Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Murder in the Bayou, by Ethan Brown
Eight murdered woman from Jefferson Davis parish in Louisiana had two things in common: a background in drugs and/or sex work. The police blamed a serial killer. But Brown discovered something else the victims had in common: they had all worked as informants for law enforcement of some kind. The rampant police misconduct Brown uncovers in his careful reporting illustrates that the people who should have protected those women are partially responsible for their deaths.

Badge of Dishonor: Top Oakland Police Officials Looked Away as East Bay Cops Sexually Exploited and Trafficked a Teenager, by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston
Two reporters expose one of the most extreme examples of law enforcement exploitation when their investigation reveals that an alarming number of police officers slept with the same sex working youth in Oakland, California.

“We Can Help One Another”: Drug Use, Survival Sex, And Hope Among Afghanistan’s Marginalized Women, by Michelle Tolson
Michelle Tolson manages to obtain raw, poignant interviews with a mostly invisible population, illustrating why gender-specific support is even more vital for sex working and/or drug using women in Afghanistan in light of problems like the strictures of short-term marriage contracts, the lack of legitimate income sources for women, and heightened stigma and victim-blaming.

The Truth About the Biggest Sex Trafficking Story of the Year, by Elizabeth Nolan Brown
Innocent men are criminalized while migrant workers are called victims. Spoiler: the police exaggerated—when they weren’t outright lying.

Daniel Holtzclaw: Lawsuit Claims Police “Covered Up” Sexual Assault Complaint, by Molly Redden [Content warning: descriptions of sexual assault]
The Guardian details how the lawsuit filed by Oklahoma cop rapist Holtzclaw’s victim Jamie Ligons maintains that the Oklahoma City Police Department was well aware of Holtzclaw’s assaults. They’d received complaints from many of his Black, low-income, sex-working and/or drug-using victims as early as 8 to 10 months before his suspension from the force. But it was only after Ligons, a woman with no record who had a “familial relationship” with the department, made her complaint that the department finally took decisive action.

The Throwaways: How Detroit is becoming a flashpoint for violence against transwomen, by Allie Gross
A spate of deadly violence in Detroit forces us to examine exactly how hard trans women of color have to work to survive.

The NYPD Arrests Women for Who They Are and Where They Go — Now They’re Fighting Back, by Melissa Gira Grant
New York’s Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in Prostitution law gives the NYPD clearance to surveil, stereotype, target, and arrest women as possible sex workers—most of whom are low-income, black, and gender nonconforming.

The Audition, by Sydney Brownstone [Content warning: descriptions of sexual assault]
Brownstone painstakingly traces the roots of an elaborate and long-running faux porn recruitment scheme, in which a photographer invented a friendly adult film agent woman persona to scam vulnerable young women into sleeping with him. His rapes led one victim to attempt suicide.

Threadbareby Anne Elizabeth Moore
A vital condemnation of the global garment industry that illustrates (literally! it’s a comic!) its questionable relationship with anti-trafficking NGOs.

The Disturbing Trend of Vigilante Attacks On Sex Workers, by Frankie Mullin
All of Mullin’s sex work reporting in Vice this year, from her examination of an anti-sex work charity misrepresenting their research on a small sample group of survival workers to portray all sex workers as poorly paid and desperate to her piece on October’s Operation Lanhydrock and the history of raids on migrant massage parlor workers in London’s Soho and Chinatown over the past few years, has been uniformly excellent. But perhaps her best this year was this article on the under-reported phenomenon of vigilante attacks against sex workers cropping up throughout the UK and Ireland. To follow this story, Mullin spoke to outreach centers as well as individual sex workers and gathered the few statistics that were available. She even spoke to a man who started a Facebook thread online in support of a menacing brothel protest in Belfast’s Donegal Pass, in which people posted comments advocating “ethnic cleansing” and “a night of the long knives.” The author ties all this reportage together by considering the utility of extending the Merseyside Model, in which crimes against sex workers are counted as hate crimes, as well as pointing out the connection between the violent rhetoric of criminalization and these vigilantes acts.

How Canada’s Immigration Laws Make Migrant Sex Workers’ Jobs More Dangerous, by Brigitte Noel
Pulling together telling quotes from interviews with representatives of Immigration and Citizenship Canada and Canada’s Border Services Agency, as well as with Asian migrant sex worker advocacy organization Butterfly’s president Elene Lam, Brigitte Noel outlines how Bill C-36 and immigration policies combine to persecute and deport immigrant sex workers.

Pizzagate Rumors Falsely Link Death Of Sex-Worker Advocate To Nonexistent Clinton Probe, by Glenn Kessler
This Washington Post writer employs the paper’s penchant for rigorous fact-checking in service of sex worker rights advocate Monica Petersen’s memory. Petersen was a brilliant researcher who traveled to Haiti for her work critiquing the trafficking narrative. But after Pizzagate blew up, a fresh spate of fake news painted her suicide death there as retaliatory murder by the Clinton Foundation for an anti-trafficking investigation against them—an investigation Petersen never conducted.

Impunity Has Consequences: The Women Lost To Mexico’s Drug War, by Nina Lakhani
Lakhani’s reporting reveals that many sex workers contracted for political events and private parties with cartel members and government officials have gone missing along with thousands of other women in Mexico. The theory is that these drug war victims were disappeared because they knew too much about the connection between high-level drug dealers and corrupt politicians. These women are vulnerable to both abduction and femicide by the cartels and illegal imprisonment and torture by the security forces.

Why Are Strippers More Heavily Vetted Than Uber Drivers?, by Susan Elizabeth Shepard
Same labor model, vastly different regulations. An explanation.

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Sen. John Cornyn

Meet Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the man who introduced a controversial human trafficking bill. Democrats blocked the bill because of a hidden anti-abortion provision.

Crowdfunding website GoFundMe.com mysteriously changed its terms of service and then canceled ESPLERP’s fundraising campaign to challenge the constitutionality of the state of California’s prostitution laws. Very peculiar:

Although GiveForward and GoFundMe both prohibit crowdfunding campaigns for sexually explicit materials, that hasn’t stopped both platforms from hosting ethically ambiguous fundraising campaigns. Last fall, GoFundMe hosted a fundraising campaign for Darren Wilson’s legal bills after he was accused of shooting unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. GiveForward also caught flak for hosting a crowdfunding campaign for the MMA fighter War Machine, who is alleged to have brutally beat and raped his ex-girlfriend, adult performer Christy Mack. (The site later removed the campaign page.)

ESPLERP is one of the candidates for the $10,000 People’s Momentum Award.  Vote for them here.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown gives a comprehensive breakdown of the new and massive Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act which neatly solves the problem of what to do with returning veterans by:

Establish[ing] the “Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child Rescue Corps.” In the HERO Corps, “the returning military heroes of the United States are trained and hired to investigate crimes of child exploitation in order to target predators and rescue children from sexual abuse and slavery.”

Oh yeah, sounds safe and well thought out. It would also create an incentive for police and prosecutors by funneling the fines for those found guilty of trafficking or other illicit sexual conduct back into the fund from which police and prosecutors are paid.

Law makers in Montana are having trouble deciphering between when a sex worker is a victim and when she is not. (Here’s a hint: she might not always be a victim, but she is definitely never a criminal.)

Get your tickets, pack your bags! Milan’s 2015 Expo World Fair is set to begin in May. It will supposedly attract so many sex workers, 15,000 of them to be precise, that the locals have started the calling the event the “Sexpo.” [READ MORE]

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Fees and fines are illegal, kids. (Photo courtesy of Red)

The Willamette Week broke the news that I, Tits and Sass Week In Links editor Red, and my fellow dancer Amy Pitts are suing my former strip club this week after months of tedious and stressful settlement negotiations. Shorter and less informative video clips on the suit can be found here and here, but probably the best coverage so far is this New York Daily News story, which makes more meat puns than I would normally find decent.

Alaskan sex workers are raising money to go to Juneau to lobby the Alaskan legislature. You can support their campaign and learn about their efforts here: Nothing About Us Without Us!

Bengals defensive back Adam Jones was ordered to pay over $12 million for his part in a fight and shooting that broke out at the Vegas strip club, Minxx.  Jones made it rain, dancers started fighting over the money, and eventually shooting broke out, injuring three people, including  one security guard who was paralyzed from the waist down.

New MTA safety ads warn against pole dancing in subway cars: “Poles are for safety, not your latest routine.”

Tits and Sass contributor Naomi Sayers responds brilliantly to an interrogation around C-36 and the assumption that it protects sex workers, while outlining sex work activists’ next steps in a post-C-36 Canada.

Nigerian full service sex workers are offering three days of their services free if General Muhammadu Buhari wins the upcoming presidential elections in February. Clever reverse Lystrata tactic!

Porn actor Jiz Lee writes that people should be as concerned with ethical porn consumption as they are with ethical porn, since illegal distribution not only allows consumers to not pay for workers’ products, it also allows producers to evade the very safety standards set in place to protect performers.

Benjamin Frederickson worked as a HIV positive sex worker in the Midwest and New York for years, documenting his life and his work with Polaroids that are now being shown in an exhibition at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York until February 28th. [READ MORE]

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Bianca Baxter, RIP. (Photo via Baxter's Google + profile)

Bianca Baxter, RIP. (Photo via Baxter’s Google + profile)

Ballroom dance star, actress, model, and former Playboy Playmate, Bianca Baxter, aka Barbie Mizrahi, passed away on December 21st.  You can contribute to the fund for her service here.

Ashley Renee Benson was found murdered in a Doubletree Inn in Portland, Oregon. Her family, whom she spent Christmas Day with, said they had no knowledge of her sex work. The police say contact with family is rare in cases like this:

“A lot of the time in human trafficking cases, the victims are not able to live one place and they’re not living apart from the criminal activity or their abusers.”

The police have quickly co-opted her into the trafficking framework, all evidence to the contrary.

A woman in Adelaide, Australia died under similar circumstances, and is suspected to be a sex worker although her identity hasn’t yet been established.  The way she is being written about is already significantly different, however: she’s being described as a woman who potentially came to Adelaide to work in the sex industry, no mention of trafficking.

A woman from Queens was arrested for running a brothel and “promoting prostitution,” after being found with hundreds of condoms in her car and three younger women who admitted to being sex workers but denied being trafficked.  No matter, the police were determined to fit them into the trafficking framework anyway.

A New Zealand brothel worker made history by winning a sexual harassment case against the manager of her brothel, although the IBTimes appears to find the grounds a little questionable:

What makes the case interesting is that the woman was never assaulted or raped, ripped or dismissed, trafficked or forced to do things she did not like. The victim was Williams (name changed), who worked at a Wellington brothel, and her boss used to say certain things that made her feel uneasy.

Although verbal sexual harassment is understood as harassment in most other industries, apparently nothing short of trafficking qualifies as harassment in the sex industry.

Street workers in Malawi are in conflict with bike taxis over methods of payment: according to one taxi operator, street workers use the taxis and then refuse to pay cash, offering an exchange of services instead.

Newsweek takes an unexpected (and unexpectedly pro-sex worker) look at Anita Sarkeesian’s sex work politics and her ongoing refusal to engage with sex workers around our requests for her to, please for God’s sake, stop saying “prostituted women.”

“What this tells us is that she sees men as creatures able to make sexual choices,” [Maggie] McNeil says, “but she sees women as creatures who can only have sex for traditional reasons—love, or romance or whatever. But if women are [having sex] for tactical reasons, then she sees this as somehow suspect—that a man must be doing that. Hence the [term] prostituted; someone has done this to her.”

Maddie Myers picks up the bat for us that Sarkeesian left in the dirt with this thoughtful post on Grand Theft Auto:

We need to think about what these games say about not just the people who make them, but the thousands and thousands of people who buy them, for whom this depiction of sex workers as disposable victims has become normalized past the point of even seeing the horror in it. If these games are always going to exist and never change, fine. But that does not excuse our own ignorance of them. And that does not remove our responsibility to talk with other people who play games, especially young teens, about what is being depicted.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has lifted the ban on blood donations from gay men, but still requires a year long wait after having gay sex, paid sex, or sex with an injection drug user.  Which, effectively, means there’s still a ban on gay men, sex workers, and people whose partners are IDUs or sex workers. I didn’t want to give you my blood anyway.

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