third parties

It’s no news to anyone that sex workers are an extremely marginalized group of people. As always, where there are isolated groups of people, there will be opportunists scheming to make a buck off the fear and insecurity felt by those outcast from mainstream society.

I recently observed the development of an app simply called “Heaux.” It has not gained much momentum at this point, having just launched in May 2017. However, the risks involved in using it are apparent on multiple levels. The app coyly walks the line of legality, claiming to not be promoting sex for money, yet enabling all other aspects of escorting—in fact you can pay to be assisted at every turn. The app features drivers-for-hire, promotions for the founder’s “guides”, and a store to help you look the part.

In order to sign up for Heaux through the app store, you’re required to use your personal information, so the app poses a threat to your security from the very beginning. However, the potential for danger doesn’t stop there.

Lydia Dupra, the app’s founder and creator, dubs herself variously as an “adult industry leader”, “the Steve Jobs of Escorting,” and “the Heaux Mentor,” and refers to her current work as “creating jobs.” Her website sells her series of books on escorting, provides information on her pricey seminars, and includes a store for purchasing products which Dupra claims everyone needs in order to be a successful high-end escort. Of course, what this store actually consists of are mundane items used by many sex workers over the ages without the Heaux App’s guidance, such as sea sponges, makeup, and self-defense gadgets—but Dupra’s marked them up by 50-100 %.

The Heaux App is available to the public through iTunes and Google play. There is no approval process whatsoever for joining, unlike safe spaces like VerifyHim.com where users are required to prove their identity to gain access to a private community and blacklist. On Heaux, anyone can join—sex workers and clients, but also pimps, gawkers, and law enforcement. The app features a timeline for “heauxs” to post and connect with one another, a mechanism for hiring personal drivers, a public blacklist of bad clients (which is also shared publicly on the platform’s active Instagram page, allowing bad clients the possibility of retaliating since they can discover they are listed), and of course—“The Heaux Shop.”

I gave the app a chance after seeing a pitch claiming that Heaux App was a “Safe Space for Sex Workers”. At one point I responded to an Instagram posting about users allowed on the site, expressing my privacy concerns. I was curious about how “safe” this space could be for sex workers when the community could include anyone with a smartphone. Heaux’s Instagram account responded to me and explained that the success of the app was determined by its number of users versus the integrity of its safe space. My hopes for the app very suddenly deflated.

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Behold that jubilant smile, and that everpresent, oh-so-stylin' riding crop. Terri Jean Bedford is a woman who knew she was going to win. Along with the two other sex worker plaintiffs of Bedford v. Canada, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, Bedford won the day today when the Canadian Supreme Court struck down Canada's anti-prostitution laws. Looks like Canadian sex workers have a lot of decriminalized whipping to do. (Photo by Jack Boland/QMI Agency Files, via northumberlandtoday.com)

Behold that jubilant smile, and that ever present leather jacket and the oh-so-stylin’ riding crop. Terri Jean Bedford is a woman who knew she was going to win. Along with the two other sex worker plaintiffs of Bedford v. Canada, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, Bedford won the day today when the Canadian Supreme Court struck down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws. Looks like Canadian sex workers have a lot of decriminalized whipping to do. (Photo by Jack Boland/QMI Agency Files, via northumberlandtoday.com)

What a triumphant end to this week of International Day to End Violence Against Sex Work: today, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down the country’s prostitution related laws in a unanimous decision on Bedford vs. Canada, calling all three statutes—prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution, and communicating in public with clients—over-broad and “grossly disproportionate.” A resounding, grateful shout out is due to the eponymous Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, the three sex workers who began this court challenge in the Ontario court system. However, this victory is not unmitigated—the court gave Parliament a one-year grace period to redraft a legislative scheme on full service sex work that could be judged constitutional. In the meantime, Canada’s anti-prostitution laws are still in effect. But, if twelve months from today, the federal government has not redrawn the laws to address the Supreme Court’s concern that they are too arbitrary, vague, and excessive, full service sex workers will be free to legally practice their trade; hire drivers, bodyguards, and accountants; and screen their clients as they see fit.

Here’s more on the story from the Business Insider; the Toronto Star; BBC News; a Globe and Mail op-ed expressing worry about the fact that the court’s decision, is in a way, “an open invitation to Parliament to write new criminal laws”; another Globe and Mail editorial on the ruling’s implications re: the right to self-defense; an Ottawa Sun piece on local sex workers’ reactions to the decision, quoting a representative of Canadian sex workers’ rights organization POWER; a Herald News article on the comments of staff at Stepping Stone, a Halifax support and outreach organization for sex workers, after they heard the news while celebrating their Christmas party; a CBC News blog round up of twitter reactions to the ruling; a Vancouver Sun profile of how Pivot Legal Society, an organization which was instrumental in this landmark victory, is taking the good tidings; and an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen on how the decision represents Canada’s movement towards more progressive politics.

Oh, wow, so much coverage this week 0n movement actions around the world for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th: here’s a video and an article on the protest in Kenya, in which sex workers marched along with members of the GLBT community, demanding an end to violence against both groups; the L.A. Times on vigils in Los Angeles and New York, along with a summary of violence against sex workers throughout the year; Best of New Orleans on SWOP-NOLA’s December 17th second line parade through the French Quarter;  SWOP-LV’s press release on their event in the Las Vegas Sun; a radio interview with SWOP-Denver members (about three quarters through the audio file); the Times Colonist on Victoria, BC sex workers’ rights organization PEERS’ march (though they call it “Red Umbrella Day”);  HuffPo on SWOP events throughout the U.S., with a slide show of photos of some of this year’s sex worker murder victims; a piece in the Bristol Post on  Avon and Somerset’s Police and Crime Commissioner marking the occasion by publicly supporting the Ugly Mugs scheme, Naharnet on a protest in Skopke, Macedonia; Turkey’s Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Organization’s statement for the day; Rabble with statements from sex workers’ rights organizations Zi Teng, EMPOWER, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, and Maggie’s on the issue, plus a lament for non gender normative Indonesian migrant sex worker murder victim Rosa Ribut; a speech by sex worker activist Gina de Vries at the San Francisco event, urging the movement to center the voices of trans sex workers of color; and finally, an Australia Broadcasting Company radio interview with sex worker activists Jane Green and Ryan Cole at the Melbourne protest: “Don’t call me darling. That’s patronizing.”

Whew. We’re overwhelmed. And oh-so-delighted.

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At the Scarlet Alliance National Forum. (Photo by Jackie Dent via SBS)

Australian sex worker activist Nada (on the right) at the Scarlet Alliance National Forum. (Photo by Jackie Dent via SBS)

Sixty French celebrities, including Belle De Jour star Catherine Deneuve, signed a petition to protest a bill in France Parliament that would impose fines on the clients of sex workers. Thus, admirers of Deneuve can continue their fangirling without the bite of political guilt. Meanwhile, France 24 puzzles over the resounding silence around the issue in Parliament, and Al Jazeera interviews Manon, a representative of French sex workers’ rights organization STRASS, and Melissa Gira Grant on sex workers’ POV on the proposal. STRASS members were slated to hold an open meeting with legislators on Thursday, though, until now, French sex workers were not consulted by lawmakers on the topic. (Is anyone surprised?)

Apparently, times are tough for us all over Europe—in Germany,  the country’s most prominent “feminists” have launched a campaign against legalized sex work.

Here’s some coverage on the three day Scarlet Alliance National Forum in Sydney earlier this week.

Has Jenna Jameson returned to adult films? The fabulous Miss Jameson sets the record straight.

Singaporean trans sex workers speak out at the International Congress on AIDS Asia Pacific.

Karen Wirth presented the latest in trafficking hysteria in the NY Times yesterday, dashed with the pretense of scientific rigor. The Atlantic joined in with a piece entitled “It’s Not Just Justin Bieber: Travel Websites Are Fueling Sex Tourism.” Much dark side. Such gritty, hard hitting reporting. Wow.

Shilpa Samaratunge answers the question, “Is sex work work?” with a resounding yes in Sri Lanka’s Groundviews. The leftist journalist also interviews three wheeler drivers, who play an important role in the country’s sex trade by maintaining connections between sex workers, their clients and the locations in which sexual exchanges take place.

In light of all these recent stories about how us sex workers just lurrrv the Affordable Health Care Act, here’s an interesting piece on how an Argentinian stripper, Annabelle Battistella alias Fanne Foxe, inadvertently doomed Nixon’s Health Care Reform Act in 1974.

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