My not existing is more important to [prohibitionists] than my safety.
– Tara Burns
Tara Burns offers a personal account of how criminalization harms sex workers:
…the FBI brought Operation Cross Country to Alaska…arresting 10 customers near Anchorage…Out in my cabin…I didn’t hear about the sting…until I got to town to work and learned that two of my regular customers had been arrested…Fear of the FBI had spread…and…I had only one client scheduled. I…had an inquiry from a new client…he was a clusterfuck of red flags. But I felt desperate, so I told him to come on over…I didn’t blame this guy for taking advantage of the opportunity offered to him by a legal system that condones my rape. I blamed the system that told him women like me could be raped with impunity. I blamed the system that scared away good clients and left me with this…
The reporter blames the advertising venue, and the cops blame the victims. God forbid anybody blame either the rapists or the prohibitionist laws that made their victims vulnerable:
Fernando Sandel…Isaiah Rivera…and Joey Cruz…were detained [for the rape and robbery of three sex workers]…the women were…sprayed in the face with Mace or another debilitating substance, or placed in a precarious position — before being raped and subsequently robbed of cash or other valuables…representatives for Backpage.com could not be reached…a spokesman for the Police Department said, “You run the risk of meeting anybody when you engage in that kind of activity.”
If the women had been maids who advertised in the Yellow Pages, would the Times have tried to contact the phone company for comment, and would the cop mouthpiece have helpfully vomited out “You run the risk of meeting anybody when you engage in that kind of activity”?
I resisted this at first because, well, Godwin’s Law! But when everyone started to praise it I succumbed, and found it extremely funny and well-done.
A Procrustean Bed
What actually happened here is anybody’s guess; prosecutors had a narrative to uphold, and used threats and promises to get everyone involved to pretend it’s true:
Ricky T. Wallace…of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was sentenced…to 12 years in federal prison for trafficking a 17-year-old[woman]…for the purposes of commercial sexual activity…he also brought a 20-year-old woman from the Boston area to Rhode Island where she was directed to pose in photographs that were posted on Backpage.com and then offered for commercial sexual activity…Two co-defendants in this matter, Kemont Bowie…and Raechyl Spooner…are scheduled to be sentenced in September…
The women are treated as though they were volitionless dolls, picked up and passively “trafficked” in the trunk of a car.
Older readers will remember that when we were kids, one of the reasons communism was bad was that communist countries didn’t allow their people to travel freely:
Canadians who travel to regions of the world that are hotbeds of Islamic terrorism could be prosecuted under legislation that would be enacted under a re-elected Conservative government…The…government has already made it a crime to leave Canada with the aim of taking part in terrorist activities. This new measure would go further, criminalizing the act of travel to specific countries. “There is absolutely no right in this country to travel to an area under the governance of [people we label as] terrorists. That is not a human right,” [Stephen Harper] told supporters…
Huffington Post asked a prohibitionist, a legalization proponent and my friend Mistress Matisse about “sex trafficking”; here’s what Matisse had to say:
…There [is] not…a hugely widespread problem in the US of people being forced to have sex for money…The terrifying numbers and statistics quoted by anti-traffickers have been debunked over and over. “Sex trafficking” is the boogeyman of our day, just as ritual Satanic child abuse was in the 80’s and 90’s. So saying “I’m an anti-sex trafficker” simply means “I’m anti-sexwork.” Nonetheless, the myth of “sex trafficking” is a very useful idea…the Rescue Industry…get lots of money from government grants and private donations. The myth of widespread, organized sex trafficking also dovetails neatly with America’s love affair with mass incarceration…So police, politicians, and Rescue Industry NGO’s work hard to conflate sex work with “sex trafficking”, because it suits their purposes…
The Widening Gyre
Lock up your children! Sex traffickers are EVERYWHERE!!!
Pedophilia in the U.S. is “unprecedented” and has reached an almost “epidemic level,” according to…FBI…[bureaucrat] Joseph Campbell. Although the FBI rescued 600 children* last year, the FBI believes that tens of thousands of children are still being sexually exploited. Hundreds of children are sold every night for sex, the BBC reported in a [scare story]…”The level of pedophilia is just unprecedented right now,” Campbell said…”it just seems to be almost an at epidemic level”…Women from the East Coast to the Midwest tell “frighteningly similar and horrific stories,” reported the BBC…
As I explained in “Mind-witness Testimony“, the striking similarity of “sex trafficking” accounts is an argument against their veracity, not for it.
*Translation: “arrested a couple of hundred underage sex workers and abducted the children of hundreds of adult sex workers”.
As long as these laws are on the books, cops can use them against any woman they like:
In March 2012…several [pigs] stormed into a…spa and arrested a woman…[they performed an] invasive strip [on her and stole] thousands of dollars…the woman, Min Liu, was soon charged with prostitution…the woman’s employer…Bin Cheng [is] the wife of J. Robert Port…investigations editor at The Times Union of Albany…Port accused the police of targeting his wife’s business in retaliation for a series of articles…that called into question the tactics and practices of an Albany County sheriff’s drug unit…Ms. Cheng…was not at the spa during the raid, nor was she ever charged with any crime, but the implication [was] that she was involved in nefarious activities…A…judge in Albany last month dismissed the charge…against Ms. Liu, after county prosecutors concluded that the case should be dropped “in the interest of justice”…
Quite Possibly the Most Uptight Nerd Ever (#418)
I’ve got news for you, Pia: we don’t want our market disrupted, and the power is already in our hands; that’s why we can charge.
Last year, Berlin-based entrepreneur Pia Poppenreiter created Peppr, an app that connected clients to sex workers…[but] the booking process didn’t really facilitate “on-demand”…[also] escorts…preferred more control over their profiles. Poppenreiter killed the service and went back to square one, consulting heavily with the women who work in the industry to find out what might actually work: “Because I still believe after all that this market needs be disrupted”…Today she launches the new concept, Ohlala, in Berlin first but with an English language rollout soon…A key aspect is this is that the old tradition of women being “picked” by men is turned on its head and puts the power back in the hands of the women… If Ohlala is successful it could remove the middle-men from the escort business entirely…
You mean middlemen like Poppenreiter & Company? Or some imaginary other kind of middleman?
Because prohibitionists are determined to cut off sex workers’ noses to spite their own faces:
…Hornsby Shire Council, one of several Sydney councils that has employed undercover investigators to try to close down “illegal” brothels, says the NSW government is better placed to license and regulate such premises…Janelle Fawkes…of the Scarlet Alliance…said decriminalisation had been highly successful in NSW and it was only councils calling for changes. “This is about some councils shirking responsibility to implement decriminalisation and to do their part of what is a very effective whole-of-government model of regulation…NSW has reaped the benefits of decriminalisation over the last 20 years and there will be widespread outcry by the health sector if it is…replaced on a whim to appease councils who refuse to work within the intent of the laws”…
Yellow Fever (#509)
Remember “trafficking town”? Not to be outdone, Al-Jazeera wants us to believe in a whole “sex trafficking” country:
…in…Romania…most teenage girls…as young as 13 — have long quit school, with many disappearing into the realm of sex trafficking…one-third of Romania’s trafficking victims are underage girls…According to ADPARE, a [rescue industry] group…fueling the problem is the region’s emergence as a sex industry destination…Since its 2007 accession to the EU, Romania has become a major sex market in Europe — a development that can be seen…in online advertising of Romanian erotic massage parlors…
Something Rotten in Sweden (#510)
Seattle politicians just keep doubling down: “Human rights? What are those?”
…Decriminalization supports the very root of sex trafficking…the demand for commercial sex. By chilling the demand for sex buying, we chill the economic incentives for sex trafficking. Sex buying [magically] causes harm — we must have no illusions about that. The vast majority of women in prostitution are physically assaulted by the men who buy them — one study showed 86 percent. The women are 18 times more likely to be murdered, and their death rate is 200 times higher. An estimated 90 percent of prostituted people worldwide are pimped. Proponents of decriminalization suggest that “sex work” is just another form of labor. In fact, it is exploitation of the worst kind…
Debut at 13, “Our children are at risk”, hundreds of “child sex slaves”, “pimps”, etc; you get the idea. The most shockingly appalling statement is that “decriminalization [is a]…failed experiment”, which is about as blatant a lie as it’s possible to make.
Repeat Offenders (#535)
Why is it that prohibitionists who want to “rescue” sex workers invariably push them into menial garment-related work, like laundering or sewing?
…Sex worker support centre St Kilda Gatehouse is ramping up the sewing classes it has run for two years, teaching sex workers to hand stitch, mend and style garments…Andie Patchett said the informal and encouraging environment had been empowering for the women wanting to exit the industry…Ms Patchett said the classes were “a bridge” out of the sex industry…As an incentive to complete the program the women will be given an essential piece of sewing and craft equipment at the end of each week, in the hope they will graduate with a complete sewing kit and machine…
In the 19th century, sewing provided such a meager living that seamstresses nearly always supplemented the work with prostitution; indeed, “seamstress” was often a euphemism for “whore”. Yet in an age of cheap, mass-produced garments, these fanatics expect women to support themselves by sewing? Completely delusional.
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