is at it again, characterizing my friends and me as heartless liars for countering her nauseating masturbatory fantasies about “sex slave children” with actual facts:

…Though no one knows exactly how much of the local sex trade involves consenting adults or coerced individuals, a 2008 study estimated hundreds of youths are bought and sold every night in the Seattle area.  In recent years, police and sheriff’s deputies…have shifted their focus…to targeting the patrons responsible for rising demand.  A coalition of sex workers and their allies have taken to social media recently to argue vehemently against this approach.  They say criminalization is unfair to them and their clients.  They are proud of what they do and reject a host of studies that have tried to estimate the age range and number of people being trafficked.  Most concerning is the tendency in some of these online tirades to downplay or ignore the widespread harm suffered within the same industry by far less-privileged people.  Disturbingly, there is a lack of compassion for the children getting caught or forced into the trade…

I do like the powerful graphic of a brutal, thuggish-looking cop standing guard over “rescued” sex workers; one can almost see him considering which woman he’s going to rape next.  Good work, Seattle Times!

Peeping Toms (#619)

Jillian Keenan schools ignoramus judges:

According to a new federal district court decision, the Constitution “does not prohibit the regulation of BDSM conduct.” In other words, the precedent implied by bans on anti-sodomy and anti-adultery laws—that adults have a constitutional right to freedom of noncommercial intimate conduct—doesn’t protect us…The court rejected the idea that Lawrence v. Texas might protect other sexual minorities…because “there is no basis to conclude that [BDSM]…is deeply rooted in … history.”  Excuse me?…BDSM, without question, has a “deeply rooted” history…there are references to BDSM throughout historical literature: Robert Dixon, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher, and William Shakespeare all referred to sadomasochism in their work. A fresco from approximately 490 BC in the aptly-named Etruscan “Tomb of the Whipping” even depicts two men flogging a woman in an erotic context…the court…also argued that…because straights have long despised gay people, they have a special interest in legal protection…All consenting adults have the right to intimate lives that are free from government interference.  It’s a shame that the court refused to recognize that—and a shame that the ruling attempts to draw lines around Lawrence v. Texas to divide “protect[ed]”sexual minorities from unprotected ones.  Such divisions are, to steal the court’s language, not “deeply rooted” in history…

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Mark Draughn blogs and tweets as Windypundit, and has been reading this blog for at least five years (and maybe more).  He’s a staunch ally and has written some good pro-sex work articles on his own blog in the past, so naturally I had to ask him to do one for me sooner or later.

Mark DraughnAnyone who follows sex work issues has probably seen reports claiming that prostitution hurts the economy.  Sometimes the accuracy of these claims depends on subtle issues of data and methodology, but often you can deconstruct these reports by watching out for a few basic economic issues.  (A disclaimer: I’m not a trained economist.  I like to think that I’m an amateur economist the same way some people are amateur astronomers — I lack the breadth and depth of the professionals, but I pay attention to what they’re doing, and I try not to say anything that will make people stupider.)  The big problem with this narrative is that anti-prostitution crusaders use it to buttress the argument that prostitution is a bad thing that must be stopped, yet when you look at how they’re calculating the costs of prostitution, it turns out they’re implicitly assuming that prostitution is a bad thing that must be stopped.

Thus the first thing to note when you see one of these reports is that they almost never mention the economic benefits of prostitution.  Anti-prostitution crusaders would no doubt object to the very idea that there are benefits of prostitution, but if you begin your analysis by assuming away all benefits of prostitution, then of course your analysis will show that prostitution hurts the economy.  Sneaking your preferred answer into the calculation is no way to reach an honest conclusion.  Economically speaking, we know the sex trade has benefits for the participants because they keep doing it.  One of the foundational assumptions of economics is that people are smart enough to make choices that will improve their lives.  Obviously that isn’t literally true in all cases — people make mistakes — but it’s close enough, because people making choices about their own lives (a) can understand their situation better than anyone else, and (b) have the most to lose from deciding unwisely.  Most people don’t make perfect decisions, but it’s hard to see how distant cops, politicians, and do-gooders could make better decisions for thousands of people they barely know.

Actually, these reports sometimes do mention the benefits of prostitution without realizing it, usually when emphasizing the size of the “prostitution problem”.  Prostitution is a service produced by sex workers and consumed by clients.  We know prostitution provides benefits for clients because they are willing to pay money for it, and we know the value of those benefits must be at least as large as the payment, otherwise clients would not agree to the price.  Therefore, when a “cost of prostitution” story says men are spending billions of dollars on sex workers, we can safely assume that sex workers must be producing billions of dollars of valuable sexual services for the economy.  (That kind of thinking may sound strange if you’re not used to it, but it’s the same reasoning economists use for every consumer product in the economy.  If people willingly buy it, it must be worth at least what they’re paying.)  The benefits don’t all go to the clients, however, because as long as sex workers are free to refuse services, they can bargain for a share of the benefits in the form of payment.  Since sex workers are assumed to be smart enough to make choices that improve their lives, we know they wouldn’t participate in commercial sex unless they received benefits that exceeded their costs.

The assumption that participants receive a net benefit allows us to take a shortcut when calculating the costs of prostitution to the economy:  We can omit the benefits that participants receive from prostitution as long as we balance the account by omitting the costs as well.  Or to put it the other way around, if a report fails to include the benefits of sex work to participants, then it should not include any of the costs to participants either.  If you find such unbalanced costs in a report, you can ignore them.  This leaves one major set of costs remaining:  The costs of prostitution that are borne by non-participants.  These are almost always some kind of government expense, for which the burden ultimately falls on taxpayers.  For example, if sex workers are more likely to receive financial assistance from government anti-poverty programs, then the additional costs of those programs fall on taxpayers, and they are genuine costs of prostitution.  Even for these legitimate costs, however, there are a few things to watch out for:

  • Only excess costs count.  If the average sex worker costs some program $5000, we can’t count it as a cost of prostitution without first subtracting the baseline per-person cost of non-sex-workers.  If that’s $3000, then the excess cost of prostitution is only $2000 per sex worker.
  • Co-factors matter.  If women tend to have higher average medical costs than men, then sex workers will have higher average medical costs than the general population simply because sex workers are more likely to be women.  You have to subtract out the excess cost of being women to get the true excess cost of being sex workers.
  • Causality matters.  If a study discovers that sex workers have disproportionately poor health, leading to higher medical costs, that doesn’t tell us if they have health problems because they are sex workers, or if they are sex workers because they have health problems.  If the latter, then their medical costs are not attributable to sex work.

Much of this can be sorted out with statistics and good data, but not everybody does the hard work.  For all these costs, my guess is that sex workers already pay more than enough taxes to cover the costs they impose on society, and they’d pay even more if sex work was decriminalized.  I doubt that sex workers are nearly as much of a burden on society as, say, ethanol producers, auto manufacturers, or Amtrak.

hero cops arrest dangerous womanThat brings me to the last category of government expenses, for which sex workers shouldn’t owe a frickin’ dime.  I’m talking about the cost of fighting prostitution, which can includes things like the costs of arresting and jailing sex workers as well as the cost of taking care of a sex worker’s children while she’s locked up.  If we were talking about crimes such as murder, the costs of catching criminals and isolating them from society would be part of the cost of their crimes, as would the cost of caring for their families while they are in prison.  With sex work, however, those costs only materialize if we actually decide to fight prostitution by treating it as a crime, but making that decision is the whole reason we are talking about the economic costs in the first place.  It doesn’t make sense to argue that we should fight prostitution because of costs that only arise because we are fighting prostitution.  Furthermore, although I said earlier that we can ignore costs of prostitution borne by sex workers, that doesn’t apply to the heavy non-financial costs paid by sex workers who are imprisoned or who lose their children after being arrested.  Nor does it apply to the violent costs borne by sex workers who are attacked or killed in situations which would be avoidable if they could operate in the open and depend on the police for protection.  Not only should these costs not be held against sex workers, but they are the basis of a strong argument that decriminalizing prostitution would reduce economic costs.

Finally, many readers of this blog are sex workers or are otherwise familiar with the sex trade.  This means you are in a good position to answer a very important question about any “cost of prostitution” analysis:  Do the descriptions of sex work match what you see?  Much of the commercial sex industry operates in hiding, which leads to bad information about what really happens when people trade sex for money.  Analyses that depend on false assumptions — that most prostitutes start as children or that street prostitution is the most common form — are likely to reach poor conclusions.  In particular, many of my points — the benefits of prostitution, the reasons to ignore costs borne by sex workers, the argument that law enforcement costs favor decriminalization — depend on the crucial assumption that sex workers have agency to chose the sex trade.  At a time when we are becoming more accepting of people’s choices in recreational drugs and (non-paying) sex partners, it would be a shame if we allowed sensationalized claims of sex trafficking to undermine the agency of sex workers and cast doubts on the benefits of sex work.

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Boom shakalaka goes right there.  And all you fags can go to hell!  –  Reverend David Manning

This week’s video is basically what one would get if a mad librarian got ahold of alphabetization software and turned it loose on…well, see for yourself; it was contributed by Jesse Walker, and the links above it were provided by Elizabeth N. BrownKevin WilsonNun YaTim Cushing, and Emma Evans, in that order.

From the Archives

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All people of Sweden can try and draw penises.  –  Emilian Sava

This week’s video was sent to me on Twitter by Mistress Matisse; it was a kind of private joke, but I still think you’ll enjoy the song.  The links above the video and after “Yuggoth” were provided by Wendy LyonMyles JackmanAnna PulleyNun YaTim CushingJesse WalkerRadley Balko, and Carol Fenton, in that order.

From the Archives

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COME GET UR BITE.  –  “Officer” Keith Bush

Not quite a video, but in video format; this is the Philip K. Dick story “Impostor” adapted as a radio play.  And if you like that one, here are five more.  They were provided by Jesse Walker, who also gave us “Carmilla”; the other links were contributed by Cathy Reisenwitz (“protect”), Tushy Galore (“KKK”), Nun Ya  (“Christmas” and “18”), and Wendy Lyon (“limited”).

From the Archives

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