Monica Jones

Monica at a protest last May. (Photo via SWOP Phoenix Facebook page, courtesy of Jones and SWOP Phoenix)

Monica Jones at a protest last May. (Photo via SWOP-Phoenix Facebook page, courtesy of Jones and SWOP-Phoenix)

Monica Jones’ conviction for “manifesting intent to commit prostitution” was overturned this week! Jones said:

…My conviction being vacated is important but it is a small win in our larger fight for justice. There are so many trans women and cisgender women who might be charged under this law in Phoenix and similar laws across the country. There is so much more work that needs to be done so that no one will have to face what I have no matter who they are or what past convictions they have.

Tits and Sass contributor and Portland dancer Elle Stanger is quoted extensively in this Willamette Week article about Oregon strippers drafting two workplace protection bills for the consideration of the state legislature.

According to UNAIDS, the Asia-Pacific region will not meet the current goals of ending the HIV epidemic in fifteen years unless these countries change laws which are currently hostile to vulnerable target demographics. Unfortunately, US moralism has tied a lot of funding up in ways that mandate such unfriendly legislation, so it becomes a race to see which matters more: ending HIV… or funding.

Quelle surprise: brothels are run like businesses!  The women who work at them are like women anywhere else!  Insert mandatory crack about fake names here:

The receptionist politely rattles off a roster of exotic names, “Armani, Honey, Candy, Diamond …” names which I’m quietly confident wouldn’t be found on any of the ladies’ driver’s licences.

I see what you did there.

The nuns of the Chicago Convent of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo are suing nearby strip club Allure, claiming that it’s a venue for prostitution.  This is their second attempt to close the club; the first involved them picketing it for violating zoning laws.  This is one lawsuit where I hope the club wins.

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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.

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Melbourne sex workers rally for Monica Jones

Monica Jones was barred from entering Australia for the last three weeks of her student placement and ultimately deported back to the United States.  Eloise Brook at the Guardian wrote an intelligent and pointed response, asking how a social work student becomes a national threat.

Gloria Steinem’s latest move, signing the open letter to the AP Stylebook, shows that her politics remain firmly in the abolitionist camp.  Steinem crossed the line from “dated” to “damaging” this spring with her writing for the New York Times on Indian escorts and her baseless claims that funding for condoms and sexual health actually went to pimps and traffickers.

This strange Cosmo interview with three anonymous sex workers purports to show “What It’s Really Like to Be a Sex Worker,” although the straight-out-of Farley talking points responses of the third woman, who is, excuse you, a survivor of prostitution, make it sound like she’s actually Rachel Moran.

The UK just banned certain acts, including face-sitting and golden showers, from being depicted in porn.  The acts themselves remain legal, but filming them is not.

The Safe Harbour Outreach Project has written a letter to Newfoundland premier Paul Davis, requesting that he postpone implementation of C-36 because of the inevitable danger it places sex workers in.

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Janet Mock tweeting about the horrific state of the Black union earlier this week. (Screenshot of Janet Mock's Twitter feed)

Janet Mock tweeting about the horrific state of the Black union earlier this week. (Screenshot of Janet Mock’s Twitter feed)

Trans and sex workers’ rights activist Monica Jones appealed her conviction on false charges of “manifesting prostitution” this Monday. In related news, Project ROSE, the criminally wrongheaded alliance between the Arizona State School of Social Work and the Phoenix police in which sex workers were arrested in stings and funneled into jail or diversion programs, the very one which Jones was sent to when she was arrested, has shut down.

However, the ASU researchers behind Project ROSE just got a 1.4 million dollar grant to prevent child sex trafficking.

The Vancouver police department announced that it will not be using C-36 as a guideline when making arrests; consenting adults buying and selling sex will be left to conduct their business undisturbed.

The impact of C-36 will be most disastrous for the most marginalized groups of sex workers, First Nations women and migrants.

Immigrant sex workers from Asia and Central America deny that they are trafficked. They announced that they do feel like victims of police, however.

New reality show The Sex Factor promises to be The X Factor for adult stars, offering competitors the exposure needed for success in the saturated market of porn…and further saturating the market.

Feminism needs sex workers and trans people (and presumably trans sex workers as well).

It’s hard to be a sex worker without a community of sex workers to commiserate with and give you moral support and perspective in the form of a healthy dose of reality. This Ivy League student sex worker could use the latter: in this piece, she expresses her surprise at how easy it was to become a “prostitute”: aren’t we all chain smoking, jaded women of the world? Unlike her.

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"Vampire Days," a self-portrait by Leslie Feinberg on hir 60th birthday. (Photo via Feinberg's Flickr account)

“Vampire Days,” a self-portrait by Leslie Feinberg on hir 60th birthday. (Photo via Feinberg’s Flickr account)

Trans/queer writer and socialist hero Leslie Feinberg died last week. The event rekindled my memories of squatting on the floor of Barnes and Nobles at the age of 17, reading the work zie’s1 most known for, Stone Butch Blues, a bildungsroman set in the lesbian working class bar scene during the Stonewall era. I was blown away by the novel and the way it brought together class politics, trans rights, and queer rights so explicitly. I’m not the only sex worker for whom the book was important. When I wrote to him about Blues, St. James Infirmary program director and sex working trans man Cyd Nova responded:

When I read Stone Butch Blues nine years ago I was just beginning to understand my gender as something other than female, while working as a stripper and seeing the club as the only place that I felt a sense of home…The way it illustrated feeling at odds with the world and the precise quality of needing to find a community who could guide you to your ultimate true self, navigating the path against the tide, was such an important read for me at that point…I would say that this book gave me some of building blocks to understand my desire to transition, before the internet was such a bastion of resources for trans folks.

In fact, my Facebook feed was awash with queer and trans sex workers linking to obituary pieces on Feinberg last week. So many of us could identify with hir writing about finding one’s people and working along with them in factories, bars, clubs, and the street to keep ourselves afloat. That’s why I was aghast at learning from The Toast that Stone Butch Blues is actually permanently out of print. (“How is that possible, when every dyke in America has at least two copies on her bookshelf?” inimitable Toast editor Mallory Ortberg opined.) But what I remembered most clearly was my rereading of the book in my mid-twenties, when I realized just how much of it was about valorizing femme sex workers as an integral part of the queer community.

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