Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘porn’

Government officials…think it’s not easy enough to steal people’s things.  –  Elizabeth N. Brown

License to Rape

Why is it so hard for US journalists to use the word “rape” when whores are the victims?

…a South Florida man told a prostitute that he was a police officer and that he would arrest her if she refused to have sex without a condom…22-year-old Mark William Rose was arrested…and charged with impersonating a police officer in the commission of a felony and false imprisonment…Rose told arresting deputies he had previously used the…bluff about a dozen times, with three women conceding to sex…

Get Out of the 19th Century Often?

News reports about prostitution stings in southern states are usually shockingly stupid, and often have not one word about “sex trafficking”:

Over two dozen men were arrested [after falling for]…a cop [decoy].  “We dirtied her up. We told her, you know, you gotta, you can’t be, this is not Pretty Woman,” [pig mouthpiece Joey] Davis [oinked]…Davis explains prostitution is a day job…”a little kid, they don’t need to see that stuff going on”…Some of the women get paid in heroin further spreading disease.  Unknowing wives may become victims.  “Was it worth it?  They didn’t ask for that.  And you don’t know, you might be signing your own death warrant”…

That’s right, kiddies; heroin causes disease!

Tyranny By Consensus

I wonder how much Michael Weinstein has cost the state of California so far?

Adult performers are speaking out against a ballot initiative that mandates condoms in porn throughout the state of California…The measure empowers everyday citizens to sue adult film producers for creating condomless porn—and offers a financial incentive for doing so. Several industry insiders…[say] they worry this would expose them to harassment from stalkers, trolls, disapproving family members and anti-porn activists…

Neither Addiction Nor EpidemicJosh Duggar

Josh Duggar…has “checked himself into a long-term treatment center,” according to a statement  issued…by the Duggar family.  Several media outlets reported that “Josh Duggar is going to rehab for porn addiction“, as if a “porn addiction” were a demonstrably real thing instead of a concept that should be relegated to the scariest of scare quotes.  Duggar’s problems are many but porn addiction is a psychological fiction propped up by the same moralism that Duggar has espoused for years.  By crying “addiction” and going to rehab, Duggar…gets to appear penitent while implicitly sending the pious message that pornography is an evil from which one must be saved…

Above the Law 

Although the term “gay” has now come to include women, I’m honestly not sure what it’s doing in the victim’s description here:

A gay transgender inmate transitioning into a woman was repeatedly raped by a Rikers Island [guard] and jail officials did nothing to stop it, a new suit charges.  The inmate, identified in court papers only as M.T., was assaulted on Dec. 2, 2012 by…L. Galan after months of harassment…Galan gave M.T. gifts like an iPod Touch, headphones, a charger, a case and $20 in cash to not report the abuse…

Bottleneck

commercial sex wasn’t “illegal” in Germany prior to 2002…ProstG removed morality language…”pimping” [laws]…limited legal recognition for contracts…and…ensuring sex worker access to employment benefits…What the 2002 Act failed to do was create federal mandates on zoning, registration, health and safety, and police power.  This left substantial jurisdiction to German states…an estimated 98% of Germany geographically, and over 90% of German towns and cities are restricted areas, and over two-thirds of German residents live in a city where commercial sex is prohibited…Berlin is one of only three german cities without restricted areas.  In other cities, street-based sex work is limited to a few blocks…if not completely forbidden…In Munich, which only allows commercial sex in 3% of the city, sex workers say police regularly stage sting operations to lure sex workers into prohibited zones.  Also unchanged by ProstG…are state police laws, which–even in liberal cities like Berlin–give police the free reign to enter wherever they suspect commercial sex is taking place…including a sex worker’s home…

Uncharted Seas

The title says it all: “All the Bad Arguments Against Polygamy, Debunked“:

Since the marriage equality movement’s recent triumph in the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, national attention has settled on the status of polygamy, or the legal recognition of marriage between more than two partners.  Several national publications have printed arguments both for and against polygamy rights…Both right and left have taken turns making the case for polygamous marriage, and both right and left have taken turns criticizing the idea…but it’s remarkable just how many bad, sloppy, unconvincing arguments have been marshalled.  Let’s go through and refute them one by one…

My First Million (#437)

I hit the 4 million pageview mark at about 19:30 UTC last Sunday, August 30th.  Thanks to all the readers who made it happen!

4000000

Vendetta (#518)

Let’s hope the moralists all start devouring one another:

A billboard along an exit from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport could give visitors the wrong impression, according to some…travelers.  The billboard…urges men not to buy sex from prostitutes.  “Buy sex [,] lose everything” is the billboard’s message…”We need to remove it, take it down,” said John Rejebian…”I think the public needs to be spared these things”…A logo for CEASE Network is in the lower-right corner of the billboard…

New Excuse (#544)

Elizabeth N. Brown examines the profit motive behind the War on Whores:

…the government’s interest in stopping commercial gay sex is surely more motivated by the commercial aspect here than the man-on-man component.  We’re riding high on a wave of state successes in shutting down prostitution-related businesses…[under] the guise of stopping “human trafficking,” and aided by massive amounts of federal funding plus newly granted wiretapping, asset forfeiture, and other law enforcement powers.  As Scott Shackford pointed out, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) didn’t go after Rentboy.com out of a conviction that gay sex workers pose a threat to national safety but because they could seize $1.4 million from employee bank accounts, along with their homes and other assets.  This is not so much a moral crusade—not for police, prosecutors, or federal agencies anyway—as a money-grubbing one…

Ashley Madison (#557) 

Computer security expert John McAfee on the Ashley Madison “hack”:

Ashley Madison was not hacked – the data was stolen by a woman operating on her own who worked for Avid Life Media…A hacker is someone who uses a combination of high-tech cybertools and social engineering to gain illicit access to someone else’s data.  But this job was done by someone who already had the keys to the Kingdom.  It was an inside job…In my first IBTimes UK article about Act One of the Ashley Madison Affair, I alleged that the group of hackers claiming responsibility for the “hack” simply did not exist.  I gleaned this information from reliable sources within the Dark Web – which have yet to fail me.  I also claimed that it was the act of a single person.  Any adept social engineer would have easily seen this from the wording in the first manifesto published by the alleged hacking group…

I have to wonder if this employee wasn’t the anonymous tipster who provided the material for “Show and Tell“.  I also found this tidbit rather amusing:

The chief executive of…Ashley Madison is resigning…following a hack that revealed millions of user names meant to be kept secret.  Noel Biderman founded the site in 2002 to make it easier for married people to find other married people to have affairs with…Biderman…has sworn that he would never cheat or use the site.  But the hack…uncovered emails suggesting that he was conducting multiple affairs…

What Were You All Waiting For?

The Amnesty International statement is such a big deal, even the 38 “anti-trafficking” groups that make up the “Freedom Network” came out in support of it.  This is not the first time people who adhere to a version of the “trafficking” paradigm have come out for decriminalization; the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women is the most important one, and Kate D’Adamo (first listed author of the statement) is well-known as an opponent of criminalization.  But the fact that a number of organizations who fly the “trafficking” flag are willing to break ranks with the others is a powerful sign of the beginning of the end of the hysteria.

Read Full Post »

Kristof is the sort of acute observer who, upon witnessing plantation slavery, decides that farming must be abolished.  –  Jacob Sullum

Amnesty At Last

The biggest story of the year so far is that Amnesty International has at long last come out in support of absolute decriminalization of sex work, as sex workers ourselves have wanted for decades.  Amnesty has a tremendous amount of clout; this will strongly affect small countries, and even in big countries like the US some politicians may now begin to doubt the wisdom of backing laws that allow the cops to persecute adults for consensual sex.  It will also undermine the prohibitionists’ arguments; they can no longer pretend that their views are common-sense and mainstream.  To me the most important lines in the document are these:

…the need for states to not only review and repeal laws that make sex workers vulnerable to human rights violations, but also refrain from enacting such laws…the harm reduction principle…Recognizing and respecting the agency of sex workers to articulate their own experiences and define the most appropriate solutions to ensure their own welfare and safety…the evidence from Amnesty International’s and external research on the lived experiences of sex workers, and on the human rights impact of various criminal law and regulatory approaches to sex work…

A Procrustean Bed

Super-ally Elizabeth N Brown again:

A four-part series from Capital News Service (CNS) looks at human trafficking in Maryland…[and] contends that “Maryland has some of the lightest penalties in the nation for human trafficking of adults”…yet a bill to enhance criminal penalties…recently failed to pass…it was a rare moment of legislative sanity on this issue…advocates for the increased penalties claim that sex trafficking of adults is a mere misdemeanor in Maryland…[but they] aren’t really talking about human trafficking.  They’re talking about prostitution.  Which they want felony punishments for…”misdemeanor human trafficking” is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.  And what does this category entail?…driving a sex worker to a job…letting a sex worker work from your…building…taking money from a sex worker for any reason…

Profound Mental Disabilities

A man in Orlando is suing a local dominatrix, accusing her of taking more than $500,000 and his house…Judith Gumbrecht…[offers]…“financial slavery”…[and] former client Alex Abrams…[alleges]  Gumbrecht took more than $500,000 after he added her name to his financial accounts, and took ownership of his 1,450-square-foot townhome…the lawsuit accuses Gumbrecht of exploitation of an elderly person, theft, and unjust enrichment…Abrams’ attorney, Brian Mark, claims Abrams suffers from clinical depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and said this affected his decision when adding Gumbrecht to his bank accounts and signing a deed…to transfer his home to her.  Abrams met Gumbrecht after he divorced his wife of 32 years about four years ago…“She went with him to the doctor when he was diagnosed. She was fully aware,” [said] Mark…”When you’re in that professional relationship with them, you cannot exploit them”…

If Gumbrecht really did know that Abrams was demented, it was both unethical and unwise for her to take this kind of advantage.  However, I must point out that A) if she had married him this deal would be a great deal harder to break; and B) it’s amazing how often a submissive’s supposed mental incapacity is used as the excuse for a legal attack on a dominant.  Also, was Abrams suddenly & miraculously cured of his Alzheimer’s, so that his actions now are assumed to be lucid, while his previous actions are not?

Real Men Support Sex Worker Rights (#4)extra-stupid kristof

I really, really love it when Jacob Sullum tears into Nick Kristof:

Kristof says some…teenagers are exploited by pimps who take out…ads…on Backpage.com…He mentions two examples…[but] wisely does not include the source who claimed to have been advertised on Backpage before it existed…Kristof…is condemning Backpage because some of its customers are criminals.  Would he apply similar logic to the carmakers that produce getaway vehicles, the sporting goods stores that sell baseball bats occasionally used in vicious beatings, and the cellphone companies that help terrorists communicate with each other?  Probably not…it’s clear (as usual) that Kristof’s concern is not underage prostitution or coerced prostitution but prostitution in general…by [his] reasoning, alcohol should be prohibited because of the parallel underground market serving minors, all sexually explicit material should be banned because some of it involves children, and housework for pay should be forbidden because rich Saudis have been known to beat domestic workers and hold them against their will…

I’m Sure You Feel Safer Now

An 87-year-old man is fighting allegations he was soliciting a prostitute when he approached an undercover officer during a police sting [in Grand Rapids Michigan]…police and prosecutors say this is likely the oldest person ever charged with this crime.  Howard Arthur Klein…claimed he thought the woman he spoke to was someone he knew from church.  Nevertheless, Klein faces a maximum of 93 days in…jail if convicted…[though he] has no previous criminal record…he has pleaded not guilty…

The Pro-Rape Coalition (#316)

Lone man on a crusade manages to censor adult content on the internet by circumventing a court order.  Sound familiar?

…[An] Indian lawyer’s formal request for a nationwide ban on access to 857 specific pornographic websites was rejected by the country’s Supreme Court but appears to have been enacted by the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi…Kamlesh Vaswani, a lawyer who failed to persuade the Supreme Court to block online pornography, gave thanks…to [the] Prime Minister…for [ignoring]…the Supreme Court…Vaswani [said]…“pornography…is worse than Hitler, worse than AIDS, cancer or any other epidemic…It is more catastrophic than nuclear holocaust, and it must be stopped”…

Traffic Circle

It’s becoming possible for mainstream journalists to question central tenets of the “sex trafficking” religion:

…Researchers agree that labor trafficking is the leading form of human trafficking, but sex trafficking is the focus of more federal prosecutions…In 2012, the Department of Justice successfully prosecuted 138 traffickers, with 76 percent of the cases predominantly sex trafficking and 24 percent predominantly labor trafficking…

Checklist (#345)

Now useful idiots don’t even need to dial a phone to snitch!

Anyone with a smartphone can do their part in the fight against human trafficking thanks to…The GPS-based app…called Redlight Traffic.  It’s a free download designed to help police [persecute sex workers]…Greater Seattle is [pretended] to be one of the worst areas in America when it comes to human trafficking.  Police [fantasize] hundreds of children are worked every day in King County…Amin and Jessica Haq…say…their app…has helped rescue 25 children from sex traffickers…

Proof of that last statement? Oh wait, there is none, because you’re lying.

Number Puzzle (#349)brothel ad

Ah, so “flat rate” isn’t actually flat rate; no wonder the girls like it!

In [Germany]…”flat-rate”…brothels…are a familiar sight, there are at least six in Berlin alone…On an average day, six or seven girls will be working, with the numbers rising to nine or ten at weekends.  Some of them may have sex up to 20 times per shift…The women are able to refuse a customer if he is particularly unpleasant or aggressive but it’s rare.  Once in the bedroom, “extras” are negotiated by the women, who keep 100% of any further money that changes hands.  Not much is off limits, with the exception of unprotected sex…the flat-rate model works from a financial perspective because men over-estimate how many times they can have sex…From the women’s perspective, he says the guaranteed daily pay is the main lure.  Of the entrance fee, 49 euros goes to the club and 50 euros to the women…

An Example to the West (#412) 

Imagine the NOW going to bat for sex workers like this:

The National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) and women’s rights organisations in India have expressed outrage over…Swati Maliwal calling sex work…akin to “rape” and calling for its “eradication”.  “We call on her to immediately withdraw her statement and tender an unconditional apology to the all women in sex work,”…[said] Meena Saraswathi Seshu…At a national consultation on Human Trafficking…Maliwal equated prostitution with rape and said, “It is a ‘blot’ on society which needs to be eradicated with [more violence from] the state”…

License to Rape (#502)

Charnesia Corley was…detained by [Houston] police for allegedly running a stop sign…the deputy…asked her to step out of the vehicle after “smelling what he believed to be marijuana.”  However, during a search of Corley’s vehicle, without her consent, no illegal plants were found…a…female deputy…then stripped [Corley] down in public and forcefully penetrated [her]…“I bend over and she proceeds to try to force her hand inside of me.  I tell her, ‘Ma’am, No. You cannot do this’,” Corley explained.  Corley maintains that at no time did she ever consent to be raped by deputies…

Dutch Threat (#504)

“Politicians lie” = “the sky is blue”.

Warner ten Kate, the public prosecutor [for] human trafficking in Holland…claimed there was…research that showed that 70% of the prostitutes were forced in Holland…during [a radio] interview…Kate was specifically asked about the 70% and…claimed [it came] from…research done by…Erasmus University…[but the] University never did any such research…the Sneep case [cited by Kate] also doesn’t say 70% is forced, but claims it’s 50 to 85%…Warner [says he wants]…to “stop talking about numbers”…[but] this whole debate started because he…and the police keep mentioning numbers which are pure bullshit

Acting and Activism (#559)

A group of 20 academics in the fields of law, medicine, anthropology, sociology and other fields, some of whose names have appeared on this blog before, wrote a letter to Amnesty International in support of decriminalization:

AI’s general policy is to be wary of criminal law regulating gender and sexuality…We focus on two specific issues: 1) why existing credible research supports the rejection of the so-called Nordic model…and 2) why rigorous studies on the relationship between human trafficking and the sex sector supports total decriminalization.  In particular we note empirically and analytically sound research that debunks the Nordic model and refutes claims that legalization or decriminalization of sex work will “increase” the risk of trafficking into the sex sector…

And in The Nation, Melissa Gira Grants writes:

Using the criminal law to control sex work means police are pitted against sex workers, and sex workers can pay the price with their lives…as has also been documented by Amnesty—and others, like Human Rights Watch, UNAIDS, and the World Health Organization, all of whom support the decriminalization of sex work, a stance also backed by recent research in the medical journal The Lancet.  Sex workers’ own rights groups, such as the 237 organizations in 71 countries under the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, report the same from their own experience: Criminal laws only add to the challenges…that many sex workers already face…Amnesty’s sex work proposal has drawn the ire of campaigners who support the [Swedish model]…precisely because it illustrates how these laws, marketed as compassionate towards sex workers, have exposed them to danger.  They argue for more criminalization at a time when on most other issues, the public is turning away from using the police and prisons as a solution…

Read Full Post »

Aya de Leon teaches creative writing in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley and blogs here on WordPress; her sex worker Robin Hood novel, Uptown Thief, will be published in the spring.  This essay grew from a conversation she and I had on Twitter; I was so impressed with her ideas, I asked her to expand them into an essay.

Hollywood has a lot in common with the sex industries; for one thing, it thrives on selling sexualized access to young women.  Some would argue that Hollywood only sells images and fantasies of sex, while the sex industries offer more; however, any in-depth exploration of the film and TV industries reveals widespread transactional sex and sexually predatory behavior towards women (we need only look at Lena Dunham’s autobiography or recent revelations about Bill Cosby to see examples).  In addition, women of color are marginalized in both industries, and most female participants are seen as less valuable as they age.  While the sex industries have niche markets for women over 35, and particular actresses manage to remain hot commodities in Hollywood beyond their youth, both industries cater to male appetites for young and naïve ingenue-type women.

Children for SaleRashida Jones (39) and Jada Pinkett Smith (43) are two African American actresses who have recently found themselves standing at the crossroads of Hollywood and the sex industries.  Jones produced the documentary Hot Girls Wanted, and Pinkett produced the CNN special report, Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking.  There are vast differences between the two, but what they have in common is the way they reflect both women’s attempts to reinvent themselves from aging black actresses into producers.  Former Hollywood ingenues themselves, both women have seized an opportunity to reassert their relevance via spotlighting the sexuality of younger women, in the time-honored role of moralistic crusader.  Both women concentrate on the sexual exploitation of young women, and in both cases they miss the mark (Pinkett by an especially wide margin).  Rashida Jones faced heavy backlash for her slut-shaming comments when she began to publicly voice her concerns about “pornification” and sexualized behavior of younger women in mainstream media.  But at least Hot Girls Wanted was a collaboration with a pair of women filmmakers who put together a compelling and coherent (albeit problematic and whorephobic) narrative.  In addition, it maintained the focus on the young women, as opposed to including Jones in the film; in contrast, Children for Sale features Pinkett as commentator, and its central story is about her emotional journey around the issue.

The only compelling quote in Sale was Pinkett’s “People who are having sex with children are not johns and tricks.  They are child rapists and pedophiles, so we should call them what they are.”  This crucially differentiates between sex work and sex trafficking, but unfortunately, she doesn’t demand that level of precision around other language in her film.  To begin with, her subtitle “The Fight to End Human Trafficking” is misleading because the vast majority of human trafficking is non-sexual labor; ending sexual trafficking would only end a small portion of human trafficking.  But then, the entire film was misleading and imprecise.  Pinkett claims that girls as young as 11 are being trafficked in the United States, but she presents no evidence to support this claim, nor shows any girls that age, nor reveals any situations where girls were being held in slavery-like conditions.  We see interviews with young (adult) women who go from stripping to full service sex work, and Pinkett slurs stripping as a “gateway drug”, but that doesn’t constitute a story of child sex trafficking.  The central interview subject in the film tells of starting a relation with a seductive older man when she was 14; he later manipulated her to have sex with other men in the back of a barbershop for money, but she continued to live at home and go to school.  While she was clearly exploited and the sexual activity was statutory rape by any definition, this isn’t a story of slavery.

Jada PinkettAnother problem:  from the beginning, the police are presented as heroes and saviors.  There’s a raid, and a young “victim” is found, yet she “refuses help” to return to the “only life she’s ever known.”  A psychologist then attributes this refusal of help to a lack of self-esteem.  But if she’s a victim, why is she being handcuffed and marched into the back of a police cruiser?  And what rescue services do police have to offer young people?  Juvenile hall?  Foster care?  Even the trafficking survivor-led program they profiled doesn’t have long-term housing options.  By aligning herself first and foremost with the police, Pinkett is inevitably unable to effectively investigate anything; as a visiting celebrity, she doesn’t have any real connection with anyone in the situation.  The entire tone of the film is set by various images of blurred face individuals with voice-overs by police and anti-trafficking advocates, and police cruisers driving down streets.

In fact, the film totally fails to provide visual documentation of the “facts” of Pinkett’s narrative.  One segment included a tour of an area where the anti-trafficking advocate says there is supposed to be a great deal of street solicitation, but for some reason it’s quiet that night, and they don’t send cameras on any other night to capture it; we must take their word for it.  There may indeed be 11-year-olds being trafficked in the very places Pinkett was looking, but she never found them.  In other cases, the production manufactures what it fails to capture.  They interview a grandmother who calls a hotline for help with her 14-year-old granddaughter, and the police work tirelessly to find her; she is discovered with another “victim”, a fifteen-year-old, who is allegedly on the way to her first trafficked sexual encounter.  Thus, they “rescue” both girls from “the life.”  Yet all of these assertions remain unsubstantiated by evidence of any kind; only in the hysteria surrounding child sex trafficking could such shoddy reporting get such a large platform.  People have an appetite for sexual drama and tragedy, especially with black women; it need not be well-documented or even have a coherent narrative, only salacious innuendos.

Hot Girls WantedUnlike the CNN documentary, Hot Girls Wanted had a coherent story, following one young woman and her cohort through their introduction and overall disillusionment with amateur porn and the sex industries; the New York Times‘ Mike Hale described it as characterized by “an uncertain tone that vacillates between weary outrage and motherly concern.”  The film exposes some real problems with working conditions with “amateur porn”, which though it is actually very organized and professionalized, sells the scenario of the initiation of a given young woman into porn.  Thus, after the first film, their prospects quickly decline.  However, these labor practices where the “it girl” fades away and the spotlight moves on are not exclusive to amateur porn or even sex work; they are certainly at work in Hollywood, as well.

Furthermore, Hot Girls Wanted ignores the fact that today’s young women face relatively bleak prospects for employment and career development, even if they do go to college, and the internship model for entry level professional positions effectively excludes poor and working class girls.  In this time of limited prospects, sex industry entrepreneurs can exploit young women’s aspirations for something other than dreary work for low pay, no security and no benefits.  Yet Jones’ solution to the situation is to deny young women the choice.  Harvard-educated Jones is the daughter of wealthy celebrities; she has always had access to fame and money without taking any risks of her own, yet she criticizes girls for taking the risks associated with sex work in the hope of gaining fame.  She suggests that a central problem with amateur porn is that the women involved are too young to make their own decisions, but I would argue that the only way one learns to make decisions is by having the power to make them.  Young women entering the sex industries generally face two kinds of older adults:  On the one hand, they face shaming adults with little information about the industries who judge their desires and dismiss what they hope to gain; on the other hand, they face exploiters who withhold information, exaggerate and romanticize the payoffs and underplay the risks.  In either case, the young women generally cannot get the support they need to make informed decisions, which would include access to older adults with accurate information and probabilities about women’s trajectories in the industry, as well as non-judgmental listening and feedback.

Rashida JonesI see both Children for Sale and Hot Girls Wanted as part of a classic cycle for women in general and black women in particular.  Many young black women enjoy the attention that sexual currency brings, yet when they get older, many pick up the rallying cry that “we’ve got to save these young girls from themselves.”  I don’t think it’s coincidence that both of these older African American actresses are making films and speaking out on these topics; after all, the media aren’t interested in what black women have to say about global warming or the IMF, and they don’t put a microphone in black female hands to talk about Middle East foreign policy or immigration reform.  Jones and Pinkett are actually doing the very thing they claim to despise, trading on the public’s fascination with young women’s sexuality.  It’s a quandary all women must face:  when a society is far more interested in a woman’s sexuality than in anything else about her, how can she navigate through her life?  Yet neither documentary includes veteran sex workers, the women who did figure out how to navigate through the sex industries, especially those who entered the industries on someone else’s terms and then figured out terms of their own.  In Children for Sale, they are non-existent; in Hot Girls Wanted, their stories are glossed over.  The girls who stay in the industry are reduced to a footnote, while the film’s main subject quits and moves in with her boyfriend (in an implicit “happily ever after” ending).  Due to the lack of input from veteran sex workers both films lacked nuance, breadth, depth and insider information, and reached deeply flawed conclusions.

As an over-35 black woman, myself, I understand the need to stay relevant and maintain career momentum; like Jones and Pinkett, I’m a non-sex worker who chooses to write about sex work.  However, any vision of justice for people in the sex industries must be informed by a spectrum of voices that centers those currently working in those industries.  Criminalization and social stigma shrouds much of sex work in secrecy and silence, so a casual observer cannot get a clear picture of it (much less a celebrity with a camera crew).  These are areas of society that desperately need clear illumination, not the distorted and exploitative stories in today’s media; unfortunately, Jones and Pinkett chose to produce work suffused with moralistic narratives, which can only fail to change conditions for the young women they had hoped to help.

Read Full Post »

The inevitable and terrifying end result of giving legal rights to fetuses [is] a woman…legally reduced to being nothing more than a vessel incubating a future ward of the state.  –  Maya Dusenbery

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

An Indianapolis police chaplain was arrested on multiple prostitution charges after he told a prostitute [who] he was…police [arrested a sex worker]…and…she told [them] that the day before “Bob from Noblesville showed me his shiny IMPD officer badge and told me he was a chaplain”…police determined “Bob from Noblesville” was actually…Chaplain Bishop John Robert Fiers…

The Mote and the Beam

The stupid, it burns!

The [Georgia] trial lawyer who wants to [profit from] sex trafficking through civil litigation said his phone hasn’t stopped ringing since he announced his plan late last year…David Boone, president and founder of Civil Lawyers Against World Sex Slavery, known as CLAWS…[said] “We’re really tried to take a business approach to this”…Boone [pretends he can sue] those who pay for sex as well as those who allow the business to exist…He said his research shows the “sex slave” industry is a $9.5 billion business in the United States, exploiting primarily girls starting at the age of 13 who are lured in or kidnapped.  Most die within seven years from drug overdoses, AIDS or murder.  Atlanta has become a hub for the trade largely as a side-effect of having one of the world’s busiest airports…

Schadenfreude 

Yet another rescue industry “hero” is revealed as an opportunistic fraud:

…Vednita Carter…started Breaking Free…nearly 20 years ago, vowing to help women and girls free themselves from prostitution…[by convincing them that] they were victims of abuse and sexual exploitation.  In recent years [“sex trafficking” hysteria] won [the organization] more funding and expanded its [hunger for money]…Carter…was named a CNN News Hero and the Bush Foundation gave Breaking Free an award…but…a group of former employees…wrote a letter in April to government agencies that have funded or worked with Breaking Free, detailing concerns about how victims were being treated and served, its adherence to laws and regulations, alleged “misuse of funds, property, and services and employment of family members,” and “staff misconduct and lack of training”…

Harm Magnification (The Beat Goes On)

Prostitutes have…accused police of trying to “ghettoise” them…after [it was] revealed that Gwent Police were planning a “managed” sex zone…One working girl feared that forcing them into designated zones could lead to more being raped and murdered.  “They tend to put these areas in out-of-the-way places in the back of commercial and industrial sites where there are rough roads and the lighting is poor, and access in and out is abysmal,” Michelle said…anti-prohibition DARE editorial

Change a Few Words

Drug Abuse Resistance Education, better known as DARE, has spent decades telling schoolchildren…to “Just Say No” to marijuana.  For a few hours [on July 27th], however, they appeared to just say yes to legalization.  [Journalist] Christopher Ingraham…found a strange re-post on the DARE website…which originally ran in the Columbus Dispatch…[and contained] a full-throated endorsement of marijuana legalization by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) speaker Carlis McDerment…Ingraham contacted DARE for clarification and [they immediately removed the article]…

Above the Law 

Ever notice that cops “state” or “explain” their versions of events, but the rest of us merely “claim”?

A Garda forced a prostitute to perform a sexual act on him in order to have her laptop computer returned to her after it had been seized in a raid…Almost half (48.7%) [of sex workers surveyed] said they had garda clients and 2.7% said they had [been forced to] provide…”free or discounted” sexual services to officers…The purpose of the survey, by…Uglymugs.ie, was to establish how sex workers viewed policing in Ireland given plans to introduce new laws which will effectively criminalise the entire sex trade…

Sex Work is Work

Guess what, Mr. Huckabee? If “prostitutes, pimps [and] drug dealers” weren’t criminalized, we’d easily be able to contribute to your system:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said…that if elected President he would increase the money going into Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement funds by…”[transforming] the process by which we fund [them]…the money paid at consumption is paid by everybody — including illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, all the people who are freeloading off the system”…The line was met with thunderous applause…

Scrambled Eggs (#311)

I’m sure everyone who dies while waiting for a kidney is happy to go to his grave to prevent people from making their own decisions about what to do with their bodies:

Last year in the United States, more than 4,000 people died while…waiting…for a new kidney.  An additional 3,600…left the list when they became too sick for a transplant…In every country that does transplants — except one — patients have two legal ways to get a new kidney.  One is to have a friend or relative…donate a kidney.  The other is to get on the waiting list for a deceased donor.  In America, the average time on that list varies from 3 years to 10…Patients can’t even get on the list until they are about to start dialysis, and the average life span of someone who starts dialysis is only 5 to 10 years…And the longer a patient spends on dialysis before getting a transplant, the greater the chances of complications and death with a new kidney…[but] in Iran…people wait to donate a kidney.  That’s because donors are paid…

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

Hey Cosmo, are you ready to speak out for decrim yet?

Several major retailers have agreed to censor…Cosmopolitan behind blinders, after facing pressure from a campaign led by the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, the man who founded the company that owns the publication.  Victoria Hearst…began a campaign…called Cosmo Harms Minors, which…eventually [wants] shops to be banned from selling the magazine to anyone under the age of 18…

Sex RaysOur Lady of the Pillar

Spain’s Guardia Civil police force will no longer accept donations from a brothel in Navarra, even if the money is put towards a good cause…The unusual funding arrangement came to light…when the citizen group Observatory Against Corruption filed a complaint …The money was used to throw a celebration dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar, the patron saint of the Guardia Civil…

Choke Point 

Could be worth looking into for non-porn sex workers as well:

Major U.S. banks have closed or denied banking accounts to individuals working in the adult industry…the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) is now offering…financial services offered by First Entertainment Credit Union…which…was first established as the credit union for Warner Bros. Studios in 1967 but now extends membership to many entertainment industry organizations, including the Free Speech Coalition…Services offered to APAC members will include checking and savings accounts, financial planning, home and auto loans, as well as business account services…For more information on becoming a member…visit the APAC website or email apac.information@gmail.com.

Property of the State 

Another abomination from Alabama:

A woman imprisoned in an Alabama jail wants an abortion…but her request…was denied…and…the state is attempting to strip her of her parental rights over a “child” that is not actually a born child yet and arguing that if she doesn’t have parental rights, she has no right to terminate the pregnancy…the state is arguing that since this woman has “endangered” her fetus by using drugs, it should now effectively become a ward of the state, and therefore the state can do anything it wants—including forcing her to carry it to term against her will…

Acting and Activism (#559)

My friend Savannah Sly on the Hollywood response to Amnesty:

These famous voices are…out of touch with the reality of sex work…[they] are connected to anti-trafficking organizations, which…fail to illustrate to these celebrities…that criminalization actually makes [things]…worse.  For some reason, celebrities are held up as just being wiser than the rest of us because they’re famous…Who are [Americans] going to trust, this seemingly familiar person they’ve seen on TV a lot or a bunch of social pariahs?…

And while the Guardian has long provided a platform to vehement prohibitionists, it did allow this one from Molly Smith to slip through:

…by prioritising the supposed “eradication” of the sex industry, [the Swedish model empowers] police…to harass, evict and deport migrant sex workers…Amnesty found that sex workers in Norway were routinely evicted by the police…“a number of migrant sex workers were violently attacked and raped…They reported the incident to the police…they returned to their apartment to find the police have removed all their money and electronic equipment.  Four days [later] they were forcibly evicted.”  It’s hard to believe that those Hollywood signatories read this and thought:  “Brilliant, the police evicting migrant women when they report rape sounds like the feminist solution to prostitution; we should support the legal model where this occurs.”  But that is what appears to have happened – unless they signed up to attack Amnesty over a document they had not read…

Read Full Post »

“Grandpa worked really hard so that we can find out the most sensitive part of the penis” generally isn’t the sort of story family foundations want to tell.  –  Miro GudelskyLa Bodega Negra - Edited

Subtle Pimping

Another example of amateurs profiting from sex workers’ images while giving us nothing:

As Soho’s sex trade is destroyed, a twee pastiche is being created in its place. A sex-work themed theme-park…Across Soho, the bordello theme is a default.  You don’t have to stumble far to find décor suggestive of dimly lit backrooms and women of the night; a fantasy, filmic version of the sex trade.  Marketers aren’t afraid to use the trope for all its worth…As the reality of sex work in Soho disappears, its essence has become a marketing tool.  Brothel chic.  A Disneyland version of what was for many, a life, work – a world that wasn’t particularly exotic or glamorous but simply the thing they did for a certain number of hours a week to pay the bills…

Perquisites

Only in the US could the idea that men like to look at pretty girls while they relax be represented as strange or even bad:

In a city that’s being gentrified by the engineers and startup employees, the Gold Club is perhaps the most outré illustration of San Francisco’s recent excesses, a place where curious crowds come for the cheap fare and stay for the alcohol and extracurriculars.  It is also an example of how tone deaf many in the male-dominated tech industry can be.  In recent years, critics have called out technology companies for their workforces’ gender imbalances, which some argue foster a boys’ club culture and sexual discrimination…

The Proper Study

Why there are few good studies on sex work:

…Even researchers…with adequate funding and support…may find that they’re not always taken very seriously because of the stigma still attached to sexuality…and…unlike colleagues in other fields, sex researchers are often forced to contend with assumptions that their professional interests reflect their personal habits.  Few assume that ornithologists harbor a secret wish to be birds, or that medical researchers are drawn to their field due to a history of illness, but sex therapists and researchers are frequently presumed to be incredibly adventurous in the bedroom…

Saving Them From Themselves

Some stories are so egregiously stupid I just can’t resist editorializing:

A 14-year-old boy in Nova Scotia has been sentenced to…probation…[re-education] and restricted internet access for possession of child pornography…[actually nude pictures of his same-age girlfriend]…the boy…will also have to provide a DNA sample and [the state will steal] his smartphone…[Judge] Atwood laid out his decision to [pretend that] the crime [was] a violent one.  He said…that even if…sexting [hurts no one, prudes imagine]…that some day, there will be a [mysterious and indefinable] psychological impact…

First They Came for the Hookers…

If prohibitionists really want to “rescue” sex workers, why do they keep trying to stop us from getting other jobs?

…Miami police officer Sabine Raymonvil…does not deny that she used to work in the porn industry [but]…her work in porn films was completed prior to her becoming a police officer…the requirements to work for the Miami Police Department don’t specifically state anything against porn…[but] she may be terminated because of “conduct unbecoming” an officer…

I don’t really want to think too hard about why someone would leave honest sex work to become a pig, but there you are.Sex Slaves MSNBC

Marching Up Their Own Arses (#349)

How many of these must we endure?

Several organizations that advocate on behalf of both sex workers and survivors of trafficking have written a letter to MSNBC, urging them to cancel Sex Slaves in America, saying it…misleads the viewing public about the realities of both sex work and trafficking…The letter, which you can read in full here, is signed by the Sex Workers Project, the New York Anti-Trafficking Network, Freedom Network, Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, and Florrie Burke, a longtime human rights advocate…they’re particularly concerned with the way it seems to conflate sex work and human trafficking, and that it could compromise the anonymity of the women it films…In 2013, amid protests and another sternly-worded letter from the same organizations, MSNBC cancelled a program called Slave Hunter, in which a guy named Aaron Cohen claimed to rescue victims of trafficking…

Acting and Activism (#419)

Why is CNN so in love with the “sex trafficking” narrative and the empty-headed actresses who promote it?

Jada Pinkett Smith is helping to expose the ugly world of sex trafficking…The actress has teamed up with CNN for an hour-long special report…”Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking” delves into the gritty underbelly of child sex slavery in America…Smith…traveled to Atlanta — a trafficking hot spot — to sit down with courageous survivors and come face to face with a trafficker…

Policing for Profit (#520) 

Presumption of innocence?  What’s that?

A D.C. Council member wants to take a page from Spokane, Washington, and several other cities and start impounding the cars of people suspected of soliciting prostitution.  Councilman Jack Evans…is calling this rights-infringing nonsense the “Honey, I lost the car” program.  As with the Spokane law, it wouldn’t matter whether the person is eventually convicted of any crime or not; if you look to some cops like you’re cruising for sex, that’s all the probable cause they need to snatch your vehicle…

The Pro-Rape Coalition (#555) 

If you thought good old-fashioned Moral Majoritarians were just going to concede Puritanism to fourth-wave feminists, think again…the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE)—a group founded in 1962 as Morality in Media (the name was changed this year)—is holding an anti-pornography summit…[which] features a who’s who of anti-sex-work, anti-science, and anti-free-speech zealots, along with the father of famous kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart

Read Full Post »

Essentially it boils down to the idea that if the percent of people harmed is low enough, then we don’t have to care. –  Francis Walker

Gateway

Whores are bad, because drugs!  And “trafficking”!  And disease!  And vehicles!

It’s gone from the back alleys to websites like Backpage.com.  Some women are no longer working the streets, but rather the keyboard…Huntington [West Virginia] Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli said…it’s really all…to fuel the woman’s drug habit.  “While almost universally, the women involved are addicted or drug users…this plague of drug addiction knows no bounds.  Somebody who might be your next door neighbor yesterday could be unfortunately a prostitute tomorrow”…most of the ads on…Backpage.com…are trapped in sex trafficking rings…Police say it’s a dangerous situation…for the paying customers, as well.  “Certainly, the customers always run the risk of being robbed, or having their vehicles being stolen…communicable diseases that are spread by IV drug users in sexual situations is astronomical.”  So what’s being done to stop this?  Several local police agencies, including the Charleston Police Department, now run online sting operations… “We’re well aware of what’s going on.  Anybody who thinks they can evade us by using some sort of anonymity online is sadly mistaken”…


If this pompous, doughnut-addicted ignoramus knows as little about internet security as he does about sex work, even the most elementary precautions would be more than enough to evade him.

The Pro-Rape Coalition 

This is all pure nonsense, of course, and dozens of studies (including two US government ones) have found the exact opposite.  But look at the cast of characters:

…Patrick Trueman…of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE)…said Congress passes appropriations to fight sex trafficking, child pornography and sexual violence against women, but fails to address the root causes of those crimes.  To change that, the NCSE is holding a symposium next week intended to educate lawmakers and congressional staffers about the effects of pornography on society and criminal activity…NCSE said pornography shapes the sexual templates of children and contributes to the rise in sexual dysfunction now experienced by young men…“You have to address what attracts a man to enslave a woman or…have sex with an enslaved woman, and that’s pornography,” Trueman said.  Speakers…include…Ernie Allen…and Melissa Farley

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic

More of this, please:

A clinical psychologist has ruled out “sex addiction” as the motive for a 22-year-old’s manipulation and threats that led to charges of blackmail and fraud…James Charles White…admitted charges of blackmailing one gay sexual partner, and obtaining sexual services from another young and vulnerable victim…by offering large amounts of money which were never paid…White had said he had a sex addiction and was getting help.  But defence counsel Phillip Allan said the clinical psychologist’s view was that there was no such thing as sex addiction…

Girls, Girls, Girls!

This listicle debunking myths about strippers would be better without the gratuitous whorearchy:  “The lie: You can always pay more for “extras”.  The truth: There’s no price for that.  Nope. Just nope.”  Except that some (certainly not all) girls do indeed sell “extras”, and Elle Stranger knows it as well as I do.

Above the Law 

Yeah, I’m sure this sex was 100% consensual; we always give it up for free to cops who arrest us because they’re just so damned sexy:

…a young Eastern European sex worker [was arrested] after her apartment was raided because it was being used as a “brothel”…after she and another sex worker…were…questioned [and released, one of]…the [gardai] later returned alone to the apartment and raped her.  The garda denied this and said they had “consensual” sex and that he was off-duty at the time…The second woman…gave evidence that she had witnessed the rape…

First They Came for the Hookers…

Strippers and other adult entertainers may soon find themselves having to register with the Monroe County [Florida] government as a way to deter sex trafficking…The Monroe County Commission could opt for a less drastic measure and have adult entertainment clubs “post human trafficking awareness signs printed in both English and in Spanish in conspicuous locations clearly visible to the public and employees”…

The Truth About “The Truth About…”

A statistician vivisects the ridiculous notion that false accusations of rape are so rare they can be ignored:

…Even if false reporting of rape is low, rape as percentage of total sex is even lower and very few people would argue that we don’t really need to care about rape.  About the only argument you can make here with any validity would be that rape affects more people than false accusations of rape.  But that isn’t a particularly great argument either…On a percentage basis, there aren’t many Jews in the US, nor are there many homosexuals.  The percentage of trans-gendered individuals is even smaller.  What rights would society be rightfully allowed to deprive those populations of simply because they are in the minority?…If You Experience a Tiny Bump in Libido Lasting More Than Four H

Not Good Enough (#545)

More than two hundred scientists are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to reject the so-called “female Viagra” pill…experts in disciplines ranging from bioethics to sexology say that flibanserin is “minimally effective”…only 9 to 15 percent more effective than a placebo in increasing desire.  They also highlight its…side-effects, including hypotension and sudden unconsciousness, and its negative interactions with several drugs, including…alcohol and birth control pills…Flibanserin was rejected by the administration twice before, but an FDA panel recently…recommended it for approval [after]…an effective public relations campaign…blamed…previous rejections on sexism on the part of the FDA.  “Approving flibanserin will not only unleash an unsafe drug onto the U.S. market…but will send a message to industry that pressuring the FDA through public relations campaigns can get a drug approved.”

Seizing Power

They’re not even trying to be credible any more:

…According to Shared Hope International, 495 victims of child sex trafficking in 46 states and D.C. have been linked to Backpage.com.  A study by YouthSpark in Atlanta, Georgia, found 53% of children receiving care from service providers across the country were bought and sold for sex on Backpage.com.  With the recent decision of Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, many are wondering what’s next for Backpage.com and its impact on the future of the child sex trafficking industry…

Read Full Post »

Hawk Kinkaid is the founder and president of HOOK, the association for male sex workers; he’s also the chief operating officer of Rentboy.com.  I met him at a panel discussion a few months ago and was impressed with his personality and intelligence, and since the views of male sex workers are not often represented on this blog I asked him to contribute this guest column.

Does the sex worker movement need men?  No.  Hawk Kinkaid

There.  I wrote it.  It’s what I feel like I’ve always wanted to say when people (frequently) ask me how men and women in the sex industry are different, or why there don’t appear to be many men at conferences or marches.  This is what they are getting at:  what place do men have in the movement, if any at all?  I don’t think it should come as a shock that the movement to decriminalize the American sex industry has rarely involved cisgender men, never actively sought out their participation, and most definitely never needed us to make the incredible strides and achievements made thus far.  The many regional and national programs which seek to represent and provide space for people in the sex industry haven’t needed men to drive significant shifts in raising awareness and developing programs for some of our culture’s most unjust abuses against sex workers (ranging from misogyny, homophobia and transphobia to immigration abuse, coercion, HIV and drug addiction).

Yet at the same time, there is so much left to do.  The same movement that has achieved so much still struggles against potent social stigmas and the shifting sands of public opinion; it has failed to build coalitions that support sexworker-sensitive legislation; and it is currently losing the battle against a polluted “anti-trafficking” sex-negative abolitionist wave.  Perhaps the question of “need” itself needs to be reframed.  What, in fact, do we need?  All of the programs I know have disparate and unique agendas representing their specific constituencies; the lack of a unified agenda appears to be the natural result of a complex network of organizations and networks, mostly at the grassroots level, all working toward independent goals serving their own communities.  This makes sense when you consider the entire legacy:  Our culture still revels in the archaic world where cisgender feminine sexual agency and persona must be policed, interrogated and incarcerated, and many of today’s programs started in response to local initiatives related to these injustices.  These programs range from the important community work of Maggie’s in Toronto, to the St. James Infirmary’s health care services in San Francisco, to NYC’s Sex Workers Project legal support, to HIPS’ DC needle exchange, and each is tied at some level into grant money, foundations and more.

In this tangled network of conferences and fundraisers, the one thing that fractures a conversation faster than an inappropriately placed pronoun is the perception of privilege.  This doesn’t only affect cisgender white men like myself; it is similarly shared by cisgender white women with economic success, or women who work in one particular segment of the industry over another, and so on.  But what happens if the movement is solely focused on messages that exclude sex workers with financial success and social capital (intentionally or otherwise)?  Recently, I was at an event at which a speaker began with a long preamble acknowledging all the elements of privilege we already recognized; I’m sure many in the audience welcomed the overture’s humble tones and quasi-martyrdom, but I tried to imagine the men I work with – the ones dancing in speedos on bars on the weekend, the ones shooting porn for amateur foot fetish sites, the ones working webcams between study sessions, the ones who are traipsing from city to city – feeling like they need to apologize for lives they don’t perceive as at all privileged before they can even speak.  This isn’t to absolve them of their inability to recognize the privileges their status as cisgender white men does, in fact, carry, but what movement has an official guide on how to allow for this?

Will & GraceUsing the LGBT movement as a limited parallel, we can see that recent strides in gay marriage most frequently benefit people who are already in privileged enough positions to normalize.  LGBT people of color, low-income or immigrant LGBT people and trans people struggle for attention in a movement whose focus is now dominated by those seeking respectability through monogamous heteronormativity…and sex work isn’t even a consideration.  When the photos of LGBT success surface the most privileged are always in the front row, buying tickets to the biggest of the celebrations and being asked to pose for the local newspapers, while the less privileged continue to struggle at the bottom.  Yet at the same time, the swift rise to civil rights got much of its momentum from privilege; whether from mainstream pop culture like Will and Grace, or via the murder of a young white man on a Wyoming fence, shifts in the public conversation occurred whenever a certain audience in America perceived something as close to home.  Getting the public to feel invested in the struggles of a minority group invariably fuels significant change.  I’m not advocating that Americans lean on their prejudices in order to justify change; I’d like to think this isn’t the only way forward for a movement, but I’d be ignoring past behavior if I failed to suggest we can learn from example.  And this time, can we please do it better and smarter, and avoid repeating the exacerbation of privilege?  Can we forge a divergent path that is more inclusive, more diverse, and more accepting of transgressiveness than the LGBT community has delivered?  Funding from foundations and government agencies often comes with sex-negative strings; if we enlarge our tent to include successful industry professionals we could potentially avoid the limitations inherent in organizational funding.  In the LGBT rights movement, for example, several porn company professionals bankrolled marriage movement campaigns; is there a place for them in advancing sex worker rights?  What about the high-earning porn performers or escorts I know taking in six-figure incomes?  Businesses historically uninterested in sex workers’ civil rights are starting to change their tune as they themselves come under fire; isn’t that an opportunity to broaden our tent?

I don’t know what place men have within the sex worker rights movement, even though I have been a collaborator and contributor to it for nearly two decades.  We may not be needed in the movement as it is today, but once there is a unified approach that acknowledges that those who work in the industry represent an inorganic cluster of privileges and injustices, it will be possible to develop a plan that all individuals working in the sex industry view as valuable, attainable and comprehensible.  We are, after all, in this together.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,798 other followers