Politics

Monica Jones stands to thank her supporters around the country. (Photo via Janet Mock's and SWOP-Phoenix's twitter accounts)

Monica Jones stands to thank her supporters around the country. (Photo via Janet Mock’s and SWOP-Phoenix’s twitter accounts)

Sex workers’ rights activist and social work student Monica Jones was due to defend herself in court today after cops set her up on charges of “manifesting prostitution” when they targeted her for attending a SWOP-Phoenix protest against oppressive Arizona State University social work school diversion program Project ROSE. However, the trial was postponed until April 11th due to a constitutional challenge brought by the ACLU. Dozens of Monica’s supporters packed the courtroom, and Monica stated, “We will be back with twice as many people.” Read more about the story in Melissa Gira Grant’s RH Reality Check piece or this Truth Out piece,or watch this MSNBC interview with Monica. Of course, you could always look back on Tits and Sass’ own interview with Monica, and our interview with SWOP-Phoenix member Jaclyn Moskal-Dairman about Project ROSE. We stand with Monica Jones!

The media collectively wrung its hands all week over Belle Knox, the Duke University Porn Star. Responses ranged from columnists tut-tutting over the “troubled young woman” to outright whorephobia. Then of course there were the oh-so-sensitive pieces about her family’s response to her outting, e.g., “Welcome home, daddy, I’m a porn star!”

Stoya tells the New York Times that there’s a lot people can learn about privacy from porn performers: “Maybe it would be easier to navigate the dissolving boundaries between public and private spaces if we all had a variety of names with which to signal the aspects of ourselves currently on display.”

Then the New York Times lost any brownie points it earned with us via Stoya’s op-ed by running a long piece on a Justice Department study on the sex industry that used to word “pimp” repeatedly, compared sex work to cancer, and claimed that $150 an hour is “the common going rate for prostitution.”

Indian sex worker activists asked candidates for all forty-two seats in the upcoming elections to agree to their demands for sex work to be listed in the labor department’s list of professions, for offending sections of the Anti-Trafficking Act to be abolished, and for the government to recognize an autonomous board of sex workers. Otherwise, sixty-five thousand registered Indian sex workers will not be voting for them.

Ten officers with guns and bulletproof vests raided San Diego strip club Cheetahs in quite a show of force for a routine permits check. They took photographs of all the dancers, even going so far as to take a photo of each of their tattoos, leaving the club workers feeling violated.

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("Nose art" by Alberto Vargas)

(“Nose art” by Alberto Vargas)

I will forever associate foot fetishism with terrorism. Although George W. Bush had been in office for almost a year, 9/11 was when “the Bush years” really got rolling. I’d been politically curious my whole life, and activism-oriented in recent years, energized and excited by the emerging global trends that were dubbed the “anti-globalization movement.” A friend and I had just submitted an article discussing the murder of Carlo Guiliani to Onward!, a now-defunct anarchist newspaper. Guiliani was killed by police during protests against the G8 summit in Genoa, in July 2001 and our article contrasted his movement martyrdom to that of the Kent State Four, and the less famous Jackson State Two. It was exciting to be wanking theoretical, especially about how we, as US-based members of A Movement, might effectively organize domestically for change without an obvious and tangible Big Bad (i.e. The War) to rally people around.

Hahahahahaha!

The article was outdated before the issue went to press. Suddenly, years of organizing and strategizing around the IMF and World Bank policy were blown out of the water and there was a new, even more mass-murderous game in town. Soon we’d have two big, obvious wars, not to mention the racist detentions of Arabs and Muslims right here in Brooklyn, a wave of attacks on mosques, massive crackdowns on civil liberties, endless new, tangible evils, and not much more by way of an effective mass movement.

When the first plane hit the north tower, I was in Manhattan, near the Empire State Building, talking to a foot fetishist. I worked the Tuesday morning shift at a phone sex bank—someone had to. This was the fourth Tuesday I’d swiped in ten minutes before 8 a.m., picked up my headset and booth sign stating my stage name and “girl number,” settled into a vacant cubicle on the talking floor and logged in for early morning action.

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A lone red umbrella at the Supreme Court for the hearings on the anti prostitution loyalty pledge. (photo courtesy of  Chi Mgbako and the Leitner Center?)

A lone red umbrella at the Supreme Court for the hearings on the anti prostitution loyalty pledge. (photo by Rebecca Iwerks, courtesy of Chi Mgbako )

On April 22nd, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. concerning whether the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath (APLO), written into the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The contested legislation is the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, or the Global AIDS Act, which states that no funds made available by PEPFAR “may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” In August 2005, DKT International, a nonprofit working to improve access to reproductive health services in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, filed a lawsuit against USAID, challenging the anti-prostitution requirement. The case, DKT v. USAID, won in lower district courts, temporarily keeping the enforcement of APLO away from U.S. organizations; however, in February 2007, the U.S. Circuit Court reversed this ruling. In September 2005, the Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. (AOSI) filed a similar suit against USAID. This case was accepted by the Supreme Court in January 2013.

The Anti-Prostitution Pledge is an example of U.S. commitment to moral ideology over public health. Sex worker activists on Facebook organized the Red Umbrellas at the Supreme Court demonstration for this hearing.

Addendum: At the time of publication, the Supreme Court had just struck down the PEPFAR Pledge as of one hour ago. However, this editorial’s point still holds: OSI should have held a stronger stance on decriminalization, and there is still much work to do for sex worker activists to push forward from the momentum of this court decision.

There were only two red umbrellas in front of the Supreme Court, in spite of eager support on the Facebook event page. Actually, one of these red umbrellas was striped: only half-red and half-white, a last minute compromise during a rushed subway scramble. As described in Melissa Gira Grant’s article in The Nation, even these two unassuming umbrellas were folded away and stuffed like contraband beer into organizer David Perez’s brown paper shopping bag. We stood on the Courthouse steps, behind a group of chipper public health advocates in yellow t-shirts. Our 9:00 AM meet-up time was inopportune, as we were a few dozen places late of a seat at the hearing. Umbrellas aside, we really left neither a visual nor numerical impression. [READ MORE]

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On Dec. 20 the Senate passed Senate Resolution 439: “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC should eliminate the ‘adult entertainment’ section of the classified advertising website Backpage.com.”

I am clearly weeks late responding to this. This happened in the flurry of holidays, travel, and the Sandy Hook shooting media storm. It was also on the heels of December 17 so most of the sex work activist community was burned out and exhausted. Though not necessarily intentional, the highly unfortunate timeline of events is important to note.

In immediate practical terms, this doesn’t mean much. A simple resolution only expresses nonbinding positions of the Senate. No one is required to do anything is response. But the implications are disturbing.

The growing campaign against Backpage is a continuation of the same work that successfully shut down the Adult Services section of Craigslist. The same bad logic, false dataflawed principlesineffective solutions and racist bullshit apply.

The Village Voice, which up until recently was part of the same subsidiary group as Backpage, declared in 2011 that “the Craigslist beat-down was absurdist theater.” Remember the debacle when Ashton Kutcher declared himself a spokesman for the anti-trafficking movement? If you don’t – here are some reminders. It was a perfect illustration of the absurdist theater that the Voice pinpointed.

But they have responded very differently to the campaign to shut down Backpage.

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We are sad to say goodbye to dedicated sex worker rights activist Robyn Few, who passed away yesterday morning. Few was a co-founder of the Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA and one of the original organizers of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

The Atlantic ran a brilliant review of After Porn Ends, a documentary on the porn industry and the difficulties of leaving it. “Really, based on this documentary, the problem porn workers encounter seem like problems lots of workers encounter: abusive working conditions, inadequate (or more often non-existent) pensions, and lack of options… it’s not necessarily different in kind from the antipathy and contempt that workers in general face.” Thank you.

Jezebel published two good pieces by sex workers this week: Robin Hustle (nice nom de plume, by the way) wrote about coming out to your family as a prostitute, and porn star Stoya wrote about sexual harassment. [READ MORE]

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