Shannon Williams, co-chair of SWOP-USA, St. James Infirmary volunteer and Whorespeak activist, died this week after unexpectedly being diagnosed with a brain tumor. There is a fund for her three children here. Williams became briefly notorious after being arrested in 2003 for prostitution while working as a high school teacher in Berkeley. She was a sex worker activist for over twenty years, and helped found SWOP, the largest sex workers’ rights organization in America.
A cop in Arkansas was recently fired after he blew the whistle by revealing his department had a policy of sleeping with sex workers, then arresting them. We need rescue from who, now?
Sex workers and activists in Sonagachhi, India held a candlelit vigil to protest police and government inaction after an escort was strangled by a client earlier this month.
These are probably my favorite two articles yet about my lawsuit against Casa Diablo: In These Times amply covers the labor issue while Tits and Sass contributor Tara Burns gives it the most detailed coverage yet, including discussion of the sexual harassment charges, over at Vice. Both work in a few good meat puns.
Lubunca, the sex worker argot of the queer red light spaces in Turkey is being adopted by another marginalized Turkish group that has long overlapped with the brothels and bathhouses: the mainstream LGBT community. The trendiness of Lubunca with civilian LGBT people, however, is destroying its utility for queer and gay-for-pay sex workers.
In advance of the Super Bowl, the Arizona Republic published a story about how anti-trafficking organizations pushed for the use of “sex trafficking” instead of “prostitution.” Our ol’ pal Dr. Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, whom some of you may remember from her role as head of Project ROSE, the coercive Arizona State University social work school diversion program for sex workers, offers her two cents:
A victim should also be considered trafficked even if she is no longer actively controlled by someone, she said.
Instead, she said, women can be forced into prostitution by their life situation. She referred to it as ‘trafficked by circumstances.’
Frank Colacurcio Jr., the son of an infamous Seattle organized crime figure, is once again involved in the running of a strip club, after a year and a day spent in federal prison and three years banned from “adult entertainment businesses” on prostitution and money laundering charges. Colacurcio matter-of-factly addresses the way that crime and prison stigma limited his options on getting out of jail, and the pressures that customer scarcity and financial stress can put on dancers to bend personal and legal boundaries. Customers are still a finite resource, as he admits:
Colacurcio said he doesn’t fear scrutiny by the feds or local cops.
“Hopefully, they pay to come in and be customers,” he quipped. “We could use a lot more of those down here.
South African sex workers’ rights organizations SWEAT and Sisonke marched on Tuesday in support of Cynthia Joni, a domestic worker who was assaulted by a man who assumed she was a street worker and thus an easy, available target—an assessment largely confirmed by the government’s lack of response to sex workers asking for their safety to be taken seriously.
South Africa’s Deputy Justice Minister says sex work should not be decriminalized; to hell with public health and safety! Decrim encourages the image of South Africa as a sex tourism destination.
The UK man who killed escort Karolina Nowikiewicz last year after his failed penis-enhancement surgery has come to trial. (Record scratch sound goes here.)
This news clip about the move to bring End Demand to Seattle is sure to leave you rending your hair, from the reporter’s disingenuous, “Sex trafficking has a new name,” (no, it doesn’t), to the emotionally manipulative fairy tale about the cops saving women.
Ignore the headline here: this article isn’t as much about the Wall Street intern who quit her job to work in porn as it is about Melissa Petro’s sex addiction, her sex work, and the way women’s sexuality is blurred in our culture. Which is fine and interesting, but perhaps Petro could have left off the armchair diagnosis of another woman’s marketing ploy as sex addiction, and instead have found a different way to open her article.
Just another reminder of why sex workers should never give up jobs for partners: a sex worker who quit her job for her now-ex-boyfriend lost a suit asking for 25% of his estate as compensation for income lost when she quit.
Coinciding with the release of his new record, Marilyn Manson offers some advice: don’t write songs that confuse strippers.
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has stopped issuing adult service licenses for the time being, which means that people trying to do sex work have no other option than to do so under the table, violating the law and risking their safety and freedom to make a living.
Also in Canada, members of No One Is Illegal-Montreal and Solidarity Across Borders met to discuss state-sponsored violence and the way that carceral feminism fails sex workers:
[Lawmakers] look at the harms within prostitution, for example the high rates of violence, and [sic] instead of actually understanding that it’s the criminal laws that create people’s vulnerabilities to violence.
Naomi Sayers brings it again, repeating that the abolition of sex work will not help indigenous women; the New York Times runs another great op-ed about the evils of End Demand, including this gem:
‘We don’t want to make life safe for prostitutes,’ Senator Donald Plett, a Conservative, told the Senate in September, ‘we want to do away with prostitution.’
Vice reports that the majority of Canadians are against C-36.
You can now watch the trailer for The Oldest Game, a video game created by academics at Concordia University that tries to depict what it’s really like to be a full service sex worker.
The restructuring of the government in India continues to cause havoc among the public health and NGO sector as salaries go unpaid for the seventh month straight.
Transgender sex workers in China are among the most vulnerable and marginalized people in China because of the country’s lack of discrimination laws.
The Red Light Center app, which will soon be available via virtual reality goggles like the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift brand, takes virtual reality sex to a whole new level in an interactive and massive multi-player sex game, similar to Second Life, but focused entirely on sexual activity:
‘Lap dancing, stripping/pole dancing and sex are all live and available to users, and they are all multiplayer—meaning that all the strippers and clients or sex participants are real people,’ Shuster wrote in an e-mail. ‘As the stripper, you can go into either 3rd person or 1st person view. When you’re on stage or dancing on someone’s lap, you get an action-bar that gives you dance moves and other options.
As a patron, you also get an action bar that allows you to do things like tip the dancer or ‘make it rain’ on the dancer for a larger tip.’
Left Foot Forward keeps the focus on Northern Ireland’s version of the Swedish model, reminding us of Petite Jasmine and the price that End Demand exacts in sex worker lives.
Police in Sudbury, Canada, say they’ve had a dramatic drop in complaints about street workers in one of the most heavily trafficked areas for sex workers, a drop that they attribute to their 90-day intervention plan. What exactly the plan included, beyond the vague:
…provid[ing] support for sex workers through community partners, and mak[ing]sure they knew where they could find resources to get out of the sex trade…
…is unclear. Also unclear: whether women have actually left the industry or simply found a different area to work in without officious neighbors calling in complaints on them.
Diana Hemingway writes about things she’s learned in her first year of doing sex work. Most painfully:
The bottom line is, when shit goes south, don’t expect your non–sex worker friends or law enforcement to rally around you. When bad things happen, we stand alone.
I made a new tumblr covering all things related to employee status and unionization of strippers, at: StrippersOfTheWorldUnite.tumblr.com