In chronological order, here’s what we deemed the most noteworthy sex work stories of 2014 in the United States. Come back tomorrow for the biggest international stories.
1. Belle Knox
In February, Duke’s student newspaper published an interview with a porn performer who was was outed to her classmates at Duke by fellow student Thomas Bagley. She was met with death threats and a three ring media circus once her performing name, Belle Knox, became public. In response, she reinvented herself as an advocate for sex workers’ rights, writing opinion pieces in various venues and speaking at the Toledo International Human Trafficking conference this year about whore stigma and sex worker exclusionary feminists. She also inspired an episode of Law & Order: SVU.
2. The Urban Institute Study
The government-funded Urban Institute study of sex work published in March (hey, look, it calls for more funding for law enforcement!), The Hustle, painted a sensational picture of the commercial sex economy where pimps can make $33,000 a week manipulating sex workers into work and inspired a hundred stories about the relative strength of the sex industry economy in U.S. cities. One problem: the study was extremely narrow, relying on a sample of only 36 sex workers, most of whom had already been incarcerated or were in a diversion program.
3. Monica Jones
In April, a Phoenix court found Monica Jones guilty of manifesting prostitution. Jones had been arrested during a sweep conducted by Project ROSE, a prostitution diversion program jointly administered by the Phoenix PD and Dominique Roe-Sepowicz of the Arizona State School of Social Work. Jones, herself a student of social work at ASU and an activist, attracted international attention when she spoke out about her arrest and experience with the sweep. Sex work activists, transgender community activists, and the ACLU all called for attention to the problems with ROSE, the crime of “walking while trans,” and the language of Arizona’s manifestation of prostitution statute. She is appealing her conviction and was recently deported from Australia for allegedly violating the work conditions of her visa while traveling for her studies. In November, Jones told the Best Practices Policy Project blog that Project ROSE will be discontinued.
4. No Condoms As Evidence
New York sex workers’ rights organization Red Umbrella Project was one of the primary supporters of the campaign to stop the NYPD from using condoms as evidence, which achieved a measure of success in May when they announced they would no longer use them as evidence in prostitution cases. They still may be used as evidence in trafficking cases, however.
MyRedbook.com and SFRedbook.com, two Bay Area sex work advertising and discussion forums and invaluable tools to thousands of sex workers, were seized by the FBI in June. The site operators have plead guilty to charges of using the mail and the internet to facilitate prostitution.
6. San Diego Strippers Sue Police Chief
The dancers of Cheetahs filed a civil suit in July against the city of San Diego and police chief Shelley Zimmerman. They are suing for damages due to emotional distress. A previous suit alleged their rights were violated after a March raid that involved them being lined up, photographed and asked for their Social Security numbers.
7. Condoms In Porn
Two bills mandating condom use in porn—Measure B in Los Angeles County and AB1576 in the California state legislature—made the rounds in their respective legislatures. AB1576 died in committee in August, but Measure B was upheld in appeals, despite the protests of many porn workers.
8. Tjisha Ball and Angelia Mangum
Two young Black strippers were murdered in Florida in September. Most reporting on the murders erased or stigmatized their sex work, noted Tits and Sass contributor Peechington Marie. Later on, she also wrote for Ebony about the whorephobic media coverage of serial killer Darren Vann’s Black sex worker victims Afrikka Hardy, Anith Jones, Teaira Batey, and Christine Williams. Black lives matter, and Black sex workers’ lives matter.
9. Oakland’s Nuisance Eviction Ordinance
In October, the Oakland City Council voted to expand a drug war related “nuisance eviction ordinance,” adding a clause that would allow for the speedy eviction of sex workers in both commercial and residential property without allowing them to contest the action. The language of the new law is broad enough to encourage the profiling of POC, trans, and low income residents; force sex workers out based on neighbor complaints; and discourage landlords from renting to those they suspect to be sex workers in the first place. In response to backlash from sex workers’ rights activists and allies, the City Council backpedaled and said they never intended to use the law against adult sex workers and that its purpose was to combat child trafficking. But their new framing of the policy is given the lie by the actual wording of the legislation.
10. Getting “Sex Worker” Into the Associated Press Stylebook
The AP Stylebook solicits recommendations each year, and when the call for suggestions went out in October, sex workers’ rights activists campaigned to have the definitive resource for journalism usage replace “prostitute” with “sex worker.”