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Stop destroying the Constitution and America and the flag and the United States covered in a flag, prostitute-haters!

The US Court of Appeals has ruled it unconstitutional to require that international AIDS outreach organizations denounce prostitution in order to receive federal funds. Predictably, the government conflated sex work with sex trafficking in its demands that organizations sign an anti-prostitution pledge. (Hence its name; it’s not called an “anti-trafficking pledge.”)

The reasoning for the ruling was as follows:

Compelling speech as a condition of receiving a government benefit cannot be squared with the First Amendment.

Right on. Thanks, Second Circuit! (Except for you, Justice Straub, for encouraging that the Supreme Court take this on so the ruling can be overturned.)

More information about PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief)  and the anti prostitution pledge can be found here. And an early account of how the case unfolded can be found here.

The 7th San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Fest

As a sex worker in San Francisco, I feel pretty spoiled by all the resources and community we have here—not to mention that the stigma feels a little more manageable when half the city is already queer polyamorous pot-smoking Burners. Or middle-age foreign tech nerds, who happen to make great customers.

If you’re a fellow Bay Area sex worker, please take advantage of the fact that we’re lucky enough to have a film and arts festival of our very own.

Tomorrow night marks the first event of the nine-day festival, with a kick-off cabaret show at the St. James Infirmary. Producer Erica Fabulous says that the festival’s main priorities are showcasing the diversity of sex workers and building community, though she hopes it will also open the minds of people who aren’t in the industry.

Visit the website to learn more about the various programs, which will run through May 29.

The People vs. Kimberly Kupps

Though she’s been an adult entertainer since the 1980s, Kimberly Kupps is currently best known as half of the Florida couple who were arrested for shooting porn in the privacy of their own home. Like me, Kimberly operates her own independent porn site, so it’s a case that definitely caught my attention. Some sex workers mistakenly view porn as legal, easy, and even dismiss it as “sex work lite,” because supposedly, those of us who make porn don’t break any laws and face no risk. As a pornographer, even if you are trying to stay within the bounds of the law and don’t shoot anything “extreme,” you can find yourself dealing with an obscenity prosecution, as Kimberly and her husband have learned this summer.

The pair was arrested on June 3rd by their local Polk County Sheriff, who is going after them as a part of a war on porn to clean up the conservative area. (Sheriff Grady Judd is also facing a federal civil rights lawsuit for allegedly harassing another local woman for her atheist organization.) Kimberly and her husband are being represented by well-known first amendment attorney Lawrence Walters. Walters is donating part of his fee, but there are still plenty of costs being incurred with mounting a strong legal defense, so Kimberly has set up a defense fund. Although their computers were seized by the police, Kimberly recently took the time to do an interview with me from her iPhone.

Quote of the Week: Indoor Privilege Edition

Indoor sex work involves having access to the indoors. Do we not remember that this is an enormous privilege?

An “on and off” sex worker for 20 years, Fleur de Lit, takes on the recent decision by Ontario’s Court of Appeals with righteous anger and compassion. Though Judge Susan Himmel of the (lower) Superior Court recognized that current laws enhanced the existing vulnerability of outdoor workers, the Court of Appeals decided that laws were not the endangering force in street workers’ lives, citing instead “poverty, addiction, gender, race and age” as being the factors responsible for marginalization and subsequent risks. (And it would be ridiculous for the law to pro-actively recognize or mitigate those factors, right?) Their recent decision only legalized brothels; “communicating for the purposes of prostitution” is still illegal.

Fleur de Lit goes on to write:

Decriminalization won’t change the way that I work: carefully screening clients, asking my colleagues for references and working indoors. The onus of criminality has always been on my outdoor colleagues.

WTF, Backpage?

A screenshot of Backpage’s New York City escorting page as of 1/12/2017.

We all knew it was coming. With California Attorney General Kamala Harris filing a second set of multiple charges of pimping and money laundering last month against Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin, and with Ferrer and his shareholders’ Senate hearing coming up last Tuesday before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, plus the trafficking hysteria-fueled media scrutiny Backpage had been under over the past couple of years—well, let’s just say that few of us were buying Backpage credits in bulk anymore. But most of us expected that the government would find some way to stop Backpage’s adult ads operation, however legally unlikely that might seem after years of efforts to do just that by law enforcement zealots. (After all, the California State Superior Court spanked Harris pretty hard verbally in last month’s decision on her first set of Backpage charges, reminding her that the Communications Decency Act specified that third party sites were not liable for their posters’ illegal content. And on Monday, the Supreme Court stated it would not hear an appeal on a similar Backpage case.)

But what actually ended up happening is that on Monday night, a few hours after the publication of a Senate report accusing Backpage of editing ads to minimize evidence of trafficking, Backpage execs decided to shutter their U.S. adult ads themselves as a free speech protest. Where the ads had once been, the site announces that they are “censored” by the government in a loud red font. Visitors are encouraged to speak out in support of the martyred site by using the hashtags #FREE SPEECH #BACKPAGE on social media.

That night, us sex workers collectively panicked, wondering how we would survive this month with no well-established national advertising site to garner low-end to middle-end escorting clients.

As usual, when powerful institutions decide to use the sex work debate for symbolic ammunition, it’s sex workers who suffer horrific real life consequences. Here, two competing neo-liberal agendas are clashing, indifferent to the material plight of the sex workers caught between them.