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The Week In Links: April 8

Disturbing! And not at all related to news.

Surprisingly short slideshow of sex working women who’ve run for (international) political office.

Moby Chicks was an April Fool’s joke, but I think it’s a genius idea. What does maritime law say about topless dancing?

Horrible article on Zimbabwean farmers who spend their profits on sex workers.

A play about a “high class” prostitute (named Charlotte!) is running right now in LA.

Cool resource, bro. No, seriously—cool resource. This website compiles studies on sex worker populations across the world.

An exotic dancer puts all her money toward her no-kill animal shelter.

The World’s Worst Internship: Author Seeks Fucking Muse

CLheaderAn author has posted an ad on Craigslist seeking a young woman to have sex with him and keep a diary about it for a month, after which he’ll write a book about the experience and self-publish it on Amazon. Literary experimentation for our times? Product of reading too much Henry Miller? Really complicated scam to get a young fuckbuddy for a month? Sugardaddy who’s low on sugar? What the FUCK is really going on here and who is the kind of person who gets on board with this?

The book will detail every aspect of a mutually-agreed to romantic affair between myself and a young FEMALE lover (perhaps you), experienced over 30 days, as in the novel. The difference between the first book and this one will be verite: everything in this new volume will be the truth as both participants see it. If you agree to participate in this project, you will keep a diary of all of your thoughts, impressions and memories of the thirty day affair that we will share. I will then combine your written thoughts with my own to present the reader with two versions of the same erotic story. One love affair, as seen separately by the man and woman.

In case it gets taken down, here’s the screenshot below. We encourage someone to write in and apply to get the free copy of his first book!
[via Romenesko]

My Body May Be a Temple But My Incall is Secular

Image via Travelpod

The heat is rising in Arizona, and it’s got nothing to do with its scorching desert or immigration crackdowns.  On Wednesday, September 7, an establishment known as the Phoenix Goddess Temple was raided with SWAT force as the culmination of a six-month investigation into the suspected operation of an illegal brothel. Approximately 20 practitioners of the sacred sexual temple arts (women and men) were arrested and jailed. Most of them have posted bail and been released, but two still remain behind bars, including temple founder and “Mother Priestess,” Tracy Elise. Her bail is set at $1 million, the same amount assigned to those suspected of armed robbery or first degree murder.

Clearly, Arizona authorities take the crime of selling sex very seriously. What makes this bust different from most other prostitution busts, however, is that the whorehouse in question is a self-proclaimed temple and indeed identifies itself as a church. According to its website (which now lies largely dormant), the church honors the feminine face of God (Goddess) by acting as a sanctuary for the integration of the spiritual and the sexual.  Temple practitioners claim to use and teach deep-rooted sacred sexual practices as a conduit to spiritual and personal growth.

Why Sex Workers Shouldn’t Vote Green

I don't think she stands for what you think she stands for.
I don’t think she stands for what you think she stands for.

With contributions by Cathryn Berarovich

In this election, there is no viable option for those of us looking to build a better world. People have exclaimed, “What about Bernie?! What about Jill Stein?” And maybe a little while ago, before looking into their respective platforms, I would have said, “Okay, yeah, sure—but organize.” But fortunately, since then I’ve been schooled by other pros on the position the US Green Party takes on our labor, and I’ve withdrawn my initial, albeit less-than-enthusiastic support.

The Green Party is traditionally seen as the go-to camp for independent voters with progressive ideals. Ultimately, however, it falls in line with the existing two party system of pro-carceral, punitive, reductionist policies on sex work. It is not a radical alternative; it is not a progressive bastion of thoughtful consideration for marginalized communities. If you cannot stand with folks in criminalized work, demand they be able to organize openly, and advocate for their full decriminalization, then you are on the wrong side of history.

When your platform position on sex work falls under the heading of ‘Violence and Oppression,’ you are no different from the dominant two capitalist parties.

“We urge that the term ‘sex work’ not be used in relation to prostitution,” the GP USA platform proclaims. Yet, this is the term we as workers demand to be called. We are laborers in the trade of sex.

“With the increasing conflation of trafficking (the violent and illegal trafficking in women and girls for forced sex) with prostitution,” the GP platform continues, “it is impossible to know which is which, and what violence the term ‘sex work’ is masking.”

It absolutely is possible to know which is which, but that might require talking to actual sex workers, something the GP USA seems uninterested in doing. The Green Party stance on sex work demonstrates that sex workers are excluded from party policy dialogue. It also takes agency away from both consenting voluntary workers and trafficking survivors. It implies we cannot speak for ourselves, and we can. The platform ignores the damage the conflation of voluntary sex work with the term ‘human trafficking’ does to both consenting workers and trafficking survivors. Arrest, jail time, prison sentences, open records in Human Trafficking court—this is violence, and yet it’s what the GP USA calls safety.

The GP USA should know that even if the police manage to find actual victims of trafficking, rather than consenting adults engaged in sex work, in the course of their sting operations, their so-called rescue methods are carcerally violent. Trafficking survivors are thrown in cages just like voluntary workers, exacerbating their trauma, rather than being given the mental health care and exit resources they need. The purported threat of trafficking is used as a justification for the arrest and imprisonment of both trafficking survivors and consenting workers.

Perhaps the most damning statement in the platform document is the one that follows: “No source in existence knows which forms of prostitution comprise forced sex and which comprise free will or choice prostitution.”

No source in existence?! How about this blog? Or SWOP-USA, Red Umbrella Project, Paulo Longo Research Initiative, or Support Ho(s)e, to name a few? There are numerous sex worker led initiatives, organizations, and publications which can be easily found and sourced. All the time, more and more workers are coming out and actively organizing for decriminalization, or campaigning around others who have been targeted by state violence. Google that shit.

SESTA’s Growing Threat To The Sex Worker Internet

Senator Richard Blumenthal testifying in favor of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, with that sincere, constipated look one gets when testifying in favor of anti-trafficking legislation. (Via Youtube)

You can always count on a corporation to look out for its own interests. An existential threat to their business model will even trump the good PR that comes from beating on everyone’s favorite marginalized punching bags, sex workers). So, until recently, major tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Google opposed SESTA,the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. Their business models depend on user-generated content, and SESTA would overhaul Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which previously protected internet platforms against liability for the actions of users.

But following a compromise earlier this month between Silicon Valley and the bill’s Congressional sponsors, SESTA has passed the House and is headed to the Senate. Though they tried to keep their involvement quiet, cloaking their advocacy in the lobbying group the Internet Association, tech companies pushed hard for changes to the bill. An amended version of the bill released on November 3 by Senator John Thune addressed many of their concerns. Initially, SESTA took aim at any facilitation of user sex trafficking. But an amendment to the bill now specifies only “knowing conduct” as “participation in a venture,” meaning in general terms that sex worker advertising sites are now the only ones on the hook while Facebook and company remain immune from sex trafficking liability. Another key revision that spurred a change in the Internet Association’s position involved the development of bots policing content. In earlier versions of SESTA, developing such bots would constitute knowledge of the platform being used to facilitate sex trafficking. Similarly, Backpage’s keyword filters for policing content were used in its Senate hearing as evidence that it had knowledge of and was facilitating sex trafficking. Its own reporting efforts were used against it.

The bill also now specifies that state law enforcement officials using SESTA to prosecute individuals or entities would have to use federal law as a basis for their actions. That’s very handy for the tech companies, as in some states, “sex trafficking” can mean just about anything. While the federal definition of sex trafficking involves force, fraud, or coercion (or the involvement of minors, though this leads to situations in which young street youth get arrested for trafficking for helping their friends in the business as soon as they turn 18), a number of states, such as Alaska, have much broader definitions. This can include cases such as two escorts simply working together. A 2012 records request found that two such escorts were arrested and charged with sex trafficking as well as with prostitution—both alleged victims were arrested and charged with sex trafficking each other.

The bill remains draconian. There are enormous liabilities attached to user content for internet companies, which is a huge incentive to police that content heavily. Platforms that host advertising for sex workers are definitely still in the crosshairs. In fact, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) points out, SESTA will even target companies retroactively, a measure that was no doubt included as a way to go after Backpage. No actual intention to assist in any sex trafficking is necessary in the newest version of the bill either, so long as it is “facilitated” in some way, a term which courts have interpreted broadly.