For her fourth installment of Big Mother Is Watching Youa guide to prominent anti-sex worker activists and officials, Robin D. takes a look at the major advocates of the 2009 re-criminalization of indoor sex work in Rhode Island, where it had previously been protected by a legislative loophole. She also outlines heavyweight anti-trafficking organization Polaris Project’s major past and current staff members. 

Katherine Chon, Polaris Project President and Co-founder

Katherine Chon. (Photo via Katherine Chon's Linkedin account)

Katherine Chon. (Photo via Katherine Chon’s Linkedin account)

Katherine Chon co-founded Polaris Project with fellow Brown University graduate Derek Ellerman immediately upon their graduation from the Ivy League school in 2002. While sex worker rights organizations operate on shoestring budgets, Polaris operates on about $4 million dollars a year. Chon had read an article about sex trafficking in Korean spas in her home state of Rhode Island and decided that Something Needed to be Done. So, she filed a pro-criminalization memo with the Rhode Island state legislature and launched her NGO. You might remember that at the time, indoor prostitution was not illegal in Rhode Island, and that it was re-criminalized in 2009: “Rhode Island’s lax approach towards the sex industry in recent years has made the overall situation worse,” Chon wrote then, in a blog post entitled “One of the Terrible Two.” The other  of the “terrible two” she is referring to is Nevada.

Anti-trafficking advocates often claim that they don’t support criminalizing sex workers, just the people around sex workers. But when the rubber meets the road, their actions put the lie to these claims. Rhode Island is a clear example. Chon and her Polaris Project were up in arms about indoor prostitution being legal in Rhode Island, claiming it tied law enforcement’s hands too much. If we can’t arrest and deport sex workers and trafficking victims, they argued, how will we compel victims to testify against their abusers? Sex workers’ lives are destroyed through open criminal records and deportation. So, some of us believe law enforcement’s hands should be tied a little more when it comes to their treatment of sex workers and trafficking victims. Professor Ann Jordan or American University wrote, in a memo to the Rhode Island Senate,

Through extensive experience with trafficking cases, [Director of the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Section of the Civil Rights Division, Robert] Moossy has learned that women who are trafficked into prostitution are typically afraid of law enforcement because they fear being prosecuted for prostitution and deported and because they often are highly traumatized. Thus, mass arrests of women for prostitution are extremely unlikely to lead to the identification of trafficked women. Instead, Moossy advises patience, intensive and extensive covert investigations and working with non-governmental organizations that are likely to come across trafficking victims. Law enforcement must assure these organizations that they are only interested in going after traffickers, not their victims, in order ultimately to have the successful prosecution of traffickers. The bill [to recriminalize indoor prostitution in Rhode Island] clearly attempts to use threat of prosecution for prostitution as a blunt instrument to convince women to testify against traffickers. It is extremely disturbing to learn that there is some support for the proposed law because it would allow the police to detain women (apparently for their ‘own good’) so that they can be interviewed as possible trafficking victims.

[…]

Women in prostitution need nonjudgmental support and assistance, not arrest, detention and prosecution.

There are many reasons the Rhode Island recriminalization bill could never have and did not help victims of trafficking, as the Sex Workers Project elaborates on in its memos and releases relating to the legislation. But why did Chon and her allies consider everyone else in the sex trade expendable in the first place?

Chon also participates in whipping up false sporting event-related anti-trafficking hysteria.

[READ MORE]

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achelseacatsandstacks

Bear knows I had to hustle hard to scrape together my rent money, and he protects it accordingly. —Chelsea Lane

Sex workers, submit pictures of your furballs and funds here.

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Pinocchio, man! (Courtesy of Sylke Ibach)

Glenn Kessler is on a roll debunking the hysterical claims of prohibitionists, and this week he slams the “average age of entry into prostitution is 13″ stat with four Pinocchios.

In the latest example of anti-trafficking laws destroying futures rather than saving lives, we have two Oregon teens, one of whom is expected to be sentenced to four years in federal prison, after which she can’t access FAFSA or expect most jobs to hire her.

So, if disabled men also pay for sexual services, what happens to them when paying for it becomes a crime?  Good question!

Last week’s episode of Carte Blanche, a South African reality show, introduced Gita November, site co-ordinator for South African sex work organization SWEAT, without any condemnation and in fact called her “inspirational.”

The production team behind 8 Minutes says they weren’t expecting the independent sex workers they got, which is still no excuse for how they treated them—and, as the article notes, they weren’t equipped to help trafficking victims either, so it’s just good all around that the show got cancelled.

Last week was the annual Red Umbrella March, which carries new urgency in Vancouver as Canadian workers face End Demand repercussions, although Vancouver police have stated they will not be enforcing the new law.

Faisal Riza, a queer sex worker in Indonesia, is doing harm reduction outreach and education among Indonesian sex workers. Although the climate in Jakarta is less oppressive and homophobic than in the past, it’s an ongoing struggle.

Sex workers from all over Europe, many representing hundreds of thousands of workers in unions, gathered in Lyon to lobby for decriminalization and against the End Demand model, which threatens their lives as well as their livelihoods. [READ MORE]

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atruedetectivefour

True Detective‘s title sequence.

One of my partners cautioned me that I might take issue with the treatment of sex workers in season one of True Detective. Yet somehow, I completely forgot their warning, and found myself marathoning it over a few days several months ago. The first season is a continual whorephobic, misogynistic trainwreck, so it’s difficult for me to pinpoint why I liked it so much—aside from the frequent views of Matthew McConaughey’s stunning physique, of course.

To say that True Detective is masterfully produced is an understatement. A Southern noir set in Louisiana, it’s the story of a murder investigation spanning 17 years between 1995 and 2012. With lush cinematography, careful direction, and well-rounded, complex characters, it is a tight and compelling show. The acting is superb, especially Matthew McConaughey’s performance as dysfunctional, misanthropic detective Rust Cohle.

Where True Detective falls flat is in its writing and storyline, which both rely heavily on classic serial killer, police procedural, and anti-hero tropes. The fact that sex workers are going to be used as props for the story, rather than the well-rounded, complex characters they deserve to be, is apparent from the opening credits. We see a bare female ass and a pair of spiky high heel shoes, a stripper shimmying in slow-motion in a patriotic one-piece, a heavily made-up eye fading into a line of trucks at a truck stop. The mournful country ballad playing over these images is mesmerizing, but adds an unmistakable foreboding tone of violence over these sexualized representations of femininity.

The show’s creator, Nic Pizzolatto, stated that he did not want True Detective to be “just another serial killer show.” Here’s what I want to know: if your intent is for your serial killer show to not be just another serial killer show, why make it about the serial killing of sex workers, an overused trope if there ever was one? The victim of the ritualistic, apparently occult murder that Cohle and his partner Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) are investigating in 1995 is named Dora Lange (Amanda Rose Batz). We don’t learn her name until about mid-way through the first episode, but we learn that Cohle suspects she is a sex worker—or a “prost,” as he calls them—when he tells Hart that the victim has herpes sores around her mouth and bad teeth. Unfortunately, I suspect that this is probably an accurate portrayal of how detectives attempt to identify a murdered sex worker, both in 1995 and 20 years later in 2015.

It was a huge disappointment, though not a shock, to discover that Cohle’s suspicions about Lange are spot on. He rubs salt in the wound when he states he’s going to investigate a local “prost farm” to see if he can discover her identity. The “prost farm” ends up being a truck stop where he interviews two sex workers who are not nearly as leery of him as they should be. He behaves in a threatening manner toward them from the very start, but instead of running for the hills, they both give him the information he’s looking for, as one obviously does any time a police officer comes sniffing around without a warrant. In a scene that is meant to develop Cohle as a character with drug dependency issues, sex workers are further stereotyped when he asks one of them if she can get him some quaaludes. Remember, this is 1995—quaaludes weren’t even a thing at that point, having been off the market since 1984. Any self-respecting drug dealing sex worker would have laughed in his face. But she states instead that they “could be hard to get,” then ultimately produces them. The scene reaffirms the idea of sex workers as all purpose drug dispensing machines for middle class white men on benders.

[READ MORE]

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headlesstopless

Vincent Musetto, writer of the greatest headline in New York Post history—HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR—died on Tuesday.

The fact that 225 Haitian women being forced to resort to transactional sex with UN peacekeepers to obtain food, medicine, and other needed items comes as a scandalous surprise makes me worry about the naivete of the public.

This week in strip club op-eds: Nick Kristof gave a budding young johnalist room in the New York Times to practice the art of centering a story about harm reduction workers on his perspective as a first-time visitor to Baltimore’s Block. Women can be johnalists, too, as yet another tourist report shows. This column, though, on a Florida strip club that’s training its staff in how to use a defibrillator, is some actual news you can use.

Multiple stupid articles about camming this week, with inflated claims about the power wielded and the income earned by cam models.  The first is essentially an extended ad for Cam Girlz, a documentary that looks like an infomercial for camming rather than any attempt at cinema verite.

The Stranger tries next, declaring: “Camming is not like any other form of sex work.”  No, of course not: no long shifts with sometimes huge, sometimes minimal payoff; no performance of emotional authenticity; no live interactions. Camming is totally different.  Right.

[READ MORE]

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