The Week In Links—January 30th

by Red on January 30, 2015 · 2 comments

in The Week in Links

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.

Counterpunch interviews feminist filmmaker Lizzie Borden, talking about her film Born Into Flames and her goal of demystifying sex work.

The conversation around trafficking grows ever more irrational in Portland, Oregon, as volunteers demonstrate against it on a freeway bridge.

As Seattle begins to implement its version of End Demand, sex workers are once again shut out of the conversation, and what should have been a debate becomes a one-sided rehashing of the usual stale bad research, misused data, and outright lies of the sex work prohibitionists.

This week the Lancet kept up their excellent championship of sex workers’ rights by calling for world-wide decriminalization of sex work in the service of human rights and addressing HIV transmission:

According to the formal definition of trafficking, only a small fraction of sex workers are trafficked, write the authors of the Lancet series. “Sex—whether paid for or not—does not cause HIV infection,” they add, arguing that sex is merely an HIV risk factor for prostitutes “when condoms are not used.”

Fox remains engaged in the spread of trafficking hysteria and false statistics with this gem about strippers in Phoenix being trained to recognize sex trafficking.  They do not neglect to cite and misuse the old fallacious statistic stating that the  “average age of entry [into sex work is] 13.

A Minneapolis police sergeant discusses local and national anti-sex trafficking measures, and the potential to implement End Demand in Minneapolis.

If you were wondering what terrifying things are happening at the national level regarding anti-sex trafficking, Elizabeth Nolan Brown breaks it down for you at Reason:

That may sound paranoid to some, but every week I read multiple local-news reports from around the country about “sex trafficking stings.” And in all but the rarest of instances, these stings result in nothing but the arrest of adults engaged in consensual prostitution [sic]. Yet neither the cops, the “rescue” nonprofits they’ve consulted with, nor the media reporting on these stings make much of the distinction. Adult sex workers are frequently given the choice of prostitution charges and possible jail time, or programs for “trafficking victims.” Then these programs—and the police departments and government agencies backing them—use all the women they’ve coerced into attending to artificially inflate the numbers of “victims,” which in turn serves as evidence that more money, more stings, and more legislative effort needs to be expended. This is basically the incentive system that H.R. 181 would be federalizing.

It’s not hard to be more constructive than that, and The Hill manages it by pointing out five things we should do better to help all victims of trafficking, including the much larger population of people trafficked for agricultural and domestic labor. Number one?

Equally fight all forms of human trafficking

In the United States, law, policy, and social attention focus on human trafficking, but with trafficking into sex work capturing the lion’s share of attention and trafficking into other sectors and industries remaining in the shadows. As a nation, we should strive to address and abolish all forms of forced labor equally, rather than be titillated into paying more attention to narratives around sex that are more exciting to policymakers and mainstream media.

Anne Elizabeth Moore tracks the lies, false statistics, and funding sources of the anti-sex trafficking movement, pointing out that,

…many organizations that focus on “raising awareness of trafficking” aren’t providing factual information at all. In fact, given their frequently narrow interpretation of “human trafficking,” as a synonym for “female sex slavery,” and given the wide range of organizations spread across the United States, the anti-trafficking movement seems primarily intent on raising a moral panic. This may be a good way to push through conservative and, to some, oppressive legislation, as some have suggested. But leading a moral crusade is definitely lucrative.

Sex Work Data tackles Trafficked Report, doing the cool and level-headed math that many have been afraid to do, given how heated and emotional the language around “sex trafficking” is.  Sex Work Data addresses and debunks each lurid claim one by one, showing each up for the salacious funding bait it is. It also repeats Moore’s point, one that many sex workers have made before—that the definition of sex trafficking is deliberately blurred and conflated with several other aspects of the sex industry for maximum results:

[W]hen discussing sex trafficking, the authors usually include other prostitution-related crimes. The confusion of categories means that the authors are often conflating prostitution with sex trafficking.

Sally Engle Merry chimes in at Open Democracy, pointing out the appeal of and the problems with the popular trafficking narrative:

This conception of trafficking has all the trappings of a popular issue: the innocent girl, sexually abused, and the villainous perpetrator, an organized crime boss. It invites a saviour mentality and acts of rescue. The rhetoric of trafficking has been augmented as of late by the concept of slavery, a hot-button idea that generates even more public outrage and donor support.

Also at Open Democracy: Dr. Svati P. Shah discusses the damage that conflating full service sex workers with coerced victims does to both parties, as it elides the factors that lead to sex work and vulnerability to trafficking, asking:

While migrancy has changed dramatically in the era of neoliberalism, such that economic migrants are vulnerable to wage theft, debt bondage, exploitation, and abuse in new and unprecedented ways, we may ask whether the frame of ‘trafficking’ accurately tracks and addresses these vulnerabilities, or whether it is more effective in protecting states’ interests in securing and monitoring borders?

This USA Today article is a perfect illustration of all the big problems with the trafficking narrative, overlooking or simply ignoring the fact that many sex workers migrate and continue to participate in the sex industry; the reality of international migration networks; and the fact that many minors leave home and decide to engage in survival sex because of abuse at home. And it includes yet more false statistics from Polaris as a bonus, as well as  more racist fear-mongering about international networks of rapist men of color.

Jennifer Musto continues to untie the Gordian knot of dominant trafficking myths, focusing on the ways judicial and social work systems treat underage workers engaged in survival sex as well as the American invention of “domestic sex trafficking.”

Oh look! Speaking of conflating definitions and profiting off anti-trafficking funds, here’s Nicholas Kristof doing an interview with Cosmo about why you should watch the his documentary A Path Appears, which is heavily focused on sex trafficking.  Remember when Kristof wrote his paean to sweatshops in the New York Times? Sweatshops which are often filled with “rescued” sex workers making a fraction of their former income?

The Thai city of Pattaya is becoming a popular destination for shooting porn, creating new opportunities for trans women sex workers.

Yet another rescue agency employing sex workers for a pittance to make consumer goods in an already glutted market.  “Want to help a trafficking victim?  What about a purse?”  Two birds, one stone.

Harriet Kashmanyu, founder of the nonprofit Rhythm of Life, writes about the Ugandan government’s complete lack of support and services for HIV transmission and sex work.  Rhythm of Life helps HIV positive sex workers in Uganda access healthcare while helping their daughters access education, with the goal of ending family cycles of poverty and recourse to sex work.

Seven street workers in Hamilton, Ontario, participated in a photography project where they were given disposable cameras to document their environments, while volunteers wrote down their accompanying stories. The photos are showing now at St. Giles United Church in Hamilton.

Another photo project focuses on the working conditions of gay male escorts in Amsterdam.

The blatant injustice of laws against selling sex in South Africa caused this civilian to join SWEAT, march for sex workers’ rights, and write this article about the legal and social situation facing South African sex workers.

Meanwhile, the South African sex industry is said to be growing rapidly, despite governmental indifference and lack of protection.

The Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development in Botswana is encouraging the construction and use of brothels for the protection of sex workers.

From Michigan we have the age old story of how a cop and a public health official, who absolutely should have known better, put a community of working women at risk.  The myth of the female sex worker as disease vector lives on, obscuring the fact that, in reality, clients are the real Typhoid Marys.

Despite the fact that the UK rejected End Demand, the town of Swindon seems to be trying to implement it locally.  The police are now focusing on arresting “kerb crawlers” rather than street workers.

Articles about how much sex workers make never get old.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

RJHJR January 31, 2015 at 11:52 am

Thank you mentioning my blog, and for calling it “cool and level-headed.” You can always appeal to my vanity by telling me I’m cool and level-headed. In some cases the claims I’m challenging are “salacious funding bait”, as Red put it, but it’s important to remember that most of the people making these claims are good people trying to do their jobs. We have an adversarial judicial system, and prosecutors can’t get convictions with turning messy reality into simple stories. Somaly Mam is a scandal, but every NGO in the world has to try to shape the message that goes to donors and the news media, or it will be forced out of business. Jenny Gaines from the Trafficked Report may have an atypical horrific history in prostitution, and that may lead her to misrepresent the experience of the vast majority of prostitutes, but her current job providing services to sex workers may actually be of benefit to other workers with similar histories of horrific abuse. I found myself occasionally rewriting and reediting my sentences in an attempt to ensure that I didn’t write something that could be taken as criticism of her personally. Her experience was real, and she doesn’t need some random dude on the internet telling her that her story is salacious funding bait. (I haven’t mentioned her yet in my blog, so Red’s comment doesn’t refer to her.)

I’m opinionated and stubborn, and sometimes I have to hear the same thing many times before it sinks in. I’m grateful to every sex worker that has ever written an article for this web site (I’ve been reading from the beginning), or written a blog, or written an article about their experiences for a media outlet, for insisting over and over again that their understanding of their own experience was valid. I had to read that repeatedly before I realized that even reading sociological field studies wasn’t giving me a satisfactory understanding of sex work. Anything “cool and level-headed” in the blog has it’s origin in discomfort over my own state of knowledge.

I can always be improved by criticism. Please be polite and blunt.


Brandi January 31, 2015 at 10:55 pm

I worked at Allure last year. It was dead most of the time and management takes a massive cut at the end of the night, having each dancer go into the office one-by-one, pressuring her to tip more. Multiple managers stood over me, saying things like, “I have to eat too,” in a way to persuade me to tip more and to everyone. They are unable to pay their employees because it is so dead in there.

Above the stage at Allure is a camera for both stills and video. I takes pictures of dancers while on stage. I never signed a consent form, or a contract of any kind, when working there. One day, I looked at the electronic food menu of the club, and saw there was a dancer menu as well, with photos that the camera took of me with my clothes off, on the menu. All of the dancers had a profile picture on this menu, all taken without our knowledge or consent. When I asked that my picture be removed and to not have my picture taken again without my consent while I was topless on stage, one manager told me that I didn’t have a choice in the matter. He was pompous and rude. I left the club and never returned. I got text messages from the manager/DJ later, telling me that I stole from the club that night because I didn’t pay my house fee.

This club is ridiculous and I hope their business fails miserably, because they treated me like shit. I went to a labor lawyer during this time, but they did not want to invest in the case. I told the IWW and we tried to get more dancers involved from Allure. Unfortunately I was fired from every good club in the Chicago area for my insubordination, had to move to another state and could not continue my campaign against Allure. Catholicism is wicked, but Allure’s exploitation and utter disregard for my rights or well-being as a dancer and a human is just as awful and if the owners of this club died in a horrible car accident, the world would be a better place.


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