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In 2011, ahead of the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas Attorney General (and current governor) Greg Abbott announced that “The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly. It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” Thus were launched a thousand stories about sex workers and sex traffickers flocking to Super Bowl host cities to serve Super Bowl attendees, who were apparently possessed of a massive appetite for their services.

Before the Super Bowl was referred to as a nexus of trafficking, it was hyped as a destination for sex workers who traveled of their own accord to profit from the free-spending, mostly male fans. There are still plenty of stories about strippers flocking to town to dance during game week, and reports on spikes in escort advertising.

But when Abbott used the word “trafficking,” the trend shifted to reporting on the even more dramatic imagery of sex slaves being forced to work in Super Bowl cities. It was a deliberate shift in language and while for a time sex worker activists were expected to note that of course they opposed sex slavery, which was totally different from their consensual involvement in sex work, it has become clear that most legislation targeted at sex trafficking is merely anti-prostitution legislation that creates harsher legal penalties for things that are already illegal (slavery and sexual assault are already crimes, as is prostitution in almost all of the United States).

“Trafficking” is a powerful word, and its use by activists was no accident. The Arizona Republic published a story in January about its use, quoting noted arrest-based diversion program Project ROSE founder Dr. Dominique Roe-Sepowitz as saying “It just has been a grammar change” from “prostitution.” Sepowitz goes on to say that “I believe every adult (prostitute), I believe almost every single one of them was trafficked.” [READ MORE]

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image via Flickr user Kate Gardiner

image via Flickr user Kate Gardiner

In chronological order, here are the ten biggest international sex work stories. See yesterday’s post for the U.S. stories.

1. Amnesty International Considers Supporting Decriminalization
In January, a leaked Amnesty International internal document about the human rights benefits of decriminalizing sex work set off protests from anti-sex worker activists and support from sex workers and public health workers. Amnesty swiftly moved to say “gotta hear both sides,” and are not expected to issue another public position until next summer.

2. New Zealand Brothel Worker Wins Sexual Harassment Case
New Zealand’s Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded damages in March to a woman who had filed a sexual harassment case against a Wellington brothel owner.

3. Indian Sex Workers Boycott Elections
After years of being ignored by the political elite, Kolkata sex workers boycotted the General Elections en masse. They demanded status as employees so that they too may receive government benefits and the removal of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act.

4. Somaly Mam’s Fraud Covers Newsweek
Somaly Mam, the anti-trafficking darling for the daytime television set, is a fraud who eventually resigned from her own organization.

5. Brothel District Cleanups Spark Protests
Rio’s public prosecutors launched extensive brothel raids to “clean up” the city for the World Cup in June. Earlier this year, though, when Chinese police cracked down hard on the southern city of Dongguan’s sex industry, publicly parading suspects barefoot and handcuffed through the streets, they received international ridicule and criticism for the move. And when the Indonesian government tried to close down the Dolly sex district in Surabaya, East Java, hundreds of sex workers rose up in protest and sex work continued to thrive online and underground in Surabaya.
[READ MORE]

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(Photo via Flickr user doug88888)

(Photo via Flickr user doug88888)

In chronological order, here’s what we deemed the most noteworthy sex work stories of 2014 in the United States. Come back tomorrow for the biggest international stories.

1. Belle Knox
In February, Duke’s student newspaper published an interview with a porn performer who was was outed to her classmates at Duke by fellow student Thomas Bagley. She was met with death threats and a three ring media circus once her performing name, Belle Knox, became public. In response, she reinvented herself as an advocate for sex workers’ rights, writing opinion pieces in various venues and speaking at the Toledo International Human Trafficking conference this year about whore stigma and sex worker exclusionary feminists. She also inspired an episode of Law & Order: SVU.

2. The Urban Institute Study
The government-funded Urban Institute study of sex work published in March (hey, look, it calls for more funding for law enforcement!), The Hustle, painted a sensational picture of the commercial sex economy where pimps can make $33,000 a week manipulating sex workers into work and inspired a hundred stories about the relative strength of the sex industry economy in U.S. cities. One problem: the study was extremely narrow, relying on a sample of only 36 sex workers, most of whom had already been incarcerated or were in a diversion program.

3. Monica Jones
In April, a Phoenix court found Monica Jones guilty of manifesting prostitution. Jones had been arrested during a sweep conducted by Project ROSE, a prostitution diversion program jointly administered by the Phoenix PD and Dominique Roe-Sepowicz of the Arizona State School of Social Work. Jones, herself a student of social work at ASU and an activist, attracted international attention when she spoke out about her arrest and experience with the sweep. Sex work activists, transgender community activists, and the ACLU all called for attention to the problems with ROSE, the crime of “walking while trans,” and the language of Arizona’s manifestation of prostitution statute. She is appealing her conviction and was recently deported from Australia for allegedly violating the work conditions of her visa while traveling for her studies. In November, Jones told the Best Practices Policy Project blog that Project ROSE will be discontinued.

4. No Condoms As Evidence
New York sex workers’ rights organization Red Umbrella Project was one of the primary supporters of the campaign to stop the NYPD from using condoms as evidence, which achieved a measure of success in May when they announced they would no longer use them as evidence in prostitution cases. They still may be used as evidence in trafficking cases, however.

5. MyRedbook.com
MyRedbook.com and SFRedbook.com, two Bay Area sex work advertising and discussion forums and invaluable tools to thousands of sex workers, were seized by the FBI in June. The site operators have plead guilty to charges of using the mail and the internet to facilitate prostitution.

[READ MORE]

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Faithfully bringing you media by and for sex workers since 2011. (Photo by Flickr user carterse, "Winston Retrieves The News")

Faithfully bringing you media by and for sex workers since 2011. (Photo by Flickr user carterse, “Winston Retrieves The News”)

1. “The Erasure of Maya Angelou’s Sex Work History,” by Peechington Marie, 5/29

2. “The Fifth Annual Vagina Beauty Pageant: A Judge’s Notes,” by Elle, 8/8

3. “Discussing Other People’s Lives: Social Work and Student Sex Workers,” by Annie O’Neill and Adrienne Graf, 4/11

4. “I Don’t Care About Clients,” by Olive Seraphim, 2/19

5. “Stop AB1576: Compulsory Condom Use Won’t Make Porn Performers Safer,” by Cyd Nova, 5/20

[READ MORE]

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image via Library of Congress

From Belle Knox to working the World Cup, the headline writers of the world’s publications had cause to write many headlines about sex work. In chronological order, we bring you the worst ten of the bunch, each gross, reductive, and hateful in its own special way.

I Begged For Change To Stay Out Of The Sex Industry,” XOJane, Feb. 6 2014

XOJane’s “It Happened To Me” feature is generally offensive (“It Happened To Me: I Had First World Problems”) but this edition might take the cake. A lot of bad things happened to this woman while she was impoverished, but her equivocation over whether or not to become a high end escort after watching Secret Diary Of A Call Girl wasn’t one of them.

Welcome Home, Daddy, I’m A Porn Star!” The Daily Mail, Mar. 10 2014

We know the Daily Fail isn’t exactly known for its rigorous journalism, and they are in the business of aggregation, so it’s not surprising that they had the single worst headline about Belle Knox.

Sex Workers Are Excited For The World Cup Because They Think It Will Make Them Rich,” The Atlantic, Apr. 15 2014

Sex workers are realists, and painting Brazilian workers as naive dreamers with Pretty Woman fantasies featuring dollar wielding American white knight clients does them a grave disservice.

Why Do So Many Leftists Want Sex Work to Be the New Normal?” The Nation, Apr. 21 2014

It’s news to us that SO MANY leftists want that, but it would seem that wanting rights for all workers should be a part of any decent politics. Katha Pollitt really goes in on the “the sex workers we hear from are all too privileged to be credible!” theme here, not realizing that her example of a New Inquiry-contributing, grad-school attending sex worker has a story that doesn’t back up her thesis.

Tech-Savvy Prostitutes Trade Pimps for Web Pages,” NBCNews.com, Jul. 11 2014

It’s a story straight out of 2007: Sex workers use the internet to advertise! [READ MORE]

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