Who Gets Left Out: Respectability Politics Round Table, Part Two

One of Melissa Gira Grant's Carceral Feminist Cat memes at carceralfeministcat.tumblr.com

One of Melissa Gira Grant’s Carceral Feminist Cat memes at carceralfeministcat.tumblr.com

You can read part one of this dialogue here.

Emma Caterine: Red Umbrella Project has definitely encountered issues around pressure to conform to respectability politics from larger groups who fund or sponsor us in different ways. It is telling that I can’t mention many of the specifics for fear of re-opening old wounds. Particularly the issue of trafficked people, especially children, is presented as something we “have” to deal with, account for, and fight against despite the fact that it does not fall under our purview. I know not at all groups that work with sex workers restrict themselves from working with survivors of trafficking (i.e. Sex Worker’s Project) and I admire their work. However, I think the pressure to always bring up trafficking any time sex work is mentioned is definitely a part of respectability politics, even replicated by advocates who are or have worked in the sex trades. Thoughts and experiences?

Sarah Patterson: This is definitely an ongoing discussion within Persist. Since some of our founding organizers have had experiences in the sex trades that might be regarded as trafficking by some definitions of the term, a need to hold space for trafficking survivors has been of particular import to us. Also, health access for all people in the sex trades is part of our mission, so trafficking survivors are absolutely included as folks who can and should access our services. But how to do that, without playing into the binary-driven debate of trafficking survivors versus sex workers, rather than trafficking survivors and/or sex workers? Even using the phrase “trafficking survivors and sex workers” suggests that they are independent groups, which we know is not necessarily the case, based on individuals’ experiences or whose definition of the terms you are using.

Sometimes it seems as though any deviation from the heavy emotionality and highly negative filter given to most anti-trafficking language/semantics is read as “happy hooker” code. I aim for as much neutrality as possible when I speak about the sex trades, in an effort to be as inclusive of as many experiences as possible, but it seems as though even neutrality gets skewed to the “pro-sex work” side in such a highly ideological debate. I suppose therein lies the trap of it…

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The Week In Links—August 16th

A prostitution raid on an Edinburgh sauna (Photo by Phil Wilkinson, courtesy of the Edinburgh News)

A prostitution raid on an Edinburgh sauna (Photo by Phil Wilkinson, courtesy of the Edinburgh News)

Help out a sex worker-run research project, Adult Industry Truth, by taking this survey on trafficking. The survey is for current and former sex workers, clients of sexual services, staff management of industry establishments, and/or social service workers that work with sex workers, to record their observations of trafficking in the industry.

xojane disappointed us by posting an article entitled “Stripping Killed My Work Ethic–Kind Of.” A bunch of hard working strippers and other sex workers have already taken issue on tumblr.

Steve Constantinou, charged with murdering Melbourne stripper and sex worker Johanna Martin, pleaded not guilty, claiming  they were watching porn when he “accidentally” choked her to death while she was wearing a dog collar. This despite the fact that he pawned her jewelry before wrapping her body in a sheet and dumping it outside. Thankfully, the jury didn’t buy it, either.

Malawi police officers are twisting the penal code to support the arrest of sex workers.

Yet more non-news on the fact that student sex workers exist in Policy Mic.

The Awl is running a series of interviews with porn performers. So far, there’s been one with Stoya, and one with cute bookworm gay porn actor Dale Cooper, who’s scored sixty one queer and Marxist texts off his Amazon wishlist by sending fans naked pics in return for buying them for him. We’ve got to adopt his system.

The Australian Broadcasting Company wants people to stop blaming the Australian media for their whorephobic depictions of the murder of street sex worker Tracy Connelly, and focus on finding her killer instead. Actually, we’re quite capable of doing both.

Conner Habib elaborates on why Linda Lovelace isn’t a porn star in Slate.

The BBC ran a story entitled “Edinburgh Sex Workers ‘Degraded’ By Police Sauna Raids.” Let’s try that again, shall we, without the condescending quotation marks, this time? That story, this one in the Edinburgh News, and this one in the Scotland Herald, report on planning meetings for safe alternatives for sauna sex workers now that their workplaces have been closed—meetings to which sex workers themselves are of course not invited. So far, the only ‘alternative’ named is leaving sex work, with no specific economic plan for how that is to be accomplished. Thanks, but no thanks.

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The Week In Links–May 31st

Dear Rhoda Grant, Stop trying to rescue us from cash-money, thanks. (Image via Comically Vintage)

Dear Rhoda Grant, stop trying to rescue us from cash-money, thanks. (Image via Comically Vintage)

Brooklyn prosecutors advised local police to stop confiscating condoms as evidence of prostitution.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant lodged a Members Bill to criminalize the purchase of sex in the Scottish Parliament. The Daily Record reports the sobering revelation that a public consultation on the proposed Purchase of Sex Bill found almost 80 per cent of respondents would back it.  Sex workers’ rights org SCOT-PEP put together a press release maintaining that Grant has “ignored the overwhelming evidence from renowned academics, unbiased experts and international bodies warning of the dangers of her proposed legislative approach, as well as the lived experiences of sex workers themselves.”

A new app for Iphone and Android allows people to conveniently snitch to the The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission if they suspect underage drinking, drug abuse, overserving, prostitution, or gambling at restaurants and bars.

Nepal’s Supreme Court accused a prominent anti-trafficking group of detaining a woman against her will so she could undergo counselling for being a lesbian. What about all the sex workers similarly detained in the group’s ‘rehabilitation centers’?

South African MPs ponder decriminalizing prostitution.

Marion Cottilard’s Cannes festival offering, The Immigrant, features yet another saintly ho. Weren’t we done with that theme after Dostoevsky?

Nevada brothel workers talk back in response to LinkedIn’s decision to ban prostitutes from the site.

A Connecticut woman was arrested for prostitution after calling police to report abuse from her pimp.

A bill that would have mandated condom use in all Californian porn shoots was squashed in committee this week.

The Economist points out what many of us know from grim experience in a piece on the sex trade in Britain: contrary to common wisdom, vice industries are NOT recession proof.

Zimbabwe’s police have launched a crackdown against sex work in streets and bars, often arresting women for simply walking alone at night unaccompanied. Zimbabwean women’s rights groups have filed a formal protest against these practices with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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The Week In Links–May 10th

Stoya plays Marie Antoinette at Molly Crabapple's recent art opening. (Photo by Jennifer Loeber)

Stoya plays Marie Antoinette at Molly Crabapple’s recent art opening. (Photo by Jennifer Loeber)

Seven sex workers’ rights organizations have been denied the right to intervene in the Supreme Court case deciding the constitutionality of Canada’s prostitution laws. However, many religious and abolitionist groups supporting the prostitution laws will be allowed a hearing, much to sex workers’ rights advocates’ outrage.

Nassau County is the first county in NY state to disallow condoms as evidence in prostitution cases. The NY Times covered the continuing struggle to get the no-condoms-as-evidence bill passed in the state legislature since 1999, quoting Sierra Baskin, co-director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, extensively.

Texan rad fems discover escort review sites the way Columbus discovered America, and don’t allow an opportunity to create legislation based on  trafficking hysteria to go to waste. The New Statesman’s Helen Lewis is also full of puritanical outrage about Britain’s Punternet.

Similarly, the Australian media discovers camgirls.

Alternative porn star Stoya gets a great profile in the Village Voice, in which she talks about her homeschooled childhood, loving New York, and speaking for herself in her Vice column and her tumblr rather than allowing journalists to distort her words.

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The Week In Links–April 19th

Kitty Stryker and Siouxsie Q looking foxy for the mainstream media (screenshots from the CNN Money video)

Kitty Stryker and Siouxsie Q looking foxy for the mainstream media, TARDIS dress and all (screenshots from the CNN Money video)

Anti-trafficking ideologues are wringing their hands in dismay and blaming the Hawaii police for not being able to find the hordes of sex trafficking victims that surely must be out there somewhere. Yet arrests are turning up no trafficking victims whatsoever.

A Pennsylvania cop going undercover accepted a blowjob from a suspected prostitute before arresting her. He was so unashamed of his actions he detailed them in his police report, and the police department also found no problem with this officer’s behavior.

Laura Agustin is characteristically awesome on Alternet, asking why migrant sex workers need saving.

More coverage from the London Evening Standard on the Westminster Council study which demonstrated that the recession is putting London sex workers at more risk of violence. We love the fact that the image used here is one of sex workers protesting, rather than the usual cliched graphic of high heels in low lighting, and we love that members of the British government are urging the wider adoption of the Merseyside model (treating crimes against sex workers as hate crimes.) We could do without the xenophobic undertones here, though–“those foreigners are taking our sex work jobs!”

Amber Dawn and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore have a dialogue in the Advocate about sex work, memoir writing, cycles of violence, and queer community.

The New Orleans Police Department want to squelch wild rumors that a missing teacher is the victim of sex trafficking Russian mobsters. If they didn’t want this sort of hysteria, maybe they shouldn’t have spread trafficking panic during the Super Bowl.

Rachel Kramer Bussel covers the Feminist Porn Awards for the Daily Beast. Courtney Trouble, Madison Young, and Tristan Taormino make an appearance.

Calling Margaret Thatcher a prostitute is insulting to sex workers, National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s second deputy president Christine Olivier told members of her union. “It implies that they are collectively at par with the reactionary Thatcher rather than members of the working class. So comrades [from] KZN [KwaZulu-Natal] may you use another word when you refer to Margaret Thatcher,” she went on.

So it looks like women who were trafficked into domestic labor in the United Arab Emirates are running away and going into sex work. I bet anti-sex trafficking crusaders are gonna have a hard time getting their heads around that.

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