In just a few weeks’ time, an astonishing pattern of misconduct has been uncovered in the Oakland Police Department that might shock even our readers. At the center of the scandal is a teenage sex worker who goes by Celeste Guap. She alleges that at least three Oakland PD officers sexually exploited her when she was underage. She also alleges that she traded sex for information with some of these police officers, traded sex for protection with others, and “dated” yet another officer, both before and after her eighteenth birthday. Even officers from surrounding municipalities were involved with Guap. In an interview with local reporters, Guap indicated that she felt the officers took advantage of her but she didn’t have any anger towards them. Guap did what she had to do to survive, but either way, going by the federal definition, Guap is a human trafficking victim and the officers are her traffickers.
Sex workers have long maintained that the police are the biggest hindrance to their work, and quite often, the biggest threat to their safety. For every sex worker “rescued” by LE, another one is arrested by LE, or trapped in an LE-sponsored diversion program, or coerced by LE, or literally pimped out by LE. While what happened at the Oakland PD might be an extreme example, it’s certainly isn’t rare. Here are a few other police department scandals that involved sex workers this year:
Here’s the deeply depressing, and depressingly unsurprisingly verdict: two of the unidentified victims found on Gilgo Beach were likely working as prostitutes. One was an Asian male whose body was found in women’s clothing. He’s the only man among the ten bodies uncovered thus far. (Edit: Dacia has pointed out that the victim may have identified as a trans woman.) The five identified victims were all escorts.
Police are encouraging those working in the local escort industry to contact them with information, offering the less-than-reassuring clarification that “we are not interested in their occupation.” But that’s far from the explicit promise of amnesty that sex worker rights organizations have urged. While Suffolk County police commissioner Richard Dormer emphasizes the careful, extensive work required to solve these cases, the department as a whole apparently doesn’t value the sex worker community’s information enough to take the necessary step to invite their full involvement—and sex worker insights and experiences could be the key to finding those responsible for the murders.
You can still call or email Suffolk County officials to pressure them for sex worker amnesty. Details here.
I am non-monogamous by choice, not just by de facto circumstance because of the fact that I am an escort. I live with one of my serious partners, and have a few other partners and sexy friends. I’ve never been suited to monogamy, and sex work has always played a role in that for me. When I was a baby sex worker and dancing at a sleazy club, my emotionally abusive boyfriend at the time asked me to quit, after initially telling me he was fine with it. His reasoning was that he just couldn’t stand the thought of me even flirting with other men. I quit quickly after that conversation, telling myself it was because I hated the work and not because of his jealousy. It was mostly because I didn’t want to lose him, though. He continued to abuse me after that, eventually forcing me to isolate myself emotionally from anyone other than him. His jealousy forced me to work jobs that were even less emotionally healthy for me than dancing at that club or PSOing and camming were. He used heteromonogamous norms to assert complete control over every aspect of my life. Eventually, I woke up and quit him for good. He retaliated by smashing out the windows on my car. I consider myself pretty lucky to have never been physically assaulted by him.
After that, I refused to have anything to do with anyone who felt they had any dominion over my sexual choices. I was in a couple of relationships that were monogamish in between then and now, but always with the understanding that I was free to have sex with whomever I pleased if the circumstances were right. Now I will only be in relationships with people who fully understand that I am my own person who makes my own choices, both sexually and emotionally. While I am not the sort of person to tell people what do with their lives or how to structure their relationships, I find the expectation that every relationship should be monogamous to be highly problematic.
Last week I awoke to the news of what happened to Christy Mack, the adult film star who was sexually assaulted, severely beaten and nearly killed by her ex-boyfriend, mixed martial arts fighter Jonathan “War Machine” Koppenhaver. According to a statement she released last Monday, she and a friend were attacked by Koppenhaver when he showed up at her house unannounced and found them there together. One part of her statement stuck out to me, and I’ve been thinking about it all week. In Mack’s words:
When he arrived, he found myself and one other fully clothed and unarmed in the house.
What really got me was the choice to state that her friend and she were fully clothed. This woman was assaulted by her ex to the point of being hospitalized in serious condition, and she still felt pressure to highlight the fact that Koppenhaver had not caught her in an act of sexual indiscretion. It shouldn’t matter; not only because he is her ex, it just shouldn’t ever matter. Catching someone having sex with someone else should never be an excuse to attack them.
Lawmakers in Colorado are proposing a way of educating men who buy sex from escorts. They’re billing it like a “Scared Straight” for hobbyists. But you know what a diversion program for busted Johns also sounds like? Traffic school. Maybe it will be eight hours long, have a brief lunch break, include a few sex trafficking equivalents of Red Asphalt, a shame workbook, and end with a multiple choice quiz. You know, because if only the guys spending money for pleasure knew that the women they were seeing were basically glorified comfort women, then maybe they’d think twice about it.
The fact that most of those guys are seeing women who participate in consensual sex work is probably not on the table, which bores me. YAWN, more evidence that people think we can’t consent to sex work, YAWN more evidence that people are cool with taking our agency away from us, YAWN more evidence that people think we couldn’t possibly want to have sex for money…
Anyway, I would love it if there were a school for Johns, but only if it were run by sex workers; Do you know how many grody men I have to point toward a shower because they showed up to a session without showering?