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Posts Tagged ‘violence vs. sex workers’

Women who trade sex within marriage [may one day] realise they are the ones undervaluing what they have to offer.  –  Jemima

R.I.P. Amber Rayne Amber Rayne

…adult performer Amber Rayne, an industry veteran of more than 10 years, has died…she passed away peacefully in her sleep at home either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, though the exact cause of death will not be known until autopsy reports are completed…She was 31.  Rayne…racked up close to 500 credits over the course of her career.  She was known for both her wild, no-holds-barred sexual performances and her commanding acting chops…the Detroit native had a background in professional acting before turning to adult, and those skills…[earned] multiple AVN Award nominations…

License to Rape

Cops raping sex workers is so ubiquitous, non-cop rapists often pose as cops to facilitate the crime:

…Blake Lawrence Anderson…[raped a sex worker on]…March 29…she got into his car and he drove her to an industrial area…where he parked…[then] pulled a small black semi-automatic firearm and pointed it at her head, telling her he was a police officer.  Using duct tape to bind her wrists, she said Anderson sexually assaulted her several times…He eventually cut the tape off her, cutting her wrist. He let her go and drove away…[but] she got his license plate number…

Real People 

The more first-person accounts of sex work, the harder it will be for prohibitionist lies to survive:

…There is no “cookie cutter” ideal of beauty and character.  Men…want to enjoy the company of an authentic, independent woman simply basking in who she is.  Once I understood this my self-confidence exploded and so did my career…I’ve come to think of escorting as a helping, healing, and entertainment profession — not just for my clients but also for me.  Yes, I worked for money, and I loved every single gift and tip I got on top of it, but I worked just as much for the life that came with it. It took me to a better place, where I could recognize, embrace, and cultivate my own uniqueness…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I hope they keep feeding on each other:

A…Melbourne [Florida cop] was arrested…after officials said he offered cash to a [fake] prostitute who actually turned out to be a [female cop]…The arrest of…Shawn Archbold is the latest in a series of investigations into…the 169-[pig] agency…Melbourne Police Chief Steve Mimbs talked [a lot of childish nonsense about]…good [guys and]…bad guys…

Housewife Harlotry

Jemima on transactional sex:

…transactional sex is still the basis of many relationships.  Men are rewarded with blow jobs for good behaviour, and sex is seen as something points need to be earned for…this…is part of why, I believe, that so many women are harsher towards sex work than men (as this poll reports)…When you have a commodity that to you has a certain value, it will be perceived as a threat if others offer that same commodity for a different value…we are seen to devalue the transactional sex they have to offer, or, to put it another way, why would a man put up the shelves in exchange for a blow job when he can pay me straight cash for it?…

Monsters 

How long will Gay, Inc pretend that decriminalization isn’t a GLBT issue?

…At least 2,016 trans and gender diverse people were killed between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2015 across 65 countries, according to a research initiative started by Transgender Europe (TGEU)…The report did not state why they were killed, or if they were murdered because they were transgender.  It did, however, say that 65 percent of the victims were sex workers…

Challenge

This was, of course, expected; next stop, the 9th Circuit:

Americans may have a constitutional right to engage in consensual, intimate relationships, but that doesn’t mean they have a right to buy or sell sex, a Bay Area federal judge ruled…in upholding California’s 144-year-old ban on prostitution.  In a lawsuit filed a year ago, the plaintiffs…invoked the…2003 [Lawrence v Texas] ruling…U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White…[pretended] that the court was referring to intimate relationships and not merely to sexual activity…He said the high court, in the 2003 ruling, disavowed any intention to legalize prostitution…White also…[spouted nonsense about]…violence against women…sexually transmitted diseases and…human trafficking…

And no, California’s current prostitution law doesn’t date back to 1872; that was an anti-streetwalking law specifically.  Private prostitution wasn’t technically banned in the state until 1961, though other laws date back to the last “sex trafficking” hysteria of a century ago.

To Protect and Serve (#413)

The strippers who were molested by San Diego pigs can proceed with their lawsuit, despite attempts by pig lawyers to quash it:

Exotic dancers who…were held against their will and photographed by San Diego [pigs under the pretense of] a compliance raid can move forward with their lawsuit, a federal judge ruled…five to 15 [pigs] went to the clubs during the early-evening hours and ordered the dancers into a dressing room, where they were told to wait until…[isolated from one another, interrogated]…and photographed [in an invasive manner]…the [pigs] “made arrogant and demeaning comments to the entertainers and ordered them to expose body parts so that they could ostensibly photograph their tattoos”…when several asked if they could leave…[they were] threatened…with arrest…

Something Rotten in Sweden (#422)

Cops busting kids’ lemonade stands isn’t news any more, but this is a new low:Austin lemonade laws

…the Austin [Texas] City Council approved an ordinance to spare young lemonade sellers from parts of the city’s mind-numbing bureaucracy.  On Lemonade Day [May 7th]—and only on Lemonade Day—registered participants do not have to spend $35 to obtain a “temporary food permit,” and are also exempt from spending a staggering $425 on “a license agreement and fees” to use public property.  Unfortunately, the city’s friendliness to budding entrepreneurs ends there.  Lemonade stands run by kids must comply with Austin’s “temporary food service guidelines”…Parent…must also sign a waiver, and “agree to release, indemnify, defend and hold harmless the organizers of Lemonade Day and anyone associated with it or Lemonade Day from any and all claims for personal injuries or property damage resulting from my child/ren’s participation in Lemonade Day”…

Soap Opera (#547) 

Fetishists trade the costs of tattoo removal for the right to distort women’s bad choices into “sex trafficking” propaganda:

…[tattoos are] being removed for free…through a new project…[for supposed] human trafficking victims…from the Traffick Stop project…local [cops and prohibitionists fantasize that] the “overwhelming majority” of human trafficking victims are branded and that Fresno is a major hub for the sex trade…Of 2,700 to 3,000 children who run away from home in Fresno every year, an estimated 10 percent to 12 percent are lured into human trafficking.  [Pervert cop Curt] Chastain [related his masturbatory fantasy that] the actual number is much higher…Chastain [lied], “I’ve never personally met someone in prostitution who hasn’t started out as a victim”…

The idea that Fresno, California, which isn’t on the way to anything else, could possibly be a “major hub” for any kind of business is so utterly stupid one wonders how even cops can believe it.

Out of Control (#554) 

Looks like the creeps are progressing from spooge sneaking to spooge throwing:

New York City officials have revealed new proposals that would ban taxi and hire car drivers from flirting with passengers or initiating any kind of unwanted physical contact.  The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has set out specific rules that include taking away licenses and imposing fines for drivers who touch or ejaculate on their passengers, and recommends fines and suspensions for drivers who comment on their passengers’ appearance or even talk about their own or their passengers’ love lives…

It’s probably for the best; after all, the line between flirting with a woman and ejaculating on her is such a subtle one, it’s just too much to leave it to individual judgment.

All-Purpose Excuse (#608)

If the government has its way, phone privacy will soon be gone completely:

…“pre-paid phones,”are often bought anonymously and without registration.  It was burner phones, not encryption, that were primarily used to plot the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris last November…H.R. 4886…would ban anonymous pre-paid phones in the United States…Jackie Speier (D-CA14)…[wants] purchasers of these devices to provide identification showing name, address, and date of birth…“This bill would close one of the most significant gaps in our ability to track and prevent acts of terror, drug trafficking, and modern-day slavery“…

Deborah Jeane Palfrey (#611)

Probably a wise precaution:

The [attorney] who represented the late “D.C. madam” Deborah Palfrey…Montgomery Blair Sibley says the [escort service’s] records will become public if he fails to reset a 72-hour countdown clock, which could cut short his soft two-week ultimatum for federal courts to consider lifting a 2007 gag order that covers the records, lest he deem that order void.  The countdown clock is a safeguard, Sibley says, that ensures that if he disappears the records will be published.  Inevitable release, he says, may also disincentivize violent acts against him to prevent their disclosure.  The records are stored on four servers around the world…and dozens of reporters will receive a website link if the clock is not reset…

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0406162243-1Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know that last week was a painful one for those of us in the sex worker rights movement; journalist and former sex worker Melissa Gira Grant, who has long danced on the boundary between the “straight” world and the  demimonde, apparently decided she wanted a total divorce from us (and not an amicable one, either).  And so she published an article acting much like a prohibitionist; she centered her own voice above that of a very troubled and disadvantaged sex worker, outed aspects of the woman’s life that she did not want revealed in such a manner, and even quoted an exploitative anti-whore asshole with a record of publicly threatening sex workers.  Mistress Matisse is a lot more closely involved with the story than I am, which is why on Tuesday I shared her account of what happened.  One thing I am going to say is that although I was angry to the point of nausea at Melissa’s exploitation of a very vulnerable sex worker, not to mention her attempt to throw mud on one of my closest friends, there is a part of me that’s relieved I no longer need to remain silent about a person who has offended and/or pissed off more sex worker activists than I can count on both hands.  She’s had me blocked me on Twitter (a move most people reserve for enemies and offensive trolls) and bad-mouthed me in private for years, but as long as she was doing good work for the movement, I kept my mouth shut and even promoted her work.  But now that she’s burning her bridges in earnest, I see no reason to keep my mouth shut any longer (because as most of you know, I’m not exactly good at that anyway).  The kid gloves are now off, and the only reason I’m not saying anything more right now is that, unlike Melissa, I’m not going to make something that isn’t about me, about me.  I’m going to let the wronged parties set the pace, and my rightful role in this is to support them.

However, I’m not so upset I’m going to forget my manners; I got some lovely gifts I would like to acknowledge.  Reader Daz sent me a DVD that’s been on my wishlist for a while, and another gentleman purchased a phone visit from me, gave me another donation over and above the cost for the visit itself, and also sent me the lovely leggings you see here.  Yes, I do indeed do phone visits; I’ll let y’all consider the possibilities.  And until then, you can just enjoy the picture.  And please, please consider donating to Heather’s fundraiser; in killing Neal Falls she no doubt saved many of our sisters from a horrible death, and now she needs our help to get her own life back in order.

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Punishing women who voluntarily sell sex for a living is human rights violation threatening their survival and another violence by the state.  –  Judge Cho Yong-ho

The Pro-Rape Coalition 

Another fact-free anti-porn polemic, quoting a bogus “study” created by prohibitionists:

Watching natural-looking people engaging in sex that is consensual, pleasurable and realistic may not be harmful…but that is generally not what the $97 billion global porn industry is shilling.  Its producers have one goal: to get men off hard and fast for profit.  That means eroticizing the degradation of women.  In a study of behaviors in popular porn, nearly 90% of 304 random scenes contained physical aggression toward women, who nearly always responded neutrally or with pleasure.  More insidiously, women would sometimes beg their partners to stop, then acquiesce and begin to enjoy the activity, regardless of how painful or debasing…

Harm Reduction (May Updates)

Alas, politicians, being exceptionally stupid creatures, cannot understand that the same principles hold true for all prohibition:

…Hawaii…lawmakers…are proposing to commission a study looking at the merits of decriminalizing all drugs…The study would look to Portugal…[which] decriminalized all drugs in 2001…[leading] to a drastic reduction in drug use, overdoses and crime…The U.S. Surgeon General…announced in January, “It’s time for us to have a conversation in this country that’s based on facts; A conversation that’s based on medicine and science”…

Saving Them From Themselves

Cops continue their quest to destroy people’s lives for the “crime” of being human:

Redding, Connecticut, cops arrested a 14-year-old boy and charged him with possession of child pornography, harassment, and obscenity…This news story makes it impossible to determine the exact nature of his crime, but…I would say that he likely shared an illicit photo of a similarly-aged female—perhaps his girlfriend—with some of his friends…This is simply not a matter for the police…It’s not wrong for 14-year-olds to express sexual interest in each other…the cops investigated this teen for three months….How many police resources were tied up…figuring out why two teens were sexting each other?…

Above the Law  

“Rape”, reporters.  The word you’re looking for is “rape”:

A Wichita [Kansas] woman says a…[cop raped] her multiple times over a two year period…Richard Bachman…used his power as a cop to [rape her from 2010 to 2012]…This is the second suit against the [rapist] cop…[who]  threatened to plant drugs on the woman, and…handcuffed her while [raping] her.  “I don’t want him to ever be in a position where he has the authority over anyone again,” she said…Bachman’s attorney [vomited out the legalese equivalent of, “She asked for it”]…

I’m Sure You Feel Safer Now

The only people who “endangered children” here are the brutal thugs who invaded the child’s house, abducted her mother and have probably destroyed the mother’s ability to provide for her in the future:

A…[deceitful pig] contacted Alysia Mericle…[pretending to be an honest client, then called more thugs] to arrest her…Mericle locked the door with the [lying pig] still inside…[so his pig friends] used a battering ram [to destroy her] front door…[they then searched]…her place [without a proper warrant] and…found Focalin and Vyvanse, which are used to treated ADHD.  [Rooting pigs] also discovered [her business] ledger…Mericle was charged with promoting prostitution, possession of controlled substances, endangering children, drug paraphernalia and soliciting prostitution. She was [caged]…and a judge set her bond at $75,000.  The child was placed in the custody of her grandmother.

Mentoring

Anybody want to try these out and see how well they compare to the tried-and-true makeup sponge method?

…The Flex Company wants to replace outdated pads and tampons with a sleek, disc-shaped blood blocker.  Flex can be worn during sex to prevent making a mess.  The Flex discs are disposable, can be worn for up to 12 hours and even come in a stylish little packet.  They’re doctor-approved to be hypoallergenic, BPA-free and they won’t cause toxic shock syndrome…Flex will have to compete with SoftCups, a well-distributed brand with a similar product, though one that doesn’t focus on portability or sex…

One lady on Twitter reported her partner could feel it, which would obviously not be good.

An Example To the West (#133)

Human rights suffer a predictable, but crushing defeat in South Korea:

The Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the country’s antiprostitution law Thursday, dismissing “voluntary sex trade” unconstitutional.  In a 6-to-3 ruling, the court confirmed the legality of the antisex trade act punishing both those who voluntarily sell and buy sex, citing the need to repress demand for prostitution.  The verdict came three years after the top court began to review the act to rule whether it violates voluntary sex workers’ freedom to choose their job and what to do with their own bodies…Kang Hyun-joon, head of sex workers’ rights group Hanteo National Union, called the decision “unacceptable”…He also vowed to submit a petition to the United Nations‘ Human Rights Council…[which has] suggested [decriminalizing] prostitution as a way to create safer conditions for sex workers and to combat human trafficking as well as sex-related diseases like HIV…

Only one of the dissenting judges understands the moral issues here; the other two argued for the hypocritical and misogynistic Swedish model.

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (#318)

It’s so good to see more widespread recognition of this:

…social scientist Dr Kamala Kempadoo…argued that legitimizing the world’s oldest profession would reduce human trafficking and bring security and respectability to women in the profession…She called on [Caribbean] governments to…recognize that prostitution ought not automatically be construed as violence to women…she…was dismissive of the United States State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports, contending that they were politically motivated and did not recognize Caribbean practices or cultural norms…in responding to the pressure exerted on regional countries that receive bad marks in the TIP reports, Caribbean governments [have] created a regime to counter what [the US represents] as human trafficking.  However, she said that regime had itself become an industry…

Frequently Told Lies

Here’s a nice little collection of debunking resources (including some of mine) from Sex, Lies & Duct Tape.  Many things to bookmark here!

If You Want Something Done Right…

In which Brooke Magnanti considers the implications of Mistress Matisse’s piece from yesterday:

…When does reporting become rubbernecking?  When does wanting to help someone become wanting to control them?  These are topics that need exploring, both in public and in our own hearts and minds. Especially for people who, like me and…Melissa Gira Grant, are former sex workers who are now full-time writers…Some former sex workers elect to not discuss their personal experiences, and I respect that…But if you don’t write about yourself who do you write about?…What do we really take away from the piece apart from the feeling that everyone who got involved in Heather’s cause had bad intentions apart from (miraculously) Gira Grant herself?  With the subject of the story not supportive of its publication, and considering the fact that it gives a significant national platform to people who may have abused Heather — is this where the ally ends, and the hard-headed journo chasing after a byline begins?…As Gira Grant spent the days after the Buzzfeed piece appeared refusing to answer requests to clarify what happened, it did unfortunately start to seem like she could ignore criticism precisely because those making the criticism were sex workers…

Above the Law (#595)

Whoopsie!  Now where did we put that serial rapist?  He was here a few months ago…

Oklahoma prison authorities are working with attorneys for a [mass serial rapist]…to serve a civil rights lawsuit filed by some of his victims…prison officials revealed…that Daniel Holtzclaw…had been moved from a state prison but would not disclose where he was being housed…Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison…and…seven women involved in the criminal case filed a federal lawsuit against Holtzclaw and city officials [because] the city and its police force [gave him free reign to rape at will]…efforts to serve Holtzclaw with the lawsuit have been unsuccessful because he can’t be located within the state prison system…

License to Rape (#601)

Prohibition turns the body of every citizen into a “crime scene”, which can be violated by cops at will:

…According to a federal lawsuit filed by attorney Robert Phillipswhite police officers in Aiken, S.C…[pulled over] Lakeya Hicks and Elijah Pontoon…in Hicks’s car…[using the illegal pretext that] it still had [current] temporary tags…[cop Chris] Medlin [ordered] Pontoon out of the vehicle and [handcuffed] him…Medlin then [told] Pontoon, “Because of your history, I’ve got a dog coming in here.  Gonna walk a dog around the car.”  About 30 seconds later, he [added], “You gonna pay for this one, boy”…four [cops spent]…15 minutes conducting a thorough search of the car…After the search of the car [came] up empty, Medlin [told] the female officer to “search her real good,” referring to Hicks…this was all done in direct view of the three male officers.  That search, too, produced no contraband.  The officers then [anally probed] Pontoon…[repeatedly] grabbing his hemorrhoids…for another three minutes…[finding] no contraband…Medlin [then told] Pontoon…that [this was due to his supposedly recognizing] him from when he worked narcotics…

Bad Girls (#625) 

about 20 sex workers and…allies took to Daley Plaza [in Chicago] to show solidarity with Alisha Walker, a 23-year-old woman sentenced to 15 years in prison after fatally stabbing a client…”We could all be Alisha,” [said] Cathryn Berarovich…”Because our work is criminalized, there is no recourse for when bad things happen to us.  We’re standing up for someone who did what she had to do to survive, then was punished for surviving”…[they also called] out the Sun-Times report on Walker’s sentencing…for its…language…the paper described Walker with terms like “the prostitute” and “hooker”…[but] to Filan…as a “wonderful father”…in spite of the fact that…Filan was the aggressor in their confrontation, threatening her with a kitchen knife because she and the other woman declined to have unprotected sex with him.  Filan had also…been drinking…

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This is an important article by my friend Mistress Matisse, cross-posted from Medium.

Notorious MGGIt’s ironic that journalist Melissa Gira Grant decided to write an article on how media attention can cause chaos in someone’s life, because in the life of a West Virginia woman named Heather, Melissa Gira Grant has become an agent of exactly that sort of chaos.

It began late last summer, when serial killer Neal Falls contacted Heather through her escort ad, and when they met, he tried to murder her. Heather fought back against Neal Falls and killed him. In doing so, she removed a dangerous predator from the world. Charleston police say she almost certainly saved the lives of other women Neal Falls would have gone on to kill.

At some point, a few weeks after the attack (she does not specify when), Grant says she came to Heather’s house and spoke with her. A lot of reporters came to Heather’s door after the attack, and many of them were vague about details such as to exactly what publication they wrote for, or when any piece they wrote about her would be published.

Fast forward to March 30th, almost seven months later, when Grant published a meandering and somewhat confusing Buzzfeed story about Heather. Part of it touches on the sex worker community’s peer outreach to Heather and our ongoing support for her. Grant portrays our efforts as problematic, and singles me out in particular as having questionable motivations for offering Heather my friendship. Bafflingly, she also chooses to spotlight the voices of three other people who, while they only had contact with Heather briefly, caused her further distress in that time: Kathy Brown, Laura Gandee, and a man known as Nostra-Thomas Koenig, aka Charles de Koenig. Brown and Gandee’s behavior towards Heather could be described as “well-intentioned but coercive”. Koenig, on the other hand, was openly controlling and abusive to Heather from the start, and quickly escalated into public harassment and threats aimed at not only Heather, but at the group of sex worker/activists who were supporting her, and all sex workers in general.

The hard truth is: sex workers (and sex worker’s rights activists) expect biased treatment from journalists who have no ties to the sex work community. But people could be forgiven for thinking Melissa Gira Grant was different. In her past, she did sex work herself, and since then she’s written extensively on sex workers’s rights. She uses that position to get insider-information about sex worker-centered stories as they develop. She watches such journalism closely and often critiques it in a territorial manner, calling such stories “her beat”.

Grant focuses exclusively on the weeks immediately following the attack, but she does not present a sharp timeline. Here is how the first stages of sex worker rights activists community’s outreach to Heather occurred.

The attack on Heather occurred July 18th.

July 29th, I talked to Kathy Brown and Laura Gandee, and also to the man calling himself Nostra-Thomas Koenig/Charles de Koenig, who were doing the already-existing fundraiser.

On July 31st, I talked to Heather personally for the first time. I was the third member of the sex work community to have direct contact with her.

Around Aug 2nd, desperate because money raised by Gandee, Brown and Koenig was not being released to her for rent and utilities, Heather asked sex work activist Tara Burns to set up a Crowdrise fundraiser that she could have direct and sole control over. A group of sex worker/activists coalesced to promote Heather’s fundraiser and offer her support: Tara Burns, Meg Munoz, Marisa Anne, Lily Fury, and myself. Kristen D’Angelo had also reached out to Heather in this time and was in frequent contact with our group.

On Aug 5th, an article was published in Cosmopolitan about Heather’s fundraiser, and the sex worker community outreach to her. “Meg Vallee Munoz, a former sex worker and co-founder of Abeni, an organization that offers individuals with experiences in the sex trades practical services and holistic support, is the spokeswoman for the new campaign.”

So for Melissa Gira Grant to say “Seattle dominatrix Mistress Matisse…led her own effort to help Heather” is incorrect. Grant either didn’t bother to research this, or she excluded these activists from the narrative for reasons of her own.

But more trouble arose in August, when Koenig began posting extremely abusive statements about Heather, and about sex workers in general, on the Facebook page he made about Heather. He began harassing and threatening her. He said repeatedly that anyone who contributed to Heather’s fundraiser instead of his would be arrested, and that Heather herself would be too. There was an article documenting this on Tits and Sass. (This article also documents the incident of Brown and Gandee calling the police to force Heather to see them.)

Upon getting Heather’s agreement, and after discussion of the group of SW/activists, I went to West Virginia on August 3rd and spent four days with Heather, to offer her coercion-free support. On this visit, we accomplished the following: we negotiated that Brown, Gandee, and Koenig would turn over all funds collected to her immediately. We opened a bank account (in Heather’s name only) that linked to her fundraiser, so that all funds would be transferred directly to her. We also bought her a new phone. During this period, I observed Koenig constantly harassing and threatening Heather and her mother by phone, and I related this to Maryclaire Akers, assistant prosecuting attorney for Kanawha County, who agreed to contact Koenig and warn him off.

In Grant’s presentation of the narrative, these behaviors are somehow suspicious. I think that says more about how she approaches Heather than how I do. There are many kinds of predators in the world, but they all have one thing in common: predators take, they don’t give. Neal Falls was a predator of the most extreme variety. Nostra-Thomas Koenig was a different type of predator in Heather’s life. But what about Melissa Gira Grant? Grant came into Heather’s life to get something of value to herself and her career. She gave nothing whatsoever to Heather. She certainly did not offer her friendship or support. At no time has she donated to Heather’s fundraiser, or promoted it using her platform. One might say that she could not have done so before she published her story, for fear of seeming to display journalistic bias. But she hasn’t done so since the article was published, either.

The other feature of predators is: they don’t get consent for what they do. There’s a lot of good discussion of what the word consent means, and who can give clear, fully informed, and unimpaired consent. I myself am a strong believer that consent in any interaction is crucial, and that the person who has the most control over the situation is morally bound to make absolutely sure they have fully-informed consent at all times. Consent cannot be assumed by silence, and it can be revoked at any point in the process. Melissa Gira Grant did not have Heather’s consent to publish their interview.

You may think, “But the question of consent doesn’t apply to someone who gives an interview to the media.” I would say perhaps it doesn’t apply to someone who has power equal to (or even greater than) the journalist, and who has put themselves forward to the press. For example, someone running for public office has given blanket consent to being asked questions, and to be quoted in ways that may or may not reflect what they think they said.

Heather SaulHeather is not such a person. She is a private individual, leading a quiet life, who was thrust into the spotlight because she was the victim of a terrible crime. Heather had never dealt with the media before the attack. I think it highly likely that when Grant approached Heather, she mentioned the names of sex workers who’d already befriended her, in order to gain Heather’s trust and make the visit seem more like friendly outreach, not an actual interview. Once Grant left her house that day, Heather was never given any further say over where, when, or how her words would be used.

After such a violent attack, a victim could be in a state of emotional and intellectual shock for weeks, and Heather was. Grant clearly describes Heather’s intense post-traumatic stress symptoms. She also notes that Heather was injured in the accident and has impaired movement, and that she’s in pain. So she knew that Heather was in shock, injured, in pain, and thus probably taking pain medication. No one can give meaningful, informed consent in that situation. To ignore that, and make use of someone’s extreme fragility and media inexperience like that is breathtakingly predatory.

Grant also knew that Heather was battling an addiction issue. Notice: Heather chose not to speak of it to Grant — Grant calls this “talking around it” — so Grant tells us about it in through the words of her abusers, with their shaming and stigmatization of her. This is what troubles me the most about this article: Melissa Gira Grant gives a platform to Heather’s known abusers. Nostra-Thomas Koenig harassed, insulted, and threatened Heather and her mother both online and by phone for months. His voice has absolutely no place in this article. To have him quoted talking about Heather’s life is intensely re-traumatizing to her.

Reporting the opinions of Laura Gandee and Kathy Brown is also highly questionable. They literally called the police to force Heather to see them. That’s a blatant abuse of social power. Why are the opinions of these people being reported as if they had value? And why would Grant then juxtapose non-violent peer outreach with the actions of an abuser and two carcerally-inclined ladies? To call this a false equivalency is to do it far too much justice. This article lends credence and legitimacy to the non-consensual brands of “help” that for Heather, ranged from controlling and coercive all the way to violent.

In that way, Heather’s experience is unfortunately not unique. For a sex worker who wants to exit the industry, especially women as isolated as Heather, there is almost no non-violent peer support available. Many anti-sex workers openly support the idea that arresting sex workers is a good way to get them services and protection — but statistically, police are the worst perpetrators of violence against sex workers, and being arrested makes any situation worse, not better. Grant does not go quite so far, but she does lend authority to the idea that sex workers offering non-coercive peer support to other sex workers is something to be viewed with suspicion, and discouraged. This is not acceptable to the sex work community.

I navigate consent for a living, and judging by the quotes of mine she pulled from another story, perhaps Grant took exception to my comparison of how that’s done within a BDSM scene to how I practice obtaining consent when I do outreach? Regardless of how you frame it, you either have someone’s consent or you don’t, and there are very clear steps that must be taken if you get this wrong. Heather has made her statement. Now Melissa Gira Grant needs to acknowledge that she violated Heather’s consent. She needs to take total responsibility for how her actions re-traumatized Heather. She needs to reach out to Heather, publicly, apologize to her, and do whatever Heather feels is appropriate to atone for her violation. Only then can she ethically continue to report on sex worker issues.

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It is apparent that the attenuated causal chain proposed by [those suing Backpage] is forged entirely out of surmise.  –  Justice Bruce Selya

Rough Trade 

Just imagine this ridiculous defense working for anyone in another profession:

A Melbourne real estate agent…was cleared of raping and imprisoning a sex worker in a vacant house…Henry Jiang…was accused of binding the woman with cable ties and raping her repeatedly…after…his booking with her had ended.  His defence barrister [Con Heliotis] said everything that happened was consensual, and the woman had agreed to extend her time with Mr Jiang after he offered her more money and drugs…[but] didn’t tell her escort agency she was staying later…because she didn’t want to pay them a higher commission.  Mr Jiang admitted taking money from the woman, because he calculated he was owed it for the drugs…Heliotis said the sex worker was concerned she had been robbed and only claimed she had been raped…when asked directly by police…In explaining the woman’s…screams as she [fled] the house, Mr Heliotis said: “She would be extremely distressed if she had lost her money and couldn’t buy drugs”…

Lying Down With Dogs

Another US-style “prostitution crackdown” in a country the US should be proud to resemble:

Tanzanian authorities are holding some 800 people suspected of involvement in prostitution…around 500 suspected sex workers and almost 300 alleged customers have been arrested…Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who was elected in October…[on a] law and order [platform has not]…banned…miniskirts [as reported in January]…though…the president and his government [say they are] are “strong proponents of decent dressing”…

Do be sure to click that link to see what Tanzanian ideas of “law and order” entail.

St. James Infirmary

St. James Infirmary, San Francisco’s health care organization for sex workers, cut the ribbon on its new Tenderloin clinic Monday, March 14.  St. James shares the space, located at 234 Eddy Street, with the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project…In addition to primary medical care, the peer-based organization also offers HIV testing and prevention services, including PrEP; sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment; transgender hormone therapy; mental health care; harm reduction services, including needle exchange and naloxone; case management; support groups; food and clothing; and other assistance to people of all genders involved in the sex trade and their families.  All services are free and confidential…

Above the Law  

Some rapist cops go out and look for victims:

A [New Jersey cop] has pleaded guilty to using his badge [and a loaded gun] to [rape] a prostitute…Dinis Oliveira…pleaded guilty…to…third-degree criminal coercion……[he] is expected to be sentenced to probation and…must give up his job and forfeit his pension…Oliveira had been charged with sexual assault, official misconduct and criminal coercion [but of course not aggravated rape as anyone else would’ve been]…

And some just wait for victims to be brought to them:

A Philadelphia-area [cop] is accused of [raping] three women [locked up] inside the police department…Roosevelt Turner is charged with official oppression, indecent exposure and indecent assault.  The charges are based on separate encounters in 2015…

It’s amazing how reporters are seemingly unable to use a simple word like “rape” when the rapist, even one who rapes a woman at gunpoint, is a fucking pig.

Change of Heart

As far as I’m concerned, any sex worker who outs a prohibitionist politician has not violated professional ethics; it’s just too bad this woman waited until the day Rubio pulled out of the race:

Marco Rubio…just suspended his campaign after Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump won [Florida] in a landslide victory.  Adding to his problems, his personal life is being shopped around by a dominatrix who alleges she had a kinky sex romp with Rubio…

First They Came for the Hookers…

It doesn’t matter what a sex worker does with her life after leaving sex work; to the media, she’ll always be a whore:

An ex-stripper who went on to law school and later was elected a judge was found dead inside her Nevada home [on March 13th]…authorities do not suspect foul play.  Municipal Judge Diana Hampton, who was 50…appeared to be the perfect picture of health…Hampton, who served as a municipal judge for more than a decade, worked with youth in the community to discourage them from crime…

Buried Truth 

Vociferous opposition to anything sexual is nearly always strong evidence of an attraction to it:

…As the prosecuting attorney for Ingham County, Michigan, since 1997, Stuart Dunnings III spend decades helping to put people behind bars for commercial sexual activity.  But at the same time, Dunnings was routinely shelling out money for sexual services…Dunnings…instituted tougher penalties and a program of impounding johns’ vehicles…Now…authorities allege that Dunnings “paid for commercial sex… hundreds of times…between 2010-2015.”  For five years, Dunnings met with one sex worker up to four times per week, in addition to his encounters with others.  For what it’s worth, the arrest affidavit paints Dunning as considerate client who tipped well and acted more like a “sugar daddy” to some of the women, taking them out to dinners and paying their rent, cellphone bills, and other expenses…After one woman confessed to a heroin habit, Dunnings paid for her weekly methadone treatments and attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings with her…the feds went after Dunnings under the guise of stopping “human trafficking”, because that’s what law enforcement calls all prostitution circa 2016.  Most of the charges actually brought against him, however, are misdemeanor charges for “engaging in the services of prostitution” (10 counts) and “willful neglect of duty” (4 counts).  The one felony charge is because Dunnings…allegedly coerced a domestic violence victim…into having sex with him, then paid her for it…about $600 every two weeks as well as…some of her bills…

The Washington Post coverage that first broke the story preferred to soak in dysphemisms and libel the sex workers that to actually cover the facts.

Backwards into the Future (#334)

UNAIDS welcomes the roll-out of South Africa’s National Sex Worker HIV Plan, 2016–2019.  Launched by the Deputy President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his role as the Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), this unique plan will ensure equitable access to health and legal services for sex workers in South Africa…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (All Traffick, All the Time)

Here’s another “rescue” scam designed to recruit unhappy whores into the anti-whore brigade; it resembles a “crisis pregnancy center”, which is not surprising since a number of “anti-trafficking” NGOs also operate (or formerly operated) such schemes.  What makes it interesting to me is that it’s the highest claimed number of clients per day (60) we’ve seen in a while, since the high-lunacy mark of 110 current from 2012-2014.  With the exception of a brief requote of that figure (which actually seems to have originated among prohibitionists in 2001) a few months ago, most of the claims have returned to the pre-June 2012 typical claim of 15/day, which is high but not literally impossible.Lake Pahoe

King of the Hill (Traffic Updates)

These moral crusades labeling one particular thoroughfare a “hotbed of sex trafficking” remind me of the Monty Python episode in which there is an entire lake in a basement flat:

Jillian Gilchrest, chairwoman of the [Connecticut] Trafficking in Persons Council, says the Berlin Turnpike is a hotbed for sex trafficking, often involving minors who are exploited…The Underground, a faith-based organization…[identified]…27 of which offer hourly rates…“For far too long, state laws and culture accepted that the purchase of sex will happen,” said Gilchrest…The Judiciary Committee advanced two bills…to attempt to address the issue…[one] would mandate additional training for law enforcement and employees at hotels and motels to identify victims of sex trafficking.  It would also require businesses that offer lodging to maintain detailed records of [cash] transactions for at least six months…[Gilchrest] said… “It was shocking to me [that people are allowed to conduct business with legal tender]”…The bill initially included a provision that would make it illegal to charge hourly for a room at a hotel or motel…But the Judiciary Committee voted…to strike the measure from the bill in response to testimony…[that] hourly rates are often used by truck drivers and travelers seeking a break from the road…

Sex Work is Work (#517)

Bureaucrats can turn anything into a hassle:

New tax laws in Austria is [sic] causing problems for sex workers as rules now dictate that all customers need to be issued with an itemised bill listing all services rendered…As services provided by sex workers covers a wide spectrum, bosses ask how, for example, a two-hour chat with no sexual contact should be written down…others questioned how a self-employed sex worker would issue receipts…

Guinea Pigs 

Americans are so ovine, all one needs do is say “THE CHILDREN!” and everyone cheers while big tech companies give cops horrifying new surveillance tools:

Palantir Technologies…isn’t unique in its efforts to turn its software toward social good—plenty of tech companies do that.  But unlike most, Palantir says it treats nonprofits like any other customer..in 2012, Polaris’ chief executive, Bradley Myles, heard Palantir’s CEO, Alex Karp, speak at a White House event…Myles knew it was something his [corporation]—which is dedicated to eradicating [sex work]—needed but couldn’t afford…Just a few weeks later, Palantir engineers were integrating data from thousands of [sex worker arrest] records, public tips and financial networks…The…company [also] integrates tips, case reports, public records, videos, social media feeds and other data sources and helps draw connections…To help…law enforcement [spy on adult sex workers and clients in the name of fighting] the abduction and sexual exploitation of children…

Crying for Nanny (#539)

The outcome was a foregone conclusion; the lawyers who orchestrated this shitshow were only appealing to cover their arses:

Backpage.com…has been sued a bunch of times, almost always by people [deliberately] misunderstanding Section 230 of the CDA which, as we’ve discussed hundreds of times, says that sites are not liable for the actions of their users…the appeal on [a] Massachusetts case has brought another good Section 230 win, saying that Backpage.com is not liable…The crux of the argument…is that…the way Backpage is set up…makes it different from a standard “publishing” platform.  This is a pretty common attack on Section 230, claiming that it does more than a publisher and thus isn’t protected.  Courts have almost universally rejected that, unless those additional actions themselves could be seen to break the law…the court rejects this argument, saying that everything Backpage.com does is a traditional publisher activity…

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[Human trafficking laws] are criminalising decency.  –  Lisbeth Zornig

A False Dichotomy 

The monolith is crumbling; this was in International Business Times:

According to…opponents of sex work decriminalisation, there are basically two types of women involved in selling sex: a small but vocal minority of…”sex workers” who entered the industry out of choice, and a much larger number of “prostituted women” who were coerced or forced by financial necessity.  Anyone who offers a public opinion on the sex industry based on their own personal experience is assumed to belong to the former category.  Even having an awareness of the policy debate is seen as evidence a sex worker is middle-class, educated and therefore unrepresentative of most women in the industry.  As such, their opinions can be ignored.  It’s argued that the silent, suffering majority don’t have the resources, capacity or inclination to argue about legislation, so other people must speak on their behalf.  This is a rather convenient solution to the dilemma faced by decriminalisation opponents: the majority of sex workers who do speak out strongly disagree with them…this supposed dichotomy between unrepresentative, autonomous sex workers and silent prostitution victims is a rhetorical sleight of hand.  In reality, freedom of choice is rarely an all or nothing sort of thing…Campaigning organisations…smeared by Nordic model advocates as representing a “pimp lobby” – are [largely] made up of women who…sell sex because it’s the least bad course of action available to them…

Rooted in Racism

Sometimes “trafficking” just means “bringing in brown people“:

A high-profile Danish campaigner for children’s rights was prosecuted…under people trafficking laws, shining a spotlight once more on the country’s crackdown on asylum, as Scandinavian countries compete to make themselves unattractive destinations for refugees.  Lisbeth Zornig, the country’s former children’s ombudsman and a well-known author, was fined DKr22,500 (£2,328) – the maximum demanded by the prosecutor…for allowing a family of Syrians to hitch a ride with her to Copenhagen.  Her husband was fined the same amount for taking the family into his home for coffee and biscuits, and then driving them to the railway station, where he bought them tickets to Sweden.  “This was a political trial, using me and my husband to send a strong message: don’t try to help refugees,” Zornig said…

Droit du Seigneur Jermaine Dunbar

Do you think any non-cop would merely have lost his job, rather than being criminally charged?

A [Connecticut cop] was fired after an investigation found he was linked to a sex trafficking operation…Jermaine Dunbar…broke several department policies including improper associations, truthfulness, conduct unbecoming to an officer, neglect of duty and insubordination…two suspects [were] arrested for various charges including narcotics, illegal weapons possession, promoting prostitution and human trafficking…one of the suspects is Dunbar’s family member and another is a friend…Dunbar was at the…home where two 16-year-old girls were given drugs and having sex with men.  One girl said she had sex with Dunbar but…he…was not criminally charged…

Saving Them From Themselves

The United States, a shining example of liberty to the world:

Police [in Thailand] are gathering evidence to bring criminal charges against those who posted a video clip of two students having sex on a teacher’s desk in a school classroom…the patents have accused their children’s friends of posting the video…anyone caught posting obscene material on the internet can be imprisoned for up to five years…

See No Evil

Are the Japanese the only people left on Earth who can tell fantasy from reality?

On February 16 this year, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women held a deliberation on the topic of women’s rights in Japan….[including] a proposal that sales of video games and manga depicting sexual violence be banned….Would [this] prohibition…help bring about more respect for women’s rights in Japan?  Our answer…is a resounding “No”…Fictional sexual violence in manga and video games does not actually violate people’s human rights, so prohibiting these media in order to preserve women’s rights would be meaningless…

The Widening Gyre

Can you hear the sound of fapping while you read this guy’s words?

Keith Bickford…of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office…[fantasized aloud] about the gruesome realities of sex slavery in our own backyards…“Some of the girls…were having sex with someone…20 to 25 times a day…that could be a lot of horrible things happening to these children…“In [Bickford’s] mind, it’s ‘You’re mine for an hour or half-hour, so I can do whatever I want to,’ ” he explained of [his own] brutal mentality…Pimps target areas where they know children hang out most.  This can be the shopping mall, the park and even where we tend to think they are most safe – at school…“I think the youngest, I believe who was in Georgia, was about 8 or 9,” he [fantasized]…

I’ll bet he doesn’t even wait until he gets home after one of his “talks” to wank; probably does it in the men’s room right there.

An Example To the West (#133)

South Korea’s court battle over US-encouraged sex work criminalization begins:

…The anti-sex trade laws have caused many negative, allegedly unintended consequences.  According to a 2012 UN report, “police crackdowns from 2004-2009 resulted in [the] arrest of approximately 28,000 sex workers, 150,000 clients, and 27,000 sex business owners”, and 65,621 arrests were reported for 2009 alone…Police raids are often carried out very violently, and in November 2014, a 24-year old single mother died after jumping out of a motel room to escape arrest by an undercover police officer posing as client.  In stark contrast to their usual reporting, most Korean media remained distinctively silent about the case.  The continued repression has forced an increasing number of sex workers to work underground, resulting in lower incomes, poorer working conditions, and an increase in violence perpetrated against them.  Sex workers worry more about police raids than about screening their clients…

Peep
Profit from Panic (#406) 

I’ve often pointed out how the “sex trafficking” narrative is getting increasingly out of control.  This “artist” uses sewing machines to “evoke the image of countless hours of soul crushing labor“, blissfully ignorant of the fact that such labor is the exact type “rescued” sex workers are usually forced into:

Small circular viewing holes expose the faces of hundreds of children, each symbolizing a stolen childhood.  The art piece, “Peep,” sheds light on the shadowy human trafficking industry in peep show style…Created by Bay Area artist Jonathan Fung, “Peep” draws attention to the often overlooked issue…[through] a metaphor for the commodification of human beings…Tens of millions of people are kidnapped and forced into labor and sex slavery to meet the needs of the…human trafficking industry…thriving in the Bay Area, which FBI named one of the top 13 destinations for child sex trafficking…more and more people are forced into ruthless modern day slavery every day.  Human trafficking remains a growing trend and shows no signs of stopping…

“No signs of stopping!”  My goodness!  Soon there won’t be enough free people to buy all these “modern-day slaves”!

The Widening Gyre (#444) 

Higher education in the US is dead:

…a group of OSU-Tulsa students is trying to tackle [“sex trafficking”]…and a new course helps train them to identify and save victims…Their professor, Dr. Denni Blum…teamed up with [cops & rescue industry profiteers]…to make this class possible…Oklahoma has seen 168 reported cases of human sex trafficking over the last three years – 50 of them were children.  Experts say traffickers target girls between 12 and 14, and once pulled into the sex trade their life expectancy is only seven years…

I can see I’ll have to address this in my OSU Tulsa video lecture this year.

All Wet

Given the recurrence of the low “ever paid” fraction here (and the impossible equivalence of “ever been paid”), I don’t think we can trust the other findings very much, either:

In a new nationwide poll from YouGov, six percent of respondents said they have been paid for sex in the past, and seven percent have paid someone else for sex.  Men and women were equally likely to have accepted payment for sex, but just one percent of the women said they had paid for it themselves, while 12 percent of the men said as much…

Rotting Fruit

Ask yourself: Is this the language that would’ve been used for this same situation 20 years ago?

…venture capitalist Michael Goguen admitted in court papers…that, yes, he paid the first $10 million of a $40 million contract to the woman he had a sexual relationship with for 13 years…but, no, she was never his “sexual slave” and he only agreed to sign the unusual contract because he worried about a “shakedown” featuring “false and libelous claims” of abuse.  But then Goguen failed to pay up.  Some $30 million remains on the contract today.  Both sides agree on that, at least.  And so now…Amber Laurel Baptiste, has gone to court…Baptiste’s breach of contract lawsuit…accused Goguen of “sexually, physically and emotionally” abusing her.  She alleged that she endured the treatment because Goguen promised to free her from the human traffickers holding her in perpetual debt…Goguen admitted that they had an unusual sex life, but he claims it was entirely consensual…

What Were You All Waiting For? 

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

On Friday, the Cranston [Rhode Island] Police Department issued a news release announcing the results of a sting operation that, in its own words, was aimed at “targeting human traffickers, specifically those victimizing juveniles”…no fewer that eight law enforcement agencies were involved in this operation…[which] led to only one arrest for trafficking and one arrest for pandering.  Instead, the biggest result of the operation appears to have been the arrest of fourteen “johns”…and fourteen other people for prostitution…By humiliating and charging johns for seeking consensual sex and by giving prostitutes arrest records in the name of “helping” them, these operations misleadingly purport to crack down on human trafficking, when their major effect is just to make the lives of prostitutes more difficult and dangerous, driving sex work even deeper into the shadows…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do (#621)

I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical about anything the Seattle PD says about victimized sex workers:

One day after a Seattle police officer was…pulled from duty for his conduct at a local strip club, King County prosecutors filed pimping charges against the club’s manager and owner.  Prosecutors [claim] Dancing Bare owner Jerry A. Woodhead and manager Michael “Mickey” Woodhead were caught in a sting operation…Police…used at least two informants.  [A] detective said the investigation uncovered prostitution and drug use at the club, and showed that dancers were prostituting themselves to pay “house dues” to the Woodheads…The detective said the Woodheads were considering increasing the amount of money “collected for the prostitution” so they could earn more themselves…

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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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