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452 Responses

  1. Jessica Isabel
    Jessica Isabel December 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm |

    This is an awesome and informative piece!

  2. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy December 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm |

    Is the author of this post a current or former sex worker?

  3. H.D. Lynn
    H.D. Lynn December 4, 2011 at 5:01 pm |

    A humorous post about what the NSF should do with their increase in government money:
    http://throwthisbookatme.com/2011/11/30/10-ways-the-nsf-could-use-their-173-million-dollar-budget-increase/

    Duquesne doesn’t allow a secular group on campus. Some insight into the campus and the issues:
    http://throwthisbookatme.com/2011/11/30/this-is-sparta-at-duquesne-you-cant-question-religion/

  4. wl
    wl December 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm |

    bpbetsy:
    Is the author of this post a current or former sex worker?

    I believe so.

  5. annalouise
    annalouise December 4, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    And yet I still don’t see any conclusive evidence that I should give a shit, despite earnest arguments that I shouldn’t care about what’s the best interest of women who are in active addiction and working as street prostitutes (and, of course, women in recovering who are also recovering from the effects of their involvement in street prostitution) when their best interests conflict with that of the authors of posts like these.

    Those are the women I know who are connected to sex work. And I’m utterly unconvinced by yet another impassioned plea that I should stop centering them in my opinions about sex work.

  6. W.P. McNeill
    W.P. McNeill December 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm |

    Also, if you took a survey of what non-sex workers needed I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them said “to quit my job”.

  7. mad the swine
    mad the swine December 4, 2011 at 9:35 pm |

    “I would like to think that nowadays, most half-clued-in hetero white able-bodied feminists at least realise that it is not our place to decide who is The Authentic VoiceTM of Black women, or of LBTQ women, or of women with disabilities, so why would we outside the industry assume the right to decide who can speak for other sex workers? ”

    Holy shit. Did you just take an argument meant to focus feminist attention on the ignored, the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, and twist it around to deny representation to those people? Nice job.

    “I hesitate to draw conclusions about it since it’s such a small sample, but on the rare occasions that I’ve heard a (current) sex worker speak in favour of criminalisation, it’s been because they like the idea that they’re doing something illegal. To prefer working in a criminalised environment because it’s “edgy”, and to be able to afford being so blasé about the risks you’re taking? Now that is fucking privilege speaking.”

    Yeah, that’s ridiculous. It’s so ridiculous that I rather think you bring it up as a straw man. Of course almost no one, given the choice between ‘be a prostitute and risk arrest’ and ‘be a prostitute and don’t risk arrest’, is going to prefer criminalization. But there are intermediates between punishing women and full legalization – for example, the Swedish model, where johns are arrested and women aren’t – that recognize that sex workers are very often victims too.

    Also, I reject your premise about “less vulnerable sectors (ie independent indoor workers, or brothel workers in countries where they have labour, health and safety rights). ” Statistics show that in countries, such as the Netherlands, with the legal prostitution and worker protections you argue for, rates of human trafficking have skyrocketed. Legalizing prostitution leads to increased demand, beyond the number of people willing to be sex workers to fulfill, so the businesses import and exploit women from Eastern Europe and the Third World. It’s just like how meat packing industries and industrial farms in the United States ship in migrant workers to do the jobs Americans won’t, except that the job is being raped.

    And yes, that is the bottom line. An industry in which women are routinely raped *even where the industry is legal* is not an industry that needs to be supported.

  8. FeministWhore
    FeministWhore December 4, 2011 at 10:22 pm |

    bpbetsy:
    Is the author of this post a current or former sex worker?

    Funny how people never ask that question when the argument is for prohibition or abolition.

  9. Kyra
    Kyra December 4, 2011 at 10:38 pm |

    You’re not representative. Why should the law be made for you?

    I don’t see how that argument is relevant in the first place—as if decriminalization and enforceable rights are somehow harmful or unhelpful to the sex workers whom it claims are representative. Methinks people forced into sex work would find it helpful to have enforceable rights and the ability to go to the authorities for help without being treated as a criminal hirself.

  10. FeministWhore
    FeministWhore December 4, 2011 at 11:05 pm |

    the Swedish model, where johns are arrested and women aren’t – that recognize that sex workers are very often victims too.
    mad the swine:

    Are you kidding me? How is it that people are still throwing around “The Swedish Model” as if sex workers rights types have never heard of it? I’m in the US and I’ve seen how they incorporate that Swedish Model end demand crap into law here and it’s nothing more than state sponsored pimping rigged to finance the prison industrial complex. It’s a pity you let them exploit your ignorance on the issue.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XA5BQCXEN4s&t=2m47s

  11. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy December 5, 2011 at 12:00 am |

    “Funny how people never ask that question when the argument is for prohibition or abolition.”

    Idk about other people, but I’m always interested in whether or not the writer of an article about sex work has actually performed sex work, regardless of their position on the issues.

  12. Deepika
    Deepika December 5, 2011 at 12:12 am |

    wait – because the author’s heard some guesses in Ireland that vary wildly from person to person this means the actual statistic on street prostitution is “not really a matter for debate”? so no thorough, unbiased research is needed here? especially since “we will never know how many of them [indoor prostitutes] there are”, as the author says, there is no way of knowing what percentage street is of total prostitution in a given area…

    and way to set up a straw-abolitionist there. i’ve heard of no abolitionist arguing that criminalizing prostitutes is The Way to Go!! most i’ve read are in favour of anything that HELPS or makes life easier for the woman herself, INCLUDING, especially, decriminilization. the farley “legalization” statistic cited is not affected one way or another by the examples following as they are about decrim. that’s something most abolitionists are in favour of anyway.

    finally – “that the (assumed) majority view is the only one worth listening to” being an “odious position” is not one that applies in this case. abolitionists in this case are talking about the law being based on ‘Happy Hooker’ (so to speak) situations that could end up being more HARMFUL to those who are not-Happy Hookers because they don’t take their uniquely vulnerable situations into account. it’s a matter of saying: please let’s consider the most vulnerable population here and structure our laws in such a way as would keep EVEN THEM protected under the law (because that would then easily apply to less-vulnerable populations as well).

  13. Anon21
    Anon21 December 5, 2011 at 12:17 am |

    mad the swine: And yes, that is the bottom line. An industry in which women are routinely raped *even where the industry is legal* is not an industry that needs to be supported.

    So, yes, but that begs the question: does a decriminalization policy support the industry? I’m just not entirely sure, although I’m open to being convinced. After all, two ways that pimps keep prostitutes dependent on them is by being willing to bond them out if they’re arrested, and by providing some degree of physical security from violent johns, security which won’t be provided by the police in a system in which a legal ban on prostitution is enforced.

    For a historical analogy, consider Prohibition: maybe as a policy it resulted in less alcohol being available, but certainly it also delivered an enormous new source of revenue to criminal organizations. The mob favored a policy of prohibition, because it cleared law-abiding competitors from the market. Substitute pimps and traffickers for the mob, and I think there’s a genuine question as to whether criminalization hurts or helps the sex industry, or at least the most harmful and coercive elements of the industry.

  14. Maia
    Maia December 5, 2011 at 12:32 am |

    I agree strongly with Kyra:

    I don’t see how that argument is relevant in the first place—as if decriminalization and enforceable rights are somehow harmful or unhelpful to the sex workers whom it claims are representative. Methinks people forced into sex work would find it helpful to have enforceable rights and the ability to go to the authorities for help without being treated as a criminal hirself.

    I come from NZ, where de-criminalisation is a given, but it astonishes me that anyone would ever argue that being criminalised is in any sex-workers best interest. De-criminalisation would be even more urgent if 100% of sex-workers worked on the street and wanted to get out of the business.

    However, this post seems to be giving almost as much meaning to the majority as experience as the people the author is arguing against, with careful attempts to demonstrate that certain experiences are not the majority (or at least it’s not known if they are the majority). I believe that there are very good reasons for centring the experiences of those who are most marginalised at any kind of work – I just don’t think arguing for criminalisation does that.

  15. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 5, 2011 at 2:40 am |

    My name is Alexandra Walling, and three years ago I prostituted myself.

    Up until now, only four people in the world knew. Several friends of mine read this blog, and if they feel the need, they are welcome to tell others. It’s important for people to know that normal, every day women can be involved in prostitution, too.

    And here is what I have to say. I was eighteen. I was scared. I was running away from abuse at home, and from the madness that had settled in my mind. I was desperate for money, and when you’re an unskilled teenager with little work experience, there are two ways to make a lot of money very quickly – drug dealing and prostitution – and I knew nothing about drugs.

    At the time, I was living in Rhode Island, which until very recently was the only state in the country where indoor prostitution was decriminalized. All of you people talking about the marvels of decriminalized prostitution? Here’s what it looked like. On Federal Hill in Providence, you couldn’t go a block without passing an Asian massage parlor. Those parlors are full of trafficked women. Craigslist got hundreds of ads a day for prostitution. The going rate? 175-200 an hour, give or take. I’m sure street prostitution was less lucrative, but a ton of money was being exchanged, either way. And I guarantee you, where that much money is involved, there are men looking to exploit the women earning it.

    I was terrified, of course. The first man I saw was an asshole, and an obvious asshole – just interested in being demeaning, and he made it hard for me to leave when he was pressuring me to let him become my pimp. He still scares me to think of; sometimes I flash back to being with him and hot shame and revulsion wells up in me still, three years on.

    The second man? This is the one that breaks my heart. He was just an ordinary man. Just a married man with a wife and kids and a pretty house in the suburbs. I don’t remember where his wife and kids were – but I remember feeling the sick shame as I saw the photos of them on his wall, the feeling that I was compromising everything I believed in by being with him. And you know what? He was a nice guy. I mean it. A nice, normal man who wasn’t getting as much sex at home as he wanted, and so he went looking for it in all the wrong places. I appeared willing enough; I was young and attractive and I made all t he right sounds, all the right reassuring gestures.

    When I left his house I drove to an Ihop and left the waitress there a forty dollar tip. It felt amazing to have money, to have the freedom to go to a restaurant and eat what you liked without worrying. It felt amazing to know that I could easily make enough money to move out and get an apartment of my own away from my parents.

    It fell apart, though – my mother was apparently reading my diary – and as a result I found myself back in a mental hospital, for being a disobedient woman.

    What did I conclude from all this? What do I conclude from it now, years on? Well, I have to agree with Kate Millett and all the other 70s radicals on this. For me, prostitution felt like rape. I still cannot think of it without physical pain, agony in the soul. I have told almost no one – the only people who know are my parents and my two best friends, and we never speak of it. Ever.

    And yet in many ways I’m exactly what people try to argue sex work looks like, or could look like, in a decriminalized nation. I’m white, I’m middle class, I had a couple years college under my belt, I wasn’t starving or abandoned by the side of the road. I wasn’t pimped. I was a self-identified feminist, and really believed that what I was doing was okay, because I’d read so many articles and blog posts from modern day feminists extolling the marvels of hooking.

    And I’m writing this in case there’s any young woman out there who’s scared, and strapped for cash, and thinking, maybe I could prostitute myself. Maybe it would work out. Maybe I’d be happy. And I can’t tell you what your experience might be, because everyone’s different, god knows. But it’s risky, and it’s tiring in the soul, and for me it felt like rape. And I still am not normal. I don’t trust men; I can’t look at certain articles of clothing, or other little things, without flashing back to it. Nothing has ever been the same. Worst choice of my life.

    And I hope articles like this stop being written, stop being tolerated in feminist spaces. Articles that seek to diminish just how miserable prostitution is.

  16. wl
    wl December 5, 2011 at 2:46 am |

    I agree with Maia (very much, on both points) and FeministWhore (about the “Swedish Model” in the US being code for increase penalties on johns WHILE KEEPING PENALTIES ON PROSTITUTION THE SAME).

  17. wl
    wl December 5, 2011 at 2:47 am |

    And with Kyra.

  18. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 5, 2011 at 5:17 am |

    I was prostituted for ten years in New York City. The results of Farley’s nine country study is completely consistent with my experiences in prostitution. It’s important to understand that women in prostitution are not segregated into separate realms — most have been prostituted in at least five different settings. To divide women in prostitution into street people versus escorts, who live in some idealized zone of sexual fantasy, is silly, simplistic and rather insulting. It’s also completely inaccurate.

    I was prostituted for as little as $100 for half an hour and as much as $1500 an hour. And yet, the experience was remarkably similar across the price brackets. Many Johns were violent so I was scared of all of them. Prostitution did not change when the price went up.

    I was ‘broken’ and initiated into ‘the life’ via a gang rape by several pimps and their police officer partner. They held me against my will in a padlocked room, beat me, drugged me, and terrorized me until I agreed to work in their brothel. I didn’t know what day it was or how long I’d been there. All my sisters in prostitution had had similar experiences. When we’d meet each other for the first time, we’d often say “I know your sad story.” My pimps were connected with organized crime, a powerful threat they held over me and the women I worked with.

    Farley’s study found that women in prostitution experience the same levels of trauma as the survivors of state-sponsored torture. You see why I find her results consistent with the truth of prostitution.

    I will never be the same. It took me years to recover. I can’t have children because of injuries sustained during prostitution. My vertebrae are all messed up due to the variety of Johns and pimps that beat and attempted to strangle me. My shoulder won’t stay in it’s socket. My prostituted friends were murdered. One killed herself after a John beat her up.

    And I was exceptionally lucky compared to most prostituted women. I’m white. Women of color had it ten times as hard as I did. The racism in prostitution is horrific. Men sexualize the women’s race within the abusive context.

    It’s important to understand that the sex industry has a powerful financial motive to present the image of the ‘happy hooker.’ It sends them lots of business. And it camouflages the massive sexual violence and harm the sex industry inflicts.

    Ms. Lyon compares being prostituted to ‘any other job.’ Clearly she has no understanding of what prostituted women experience. While I was prostituted I would sometimes stagger into the ER. The doctors would do a pelvic exam and they’d believe I was experiencing serious complications from an extremely recent abortion. But it was just the result of the ‘work’ of prostitution. That’s how hard the prostitution is on your body.

    In my ten years in prostitution, I never met a ‘happy hooker.” But the pimps demanded that we present that persona to the Johns. Because it was a big part of the Johns sexual fantasies and thus helped the pimps sell. It had nothing to do with the reality of our experience. Indeed, the most simplistic Google search reveals that Xaviera Hollander, who wrote the book The Happy Hooker, was a madam. In other words, a female pimp. She was making money off the sexual exploitation of other women.

    I very much support the Swedish model of legislation for prostitution: where it’s a crime to be a pimp or a John, but it’s never a crime to be a prostitute. If only this had been law in the USA during the time I was prostituted.

    I found the Nick Mai study preposterous. Mai’s researchers approached the migrant sex workers through advertisements. In other words, they found them and spoke with them in the same situation that Johns would. If a researcher approached me this way while I was prostituted, I would not have felt free to tell them the truth — I would have felt I needed to give them the same line I was required to give Johns — that I ‘loved’ sex work. Because otherwise my pimp, who’d threatened my life and beat me on numerous occasions, would hurt me. And because the researchers had come to me through advertisements, I would have perceived them as Johns and expected them to demand sexual services at any moment. These are not appropriate circumstances for a study. Indeed, it’s a further exploitation of the women.

    Ms. Lyon, you describe yourself as a feminist. I feel compelled to tell you how horrifying it is to me to read posts like yours. Because, perhaps unintentionally, you are pumping for the pimps and massive organized criminal and economic interests that sexually exploit women.

    You are making women like me invisible.

    bpbetsy:
    Istheauthorofthispostacurrentorformersexworker?

  19. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 5, 2011 at 5:40 am |

    It’s pretty heartbreaking, as a formerly prostituted woman, to read a post like this on a blog called “Feministe.”

  20. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 5, 2011 at 5:45 am |

    It’s important to undestand the Swedish model of legislation incorporates the decriminalisation of womenin prostitution unequivocally. “In Sweden, it is
    understood that any society that claims to defend principles of legal, political, economic,
    and social equality for women and girls must reject the idea that women and children,
    mostly girls, are commodities that can be bought, sold, and sexually exploited by men. To
    do otherwise is to allow that a separate class of female human beings, especially women
    and girls who are economically and racially marginalized, is excluded from these
    measures.” _- from a great interview with Gunilla Ekberg

    http://action.web.ca/home/catw/attach/R%26T_Interview_with_Gunilla_Ekberg.pdf

  21. Anonymouse
    Anonymouse December 5, 2011 at 9:14 am |

    I would guess that trafficking is such an issue in the Netherlands because, as the one country in Europe with the sex industry out in the open, it is a destination for sex tourism. I imagine that the demand for sex workers, concentrated in just one country, far outstrips the number of Dutch women who are interested in the profession. I wonder if full decriminalization across Europe would alleviate the sex trafficking issues in the Netherlands?

    But I often see attempts like this one to argue that the number of street workers is inflated. It seems to me that the unspoken conclusion is that therefore they are not representative. I’m not sure if sex workers’ rights organizers see themselves as labor organizers, but I would think that any labor organization for any profession would focus on the most vulnerable workers. I completely understand the desire to challenge the “every sex worker is forced into the profession against her will or by circumstances outside of her control” position, as it denies sex workers’ agency and right to speak for themselves. But I just can’t get on-board with the shifting of focus from the most vulnerable workers in any profession. In general, don’t labor laws that reflect the needs of the most vulnerable workers offer the strongest protections to all workers?

  22. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 5, 2011 at 9:22 am |

    I was prostituted for ten years in New York City. The results of Farley’s nine country study is completely consistent with my experiences in prostitution. It’s important to understand that women in prostitution are not segregated into separate realms — most have been prostituted in at least five different settings. To divide women in prostitution into street people versus escorts, who live in some idealized realm of sexual fantasy, is silly, simplistic and rather insulting. It’s also completely inaccurate.

    I was prostituted for as little as $100 for half an hour and as much as $1500 an hour. And yet, the experience was remarkably similar across the price brackets. Many Johns were violent so I was scared of all of them. Prostitution did not change when the price went up.

    I was ‘broken’ and initiated into ‘the life’ via a gang rape by several pimps and their police officer partner. They held me against my will in a padlocked room, beat me, drugged me, and terrorized me until I agreed to work in their brothel. I didn’t know what day it was or how long I’d been there. All my sisters in prostitution had had similar experiences. When we’d meet each other for the first time, we’d often say “I know your sad story.” My pimps were connected with organized crime, a powerful threat they held over me and the women I worked with.

    Farley’s study found that women in prostitution experience the same levels of trauma as the survivors of state-sponsored torture. You see why I find her results consistent with the truth of prostitution.

    I will never be the same. It took me years to recover. I can’t have children because of injuries sustained during prostitution. My vertebrae are all messed up due to the variety of Johns and pimps that beat and attempted to strangle me. My shoulder won’t stay in it’s socket. My prostituted friends were murdered. One killed herself after a John beat her up.

    And I was exceptionally lucky compared to most prostituted women. I’m white. Women of color had it ten times as hard as I did. The racism in prostitution is horrific. Men sexualize the women’s race within the abusive context.

    It’s important to understand that the sex industry has a powerful financial motive to present the image of the ‘happy hooker.’ It sends them lots of business. And it camouflages the massive sexual violence and harm the sex industry inflicts.

    Ms. Lyon compares being prostituted to ‘any other job.’ Clearly she has no understanding of what prostituted women experience. While I was prostituted I would sometimes stagger into the ER. The doctors would do a pelvic exam and they’d believe I was experiencing serious complications from an extremely recent abortion. But it was just the result of the ‘work’ of prostitution. That’s how hard the prostitution is on your body.

    In my ten years in prostitution, I never met a ‘happy hooker.” But the pimps demanded that we present that persona to the Johns. Because it was a big part of the Johns sexual fantasies and thus helped the pimps sell. It had nothing to do with the reality of our experience. Indeed, most simplistic Google search reveals that Xaviera Hollander, who wrote the book The Happy Hooker, was a madam. In other words, a female pimp. She was making money off the sexual exploitation of other women.

    I very much support the Swedish model of legislation for prostitution: where it’s a crime to be a pimp or a John, but it’s never a crime to be a prostitute. If only this had been law in the USA during the time I was prostituted.

    I found the Nick Mai study preposterous. Mai’s researchers approached the migrant sex workers through advertisements. In other words, they found them and spoke with them in the same situation that Johns would. If a researcher approached me this way while I was prostituted, I would not have felt free to tell them the truth — I would have felt I needed to give them the same line I was required to give Johns — that I ‘loved’ sex work. Because otherwise my pimp, who’d threatened my life and beat me on numerous occasions, would hurt me. And because the researchers had come to me through advertisements, I would have perceived them as Johns and expected them to demand sexual services at any moment. These are not appropriate circumstances for a study. Indeed, it’s a further exploitation of the women.

    Ms. Lyon, you describe yourself as a feminist. I feel compelled to tell you how horrifying it is to me to read posts dismissing studies like Farley’s by women who identify themselves as feminists. Perhaps it’s unintentional, but such a post makes women like me invisible.

  23. Wendy
    Wendy December 5, 2011 at 10:09 am |

    Addressing a number of the comments here:

    bpbetsy: Is the author of this post a current or former sex worker?

    No, as the bio states, I am a sex work researcher.

    mad the swine:
    Holy shit. Did you just take an argument meant to focus feminist attention on the ignored, the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, and twist it around to deny representation to those people?

    Sorry, what on earth are you talking about? I’m calling for more sex workers’ voices to be heard, not fewer.

    Also, I reject your premise about “less vulnerable sectors (ie independent indoor workers, or brothel workers in countries where they have labour, health and safety rights). ” Statistics show that in countries, such as the Netherlands, with the legal prostitution and worker protections you argue for, rates of human trafficking have skyrocketed. Legalizing prostitution leads to increased demand, beyond the number of people willing to be sex workers to fulfill, so the businesses import and exploit women from Eastern Europe and the Third World.

    Claims about trafficking rates are inherently unreliable. This is for a number of reasons, such as the malleable definition of “trafficking”, its hidden nature and the way that most countries’ immigration laws create a false binary of innocent victim/illegal migrant. So the most that can ever be accurately determined is the number of trafficking cases reported (or recognised). In this respect, it’s true that the number has “increased” in the Netherlands since its laws were changed – but the number has also increased in Sweden, while in Germany it’s decreased. It is simply not true that a clear correlation can be drawn between a legal sex industry and the rate of trafficking. There is also no established relationship between legalisation and demand.

    An industry in which women are routinely raped *even where the industry is legal* is not an industry that needs to be supported.

    My concern is not with supporting the industry, but with supporting the people in it. That means giving them legal rights.

    FeministWhore: Are you kidding me? How is it that people are still throwing around “The Swedish Model” as if sex workers rights types have never heard of it?

    Indeed, I actually mentioned Sweden in the post – and pointed out that the most vulnerable sex workers are the ones most adversely affected by its laws. The same is true in Norway, as I’ve outlined in this post.

    Deepika: wait – because the author’s heard some guesses in Ireland that vary wildly from person to person this means the actual statistic on street prostitution is “not really a matter for debate”? so no thorough, unbiased research is needed here?

    Wow, that’s a million miles from what I actually said. For one thing you left out the part where I said “I’ve never seen an estimate from any other country that placed street prostitution in the majority”. It’s not just the views of a couple people in Ireland I’m talking about – there simply doesn’t seem to be any debate on this issue; it’s something that all sides seem to agree on. So when even abolitionists accept that street workers are a minority, it’s not clear why they would then assume that studies that focus on street workers can be generalised across all sectors.

    In no way is that an argument for not doing more thorough research on the size of the different sectors.

    and way to set up a straw-abolitionist there. i’ve heard of no abolitionist arguing that criminalizing prostitutes is The Way to Go!! most i’ve read are in favour of anything that HELPS or makes life easier for the woman herself, INCLUDING, especially, decriminilization. the farley “legalization” statistic cited is not affected one way or another by the examples following as they are about decrim. that’s something most abolitionists are in favour of anyway.

    If it’s a “straw abolitionist” it’s one created by Farley herself. In that study, all she asked about was the alternative of “legalisation”. Furthermore, she specifically cited the views of German sex workers as an example of the supposed failure of “legal prostitution”. Sex work is decriminalised in Germany.

    I would also disagree that most abolitionists are in favour of decriminalisation. While most may favour decriminalising the person who sells sex, they still want the sex trade to be illegal, it’s just that the buyer rather than the seller is the one who goes to jail for it. Furthermore, many of them seem to support the Crown in Bedford v Canada (including Farley, who testified for the Crown), which involves laws that criminalise sex workers; abolitionists here in Ireland have opposed the removal of laws that make it illegal for sex workers to share premises, so I question how much they really believe in decriminalising the person selling sex, anyway.

    “that the (assumed) majority view is the only one worth listening to” being an “odious position” is not one that applies in this case.

    Perhaps it’s not the one that applies in your case. I’m quoting from things I’ve personally heard abolitionists say – and many sex workers seem to have personally heard these things too, judging by the reaction I’ve received to this post.

    Maia: However, this post seems to be giving almost as much meaning to the majority as experience as the people the author is arguing against, with careful attempts to demonstrate that certain experiences are not the majority (or at least it’s not known if they are the majority).

    I’m just pointing out the flaws in the “majoritarian” argument as used by many abolitionists.

    I believe that there are very good reasons for centring the experiences of those who are most marginalised at any kind of work

    I think the question is what exactly does “centring” entail. I don’t think it’s safe to just assume that you can legislate for the most marginalised and sweep everyone else under that same carpet – the context of the specific issue has to be carefully considered. There’s a long history of women being oppressed by laws that are supposedly meant to protect the most vulnerable (some of which may well have actually done so, although criminalisation of sex work has not – which makes this debate kind of academic, anyway).

  24. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 5, 2011 at 10:34 am |

    Decriminalisation is the centerpiece of the Swedish model. To say otherwise is obscuring the reality of what it is — trying to set up some smoke and mirrors to confuse well meaning folk who don’t live in the issue professionally like you do.

    Norway, Sweden and Iceland never had feudalism so perhaps regionally they are more attuned to the engines of exploitation than other western European countries. Norway, Sweden and Iceland have the highest levels of sexual freedom in the world. And yet, they’ve passed the Swedish model, making it completely legal to be a prostitute, but making it illegal to be a John or a pimp — in otherwords, making it illegal to be a man who sexually exploits women. They understand prostitution has nothing to do with freedom or choice.

    South Africa suffered under the most brutal Apartheid until Nelson Mandela’s party took power in the nineties. South Africa understands well what exploitation is, which is why they’ve also legislated Swedish model laws concerning prostitution. Because they recognize all too well what slavery looks like.

  25. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 5, 2011 at 10:39 am |

    Alexandra thank you for your brave and beautifully-written post. I wish you all good things and every joy.

  26. Anon21
    Anon21 December 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm |

    I really think these frequent arguments about Sweden versus the Netherlands, “abolition” versus decriminalization could benefit from a strong dose of empiricism. I think feminists on both sides of that divide (and yes, there are feminists on both sides) should be able to agree that harm reduction should be the primary policy goal at this point in time. Since Sweden doesn’t seem to have any good medium-term prospects for eliminating prostitution altogether, and since the Netherlands has not created a sex industry free of exploitation, we are realistically stuck with an exploitative sex industry for the foreseeable future. From there, the question should be how to make it less exploitative, less dangerous, less overall awful. Again, I would hope that this could transcend the great feminist divide on the issue. If you think sex work should just be work, you still have to acknowledge that for a lot of women, it’s coercive and horrible, and that policy should work to ameliorate that. If you argue that commodification of female sexuality is a wrong in and of itself, it should still be possible to recognize degrees of harm in the sex industry, and agree that policy should work towards ameliorating the extremes even as you work towards a society in which the demand is destroyed.

    So, that leads to empiricism. Because I think endemic to this debate is people getting committed to one or the other legal model because of the ideological principles it reflects, and then becoming not especially interested in the real effects that the policy is having on the lives of women in the sex industry. I recently read an article (Halley et al., 29 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 335 (2006)) that suggested that both the Swedish and Dutch models may have made things better in some ways for some women in the sex industry, but asserting that both have also made things worse for some already-marginalized groups of women (and children), and citing Israel’s mixed model (de jure criminalization, de facto toleration and labor market regulation) as one that seems to be generating better results for the women involved. Obviously, that’s far from the first or last word on the empirical side, but it’s the kind of research and argumentation that might move things in the direction of less exploitation, violence, STI transmission, and sexual assault in the here and now. I think that’s a more valuable place to spend time and energy than in theorizing which legal regime is more theoretically defensible.

  27. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 5, 2011 at 5:33 pm |

    Anon21, I appreciate your desire to bridge the divide – but he Swedish model has reduced trafficking while the Dutch model has increased trafficking. I think that’s strong empirical evidence in favor of the Swedish model. We know it’s worked wonderfully while the Dutch model has led to increased misery for women in prostitution. We know the Swedish model greatly reducies the numbers of prostituted women, while also greatly reducing harm to these women. If we were talking empirically about a medical treatment — let’s say whether to use antibiotics or placebo to treat tuberculosis — it would seem insane to champion the placebo in face of the evidence that antibiotics can cure TB.

    I think it’s important not to deny the humanity and experience of prostituted women who speak out about the trauma and violence in in the sex industry. So many social forces work toward our invisibility. The problem with so-called harm ‘reduction’ is that it doesn’t address the coercion and violence inherent in the sex industry. It’s not really reducing harm, it’s just giving the appearance of reducing harm — putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound. It ends up whitewashing what the women experience. This isn’t an academic game. When you talk about ‘degrees of harm’ you’re ignoring the substantial ‘academic’ evidence that shows the violence in prostitution is remarkably the same, whatever form it takes.

    We know the Swedish model works and it helps prostituted women. In contrast, we know the Dutch model enriches and empowers pimps and organized crime traffickers. At the moment the French National Assembly is considering legislation based on the Swedish model. So it seems completely appropriate for feminists to be talking about legislation at this moment in history.

    Alexandra said it perfectly in post 15:

    It’s risky, and it’s tiring in the soul, and for me it felt like rape. And I still am not normal. I don’t trust men; I can’t look at certain articles of clothing, or other little things, without flashing back to it. Nothing has ever been the same. Worst choice of my life.

    And I hope articles like this stop being written, stop being tolerated in feminist spaces. Articles that seek to diminish just how miserable prostitution is.

  28. Mayotte
    Mayotte December 5, 2011 at 6:35 pm |

    “(which has lead to sex workers having their adult children charged with pimping)”

    I had never heard of this. Can you direct me to a newspaper article, a court record, or some other concrete data that an adult living with their prostituting parent was actually charged as a pimp? It’s very much something to be concerned about if the law is being applied unfairly.

    When the law first passed there was some talk about women taking advantage of the law to blackmail innocent men with the threat of calling them johns. No Swedish man has reported such a thing happening to him. It is very important that these accusations be accurately

    I personally know a woman in Sweden who provides counseling services to prostituted women, so I find it hard to believe when you say sex worker services have shut down for fear of being prosecuted. Perhaps you meant that pro-sex work services have shut down but services helping women exit, quit drugs, and find other employment are still operating?

  29. Mayotte
    Mayotte December 5, 2011 at 6:36 pm |

    accurately evidenced, sorry

  30. Wendy
    Wendy December 6, 2011 at 9:47 am |

    Sorry, I meant to post the link to the Swedish Federation report. It’s all in Swedish, unfortunately, but you can run it through Google Translate. The references to the law being used to block HIV prevention programmes are on pages 2 and 8.

  31. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 6, 2011 at 7:05 pm |

    The problem is that Google translate is just not accurate enough to verify info that way. Do you read Swedish Wendy? How did you get this info?

    Again, being a woman who is prostituted in Sweden, Iceland, Norway and South Africa is NOT CRIMINALIZED. The Swedish model is all about NOT CRIMINALIZING the women.

  32. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 6, 2011 at 7:35 pm |

    I put that report through google translator. It was a trainwreck — it’s not an accurate translation. But I was able to gather that there’s no accurate evidence about HIV prevention being stopped due to the law cited in this document — in other words, no evidence of anything like that. They do say they are ‘aware’ of such a thing — the HIV prevention programs apparently being targeted at male buyers of sex. But they haven’t taken the time to research this and provide proof. Or they have, and they didn’t find any proof. Of course, my translation via google translator is really garbled — they could be saying something completely different.

    They seem to want there to be specialized HIV prevention education aimed at men ‘who sell sex to women’ as opposed to ‘men who sell sex to men.’ See above paragraph for disclaimer about my translation.

  33. saurus
    saurus December 7, 2011 at 8:00 am |

    This has a lot to do with my background, I think any critique or illumination of statistical shortcomings is extremely important. Whether you care more about “nonconsensual or reluctant sex work” or “consensual, ‘it’s my job’ sex work”, learning which of our facts aren’t actually backed by strong evidence can only be a positive thing. I don’t know if anyone here is involved with participatory research or studies of research methodology, but suffice it to say that a whackload of our opinions, assumptions and convictions – even ones that are right or well-intentioned – often rest on ideas born out of bad, oppressive, or incomplete research. Research is not just “scientific support” – it’s sometimes the closest we can get to finding out, en masse, the different needs and experiences of these people we supposedly want to help. If we don’t give a shit about those needs and experiences, or if we’re operating on incorrect or incomplete notions, that’s bad. That’s really bad. So I think it’s great that has identified an area of statistical weakness for us and I wish more people saw her post that way.

    To the people who say, “What’s wrong with focusing on the most marginalized in a marginalized group?” – nothing. Of course. But in the greater representation our society circulates, it’s a big problem if we don’t circulate the whole picture. Ask black communities where the picture being circulated is gun crime, gangs, welfare and stealing. Ask indigenous communities in Canada where the picture being circulated is alcoholism, drug abuse, poverty and laziness. These “pictures” are valid (well, except the part that comments on motivation, usually) for some, sure. But when that’s *all* we have, we fail to understand the complexity of these human beings, and our policy and actions as a result will not treat them like complex human beings.

    Now obviously she has many good reasons to explore who the “representative” sex worker is. Just one of those reasons, but the most shitfest-inducing one, is because our ideas of the “representative” experience of sex work influence our beliefs in how the state should deal with sex workers. And obviously, for many people, the idea that sex workers are universally victims of their job is reason to believe that it should be criminalized, or heavily policed, or the johns should be criminalized, or whatever.

    But I think it’s important to understand the complexity of sex workers whether or not you’re building an argument about decriminalization or criminalization. I think it’s important for human reasons, for social justice work, for how we look at and treat sex workers who come into our lives, for what we teach our kids and others around us.

    Anyway, as much as you might continue to believe that “victims of sex work” sex workers are the majority (I’m not arguing that we see them as the minority; I think what we see here is that we just don’t have sufficient research either way) I hope we understand that the need to complicate that notion is the same need we have to complicate the notion that all queer people choose to be that way. Because it’s being used against us. It’s being used in ways that harm all sex workers, not just the happy ones.

    And I don’t like having to set up competing ideologies like this, like creating killer robots to fight in a ring and whichever ideology wins gets to determine policy. I wish we as a society focused on those sex workers’ lives and experiences and needs. But I understand why this happens and why a post like that one may, at some point, prove a useful point when engaging with people who go down that “sex work hurts, outlaw it” path. In addition, of course, to being a generally useful post because it helps us understand the kind of incomplete research that’s backing some our perceptions, as I said above.

  34. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 7, 2011 at 10:47 am |

    The thing is there should be proof of something like this. If there’s been a criminal charge in Sweden, there’s a record. There are people you can interview about it. There are sentences given, or people acquitted or cases are dismissed. Pye Jacobsson should be providing this evidence when she talks about this stuff on forums.

    There’s an excellent new book by Kajsa Ekis Ekman about the same issues we’re discussing here. She’s a Swedish feminist and socialist.
    http://ssy.org.uk/2010/09/prostitution-the-abolition-of-the-victim-and-post-modernisms-defence-of-the-status-quo/

    Please pay special attention to the discussion on the “Myth of Sex Workers Unions.” She details how only the tiniest minority of these union memberships are actually prostituted women — and how many of the union members are actually pimps. This speaks to Wendy’s original post, where she cites these bogus ‘sex worker’ unions, which as a formerly prostituted woman, I know to be pimp-run organizations designed to pump sex industry profits. We really need to acknowledge that there are billions upon billions of dollars being earned off sexual violence against vulnerable women.

    Kasja’s argument contains the simple discovery of genius:

    The fear of the ‘victim’ in the prostitution debate … is something which mirrors neo-liberalism’s general victim hate – since all talk of the vulnerable person immediately reveals an unjust society. Through making the victim taboo can one legitimise class inequalities and gender discrimination, for if there is no victim there is no perpetrator.”

    Kasja also calls out the cruelty of academics ‘defending’ the moneyed interests of the sex industry:

    The ‘transgressing’ of divisions anticipates that the divisions remain. When the white play black or when academics declare themselves whores and drug addicts, they are mocking those people who are black, who are prostitutes and who are drug addicts”.

    “In the absolute meaning there are no whores. There are people in prostitution for a longer or shorter period of time. There are no ‘types’ of people, no characters. They are people who have ended up in a certain situation. The fetishised ‘transgressing’ of divisions separates itself from the the revolutionary ‘abolition’ of them. The abolition of divisions arises from seeing the human being, the humanity in everyone, everyone’s equal needs … It is an objective solidarity which is built on a subjective understanding. One puts themselves in another’s place and imagines themselves under different circumstances. It is to look into someone else’s eyes and see yourself. And with this insight comes also an insight into the cruelty of the system which has made her into a ‘type’.”

  35. Wendy
    Wendy December 7, 2011 at 11:04 am |

    Stella Marr: First, Google Translate has been shown to be quite reliable for most European languages. Some studies are cited here. Sometimes you do have to break down sentences into smaller groups of words, though, and when you do this, the line you’re referring to becomes “men who sell sex to men”.

    You’re correct that the report doesn’t provide concrete examples of cases where HIV preventive programmes were stopped because of the law, but it would hardly be an atypical abolitionist policy. Donna Hughes has described such programmes as “aiding and abetting the slave trade”. The main Irish organisation providing outreach to sex workers, an abolitionist group, refuses to give them condoms. And Sweden has a very poor record on harm reduction generally, because it prefers to take a zero tolerance approach – see this article about how its policies fail injecting drug users.

    I think that anyone who has a hard time believing that a programme that encourages sex users and (particularly) their clients to use condoms wouldn’t face resistance in Sweden, really hasn’t been paying attention to what is going on in Sweden.

    Finally, you’re 100% wrong about South Africa. It is still illegal to sell sex there.

  36. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 7, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    Saurus, Sweden has not outlawed sex work. This is false. They have made it against the law to be a pimp or a John. They have not criminalized prostituted women. They actually provide them with services and help.

    Let’s perfectly clear here.

    Who benefits from the pre-Swedish model status quo? The pimps, sex traffickers and organized crime.

  37. Wendy
    Wendy December 7, 2011 at 11:07 am |

    she cites these bogus ‘sex worker’ unions, which as a formerly prostituted woman, I know to be pimp-run organizations designed to pump sex industry profits

    You were a sex worker in the countries where those organisations are located? Really?

  38. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 7, 2011 at 11:35 am |

    The leader of the International Sex Workers Union is actually a pimp who runs one of the largest escort services in London:

    The International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW), for example, which is affiliated to the GMB and has spoken at conferences of the Labour Party and the Green Party, is run by a man called Douglas Fox. Fox claims to be a ’sex worker’ and accuses radical feminists of being big meanies out to silence him. Yet on closer inspection it becomes clear that Mr Fox is a liar. Sex worker he most certainly is not, rather he is a pimp who runs one of the UK’s largest escort firms. The IUSW’s membership, you see, is open to anyone, to pimps, to men who buy sex, to sympathetic academics.
    From http://ssy.org.uk/2010/09/prostitution-the-abolition-of-the-victim-and-post-modernisms-defence-of-the-status-quo/

    Wendy, thank you for pointing out my misunderstanding about the law in South Africa. Wishing you well.

  39. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm |

    I think it’s important to decouple the idea of helping prostituted women from the idea of HIV education for Johns and condom distribution.

    I became a member of ACT UP in the year it was formed, 1987, and participated in its original meetings at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in downtown Manhattan. I still have close ties with other ACT UP members from those days. I’m extraordinarily grateful I had this opportunity and I believe in everything ACT UP stands for.

    My best friend in the world was a male prostitute. He was an extraordinary poet, we called ourselves secret twins. The brilliant darling died of AIDS at age 24. I still think I see him sometimes, under a Sycamore, or out of the corner of my eye at night in a parking lot — my heart will leap — I am always missing him. I am passionately for HIV prevention education and accessible condoms to people who need them.

    But condom distribution among prostitution has a highly problematic history. Let me give you an example which was repeated again and again through the USA — There was a doctor in Manhattan who had gotten a big NIH grant to test prostituted women for AIDS. At that time female prostitution was feared to be a major cause of the spread of AIDS — and speaking frankly, the big fear was not for the health of the prostituted women — the fear was the women would give AIDS to the men who used them.

    Because at that time it was hard to get someone to consent to an AIDS test, this doctor focused on the most vulnerable prostituted women, almost all impoverished African American women, who worked the street in Hunt’s Point in the Bronx. And she’d get them to agree to the test by giving them stale cookies, coffee and free condoms.

    Needless to say, performing this study was very good for this doctor’s career. And needless to say, if she’d been performing tests for AIDS on prostituted young men there would have been an uproar.

    Eventually the doc got a grant for a ‘harm reduction’ program. When I’d finally escaped prostiution and was a student at Columbia University I volunteered to work as part of this program. It turned out to be a fancy medical recreational vehicle thing — driven by a kind African American man from the Bronx, and staffed by a white man and woman. As I rode along I learned that the woman was in fact a ‘low rent’ madam with an escort service. She tried to recruit me as well as some of the youngest women being tested for AIDS. The white male phlebotomist was a pornographer who paid several of the women to service him sexually after taking their blood. Sometimes he took pictures of the women. The disgust of the driver for these two was palpable.

    The women were clearly afraid of the pornographer and the madam. Their pimps sent then to the van in the hopes the pornographer would give them ‘business.’ The way this ‘harm reduction’ program actually worked to augment harm. Because it sent the women the message that even people who say they want to help prostituted women aren’t safe. It reinforced what they’d learned from their experiences in prostitution — that you can’t trust anyone — because everyone’s a John. All they want is to use you for sex. All they want is to be sure that you aren’t spreading disease to the men. The message the women received was that society didn’t care about them at all — society only cared about their customers. Society wanted to make sure they were ‘clean enough’ to be used by men.

    When you are young, vulnerable, and being beaten and raped regularly by pimps and Johns, this is the most terrible message imaginable. And I can only speak for myself– a white prostituted woman. Women of color had it ten times worse — and their race was sexualized via the prostitution in horribly abusive ways — I can’t even imagine the strength it must take to endure that.

    I called the doctor running the study to tell her this — how harmful it was for the women to be experiencing blood tests like this. I’d told her my hsitory — a prostituted woman, now at university, with ten years in the life. She told me I didn’t understand the women as well as she did.

    She saw nothing wrong with the phlebotomist buying sex from the women who were tested for AIDS in her NIH-funded RV. I realized she likely thought having a John in the van lured her research subjects.

    Meanwhile, this doctor got substantial financial contributions from well-meaning government entitites and private parties who truly wanted to help prostituted women. But she wasn’t helping. Not at all. It was a kind of stealing from prostituted women.

    When many prostituted women hear about condom distribution they’ve had a similar sort of experience. They’d likely not trust such an organization to help them.

    And frankly, prostituted women educate each other about HIV transmission and condoms extensively. We spoke of it constantly. Some Johns demand you have a condom — many others will overpower you so you can’t use one if you want to. Pimps require you have condoms. Pimps will beat you if a John gets angry because you fought him when he didn’t want to use a condom. There are all kinds of techniques to try to fool a man into thinking you haven’t put a condom on him when you have — because the problem is not the condom — it’s the men. If really don’t want them, you dont’ have a choice.

    I realize that someone who doesn’t have any experience being prostituted would probably never think of this. To me it seems obvious — but to many it wouldn’t.

  40. saurus
    saurus December 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm |

    Stella Marr: Saurus, Sweden has not outlawed sex work. This is false.

    Uh, I never mentioned Sweden in my comment. I assume your comment was intended for someone else?

  41. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm |

    Stella Marr — I was avoiding reading this, fearing another depressing “up is down!” thread, but you are fantastic and SO informative (I’ll be using what I’ve learned from you about IUSW, many thanks).

    I think it’s interesting that the “sex worker researcher”, Wendy Lyon, has managed to totally avoid engaging your and Alexandra’s narratives of your own experiences in sex work.

  42. matlun
    matlun December 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm |

    Stella Marr: Who benefits from the pre-Swedish model status quo? The pimps, sex traffickers and organized crime.

    Just as a matter of order, the legal situation of the pimps have not changed for a long time. This has always been illegal. The specific thing about the “Swedish model” is that the Johns are criminalized.

    About who it hurts: This law also hurts the sex workers (making it more difficult to work and get assistance from the police etc), but the proponents of the law argue that it is more important to try to minimize the industry than protecting individual sex workers.

  43. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    Kathleen you are so kind — thank you. That means a lot. I know what you mean — about those depressing ‘up is down’ threads. So happy to know you’ll be able to use that info about the head of the International Union of Sex Workers, Douglas Fox, the white male pimp who owns multiple escort agencies in Britain, including one of the largest in London — thank you Kathleen, for the work you’re doing pertaining to that ;). Glad you are in the world and wishing you very well.

    I’m glad you mentioned Alexandra. I think she’s very eloquent and brave.

    I’ve found, sadly, that sex work ‘researchers’ who deny the sexual violence of prostitution rarely want to discuss it, except as a justification for measures that will enhance the sex industry’s profits.

    I’m not saying this is true of Wendy — how could I know?

  44. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 7, 2011 at 6:37 pm |

    Matlun pimping is not illegal in most of the world. And even in places where it’s technically illegal it’s usually allowed. For example escort agencies are pimps — and most large cities in the US and UK have scores of escort agencies.

    I don’t see how the Swedish model makes it more difficult for prostututed women to work. I false to say Swedish model makes it difficult for prostituted women to get help from the police. One of the provisions of the law involves providing the women in prostitution with help and social services. It does make it a lot more difficult for pimps to profit because it reduces demand via making it illegal to be a John.

    The porponents of the law are exceedingly concerned with protecting prostituted women, both individually and as a group. So you seem to be providing some misinformation.

    As a matter of order ;).

  45. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm |

    I meant it’s false to say the Swedish model makes it difficult for prostituted women to get help from the police. Apologies for my dyslexia.

  46. Glundank
    Glundank December 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm |

    Stella Marr, your comments are absolutely brilliant. You’ve completely changed my mind on some of these issues.

  47. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 7, 2011 at 8:26 pm |

    Glundank, thank you so so much. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it — why it’s important to share our stories even when it’s difficult.

    There’s a poem called Telling by Laura Hersey, an amazing poet and disabled rights activist who passed away recently. She wrote:

    Those who with power can afford
    to tell their story
    or not.

    Those without power risk everything
    to tell their story
    and must.

    Someone, somewhere,
    will here your story and decide to fight
    to live and refuse compromise.
    Someone else will tell her own story,
    risking everything.

    So thank you Glundank, for sending me these happy tears I’m crying. Wishing you joy.

  48. Glundank
    Glundank December 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm |

    And thank you for the happy tears I am crying from the knowledge that I have given you happy tears. I wish you joy, too.

    It’s a very brave thing you are doing. Sharing your story after all you’ve been through is downright heroic. I hope it has the same effect on others that it did on me.

  49. Maia
    Maia December 7, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    Is it a controversial statement that a lot of sex-worker organisations contain employers who often have positions of power in them? I know from friends who are involved that in New Zealand both sex-workers and employers of sex workers are part of the NZ prostitutes collective, and I didn’t think that was internationally unusual. This has made the NZPC a not very useful tool in fighting for better working conditions now sex work is legal. My understanding is that at the time of law reform there was lots of optimism that it would change the working conditions in the industry, but this hasn’t really happened to the level people hoped. There are still a lot of industry specific work practices, which aren’t common in other industries and are a way of maintaining employers power of sex workers (fines, shift fees, bonds, etc.). But my understanding is that it was criminalisation that led to the forming of NZPC as a broad organisation, and now there is some movement to address the problem of having employers involved in sex worker organisations.

    Saurus – I agree with you about the importance of research. But I think part of the problem is meaning given to the research, which reflects the polarisation of the debate (I odn’t htink it happens in NZ – which may be partly be about there being less research, but is also about the terms of the debate being very different). Here Wendy appears to put a lot of stock in questions like whether or not workers are happy with their experiences, and the numbers. She does, because those who support criminalisatioin do and it becomes a battle of the study. But to me that’s not a recipe for good research. Let’s say 89% of sex workers do want to leave prostitution? So what? Lets say only 36% of sex workers think they would personally be assisted by decriminalised – should they continue to be criminalised just because they’re a minority?

    I understand the urge to pick apart research which is being used to hurt you – but I think the point Wendy makes later, which is “This doesn’t mean what you think it means” is much more powerful. If you’ve spent heaps of energy saying this figure X isn’t right it makes the “and it doesn’t mean what you think it means” much less powerful, because it suggests that if figure X was different things might be different.

    I guess what I mean is that to me the argument that no-one knows what a representative sex worker looks like is a an interesting and important one (and obviously I would think there is no such thing). But in this post it reads like the author puts a lot of stock into the answer to the question. I would argue what a representative sex workers look like has no political meaning in itself. My arguments about decriminalisation stand whatever the median, mean or mode experience is.

    Stella – I appreciate your story, and agree with your poem.

  50. matlun
    matlun December 8, 2011 at 3:02 am |

    Stella Marr: Matlun pimping is not illegal in most of the world. And even in places where it’s technically illegal it’s usually allowed. For example escort agencies are pimps — and most large cities in the US and UK have scores of escort agencies.

    I agree that there is a difference between what the law says and what is de facto enforced (eg prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas). But the Swedish law addressing pimping is old (from the 1960s, I believe) and is not really related to the newer law directed against the Johns.

    (And the anti-pimping laws are strict. If you are renting an apartment to a sex worker you may be breaking the law)

    Stella Marr: I meant it’s false to say the Swedish model makes it difficult for prostituted women to get help from the police. Apologies for my dyslexia.

    It seems to have been an effect in practice. Since the industry has been been driven underground, they have become more suspicious about the police.

    As to intentions of the proponents of the law, that is perhaps up for debate. But at the very least it was very much intentional to make it harder for the sex workers to make a living.

  51. Wendy
    Wendy December 8, 2011 at 11:01 am |

    Kathleen:
    I think it’s interesting that the “sex worker researcher”, Wendy Lyon, has managed to totally avoid engaging your and Alexandra’s narratives of your own experiences in sex work.

    I suspect that if I was to “engage” on that matter I would be accused of trying to deny or challenge their experiences, which I have no desire to do. I fully accept the legitimacy of their experiences, as I accept the legitimacy of all other people’s experiences in the sex industry. Where we differ is in whether criminalisation is the proper response, so that is what I am engaging on.

    Stella, I realise that the Swedish law looks very attractive to you on paper, but sex workers who actually work under it (both in Sweden and in Norway) appear to have a very different view. Just as you say, rightly, that people who have not had your experiences would “probably never think of” the things that you have lived, the effects of a Swedish-type law might not be obvious to someone who has never actually worked under it. Isn’t that fair to say?

    Sweden does provide sex workers with help and social services aimed at getting them out of the industry (as indeed do many other countries where sex work is legal) and that is something I think we all can agree is welcome. But what can they do for, for example, a foreign national without the right to work in Sweden? Sweden doesn’t provide them with visas, in fact when it catches them selling sex it simply deports them – which obviously gives them a really good reason to avoid police. So that’s one way that the law really does fail the most vulnerable.

    The IUSW’s membership is a controversial issue within the British sex industry, and personally if I was a member I wouldn’t be happy with letting any “bosses” join – just as I wouldn’t be happy letting bosses join the union that I am actually in. But not all sex worker organisations have such a policy. The example you’ve given really isn’t sufficient to demonstrate that they are all run by pimps, as you claimed.

    Matlun:

    But at the very least it was very much intentional to make it harder for the sex workers to make a living.

    A leading figure in Stockholm’s anti-trafficking police is quoted on this page saying “It should be difficult to be a prostitute in our society – so even though we don’t put prostitutes in jail, we make life difficult for them.” I think that really says it all about how much the law is really intended to help individual sex workers.

    Finally, Maia:

    in this post it reads like the author puts a lot of stock into the answer to the question

    No, I don’t, and I would have hoped that would have come through by the end of the post, but obviously it didn’t. The only reason I spent so much time on it is because abolitionists seem to think it’s so important.

  52. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 8, 2011 at 11:46 am |

    Thank you Glundank <3 <3 <3. Bella Akhmadulina wrote:

    Last night my tears saw you in Tarusa
    Which for both of us was the same as the real thing

    (From the poem Ladyzhino). You made me think of that :).

    Maia: Is it a controversial statement that a lot of sex-worker organisations contain employers who often have positions of power in them? I know from friends who are involved that in New Zealand both sex-workers and employers of sex workers are part of the NZ prostitutes collective, and I didn’t think that was internationally unusual.

    Glad you like the poem Maia. I loved your blog — the title is AWESOME. Someone (you) has a pretty fabulous sense of humor.

    Regarding your question on unionization. Its my understanding that the only unions that have ever contained employers and employees together are the alleged sex workers ‘unions.’ I’m not a union expert. But it should be extremely controversial because unions are supposed to be organizations of employees who have come together to protect themselves from exploitation by their employers. In any business a union of workers led by wealthy employer shuld be considered bogus — but especially in something like prostitution, where we know that many of these ‘employers’ are actually sex traffickers and engage in violence and coercion against the women, who are almost always society’s most vulnerable.

    You wrote:

    Maia:
    There are still a lot of industry specific work practices, which aren’t common in other industries and are a way of maintaining employers power of sex workers (fines, shift fees, bonds, etc.).

    I’d say this shows how comletely untrustworthy these ‘employers’ are. If it were any ‘business’ besides the sex industry we’d be up in arms about such employers being included in, and leading these ‘unions.’

    I believe there was optimism about decriminalization, but it doubt the prostituted women were optimistic. I think they were pressured by their employers to go along with these bogus unions. The pimps, (let’s use the proper words for these ‘employers’) stood to make huge bucks from ‘decriminalization’ which in NZ amounted to legalization of being a pimp, from what I understand.

    If we were talking about coal miners in Chile or diamond miners in Africa, and the union were lead by a mine owner, who presented the case that blood diamonds were good for workers, or black lung wasn’t sch a big deal, would we believe them?

    It’s the same thing with these unions purporting to be for sex workers which are open to Johns and pimps — and almost always run by pimps.

    When most prostituted women are coerced, beaten and raped by their pimps, does this seem like a good idea?

    matlun:

    Itseemstohavebeenaneffectinpractice.Sincetheindustryhasbeenbeendrivenunderground,theyhavebecomemoresuspiciousaboutthepolice.

    Astointentionsoftheproponentsofthelaw,thatisperhapsupfordebate.Butattheveryleastitwasverymuchintentionaltomakeitharderforthesexworkerstomakealiving.

    Matlun, look at the language you’re using. I think it’s quite inaccurate. Prostituted women need to be decoupled from the idea of the sex industry.

    When we speak of the ‘sex industry’ we’re not talking of the prostituted women. When you say ‘the industry has been driven underground’ — as a woman who was prostituted for ten years, I understand that to mean the pimps or Johns. The industry fed on me, it wasnt me.

    I think you need to cite specific examles of prostittued women who were murdered because the police wouldn’t help them — or were raped or tortured because the police wouldn’t help them, due to the new law. That somehow the new law was cited as an excuse for this. Othersie it’s an empty argument and a red herring.

    And given that I had tons of family in Scandinavia — I doubt the police cited the new law as an excuse not to help a woman who was threatened, unless it involved police corruption which would likely have happened whether or not the law existed.

    I dont’ care if the ‘sex industry’ is helped by the police. I only care about the women. If we care about the ‘sex industry’ we’re talking about pimps, or perhaps, the John’s ability to commercially sexually exploit the women.

    The obtuseness your argument conceals the harm to the women through the sex industry.

    matlun: .

    But at the very least it was very much intentional to make it harder for the sex workers to make a living.

    It was intentional to reduce demand by discouraging Johns, which would reduce sex trafficking and reduced the women harmed by the sex industry. Yes, there would be less Johns. But the law included provisions to connect the women with social services and assistance. We’re talking about a country with one of the highest standards of living in the world, the highest levels of education — a country that has enough of a sense of civilization to feel resonsible to its citizens. They weren’t condemning the women to death by starvation.

    But I do understand that the particularly beautiful Swedish sense of interconnectedness and democratic impulse was part of the legislation. In other words, if a handful of privileged women complained about a lower number of Johns, (and so often women like these are funded by sex industry — meant pimp – interests) it wasn’t going to stop the Swedes from doing the right thing. And they weren’t going to be fooled by these sorts of minstrel shows. They were even going to let themselves be proud of the Swedish model’s success and the fact they lived in a society that would recognize gender inequality and prostitution’s sexual violence against women. Thank goodness.

    I don’t mean to be tough on you Matlun. It’s just this stuff is so important.

    This is a great video about logic, feminism and prostitution. You seem the thoughtful, careful type — you might like it — Maia, you’d like this too — the guy’s brilliant:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLLhWCRrsX0&feature=endscreen&NR=1

  53. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 8, 2011 at 11:54 am |

    These are too more great videos on feminism and prostitution by this same guy — his nom de plume is Rubble of Empires

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=erIn1Z14MtQ

  54. matlun
    matlun December 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm |

    Stella Marr: Matlun, look at the language you’re using. I think it’s quite inaccurate. Prostituted women need to be decoupled from the idea of the sex industry.

    They are clearly part of it. Sometimes as independent actors and sometimes as exploited victims (with a lot of gray area in between).

    Stella Marr: I doubt the police cited the new law as an excuse not to help a woman who was threatened

    No. It is more that since the police are supposed to arrest Johns, they fear that if they come to the attention of the police their business will become targeted.

    Stella Marr: In other words, if a handful of privileged women complained about a lower number of Johns, (and so often women like these are funded by sex industry — meant pimp – interests)

    It is actually interesting that this does not seem to have been much of a factor in Sweden. No organized sex worker organization has had any noticeable presence in the debate (which seems to be different from many other countries).

    Stella Marr: I don’t mean to be tough on you Matlun. It’s just this stuff is so important.

    You have nothing to apologize for. Even though you are clearly very passionate about your position, you have kept the discussion on a reasonable level without ad hominems etc.

    Neither of our positions are especially unique. I am weakly pro-legalization while you clearly are not. None of my arguments are really new or revolutionizing and I do not expect to change your mind.

  55. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm |

    Wendy, forgive me but I don’t think that’s fair to say — because prostitution and trafficking are an international business, not isolated by country so my experiences are relevant. I actually found your tone a wee bit patronizing, but perhaps I’m just being sensitive. And for what it’s worth, I have many family and friends in and ties to Scandinavia — and I read voraciously on this issue. I think its not appropriate to suggest you know more about Scandinavian prostituted womens’ opinions on the Swedish model than I do.

    Here’s another interesting video by that feminism and prostitution guy — Rubble of Empires — I think he’s wonderful. This one’s on why legalization won’t stop existing illegal prostitution practices — because customer satisfaction from a John’s perspective depends on unfettered access to the women’s bodies:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXavSb-KozM&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLB82318A448E2BE5D

    Wendy:

    Stella,IrealisethattheSwedishlawlooksveryattractivetoyouonpaper,butsexworkerswhoactuallyworkunderit(bothinSwedenandinNorway)appeartohaveaverydifferentview.Justasyousay,rightly,thatpeoplewhohavenothadyourexperienceswould“probablyneverthinkof”thethingsthatyouhavelived,theeffectsofaSwedish-typelawmightnotbeobvioustosomeonewhohasneveractuallyworkedunderit.Isn’tthatfairtosay?

  56. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm |

    Sorry, here’s the quote in Wendy’s post I was responding too in my previous post. I wish you all well and appreciate the opportunity for this conversation.

    Wendy: IsuspectthatifIwasto“engage”onthatmatterIwouldbeaccusedoftryingtodenyorchallengetheirexperiences,whichIhavenodesiretodo.Ifullyacceptthelegitimacyoftheirexperiences,asIacceptthelegitimacyofallotherpeople’sexperiencesinthesexindustry.Wherewedifferisinwhethercriminalisationistheproperresponse,sothatiswhatIamengagingon.

    Stella,IrealisethattheSwedishlawlooksveryattractivetoyouonpaper,butsexworkerswhoactuallyworkunderit(bothinSwedenandinNorway)appeartohaveaverydifferentview.Justasyousay,rightly,thatpeoplewhohavenothadyourexperienceswould“probablyneverthinkof”thethingsthatyouhavelived,theeffectsofaSwedish-typelawmightnotbeobvioustosomeonewhohasneveractuallyworkedunderit.Isn’tthatfairtosay?

    Swedendoesprovidesexworkerswithhelpandsocialservicesaimedatgettingthemoutoftheindustry(asindeeddomanyothercountrieswheresexworkislegal)andthatissomethingIthinkweallcanagreeiswelcome.Butwhatcantheydofor,forexample,aforeignnationalwithouttherighttoworkinSweden?Swedendoesn’tprovidethemwithvisas,infactwhenitcatchesthemsellingsexitsimplydeportsthem–whichobviouslygivesthemareallygoodreasontoavoidpolice.Sothat’sonewaythatthelawreallydoesfailthemostvulnerable.

    TheIUSW’smembershipisacontroversialissuewithintheBritishsexindustry,andpersonallyifIwasamemberIwouldn’tbehappywithlettingany“bosses”join–justasIwouldn’tbehappylettingbossesjointheunionthatIamactuallyin.Butnotallsexworkerorganisationshavesuchapolicy.Theexampleyou’vegivenreallyisn’tsufficienttodemonstratethattheyareallrunbypimps,asyouclaimed.

    Matlun:

    AleadingfigureinStockholm’santi-traffickingpoliceisquotedonthispagesaying“Itshouldbedifficulttobeaprostituteinoursociety–soeventhoughwedon’tputprostitutesinjail,wemakelifedifficultforthem.”Ithinkthatreallysaysitallabouthowmuchthelawisreallyintendedtohelpindividualsexworkers.

    Finally,Maia:

    No,Idon’t,andIwouldhavehopedthatwouldhavecomethroughbytheendofthepost,butobviouslyitdidn’t.TheonlyreasonIspentsomuchtimeonitisbecauseabolitionistsseemtothinkit’ssoimportant.

  57. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm |

    OK — that attempt to quote was a disaster. Please forgive me for that formatting mess. XO SM

  58. matlun
    matlun December 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm |

    Stella: Select (highlight) the text you want to quote before pressing the quote button

  59. wl
    wl December 8, 2011 at 3:07 pm |

    Stella, I take it you are in the U.S. Here “End Demand” DOESN’T have decriminalizing prostitution for the women as a goal. If it did, there would be commonality in goals between that movement and the sex workers rights movement, which is something I would like to see, as I think the Swedish model, while not great, would be better than full criminalization. Talk to those folks – they use survivors (of trafficking etc.) as pawns who they care nothing for. It’s despicable.

  60. wl
    wl December 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm |

    I agree with Maia about unions – criminalization creates that scenario, but there should be movements in countries where prostitution is decriminalized to make unions worker-only. I’m against employers being in unions, even if they are also former sex workers.

  61. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm |

    Thanks Matlun ;).

    Wendy are you saying there are end demand abolitionist organizations that are ‘for’ criminalizing the women in Ireland? Could you send me a link that states this explicitly? This is news to me —

    I realize most of them are emphasizing the ‘end demand’ because it’s a concept most people don’t get at first — but in my experience these organizations want to end criminalization of the women –

  62. wl
    wl December 8, 2011 at 5:16 pm |

    If they want to end criminalization of “the women,” they should DO something about it. Not just increase penalties on customers. Seriously, I would respect them a lot more if they did.

  63. Maia
    Maia December 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm |

    Stella –

    I believe there was optimism about decriminalization, but it doubt the prostituted women were optimistic. I think they were pressured by their employers to go along with these bogus unions. The pimps, (let’s use the proper words for these ‘employers’) stood to make huge bucks from ‘decriminalization’ which in NZ amounted to legalization of being a pimp, from what I understand.

    The optimism that I heard about what would change after legalisation comes from people who were working as sex workers at the time. Although they may have been particularly naieve – you’re right I don’t know how widely felt they were.

    I haven’t heard that decriminalisations has made employers (believe me when I use the term employers it’s not a neutral or complimentary one) super rich. I think bosses were doing pretty well before law reform, and weren’t usually paying the costs of criminalisation. Decriminalisation did repeal laws about living off the proceeds of prostitution – but it’s not like those laws were stopping employers in the sex industry before decriminalisation.

    The most fundamental difference, and why I find it unfathomable why anyone would oppose decriminalisation, is that police have less power over sex workers now. Over the last decade huge amounts has come out about police officers who raped women with impunity in NZ. Obviously it was particularly easy for them to target sex workers. That is much less true, and one officer who tried it has actually been tried and convicted under an offence that was created as part of decriminalisation.

    It is unusual for employers to be in unions, unfortunately it’s not unheard of, but it is always a bad idea.

    Thanks for your comments about my blog.

    Wendy:

    Sweden does provide sex workers with help and social services aimed at getting them out of the industry (as indeed do many other countries where sex work is legal) and that is something I think we all can agree is welcome. But what can they do for, for example, a foreign national without the right to work in Sweden? Sweden doesn’t provide them with visas, in fact when it catches them selling sex it simply deports them – which obviously gives them a really good reason to avoid police. So that’s one way that the law really does fail the most vulnerable.

    But you could say exactly the same thing about NZ under decriminalisation.

    I think in general people who are concerned about trafficking should focus on the immigration laws, which give those who help people cross borders power and make life so difficult for those who don’t migrate legally. Open borders is the solution to trafficking – it’s not something that can be fought with laws about the industries people work in in destination countries. But that’s as true about NZ as it is about Sweden.

    No, I don’t, and I would have hoped that would have come through by the end of the post, but obviously it didn’t. The only reason I spent so much time on it is because abolitionists seem to think it’s so important.

    And this is something that I fundamentally don’t understand about the debate around sex work – particularly coming out of the UK & Ireland. Those who support de-criminalisation seem to spend a lot of time responding to the claims that those who oppose decriminalisation (is that what abolitionists means? I get the feeling in the US the positions are for and against criminilisation and there’s little interest in the Swedish model, but in the UK ‘abolitionist’ is quite a broad term and could include both pro and con the Swedish model) make about the sex industry. Even though if their portrayal of sex work was entirely accurate I (and presumably the author) would not agree with their conclusions. And this often comes across as minimising the negative aspects of the industry. I’m a unionist, and this so flies in the way I conceive and talk about work, I don’t really know how to respond. When thinking about mine safety in NZ, I think it’s important to focus on the 29 people who died last year, not the people who didn’t die.

  64. matlun
    matlun December 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    : “Pimping” and “running an escort agency” are not the same thing, and I think it’s really harmful to say that they are.

    To clarify: When I was talking about the “anti-pimping” laws I was talking about the laws against “koppleri” (Swedish word). Google translate translates this term as “procuring”, but the word (and the law) is really specific to prostitution.

    The Swedish law is a very blunt instrument which basically makes it illegal to take any part of the profits of prostitution. For example if you knowingly rent an apartment where a prostitute works, this is illegal. Both “pimping” and “running an escort service” is definitely covered (so is any group of sex workers trying to organize if they in any way share profits, try to hire security etc).

  65. wl
    wl December 8, 2011 at 7:17 pm |

    : “Pimping” and “running an escort agency” are not the same thing, and I think it’s really harmful to say that they are.

    I absolutely agree with you.

  66. wl
    wl December 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm |

    Maia: The most fundamental difference, and why I find it unfathomable why anyone would oppose decriminalisation, is that police have less power over sex workers now. Over the last decade huge amounts has come out about police officers who raped women with impunity in NZ. Obviously it was particularly easy for them to target sex workers. That is much less true, and one officer who tried it has actually been tried and convicted under an offence that was created as part of decriminalisation.

    THIS.

  67. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 8, 2011 at 7:59 pm |

    what exactly is the difference?

  68. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 8, 2011 at 8:00 pm |

    between pimping and running an escort service?

  69. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm |

    Maia: The most fundamental difference, and why I find it unfathomable why anyone would oppose decriminalisation, is that police have less power over sex workers now.

    I don’t think anyone here wants to criminalize the women in prostitution. That’s not the issue. I am very much for criminalizing being a John. The Johns are a huge part of the problem. Make it a misdemeanor to be a John, like in Sweden. Slow demand so the pimps are less motivated to coerce women into prostitution.

    And in most parts of the world, when it becomes legal to be a pimp — i.e. employer — and I appreciate your understanding that’s what they are — there is more trafficking. I can’t speak for beautiful New Zealand — what a lovely place to live.

    “Pimping” and “running an escort agency” are not the same thing, and I think it’s really harmful to say that they are.

    They are the same thing. I don’t think it’s harmful to say this since it’s true.

    You speak of lower demand leading to unsafe sex — in my experience the demand for unsafe sex is there all the time. The brutality and violence goes down when demand goes down, not vice versa. And in my experience, there are always more men who want to use prostituted women than there are such women available. Of course I was in NYC — there it was like a flood, frankly — the way you felt the pressure of the Johns.

    I am very interested in what you discuss on your blog about neurotypicality. I think everyone has their own neurology — and often the peole who are less neurally typically see more and know more.

    For example, I don’t think it’s possible to be an exceptional physicist or writer and not be neurotypical. Look at Dostoyevsky — Virginia Woolf said that even in translation he is the most exciting writer that exists save Shakespeare. I agree.

    My husband thinks that Alice in Wonderland is not a neurotypical character. That’s why she takes everything literally. Just musing ….

    Wishing you all well. I’m going to take a break from this thread.

  70. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 8, 2011 at 8:03 pm |

    Maia — can you link to that story? There is a special law in NZ that covers “police officers attempting to rape sex workers”? Isn’t attempted rape already illegal in NZ?

  71. Glundank
    Glundank December 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm |

    I’m really glad that this thread has gone so far without descending into yelling and name-calling. This really is a constructive conversation, unlike some of the comments sections I’ve seen on this site.

    I’m sorry I have so little to add, I’d just like to voice my appreciation.

  72. wl
    wl December 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm |

    I think of “pimping” as being synonymous with “domestic human trafficking” that doesn’t involve much or any travel. That’s YWEP’s definition and I think it’s a good one.

  73. rayuela23
    rayuela23 December 8, 2011 at 9:01 pm |

    Kathleen:

    Ithinkit’sinterestingthatthe“sexworkerresearcher”,WendyLyon,hasmanagedtototallyavoidengagingyourandAlexandra’snarrativesofyourownexperiencesinsexwork.

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

  74. Steph
    Steph December 8, 2011 at 10:15 pm |

    @Kathleen:

    I’m not sure if this is the case that Maia was talking about, but the Wikipedia entry that talks about the Prostitution Reform Act in NZ mentions a 2009 case where a police officer was jailed for blackmailing a sex worker into “giving him free sex” (Wiki’s phrasing, not mine). Obviously, we already have law relating to rape in New Zealand, but in the case of a blackmail situation, sex workers are able to go to the police about blackmail or violence without fear of repercussions against them because they are sex workers- e.g. their work is no longer able to be used as leverage in blackmailing them, and violence complaints by them are not transformed into punshing them for doing sex work in the first place.

  75. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 8, 2011 at 11:58 pm |

    so the distinction from running an escort service is what? I am unclear, can you give me a definition of each and specify what makes them so different?

  76. wl
    wl December 9, 2011 at 1:04 am |

    Force, fraud, or coercion.

  77. Maia
    Maia December 9, 2011 at 7:13 am |

    Kathleen: This is the legislation and this is the case the case I was talking about (although it doesn’t mention the law – which was being used for the first time – that was discussed in earlier articles).

    The penalty (14 years) for “Inducing or compelling persons to provide commercial sexual services or earnings from prostitution” is the same as the penalty for rape in NZ. I think setting the crime up was an interesting decision, which reflects the general unwillingness to convict for rape. I think calling it something different in this case was probably quite central to the guilty verdict (I have paid a lot of attention to police rape cases and their unsuccessfulness over the last few years). The politics of that are obviously something people could argue over.

  78. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 9, 2011 at 8:53 am |

    Stella Marr: I was ‘broken’ and initiated into ‘the life’ via a gang rape by several pimps and their police officer partner. They held me against my will in a padlocked room, beat me, drugged me, and terrorized me until I agreed to work in their brothel. I didn’t know what day it was or how long I’d been there. All my sisters in prostitution had had similar experiences. When we’d meet each other for the first time, we’d often say “I know your sad story.” My pimps were connected with organized crime, a powerful threat they held over me and the women I worked with.
    Farley’s study found that women in prostitution experience the same levels of trauma as the survivors of state-sponsored torture. You see why I find her results consistent with the truth of prostitution.
    I will never be the same. It took me years to recover. I can’t have children because of injuries sustained during prostitution. My vertebrae are all messed up due to the variety of Johns and pimps that beat and attempted to strangle me. My shoulder won’t stay in it’s socket. My prostituted friends were murdered. One killed herself after a John beat her up.

    My pimps, who were all white btw, used force, fraud and coercion. I was prostituted through their escort services and brothels.

    People who run escort services and brothels are pimps. It’s false to say they aren’t.

  79. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 9, 2011 at 9:03 am |

    Steph: sex workers are able to go to the police about blackmail or violence without fear of repercussions against them because they are sex workers- e.g. their work is no longer able to be used as leverage in blackmailing them, and violence complaints by them are not transformed into punshing them for doing sex work in the first place.

    When one of my clients nearly strangled me (this happend many times) I tried to report it to the police in NYC because I was sure he was going to kill someone. They did threaten to arrest me and coerced me into ‘servicing’ them. This is extraordinarily common. What’s amazing about the case in New Zealand is that the cop was actually tried for the crime. Hooray NZ!

    But the Swedish model does not criminalize prostituted women — so under the Swedish model cops wouldn’t have this power.

    Kathleen — regarding what a pimp is. A pimp is someone who profits off the commercial sexual exploitation of others, usually women. Because the income is so high for the pimp, and because it is their only income, they focs an enormous amount of energy on controlling and coercing those they profit from. Often pimps are from multi-generational pimp families. For example, one of my female pimps, sometimes called a madam, had a mother and grandmother who both had been pimps.

    Escort services are one of the ways pimps find Johns who participate in the commercial sexual expoitation the pimps profit from. In an escort service the prostituted woman goes to a hotel or a residence. Sometimes this is called outcall. With brothels, which are also run by pimps, the Johns come to a location with beds to use the prostituted women. This is sometimes called incall. Then there is street prostitution.

    Research has found that there is no difference between these forms of prostitution in terms of the violence the women experience. I was prostituted through excort services and brothels, where I experienced beatins, threats to my life, attempted strangulation, etc.

    And wl. I just want to call you out on the fact that you haven’t provided proof that the End Demand folks in Ireland (? you haven’t specified) are for the criminalization of the women.

    This is because it’s not true. They advocate decriminalization of prostituted women.

  80. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 9, 2011 at 9:55 am |

    Stella Marr: For example, I don’t think it’s possible to be an exceptional physicist or writer and not be neurotypical. Look at Dostoyevsky — Virginia Woolf said that even in translation he is the most exciting writer that exists save Shakespeare. I agree.

    I just wanted to correct my stupid typo — I meant I don’t think it’s possible to be an exceptional physicist or writer an not be NONneurotypical. Dostoyevsky wasn’t an Aspie (asperger’s), but he had epilepsy — so he experienced the world in a neurologically unique way.

    Nabokov had such a senssitive neurology that he couldn’t attend the performances of his only son, Dmitri, who was an operatic baritone, unless he wore earplugs. Listening to many instruments playing together (the opera orchestra) overhwelmed him with confusion and pain. But he could listen to a single piano playing and write of it with rapture. If you read his memoir, there’s lots of things that feel aspie — which gives his writing such spectacular clarity I think. His memoir and Pym, and his stories — are my favorites of his works. FWIW, I think Lolita is about sexual abuse — in the voice of one who’s experienced it — it’s not what it’s hyped as — but that’s for another thread.

    XO Stella

  81. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 9, 2011 at 9:59 am |

    I mean Nabokov’s novel Pnin is one of my favorites, not Pym.

  82. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    Stella Marr — Again, many thanks. I so appreciate your patience and kind attitude and the information you are bringing here.

  83. wl
    wl December 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |

    The U.S., not Ireland. I’m talking from personal experience with these folks, and watching this “End Demand” legislation go through in Chicago, Denver, etc. – they may very well “advocate” for it in theory, but their legislation doesn’t include it (this is pretty easy to verify as prostitution is still illegal and still has the same penalities it did before the legislation went through in Colorado and Illinois), they don’t work on it, and it doesn’t seem to be a priority for them at all.

  84. Wendy
    Wendy December 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm |

    Stella:

    I think its not appropriate to suggest you know more about Scandinavian prostituted womens’ opinions on the Swedish model than I do.

    I’m suggesting that Swedish sex workers know more about how the Swedish model actually works in practice than people who aren’t Swedish sex workers. And that’s both you and me. My views are informed by what they themselves have to say about it. I don’t think it’s appropriate to base them on anything else.

    I’d also point out that even the Swedish and Norwegian governments admit that sex workers have very negative things to say about the law. The governments’ position is that the law is fulfilling another purpose so it doesn’t matter what sex workers think about it. But they don’t claim, as you seem to be suggesting, that sex workers feel protected by it. Quite the opposite.

    are you saying there are end demand abolitionist organizations that are ‘for’ criminalizing the women in Ireland?

    I think Stella might be confusing “wl” and myself. We are two different people, we just have the same initials :)

    In Ireland, the abolitionists are not for criminalising the sale of sex. They are, however, opposed to changing the current laws which (a) prohibit brothel-keeping and (b) define a “brothel” as any place used for commercial sex by more than one sex worker. The effect of this law is to criminalise sex workers who share premises for their own safety. In fact, the vast majority of brothel-keeping convictions here over the past several years have been convictions of women sharing premises – most recently two young students aged 19 and 24.

    The last time this was debated here was a few years ago and this is the only link I can find. Ruhama is the organisation. Their quote only specifically refers to “legalising prostitution”, but they were quoted in the context of the possibility that sex workers would be allowed to share premises – that was the only “legalisation” that was being considered and they were against it.

    Maia, I absolutely agree with you regarding New Zealand’s failure to protect foreign national sex workers. It’s a major flaw in the NZ design, and one of the reasons I wouldn’t endorse that model unequivocally. And I also agree that it’s first and foremost immigration laws that need reforming to deal properly with this issue. Nonetheless, it’s apparent from reading some of the material that’s come out of Sweden and Norway that the law has had a particularly negative impact on this group of sex workers. The change in the law on commercial sex made things worse for them even though the immigration laws hadn’t changed.

  85. Wendy
    Wendy December 9, 2011 at 3:37 pm |

    Sorry, I meant to respond to Maia on this:

    And this is something that I fundamentally don’t understand about the debate around sex work – particularly coming out of the UK & Ireland. Those who support de-criminalisation seem to spend a lot of time responding to the claims that those who oppose decriminalisation (is that what abolitionists means? I get the feeling in the US the positions are for and against criminilisation and there’s little interest in the Swedish model, but in the UK ‘abolitionist’ is quite a broad term and could include both pro and con the Swedish model) make about the sex industry. Even though if their portrayal of sex work was entirely accurate I (and presumably the author) would not agree with their conclusions. And this often comes across as minimising the negative aspects of the industry.

    I think that’s a very valid point, but the way we frame our arguments is always going to be shaped to some degree by which arguments we’re hearing from the other side. And in Ireland there is a constant drumbeat of that 89% statistic and how nobody can be happy selling sex. It’s almost impossible to move on to debating any of the other issues when you can’t even get past the question of whether or not almost everyone in the sex industry is a slave. So that’s probably why that ends up being the focus of so much of the debate over here.

    I’m also very interested in the issue of stigmatisation of marginalised groups, and one of the things that concerns me about the constant emphasis on sex workers’ victimisation is that it may actually have a self-reinforcing effect – where people believe that all sex workers are victims, they become an easy target for people who look for someone to victimise. And this makes them all more vulnerable. That’s why I think that overstating the extent of victimisation in the sex industry can be just as harmful as understating it. There’s got to be a balance somewhere.

    But I totally agree with your comment earlier that

    De-criminalisation would be even more urgent if 100% of sex-workers worked on the street and wanted to get out of the business.

    I did make a similar point in my original post, where I wrote that “it is precisely the most vulnerable workers who are most adversely affected by criminalisation”, but I can see how that might have got lost in the middle of everything else.

  86. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm |

    Wendy: I’m suggesting that Swedish sex workers know more about how the Swedish model actually works in practice than people who aren’t Swedish sex workers. And that’s both you and me. My views are informed by what they themselves have to say about it. I don’t think it’s appropriate to base them on anything else.

    Wendy the problem ithere’s an inherent bias in ‘listening to what the sex workers have to say.’ In that most prostituted women will never talk about it because the experience is so overwhelmingly traumatizing. It’s the kind of trauma that tears out your tongue. When you try to speak of it you lose your voice, your throat collapses into tears.

    In my own case, it took me sixteen years to be able to talk about it. And it’s still terribly difficult — I ‘ve been nightmares since I’ve been posting here about the years in prostitution. I mean, I’m tough, I can handle the dreams — I mention them to show the impact of the trauma. And I’ve been incredibly lucky — after escaping prostitution I was able to graduate from Columbia University. And I’ve been married for fourteen years to a really great guy who cares about me. Being with someone who cares has a huge impact on healing from trauma, but the symptoms of trauma make it terribly difficult to feel “OK’ being with loving people. You’re so used to being with people who treat you horribly that when you’re with someone kind you’re terrified they will discover how horrible you are and cast you out. So you run away before that can happen.

    Again, I was very lucky. Columbia University made sure I was treated for the trauma by one of the best trauma doctors in New York City. Most women never get this chance.

    Thanks for pointing my error — in thinking you were wl. Mea culpa

    Wendy: I’d also point out that even the Swedish and Norwegian governments admit that sex workers have very negative things to say about the law. The governments’ position is that the law is fulfilling another purpose so it doesn’t matter what sex workers think about it

    Well yeah — the law is protecting women from gender inequality — and protecting hundreds if not thousands of women from being trafficked through Norway, Sweden, and Iceland annually. I don’t think it’s such a big deal that the government says this — it’s very Scandinavian to take the ‘suck it up, we’re working for the common good’ position. It has a particular imapct in Scandinavian culture it probably doesn’t have elsewhere. Speaking as a member of the Scandinavian diaspora.

    For the record, the reason I’m for the Swedish model legislation is that I think if it had existed in NYC in the 80s and 90s it might have prevented from going through the terrible things I experienced as a prostituted woman. And the legislation would have also sent a powerful message to me while I was prostituted — that society understood that what I was experiencing was devastating, and very much not OK. Which might have given me more strength to fight back. It might have made me believe I coudl ask for help — that help would be there.

    But I felt very much that society was complicit in my prostitution. Police were involved with my pimps, and the first outcall my pimp took me to was a party with fourteen policeman, I lay on a bed for hours while they pushed themselves into me, and into my mouth, often two at a time. It was quite an education in power, let me tell you. And all the clients that wer rich powerful men ….

    My point is that if there was less demand via Swedish model legislation, my pimps might have been less motivated to coerce me — and maybe I could have avoided the whole brutal nightmare. Or maybe it’s impact would have been considerably less intense.

    I never wanted to be prostituted. Of course, when you’re in the midst of it, you do what you have to to survive. And then you feel complicit because by doing what you had to do to survive, you became what they say you are. You feel like you deserve it, that it’s all you are good for. And the pimps and the Johns tell you this daily too.

    When I got my degree, I was elated — it felt like a symbol that I’d never be prostiutted again. And that turned out to be true.

    I can see how that law about brothels is problematic — if they end up arresting all the women working together for prostitution. But there are also many many female pimps who pose as prostitutes — but yeah, if you are arresting women who are working in an environmnt where more than one womanis prostituted, then you really haven’t decriminalized being a prostitute — and that sucks.

    At the same time — I am very much not for brothels.

  87. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm |

    Kathleen — Thank you :)

  88. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm |

    Wendy: where people believe that all sex workers are victims, they become an easy target for people who look for someone to victimise. And this makes them all more vulnerable.

    Wendy, it seems a little cockeyed to be saying that the people who want the public to know about the sexual violence in prostitution would make prostituted women more likely to be victimized. It’s a ridiculous statement, really — to say that the groups most concerned with the well being of prostituted women could bring harm by giving voice to the sexual violence the women experience.

    That’s just not logical. And the fact that 89% of prostituted women don’t want to be in prostitution is deeply significant.

    Are you advocating for housing, and programs to help this vast majority of women escape prostitution? Are you advocating for programs that will treat them for the crippling trauma they suffer from?

    My story — and the violence I experienced — is extremely common. When say that by drawing attention to the sexual violence I’ve experienced, I could cause more prostituted women to be victimized … I am speechless.

    Prostituted women are already more victimized than any other class of human being. The Green River Killer Gary Ridgeway, who murdered at least 48 women said:

    “I picked prostitutes as my victims because I hate most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them for sex. I also picked prostitutes for victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed.”

    Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Green-River-Killer-confesses-1128925.php#ixzz1g5HRhaX0

    Gary was a John.

    The Swedish legislation makes it a felony to be a John, and recognizes that when men use prostitutes they are committing sexual violence. (earlier I’d said it was a misdemeanor — I was mistaken — the maximum sentence for the offense is six months, although no men have been jailed for this charge).

  89. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm |

    Wendy: where people believe that all sex workers are victims, they become an easy target for people who look for someone to victimise. And this makes them all more vulnerable.

    Wendy, this is like saying that if you talk about rape, women are more likely to be raped. Or if you talk about domestic violence, women are more likely to experience domestic violence. In other words, you’re implicating the people who are breaking the silence about these things as the cause of these crimes.

    The logical conclusion would be that no one should ever discuss any harm experienced by any party — because by discussing the harm, we’re causing it.

    It makes no sense. Maybe you meant something else?

  90. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    Above, I’m addressing the logic of your statement about how discussing victimization can cause victimization, not what you said about ‘overstating’ harm. Given the magnitude of harm Farley’s study revealed, it would be difficult to overstate it. More than 2/3 of prostituted women in the study had the same levels of trauma as the survivors of state-sponsored torture.

  91. wl
    wl December 9, 2011 at 8:29 pm |

    Gary Ridgway was not a john – it says right there in the quote he never intended to pay any of the women he murdered for sex. And why the Green River Killer? I find it very disturbing and it makes me very angry actually that you picked that man, whose victims the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was created to memorialize, when you almost certainly oppose that day and the anti-violence work that sex workers are doing in our own communities.

  92. wl
    wl December 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm |

    Also, Stella, for someone who was in the sex trade (supposedly with pimps who were paid well above what most people NOW make in prostitution, let alone back then), you seem to know very little about what an “escort service” actually is. It’s an agency, not an advertizing venue people can use to set up incalls and outcalls.

  93. violet
    violet December 10, 2011 at 10:22 am |

    “Decriminalisation has not increased trafficking in New Zealand. In fact, both New Zealand and Australia (which has a range of legislative models surrounding sex work, currently including decriminalisation, legalisation, and criminalisation) have low rates of trafficking.”

    Can I point out that both countries can only be easily reached by air (with expensive fares), and have strong border controls and visa requirements. Traffickers can’t simply kidnap women from another country and smuggle them over the border in a car.

  94. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 10, 2011 at 10:54 am |

    wl: Also, Stella, for someone who was in the sex trade (supposedly with pimps who were paid well above what most people NOW make in prostitution, let alone back then), you seem to know very little about what an “escort service” actually is. It’s an agency, not an advertizing venue people can use to set up incalls and outcalls.

    I’ve made it clear in all my posts that I was pimpsed through escort services. Saying I don’t understand what they are is ridiculous. The pimps owned the escort services. Escort services are phone numbers which are advertised and ring in apartments owned by pimps. The ‘image’ of the agency makes it seem ‘higher class’, but it’s a facade. Sometimes the pimps will hire people to answer the phones for them, but escort agencies are owned by pimps who are coercing and exploiting the women prostituted through them.

    I find your statement about pricing very strange. You seem to be angry about the fact I wrote that I was pimpsed for as little as $100 for a half hour and for as much as $1500 for an hour, and the experience varied remarkably little across the price brackets. This is the truth and such pricing was common in my day in NYC. Yes $1500 was the high end, and fewer pimps knew how to reach those clients.

    The pricing of prostitution has nothing to do with a woman’s worth as a person. It’s a pimp and John generated game.

    wl: Gary Ridgway was not a john – it says right there in the quote he never intended to pay any of the women he murdered for sex

    He was a John — he just murdered the women rather than paying them. I think it’s appropriate to mention what he said about prostitutes when we discuss the violence in prostitution.

    Yes, Alice in Wonderland is often interpreted as a mad character.

    FWIW my husband actually doesn’t interpret her as a mad character — he thinks that she just shows how hard it is when you don’t read social cues — which often make no logical sense :). He sees her as a kind of genius — revealing the ridiculous of social rules. So do I :). But I realize you’d probably protest that non neurotypical people are not magical — which in its own way reveals that genius. THe problem is this doesn’t make life easier, it makes it more difficult. I know and I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

    So you make no distinction between someone who controls the earnings of a sex worker or coerces them into sex work, and someone who merely facilitates bookings? I find that harmful.

    This is a little unfair. Given what I’ve stated in my posts, I’ve made it clear that the people who control the earnings of a sex worker and coerce them into sex work are the same people running the escort services. Sometimes the pimps will hire someone to answer the phones — but the pimps are the ones making the money and controlling the women.

    There’s nothing harmful about the truth — which is that escort agencies are owned by pimps.

    If “reduce demand” becomes the order of the day, the inevitable outcome is for sex workers to be coerced by circumstance into doing work they don’t want to be doing.

    The thing is — the pimps who own the escort services and brothels and the Johns are already coercing prostituted women into doing what they don’t want. And they are using sexual violence, not economics, to do this. I respect you, and your arguments. But in my experience a John physically overpowered me nearly ever night, making it impossible to use a condom. If I fought him, he’d complain to my pimp who’d threaten my life. Twice I got pregnant as a result. I had abortions via a doctor my pimp knew who paid him kickbacks — and my pimp would make me work two days following the abortions, wearing a contraceptive sponge to hide the bleeding. This is common procedure. I wasn’t surprised to read recently that pimps in China make prostituted women work after abortions or during their period in a similar manner.

    So the circumstances you’re citing as a reason not to lower demand are actually already ongoing. The fact that the Johns are discussing making prostituted women have unsafe sex on their forums reveals the sexual violence of prostitution.

    I wish you all well.

  95. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 10, 2011 at 11:12 am |

    wl: (supposedly with pimps who were paid well above what most people NOW make in prostitution,

    Wl, it’s quite interesting that you wrote from the pimps’ perspective, above. Especially as you said ‘pimps who were paid well above what most PEOPLE now make in prostitution’ as if when you think of people in prostitution you are thinking of pimps.

    violet: Can I point out that both countries can only be easily reached by air (with expensive fares), and have strong border controls and visa requirements. Traffickers can’t simply kidnap women from another country and smuggle them over the border in a car.

    Thank you so much Violet. That needs to be said.

    And even so, there’s been a vast expansion of both ‘legal’ and illegal sex trafficking in Sydney and the state of Victoria since profitting off the sexual exploitation of women via running brothels or escort agencies was decriminalized. For example, the state of Victoria has 100 licensed brothels, and at least 300 unlicensed – meaning illegal – brothels.
    http://projectrespect.org.au/system/files/Legalisation+in+Victoria.pdf

  96. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm |

    Your continual reliance on free-market metaphors regarding sex work is tremendously revealing. All I’ve gotten from these discussions is that NZ/Australian model advocates are working from some sort of muddled neoliberalism that has never worked, anywhere, applied to any kind of human labor situation and is *inevitably* about making exploitation easier for employers and fighting it harder for workers.

    wl — the accusation you make in 97 is unfair and unwarranted and you should apologize for it. Seriously? Even if you disagree with Stella Marr you actually think, based on what she has said here, she is *opposed* to ending violence against sex workers? You are way out of line.

  97. matlun
    matlun December 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm |

    Stella Marr: This is a little unfair. Given what I’ve stated in my posts, I’ve made it clear that the people who control the earnings of a sex worker and coerce them into sex work are the same people running the escort services. Sometimes the pimps will hire someone to answer the phones — but the pimps are the ones making the money and controlling the women.

    There’s nothing harmful about the truth — which is that escort agencies are owned by pimps.

    The point is – this is simply not true in general. You are just making the assumption that all sex workers are exploited victims, which is problematic for exactly the reasons discussed in the OP.

    Kathleen: All I’ve gotten from these discussions is that NZ/Australian model advocates are working from some sort of muddled neoliberalism that has never worked, anywhere, applied to any kind of human labor situation

    What? It is one thing to say that you do not think the free market model is a good idea for prostitution, but saying it “has never worked, anywhere, applied to any kind of human labor situation” is rather extreme. And neoliberals are hardly the only ones that are in favor of a market economy…

  98. wl
    wl December 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm |

    Stella, I specified that your pimps were paid quite a lot because you stated as much, and it would be unfair to state the you were paid, as you said you were not, or else at least your pimps took a cut. As for PEOPLE, I meant anyone who profits from prostitution, whether a pimp, manager, or sex worker – that’s just a ridiculous amount of money. I was a sex worker and I’ve known quite a few and I’ve never met anyone who made that much per hour.

  99. wl
    wl December 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm |

    Kathleen, I think she is opposed to SEX WORKER efforts to end violence; that’s actually been made very clear here.

  100. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm |

    Thak you Kathleen, I appreciate that :).

    wl: I think she is opposed to SEX WORKER efforts to end violence; that’s actually been made very clear here.

    wl, as I am a woman who was prostituted for ten years who cares passionately about ending the sexual violence of prostitution, I think the above statement is pretty crazy. You have resorted to taking bullying pot shots.

    Regarding Wendy’s assertion that street prostitution became more dangerous under the Swedish model — such allegations were refuted by the 2010 Swedish public evaluation of the law, which was corroborated with other reports and accounts, and found claims like Wendy’s to be unfounded.

    According to Max Waltman: “Similar claims … that are promulgated outside Sweden often originate in anunpublished piece in English where the author did not mention, as in herSwedish publications, that her sample of up to 20 women was deliberately composedof persons who mostly said they had a positive view about prostitution.”

    In other words, they come from a deliberately biased sample that was not published in English.

    The Swedish model decriminalizes the prostituted women while criminalizing the purchasers — in acknowledgement that those who use prostitutes are committing sexual violence against the women. The law includes provisions for connecteing prostituted women with support from social welfare agencies as crime victims.

    Under legislative clarifications of the “Swedish model” law in Sweden in 2011, it is now possible for prostituted persons to sue Johns for damages resulting from the Johns’ exploitation and violation of the prostituted persons equality, dignity and humanity. So the prostituted can actually be compensated via Swedish courts for what they’ve experienced.

    So Sweden is doing a lot to end violence against prostituted women. Sweden is also doing a lot to help prostituted women.

    What’s missing from Wendy’s arguments is an acknowledgement of the 89 percent of prostituted women who long to escape the businessm as well as any advocacy to help these women.

  101. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm |

    People who make money off the sexual exploitation of others are pimps.

    It’s not a definition open to manipulation.

    And it’s not harmful to state the truth, that people who run brothels and escort servvices are pimps.

    New Zealand and Australian sex worker activists advocate removing sex work from the criminal code and regulating it under the same framework as any other business

    The problem is, being prostituted is not the same as any other business. There’s a huge logical fallacy in that statement. It’s a red herring. Saying prostitution is the same as any other business is the same as saying a rat carcass is the same thing as a meal in a five star restaurant. It’s not, even though both can be eaten.

    Comparing prostitution to ‘any other business’ denies the sexual violence the women experience, just as it denies the physical brutality of prostitution. In any other job if you made someone have sex with customers, it would be considered a crime. So you can’t compare prostitution to any other job.

    It seems strange to me that you want so much to empower pimps to exploit vulnerable women. That’s not a judgment. You’re brilliant. It just seems like maybe you’re afraid you can’t do anything else. Of course that’s not true, but going through what you’ve gone through can make some people feel that way. You say “I have a medication burden that rules quite a big chunk of my life, and a sizeable chunk of my finances.”

  102. Bushfire
    Bushfire December 11, 2011 at 12:08 am |

    Your LASH study demonstrates that even under decriminalization, sex workers still experience high levels of violence, so no, decriminalization doesn’t work. It still allows violence against women. A system that “worked” would make women safe. You’re still doing the same thing you did on the last sex work thread, which is is telling survivors of prostitution that they are not representative while simultaneously acting like your life is representative. Even if there are people who are happy in sex work, the enormous numbers of of women who truly are experiencing violence matter a lot, and we need to deal with that. We need to reduce demand for prostitution. Women should absolutely not experience decreased safety or increased violence when demand goes down. If that is what happens, we need to deal with that too. We need to keep dealing with violence against women until we are all safe.

  103. Cécile
    Cécile December 11, 2011 at 4:39 am |

    Hi Stella,

    My pounding adrenaline may be getting the better of me right now, so please correct me if I’m wrong: BUT—is your repeated use of the phrase “prostituted women” your way of homogenizing ALL of the women who are involved in sex work as “victims incapable of consent,” whether they are ‘enslaved’ by violent pimps or whether they are working voluntarily and independently, and keeping 100% of their earnings?? (or working voluntarily and agreeing to give an agency a particular cut for safety and services??)

    If this is the case, I think your biggest mistake is in treating sex work as though it exists in a vacuum from “the real world.”

    Exactly like sex in the “real world”—’free will’/’choice’/’consent’ MAKE the difference between “sex” and “rape”—between “sex work” and “being prostituted.”

    I think it’s important to point out that when it comes down to it, pimps are profiting off of abusive behaviors. While money and sex are their particular motivators, their physical/psychological/sexual/emotional abuse is what creates and ensures the captivity of trafficked women. The sadistic sexual horrors endured by you and many other women are also abusive behaviors, as practiced by the johns—they are not inherent to sexuality. Which means: the johns who seek out sex workers who work under a pimp are a very particular type of man (again: sadistic, abusive)—they are not representative of “all men” who patronize the sex industry.

    These SAME abusive behaviors don’t begin and end with the sex industry. They pervade marriages, relationships, college campuses/house parties/(oh, and football teams!), bars, dark alleyways… fathers/father figures exercise these same abuses over little girls, priests over young boys, foster parents over children in child protective services… I could go on and on.

    Do you think these abusive energies and impulses would just disappear with the sex industry??

    This is an awful “argument” to make. I wish I weren’t making it.

    The thing is, though—violence and abuse should NEVER be controlled by restricting the freedoms of the VICTIMS! (or the potential victims!) Can’t you see how backwards this is?? If that were the case, the historically violent and disempowering institution of marriage, for instance, should have been dissolved (not that it necessarily needs to stay…); instead, feminists fought for the recognition of “marital rape,” and women are now (theoretically) free to retain their ability to give/withhold sexual consent, if they choose to enter a marriage (which they also have the hard-won ability to end, if need be). It doesn’t guarantee that women will never be raped or abused by their spouses, but at least they have the leverage to fight back. That’s exactly what decriminalization aims for: freedom, with the leverage to fight back. On the other hand (there are so many illustrative points to choose from) a relative of mine went to a creepy Christian college that FORBADE only its female students (legal adults!) to leave campus without chaperones (in addition to implementing curfews and strict dress codes) in order to “protect” them from becoming victims of sexual violence. Do you see the parallel with creating legal barriers under the assumption that no woman can be considered capable to handle herself in sex work?

    Stella, I appreciate the powerful effort you are putting in toward ending sex trafficking—trafficking needs to end, and you should more appropriately direct your efforts to that specific area in the sex industry.

    We need a world that fights abuse, not a world that fences in women. If that’s your solution, well, frankly, you’ll have to round up all the women in the world, sex workers or not.

  104. Cécile
    Cécile December 11, 2011 at 4:44 am |

    And just to chime in with another point on why it’s not desirable to criminalize patrons: where I live in the U.S., prostitution is a misdemeanor, and patronizing is a felony. That always made me feel much more vulnerable than “protected”: who does this set up to be slapped with charges? The “anonymous sleazy whore” with a misdemeanor, or the “professional family-man in the suburbs” with a felony? Hah-hah.

  105. Maia
    Maia December 11, 2011 at 6:58 am |

    Wendy – thanks for your response. I guess I don’t like accepting other people’s terms in arguments. I don’t deal with people who want to make sex work illegal lots locally – for obvious reasons. But I do think there’s a lot of reasons to deal with such arguments radically (in the sense of going to the root of). I know we’re in different contexts, but I’d be asking – What would that 89% figure mean if it were true? What’s the figure in other industries? Why does it have anything to do with legalisaiton etc?

    Although I do disagree with this:

    I’m also very interested in the issue of stigmatisation of marginalised groups, and one of the things that concerns me about the constant emphasis on sex workers’ victimisation is that it may actually have a self-reinforcing effect – where people believe that all sex workers are victims, they become an easy target for people who look for someone to victimise. And this makes them all more vulnerable. That’s why I think that overstating the extent of victimisation in the sex industry can be just as harmful as understating it. There’s got to be a balance somewhere.

    You seem to be saying that you think that ‘victimisation’ is stigmatising. I agree that it often is – but far more importantly I think that it shouldn’t be. If being seen as victims stigmatises marginalised groups then I see the response to fight the idea that there is any shame in being victimised. Not trying to finely grade exactly how OK it is for people to discuss victimisation. Particularly as you’ve just said nobody knows for sure how to figure out whether victimisation is currently being ‘overstated’ or ‘understated’, because no-one knows the reality.

    I think to suggest that it is narratives which discuss abuse that marginalised groups have experienced that leads to that abuse, rather than their marginalisation is a pretty massive argument. That a) would need heaps of empirical evidence and b) if true would seriously challenge a wide range of political work.

    I mean Eldridge Cleaver raped black women as practice for raping white women, because he knew how power was structured in society (and because he was a misogynist, racist, asshole). Not because there were too many narratives around where black women were ‘victims’.

    WL you agree with this:

    “Pimping” and “running an escort agency” are not the same thing, and I think it’s really harmful to say that they are.

    And then define ‘pimping’ as “Force, fraud, or coercion.” Which I think is a useful definition (although as someone who knows that a lot of coercion exists within workplaces – I’d probably word it like ‘Force, fraud, violence or coercion beyond what is seen as legitimate in non-sex-industry workplaces”).

    But I’m not sure about using ‘escort agency’ as the opposite of pimping. Escort agency is a term used out there in a world – and using that term isn’t a guarantee that the people running it aren’t using: “Force, fraud or coercion”. While I think assuming that all ‘escort agencies’ use ‘Force, fraud or coercion’ is problematic, so is assuming that none do.

    So unless you’re arguing that the industrial relations framework that governs every other kind of business in Australia and New Zealand “doesn’t work”, I don’t see what your point is.

    Just for the record the industrial relations framework which governs every other kind of business in NZ doesn’t work. Why is that a ridiculous proposition? Employers have all the power – and wages are very low here. Also the sex industry (like the film industry) generally operates on an independent contractor model due to historic reasons, employer power, and tax benefits, which means that workers don’t have the minimal protections that are available.

    This is why I always struggle on sex work threads. My analysis of work is often so different from other people’s.

  106. matlun
    matlun December 11, 2011 at 7:30 am |

    Stella Marr: The problem is, being prostituted is not the same as any other business. There’s a huge logical fallacy in that statement. It’s a red herring.

    No, this is not a logical fallacy. You may disagree with the statement (prostitution being the same as other types of work), but it is not a logical fallacy or irrelevance.

    If you think there prostitution in principle different from other types of work you need to clarify why. This is very much to the point and is in fact where these discussions always end up.

    You seem to assume that the violence and coercion is an inescapable part of the work. See discussion above about how this is not obviously true.

    There have been other lines of arguments on what makes prostitution such a special case, but nothing that has convinced me. As I see it “all” that is needed is a strong movement for workers’ rights.

  107. matlun
    matlun December 11, 2011 at 7:32 am |

    And @Maia: Whether or not you think that “the industrial relations framework which governs every other kind of business in NZ doesn’t work” – do you think that prostitution should be handled in the same way as other industries or should there be a separate legal framework? If so, why?

  108. Wendy
    Wendy December 11, 2011 at 10:08 am |

    Stella:

    Wendy the problem ithere’s an inherent bias in ‘listening to what the sex workers have to say.’ In that most prostituted women will never talk about it because the experience is so overwhelmingly traumatizing.

    But when those who are talking about it are saying one thing, to ignore what they’re saying and assume that those you haven’t heard from are actually thinking something else is to render all of them silent and impose your view as theirs. I’m sure that if Swedish sex workers actually were speaking out in support of the law, and someone came here and posted that because of her experiences in Australia she could speak for the ones in Sweden who haven’t spoken, you’d argue that she couldn’t (and I’d be right there with you on that).

    My point is that if there was less demand via Swedish model legislation, my pimps might have been less motivated to coerce me

    The thing is that it’s really impossible to say that there is less demand because of this legislation. There’s less demand on the streets, all right. But nobody has studied the extent of indoor commercial sex in Sweden. And the Swedish government admits this too. They’re certainly finding more cases in recent years, having put more resources into it lately. The number of recorded cases increased by more than 500% over the past few years. Either that means demand is actually increasing or, more likely, that all these years when they’ve been saying it had gone away it had just gone on undetected.

    Incidentally, in Sweden it has also been said by both sex workers and social services that the law has actually benefited pimps, because there is now more of a need for a “middleman” between sex worker and client. This is exactly the same thing that Irish sex workers said when the law criminalising solicitation was brought in. I’ve been really struck by the parallels between what Swedish sex workers say about the effects of the Swedish law, and what sex workers in other jurisdictions have said about the effects of legislation that criminalises the sale of sex.

    Stella (and for Maia too):

    The logical conclusion would be that no one should ever discuss any harm experienced by any party — because by discussing the harm, we’re causing it.

    It makes no sense. Maybe you meant something else?

    I meant there needs to be a balance. In fact, that’s what I said: there needs to be a balance. What I’m talking about is the difference between acknowledging the fact that, for example, rape is a very significant risk for sex workers, and slipping over into language that essentially defines sex workers as professional rape victims, people for whom rape is “just part of the job”, people who should expect no less than to be raped every time they go to work. Radical feminist theory does cross over that line at times, and it concerns me since the same ideas are used by rapists to justify attacking sex workers, and by the law to let them get away with it. It also suggests that a person who goes into sex work willingly is choosing to be raped – which really amounts to victim-blaming, when you get down to it. And we all know that’s not on.

    Incidentally, the idea that the language used to discuss rape can actually contribute to the risks of rape is not a new one; it has also been argued outside the context of sex work. See Sharon Marcus’s essay “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words” in Feminists Theorize The Political from 1992. This is not in any way to suggest that it and it alone causes rape.

    there’s been a vast expansion of both ‘legal’ and illegal sex trafficking in Sydney and the state of Victoria since profitting off the sexual exploitation of women via running brothels or escort agencies was decriminalized. For example, the state of Victoria has 100 licensed brothels, and at least 300 unlicensed – meaning illegal – brothels.

    Brothels are not decriminalised in Victoria – they are legalised and highly regulated, which is exactly why there are so many illegal ones. The UNAIDS/Interparliamentary Handbook for Legislators states that laws regulating brothels “should not be so onerous to comply with that a second illegal industry is created”, but that is precisely what happened in Victoria. New Zealand has attempted to learn from this failing and has not, to my knowledge, had the same experience.

    Regarding Wendy’s assertion that street prostitution became more dangerous under the Swedish model — such allegations were refuted by the 2010 Swedish public evaluation of the law, which was corroborated with other reports and accounts, and found claims like Wendy’s to be unfounded.

    First of all, which “other reports” corroborated it?

    Secondly, there were major problems with the methodology of that Swedish evaluation and these were pointed out by a number of other Swedish institutions including the Discrimination Ombudsman and the National Board of Health and Welfare. It is notable that the report stated at the outset that its terms of reference included a provision that the law’s existence was not up for discussion. This would have to be seen as undermining its findings, since it essentially means that the purpose was really not to “evaluate” the law but to justify it. And finally, its claims are undermined anyway, since it stated that there was a decline in the amount of commercial sex – but only weeks after it was published, the Swedish police released those statistics I mentioned above showing a 500% increase in the past couple years alone. That wasn’t mentioned in the evaluation!

    Also, the Norwegian government has acknowledged that the law has made things more dangerous in its 2010 report to UNAIDS – see pages 36 and 94.

    What’s missing from Wendy’s arguments is an acknowledgement of the 89 percent of prostituted women who long to escape the businessm as well as any advocacy to help these women.

    I have addressed both those issues.

    The industry is currently slow in Sydney, and clients are using that to angle for “natural” services with workers.

    The exact same thing is happening in Ireland right now.

    Maia:

    I guess I don’t like accepting other people’s terms in arguments.

    Believe me, I’d love to be able to not do so! We have to deal with the same thing here in pro-choice activism; the anti-abortionists have really switched their tactics from being all about the foetus to being all about the woman’s health, and they’re constantly citing statistics to “prove” that abortion causes mental health issues etc. Now they know and we know that even if they had to admit abortion doesn’t cause mental health issues, they’d still oppose it, so in that sense it’s really a bogus argument. But it’s still one we have to address, not least because some of the people who are on the fence about abortion seem to find it persuasive.

  109. Wendy
    Wendy December 11, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    Arrgh, I seem to have left out a blockquote close tag there… can a moderator fix it?

  110. RootedInBeing
    RootedInBeing December 11, 2011 at 10:16 am |

    I am an abolishonist, and am intrigued by the critique. If I may repost this on my blog and spark a discussion? Thanks!

  111. Abolitiononist Research Questioned « Rooted In Being

    [...] opinion piece is reposted by myself, it was taken off of Feministe, with the original post mentioned. What do you think about this critique?  I am very open to my [...]

  112. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 11, 2011 at 1:41 pm |

    I’m the same Alexandra as from way upthread. I’ve been travelling, and so haven’t had a chance to respond very often.

    I still haven’t seen a good refutation of the argument that the 89% figure is accurate, and I still find the original argument, disputing the 89% figure, hard to believe.

    And I certainly find it hard to believe that sexual violence isn’t inherent to the nature of prostitution. I mean, take the argument that if you reduce demand for prostitution, the demand which remains will be even more violent. Even if I grant that as true, what does it say about Johns, except that they are a class of men who are willing to use and abuse as much as they think they can get away with, and that even with women who are willing sex workers rather than prostituted women they’re willing to put as much pressure on as possible to get their way. Prostitution and rape culture go hand in hand. Men are rapists and Johns for the same reason – sexual power is apparently an aphrodisiac for them.

  113. Bushfire
    Bushfire December 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    “No, it doesn’t. It didn’t ask any questions about levels of violence at all and didn’t present any information about violence in its findings. To claim that the LASH study demonstrates sex workers experience high levels of violence is a willful misrepresentation of the study.”

    I read the LASH study when you posted it and there was information about rates of some sort of violence. I can’t find the study right now to go and quote it, but it was there, and we’ve discussed it before. I think pretending it wasn’t there is a lot closer to “willful misrepresentation of the study”.

    “We’ve had a really civil thread, and I’m sure we’d all appreciate you not ruining it.”

    I’m not actually doing anything to ruin the thread, but go ahead and ban me. It’ll be really telling when you ban feminists from a supposedly feminist site to make room for the patriarchy-enthusiasm. Depressing, but telling.

    “What I am saying is that if you experience violence or abuse when doing sex work, the sex work is not the problem.”

    This demonstrates exactly how much denial you are in. Many forms of sex work are inherently violent. Prostitution has always has been violent. Even in your LASH study, it is documented that violent clients still exist and must be dealt with. You are pretending that violence just happens sometimes, as if it is an anomaly, but it’s not. Men like using prostitutes because they like the power imbalance and like being in control and violent. You don’t experience much violence in your particular job and that’s wonderful, but many do, and for many people it’s not a job at all but a form of slavery, and if they were able to get into another job their risk of violence would be greatly reduced. Men aren’t in the habit of going to a grocery store and slicing up the cashier, but it’s common for misogynists to kill prostitutes.

    Women are not sex toys- we are people. If we had a feminist revolution, there would be no more demand for using people as toys. We would all interact as people, working in the job we want, getting paid a living wage, and having consensual sex as we desire to, without coercion, economic or otherwise.

  114. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

    Wendy: Radical feminist theory does cross over that line at times, and it concerns me since the same ideas are used by rapists to justify attacking sex workers, and by the law to let them get away with it.

    Wendy I can’t believe you’re doing this again. First of all we’re not discussing one kind of feminism or another, we’re not in the realm of ideas here — we’re talking about women who bruise and bleed and break.

    You’re implying that by talking about sexual violence we’re causing it.

    In other words, since the truth about the sexual violence of prostituion is incovenient to your purposes, you want it silenced.

    It’s completely illogical.

  115. Cécile
    Cécile December 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm |

    What I’m talking about is the difference between acknowledging the fact that, for example, rape is a very significant risk for sex workers, and slipping over into language that essentially defines sex workers as professional rape victims, people for whom rape is “just part of the job”, people who should expect no less than to be raped every time they go to work.

    I like this point, Wendy. Especially when considering the impacts on (voluntary) sex workers to be ‘told’ that their experiences are rape, as if their sentient engagement in their decisions is irrelevant. It is distressing/infuriating for any person to be treated as though they are incapable of evaluating their own feelings, when they actually are capable.

    When a sex worker is raped, it should be treated with utmost legitmacy. I don’t think rape victims in any context would want people responding to the situation by taking away their ability to give consent in the future. A violation of consent once, and twice…

  116. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm |

    matlun: If you think there prostitution in principle different from other types of work you need to clarify why.

    Matlun, I think I have clarified why abundantly in my posts which describe my experiences as a prostituted woman. My experiences were not what one experienes in a ‘job.’ So I have abundantly proved this to be a logical fallacy.

    Unless job equals genital injury
    job equals internal hemorrhaging
    job equals broken bones and dislocated shoulders due to violence
    job equals terrorization after being raped and beaten

    et cetera.

    Wendy: We have to deal with the same thing here in pro-choice activism; the anti-abortionists have really switched their tactics from being all about the foetus to being all about the woman’s health, and they’re constantly citing statistics to “prove” that abortion causes mental health issues etc.

    I dont believe the issue of abortion is comparable with prostitution, and I really rankle at any suggestion those who champion the Swedish model are like anti-abortionists. Prostitution is not sex. Prostitution is not sexual fredom. It’s the opposite of freedom. The Swedish model has not affected a woman’s right to abortion in Norway, Iceland or Sweden. Nor will it. In fact those countries have more sexual freedom than anyplace else in the world.

    But so often feminists treat the women experiencing the sexual violence of prostitution as if they don’t exist. And then there’s this weird idea that somehow publicizing the harm women experience in prostitution will affect a woman’s right to choose. It’s ridiculous. The same feminists often are vocal about rape and domestic violence. But somehow, prostitutes are sacrificed on the pro-choice altar. And the sacrifice serves no purpose. It’s completely unnecessary. By conflating prostitution with sex, thess callous feminists make a serious logical error. And they co-opt the voices of millions of invisible women. Because prostitution is so traumatic it’s almost impossible to speak of it to anyone, let alone publicly.

    Please don’t pull this kind of move again, I would regret having to ban someone who has otherwise been so well behaved.

    Sorry this offended you. My question actually came from a place of caring, in that I do see any profiting off your sexual exploitation as being someone indefensible. And I wanted you to think about what they were doing — the way you’d ask a friend to think about someone who was mistreating them. I didn’t mean it as an attack on you — though I understand you perceived it that way — and thus it was wrong of me to say it. I hope you can forgive me.

    Wendy: the Norwegian government has acknowledged that the law has made things more dangerous

    I read that report Wendy. The Norwegian government was not acknowledging the law had made prostitution more dangerous. They were reporting concerns expressed by ‘sex worker’ organizations, who may or may not have represented the voices of prostituted women. One of these issues made little logical sense — the sex worker organizations said prostituted women were concerned with being arrested. But being a prostitute is not criminalized. So couldn’t those ‘sex worker’ organizations education women about that, as the government did? The report was also listing concerns about effects the law may have, and steps they wanted to take to address those concerns. They were listing worst case fears the law might cause, and steps they’d take to address those concerns. There were no examples of harm actually occurring. I’d say the Norwegian report is a pretty great example that the Norwegian government is on top of making sure the legislation doesn’t infliect harm. They’re being very preventive.

    WENDY I HAVE AN IMPORTANT QUESTION FOR YOU:

    Why are you denying my experience? Why are you denying my validity in talking about prostitution, nit-picking over the location where it’s occurred, when the physical experience is universal. I thought feminism was about lifting women up.

  117. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm |

    matlun — but it’s the NZ/Australia model advocates who treat sex work as a special case! She goes out of her way to emphasize that “most” johns are good guys, that the work is not violent, that the employers are not exploitative, that in fact it’s super empowering, and so on. IMagine saying that set of things about, I dunno, factory work? I mean, what other “workers movement” spends as much time lauding the wonderfulness of employers and the superness of the work?

    Over and over again, what I see are basically right-wing talking points. If someone says research shows sex work is harmful, the response is “not representative! who is to say! We can’t talk about that! More research is needed!” but not to provide real alternative research except the much-critiqued LASH study. I feel like I am listening to Big Tobacco or the oil industry on climate change.

    The repeated discussion of the buying and selling of sex as just another kind of market — in which freely-choosing, fully-informed agents come and exchange money for services to their mutual benefit — the other places I see this “free market choice” language used to disguise raced, gendered, and classed exploitation are: black market organ trade, paid surrogacy, gamete sales.

    I just don’t get how feminists spot the bs in other contexts and yet totally become uncritical when it comes to sex work. The more of these threads I see, the less I understand it.

  118. Cécile
    Cécile December 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm |

    You’re implying that by talking about sexual violence we’re causing it.

    In other words, since the truth about the sexual violence of prostituion is incovenient to your purposes, you want it silenced.

    I very much disagree with this interpretation of Wendy’s comment. She isn’t calling for the silence of rape victims. I think what she is getting at is reflected in an article put out by SWOP Chicago:

    Sex workers are not targeted because sex work is inherently dangerous. Sex workers are targeted because perpetrators know prostitutes are afraid of law enforcement and won’t seek the aid of law enforcement until it’s too late. They are targeted because of the stigma surrounding sex work. This stigma is constantly regenerated in the way politicians, end-demand advocates, and media representatives talk about prostitution.

    http://redlightchicago.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/swop-chicago-response-to-murder-of-sex-worker-at-chicago-hotel/

  119. matlun
    matlun December 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm |

    Kathleen: matlun — but it’s the NZ/Australia model advocates who treat sex work as a special case!

    No. The proponents of legalization say that it should be handled in the same way as any other type of work. Any coercion or violence should be addressed but with general laws against for example assault or exploitative working conditions.

    Those who are against criminalization do claim that it is a special case and need to be handled differently than for example factory work.

    Kathleen: The repeated discussion of the buying and selling of sex as just another kind of market [...] the other places I see this “free market choice” language used to disguise raced, gendered, and classed exploitation [...]

    So you are making the argument that sex work is not “just another kind of market”?

    Whether or not the anti-legalization argument is wrong is not something I think we can agree on, but we should at least be able to find agreement on what the argument is.

  120. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm |

    I don’t think prostitution is as simple a thing as women’s bodies being treated like commodities. I think sometimes that’s the case – there are men actively don’t care or else seek out women whose bodies might be present, but whose souls are protesting. But I think a lot of the time prostitution is about the fiction that this woman wants to sleep with you, a fiction that for me I went along with because I was broke and desperate, and that women like Stella Marr have gone along with because they were forced to. Maybe some people enjoy acting out men’s sexual fantasies; that’s their business, I suppose.

    But don’t we critique male sexual fantasies at other times? Don’t we criticize straight porn all the time? What is so damn different about criticizing the fact that in order to live out their fantasies of power and gratification men are willing to use and abuse women, sometimes deliberately, and sometimes through an ignorance born of the highest kind of entitlement?

    I don’t have anything but love in my heart for women who are willing sex workers. People make all kinds of choices for all kinds of reasons. That’s fine. But I have a lot of scorn for men who use prostitutes, even the men who are visiting willing sex workers, because I don’t think they care. If you’re buying the fiction of enthusiastic consent in a partner who otherwise would not sleep with you, why would you care whether she was there willingly? And really, how would you know? It’s not like women who are coerced or only in prostitution because of poverty are going to tell Johns that.

  121. wl
    wl December 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm |

    Maia – I don’t think escort agencies are the “opposite” of pimping, I just don’t see agency owners as pimps unless they are employing force, fraud, or like you say, coercion beyond what is considered legitimate in non sex work contexts.

  122. matlun
    matlun December 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm |

    matlun: Those who are against criminalization do claim that it is a special case and need to be handled differently than for example factory work.

    Gah. That became totally the opposite of what I meant. I obviously meant “in favor of criminalization” instead of “against criminalization”. Bad editing job.

  123. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm |

    matlun — the slipperiness you are identifying doesn’t belong to me. ON the one hand, there is the insistence that sex work is “just work”. On the other hand, “unions” of sex workers include workers and bosses; there has been a lot of discussion — *just in this thread* — about how johns and pimps are misrepresented and are at base not so bad after all — this is NOT something that comes up in other kinds of worker-led labor discussions. It just isn’t. Where you do see it is in boss-led labour discussions. It’s not my problem for noticing it.

    Ditto for the resistance to research being done at all; ditto for “markets are where exchangers exchange and choosers choose, no discussions of contextual justice are necessary!” rhetoric. Boss led, exploiter led, rich people led discussions. Feminists would notice in any other damn context. Why not here?

  124. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 6:32 pm |

    Cécile: I very much disagree with this interpretation of Wendy’s comment. She isn’t calling for the silence of rape victims. I think what she is getting at is reflected in an article put out by SWOP Chicago:

    Kathleen wasn’t talking about stigma Cecile. She was denying the validity of peer-reviewed research that says 89 % of women in the sex industry want out, and that women in the sex industry have the same level of trauma as the victims of state-sponsored torture.

    And for what its’ worth, the sex workers outreach project was founded by a woman who was convicted by pimping. As a prostituted woman, I know how pimps work. And I am concerned about the possibility that the sex workers outreach project is raising money on behalf of prostituted women that ends up in the pockets of pimps. And I’m concerned that they may be advocating in ways that benefit pimps rather than prostitued women. Given that their founder was a pimp herself.

  125. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 6:48 pm |

    Above, I meant the founder of the Sex Workers Outreach Project is a female pimp.

    Alexandra: I don’t have anything but love in my heart for women who are willing sex workers. People make all kinds of choices for all kinds of reasons.

    I’m with you Alexandra. And thank you for adding your brilliance and eloquence to this conversation.

    Wendy, so you’re trying to disqualify me from speaking about prostitution — saying it has a narrow geographic boundary, and if I dont’ fit in the way you define it, I should metaphorically stand on the sidelines and let you duct tape my mouth shut? Using the same kind of skewed logic I could say you have no right to talk about the sex industry at all, given that you’ve never been a sex worker. But I haven’t said that, have I? Even though you’ve patronized me with this “Swedish sex workers say, and you aren’t a Swedish sex worker” several times now. Meanwhile you haven’t given any indication you’ve made an effort to speak with prostituted women in Sweden who might not want to speak publicly about it. For a professional sex work researcher you seem to take a pretty superficial approach. And you don’t speak Swedish.

    But frankly, I’m tired of engaging in such a superficial and petty intellectualization about something so important.

  126. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 6:49 pm |

    Kathleen: there has been a lot of discussion — *just in this thread* — about how johns and pimps are misrepresented and are at base not so bad after all — this is NOT something that comes up in other kinds of worker-led labor discussions. It just isn’t. Where you do see it is in boss-led labour discussions. It’s not my problem for noticing it.

    Brava Kathleen!

  127. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 6:56 pm |

    Alexandra: Prostitution and rape culture go hand in hand. Men are rapists and Johns for the same reason – sexual power is apparently an aphrodisiac for them.

    Yes!

    I wish we had more fun things in common! The medication costs wipe me out sometimes.

  128. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 6:57 pm |

    Alexandra: If you’re buying the fiction of enthusiastic consent in a partner who otherwise would not sleep with you, why would you care whether she was there willingly?

    This is brilliant and true.

  129. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm |

    Alexandra: But don’t we critique male sexual fantasies at other times? Don’t we criticize straight porn all the time? What is so damn different about criticizing the fact that in order to live out their fantasies of power and gratification men are willing to use and abuse women, sometimes deliberately, and sometimes through an ignorance born of the highest kind of entitlement?

    Alexandra I’m so glad you asked this question. Again, it’s brilliantly thought out and written. And since there isn’t any difference , one wonders why some ‘feminists’ resist this discussion. Using the principle of Occam’s razor, I can think of only two answers. i’m not speaking of people posting on this thread – how culd I know – I’m just speaking generally.

    1) Many feminists don’t really think of prostitutes as women — so it’s easy to discount their suffering. And these same feminists equate (falsely) prostitution with sexual freedom. Prostitution is not the same as sex, or as sexual freedom. It’s the opposite of sexual freedom, as it’s about having sex with people you don’t choose. But if one clings to thsi false equivalency, one begins to think acknowledging the truth about prostitution will limit one’s own ‘sexual freedom.’

    2) The second reason: who benefits if this conversation is suppressed? the sex industry — and the sex industry will do alot to benefit those who serve its interests. The sex industry rakes in billions monthly.

    wl: that’s just a ridiculous amount of money. I was a sex worker and I’ve known quite a few and I’ve never met anyone who made that much per hour.

    wl it’s tiresome that you keep repeating these attacks on me. You never mentioned being a sex worker until I mentioned that it was strange that you spoke of pimps when thinking of people in the ‘sex industry.’ Strange you didn’t bring it up before. But then you write “I’ve never met anyone who made that much per hour.” Prostiuted women would not usually say this, as prostituted women understand the woman never makes anywhere close to what the pimp charges for her per hour. So I think your phrasing is revealing.

    It doesn’t mean anything that you’ve never met anyone who “made that much per hour.’ (And again, I didn’t make that much per hour, my pimp collected that amount.) The numbers I stated: From as little as $100 for half an hour to as much as $1500 an hour. $1500 an hour was high, but I worked for pimps with clients who paid that. And the simplest research on your part would reveal that such pricing in NYC is not rare. And prostitution across the price brackets varied little.

    I want to say again that the rate a pimp collects per hour for a prostituted woman has nothing to do with her worth and value as a person. It’s just a game played by the Johns and the pimps.

  130. Maia
    Maia December 11, 2011 at 8:19 pm |

    And @Maia: Whether or not you think that “the industrial relations framework which governs every other kind of business in NZ doesn’t work” – do you think that prostitution should be handled in the same way as other industries or should there be a separate legal framework? If so, why?

    Matlun – I have rather more ways of answering that question than you probably meant. At the moment, as I’ve said, sex workers don’t get the same sort of protection that workers in most (but not all) industries get in NZ. There terms and conditions that are common in sex work that are not common in other industries in a way that favours employers. Legalisation hasn’t changed that. So in that sense it would be awesome if sex workers were able to organise (which is what it would need) to get the same protection as workers in other industries).

    On the other hand if that happened, there would still be a lot that needed improvement and if a government was to say (which they never would but oh well) sex work is particularly exploitative so workers should have due process rights from the beginning, the right to strike, and the right to close the shop. I would think that would be awesome and they should use those rights – rather than saying “but we should be under the same industrial relations framework as anyone else” (although obviously with union organising hte decision lies with the workers).

    To move away from fantasy scenarios – I do think there is some kind of protection in the decriminalisation laws that give sex workers the right to refuse clients. Which is a protection I support, and is a different legislative framework from other industries. Although I suspect it’s basically unenforceable – and certainly unenforceable without due process rights. So to that extent the answer is yes (although I’d be for that protection in other industries if workers demanded it). There are a number of examples in recent NZ employment law where workers in a particular industry have agitated for a law, which reflected their situation and the most urgent issues they faced at work (and one particularly awful one where employers did hte same – but my hatred of Peter Jackson is another subject entirely). I don’t in principle object to workers addressing industry specific problems through industry specific laws.

    What I was objecting to was the assumption that someone who criticised ‘neo-liberal’ discourses would think NZ employment frameworks were adequate.

    wl – Cool that was just the distinction I want to clarify – escort agencies may not be pimps, but they may.

    Kathleen – While I’m from NZ and support the law – as has probably been clear – I agree with your comments. I actually don’t think the sorts of discussion you’ve noticed represents the situation in NZ particularly well. The main motivation of legalisation and debates around it have not been around the free market, but about reducing the amount of control the police have over sex worker’s lives.

    I’ve been quite clear about the fact that I believe that, for most workers, sex work is just a job. And do you feel that factory workers would want their work criminalised? Sex workers are in a unique position because our work is criminalised and stigmatised. No other workers are forced to defend their work like we are.

    Right – but the terms on which sex-workers defend their work is a political choice. Lots of people say that sex-work should be criminalised because it is exploitative, which really sucks and makes things harder for sex-workers. However, if you respond with arguing that sex-work is not always exploitative, and describe the way that it can resemble other work, then you are arguing that normal work is not exploitative. People, like me, who believe work under capitalism will disagree with that line of argument, even if (like me) they believe with your conclusion that sex-work should not be criminalised.

  131. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm |

    Bushfire:

    Youdemonstrateagainandagainthatyouhavenorespectforsexworkerswhodon’ttoethepartylineandspoutradfemtalkingpoints.Youinsistonusingterminologytomy“face”thatI’vetoldyouisoffensiveandinsultingtome,despitebeingaskedrepeatedlynottoandnowthreatenedwithbanningifyoucontinue.Isitsodamnhardtojustshowalittlecourtesy?Itmustgallyousomuchthatsomeuppityhoherehasthepowertoshutyouup.Bye,Bushfire!

    StellaMarr:

    Nobodyisprofitingoffmysexualexploitation,becauseIamnotbeingsexuallyexploited.Iamworkingoutofanestablishmentandpayingaportionofmyincometoabrothelownerfortheuseoftheirpremises.

    Kathleen:

    I’veneversaidmostclientsare“goodguys”,I’vemerelysaidmostarenonviolent.I’vealsonever,EVERusedtheword“empowering”todescribesexwork,asIbelieveit’sacliche.

    I’vebeenquiteclearaboutthefactthatIbelievethat,formostworkers,sexworkisjustajob.Anddoyoufeelthatfactoryworkerswouldwanttheirworkcriminalised?Sexworkersareinauniquepositionbecauseourworkiscriminalisedandstigmatised.Nootherworkersareforcedtodefendtheirworklikeweare.

    Muchcritiqued?Whereisthiscritique?I’veseenafewpeopleobjecttosomelanguageusedinitandnevergiveexamplesofwhattheywereobjectingtoand…that’saboutit.Ialsohaven’tseensexworkerscallingformoreresearchonwhethersexworkisharmful,wefranklytendtothinkwe’vebeenstudiedenoughbynonpeers.

    Forthelasttime:sexworkeractivistswantsexworktoberegulatedunderthesameindustrialrightsframeworkasanyotherbusiness.Wewantitremovedfromthecriminalcode.We’renotcallingforafree-for-all.

    I think it’s completely inappropriate that Bushfire was banned. She didn’t attack you personally, she had trouble with the arguments. The ccredibility of the people running this thread is diminished if someone like Bushfire is banned. I’m very sad about this,

  132. matlun
    matlun December 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm |

    Kathleen: matlun — the slipperiness you are identifying doesn’t belong to me. ON the one hand, there is the insistence that sex work is “just work”. On the other hand, “unions” of sex workers include workers and bosses; there has been a lot of discussion — *just in this thread* — about how johns and pimps are misrepresented and are at base not so bad after all — this is NOT something that comes up in other kinds of worker-led labor discussions.

    Really? “Johns” are the customers. Not seeing the customers as evil is hardly revolutionary in other professions. And if you wanted to criminalize factory work because you considered the employers to be exploiting the workers I am sure you would get pushback and people pointing out that the employers are not necessarily evil. (And there is some semantic unclarity by what you mean with “pimp”. See the escort agency vs pimp discussion above)

    Again. The criminalization approach only works if you consider sex work to be conceptually different from other types of work.

  133. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm |

    There’s been a lot of discussion on this thread about whether or not we can say the people who run brothels or escort services are pimps. In fact, according to the Oxford dictionaries that is exactly what they are. The reason there are so many negative associations with the word is because what pimps have shown themselves to be over the milennia. Here is the Oxford definition:
    Pronunciation:/pɪmp/

    noun

    1 a man who controls prostitutes and arranges clients for them, taking a percentage of their earnings in return.

    2 Australian informal a telltale or informer.

    http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/pimp

  134. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 9:22 pm |

    Matlun are you a prostituted woman?

  135. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 9:30 pm |

    matlun: (And there is some semantic unclarity by what you mean with “pimp”. See the escort agency vs pimp discussion above)

    There is only a lack of ‘semantic’ clarity if you don’t know how to use a dictionary. Please see the Oxford World Dictionaries definition of pimp:

    Pronunciation:/pɪmp/

    noun

    1 a man who controls prostitutes and arranges clients for them, taking a percentage of their earnings in return.

    2 Australian informal a telltale or informer.

    The reason there are so many negative associations with the word is because of how pimp have behaved for milennia. Why should this have suddenly changed — just as the sex industry’s profits have soared. Wouldn’t one respect the opposite?

    http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/pimp

    Really Matlun, it’s pretty funny to hear a conversation about a lack of semantic clarity about such a simple word, that’s so easy to look up.

  136. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 11, 2011 at 9:42 pm |

    And I do consider sex work to be inherently different from other kinds of work. I am still, still, still furious at feminism for presenting to me the idea – when I was just eighteen years old – that I could prostitute myself and it would be normal, that it would be just like working at any other job. Let me tell you, I have worked unpleasant low-wage jobs, and even those were preferable to me.

    I get where people draw the analogies – yes, you do have to be polite and apparently happy in any customer service job; yes the work can be physically taxing, even brutal. But sex work in general and prostitution in particular are jobs which exist to support rape culture, ie the idea that any woman should be willing to submit to every man who wants her. If a man is interested in a willing partner, he can go to a bar or place an online personal. There are online personals sites for married people, now. The idea that it’s impossible to find willing women so prostitution is the only answer is now completely invalidated. And yet there is still a demand for prostitutes, because men still buy into the idea that they shouldn’t have to /work/ to obtain consent, it should just be freely given by any woman desired.

    And I don’t think prostitution is unique in being a kind of work that exists to uphold a species of oppression. You can make a very good argument that sweatshop labor (for example) exists not incidentally to the global south’s poverty and disempowerment, but in fact exists in order to uphold the Western world’s way of life and dominance in the world. I think you can make a similar argument that migrant labor and the disempowered condition of undocumented workers in the US is a product of racism and classism.

  137. Cécile
    Cécile December 11, 2011 at 10:18 pm |

    Stella Marr: BravaKathleen!

    Kathleen and Stella, I “can’t help but notice” that none of my clients were ever violent with me, and most were middle-aged men who were all somewhere on a continuum of sexually-unfulfilled and disillusioned with the conventional notions of ‘success’ they had achieved. They wanted to have sex, or to reclaim some lost part of themselves, and that was that. I’ve never been in denial of my privileged experience, and do not want to ignore the realities of women who are trafficked and women who have violent experiences in the sex industry. I know that nobody here wants sex workers to be criminalized, but I think where we massively differ is that anti-abolitionists strongly believe that decriminalization would both address the immediate needs of workers who need help, as well as serve as a starting point to begin to transform the sex industry.

    Let’s say “end demand” is achieved. What then? I’d bet my life that women will never stop looking for sex work, and they would never stop successfully finding it. What does that mean, then? To maintain an abolitionist society, doesn’t that mean women would have to be oppressed and prevented from engaging in this “forbidden” activity?

    I don’t believe the sex industry is inherently violent, because the imperfect state in which it currently exists is residual of the violence and oppression that women have lived under for all of time. Prostitution has always, always been stigmatized, and often illegal, and so much of the violence that continues to be perpetuated by clients and pimps is, you could say, “habitual.” I think the value in examining ‘privileged’ experiences (i.e. nonviolent, consensual, and beneficial to the workers) is because it indicates that this violence is not essential to what sex work is, or has the potential to be. Only in recent history is there a context for feminist redefinition of the sex industry: women now have rights that they never have had. Many prostitutes are women, who otherwise possess these rights. If this can be legally recognized (that sex work is an occupation, not a ‘class’ of people; or at least that sex work does not detract from one’s humanity and therefore from one’s legal rights as a human being), then the industry can begin to be redefined by the workers who are at last legally protected.

    I’m honestly curious what any end-demand advocates have to say about this point I was trying to make earlier: (and very unsuccessfully, I’m sorry. I’m in the throes of finals, and stumbled across this thread last night at 2 AM, became triggered as hell, and reckless, especially as I was trying to type fast and beat the clock to get some sleep before my 8 AM shift… and hence the mess up there in #116-117) I was stumbling around with the idea that abuse within the sex industry is not confined to the sex industry, and so abolishing the industry will not end the abuse. That isn’t just empty ideological framework, I’m speaking from experience (doubtlessly to many readers of varied experience). Before I ever had an inkling that I would one day be earning income through sex work, I was involved with a man I had met in a professional atmosphere (which is to say, he seemed totally nice/normal/no red flags). We started “seeing” each other, as people do. It wasn’t long before he switched gears suddenly and started behaving a lot differently—successfully coercing me into violating my sexual boundaries with a “cheerful indifference” to my attempts to resist, which was incredibly bewildering and effective, I’m sorry to say. Then he started using these same coercive measures to basically inform me that I was going to join him and “his friends” (men and women) for orgies. I managed to evade this for awhile and slowly started severing ties with him, but eventually he persuaded me into a situation where I met him and about 15 guys his age (all about 8-10 years older than me) at a health club to hang out in the hot tub. I thought I would be safe in a public place, but then he revealed that there was a deserted room on another floor he was going to take me to. I repeatedly told him no, I wanted to go home (I had driven myself there and was only searching for ‘reassurance’ that he’d let me leave), etc. etc. …same ‘cheerful indifference,’ and I was afraid to fight him or try to get away. I suddenly realized that there was one or more people from the group who would be joining us—he was going to “invite” one (or more) of them to fuck me, and I had no idea who it was yet… I helplessly looked around at the faces, wondering. I felt fucking pimped, and there wasn’t a cent being exchanged. I was just “his” by pure coercion. It was like they wanted to have “prostitutes” without the legal stakes (or fees), so they just created their own set-up of “free” “surrogate prostitutes” for their sexual disposal. (I know there were other women he was ‘involved’ with too; there seemed to be a number of women they all did this with.) I ended up being led up to a room where he and his brother (as it turned out) simultaneously “went to town.” One of the many harrowing things I felt that night was the distinct sense that this was something they did often. There was a really sinister familiarity about it, and I’ve often wondered and worried about the other women he seemed to serially collect. This situation: this was just me, as a “regular person” with “two regular men” (thankfully not more!)… Abolition will not eliminate the existence of these risks and problems to women. They will continue to exist underground or outside of the sex industry. That’s because they originate in people, not in the sex industry. Yet, thank god, there is no argument that I should be denied access to sexual freedom, despite past victimizations in an ever-violent society. Why can’t sexual violence in the sex industry be addressed it way it [should be] with “regular” women, as long as we recognize that there are diverse circumstances among sex workers that require diverse actions and considerations?

  138. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm |

    Cécile: I think what she is getting at is reflected in an article put out by SWOP Chicago:

    Cecile, I checked out that Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago website. I was more than a little concerned to see them say they are a 501(c) nonprofit organization under their parent org SWOP USA. Because there’s nothing about being a nonprofit anywhere on the SWOP USA website. SWOP USA was founded by Robyn Few, a woman who was convicted of being a pimp. Again I am very concerned when I see pimps in charge of donations meant to benefit prostituted women. And I could be wrong — it could be true that the sex workers outreach project is a nonprofit organization — but it’s very strange they don’t identify themselves as such on their website. I looked up the sex workers outreach project in Guidstar, which is a directoy of United States nonprofits, and they are not listed. In which case the Chicago organization may be soliciting donations under false pretenses. Of course, I could be wrong. But it’s only provable through verification via the Sex Workers Outreach Project. For what it’s worth, I’ve never heard of a nonprofit organization not saying so on its website — many people won’t donate to an organization unless they know it’s a nonprofit org.

  139. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 11, 2011 at 10:48 pm |

    OK, I just looked up the sex workers outreach project usa (SWOP USA) in the IRS database of nonprofits. They are not a nonprofit organization. So the information on the chicago swop website — that they are a nonrprofit organization under SWOP USA is false.

    They are soliciting donations using false information.

    To clarify: there is an SWOP in Australia — I am only talking about SWOP USA.

  140. Cécile
    Cécile December 11, 2011 at 11:02 pm |

    OK, I just looked up the sex workers outreach project usa (SWOP USA) in the IRS database of nonprofits. They are not a nonprofit organization. So the information on the chicago swop website — that they are a nonrprofit organization under SWOP USA is false.

    They are soliciting donations using false information.

    To clarify: there is an SWOP in Australia — I am only talking about SWOP USA.

    Do they claim to be a non-profit somewhere? If you look on the upper left-hand part of the screen, it appears they identify as a grassroots organization.

  141. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 12:19 am |

    Well I guess the many grants SWOP chapters have were all solicited with false information too? Ridiculous. They check that shit. SWOP USA has 501(c)3 status. Stop with the blatant falsehoods. If you think that’s really true, report us or something. I guarantee that won’t go anywhere. So ridiculous.

  142. Lizor
    Lizor December 12, 2011 at 9:02 am |

    You’ve already been warned on previous threads not to use the p-word when addressing me, and if you do again I will ban you.

    ??? What P-word did bushfire use? Prostitute? Please tell me. Is there a list of words we must not use here or that we must somehow earn the privilege of using? Bushfire is now banned for what reason?

    Also, I find the argument in the original post nonsensical. Wendy dismisses the Farley study because it does not break down the source demographics in enough detail but at the same time Wendy herself claims that indoor workers (the apparent demographic that her argument that prostitution is a choice like many other forms of employment) are extremely difficult to locate: “they don’t all advertise on the internet) and we will never know how many of them there are.” So there’s this “unknown” quantity (if they are so unknown, I have to wonder how the customers locate the services) that Wendy projects onto to base her argument.

    Now I wonder if I used an incorrect word and will be subsequently banished from this thread.

  143. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 10:00 am |

    Stella Marr: WENDY I HAVE AN IMPORTANT QUESTION FOR YOU:
    Why are you denying my experience? Why are you denying my validity in talking about prostitution, nit-picking over the location where it’s occurred, when the physical experience is universal. I thought feminism was about lifting women up.

    Wendy I’m still waiting for you to reply.

    matlun: (And there is some semantic unclarity by what you mean with “pimp”. See the escort agency vs pimp discussion above)

    Matlun there is only a lack of semantic clarity about the word pimp if you avoid the dictionary. Look up the definition of pimp in Oxford online, and you’ll find that a pimp is someone who arranges prostitutes bookings and takes a percentage of their earnings.

    As a woman who was prostituted for ten years, I assert I have a right to use the vocabulary of prostitution. Which means that you can’t tell me what words I can and can’t use to describe the people who were my pimps. It’s pretty problematic to be trying to take away the vocabulary of a prostituted woman. Not something one would expect on a site called ‘feministe.’

    The reason the word pimp has so many negative connotations is due to the behavior of pimps throughout milennia.

    wl: Do they claim to be a non-profit somewhere? If you look on the upper left-hand part of the screen, it appears they identify as a grassroots organization.

    Yes, Cecile. If you go to the sex workers outreach project, and click on the donate button they claim to be a nonprofit. I’ve saved a screenshot of it.

    And for what it’s worth, being a grassroots organization does not mean you are a nonprofit.

    I had put another post up which somehow didn’t make it here– where I said that I could be wrong — if for some reason that IRS database was incomplate — and if someone official from the SWOP USA used their name and presented proof that they’d been designated a nonprofit by the IRS, it would prove me wrong.

    wl unless you are an official SWOP USA member, willing to identify yourself and present proof of the IRS nonprofit designation — your words are meaningless.

  144. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 10:03 am |

    The SWOP USA was founded by Robyn Few, a woman who was convicted of pimping. As a woman who was prostituted, I have a lot of trouble with the idea of an organizaton that’s supposed to help prostituted women being founded by a pimp.

    Again, this doesn’t reflect at all on SWOP Australia –

  145. Wendy
    Wendy December 12, 2011 at 10:20 am |

    Alexandra:

    I mean, take the argument that if you reduce demand for prostitution, the demand which remains will be even more violent. Even if I grant that as true, what does it say about Johns, except that they are a class of men who are willing to use and abuse as much as they think they can get away with

    The argument is that the demand is reduced (or possibly just diverted into the less detectable sectors) only for a certain category of client, namely: the non-abusive type. The type that doesn’t want any trouble with the law, who only wants sex. So some of those clients are gone while the violent ones, the ones who don’t care about being arrested, remain. These ones now form a greater proportion of the clients – so the odds a sex worker ending up with one of them are now greater.

    It’s not empirically proven, and I’m not sure how empirically testable it is. I’d like to see some analysis of the characteristics that distinguish men who respond to “end demand” strategies from those who do not. I’ve looked for some such study without success. But anyway, that is a logical explanation for why street workers in Sweden might be finding themselves at greater risk of violence now. Violent people in general tend to be less risk-averse than non-violent people, so they’re less likely to be deterred by criminal laws.

    Stella:

    In other words, since the truth about the sexual violence of prostituion is incovenient to your purposes, you want it silenced.

    I am mystified as to how calling for a “balance” between two positions is calling for one of them to be “silenced”.

    The violence that often takes place in commercial sex, particularly where it is illegal and underground, is one of the things that underscores my support for taking it out of the shadows through decriminalisation and workers’ rights. So I certainly don’t think the violence should be ignored. I just don’t think sex workers should be stigmatised as people who get raped for a living.

    I dont believe the issue of abortion is comparable with prostitution

    I disagree, but in this case I was comparing abortion and sex work campaigning, not abortion and sex work per se.

    The Norwegian government was not acknowledging the law had made prostitution more dangerous. They were reporting concerns expressed by ‘sex worker’ organizations

    On the first page I mentioned, they refer to what is said by the “support and health services for sex workers”, which is not the same thing as “sex worker organizations”. On the other page the dangers they report are not cited as the view of a sex worker organization – they are simply reported as facts. As are the statements on page 102 that the law “makes it increasingly difficult to reach sex workers with prevention work and information”, and on pages 97-98 that the law is “a clear negative setback” in terms of HIV and human rights. So I’m not sure where you’re getting that these are the view of “sex worker organizations”. They are clearly the views of the branch of the Norwegian government that produced the report.

    who may or may not have represented the voices of prostituted women

    The same voices that you said a couple posts back couldn’t be relied on anyway?

    One of these issues made little logical sense — the sex worker organizations said prostituted women were concerned with being arrested. But being a prostitute is not criminalized.

    If you’re referring to page 94 they’re actually talking about people with HIV fearing arrest for violating the law against HIV transmission (which HIV positive sex-workers can still be arrested for).

    They were listing worst case fears the law might cause, and steps they’d take to address those concerns. There were no examples of harm actually occurring. I’d say the Norwegian report is a pretty great example that the Norwegian government is on top of making sure the legislation doesn’t infliect harm. They’re being very preventive.

    Wow, that’s an amazing way to read the report. There are no specific examples given because UNAIDS isn’t interested in hearing specific case studies, they’re interested in the overall picture. And the report states that the law itself is a “clear negative setback”. They’re engaging in damage control, certainly. But it’s an open admission of the law’s serious adverse consequences.

    Why are you denying my experience? Why are you denying my validity in talking about prostitution, nit-picking over the location where it’s occurred, when the physical experience is universal.

    This is really a ridiculous accusation. I completely accept your experience. But how can you describe it as “universal” when other sex workers have had different experiences? I would be denying her experience if I accepted that just because sex work was a certain way for you, means that it was the same way for every single other sex worker on the planet.

  146. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 11:46 am |

    I just noticed that I have a comment that’s been floating for awhile still awaiting moderation (#141)… not trying to prod our moderators, but am I crossing any lines with that post?

  147. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm |

    But one does see exactly that kind of pushback, in many other realms of work, all the time, and it always comes from people on top of hierarchical structures. I have willingly followed you onto the terrain of framing everything in terms of labor relations, even though I’m quite uncomfortable with — for example — the scorn that has been heaped on radical feminism along the way. But the way the discussion looks on that terrain is familiar in bad ways: it sounds like the defenses of sweatshop labor (what? Peasants *want* to work here for low wages! They *like* their bosses! It’s better than their other choices anyway! Shut up already!) or migrant agricultural labor. So I can’t help wondering: if this is such a cutting-edge perspective, why does it look exactly like the warmed-over rhetoric trotted out in defense of every other kind of status quo? And why, exactly, do (some) feminists not notice?

  148. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 12, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    Yeah, I would like to know why my comment – which by the way agrees with Kathleen about parallels to migrant labor and sweatshops almost exactly – is still in moderation.

  149. matlun
    matlun December 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm |

    Stella Marr: Matlun there is only a lack of semantic clarity about the word pimp if you avoid the dictionary.

    Possibly. I am not interested in which is the “correct” definition, just which definition different posters are actually using. If we want to have a meaningful dialog we need to be able to communicate and understand what the other party is saying. For example you are using different definitions which can become a problem.

    Kathleen:
    but one does see exactly that kind of pushback, in many other realms of work, all the time, and it always comes from people on top of hierarchical structures.

    So congratulations. Apparently you are on top of the hierarchy and so am I.

    Seriously: That is just a weak attempt at guilt by association.

  150. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm |

    In another post which didn’t make it to this thread, I said that I could be wrong about the nonprofit organization status of the sex workers outreach project. However, I did search the Internal Revenue Service’s database of all organizations eligible for tax-free donations — in other words, all charities and nonprofits. I did searches for SWOP, Sex Workers Outreach Project, SWOP USA, and even just ‘sex workers.’ The Sex Workers Outreach Project USA is not listed.

    As the IRS determines whether or not an organization is eligible for nonprofit status, this would seem to be the definitive database. Here’s the link:

    http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96136,00.html

    I am happy to admit I was mistaken if the sex workers outreach project USA can offer some proo they have this nonprofit status. For example, they could post a copy of the letter from the IRS which gives them nonprofit status on their website and link to it from this discussion board.

  151. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm |

    Wendy: where people believe that all sex workers are victims, they become an easy target for people who look for someone to victimise. And this makes them all more vulnerable.

    Wendy, this is an outrageous statement and you haven’t addressed what you actually said. You’re saying that if we’re open about the sexual violence sex workers experience, we’re creating a situation where they will become the victims of sexual violence. Let’s look at it in the form of a logic equation.

    First of all no one is saying that out of 4 million sex workers, all 4 million are victims — so I’m going to amend this misrepresentation on your part, and reword your statement to say:

    If we are saying that most sex workers are victims (of rape), they become an easy target for people who look for someone to victimise. And this makes them all more vulnerable.”

    And given Farley’s peer-reviewed professionally-vetted research, it’s true that most sex workers are ‘victims’ of rape .
    SO:

    Most sex workers are victims of rape = the truth

    So substitituing ‘the truth’ for the phrase ‘most sex workers are victims’ we can phrase your statement

    If we tell the truth, then > sex workers become an easy target
    and
    If sex workers become an easy target then >they are all the more vulnerable.

    we can make these two equations one:

    If we tell the truth (about rape) then > sex workers are all the more vulnerable (to rape).

    Now let’s change ‘sex worker’ to women .

    If we tell the truth (about rape), then > women are more vulnerable (to rape)

    No feminist would ever say things like this about women — yet somehow when we’re talking about prostituted women, anything’s allowed.

    Wendy: But how can you describe it as “universal” when other sex workers have had different experiences?

    Wendy, you are putting words in my mouth and saying I’ve said things I haven’t. I never said my experience was universal, did I?

    Let’s me make my question more specific: Why are you working so hard to silence my voice and disqualify me from being eligible to participate in the discussion? of the Swedish model? And

    Because that’s absolutely how it feels. Using your logic, you should disqualify yourself from any discussion of Scandinavia unless you speak a Scandinavian language. Or you should disqualify yourself from any discussion of sex work unless you’re a sex worker.

    You still haven’t addressed the fact that you said speaking the truth about the violence prostituted women experience is likely to increase sex worker victimization.

    matlun: Possibly. I am not interested in which is the “correct” definition, just which definition different posters are actually using

    My problem with this approach is that you’re taking away a very basic word in the prostitution experience, and as a woman who was prostituted for ten years I do have a right to use this vocabulary.

  152. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm |

    Thank you, moderators – I see the comment I was referring to (which turns out to be #150) has appeared.

    I was stumbling around with the idea that abuse within the sex industry is not confined to the sex industry, and so abolishing the industry will not end the abuse.

    I just wanted to add onto this point a bit, so I don’t come off as believing that my personal experiences are the end-all/be-all. Here is another example of “regular men” who use the same abuses as pimps outside of the sex industry:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/us/29texas.html?pagewanted=all

    It’s essential to maintain the connection between a sex worker’s life in the sex industry and her life as a civilian – both, as we all know, contain many parallels in terms of sexual violence that she could potentially fall victim to. I always try to remain cognizant of how proposed solutions in the sex industry would translate into the wider scope of the “regular world.”

  153. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm |

    Sigh…apparently there was some confusion and we’re still in the determination phase, which is good enough for most grants, and also means we don’t have to pay taxes on donations until final determination. We applied over a year ago. They are dragging their heels I guess because we are a sex workers rights org. But for all intents and purposes we are a nonprofit. Call off your dogs, Stella. And Robyn Few also started sex working at 13. She wasn’t a “pimp” because she wasn’t abusive. Just being a manager doesn’t make a person abusive.

  154. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm |

    Cécile: I’m in the throes of finals, and stumbled across this thread last night at 2 AM, became triggered as hell, and reckless, especially as I was trying to type fast and beat the clock to get some sleep before my 8 AM shift…

    Cecile I think it’s great you’re in school. You passion will serve you in good stead. Be sure to take great care of yourself, eat right, get enough sleep, exercise a little to clear your head (though not too late cause it can make you stay awake).

    Cécile: Then he started using these same coercive measures to basically inform me that I was going to join him and “his friends” (men and women) for orgies. I managed to evade this for awhile and slowly started severing ties with him, but eventually he persuaded me into a situation where I met him and about 15 guys his age (all about 8-10 years older than me) at a health club to hang out in the hot tub. I thought I would be safe in a public place, but then he revealed that there was a deserted room on another floor he was going to take me to. I repeatedly told him no, I wanted to go home (I had driven myself there and was only searching for ‘reassurance’ that he’d let me leave), etc. etc. …same ‘cheerful indifference,’ and I was afraid to fight him or try to get away. I suddenly realized that there was one or more people from the group who would be joining us—he was going to “invite” one (or more) of them to fuck me, and I had no idea who it was yet… I helplessly looked around at the faces, wondering. I felt fucking pimped,

    Cecile I’m so sorry you had to encounter someone so loathesome. Practice saying no whenever you can — even in simple situations such as ‘do you want tea’ or ‘want to play wiii’ –the more you get used to doing this, the easier it becomes to defend one’s self against such creeps. Practice it like you’d practice playing the piano. But that most have been horrible for you — so sorry you had to go through it.

    Cécile: I always try to remain cognizant of how proposed solutions in the sex industry would translate into the wider scope of the “regular world.”

    Of course, thinking of the ‘greater world’ ramifications of reforms in a smaller sector is something intelligent people do naturally. So brava.

    But I don’t think the fact sexual violence exists in the greater world means we shouldn’t try to do something about it in prostitution. Especially as research consistently shows women in prostitution experience much greater levels of violence than women in any other situation, and they experience the same levels of trauma as the victims of state sponsored torture.

    The longer a woman is in prostitution, of course, the greater the violence she’s experienced.

    So please be very protective of yourself and your studies. Wishing you well.

  155. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm |

    Also, December 17th? Do you really care about December 17th? SWOP Chapters in the U.S. are the ones who put on vigils for it. These are a big part of our anti-violence work. Don’t try to take us down over a technicality when we’re the ones doing the important work you claimed to care about upthread.

  156. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm |

    I mean, of course vigils go on around the world but in the U.S. all the SWOP chapters put them on and we’re pretty much the only ones doing so.

  157. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm |

    wl: we’re still in the determination phase,

    So wl, I was right. It’s actually a pretty serious thing for an organization to say they’re nonprofit when they aren’t. The sex workers’ outreach project is not a nonprofit organization, as you’ve admitted. Even though it stated this on one of their websites.

    I stand by my statement that Robyn Few is a pimp. She was convicted of pandering, which is pimping.

    So she was profitting off the exploitation of women in prostitution. Her conviction was in 2002, and in 2003 she founded SWOP. So she was pimping very chronologically close to the time she established the Sex Workers Outreach Project. And even though it was established in 2003, it still has not achieved nonprofit status.

  158. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm |

    Stella, your attacks on ME are tiresome. And irritating. I’m certain I’ve mentioned being a former sex worker here before. But if you want to call me a pimp because of all your twisted interpretations of my words, fine, I guess I’ll just have to count on the people reading this being more reasonable than you.

  159. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm |

    Also, I’ve done it for less than a hundred so I don’t know why you think that I think that makes me less valuable than you. I’m perfectly aware of my own value, thanks.

  160. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm |

    wl: I mean, of course vigils go on around the world but in the U.S. all the SWOP chapters put them on and we’re pretty much the only ones doing so.

    I think the vigil is a good thing. How could it not be. But I don’t think it excuses saying an organization is nonprofit when this isn’t true. And I still have problems with a pimp starting an organization that’s supposed to help prostitutes — lots of potential conflicts of interest.

    And SWOP is far from the only organization holding such vigils. Just one example:

    Breaking Free in Minneapolis/St. Paul held a vigil in October
    http://kstp.com/article/stories/s2324538.shtml

    Breaking Free was founded by Vednita Carter, a magnificent woman. Here’s an interview with her:

  161. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm |

    And these same feminists equate (falsely) prostitution with sexual freedom. Prostitution is not the same as sex, or as sexual freedom. It’s the opposite of sexual freedom, as it’s about having sex with people you don’t choose.

    yes, IF you are a trafficked/pimped woman.

    When I decide, of my own accord, that I am willing to have sex with somebody in exchange for an agreed upon dollar amount, that IS my sexual freedom. I consider it an infringement of my sexual freedom when end-demand advocates want to eliminate my access to making these choices. It’s like the allegorical “father waiting up with the shotgun,” telling his daughter, “Sure, you can go to the dance, but I’ll make dam n sure none of those guys get any ideas!”

  162. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    Dang… another comment hanging in moderation-land. Stella, when it appears (should be #170?), can you please take a look at it and explain why you refuse to acknowledge that the sex industry is comprised of a diverse group of people in diverse circumstances, and some people engaging in prostitution do so by choice? Like I did??

    I quote, “Why are you denying my experience? Why are you denying my validity in talking about prostitution[?]”

    I’d like you to answer those questions for ME this time, and for matlun, and anyone else here who has ever worked in the sex industry consensually, and wants the freedom to continue doing so.

    Like Wendy has explained a couple times… we can acknowledge the realities of all sex workers without behaving as though differences negate one condition of sex work from another. It’s NOT POSSIBLE to have a homogenous definition of what sex work is, and who sex workers are. Why do you keep pushing for it??

  163. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    Stella Marr: But I don’t think the fact sexual violence exists in the greater world means we shouldn’t try to do something about it in prostitution.

    We DEFINITELY should try to do something about it in prostitution. I think we should be engaging with the violence using the same methods we would for ‘any other woman,’ and not trying to eliminate prostitution/sex work (which, again, does not mean the violence possessed by these men will be eliminated). The violence is the problem, not the sex work (IF the worker is doing it voluntarily).

    That’s like trying to eliminate womens’ freedom to have casual sex, because, as we know from college campuses for instance, there is a high risk that most women will be victims of sexual violence at some point by doing so.

    Thank god no one is going around saying that women in college need to be prevented from “sleeping around.” That would be pointing us right back to the days when womens’ sexuality was confined to marriage, where she could enjoy potentially being abused by only one man for the rest of her life.

  164. Vienna
    Vienna December 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    You can still legally solicit tax-deductible donations and grants while in the determination phase. Apparently your exciting internet work didn’t get to the place where you google “determination phase.”

  165. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm |

    Stella Marr: Of course, thinking of the ‘greater world’ ramifications of reforms in a smaller sector is something intelligent people do naturally. So brava.

    Just a clarification: I’m not talking about ramifications. I’m talking about “parallel comparisons”… how would feminists want x situation to be handled if we remove the context of it happening within the sex industry? How would feminists want it to be handled in the “real world”?

  166. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm |

    And I do consider sex work to be inherently different from other kinds of work. I am still, still, still furious at feminism for presenting to me the idea – when I was just eighteen years old – that I could prostitute myself and it would be normal, that it would be just like working at any other job. Let me tell you, I have worked unpleasant low-wage jobs, and even those were preferable to me.

    I get where people draw the analogies – yes, you do have to be polite and apparently happy in any customer service job; yes the work can be physically taxing, even brutal. But sex work in general and prostitution in particular are jobs which exist to support rape culture, ie the idea that any woman should be willing to submit to every man who wants her. If a man is interested in a willing partner, he can go to a bar or place an online personal. There are online personals sites for married people, now. The idea that it’s impossible to find willing women so prostitution is the only answer is now completely invalidated. And yet there is still a demand for prostitutes, because men still buy into the idea that they shouldn’t have to /work/ to obtain consent, it should just be freely given by any woman desired.

    And I don’t think prostitution is unique in being a kind of work that exists to uphold a species of oppression. You can make a very good argument that sweatshop labor (for example) exists not incidentally to the global south’s poverty and disempowerment, but in fact exists in order to uphold the Western world’s way of life and dominance in the world. I think you can make a similar argument that migrant labor and the disempowered condition of undocumented workers in the US is a product of racism and classism.

    I am still angry. I’m not sure whether my anger is allowed, and maybe I’ll get banned for this, but I’m going to be one hundred percent honest and try to unpack some of what’s going on in my own mind right now.

    I feel completely illegitimate in this conversation because my experiences with prostitution were so brief, but they were traumatic. I remember cutting my genitals, carving the word whore into my thigh. I still have the scars.

    Part of the reason I sought out prostitution was because, in the internet age, there were a number of well-written websites put out by sex-positive feminists extolling the virtues of sex work. The pay was good, the work was easy, you could set your own hours, you could be independent. It sounded great. It sounded a lot better than what I was doing, namely working a minimum wage job while living with my abusive parents. So I mastered my fear, shelved my doubts, and went through with it. And you know my experiences weren’t violent, they just made me feel dirty and rotten to my core, like something foul had seeped through my skin into my blood. I still feel that way sometimes when a man looks at me with desire – an overwhelming need to wash, to purge myself.

    And so when I’m reading this thread I am suffused with anger at the women who are talking about their positive experiences with sex work. This anger isn’t fair or right, but I feel that I am not being completely honest if I don’t admit that I’m angry. I also want to keep talking so that it’s not just the wonderful Stella Marr providing counterpoint to an otherwise pro-sex work conversation. Just in case there are any scared, desperate 18-year-olds who are reading this and thinking, “You know, I could sell myself sexually.”

  167. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm |

    wl: Also, I’ve done it for less than a hundred so I don’t know why you think that I think that makes me less valuable than you.

    wl, I don’t know what you’re referring to. But you’ve made it pretty clear you’re officially associated with the sex workers outreach project. So I find it really strange you keep attacking a woman who was prostituted for ten years on this thread. Most women who’ve been prostituted make an effort to be kind to each other, the way we have — even when we disagree. In contrast, you’ve been attacking me ever since I appeared here. And you’ve also been engaging in disinformation.

    Wouldn’t it have been easier to verify whether or not you had nonprofit status before attacking me for stating the truth. And frankly, how could someone affiliated with the organization not know? It’s a big deal. It seems that somehow when I mentioned the IRS website you were motivated to tell the truth — perhaps because of all the federal penalties for not being honest about nonprofit status?

    You’ve said some really strange things, for someone from an organization concerned with outreach to prostituted women:

    Does the SWOP teach prostituted women that serial killers who target prostitutes are not Johns? Seems kind of counterproductive. It’s strange that even though SWOP USA is holding a vigil for sex workers who’ve been victims of violence, I can’t tell the truth about Gary Ridgeway: That he was a John. As were many other serial killers — Joel Rifkin, the serial killer who murdered all those prostituted women and buried them in the Long Island beaches, etc.

    wl: Gary Ridgway was not a john

    And you keep trying to mis-state things I’ve said:

    wl: Also, I’ve done it for less than a hundred so I don’t know why you think that I think that makes me less valuable than you.

    Did I ever say the prices my pimps charged had anything to do with my value? No. I said

    Stella Marr: I want to say again that the rate a pimp collects per hour for a prostituted woman has nothing to do with her worth and value as a person. It’s just a game played by the Johns and the pimps.

    Could it be wl, that you are just attacking me to detract from the fact you lied about SWOP USA’s nonprofit status? I think so.

    Cécile: It’s NOT POSSIBLE to have a homogenous definition of what sex work is, and who sex workers are. Why do you keep pushing for it??

    Cecile I haven’t pushed for this at all. This is a serious misrepresentation. I’m asking Wendy to acknowledge who I am, acknowledge my experience, and stop trying to say I can’t talk about the Swedish model. That’s not her right. Good luck with your finals.

  168. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm |

    Cécile: Only in recent history is there a context for feminist [transformation] of the sex industry

    I’d hate for this to get lost in the current, and just want to highlight this bit for anybody who believes similarly and has anything to say about it.

  169. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm |

    Stella Marr: If we tell the truth (about rape) then > sex workers are all the more vulnerable (to rape).
    Now let’s change ‘sex worker’ to women .
    If we tell the truth (about rape), then > women are more vulnerable (to rape)
    No feminist would ever say things like this about women — yet somehow when we’re talking about prostituted women, anything’s allowed.

    Here’s what makes it different: sex workers have no legal protections. Women do. So, when violent men target sex workers, they are doing so with the recognition that she has no legal rights and would be afraid to report violence to law enforcement because by doing so she would implicate herself.

    it is unfortunate that in the sick minds of some perpetrators, somewhere along the line they become aware that of this predicament in sex workers. The wrong people (violent perpetrators) being aware of this is [part of] what causes it to continue. It allows the wrong people to approach sex workers with the foresight that anything they do to the sex worker will likely be unreported (sex workers have no rights and don’t want to impliate themselves) – or, if so, not enforced (because law enforcement is likeley to find the sex worker at fault for engaging in criminalized activity).

  170. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm |

    Cécile: I’d like you to answer those questions for ME this time, and for matlun, and anyone else here who has ever worked in the sex industry consensually

    I haven’t denied your experiences, have I? So I don’t understand the question. I think I’ve been quite respectful.

    I don’t think Matlun has ever said he/she is or was ever prostituted. I could be wrong, and if so would be happy to be corrected. For some reason I’ve gotten the impression Matlun is a man — again, I could be wrong — its just the thinkingi process the posts’ reflect.

  171. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm |

    Cécile: Cécile: Only in recent history is there a context for feminist [transformation] of the sex industry

    When you have time Cecile, I’d love to know your thoughts about it.

    I had no idea you found the word prostitution so offensive. I’ll try to avoid using it when I refer to you. Forgive me if I have.

  172. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 7:03 pm |

    Wendy: The argument is that the demand is reduced (or possibly just diverted into the less detectable sectors) only for a certain category of client, namely: the non-abusive type.

    Wendy, this is impossible to prove, and highly unlikely. Again, a feminist would never get away with this argument if it were any class but prostituted women.

    You’re saying that non-abusive men are the ones who will be afraid of being arrested for being Johns according to the Swedish model. In other words, men who avoid criminal records are non-abusive Johns.

    What if we said that men who avoid criminal records don’t commit domestic violence?

    What if we said that men who avoid criminal records don’t commit sexual abuse or rape?

    There’d be an uproar. And youd never say these things. But you say exactly the same thing about Johns.

  173. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm |

    Cécile: how would feminists want x situation to be handled if we remove the context of it happening within the sex industry?

    You can’t remove the context of the sex industry, as in the real world no one turns 6, 10 or 20 tricks a day. No one has sex this way so this can’t be defined as sex.

  174. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm |

    Lizor: Wendy dismisses the Farley study because it does not break down the source demographics in enough detail but at the same time Wendy herself claims that indoor workers (the apparent demographic that her argument that prostitution is a choice like many other forms of employment) are extremely difficult to locate: “they don’t all advertise on the internet) and we will never know how many of them there are.” So there’s this “unknown” quantity (if they are so unknown, I have to wonder how the customers locate the services) that Wendy projects onto to base her argument.

    I completely agree with you! Thank you for drawing our attention to this nonsensical argument.

    I’d like to point out another nonsensical argument of Wendy’s. She states that the Swedish model has increased harm in Norway, Iceland and Sweden while ignoring all the prostituted women the law has protected and empowered to exit prostitution. The numbers are extraordinary:

    In 2007 Der Spiegel,stated that according to the Swedish police, 400 to 600 foreign women are brought to Sweden each year to be prostitutes. In Finland, which is only half the size of Sweden, that number is between 10,000 and 15,000 women. Jonas Trolle, a Stockholm police officer concerned with the sex trade, was quoted as saying “We only have between 105 and 130 women, both on the Internet and on the street, active (in prostitution) in Stockholm today.”

    So — we’re looking at 10,000 to 15,000 foreignwomen brought in to be prostituted in Finland, versus 400 to 600 foreign women brought in to be prostituted in Sweden each year.

    Additionally, as pertains to Wendy’s argument, the internet provides a good reflection of ongoing indoor prostittuion, and the numbers Trolle quotes include indoor prostitution.

  175. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 8:01 pm |

    Alexandra: I am still, still, still furious at feminism for presenting to me the idea – when I was just eighteen years old – that I could prostitute myself and it would be normal, that it would be just like working at any other job.

    I’m furious about that too Alexandra.

    Alexandra: The idea that it’s impossible to find willing women so prostitution is the only answer is now completely invalidated. And yet there is still a demand for prostitutes, because men still buy into the idea that they shouldn’t have to /work/ to obtain consent, it should just be freely given by any woman desired.
    And I don’t think prostitution is unique in being a kind of work that exists to uphold a species of oppression. You can make a very good argument that sweatshop labor (for example) exists not incidentally to the global south’s poverty and disempowerment, but in fact exists in order to uphold the Western world’s way of life and dominance in the world. I think you can make a similar argument that migrant labor and the disempowered condition of undocumented workers in the US is a product of racism and classism.

    This is all spectacularly brilliant Alexandra. I’m truly dazzled by your intellect and your gift of expression.

  176. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm |

    Cécile: sex workers have no legal protections. Women do. So, when violent men target sex workers, they are doing so with the recognition that she has no legal rights and would be afraid to report violence to law enforcement because by doing so she would implicate herself.

    Cecile we’ve been discussing the Swedish model — that was the basis of Wendy’s argument. The Swedish model means women have legal right to be in prostitution, thus prostituted women have legal rights.

    So what you say is nonsensical. No one is saying that women shouldn’t have the right to be in prostitution if they wan to. And in Sweden prostituted women have all the legal rights women have. They even have access to more than the usual social programs because they are given the status of crime victims. And they have the right to sue their Johns for financial damages due to the Johns’ exploitation and violation of their dignity, equality and humanity.

  177. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm |

    But yes – Cecile – when prostitution is illegal women are often afraid to report crimes committed against them while in prostitution. That’s very true. It’s just that wasn’t what Wendy was talking about.

  178. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 8:31 pm |

    Alexandra: I feel completely illegitimate in this conversation because my experiences with prostitution were so brief, but they were traumatic. I remember cutting my genitals, carving the word whore into my thigh. I still have the scars.

    Oh sweetie, your presence here is completely legitimate. Those first experiences are so searing and traumatic. I am so grateful to you for finding the courage to talk about them. I just hate it that you were led down the ‘primrose path’ about sex work, and experienced that trauma.

    I completely understand your reaction — what you did to your body. Of course I hate thinking of any harm coming to you at all, but violation of prostitution is so profound, the cruelty so grotesque — it’s impossible to deal with in the context of ‘regular’ life. It’s not unusual to re-traumatize the area of our body affected by trauma, in an attempt to exorcise it.

    You are beautiful and splendid and so extraordinarily brilliant. So advanced for your age. Sending thoughts of love and healing as I celebrate that you are in the world, and thinking, writing. Please always take care of yourself. You are so precious.

  179. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 8:34 pm |

    I’m not “being kind” to you Stella, because your story is implausible and because your advocacy is harmful.

  180. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm |

    Cécile: (because law enforcement is likeley to find the sex worker at fault for engaging in criminalized activity).

    This was defintiely my experience in NYC. I think if it wasn’t illegal for a woman to be prostituted, a la the Swedish model, this would be avoided.

  181. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm |

    And I didn’t “lie,” I was mistaken. It took that long for the board to get back to me and weigh in.

  182. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm |

    But, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve heard we’ll probably be hearing something in the next couple weeks.

  183. nelle
    nelle December 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm |

    *wanders in*

    I’ve never prostituted myself, nor have I ever been involved in the practise in any way, shape, or form. I’m white as a ghost, American, a 57 year old parent of daughters 27 and 19, and a new grandparent. I’m also a transdyke, a staunch feminist, former co-host of iVillage’s feminist board, an aspiring novelist, a former adjudicator of unemployment compensation cases, and someone who just did 21 months in a federal prison camp for wire fraud arising out of my business during a time when I melted down (a decade ago) on the approach to crossing gender lines, so if anyone wishes to have at me for character issues, I’ve got it all out on the table without need for research.

    I also happen to know wl, and I tend to have a whole lot of respect for her, for her caring, her interest in issues, her learned approach to everything she undertakes, and quite frankly, I’d be hard pressed to name a more intelligent human being.

    As a feminist, I worry about the well being of women around the world. I stand for rights for all, and that reaches across subjects like this one, because I damn well do not wish to see sex workers exploited, abused, or harmed in any way. Nor do I wish to see them marginalised, treated like pariahs, and left with no rights or recourse.

    And I care that those who make a willing choice have the right to that choice *and* to control of their services, to be safe, and healthy. Can I outline how it should work, and what should be law? No. If I saw someone in duress, I’d wish to help, and any involvement on my part would be on such a small level, the only one of which I am capable. I’ll lend an ear, a shoulder, whatever. And… I’ll keep an open mind, because me rolling in on an impositional wave accomplishes precisely nothing; in fact, would fuck up the works.

    I can’t work through all of 190 plus comments. What I do know is if wl says SWOP is a worthy organisation working for the best interests of sex workers, count me in.

  184. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 8:57 pm |

    Vienna: You can still legally solicit tax-deductible donations and grants while in the determination phase.

    Well, I’m not a tax lawyer. But I do know it’s highly misleading to say you’re a nonprofit organization when you haven’t received this designation from the IRS. Which was my point. It’s hard to believe it’s legal to say you’ve received nonprofit designation from the IRS when you haven’t, becaues you’re telling contributors their donations are tax-deductible when there’s no guarantee of this.

    I never said it wasn’t OK to ask for donations — anyone can say give me money, I want to do something. it’s just not OK to tell contributors their donations are tax-deductible when you can’t guarantee this. And it was certainly bad form for wl, who has used the word ‘we’ when referring to SWOP USA, indicating wl is associated with SWOP, to attack me for mentioning this truth-in-advertising problem when in fact SWOP USA does not have a nonprofit designation.

    This makes SWOP USA look pretty bad, imho.

  185. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm |

    wl: It took that long for the board to get back to me and weigh in.

    It doesn’t take the entire board of an organization to weigh in on whether or not an organization has nonprofit status from the IRS. You do or you don’t. In your case, you don’t.

  186. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm |

    Stella Marr: my experiences with prostitution were so brief, but they were traumatic

    There’s some exercises I’ve found that help deal with trauma. Basically the theory is that animals release trauma through neurogenic tremors — but ‘civilization’ has trained us to suppress this response. The theory is that there has to be some kind of physical response to trauma healing, as well as an emotional response.

    I’ve found these exercises help. They’re called TRE (for trauma releasing exercises). THey are similar to stuff the VA is implementing to veterans with PTSD — although the VA approach is less rad, more cerebral — involves tapping areas of your body rather than inducing neurogenic tremor.

    Other bodywork can help too — for example, yoga — or alexander technique, or yamuna body rolling. Trauma lives in the body, and I think working on trauma with bodywork of some kind helps enormously.

    This is an example of a polar bear dealing with trauma through neurogenic tremors:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51DQL0bBEnc

    You can order the trauma releasing exercises cd for thirty bucks, books on it for less
    http://traumaprevention.com/store/

    There’s lots more info that’s easy to find via google

  187. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm |

    *took that long for any members of the board to get back to me.

  188. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 9:21 pm |

    Stella Marr: You can’t remove the context of the sex industry

    Yes you can. I’ll make it very simple:

    SEX INDUSTRY CONTEXT:
    A sex worker is raped by a client.

    NON-SEX INDUSTRY CONTEXT:
    A woman is raped by a man.

    My point is, no feminist (and rightly so) would EVER respond to the rape of the “regular woman” by wanting to eliminate the context for rape to ever happen again (i.e. having sex with men). But my argument is that end-demand is misguided because it aims to respond to the sexual violence experienced by sex workers partly by removing the context for it to ever happen again (abolitionism).

    Stella, I never for a moment fail to recognize that what you’ve been forced to live through is so terrible: you should not have been forced to do anything against your will, and therefore should have had the freedom to say no/exit the situation at any time you wanted to. Feminists who want to recognize the right of sex workers to say yes certainly also want to recognize the right of sex workers to say no. What it boils down to is that women should have the freedom to choose in the sex industry, JUST AS they have the freedom to choose in the outside world. It’s about merging the rights of the woman as sex worker, and the woman as civilian. In both cases she should have the freedom to say yes or no. It only makes sense, because when a sex worker is engaging in sex work by choice, she is still the same woman who otherwise has the right to say yes or no. Obviously pimping, trafficking, rape, and other violent behaviors have no place in a feminist-oriented sex industry.

    Men bring violence to the sex industry; the sex industry does not ‘inflict’ men with violence. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to say that the violence itself should be the target of our efforts in protecting sex workers? Eliminating the sex industry, in fact, does not address the violence! And we can’t for a moment assume that it means that the violence of the perpetrators disappears or is under control… that’s the point I was trying to make earlier with my anecdote about the coerced group sex (#151) and with the Times article about the 11-year-old who was repeatedly gang-raped! (#167)

    Outside of the sex industry, we aim to address violence and its perpetrators directly. ALL I’m saying is that we should do exactly the same within the sex industry.

    I feel like end-demand is another sad case of evaluating men’s abusive behaviors through the “lens” of the woman. It doesn’t make any difference whether the woman is a wife, a sex worker, or a “drunken college girl in a bar”—an act of violence committed against any of these women should be handled in exactly the same way, and the sex worker should not be singled out by the law and society to have to change her sexual decisions: as a victim, she is not at fault for the assault that she experienced. She should face no repercussions. This means, she should not be denied the choice to have sex for money because a client chose to rape her. Only the rapist client should be affected by the repercussions of his violence.

  189. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm |

    Stella Marr: Cecile I haven’t pushed for [a homogenous definition of people, their circumstances, and experiences in the sex industry] at all.

    Yes you have, I was referring to when you wrote this:

    [Prostitution/sex work] is the opposite of sexual freedom, as it’s about having sex with people you don’t choose.

    …that is asserting a homogenous definition of what sex work is, when many people on this board have made it clear that they don’t identify with this.

  190. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm |

    wl: *took that long for any members of the board to get back to me.

    Tell me, if you were awaiting input from board members, why did you attack me for saying I’d searched and it seemed SWOP USA didn’t have nonprofit status. Why didn’t you wait until you had your answer?

    The story keeps changing with you wl. First SWOP’ is a nonprofit org. THen it isn’t. Then the board needed to get back to you about this question (and frankly, ANYONE affiliated with the organization should known — you shouldn’t have needed to reach board members), now you are saying ‘took that long for ‘any’ board member to get back to you …. what you say seems to change pretty frequently. And now to add to the mix, we have nelle, who just finished serving a sentence for wire fraud in her business due to a melt down around gender issues saying that she’ll vouch for you. What is one to make of all this?

    I think people concerned with helping women in prostitution could do a lot more good donating to Vednita Carter’s Breaking Free
    http://www.breakingfree.net

    or

    Veronica’s Voice
    http://www.veronicasvoice.org/magdalene-manor.html

    Both organizations are staffed by formerly prostiutted women and offer services and residences to women wanting to escape prostitution.

    Another worthy source of donations is the Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women
    http://www.catwinternational.org/

    I think it is entirely relevant that SWOP USA was started the year after its founder was convicted for being a pimp.

  191. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 9:36 pm |

    Cécile: Stella, I never for a moment fail to recognize that what you’ve been forced to live through is so terrible: you should not have been forced to do anything against your will, and therefore should have had the freedom to say no/exit the situation at any time you wanted to.

    Thank you Cecile. And for what it’s worth, I never thought you did fail to recognize this. I wish you well with your finals. Clearly you’re very bright.

  192. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm |

    Cécile: It’s about merging the rights of the woman as sex worker, and the woman as civilian. In both cases she should have the freedom to say yes or no.

    One thing to add: she should also have the same legal rights and protections in both contexts in the event that she is assaulted.

    Stella, I believe that these ideas fight for the sake of women who are both in the industry by choice and those who aren’t. I want you and I and everyone else to have all the rights, freedoms, and protections as we have when we are ‘just another person on the street.’

  193. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 12, 2011 at 9:54 pm |

    Thanks for everything, Stella. I’ll look into what you said about body work.

    Cecile, I will have to beg to differ that the context for men raping women is men having sex with women. The context for men raping women is women existing in the same world as men.

  194. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm |

    Stella and Alexandra,

    Although we’re coming from different places, I too am very passionate about research surrounding trauma. I also have PTSD (actually, C-PTSD).

    I laud the following clinicians/researchers (and will recommend some of their ‘best’ work, as I see it):

    Bessel van der Kolk (Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society)

    Judith Lewis Hermann (Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror) *this is where Judith Herman proposed her groundbreaking framework for C-PTSD: a must-read

    Onno van der Hart (The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization)

    Francine Shapiro (EMDR As an Integrative Psychotherapy Approach)

    Bruce Perry (here is his organization’s website: http://www.childtrauma.org/ Sadly, I don’t think the website comes anywhere close to capturing the wonderful case presents in a video series where he presents his theory of developmental trauma. If you EVER have the opportunity to see his Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics video http://store.ctaproducts.org/se3nemoofth.html, DON’T pass it up!! Sadly I haven’t been able to find the series online for less than $649.00—I was fortunate enough to happen upon it at our school library)

    Herman and van der Kolk have spearheaded enormously influential efforts to have trauma understood and recognized by the APA and in the DSM. Herman, van der Kolk, and Perry are also deeply involved with resistance against the DSM, and Perry criticizes the DSM as being detrimentally based upon “out-of-date and immature conceptualizations of complex human psychopathology”—which I strongly agree with. Perry and the CTA refuse to use the DSM. Shapiro is renowned for her “discovery” and research of EMDR, and, like all of these clinicians, recognizes that trauma cannot be effectively treated chemically or through cognitive-behavioral therapies.

    I would highly recommend anyone who has been traumatized to explore the work of these clinicians: they have been, continue to, and are further going to transform the way psychological health is evaluated and treated… which is desperately needed.

  195. Cécile
    Cécile December 12, 2011 at 10:16 pm |

    Alexandra: Cecile, I will have to beg to differ that the context for men raping women is men having sex with women. The context for men raping women is women existing in the same world as men.

    Alexandra, I am also compassionate of the pain you have encountered that continues to impact you. I have to agree with your statement: I think the only way to fight this and begin to reverse it is to make sure women are always free to make their own choices without having to fear violence, and that perpetrators of sexual violence always are held accountable for their actions. Thankfully, many people in the world agree. I hope you’ll find healing and strength in associating with people here and people elsewhere who are devoted to the same cause.

  196. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. December 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm |

    Stella Marr: Well, I’m not a tax lawyer. But I do know it’s highly misleading to say you’re a nonprofit organization when you haven’t received this designation from the IRS.

    To avoid additional confusion. The IRS does not have to designate your organization a non-profit if your annual receipts are below a certain level. Many grassroots organziations do not file for designation until their annual receipts exceed the thresholds.

  197. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 12, 2011 at 10:41 pm |

    Stella Marr @172:
    I stand by my statement that Robyn Few is a pimp. She was convicted of pandering, which is pimping.

    So she was profitting off the exploitation of women in prostitution. Her conviction was in 2002, and in 2003 she founded SWOP. So she was pimping very chronologically close to the time she established the Sex Workers Outreach Project.

    So basically, you’re adamant about not making any distinction between violent pimps and anybody else who happens be in an employer role in the sex industry, and using this deliberately ambiguous use of terminology to cast shitty aspersions on Robyn Few. That and using a criminal conviction used against many sex workers, without any other context, to imply that Robyn Few violently controlled women and that the many branches of SWOP USA are a totally invalid project. Do you have *anything* besides insinuations to back this up with? Because if you don’t, I suggest you drop it. While you have been more or less civil so far, you are *way* out of line irt Robyn Few.

    As WL pointed out in @168, Robyn Few is somebody with a long history as a sex *worker* and even if she had at some point been in a “madame” position (something she is not doing currently), that certainly does not invalidate her qualifications as a sex worker advocate based on that experience. This kind of “poisoning the well” against sex worker organizers seems to be par for the course among the anti-sexwork “abolitionists”, and these attacks against Few in particular are a favorite “talking point” of Melissa Farley, somebody I gather from your web page you work closely with.

    And, BTW, since you’re bringing up the character of leaders as a key point, I think it’s only fair to mention the roots of one of the “abolitionist” groups you mention a few posts down, Breaking Free. For those who aren’t aware of the history of Breaking Free, it basically emerged out the ashes of WHISPER. That organization had fallen apart in the light of a lawsuit from one of several ex-sex workers in the program that WHISPER founder Evelina Giobbe had physically and sexually abused: link1 link2. That’s probably the most serious incident I’ve read concerning the character of *any* leader on either side of the issue, and yet, still a person who is still widely quoted in anti-sexwork publications.

    This was a case that really shook up the entire “abolitionist” movement at the time, and something that current leaders Donna M. Hughes and, yes, Melissa Farley played key roles in sweeping under the rug. (As Jill Brenneman has brought up before in a number of places: link.)

    Do you really want to keep playing “point the finger”, Stella? Because there are some fingers that can be pointed right back at “abolitionist” leaders.

  198. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 11:42 pm |

    Kristen J.: The IRS does not have to designate your organization a non-profit if your annual receipts are below a certain level.

    Yeah, but you can’t collect donations under the pretense of being a nonprofit organization if you don’t have this designation. That’s dishonest and misrepresenting what your organization is to donors.

  199. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm |

    Alexandra: The context for men raping women is women existing in the same world as men.

    A sad truth

  200. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm |

    Thank you Kristin J. Also the confusion that “money solicited might be going into pockets of pimps” bullshit upthread? We are an all volunteer organization. Not a single one of us gets paid for doing what we do.

  201. wl
    wl December 12, 2011 at 11:52 pm |

    And I am not representing my organization, just defending it.

  202. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 12:06 am |

    Alexandra: The pay was good, the work was easy, you could set your own hours, you could be independent. It sounded great. It sounded a lot better than what I was doing, namely working a minimum wage job while living with my abusive parents. So I mastered my fear, shelved my doubts, and went through with it.

    Alexandra: Part of the reason I sought out prostitution was because, in the internet age, there were a number of well-written websites put out by sex-positive feminists extolling the virtues of sex work.

    I just hate it that you went through this. So sorry sweetheart.

    And I’m not specifically mentioning anyone posting here, but there is definitely a historic pattern of madams, meaning female pimps, pretended to be prostituted women when they aren’t, and talking about how great it is in order to generate ‘business’ and recruit.

    And the sex industry has powerful financial motives to compensate people for putting those messages about sex work out there. I’m not saying this pertains to anyone on this thread at all, of course.

    Which is all another way of my saying that I believe your anger is entirely justified. It’s a hideous ‘business’ built on exploitation and lies. It inflicts terrible damage.

    But you’re so beautiful and strong. I can tell by the eloquent way you’re able to write about this that you’ve kept your ability to let truth uplift you and energize you. In a way, that’s one of the things I learned from my experience in the sex industry — transcendence is indelible. We can always find our way back to it.

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with abusive parents too. Hugs.

  203. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 12:09 am |

    wl: We are an all volunteer organization.

    I’d suggest generating an annual report of expenses and expenditures and posting it on your website.

  204. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 13, 2011 at 12:12 am |

    I don’t see why wl’s behavior towards Stella Marr, who has been *nothing* but kind and respectful in this thread, doesn’t merit banning.

    wl:
    I’mnot“beingkind”toyouStella,becauseyourstoryisimplausibleandbecauseyouradvocacyisharmful.

    That’s *after* alleging Stella Marr doesn’t care about violence toward sex workers, above. Or do you only ban people who don’t agree with you?

  205. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 12:14 am |

    Cécile: I also have PTSD (actually, C-PTSD).
    I laud the following clinicians/researchers (and will recommend some of their ‘best’ work, as I see it):
    Bessel van der Kolk (Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society)

    Cecile I”m so sorry you’ve had the experiences that create C-PTSD. I’m glad you’ve found your way to Bessel van der Kolk — he’s great. Please take the best care of yourself. Wishing you well with your final exams.

  206. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 13, 2011 at 12:23 am |

    Kathleen wrote:

    “I don’t see why wl’s behavior towards Stella Marr, who has been *nothing* but kind and respectful in this thread, doesn’t merit banning.”

    “Nothing but civil” except in regard to making outright defamatory statements about Robyn Few. And now you want WL blocked for defending her organization? Nice one. Thanks for another wonderful illustration of just how “abolitionists” come out on the “dishing it out/able to take it” scale.

  207. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 13, 2011 at 12:39 am |

    Random Observer — exactly one person has been banned here; a radfem. So far, who’s been dishing it out and who’s been taking it?

  208. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 12:39 am |

    Thank you Kathleen ;).

    Random Observer: outright defamatory statements about Robyn Few

    It’s not defamatory to say the truth about Robyn Few. She was convicted of pimping in 2002 and she started the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA in 2003. I believe there are lots of potential conflicts of interests when an organization that’s supposed to help prostituted women was started by a pimp.

  209. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 12:40 am |

    Kathleen: exactly one person has been banned here; a radfem. So far, who’s been dishing it out and who’s been taking it

    BRAVA!

  210. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 13, 2011 at 12:50 am |

    A side note — no one here is an “abolitionist”. That language is the language right wing Christian “rescue” groups have appropriated for their stupid, phony, racist “please send us buckets of money so we can “save” brown girls from brown men” campaigns. They are disgusting; no one as far as I can tell who reads Feministe is on their side; their patriarchal imperialism combined with their appropriation of the language of 19th century anti-slavery campaigns is beneath contempt.

    I have actually participated in these threads to see what the anti-Swedish model side has to say because I know it comes from a feminist place. I’ve come away unconvinced, but to equate “supportive of the Swedish model” with “abolitionist” is politically and intellectually dishonest.

  211. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 1:05 am |

    Random Observer: a criminal conviction used against many sex workers

    I don’t think pimps are sex workers. Sorry.

  212. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. December 13, 2011 at 1:36 am |

    @Stella,

    You can because you are a 501(c)(3). See Publications 557 and 4220.

  213. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 1:39 am |

    Also, Alexandra, I came back on real quick specifically to apologize if I seemed flippant/belittling when I wished you “strength.” That was honestly not meant to imply that “you are not presently strong”—rather, I was identifying with that terribly small, feeble feeling in the aftermath of trauma that the world is so hopelessly steeped in violence and cruelty, and you just feel broken and overwhelmed by it all. I know that feeling, and still fall into it often, but I find that staying engaged with people who are committed to making changes that I regard as good and hopeful are perhaps the only “antidote.”

    I also just want to say that I relate with your feelings of being scared and traumatized. While I never experienced violence from a client, the vulnerability of having no protections was terrorizing. The first time I was going to meet with a client, I remember standing at my bedroom door, taking “one last look around” and feeling sick with dread that I might not ever come back (i.e. that I’d be killed or trafficked). I once took a train to another state to meet a new client, and when I approached him, his face did not match the picture he sent me; I followed him into a cab, petrified. I thought, “WHY would he do that?? Does he plan to brutally rape me and kill me??” I spent the entire night worrying that perhaps he sent a false photo and used a track phone so that police would not be able to know who to look for when I was reported missing… all while keeping a smile on my face and my voice lighthearted.

    Also, to this day, I cannot go on walks alone at night, which is something I used to do all the time and take deep pleasure in. This is because I one night took the train home after meeting a client; I noticed some guy on the train seemed to be tailing me and watching me, and when I got off the train, another man stopped me, pointed behind us to the same guy, and said, “Just so you know, that man is following you.” It was nighttime—the money I had earned just that evening, and which I carried on me, was all I had in the world. I had no food at home, and was depending on this money to get me through the month. I was scared of that guy, and of myself, because I realized that if he tried to attack me and rob me, I would probably put up a fight and risk getting harmed—because I needed that money, and it almost felt worth my life in the heat of things. (As we all know, a sex worker has no legal right to keep anything she earns from sex work—anything she earns, saves, or purchases with the money could be confiscated if she were charged with prostitution. So, I felt I would do anything to defend myself, because I would have no leverage to get my hard earned money back if that guy robbed me.) An electric current of terror shot through my body when I turned back to stare the “stalker guy” squarely in the eye, then proceeded to stride “confidently” to my car in the darkness. Around the same time, there were a lot of strong armed robberies being reported where I lived. Between those two factors, for YEARS after, every time I took a walk and would encounter a pedestrian in the dark, even if it was clearly some “mom” out on a peaceful stroll, my stomach would lurch with nausea and my pulse would spike and I would break out in a cold sweat. The last time I attempted to take a walk alone—about a year and a half ago now—I reached my back door sweating and shaking and wanting to vomit and sob.

    …these are just some small glimpses about where my conviction for legal protection comes from, even as I identify as a very ‘privileged’ sex worker.

  214. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 1:43 am |

    Kathleen:
    Asidenote—noonehereisan“abolitionist”.ThatlanguageisthelanguagerightwingChristian“rescue”groupshaveappropriatedfortheirstupid,phony,racist“pleasesendusbucketsofmoneysowecan“save”browngirlsfrombrownmen”campaigns.Theyaredisgusting;nooneasfarasIcantellwhoreadsFeministeisontheirside;theirpatriarchalimperialismcombinedwiththeirappropriationofthelanguageof19thcenturyanti-slaverycampaignsisbeneathcontempt.

    Ihaveactuallyparticipatedinthesethreadstoseewhattheanti-SwedishmodelsidehastosaybecauseIknowitcomesfromafeministplace.I’vecomeawayunconvinced,buttoequate“supportiveoftheSwedishmodel”with“abolitionist”ispoliticallyandintellectuallydishonest.

    Note taken, Kathleen. I am learning the ropes & lingo on the fly, thank you for the information/clrification.

  215. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 1:46 am |

    Stella Marr: Cecile I”m so sorry you’ve had the experiences that create C-PTSD. I’m glad you’ve found your way to Bessel van der Kolk — he’s great. Please take the best care of yourself. Wishing you well with your final exams.

    Thank you Stella, I very much appreciate your support.

  216. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 13, 2011 at 2:02 am |

    Stella Marr @126

    “I don’t think pimps are sex workers. Sorry.”

    Nice dodge, Stella, but my point clearly stands. Are you seriously claiming that the moment somebody turns a profit off the sex industry, their entire history as a sex worker is erased and they can never represent workers from that point forward? Sorry, but even unions that maintain a strong labor/management divide aren’t that strict.

    And, as I pointed out, your deliberate ambiguity around the use of the word “pimp” is inflammatory. You are implying that Few violently controlled other women in sex work for profit. And if you’re going to throw that bombshell around, I suggest you come across with some evidence.

  217. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 13, 2011 at 2:28 am |

    Kathleen @225

    “A side note — no one here is an “abolitionist”. That language is the language right wing Christian “rescue” groups have appropriated for their stupid, phony, racist “please send us buckets of money so we can “save” brown girls from brown men” campaigns. They are disgusting; no one as far as I can tell who reads Feministe is on their side; their patriarchal imperialism combined with their appropriation of the language of 19th century anti-slavery campaigns is beneath contempt.

    I have actually participated in these threads to see what the anti-Swedish model side has to say because I know it comes from a feminist place. I’ve come away unconvinced, but to equate “supportive of the Swedish model” with “abolitionist” is politically and intellectually dishonest.

    Well, Kathleen, nice that you’ve seen fit to distance yourself from right-wing xtian “abolitionist” groups and their imperialist rhetoric, but sadly, all too many radical feminists haven’t. Including, I might add, Melissa Farley, who’s views many here seem to draw on. Radical feminist “abolitionist” leaders like Donna M. Hughes and Laura Lederer have worked for years to cement this alliance, and largely succeeded. I’ll point out that on the other big thread on this subject running concurrently with this one (here), pro-Swedish model radfem Meghan Murphy, and several of her commentators, quite clearly describe their position as “abolitionist”.

    Of course, it should also be pointed out that radical feminism is far from untainted with the whole middle-class “save the poor little women from their vices” mentality. Josephine Butler is the founding figure of prostitution abolitionism back in the Victorian Era, and was an Evangelical quite committed to having middle- and upper-class women lead benighted working-class women to the light. And it’s no coincidence that she’s considered a foremother by both modern-day evangelical “abolitionist” types and Sheila Jeffreys school radfems (check out “The Spinster and her Enemies” sometime).

  218. matlun
    matlun December 13, 2011 at 2:46 am |

    Stella Marr: I don’t think Matlun has ever said he/she is or was ever prostituted. I could be wrong, and if so would be happy to be corrected. For some reason I’ve gotten the impression Matlun is a man

    Just for reference (and for those who do not feel like checking my posting history) Stella is correct. I have in fact never been directly involved in the sex industry (even as a customer) and has only been involved in the Swedish debate on the political level.

    Kathleen: I have actually participated in these threads to see what the anti-Swedish model side has to say because I know it comes from a feminist place. I’ve come away unconvinced, but to equate “supportive of the Swedish model” with “abolitionist” is politically and intellectually dishonest.

    If you look at the feminists that really lobbied through this legalization they certainly are abolitionist. And since a major goal of the legalization is to abolish (or reduce as much as possible) sex work it is a fairly natural position.

    And feminism is a broad church. No single feminist will agree with all ideas that “comes from a feminist place”.

  219. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 13, 2011 at 2:47 am |

    Kathleen @223

    “Random Observer — exactly one person has been banned here; a radfem. So far, who’s been dishing it out and who’s been taking it?”

    So that means a pro-sexworker now has to be banned to achieve some kind of parity? Give me a break! WL is merely defending her organization against some rather nasty attacks in as civil way as she can muster, given the nature of the crap being flung her way. Bushfire was clearly just taking a piss, and trying to get as many digs in before getting kicked.

  220. DD
    DD December 13, 2011 at 3:27 am |

    I’m very sorry for your experience Stella, but it is disingenuous to ascribe your experience to the whole industry.

    wl:
    I’m not “being kind” to you Stella, because your story is implausible and because your advocacy is harmful.

    I have to agree with this.

    Stella, your sweeping generalizations are harmful and this noise about SWOP needing to publish an annual report to be credible reflects just how ignorant or naive about the nature of sex worker advocacy.

    I know many women who have used to sex work to improve their lives. I’m not trying to minimize Stella’s or Alexandria’s experience, but do not define a whole industry by their experience. Also, realize that it is less stigmatized for those to come out as “victims” rather than those who are currently working in the industry and are healthy and thriving. Wendy’s article is a much needed dialogue about the all too common misportrayal of sex workers and conflation with sex trafficking.

    I would like to also broaden the sex worker definition; sex worker describes anyone who engages non-coerced sexual commerce, such as: porn performers, exotic dancers, escorts, cam girls, professional dominas, etc. Those who “manage” or otherwise work in the sex industry, but do not provide sexual/erotic labor (ie “Managers”, DJ’s, wait staff, bar tender, security, web site designer, costume designer, etc) are NOT considered sex workers. If you are not the one providing the sexual work, you are not a sex worker.

    Anyway, props for trying to engage in honest dialogue about sex worker issues.

    The Desiree Alliance is a good place to start (which is also a partner with SWOP, I believe) that better represents an accurate mission on sex worker advocacy.

    http://www.desireealliance.org/about_us.htm

  221. DD
    DD December 13, 2011 at 4:26 am |

    Another great website that publishes sex worker policy updates is the BestPracticesProject.org

    I also highly recommend reading Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry, by Laura Agustin.

    You can learn more about Laura Agustin and her work here LauraAgustin.com

  222. DD
    DD December 13, 2011 at 5:12 am |

    Stella Marr: Idon’tthinkpimpsaresexworkers.Sorry.

    No, she was a sex worker most likely falsely arrested for “pimping”. What is your need to defame her?

    “Robyn Few a native of Kentucky, ran away from home at age thirteen and later became an exotic dancer. After marrying and having a daughter in her twenties, she began to take college courses in the hopes of earning a degree in theater arts. She came to California in 1993 to pursue theater and become an activist. Acting and activism not being the highest paying jobs, Few turned to prostitution to pay the bills in 1996. She has worked tirelessly as an advocate and caregiver for medical marijuana and AIDS patients and has gained quite a reputation in the Bay Area activist community as an effective lobbyist for the issue. In June of 2002, the FBI arrested Few under the direction of John Ashcroft. Using the Patriot Act, Ashcroft was able to equate terrorism with prostitution and get additional funding for the very expensive investigation. She was convicted on one federal count of conspiracy to promote prostitution and received six months house arrest, which she finished serving in June 2004. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel allowed Few to continue her activism and volunteer efforts while under house arrest.”

    http://www.swopusa.org/en/node/192

    You are purposefully misrepresenting in this thread and derailed the main point of Wendy’s article.

    Your misinformation is truly harmful. This isn’t the first site you’ve targeted with your vendetta either, I see. I think you need to focus more victim advocacy, rather than focusing your efforts on erroneously painting every sex worker as a victim. Your efforts are contributing to the victimization of sex workers; it denies our autonomy and the wide range of our experiences. It further stigmatizes us and dehumanizes us.

  223. Maia
    Maia December 13, 2011 at 6:46 am |

    Kathleen, Matlun, and wl – I responded to you upthread in a comment that spent a while in a spam filter.

    Really? “Johns” are the customers. Not seeing the customers as evil is hardly revolutionary in other professions. And if you wanted to criminalize factory work because you considered the employers to be exploiting the workers I am sure you would get pushback and people pointing out that the employers are not necessarily evil.

    Matlun responded perfectly to this, but I’ll just re-emphasise: other kinds of work are not faced with the same “you should be criminalised because we are demonising your employers/clients” rhetoric. If they were, I guarantee that you would see pushback against inaccurate stereotyping and conflation of exploitation and violence with willing work by the people who worked in those professions.

    The thing is there are a wide variety of analyses of work out there. On a feminist site, I would hope, the idea that hte power and control that employers have over workers, and that work under capitalism is exploitative were not entirely outside the discourse donut (I know this is a little bit of a fantasy and the connection between some sorts of feminism and workers struggle is under acknowledged – particularly on US based sites). At least I think it would hpe that it wouldn’t be assumed that people who criticise a particular industry don’t have a structural analysis of employment more generally as a relationship of power and control and a critique of that.

    I find the way Matlun frames it particularly interesting ” if you wanted to criminalize factory work because you considered the employers to be exploiting the workers I am sure you would get pushback and people pointing out that the employers are not necessarily evil.”

    No-one is going to suggest outlawing employers – but the idea that the argument that employers are exploiting workers is an argument that employers are evil in an individual, should be criminalised kind of way is a very limited understanding of exploitation. Exploitation is structural, and not just about individuals and experiences, but hte balance of power and resources in society and how that is maintained. There is a difference between evil on an individual level ‘and taking a role that gives you power over other people and maintains power structures in society’. Arguing that all employers – in any industry – are evil in the first sense is silly, demonstrably not true, and inane. But I also don’t think it’s useful to cut off a structural analysis of any industry (including the sex industry), because people are making silly, demonstrably not true, and inane arguments about people in that industry.

    I’m really sceptical about the efficacy of arguments that respond to “employers in the sex industry are exploitative therefore they should be out-lawed” with arguments about the exact level of exploitation, including vigorous denials of any exploitation in some extent. Rather than arguing something like that study Wendy was talking about – that talks about the similarities between sex-work and other work. I mean arguments do to some extent depend on your audience – but I think on some level a lot of people understand work through their own experiences of it – and connnecting with people’s experiences of work may very well include both bullying and coercion – and structural experience with exploitation – makes the case for criminalisation stronger rather than weaker.

    Or for a shorter version – if someone said to me “Outlaw employers because they’re exploiting workers.” I’d say “don’t be silly that won’t work – support workers organising instead.” And people saying “Oh employers aren’t exploitative” would make me feel warmer to the idea of outlawing them.

    Kathleen: I’m curious – what’s your analysis of the state and the prison system? Because that’s the other side of ideas about sex work (besides work and sex). The idea that the state will do what we want, and will define wrong-doers like we do, and will exercise justice in a way that is non-oppressive is my other argument against criminalisation – and my fundamental objection to the ‘Swedish model’.

    Well actually my other is the idea of ‘ending demand’ – which reminds me of campaigns to boycott sweatshop good – without any contact with the efforts of people organising within EPZ, or acknowledgement that people can organise themselves.

  224. matlun
    matlun December 13, 2011 at 7:53 am |

    Maia: The thing is there are a wide variety of analyses of work out there.

    Yes. The point I was trying to make is that this may not really matter for this discussion. The question is in what significant way sex work different from other work. Not which how you view work in general.

    Exactly which legal and/or societal frameworks we want to guard against worker exploitation is a different and complex discussion. (For example: Is outside legal regulation or support for strong unions the best approach?)

  225. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 13, 2011 at 9:22 am |

    I realize I’m coming into this conversation rather late, but I’ve been reading all of the comments ad they really got me thinking.

    I have no experience with sex work or prostitution, I’ve never been trafficked, I’ve never been in a position where I could make a informed choice about selling my body.

    But I have been living in this world for a couple of years and I have experience of abuse, assault, survival and feminist awakening. I know that experience is a plastic thing, that how you look at things you’ve been through change when you’re able to distance yourself from them, that they change when you change the way you talk about them yourself.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to play a small part in the activist work that brought on the Swedish law in Norway. This is a source of pride to me, even though I did so little compared to the other women in the movement. I’m currently looking to involve myself in the fight against porn culture in the UK.

    Doing activist work like this you get to meet a whole lot of people who disagree with you and who do so with great passion and determination, and for a lot of different reasons. The pro prostitution lobby is a very real thing in Norway (and no doubt in Sweden too) and since it’s such a small country we know our opposition well, just like they know us.

    One of the things I struggled with when I first got involved in the fight to criminalize the johns was the idea of representation. I felt humbled when meeting women on both sides, sometimes it feels a bit like your heart is breaking in two when trying to listen to everybody. Sooner or later you have to take action and taking action requires making a choice about which issue is most pressing at the moment.

    I’m still not sure how a law that penalize the johns and decriminalize the prostitutes/sex-workers/victims will impact society in the long run. But I think that there are some reasons to be optimistic. Especially when it comes to changing attitudes among young people:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0144818811000196
    The results of this study might not be overwhelming, but it is a young law and attitudes might still be changing. At least people are talking about johns now, and not just prostitutes and pimps.

  226. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 13, 2011 at 10:03 am |

    As I said, I have no experience in the “trade” myself, but I do have experience of being a woman in situations where I had little choice, little confidence to speak up and no language to speak about my experience in a way that made sense to me. As my confidence grew with my ability to choose and I acquired that language I began to look at what I had been through with different eyes.

    I find that some times people on both sides of this discussion have little respect that this is probably true for most other women as well. I say women, because that is what they are first. They might be sex-workers when they fight for sex worker rights, prostitutes when they are pimped out, victims when they are trafficked. They might be called ‘girls’ by the ones claiming to fight for their rights. They might be called sluts by those that brand them as the problem. But they are people, and for the most part they are women.

    I wish that these women, used as examples on both sides, were treated more like the complex human beings that they are and less like instruments for group agendas.

    For they might change their minds about how they feel about it along the way. They might, like I did come to see abuse where they saw fair treatment earlier. I know from painful experience that re-framing your experience can cost you your place in the togetherness if you speak up about it. It can be a very high price to pay if you are vulnerable to begin with.

  227. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 10:08 am |

    I sincerely doubt a single person has ever been paid for saying that sex work didn’t ruin their life in the comment thread on a feminist blog.

    I didn’t say this did I? But Xaveira Hollander, who wrote the Happy Hooker was a madam. Robyn Few was convicted of pimping, and someone associated with Few’s SWOP USA jumped down my throat for saying that Gary Ridgeway was a John — trying to whitewash the story of the murderer of at least 48 prostituted women. A woman featured on an HBO show about legalized prostitution in Nevada describes herself as prostituted in those brothels when she is actually a TV star who lives in Los Angeles. Etc.

    You don’t have to go far to find this syndrome.

    matlun: Exactly which legal and/or societal frameworks we want to guard against worker exploitation is a different and complex discussion

    Re Guarding against worker exploitation: This is exactly why I think it’s important to mention that Robyn Few was convicted of pimping. Because I think women in prostitution deserve advocates who haven’t profitted off their exploitation. It’s a huge conflict of interest.

  228. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 13, 2011 at 10:26 am |

    I think (and I also think most of you agree with me here) that the question in the heading of this blog post is too simple to be of any real use in anybodys agenda. In this post modern world we are likely to concede that every “sex-worker” is representative of hir own experience. Which is true, no doubt, but which isn’t helpful when looking for structural patterns and tendencies.

  229. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 10:32 am |

    I am going to take a break from this thread for awhile. I don’t think people should be banned from this thread for using the word prostituted in place of sex worker.

    And again, I’d like to highlight three very worthy organizations helping prostituted women:

    http://www.breakingfree.net

    http://www.veronicasvoice.org/generalinformation.html

    http://www.catwinternational.org/

    All of the above are nonprofit organizations.

    I wish you all well. Cecile take good care of yourself and good luck on your finals. Alexandra, thank you for your courage.

  230. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 10:33 am |

    Martine Votvik: In this post modern world we are likely to concede that every “sex-worker” is representative of hir own experience. Which is true, no doubt, but which isn’t helpful when looking for structural patterns and tendencies.

    BRAVA Martine. Thank you.

  231. nelle
    nelle December 13, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    When one looks at structural patterns and tendencies… what should be done with the assembled information? Who should have a seat at the table?

    We know who ultimately makes the call, and where the membership of the decisionmakers generally come from. There are many groups in society who will want to shape any structural change, and some of the most zealous will condemn anyone for being a sex worker.

    This leads me to ask, can all of you – no matter where you stand in the discussion to this point – find common ground on what you wish to collectively accomplish going forward? Because if you cannot, a fractured sex worker community has no chance against conservative groups.

    I can see where there should be common ground, just as I can see it with Choice, or with advancing women’s rights… but reality is far different. I’m open, I’m listening (reading.) Educate me, show me you can facilitate a path forward.

  232. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 13, 2011 at 11:01 am |

    Hm, I wrote two posts which seem to be stuck in moderation, I think because of my choice of words. Which is fair enough.

    nelle –

    This actually does happen, but it is really difficult for groups to cooperate when one group thinks everything should be about free choice and the other believes that free choice is an illusion. These are fundamental differences, not ornamental ones.

    This is obviously an exaggeration, but I think that it is a useful one. You might as well get conservatives and liberals to cooperate about sex education. Which would be awesome, but not realistic in the short run.

  233. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 13, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    DD — It is really telling that you didn’t even bother to spell Alexandra’s (not Alexandria’s) name correctly.

    Part of what has turned me off these arguments is how devoid of compassion they are when women like Stella Marr and Alexandra show up: “oh, sorry that you feel that way. ANYWAY…”

    Combined with all the other status-quo maintaining, neoliberal to libertarian, generally heartless right wing format talking points they use, I just can’t get on board. I’m as uncomfortable with that approach as I am with the “rescue sex slaves” narratives employed by the Christian right.

    Maia — I am not sure I understood your question, but I take it to mean something like, how can we expect the state to get anything right, given that it is run by authoritarian jerks? I actually think this is a great point, if this is what your point was. If you read what anarchists have to say about it, they talk a lot about “building a new society within the shell of the old”. I think the Swedish model is more of a step in that direction than the Australian / NZ model championed here (which, pardon me, just puts the force of the state on the side of employers) but either model faces that problem, absolutely.

  234. Stella marr
    Stella marr December 13, 2011 at 11:08 am |

    I see very little fragmentation among prostituted women. We want safety. We want housing. We don’t want pimps to speak for us. We want to be able to heal from the trauma of what has happened. We care about each other — the way soldiers who’ve been in battle together care about each other.

    Almost all of us entered prostitution very young, in contrast to Robyn Few, who entered prostitution, according to her own website, at age 38.

    I don’t think what’s going on in this thread has much to do with prostituted women as a group. If you ban someone for using the word prostitute you’re pretty far removed from the actuality of prostitution as I know it.

    But people in ‘the life’ trying to survive don’t usually focus on vocabulary. It’s quite a luxury to be able to do that.

  235. Caperton
    Caperton December 13, 2011 at 11:43 am | *

    I think one of the challenges of this kind of discussion is that the two sides of the issue are in complete opposition and don’t intersect anywhere (and I apologize for the rather clinical choice of words here, but I’m doing my best to remain neutral): To one side, the commodification of sex and women’s bodies is exclusively a bad thing, and thus sex work is universally exploitive, any purchase of sex is abusive, and sex workers are being exploited. To the other side, sex work is transactional, wherein a woman’s sexuality is her possession to sell, and violence and exploitation are perversions of the business structure rather than violations inherent to the act of sex work.

    Of course it’s not mine to have an opinion one way or the other, but if the two sides can’t find common ground, this kind of debate will never be productive, because so many of the concepts important to the discussion take very different meanings depending on which side you’re on. Case in point: escort services and brothel owners. If you feel that every sex worker is being exploited whether she believes it or not, then a brothel owner or escort agency that takes money from sex workers is inherently coercive and exploitive. If you feel that sex work is a transaction, then a brothel owner or escort agency is merely facilitating legitimate business, and any money that changes hands is equivalent to a modeling agency or staffing service.

    Another case: laws criminalizing johns. If you feel that sex work is exploitive, such laws are saving women from the abuse of men who are hurting them. If you feel that sex work is transactional, such laws are cutting into your customer base. And if you can’t find consensus somewhere between, you’ll spend so much time arguing over definitions that you’ll never make progress in the overall discussion.

    Once again: I’ve never been involved in sex work in any capacity, so I don’t get to have a dog in the fight. My suspicion is that somewhere between “Famous Potatoes” and “Live Free or Die” the truth lies. But I recognize an elliptical argument when I see one.

  236. matlun
    matlun December 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm |

    @Caperton: I was trying to write I post, but you said it better.

  237. DD
    DD December 13, 2011 at 12:20 pm |

    Martine Votvik:

    I think (and I also think most of you agree with me here) that the question in the heading of this blog post is too simple to be of any real use in anybodys agenda. In this post modern world we are likely to concede that every “sex-worker” is representative of hir own experience. Which is true, no doubt, but which isn’t helpful when looking for structural patterns and tendencies.

    I believe there is a profoundly obvious structural pattern; those who are coerced into the industry and victimized, and those who enter the industry of their own free will. The issue it seems, is that advocates of the former, in this thread, refuse to aknowledge sex workers who choose their work of their own volition and thrive.

    Someone who spreads misinformation and works to defame sex worker activists who were victimized by the legal system, resulting in a bogus arrest and conviction; have no place in this discussion. They have no credibility. They are deliberately working to harm sex workers. Their agenda perpetuates stigma and shame. (Afterall who would actually choose sex work? I mean, if someone does they are desperate and mentally ill or are doomed to suffer from mental illness, depression or PTSD. They are not capable of making rational choices about their lives or their bodies. This starting to sound familiar?)

    Sex workers have enough trouble engaging in honest dialogue with policy makers, law enforcement and healthcare workers; without the work of the ‘rescue industry’ misrepresenting our lives and our choices.

    Trafficked and other victims of sexual exploitation are not representative of sex workers, because they are not sex workers by definition. End of story.

  238. DD
    DD December 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |

    @Kathleen
    A typo, is clearly very telling. Give me a break.

  239. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |

    caperton –

    you said it much better than me.

    Stella marr –

    I probably should have specified that I was referring to feminist groups in my post. When it comes to the women in the trade, I think you are right when you say that they want pretty much the same thing. But women in different circumstances will have different options seem possible to them. Some of these women can only see safety as possible if it is provided by their pimp. Some of these women don’t trust feminist groups, politicians, the police, hospitals, as I’m sure you know better than me.

    It is difficult to invest in a better world if you don’t believe that a better world is possible.

  240. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm |

    DD –

    “I believe there is a profoundly obvious structural pattern; those who are coerced into the industry and victimized, and those who enter the industry of their own free will.”

    And then there are those that believe that it is never that simple. The “industry” doesn’t exist in a vacuum in our society either. It is not something that goes away if you turn the other way. It is not something that does not affect your life if your not in it. The industry doesn’t neatly separate into good and bad. I’m sorry if I’m misrepresenting your opinions, but do you really believe that there is such a thing as “sex work” that could be removed from the rest of it? I mean I can understand that point of view in an Utopian way, but it doesn’t seem very helpful for dealing with the reality in our society today.

  241. Lizor
    Lizor December 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Great rational points Stella. Thanks for all of your great comments and courage. And thanks Alexandra for your courage to speak out. I admire you both enormously for coming here and speaking the truth about what you know.

  242. Wendy
    Wendy December 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm |

    Lizor:

    Wendy dismisses the Farley study because it does not break down the source demographics in enough detail

    Erm, that’s far from the only issue I raised with the study. And I didn’t dismiss it entirely, I just said that its findings can’t be generalised across the entire sex industry – because it doesn’t cover the entire sex industry, only particular sectors of it. This is actually a really basic research requirement, and it points to a fundamental problem in sex work research, that it’s simply impossible to get a random sample. Researchers in the field generally do acknowledge this.

    So there’s this “unknown” quantity (if they are so unknown, I have to wonder how the customers locate the services)

    One hardly needs to know the quantity of services available to know that there are services available.

    Stella:

    First of all no one is saying that out of 4 million sex workers, all 4 million are victims — so I’m going to amend this misrepresentation on your part, and reword your statement

    Wow, you’ve knowingly and deliberately reworded my statement and then attacked me for “saying” something that I didn’t say. That’s not only a straw man, that’s a wilful creation of a straw man.

    Your reworded version doesn’t at all capture the meaning of what I actually did say. Defining a sex worker as a professional rape victim is not the same thing as saying that many or even most sex workers have experienced rape. It is the former that I object to, not the latter.

    I never said my experience was universal, did I?

    This is what I was responding to: “Why are you denying my experience? Why are you denying my validity in talking about prostitution, nit-picking over the location where it’s occurred, when the physical experience is universal.”

    If that isn’t you saying that your experience is universal, then I apologise for misquoting you, but I’m not getting what else you might have meant by that.

    Let’s me make my question more specific: Why are you working so hard to silence my voice and disqualify me from being eligible to participate in the discussion? of the Swedish model?

    For heaven’s sake, Stella, you’re perfectly free to use your voice and participate in the discussion. No one is saying you aren’t. I certainly never said that you “can’t talk about the Swedish model”. Pointing out that many views from Norway and Sweden conflict with yours is not trying to silence you.

    What if we said that men who avoid criminal records don’t commit domestic violence?

    What if we said that men who avoid criminal records don’t commit sexual abuse or rape?

    There’d be an uproar. And youd never say these things.

    I would say that law-abiding people are less likely to break the law, yes. I think that’s fairly straightforward. The inverse relationship between risk aversion and tendency toward violence has been studied outside the sex work context, too – I read through a whole pile of this research, supplied to me by a psychologist with absolutely no interest in the sex industry, when I was doing my dissertation. So it’s just wrong to suggest that it wouldn’t be said outside that context.

    What we’re talking about is a law that takes a formerly legal act – buying sex – and makes it illegal. In order for that law to “work”, it has to deter people who will not commit an act that is illegal. But men who intend to commit violence against sex workers were already planning on doing something illegal. Violence against sex workers was illegal even when buying sex from them wasn’t illegal. So clearly, there have to be questions about the efficacy of deterrence through criminalisation of buying sex, where these men are concerned.

    She states that the Swedish model has increased harm in Norway, Iceland and Sweden

    Actually I haven’t said anything about Iceland. From the little information available, it seems that the law isn’t actually being implemented there.

    In 2007 Der Spiegel,stated that according to the Swedish police, 400 to 600 foreign women are brought to Sweden each year to be prostitutes. In Finland, which is only half the size of Sweden, that number is between 10,000 and 15,000 women.

    Did Der Spiegel provide a source for their Finnish numbers?

    Jonas Trolle, a Stockholm police officer concerned with the sex trade, was quoted as saying “We only have between 105 and 130 women, both on the Internet and on the street, active (in prostitution) in Stockholm today.”

    A couple months ago Jonas Trolle came to Ireland and stated that it was “impossible to run a brothel” in Sweden today. Only weeks later, the head of the Anti-Trafficking Unit that he works for told the Swedish press that it was beginning to look as though there was “a brothel on every corner” in Stockholm. So I would take Jonas Trolle’s claims with a grain of salt.

    the internet provides a good reflection of ongoing indoor prostittuion, and the numbers Trolle quotes include indoor prostitution.

    But the internet is only one type of indoor prostitution. His numbers fail to include massage parlours, hotel bars and restaurants, sex clubs, sex shops, dungeons, word-of-mouth agencies… there has been absolutely no research into the extent of these sectors in Sweden. The Swedish government acknowledged in the 2010 evaluation that they know absolutely nothing about the size of these sectors.

    Kathleen:

    to equate “supportive of the Swedish model” with “abolitionist” is politically and intellectually dishonest.

    I am actually surprised to hear you say this, because the only criticisms I have ever heard about the use of the term have come from the sex workers’ rights movement, who see it as appropriating a word with a noble history (i.e. its 19th century meaning). I see it used often by feminist opponents of sex work, as others have pointed out. If there’s a different term you think is better, I’m happy to use it instead.

    Martine:

    I think (and I also think most of you agree with me here) that the question in the heading of this blog post is too simple to be of any real use in anybodys agenda.

    It’s meant to be a rhetorical question. The point is very much that it’s not answerable. That might have come across better in the original post on Feminist Ire, where I put “representative” in quotes.

    As for the Norwegian study you linked to, here’s one from Sweden which suggests the opposite. It finds that Swedish youth have become more, not less, accepting of commercial sex. I think it’s worth noting that it measured attitudes after the law had been in place for a much longer time, as compared to the Norwegian study.

  243. DD
    DD December 13, 2011 at 1:03 pm |

    Kathleen: Combined with all the other status-quo maintaining, neoliberal to libertarian, generally heartless right wing format talking points they use, I just can’t get on board. I’m as uncomfortable with that approach as I am with the “rescue sex slaves” narratives employed by the Christian right.

    Please site these “status-quo maintaining, neoliberal to libertarian, generally heartless right wing format” talking points? Please, by all means, don’t get on aboard, just get out of the way.

    I do have compassion for victims, but when they hijack and misrepresent sex workers by pushing support of an oppressive paradigm, they are going to get some push back.

    Stella marr:

    I see very little fragmentation among prostituted women. We want safety. We want housing. We don’t want pimps to speak for us. We want to be able to heal from the trauma of what has happened. We care about each other — the way soldiers who’ve been in battle together care about each other.

    Almost all of us entered prostitution very young, in contrast to Robyn Few, who entered prostitution, according to her own website, at age 38.

  244. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    yay, my long bulky comments have come through :)

    Wendy –

    thank you for posting that link. Do you know if the full study is available online?

    Yeah, I’m generally careful when it comes to connecting the results of either studies to the law itself, as the law doesn’t operate in a vacuum in society. If it wasn’t for the increasing availability of porn to young people I’d expect to see different numbers in both studies.

  245. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm |

    Catching up on some comments I didn’t have time/energy for yesterday (but wanted to say), as well as some new ones:

    Caperton: if the two sides can’t find common ground, this kind of debate will never be productive

    Agreed, Caperton. But it’s just a reality that ultimately, that’s where most of the energy in a debate is essential (finding common ground), even though nobody looks forward to or enjoys the draining, tedious, frustrating, endlessness of such a pursuit.

    wl: I’m not “being kind” to you Stella, because your story is implausible

    wl, while I agree with many of things you’ve said, I’ve been wanting to call you out on this. I appreciate everything you’ve been saying about your work with SWOP, but I find it disturbing that someone affiliated with SWOP would be so judgmental toward a prostitute’s narratives of her experiences. Stella’s experiences are extreme, but totally consistent—you seem to be implying that she is making it up?? (or fabricating parts??)

    The sex workers you’ve encountered in your work don’t encompass all sex workers. It seems to me that you’ve had connections with more ‘moderate’ cases? (i.e. people who were not held captive by ruthless pimps for years, or who were exceptionally “lucrative” sex workers, given your skepticism surrounding the transactions she was used to obtain) Why would you question this? I personally can reinforce Stella’s claims of the fluidity and arbitrariness of the cash flow—my ‘charges’ were anywhere from $250-$2,000 (and there are definitely much higher ‘echelons’ out there too)—the story is complex about how I went about establishing charges with clients, but in short, I approached each client with a ‘clean slate’ and shrewdly made some speculations surrounding their lifestyles, disposable income, and how much “energy” I felt I would have to put into each client before I determined a proposed $ amount. Some sex workers use a flat rate, others “play off” of the diversity of their clients. Apparently pimps do too.

    If you are questioning the violence she endured at the hands of her pimps and johns—that’s dangerous and harmful, too. It only gives people who do those things more power when outsiders reject the plausibility that it even exists(??!) And, while I still assert that the same can be said about Stella’s rhetoric of the sex industry, rejecting her experiences does exactly as she claims: it renders her (and people who share similar stories) silent and invisible.

    Random Observer: So basically, you’re adamant about not making any distinction between violent pimps and anybody else who happens be in an employer role in the sex industry, and using this deliberately ambiguous use of terminology to cast shitty aspersions on Robyn Few. That and using a criminal conviction used against many sex workers, without any other context, to imply that Robyn Few violently controlled women and that the many branches of SWOP USA are a totally invalid project. Do you have *anything* besides insinuations to back this up with?

    Wholehearted agreement to this (and wl’s) defense of Robyn Few.

    Kathleen: DD — It is really telling that you didn’t even bother to spell Alexandra’s (not Alexandria’s) name correctly.

    That’s not fair—especially for someone entering after comment 200, this thread is brimming with complexity. I doubt the misspell reflects a carelessness toward Alexandra, and was simply a misspell in a discussion that already requires an overwhelming amount of attention to an overwhelming number of details.

    Kathleen: Combined with all the other status-quo maintaining, neoliberal to libertarian, generally heartless right wing format talking points they use, I just can’t get on board.

    Advocating for sex workers rights does not seek to maintain the industry as it currently exists. Pro-sex work is not fighting for conditions where people will continue to be trafficked and economically coerced/abused…

    Martine Votvik: As I said, I have no experience in the “trade” myself, but I do have experience of being a woman in situations where I had little choice, little confidence to speak up and no language to speak about my experience in a way that made sense to me.

    Martine, I’m not sure if you’ve read my point, which I’ll quote again, that:

    Cécile: the idea that abuse within the sex industry is not confined to the sex industry, and so abolishing the industry will not end the abuse.

    In theory (and fact), any type of violence a sex worker could encounter also exists outside of the industry. Martine has never been involved with sex work, but can ‘connect’ with sex workers because of this. It’s possible she and any given sex worker have experienced exactly the same types of abuse, the only difference being that Martine’s abuser wasn’t a “client” or “john.”

    Martine Votvik: I find that some times people on both sides of this discussion have little respect that this is probably true for most other women as well. I say women, because that is what they are first.

    Thank you, Martine, for both of these points, and I’m sorry that you too have suffered abuse.

    What do people think about violence and the “permeable membrane” between the sex industry and the ‘real world’? I feel like nobody has adequately addressed this point, and I think it’s really, really important to explore.

  246. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm |

    Well… I just spent a long time composing a comment (currently awaiting moderation) where I claimed that people were neglecting a particular point, and lo and behold, as I was typing, a number of comments have since appeared on that same point. …Timing ;-)

  247. wl
    wl December 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm |

    Robyn Few was survival sex working at 13. Just ask her.

  248. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    @ Kathleen:

    Cécile: decriminalization would both address the immediate needs of workers who need help, as well as serve as a starting point to begin to transform the sex industry…

    I don’t believe the sex industry is inherently violent, because the imperfect state in which it currently exists is residual of the violence and oppression that women have lived under for all of time.

    just to elaborate on a point I made a moment ago… (the comment may not have appeared yet.)

    Sorry to keep up the tacky habit of “quoting myself”—it’s just that there are a lot of comments here and I realize things simply can get overlooked in light of the volume… I’d hate to wear myself out trying to reword what I’ve already said.

  249. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm |

    Also, realize that it is less stigmatized for those to come out as “victims” rather than those who are currently working in the industry and are healthy and thriving.

    Really? Really?

    I have spent the last couple years of my life terrified of people finding out what I did when I was eighteen, terrified that someone would identify me, call me a whore, look at me with revulsion and turn me away. And I came out with my real name in this discussion because I take this seriously, because I wanted to make it clear how seriously I take this conversation.

    We could argue back and forth what the dominant image of a woman in prostitution (or a sex worker, if you prefer) looks like in this society. But I grew up watching Firefly and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, and both shows make sex work look like a great way to make a living, if that’s your thing.

    So I don’t know why you say it’s easier to – what – be a victim than to be someone who freely chooses sex work as their occupation. But yeah, I do know that it pisses me off that you had to try to invalidate Stella Marr and me, make us look like we’re just doing what’s easy for us, not doing the hard work of admitting that yeah, actually prostitution was really empowering for us.

  250. wl
    wl December 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm |

    I’ve charged various rates too Cecile – I’ve even briefly had a pimp (who fit the actual definition of the word; being called one was more than infuriating for this reason). I’ve never been averse to acknowledging the range of experiences in the sex trade. But I stand by my statement that Stella’s story is implausible.

  251. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm |

    Kathleen @250:

    If you read what anarchists have to say about it, they talk a lot about “building a new society within the shell of the old”. I think the Swedish model is more of a step in that direction than the Australian / NZ model championed here (which, pardon me, just puts the force of the state on the side of employers) but either model faces that problem, absolutely.

    Wow, a plea for anarcho-prohibitionism? I’ve long thought contemporary “anarchists” have strayed away from their core antistatist analysis in the service of other agendas, but this kind of thing takes it. If there is anything “anarchist” about the Swedish model, what the hell does “anarchism” even mean anymore?

    Now I have long seen parallels between radical feminism and sex-positive or pro-sex worker feminism (note: not saying those last two are exactly the same thing) and the split within socialism between Leninists and anarchist or libertarian Marxists. But from where I’m sitting, radical feminism seems to exactly parallel Leninism in being on the authoritarian and vanguardist side of that divide.

    Apologies in advance if this is too much of a derail; this is mainly a response to one post, not an intention to start a substantial subthread on this.

  252. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm |

    Martine Votvik: do you really believe that there is such a thing as “sex work” that could be removed from the rest of it?

    Yes—transactions in the sex industry vary from being “enormous” and “microscopic” (on a ‘social’ level).

    It’s as simple as this: (I have horrid visions of a sit-com or rom-com depicting such a silly twist:) Female protagonist and male protagonist are out for drinks one night; they are coworkers exchanging cubicle stories; one of them randomly drums up the idea of sex for money; the other drunkenly giggles; and they, submerged in their own little rom-com-y bubble and otherwise totally socially unaware, scamper off to her city apartment, bland with contemporary decor; get it on; he hands her cash, and leaves [and the rest of the episode is about how they were actually in love the whole time but too progressive to admit it]… Even if they never think about this night again (blacked out from too many martinis!), they are legally “bound up” in the sex industry, even with sex workers whose full time job is at an escort agency, simply because the transaction occurred.

    …Which isn’t to say this is the norm, or that our rom-com lady deserves any badges of honor; it’s just that, on one extreme, sex work can really be as “isolated” and “uninvolved” as all that, when you look at it from a “legal” standpoint (which really has a big hand in the existing ‘definition’ of the sex industry, in reality, and I think is a big part of the problem in attempting to make distinctions between various roles within the sex industry)

  253. wl
    wl December 13, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    Cecile – are you saying you’ve made $2000 an hour? Honestly I find that a little implausible too.

  254. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm |

    wl: But I stand by my statement that Stella’s story is implausible.

    I never got that sense—can you elaborate on what you mean and why?

  255. Nia
    Nia December 13, 2011 at 2:41 pm |

    I know many women who have used to sex work to improve their lives. I’m not trying to minimize Stella’s or Alexandria’s experience, but do not define a whole industry by their experience…. I would like to also broaden the sex worker definition; sex worker describes anyone who engages non-coerced sexual commerce, such as: porn performers, exotic dancers, escorts, cam girls, professional dominas, etc.

    This.

    I’m glad to work in sex work, personally. I think it’s awful when poverty and limited life choices push people into work situations they don’t wish to be in. I can understand how that would be extremely traumatizing. It doesn’t make what I do, and enjoy doing, evil and wrong.

    Poverty is, and always has been, the problem. Not sex workers. Not sex work.

    I have yet to see a single conversation re: sex work on Feministe, or really any “feminist” blog, be useful. I do see a space for a whole lot of whorephobia, and radical second wave feminists whose legacy doesn’t do a whole lot to help women like me, and a lot to hurt.

    Sorry if this comes off angry. It’s been hard to read these conversations, get up the guts to participate, be shot down by people who have never lived a life like mine, and then participate again. It’s hard to hear, again and again, that feminism is for me because I’m a woman, and then realize that what’s called feminism doesn’t actually help me. It is so alienating. It is so painful. After years and YEARS of reproductive freedom, welfare rights, and anti-rape / violence activism, it is so painful to be defamed, again and again, as a ‘whore engaged in that evil industry.’

    Feminism… eh, I no longer know where I stand on it.

  256. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm |

    wl: Cecile – are you saying you’ve made $2000 an hour? Honestly I find that a little implausible too.

    Ahh, sorry, I overlooked that detail. I didn’t charge per hourly rate, just per ‘encounter.’ But it was an extraordinary amount of money to me, considering that, because of the train schedules, I never spent more than two or three hours with him.

    He wanted a commitment of 4xs per month, so $10,000 for roughly 10-12 hours monthly. He said that would be a “starting point,” as he was looking for something long term, and that the amount would increase as time went on. All my instincts about this man were that he was totally sincere and honest (he was kind of a reclusive workaholic ‘prodigy’ in his field). We mutually and amicably ended the ‘relationship’ very early on , however—believe it or not, I was so burnt out by that time that I didn’t even feel I had the energy to commit to that. But it totally opened my eyes to the disposable wealth some people have to throw around. The roll of bills he gave me felt so thick that I assumed they were 20s, and but it was actually twenty 100 dollar bills. (Which just goes to show how naive I was with evaluating thick stacks of money.) I have no doubt that there are men who routinely surpass this. Think, Casino, or the “elite companion” websites whose targeted demographics are millionaires, billionaires, politicians, celebrities, pro athletes, etc. (And, just from browsing some of those sites, the higher the charges, the more of a ‘faux-pas’ it seems to charge per hour) Those of the 1% (or 5% or 10%) do occasionally swoop down to ‘mingle with the commoners…’

  257. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 2:57 pm |

    Nia: Poverty is, and always has been, the problem. Not sex workers. Not sex work.

    I have yet to see a single conversation re: sex work on Feministe, or really any “feminist” blog, be useful.

    Veronica Monet addresses this too in a piece entitled Sedition.

  258. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 13, 2011 at 2:57 pm |

    RO — my point is that if the problem with the Swedish model is the involvement of the state, then the Australia/NZ model has that problem too, except in that case the state is on the side of employers. What this has to do with Leninism is …?

    Any idea floating around in these discussions is some notion that if the state is bad, the market is better, because choice. But markets are simply places where people with more money have more power; you don’t have to think about sex work to see how that is problematic — you can think about *anything*, from assembly line work to environmental justice.

    So as I see it, the discussion among feminists boils down to: of course we have to be wary of the state. But *right now*, the alternative to the state is the market, where money is power. I am sure there are some sex workers for whom this is not particularly disadvantaging. Globally, though, it is. So, okay, the state then? The question at that point is: is it a good thing for the entire force of the state to be on the side of employers and buyers, or on the side of workers and sellers? Under the imperfect circumstances, my feeling continues to be: the latter. And I *don’t understand* how advocating the former is supposedly more full of justice-y goodness.

  259. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm |

    wl: Cecile – are you saying you’ve made $2000 an hour? Honestly I find that a little implausible too.

    I wish you would substantiate this, too. Who are you to speculate on my experiences? (I don’t mean that harshly, but really.) It’s not like the filthy rich don’t patronize sex workers.

  260. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm |

    Wendy: But the internet is only one type of indoor prostitution. His numbers fail to include massage parlours, hotel bars and restaurants, sex clubs, sex shops, dungeons, word-of-mouth agencies…

    And just another quick consideration: I, and many other sex workers and their patrons, preferred to establish long-term relationships with ‘regulars’ that were then coordinated via email or texting or phone.

  261. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm |

    Wendy: I would say that law-abiding people are less likely to break the law, yes. I think that’s fairly straightforward. The inverse relationship between risk aversion and tendency toward violence has been studied outside the sex work context, too – I read through a whole pile of this research, supplied to me by a psychologist with absolutely no interest in the sex industry, when I was doing my dissertation.

    Excellent point and I second this major concern regarding “end demand.”

  262. matlun
    matlun December 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm |

    Kathleen: my point is that if the problem with the Swedish model is the involvement of the state, then the Australia/NZ model has that problem too, except in that case the state is on the side of employers.

    What does that even mean?

    The state is involved because it does not criminalize sex work?
    Then by the same logic the state is involved in a lot more of my activities than I previously thought. Including me writing on this blog.

    This is just blatant nonsense.

  263. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    Cécile: Who are you to speculate on my experiences? (I don’t mean that harshly, but really.) It’s not like the filthy rich don’t patronize sex workers.

    I completely agree with Cecile. I find this offensive behavior on the part of wl. In fact, why is wl still allowed to post here?

    I’d like to address how shocked I am by how people on this board have addressed Alexandra. Here we have a painfully young woman who describes how reading ‘feminist’ interpretations of prostitution made her think it would be a great thing for her to do. And the nightmare of what prostitution was traumatized her terribly. She expressed quite understandable anger at those who propagate this message.

    And everyone ignored her except Kathleen, Cecile and me. This is a girl with a ‘Virginia Woolf’ quality intellect. A young woman we should all be encouraging. I think one of the responsibilities of anyone who’s a feminist older than 26 is to listen to and look out for younger women, especially when they are describing one of their life’s nightmares.

    I think it says a great deal about Wendy that she ignored Alexandra completely.

    And Wendy your comments regarding my logical equations of your statements are weak — more an attempt to dissemble than deal with the meat and potatoes of the argument.

    Wendy: It finds that Swedish youth have become more, not less, accepting of commercial sex.

    Wendy this is a distortion of the results of the study. This is what the study states:
    The level of acceptance towards others
    paying for sex is considerably higher than the level of
    acceptance expressed towards the idea of doing so
    oneself.

    I think this speaks to the success of the Swedish model in removing the stigma from prostituted women. And it shows that Swedish youth understand what the Johns are doing isn’t cool.

    Martine Votvik: I find that some times people on both sides of this discussion have little respect that this is probably true for most other women as well.

    Martine I’m so glad you said this. Over the last few years, as I’ve become strong enough to tell the story of what I experienced in prostitution, it amazes me how it frees other women who’ve never been prostituted — it frees them of their secrets. Most women have had an experience of some kind of sexual violence/and/or shame surrounding their bodies. Something they are afraid to tell. But if I discuss being prostituted, they know they’re not going judged — and they tell me things they’ve been through. And of course, when thiey respond this way — it’s clear to me they are not judging me — but embracing me — and recognizing what’s common about our experiences. Some of these women have become dear dear friends. They’ve helped me enormously by building me a road that travels from ‘whore’ to ‘woman.’

  264. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm |

    Please forgive the mistakes around the block quote above.

    Want to clarify a few of those last sentences:

    “If I discuss being prostituted, they know they’re not going to be judged — and they tell me things they’ve been through. And of course, when they respond this way — ….

  265. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm |

    Cécile: I find it disturbing that someone affiliated with SWOP would be so judgmental toward a prostitute’s narratives of her experiences.

    Thanks Cecile. I agree this is very disturbing. Doesn’t seem like a very welcoming place for a traumatized prostituted woman.

  266. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm |

    Martine Votvik: I wish that these women, used as examples on both sides, were treated more like the complex human beings that they are and less like instruments for group agendas.

    I completely agree with you Martine. I’ve seen myself described as a group agenda on this thread, and that has nothing to do with who I am. I’ve been trying to share who I am here. It’s been very hard. There’ve been a lot o f times I look down and my hands are shaking. Some of the other people commenting on this thread have given me nightmares. It’s felt very dark.

    I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable for me to say, given my experiences, that an organization purporting to help prostituted women should not have been founded by a pimp. I think I should be able to express this without being attacked. And I think if an organization is collecting money that’s supposed to help women in prostitution and they’re telling donors that they’re a nonprofit organization, this should be the truth. If you point out that they’re doing this — that doesn’t make you a bad person.

    I’ve been shocked by the reaction to this — truly, the only appropriate reaction would be, oh my G-d, we made a terrible mistake. So sorry, thank you for pointing it out. We are remedying it now.

    I also think that it’s entirely realistic to expect a pimp or two to be hanging out on this comment board trying to intimidate women who are trying to tell the truth about their experiences in prostitution.

  267. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    matlun: in that case the state is on the side of employers.
    What does that even mean?

    It means that the state is making it easy for the pimps to sexually exploit women. Twenty years ago all the arguments for the legalization of prostitution included the expressed wish to do away with pimps — free prostituted women from them.

    Now the state is legally backing pimps’ businesses.

  268. wl
    wl December 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm |

    Cecile – you corrected yourself, so apparently my speculation was right. No, I don’t have a lot of experience with “high end” stuff, but yes something feels fishy about what Stella Marr is saying, especially since she is affiliated with Melissa Farley, who has no compunctions about that sort of thing.

  269. wl
    wl December 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |

    Anyway, it’s a minor point. What she says about Sweden is also objectively wrong. The point that got buried that I would like to see addressed is why don’t End Demand proponents in the U.S. fight at all for the decriminalization of the sex worker, since it’s what they claim to believe in. All they do is increase penalties on the johns. Which, no, opportunistic serial killers who don’t pay and just murder are not johns. They are serial killers using the stigma of sex work to get away with murder. They think no one cares because society tells them no one cares. But we care, and that’s why we hold vigils to commemorate *his victims specifically*, and all victims generally. You don’t get to co-opt Gary Ridgway’s victims for you crusade against all customers.

  270. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm |

    wl: You don’t get to co-opt Gary Ridgway’s victims

    He was a John. Are you trying to say he wasn’t a John? Because that would be wrong, and you’re making yourself look very bad.

    wl: you crusade against all customers

    Crusade against all customers? Are you serious? I am not on a crusade, I have been sharing myself here, sharing what I think would have made a big postive difference in my life, the Swedish model.

    And I don’t htink I should be attacked for mentioning a serial murderer of prostitutes. In the context of what he was to the prostitutes he murdered: a John.

    I think it’s a sick argument you’re making.

  271. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm |

    wl: why don’t End Demand proponents in the U.S. fight at all for the decriminalization of the sex worker

    End demand people fight for this. Wendy Lyon has already corrected you on this point wl.

  272. LW
    LW December 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm |

    WL’s girlfriend here. (It hardly matters, though, whether I am her girlfriend or just anyone, as my point stands in any case.)

    This discussion is toxic. It’s sad. I want to see it end. Now. I want to see the mods ban delete every new comment that comes in. It’s over, people. There is a novel’s worth of vitriol above this comment, and it’s not doing anyone any good. Let’s quit now.

    It makes me really sad when I see people who should be allies tearing each other down. Unlike WL, I don’t see any reason to question Stella’s story. As a habit I don’t do that, and frankly I’m a little pissed off at WL for doing so. Questioning people’s trauma without some damn good evidence (far beyond “your rates seem slightly high” and “you associate with whose political views I disagree with and whom I dislike”) is not okay. Ever. If there’s a 1% chance that your story is true, Stella, that’s too high of a chance for me to take for how much it would hurt you by questioning it. So while you won’t get an apology from WL, you have mine on her behalf, as much as she doesn’t like that.

    Please understand, however, that when you call her a pimp based on a misinterpretation of her words, you are causing every bit as much harm. That’s not cool. You owe her an apology every bit as much as she owes you one. And going after her because she made an erroneous statement about SWOP’s pending non-profit status is also not cool. Frankly, if that’s all you’ve got going against a rather small grassroots organization – compared with the very well-funded rescue organizations whose politics line up nicely with the political status quo, then you really need to come up with something better. And continuing to slander Robyn Few as being a pimp based on her experience with incredibly unjust laws that led to her arrest is simply unconscionable.

    Stella, you’re not any more likely to get an apology from WL than you are to offer one yourself. And you are not going to win this argument; you and WL are just going to hurt each other and keep on hurting each other until you both can’t take it any more, and everyone involved will be the worse for it. If you believe that there’s even a 1% change that WL is being honest about her history (which I trust fully, of course, but never mind), and if you have had experiences of trauma associated with your own history, and if you claim to care about sex workers, then how dare you question her? How dare you? And the same for Robyn Few. Where do you get the gall?

    This issue is deeply personal to so many people that it’s no wonder it causes so much rancor. But let’s disassemble the circular firing squad we have going. Speak from your own experiences. Take others at their words – especially your political opponents. And knock it off with abusive ad hominem attacks. Everyone. It’s really pissing me off.

    [Don't expect me to elaborate. This is all I care to say in this discussion.]

  273. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm |

    wl: You don’t get to co-opt Gary Ridgway’s victims f

    wl, you’re speaking as if the victims are not women who encountered hell on earth and left this world in terrible pain. You’re speaking as if they’re a political commodity you’re tryiing to own. How could I or anyone ‘co-opt’ these poor murdered women?

  274. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm |

    wl: You don’t get to co-opt Gary Ridgway’s victims

    wl, it’s as if you don’t see these murdered women as people.

  275. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 5:47 pm |

    Stella Marr: You don’t get to co-opt Gary Ridgway’s victims for you crusade against all customers

    You treat Ridgeway’s victims as a commodity someone may or may not possess for political gain. Like Park Place of Boardwalk in a Monopoly Game. And having seized these murdered women, dehumanizing them into political pawns, is your first step to work for the protection of prostituted women? No. You imagine yourself the warrior in an imaginary ‘crusade against customers’ — you’ve demanded these murdered women relingquish you their humanity so you can use them to defend Johns.

  276. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm |

    Please delete previous post — it’s a repeat of what I said before — I didn’t realize those posted.

  277. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm |

    I’m going to take a break. My hands are shaking and this thread is feeling really dark.

  278. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm |

    It’s sad the lengths people will go to bully those who are trying to describe what they experienced in prostitution. It’s sad the a woman who was gang-raped and beaten by pimps is bullied for sharing her thoughts.

  279. wl
    wl December 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm |

    NO. THEY WERE PEOPLE AND THEY WERE LOVED. STOP. JUST STOP.

  280. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    I think more than a few of them didn’t feel they were loved and died feeling the world is a hideous place full of vicious people

  281. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm |

    We need to acknowledge what they went through, the poor darlings.

  282. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 13, 2011 at 6:29 pm |

    Cécile –

    “Even if they never think about this night again (blacked out from too many martinis!), they are legally “bound up” in the sex industry, even with sex workers whose full time job is at an escort agency, simply because the transaction occurred.”

    Yeah, I can totally picture that in a rom com :) But even if I see your point, that was not exactly what I was thinking about when I asked DD.

    Yeah I was reacting to how DD seemed to imply that what she referred to as sex work should be treated as a completely different thing than the the abuse and the trafficking. As if it could be neatly separated from the rest of it. I thought there was a broad understanding across the factions that the “nicer” and “less nicer” (irony) sides of “sex work” are often connected to each other, even if it is as simple as the one creating a marked for the other. Besides women in the trade who are positive to “sex-work” seem to have varied and complex experiences too.

  283. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

    Alexandra: So I don’t know why you say it’s easier to – what – be a victim than to be someone who freely chooses sex work as their occupation. But yeah, I do know that it pisses me off that you had to try to invalidate Stella Marr and me, make us look like we’re just doing what’s easy for us, not doing the hard work of admitting that yeah, actually prostitution was really empowering for us.

    Brava Alexandra. And I think it was extraordinarily brave of you to use your real name — and yes, it shows how breathtakingly seriously you’re taking this discussion. XO

  284. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 13, 2011 at 7:16 pm |

    LW

    Thank you for bringing attention to this. At this point I’m kinda wondering where the moderators are. Though to their credit, this comment tread was quite civil for a long time.

  285. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 13, 2011 at 8:08 pm |

    Stella Marr and Alexandra — you have not deserved the treatment you’ve gotten here; Alexandra in particular, if you are still reading, the prim shaming of you for your anger was the low point for me. This blog and this thread is just one little subworld — there is a whole big cosmos out there that needs you, and your anger, and your stories, and your store of wisdom. Stella Marr, thanks for your courage and how you’ve sustained your and others’ best selves here. Many, many thanks.

  286. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm |

    wl: Cecile – you corrected yourself, so apparently my speculation was right. No, I don’t have a lot of experience with “high end” stuff, but yes something feels fishy about what Stella Marr is saying, especially since she is affiliated with Melissa Farley, who has no compunctions about that sort of thing.

    wl, this makes me angry. I “corrected myself”???! As in, now my narratives match your expectations of what sex workers experience??! Now I “match” your idea of what is “plausible” for a sex worker to earn??

    I am so, so, SO fighting to control my temper right now. Here are a few curt bullet points:

    —wl, you snidely say I corrected myself, yet you totally ignored my requests to substantiate your paternalistic claims that my experiences and Stella’s are “implausible.” I won’t let this color my perception on all of SWOP, but I’m tempted to contact them and send them a link to this thread. I want to ask SWOP if you are speaking out of line with their views on how to interact with sex workers (or, apparently how to “evaluate” sex workers against some secret checklist you seem to be in possession of), or if they might want to figure out who this elusive “wl” is who is, by association, dragging the name of their organization through the mud by behaving in deeply offensive and unfair ways with sex workers.
    —regarding the fees: if you agree that fees are arbitrary, then how the hell can anything be ‘implausible’?? You know what—all it [smothers expletive] takes is for me to find somebody who is willing to pay me $2,000 an hour, and then DO IT, and then it HAPPENED. Whether or NOT you find it ‘plausible.’
    —Fishy? Stella Marr? As you yourself asked Stella Marr: do you have anything to back this up but insinuations? I HOPE you do, and I HOPE you’ll actually respond to me this time. In your response, please address whether or not you doubt that a person could actually be pimped in the way that Stella described… because that’s how I’m reading this.
    —and last but not least, Stella made some excellent points on how we all have good reason to question your legitimacy…

    Stella Marr: The story keeps changing with you wl. First SWOP’ is a nonprofit org. THen it isn’t. Then the board needed to get back to you about this question (and frankly, ANYONE affiliated with the organization should known — you shouldn’t have needed to reach board members), now you are saying ‘took that long for ‘any’ board member to get back to you …. what you say seems to change pretty frequently. And now to add to the mix, we have nelle, who just finished serving a sentence for wire fraud in her business due to a melt down around gender issues saying that she’ll vouch for you. What is one to make of all this?

    Last night I laughed out loud with that last line, but now I’m just shaking with anger, because the reason it was so funny in the first place is because she makes quite a point. (nelle, I apologize to you if everything is as you say.) And especially now with the addition of DD? Random Observer? (both? or which one?)… jumping in and the first thing they feel compelled to do is jump to your defense? Of all the things being said on this thread, that is the top and most passionate priority? (DD, Random Observer, I honestly apologize if I’m legitimately mistaken. To be frank, I think the same person may be authoring wl, and/or DD/Random Observer. Again, please correct me [especially for the sake of everyone else reading] and accept my apologies if I’m wrong… I’ve just had that suspicion, and now wl has crossed a line.) It’s just so odd that there is this sudden, mysterious string of wl’s personal aquaintance[s], ‘random readers’ who find that no one says anything that resonates so much as wl, and now wl’s girlfriend?? I feel like I have some mean babysitter who keeps coming into the room in different disguises and talking in absurd, fake voices…

  287. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 8:20 pm |

    Lizor: And thanks Alexandra for your courage to speak out

    Thanks so much Lizor — I second that ;)

  288. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm |

    Martine Votvik: Yeah, I can totally picture that in a rom com :) But even if I see your point, that was not exactly what I was thinking about when I asked DD.

    *bonks forehead* oh man, I’m sorry Martine. It was fun to write that fantastical rom-com post anyhow ;-) I’m going to leave this board until I’ve cooled off sufficiently, and I will come back to revisit your post as you intended it to be read… for now, I am too wired and upset.

  289. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm |

    Cécile: It’s just so odd that there is this sudden, mysterious string of wl’s personal aquaintance[s], ‘random readers’ who find that no one says anything that resonates so much as wl, and now wl’s girlfriend?? I feel like I have some mean babysitter who keeps coming into the room in different disguises and talking in absurd, fake voices…

    That mean babysitter analogy is brilliant. Good luck with finals C, take good care ;)

  290. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm |

    Cécile: I feel like I have some mean babysitter who keeps coming into the room in different disguises and talking in absurd, fake voices…

    That mean babysitter analogy is brilliant. Good luck with finals C, take good care ;)

  291. wl
    wl December 13, 2011 at 8:34 pm |

    Sigh, can someone from the mods please verify that I have a different IP address than anyone but LW? This is getting beyond ridiculous.

    Also, Cecile, yes, what you said helped contextualize.

    SWOP USA knows who I am. I already linked this thread when I contacted them earlier.

  292. Maia
    Maia December 13, 2011 at 8:48 pm |

    There are more things I want to say – but as the thread has deteriorated I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to continue to have a more theoretical discussion. But I wanted to respond to Caperton:

    I think one of the challenges of this kind of discussion is that the two sides of the issue are in complete opposition and don’t intersect anywhere (and I apologize for the rather clinical choice of words here, but I’m doing my best to remain neutral): To one side, the commodification of sex and women’s bodies is exclusively a bad thing, and thus sex work is universally exploitive, any purchase of sex is abusive, and sex workers are being exploited. To the other side, sex work is transactional, wherein a woman’s sexuality is her possession to sell, and violence and exploitation are perversions of the business structure rather than violations inherent to the act of sex work.

    Because I actually disagree with this. I don’t think that there are two sides with no overlap. I think the debate is incredibly polarised. I think most of the polarisation comes because of the high stakes of the debate around decriminalisation. I sympathize with the urgency this creates for those who are arguing for decriminalisation. I have less sympathy for the urgency of those who disagree – but that’s my bias based on where I stand.

    However, as someone who supports decriminalisation, but disagrees with someof the arguments put forward in support of it. I think there is more overlap than the polarised debate allows. I think the debate on sex work law involves your analysis of work and the state, as well as ‘sex work’ specifically. And I think always focusing on the same aspects of the argument (or every argument getting to the same place) limits the nature of hte debate. Because I think sex-work is exploitative when done as employment (I believe work is exploitative under capitalism) and I still believe in decriminalisation. I just wish there was a way of having more a wider variety of discussions, because I (maybe naievely) genuinely think wider sorts of discussions could change people’s minds.

  293. nelle
    nelle December 13, 2011 at 9:15 pm |

    Yikes! I’m rather amused over how I revealed a few personal facts about me on the way into this post only to have it come spitting back at me. Um, folks…

    http://www.blogher.com/presenting-my-life-students

    Denise Tanton is the community manager at Blogher, and a dear friend. Ask her if she knows me. Not only does she, I was at her 40th b-day party when Melissa Ferrick played privately for us, a group of 25. She kept me armed with books whilst at the camp, well chosen to feed my feminist sensibilities.

    Am I upset you question who I am? No, but I am sort of flabbergasted/amused. Am I by nature prone to dishonesty? Hardly. Cross gender lines, do it whilst married and a parent and self employed, with all the cross trauma generated… I melted, and I have to live with knowing i harmed family, friends, and clients; it isn’t easy.

    I’ve had lots of discussions with wl over the years, on any number of issues. She is passionate, oh so passionate, and we don’t always agree… but whatever subject she immerses herself into, she knows her stuff. It doesn’t always make her right, but then none of us are.

    I asked you all a series of questions, and some of you were quite articulate in your responses. Yet the reason I asked still remains, you have got to find common ground or you will lose ground, no different than the feminist community overall, where we war over stay at home or work out of home parenting, breastfeeding vs bottlefeeding, etc. We need to be able to support each other’s choices.

    If anyone wishes to interact with me privately, you can at nellewrites at comcast dot net or on blogher.

    Now please find your way back to reasoned ground on issues, and not on each other.

    Thank you.

    nelle douville

  294. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 13, 2011 at 9:17 pm |

    Martine Votvik: They might, like I did come to see abuse where they saw fair treatment earlier. I know from painful experience that re-framing your experience can cost you your place in the togetherness if you speak up about it. It can be a very high price to pay if you are vulnerable to begin with.

    This is very wise.

  295. DD
    DD December 13, 2011 at 9:35 pm |

    I can no longer read this thread because it has been hijacked by a known internet troll, “Stella Marr” or “Bedelia”. This poster has been trolling sex worker blogs and communities posting the same story and lies defaming SWOP, for at least a year, if not longer. Along with crazy rhetoric about mafia and pimp conspiracies controlling sex work and sex worker advocacy.

    These are just a few examples of this poster’s trolling commentary:

    http://therumpus.net/2010/12/international-day-to-end-violence-against-sex-workers/

    http://sincerelykellyjames.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/ignorance-of-the-week/

    http://therumpus.net/2011/01/why-are-you-a-prostitute/

    http://www.lauraagustin.com/sex-slavery-the-eros-ignorance

    It is possible to have civil discussions with with those that are against sex work:

    this is but one example:
    A Conversation with Cheryl Strayed, who is against sex work, and Antonia Crane who agitates for sex worker rights, about sex work and feminism.

    This troll “Stella Marr” or “Bedelia” seems to lie in wait, hitting every one of these sex work sites and bulldozing it with inflammatory commentary and anti-sex work propaganda. This troll derails and cuts off any type of honest discussion about sex worker rights and has repeatedly been called out for misrepresenting SWOP and Robyn Few. I’m not denying that some sex workers have been victimized, but not all, not by a long shot. This troll is trying to silence or discredit any experience that doesn’t fall into the victim paradigm.

    I’m hoping this comment gets caught by a mod and not necessarily published. I have been an avid reader of feministe.us/blog for quite some time, even though this is my first time posting.

    I don’t encourage censorship, but this person is truly a troll, IMO, and I hope that feministe.us/blog doesn’t unwittingly provide a platform for an anti-feminist, anti-sex worker nut job.

  296. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 9:35 pm |

    Nelle, I do apologize. Thank you for your graceful response, and you gave some wonderful advice.

    Cécile: I feel like I have some mean babysitter who keeps coming into the room in different disguises and talking in absurd, fake voices…

    Again, I’m going to get offline in a moment, but I’ve cooled off a bit and just came back to say I’m sorry if I’m totally off the mark about my suspicion that whoever is authoring under wl is authoring under any of the names I’d mentioned.

    DD and Random Observer, I think you both have made some really excellent contributions to the thread, no matter who you are. I realize it’s highly ‘PLAUSIBLE’ that I totally overreacted (that “suspicion” came from a sudden emergence of pro-wl comments by new readers whenever she was attacked, chiming in on wl’s points… It’s not something I ever “look for” but something I couldn’t help but noticing as the comments went on…) but at the same time I realize I could be totally, totally wrong. “Mean” and “absurd” in no way were referring to any of the valuable comments written by DD and Random Observer—that was only regarding my suspicion that wl was being manipulative[!] by creating a number of aliases. Sorry if I’ve offended anyone and for causing a stir-up.

  297. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm |

    Cécile: Random Observer, I honestly apologize if I’m legitimately mistaken.

    You are legitimately mistaken. I go by various “handles” around the internets, but I’m only RO here. I don’t know DD or WL.

  298. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm |

    wl: Sigh, can someone from the mods please verify that I have a different IP address than anyone but LW? This is getting beyond ridiculous.

    Also, Cecile, yes, what you said helped contextualize.

    SWOP USA knows who I am. I already linked this thread when I contacted them earlier.

    In fact, I am going to contact SWOP and send this thread. Yet again, you refuse to respond to my questions. I can get over you offending me, but you are making some very dangerous unsubstantiated attacks upon the legitimacy of Stella Marr’s experiences at the hands of unspeakably violent and corrupt pimps, johns, and police officers. Are you suggesting that pimps are “usually nicer and less violent and more considerate and humane and lenient” than Stella’s pimps, and that it isn’t possible that the people who are entrapping and enslaving women in the sex industry against their will can’t ‘plausibly’ be nearly so atrocious and cruel? Since you REFUSE to answer me, all I have are my interpretations.

    If you suspect that Melissa Farley or someone affiliated with her is “posing” as “model-abolitionist-version-of-a-prostitute” Stella Marr, then you should have made the case in a much more ethical way than you did. Because by leaving it at, again, unsubstantiated attacks (other than you disagree with Stella and dislike her viewpoints and are frustrated with things she says), you are doing serious harm to all of the women who are controlled by violence and pimps by calling their situations IMPLAUSIBLE without specifying what you mean exactly.

    I’m very, very angry, wl.

    wl: Also, Cecile, yes, what you said helped contextualize.

    Well I resent it—since you won’t show me the same [smothered outpourof expletives] courtesy.

    The way you have treated Stella and I reflects NON-OUTREACHING contempt, superiority, and lack of esteem for sex workers. As a SWOP affiliate, I’m sure you encounter sex workers all the time who both want to remain in the industry and desperately need help exiting it. I am going to write to SWOP and tell them that I feel your interactions with both of us could seriously harm my feelings and trust in SWOP if they have nothing to say against/in correction of your demeanor. While you remain cold and unengaged with the sex workers on this thread, you’ve shown phenomenal commitment and compassion in defending Robyn Few (which, again, I AGREE with) and yourself. I’ll give you one last chance to respond to me, wl, before I write you off as someone who shows seriously stunted ‘leadership’ in the sex workers community.

  299. Cécile
    Cécile December 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm |

    Random Observer: You are legitimately mistaken. I go by various “handles” around the internets, but I’m only RO here. I don’t know DD or WL.

    Apologies for getting any dirt on your name, Random Observer. I know I can’t ‘redeem’ myself, but I accept your response and take my accusation back.

  300. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    Kathleen @275:

    The point is that you are arguing for political solutions that call for a more strongly interventionist state. (And if governments are really going to crack down on things like escorting, etc, that means kicking down a lot of doors. Do you really want to go there?) Ultimately, my point is that if you’re going to be calling for an increased role for state power, that may or may not be a rightful argument, but you really don’t get to call it anarchist or libertarian anything. Call it state feminism, call it strong socialist democracy, call it neo-Leninism, or whatever. But bending anarchism as a defense of prohibitionist tactics is mauling the idea beyond all recognition. And unfortunately, all too typical of how too many people on the far left really want to call themselves “anarchists” because it sounds so right-on and radical while not actually believing in anything close to it in principal.

    And no, I don’t call myself an anarchist, but I know the basic difference between the authoritarian and libertarian side of the political spectrum and what side of that I fall on. Personally, I find the idea that the only choice is between strong state intervention and a dog-eat-dog free market to be utterly impoverished. I think there are places the state should regulate (eg, macroeconomic forces, environmental policy, relations with other states, workplace safety, etc) and areas the state should stay the fuck out of (eg, regulation of speech, micromanagement of consensual sexual activity (hi, Swedish model!), etc). Your mileage may vary.

  301. nelle
    nelle December 13, 2011 at 10:52 pm |

    Cécile: Nelle, I do apologize. Thank you for your graceful response, and you gave some wonderful advice.

    You are most welcome.

  302. wl
    wl December 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm |

    Gosh, it’s almost like I talk to my friends and loved ones about the things that affect me deeply and some of them (and some random strangers, I don’t know RO and DD) will defend me.

  303. DD
    DD December 13, 2011 at 11:37 pm |

    @Cecile @ 314

    Thank you for stepping back, re-thinking and coming back to post this. Obviously, this is an issue I am very passionate about, but I will try to temper my tone. I think some of us fired on the SWOP Robyn Few defamation, because this was an activist who genuinly sought to help other sex workers in a positive way, and ended up a victim of criminalization. The intentional misrepresentation, of a well known and respected activist, as a pimp, only adds more misinformation to the sex worker conversation. Not that you engaged in this Cecile, just that – speaking for myself – is what initially fired me up.

    Nia: I know many women who have used to sex work to improve their lives. I’m not trying to minimize Stella’s or Alexandria’s experience, but do not define a whole industry by their experience…. I would like to also broaden the sex worker definition; sex worker describes anyone who engages non-coerced sexual commerce, such as: porn performers, exotic dancers, escorts, cam girls, professional dominas, etc.

    This.

    I’m glad to work in sex work, personally. I think it’s awful when poverty and limited life choices push people into work situations they don’t wish to be in. I can understand how that would be extremely traumatizing. It doesn’t make what I do, and enjoy doing, evil and wrong.

    Poverty is, and always has been, the problem. Not sex workers. Not sex work.

    I have yet to see a single conversation re: sex work on Feministe, or really any “feminist” blog, be useful. I do see a space for a whole lot of whorephobia, and radical second wave feminists whose legacy doesn’t do a whole lot to help women like me, and a lot to hurt.

    Sorry if this comes off angry. It’s been hard to read these conversations, get up the guts to participate, be shot down by people who have never lived a life like mine, and then participate again. It’s hard to hear, again and again, that feminism is for me because I’m a woman, and then realize that what’s called feminism doesn’t actually help me. It is so alienating. It is so painful. After years and YEARS of reproductive freedom, welfare rights, and anti-rape / violence activism, it is so painful to be defamed, again and again, as a ‘whore engaged in that evil industry.’

    Feminism… eh, I no longer know where I stand on it.

    I hear you Nia and thank you for sharing your experience. I have always felt that what kept some women trapped in sex work is their relationship with money, not their relationship with sex, which is a common misconception.

    @ Martine Votvik @299

    Yeah I was reacting to how DD seemed to imply that what she referred to as sex work should be treated as a completely different thing than the the abuse and the trafficking. As if it could be neatly separated from the rest of it. I thought there was a broad understanding across the factions that the “nicer” and “less nicer” (irony) sides of “sex work” are often connected to each other, even if it is as simple as the one creating a marked for the other. Besides women in the trade who are positive to “sex-work” seem to have varied and complex experiences too.

    I do think there needs to be a big distinction between trafficking, abusive, coerced sexual commerce and sex work that is consensual. The issue of consent and freedom of choice in determining the nature of your work is HUGE; compared to being coerced, abused and exploited. One is part of the rescue industry and the other is NOT. Attempting to ‘rescue’ someone when they are not victims, is disempowering and adds stigma to their choice to work in the sex industry. Just as Nia explained in her experience.

    I agree that there are degrees of “nice” and “not so nice” in sex work, trafficked and abuse victims do not even fall on this spectrum, however, because they can not consent. You are right those of us who are positive to the trade do have varied complex experiences. Listen to us, if you want to understand our experiences and the issues we face; not to those who only seek to judge or discredit our choices and deny our experiences.

  304. wl
    wl December 13, 2011 at 11:46 pm |

    DD: One is part of the rescue industry and the other is NOT.

    The rescue industry has NOT been good for trafficking victims either.

  305. DD
    DD December 14, 2011 at 12:59 am |

    wl: The rescue industry has NOT been good for trafficking victims either.

    Oh I very much agree, I’m re-reading this thread and I will feel very bad if I am wrong, but it’s starting to stink like Alexa DiCarlo up in here, just the Annie Lobért version.

    Stella Marr @288

    I’d like to address how shocked I am by how people on this board have addressed Alexandra. Here we have a painfully young woman who describes how reading ‘feminist’ interpretations of prostitution made her think it would be a great thing for her to do. And the nightmare of what prostitution was traumatized her terribly. She expressed quite understandable anger at those who propagate this message.

    And everyone ignored her except Kathleen, Cecile and me. This is a girl with a ‘Virginia Woolf’ quality intellect. A young woman we should all be encouraging. I think one of the responsibilities of anyone who’s a feminist older than 26 is to listen to and look out for younger women, especially when they are describing one of their life’s nightmares.

    I’m sorry but this is not even close to reality. The part about ‘Virginia Woolf’ quality intellect? whoa
    Alexandra was duped into sex work by “feminist” interpretations portrayed by Pretty Women and Firefly ?

    Alexandra: Really?Really?

    So I don’t know why you say it’s easier to – what – be a victim than to be someone who freely chooses sex work as their occupation. But yeah, I do know that it pisses me off that you had to try to invalidate Stella Marr and me, make us look like we’re just doing what’s easy for us, not doing the hard work of admitting that yeah, actually prostitution was really empowering for us.

    You are twisting my words. I never said being a victim was easier, just that it is more acceptable to be a victim of the sex industry, than someone who chooses sex work. Which I think is evidenced by your fear of exposure and judgment you expressed below:

    I have spent the last couple years of my life terrified of people finding out what I did when I was eighteen, terrified that someone would identify me, call me a whore, look at me with revulsion and turn me away.

    Which kind of contradicts with this:

    But I grew up watching Firefly and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, and both shows make sex work look like a great way to make a living, if that’s your thing.

  306. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 14, 2011 at 2:55 am |

    Personally I’m not out to ‘rescue’ anyone, I know a whole lot of awesome women that are passionate about doing so though, at different levels of society. I am aware like wl mentions that there are people out there doing more harm than good, but it’s not a unanimous movement and attitudes towards the women vary greatly.

    I am out to change the world though… I’m a anticapitalist, anti hierarchy rad fem and I’m passionate about it. I realize that the full scope of my beliefs aren’t always helpful in discussions with people, so I usually try to stick with what is relevant and listen more than I speak.

    DD –
    I also believe that there is a big distinction. I do however also believe that the two can be intimately connected. Just like the trade is intimately connected to the rest of the world around it. Oh, it’s so tempting to go into a long rant about how I believe the trade is influencing the world around it and vice-versa, but probably not relevant right here.

  307. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy December 14, 2011 at 3:27 am |

    “I have always felt that what kept some women trapped in sex work is their relationship with money, not their relationship with sex, which is a common misconception.”

    This is an interesting point. And in my personal experience in the sex industry, I have not experienced physical or sexual coercion by pimps, but I do consider myself a victim of economic/financial coercion. Meaning that I perform sexual labor in order to eat/pay rent. I experience this as nonconsensual, although I’m sure it doesn’t look like violence to an outside observer. I have not been through what Stella has, or Alexandra. At the same time, I can’t say my participation in the industry has ever been “freely” chosen, but rather based on survival needs.

    I also agree with the commenter who mentioned de-stigmatizing victimhood. Being a victim – either of sexual violence or of economic coercion – is not shameful or wrong. It has to stop being a dirty word, something that people feel compelled to distance themselves from, something that is so terrible that we have to pretend it’s imaginary.

  308. Maia
    Maia December 14, 2011 at 6:52 am |

    Matlun

    Yes. The point I was trying to make is that this may not really matter for this discussion. The question is in what significant way sex work different from other work. Not which how you view work in general.

    Exactly which legal and/or societal frameworks we want to guard against worker exploitation is a different and complex discussion. (For example: Is outside legal regulation or support for strong unions the best approach?)

    I think it’s probably really clear from everything that I’ve said on this thread how I come down on your question in parentheses. What I find frustrating is that you can’t know how people’s views about sex work are different from their views about other employment – without first finding out what people’s views on work are. So to assume, based on a stated opinion that someone believes that sex work is different from other work – is to really assume and normalise a really narrow view of work. Which is something that I find both como

    Kahtleen

    Maia — I am not sure I understood your question, but I take it to mean something like, how can we expect the state to get anything right, given that it is run by authoritarian jerks? I actually think this is a great point, if this is what your point was. If you read what anarchists have to say about it, they talk a lot about “building a new society within the shell of the old”. I think the Swedish model is more of a step in that direction than the Australian / NZ model championed here (which, pardon me, just puts the force of the state on the side of employers) but either model faces that problem, absolutely..

    That was the basis of what I was asking. I disagree with your analysis of anarchism – which has to also be about the problems with state power.

    Like Matlun – I don’t understand why you are arguing decriminalisation puts the state on the side of the employers. I think it’s important to understand that fundamentally all decriminalisation does is change how much the police are involved in the industry. There are other changes around the edges (and most to the good – I’ve mentioned some in this thread – but nothing transformative). There are different arms of the state, obviously, and the police not being involved theoretically means other areas of the state find it easier to get involved (like Inland revenue or Occupational Health and Safety – just kidding only one of those will actually do anything and they have special categories for people earning money illegally) some of which are on employers side in various strcutrual ways. But you can’t be arguing the state is on the side of everything it doesn’t criminalise.

    You could argue that the Swedish model puts the state in opposition to employers (which isn’t the same as aruging that the NZ model sides the state with employers). But there’s still the question of how that state power gets used, and the effect it has on people’s lives. Let alone the question that Nia raised and end demand ignores – even if you succeed in ending demand through coercion – you still have women in poverty – you haven’t added options just taken things away.

    Making a new world in the shell of the old (which I’m more about the ashes myself – but I’ll go with) has to involve sex-workers not be something that those outside do to them. The way to do that is to support sex-worker organising – and organising to improve the ecnomic position of women (and other marginalised groups) more generally so that fewer people are forced in by poverty.

    DD

    I believe there is a profoundly obvious structural pattern; those who are coerced into the industry and victimized, and those who enter the industry of their own free will.

    I’ve seen this dichotomy a lot in this thread, and it bothers me – because it sets up agency and choice on one side and victimisation and coercion on the other – as if they were opposites, and I really don’t believe they are. For most people there is economic coercion involved in work. We need to work to earn enough money to live. That doesn’t mean that there’s no free-will involved – the whole problem of navigating life on a deeply unjust planet is figuring out what’s best for is about figuring out what’s best for you under a set of limited circumstances. I believe that people are the best and only decision makers in their own lives. But free will and coercion can exist in the same space. We are all making decisions between deeply limited choices.

    I’m perfectly open to criticisms of capitalism. What I reject are arguments that sex workers should be uniquely immune to the constraints and limitations of a capitalist society and shoulder the burden of fighting capitalism to a greater degree than other workers. Sex work is no more and no less a capitalist evil than any other form of work.

    Obviously I agree with this. The question is when people who talk about the nature of owrk in general or sex work in particular are making arguments about what individuals should do in that situation. And often I find in this debate there is an assumption of a really simplistic connection between the two.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “in some extent”. I haven’t seen anyone deny that exploitation occurs, merely that all sex work is by definition exploitation or that all employers are exploitative.

    To be honest I can’t make sense of that sentence either – I think I was tired when I wrote it.

    It is the denials that sex work is by definition exploitative (well I’d add in an employment situation in there) or that all employers are exploitative that I find really hard to engage with without getting pulled into a circular conversation. I can understand the importance of differentienting between the experience of being exploited, and structural analyses of exploitation. I know that arguments about criminalising sex-work rely heavily on experiential ideas about exploitation and reduce everyone’s experiences down to that.

    However, structural analysis of exploitation is really important to me. The argument about work being exploitation of labour is neither new nor would I think it should be assumed to be outside acceptable discourse on a feminist blog. I’m not saying that I’m assuming that anyone else agrees with it. But it’s very easy to think that sex work is exploitative, without thinking it should be illegal, or that it’s any different from other work. And I often see arguments that read like people are saying: If you say that sex-work is by nature exploitative, then you are supporting criminalisation. And since I obviously don’t – I think decoupling ideas is useful – even if it’s only in persuading people who share my analysis that they should support de-criminalisation.

    I also agree with the commenter who mentioned de-stigmatizing victimhood. Being a victim – either of sexual violence or of economic coercion – is not shameful or wrong. It has to stop being a dirty word, something that people feel compelled to distance themselves from, something that is so terrible that we have to pretend it’s imaginary.

    I completely agree with this. But part of this is being able to say that you’ve been victimised and still be treated as a full human being. I see so many anti sex work feminists treating the women they use to back up their arguments for criminalisation with the greatest disrespect.

    I find this a frustrating response to what bpbetsy said. I raised the issue of victimisation as I felt Wendy wasn’t questioning the stigmatisation of victimisation – just advocating ‘balance’ because of it (and I don’t understand what that means – particularly when the argument of her post is that we don’t know what the reality of people’s experiences are. How can we find ‘balance’?). And you immediately turn to what supporters of criminalisation do. I get that it’s a long thread, and probably this history is completely lost by this point, and you were free associating (which I do too). But if any criticism of arguments from someone who supports decriminalisation – even from someone else who supports decriminalisation – is turned to what those who support criminalisation are doing – then really awful arguments go unchecked (and I think ‘victimisation is stigmatised and therefore we must be ‘balanced’ in the discussion of victimisation in group X’ is a flawed and damaging argument).

  309. Cécile
    Cécile December 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm |

    Everyone, I’m leaving this thread now and here are my closing comments:

    DD, due to the delays that go along with comment moderation, I’ve just read your post #313 now about “Stella Marr/Bedelia” and the known trolling. Thank you for sharing that information. I’m sorry to you too for my misguided suspicions.

    Whether Stella is actually speaking from the depths of her heart and is just totally locked in the mindset that (to quote Caperton’s description of the viewpoint) “commodification of sex and women’s bodies is exclusively a bad thing, and thus sex work is universally exploitive, any purchase of sex is abusive, and sex workers are being exploited”—or whether she is motivated by trolling/propagandistic purposes, the fact remains that her story (all of her editorial, and yes, often propagandistic, comments aside) represents a reality. While the truth (but who will ever know) may ultimately be that wl is a victim of an insincere agenda pushed by an internet troll on this board, I still stand by my objection to the following demeanor of wl:

    wl: I’m not “being kind” to you Stella, because your story is implausible

    Repeatedly, I made some very fair requests of wl, not for my sake or for Stella’s, but for the sake of ‘public understanding’ and all victims of pimps, to explain what she meant.

    Cécile: I never got that sense—can you elaborate on what you mean and why?

    Cécile: you totally ignored my requests to substantiate your paternalistic claims that my experiences and Stella’s are “implausible”…do you have anything to back this up but insinuations? I HOPE you do, and I HOPE you’ll actually respond to me this time. In your response, please address whether or not you doubt that a person could actually be pimped in the way that Stella described… because that’s how I’m reading this.

    And yet they still stand ignored. So, I certainly still stand by this next point, because this isn’t about Stella or me or wl, it’s about the people who live/have lived experiences like Stella has described:
    *(…which, honestly, very well could legitimately include Stella—I’ll never be able to ‘decide.’ The information she has given about trauma treatments and therapies still makes me unsure if the alias is an ‘internet troll’ or a deeply scarred person whose traumatized state keeps her latched onto seeking out forums to voice her experiences and beliefs, since trauma can keep people latched on and obsessed in exactly such ways)

    Cécile: I can get over you offending me, but you are making some very dangerous unsubstantiated attacks upon the legitimacy of Stella Marr’s experiences at the hands of unspeakably violent and corrupt pimps, johns, and police officers. Are you suggesting that pimps are “usually nicer and less violent and more considerate and humane and lenient” than Stella’s pimps, and that it isn’t possible that the people who are entrapping and enslaving women in the sex industry against their will can’t ‘plausibly’ be nearly so atrocious and cruel? Since you REFUSE to answer me, all I have are my interpretations.

    If you suspect that Melissa Farley or someone affiliated with her is “posing” as “model-abolitionist-version-of-a-prostitute” Stella Marr, then you should have made the case in a much more ethical way than you did. Because by leaving it at, again, unsubstantiated attacks (other than you disagree with Stella and dislike her viewpoints and are frustrated with things she says), you are doing serious harm to all of the women who are controlled by violence and pimps by calling their situations IMPLAUSIBLE without specifying what you mean exactly.

    And, as a ‘real’ former sex worker and person who has gotten swept up in this board in the midst of a very stressful week a the end of the semester, (I went home last night after this mess and had to make myself a drink specifically to slow down my frenzied sympathetic nervous system) I have to say that I am deeply offended and even hurt that wl has not shown me any courtesy or respect by answering my questions. Since she works with SWOP, I find this especially disappointing. I’m not trying to flash off any “tragedy porn,” but sex workers are a minority who are already largely ignored and invalidated and not treated with respect… I feel I have been treated in such a way by wl. I think I was very patient in trying to engage this point with her (you can see the downward spiral playing out in the comments for god’s sake…) and I’m upset that apparently my ‘irrationality’ ‘obnoxiousness’ ‘implausibility’ (??who knows, any of the above), apparently made me not worth answering, despite having directly requested answers to some perfectly legitimate and important questions.

    Because of this, I don’t feel good here.

  310. Wendy
    Wendy December 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm |

    Stella:

    And Wendy your comments regarding my logical equations of your statements are weak — more an attempt to dissemble than deal with the meat and potatoes of the argument.

    I’m not going to engage in an argument where my words are deliberately misquoted because the other person would rather argue with something they admit to knowing I didn’t actually say.

    Wendy this is a distortion of the results of the study. This is what the study states: The level of acceptance towards others paying for sex is considerably higher than the level of acceptance expressed towards the idea of doing so oneself.

    Yes, it says that, but that’s not all that it says. It also says “Attitudes towards selling sex have become more accepting … Since 2004, there has been an increase in the proportion of students in Year 3 of further education who express positive attitudes towards the issue of providing sex in return for some form of payment.”

    End demand people fight for this. Wendy Lyon has already corrected you on this point wl.

    I don’t think that I addressed the issue of anti-sex work campaigners in the US.

    Maia:

    I felt Wendy wasn’t questioning the stigmatisation of victimisation

    I would certainly not disagree that sex workers should not have to feel stigmatised by being portrayed as victims. But the reality is that many of them do – a few have posted to that effect on this thread. I don’t think we can just ignore this and say, well in an ideal world you wouldn’t feel that way anyway. Especially when there is ample evidence from the study of stigma (extending far beyond sex workers) that it tends to be self-perpetuating.

    I don’t understand what that means – particularly when the argument of her post is that we don’t know what the reality of people’s experiences are. How can we find ‘balance’?

    I don’t mean that we say x % of sex workers are victims and x % aren’t, I mean that we recognise that experiences within the sex industry are diverse instead of putting forward a completely one-sided portrayal. Not really sure what is confusing about that TBH.

  311. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm |

    I’m sorry but this is not even close to reality. The part about ‘Virginia Woolf’ quality intellect? whoa
    Alexandra was duped into sex work by “feminist” interpretations portrayed by Pretty Women and Firefly ?

    Who’s twisting whose words now? I never said that I thought Pretty Woman or Firefly was feminist, I said they were positive mainstream portrayals of prostitution, AND I said that I was swayed by feminist pro-sex work arguments. Don’t speak to me like I’m an idiot.

  312. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm |

    DD: I’m sorry but this is not even close to reality. The part about ‘Virginia Woolf’ quality intellect? whoa
    Alexandra was duped into sex work by “feminist” interpretations portrayed by Pretty Women and Firefly ?

    This is so meanspirited. Alexandra’s Virginia Woolf quality intellect is quite apparent to me. But perhaps to those who don’t value brilliance as I do, such things are hard to discern. It says alot about this blog and our moderator that such cyberbullying is allowed, especially the bullying of someone so young, who’s spoken of something that hurt her and is using her real name. I think it’s pretty sick to tolerate such behavior.

    I’m not engaging with wl or responding to their posts. But I do have to say something about such creepiness in an online ‘feministe’ forum.

    Alexandra, I know you’re strong and you can take care of yourself.

    I’m just so disgusted by this bullying that I have to say something.

    Wendy: I’m not going to engage in an argument where my words are deliberately misquoted because the other person would rather argue with something they admit to knowing I didn’t actually say.

    Or perhaps you’re not going to respond to the logical equation because I’m right, so it’s pretty hard to defend what you said when you approach the logic of it and apply it someone besides prostitutes.

    My whole point was to write what you said applied to all women rather than prostitutes . That was the point of my exercise so it shouldn’t shock that this is what I did. I think I deserve a response. I am looking at how your arguments would sound if you made them about all women rather than prostitutes. When we apply what you say to all women rather than just to prostitutes, some of your statements seem outrageous.

    For example, to paraphrase what you said –you were saying you didn’t like it that people talked about the level of violence in prostitution — and you wanted to label people who did this as causing harm. So you essential said :if we publicize the level of sexual violence women in prostitution experience, women in prostitution are more likely to become the victims of sexual violence.

    Yes, you were making petty, unsubstantiated argumens that the data about sexual violence, and what you thought of it’s quality. And your conclusion was to label people speaking the truth about what they’d found as harmful.

    But let’s say there was a similar issue with rape statistics. Let’s say the same thing about women and rape. If you found petty, insubstantial problems with rape statistics, would you say those publicizing the rates of rape were harming women?

    You said something along the of: If we say all are victims (speaking of women in prostitution), they are more likely to be victimized.

    Let’s try that with rape. Let’s say that some data has shown that every women is vulnerable to rape — just as study after study has revealed that most prostitutes have been raped, beaten, and have the same level of trauma as the victims of state sponsored tortured.

    We can take your statement end plug in vulnerable to rape for victim.

    If we say all are vulnerable to rape, we are making it more likely that they will be raped.

    There’s a major logical problem with this. And it reveals that prostituted women are seen as some kind of special class — where we can say outrageous things in order to suppress data about the harm they experience.

    There’d be no shame in saying what you said was a mistake, for what it’s worth.

  313. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm |

    It was wrong of me to use the word petty Wendy, please forgive me — it’s just that when you’re saying thatt it’s harmful to publicize the statistics of sexual violence prostituted women experience, I think of my sisters who are still in the life and how suppression of such statstics could harm them.

  314. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 14, 2011 at 3:46 pm |

    Wendy: I don’t think that I addressed the issue of anti-sex work campaigners in the US.

    No one we are discussing here is an anti-sex work campaigner. But you were discussing the end demand folks in the UK and Europe. wl had implied they were campaigning to criminalize prostituted women, and you corrected this. Way up thread. Since the End Demand platforms the same in Europe, the UK and the US, your correction still seemed relevant.

    But you seem to find fault with this. Are you saying that the US End Demand folks — the people who believe the Swedish model is the best way to prevent women from experiencing the sexual violence of prostitution — are actively campaigning to criminalize prostituted women in the USA? I don’t think you’d say that.

    For what it’s worth, I read your thesis on prostitution and the human right to health. Although we disagree about a lot (indeed, the Swedish model could be argued to be furthering the human right to health much more effectively than the model that makes it legal to be a pimp and profit from women’s bodies) — I very much appreciated your focus on the well being of the prostituted. And it was quite well-written.

    Though for what it’s worth, I don’t think the Swedish model discourages condom use. Some men insist on condoms, but many will physically compel you not to use one. The problem isn’t condoms, it’s the men.

  315. Cécile
    Cécile December 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm |

    No, one last thing: I was reviewing comments starting at the top of this thread. Stella is not a troll. Stella is a real person who has been speaking out about the horrors she lived through. She has been engaging in passionate, devoted debate consistent to HER cause based upon HER experiences which shaped HER ideology. (I hope you can make room for the rest of us someday too: we all deserve freedom, rights, and protection – I believe it is possible to achieve these things for everyone)

    Stella, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I doubted you, and participated in silencing you by speculating that you might be a ‘troll.’

    I wish you total healing someday, and health and happiness always.

    DD: I think some of us fired on the SWOP Robyn Few defamation, because this was an activist who genuinly sought to help other sex workers in a positive way, and ended up a victim of criminalization.

    DD, thank you for this too.

    Everyone here has very powerful ideas and very powerful ways of expressing them. I hope everyone can continue (or learn to) do so while always making sure to never infringe upon others who believe differently. I will continue to find other ways to advocate for sex workers rights – I know there are many people and organizations out there who want to do so while making sure to support all non-violent parties in the sex industry.

    “Peace & Love” – Happy early International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

  316. Cécile
    Cécile December 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm |

    I have such horrible timing with posting on here… I see you’ve come back to continue speaking out for yourself, Stella, and I’m so glad. I hope you can forgive me and I’m sorry for any pain I’ve caused you.

  317. Cécile
    Cécile December 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm |

    Cécile: I believe that these ideas fight for the sake of women who are both in the industry by choice and those who aren’t. I want you and I and everyone else to have all the rights, freedoms, and protections as we have when we are ‘just another person on the street.

  318. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    Cécile: I hope you can forgive me and I’m sorry for any pain I’ve caused you.

    Don’t worry about it darling. No big deal. Just make sure you take good care of yourself, and protect the space around you and your final exams.

  319. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy December 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm |

    “Haven’t you discussed on other threads being the victim of physical abuse and assault by clients?”

    I have performed nonconsensual sexual services for abusive clients/johns, but was never assaulted by pimps as Stella Marr described. I was trying to differentiate my experiences from hers out of respect for what she went through.

    “Sex work is no more and no less a capitalist evil than any other form of work.”

    Yes and no. I think of capitalism as a system where certain classes of people have to perform labor in exchange for the materials to survive. (Your definition may vary). Coerced labor of any type is certainly problematic, but coerced *sexual labor* is tantamount to rape.

  320. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    Cécile: (I went home last night after this mess and had to make myself a drink specifically to slow down my frenzied sympathetic nervous system)

    Cecile, you need to take special care of yourself right now, during finals. The end of the semester, your grades for the semester are so important. You are so important. Keep your eyes on the prize — a semester’s worth of good grades. Take care of yourself — this board will probably still be going when you’re done lol. Wishing you well.

  321. wl
    wl December 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm |

    Cecile – I can’t check this thread every minute of every day. But I already answered your questions. Yes, I think people can be victimized by violent pimps, MYSELF included if you read the thread. That’s part of the reason I doubt Stella’s story. This is something I’ve been out about to my fellow sex worker rights activists for some time if you care to verify, since you’re apparently already in contact with SWOP over this thread. SWOP is all volunteer by the way – I’m not getting “fired” or kicked out from something I devote pretty much all my energies and time to, where yes my leadership qualities are appreciated. If anyone at SWOP besides me cares to even read this monster thread, if they subsequently want to somehow punish me I’ll eat my hat. If they want to show me some love and support after dealing with this horriible troll with a history of trolling, that will be more in line with what I know of them as people.

  322. wl
    wl December 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm |

    DD – Alexa DiCarlo, the Annie Lobert version. That’s hilarious.

  323. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm |

    bpbetsy: Coerced labor of any type is certainly problematic, but coerced *sexual labor* is tantamount to rape.

    Brava Betsy!

  324. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 14, 2011 at 6:28 pm |

    bpbetsy: I have performed nonconsensual sexual services for abusive clients/johns,

    Sorry you went through this bpbetsy.

  325. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 14, 2011 at 6:32 pm |

    bpbetsy — if this is too personal you don’t need to answer — but I was wondering how you are dealing with the aftermath of that …

  326. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm |

    and more importantly, how you are doing in the aftermath of that

  327. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy December 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm |

    Well it’s hard to say there is an “aftermath” because whenever I’m short on money I know it’s my only real “safety net” (ironic!) or way to catch up. So it’s just something I know awaits me in the future, unless of course I suddenly become rich as a teacher.

    Decriminalization is important to me too – because I won’t be able to get a “legit” job (especially as a teacher, what I want to do) with a prostitution arrest on record.

  328. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    Cécile: Apologies for getting any dirt on your name, Random Observer. I know I can’t ‘redeem’ myself, but I accept your response and take my accusation back.

    No worries!

  329. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm |

    http://deepthroated.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/melissa-farley-sends-someone-to-the-naked-anthropologist-to-rant/

    With the above link, I don’t mean to imply that I don’t think Stella Marr isn’t for real and speaking from genuine experiences when she writes about her expericnes in the sex industry. But the degree that she’s also being an internet presence for Melissa Farley (who has a history of internet posting via third parties) needs to be acknowledged. *Especially* the attacks on Robyn Few, which reflects Farley’s Ahab-like obsession with Few more than anything.

  330. Donna L
    Donna L December 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm |

    Random Observer: an internet presence for Melissa Farley

    In lists of prominent “anti-prostitution” activists, among the names mentioned most often together with Melissa Farley’s are Julie Bindel, Janice Raymond, and Sheila Jeffreys. Just wondering: does she share that other thing with them as well?

  331. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm |

    disagreement = trolling? whut?

  332. wl
    wl December 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm |

    Kathleen – see comment 313.

  333. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 15, 2011 at 12:08 am |

    Donna L @349:

    “In lists of prominent “anti-prostitution” activists, among the names mentioned most often together with Melissa Farley’s are Julie Bindel, Janice Raymond, and Sheila Jeffreys. Just wondering: does she share that other thing with them as well?”

    If you’re talking about transphobia, that doesn’t seem to be a major obsession of Farley’s, unlike the other three. She is, of course, cut from the same second-wave radfem cloth as the other three and I wouldn’t be surprised if she shares those beliefs, but it’s not an area she focuses on – she’s mostly an anti-sexwork, and occasionally anti-porn activist. She’s written a piece attacking BDSM as well: http://www.antipornography.org/sadomasochism.html

  334. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 15, 2011 at 2:57 am |

    Isn’t it time for this tread to be closed on the grounds of haven gone seriously off topic?

    “She is, of course, cut from the same second-wave radfem cloth as the other three”

    As am I more or less, but I don’t deserve slandering because of it. Any more than any of those women deserve to be attributed with a hateful agenda when all they have done is critically investigate things. Is there such a thing as too much knowledge? I am fully aware that their publications can be used in other peoples ‘actual hateful agendas’, but the same can be said for a lot of research and is not a reason to stop doing said research.

  335. EG
    EG December 15, 2011 at 3:46 am |

    Martine Votvik: Any more than any of those women deserve to be attributed with a hateful agenda when all they have done is critically investigate things.

    I do not know the work of Janice Raymond, but Julie Bindel and Sheila Jeffreys have done far more than investigate things when it comes to transphobia. They have been quite active in writing pieces in mainstream publications in the UK advocating the rejection, hatred, and pathologization of transwomen as part of feminism, I believe.

  336. Ingrid Nevin
    Ingrid Nevin December 15, 2011 at 4:33 am |

    I have been reading this thread first with relief that a dialogue was actually happening, then with increasing sadness.

    I am a former sex worker with approximately six years in the industry, who has also been reading a lot throughout this time too, trying to understand the diversity of experiences. What I have mostly seen is many choices that people make in an economically constrained world, looking for best options available for them that usually work, with varied success. At the same time, I have talked to a woman in person who has been deeply hurt by prostitution and felt that her soul was ripped with every client, and I knew a usually cheerful young woman who eventually broke down and said how being with clients sometime made her relive the abuse by her father. This makes me extra sensitive to stories like Alexandra’s and Stella Marr’s.

    Having said that, from my readings over the years, many people on the sex work rights perspective write about deeply ambivalent or purely hurtful experiences in the industry, including some participants in this thread – but still believe that decriminalization, rights, and harm reduction approach is best for the people who are benefited and harmed by the sex industry and everything in between. And in conversations like these, they don’t highlight those experience, they mention them in passing – and as the result, they don’t get acknowledged. There has been a lot of empathy and support expressed for Alexandra and Stella – well deserved and necessary, certainly! But has any person expressing support for them, do the same for WL’s admission of being victimized by a violent pimp in comments 267 and 341? Well, I did not see it.

    At the same time, while acknowledging respect and empathy for Stella’s experience, I also understand why her actions have been labelled as trolling. As indicated in comment 313, she was coming to to many places to accuse SWOP and Robyn Few and was provided feedback about that many times by other actual sex workers who have been working with SWOP. It is one thing to hold different views about what strategy (Swedish or New Zealand model) is preferable, it is another to continue with public defamation while being completely blind to multiple people saying your information is wrong and giving you proof of that. So if they come across as not empathetic to Stella, it may be due to being tired of having to reflect her unsubstantiated accusations again. And again. And again. With no end in sight.

    Martine Votvik: As am I more or less, but I don’t deserve slandering because of it. Any more than any of those women deserve to be attributed with a hateful agenda when all they have done is critically investigate things. Is there such a thing as too much knowledge? I am fully aware that their publications can be used in other peoples ‘actual hateful agendas’, but the same can be said for a lot of research and is not a reason to stop doing said research.

    The critique of Farley that I have read mostly comes from Bound Not Gagged blog on quality and ethics of Farley’s research and Jill Brenneman, who had experienced horrible abuse at the hands of a sadistic pimp, and for a while, was holding abolitionist views and working with Farley. I know if I post links, my comment will be stuck in moderation queue forever, but you can google her name and one of the first 4 links is the interview on Honest Courtesan where she discusses her experiences in detail and the emotional harm Farley inflicted on her. Searching for Farley critique on Bound Not Gagged also brings up a lot of posts on her methodology and an official complaint with APA launched against her for breaches of research ethics.

  337. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 15, 2011 at 6:13 am |

    Martine –

    Excuse me, but somebody asked a straightforward question in response to one of my posts about Farley and transphobia, and I answered it to the best of my knowledge. In fact, I said that she hasn’t come across as particularly transphobic, especially given the ideology she comes out of. And yes, sorry, but transphobia is about as central to radical feminist ideology of that era as antiporn, anti-BDSM, and the rest of it. In fact, it is unfortunately the rare exception even among the current generation of radical feminists that they reject trans-hate.

    Sorry that you’re so offended by a criticism of an *ideology* that you want the whole conversation shut down, something I find pretty offensive, actually.

  338. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 15, 2011 at 6:17 am |

    Ingrid Nevin –

    Thank you.

    I wont argue with anyone criticizing methodology, mainly because I don’t know enough about Farley’s actual methodology to agree or disagree at this point. I’m more familiar with Julie Bindel personally. When it comes to Sheila Jeffreys I’m not sure how I really feel about how she goes about what she is doing, but being a radfem it feels moronically ironic to criticize people for the way their aggressive, confrontational behavior reflects badly on the rest of us…

    But, while I’m willing to listen to complaints about methodology and abusive behavior, I don’t have any patience for attempts to shut people up by establishing one group as “the horrible ones” and then suggesting that they belong in this group and that therefor their opinions/experience/knowledge are/is invalid. I won’t defend Stella Marr in attacking Robyn Few either, if you’re gonna make such claims Marr you should have the evidence to back it up.

    We are all hoping and working for a better world here. I hope we can come to realize that these discussions are also part of creating that new world between us and that our choices in how we deal with each other has actual consequences for how it is going to look like.

  339. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 15, 2011 at 6:31 am |

    Random Observer –

    actually when I wanted the discussion to shut down it was mainly because of Stella and WL. I feel like the moderators should have stepped up at one point, but they didn’t.

    As a young radfem who’s trying to be open to how other people experience of the world I wont hesitate to admit that there are times when I feel bothered by the discourse surrounding especially anti-BDSM and trans criticism. Maybe my own insecurity about this is contributing to me feeling a bit defensive about it.

    The end line on that matter is. I do identify something problematic with these issues. I’ll keep educating myself and we’ll see how it works out.

  340. Wendy
    Wendy December 15, 2011 at 9:21 am |

    For example, to paraphrase what you said –you were saying you didn’t like it that people talked about the level of violence in prostitution

    You’re still misquoting me and expecting me to engage with your “paraphrase” of what I said rather than what I actually said. Incredible.

    But since you want me to comment on your analogy to rape of non-sex-working women, I’ll point out that I’ve already cited an essay that discusses that issue and makes more or less the same point that I was making. Comment #121.

    you were discussing the end demand folks in the UK and Europe. wl had implied they were campaigning to criminalize prostituted women, and you corrected this.

    wl was discussing the US campaign, I was discussing the Irish one. I think you just confused the two of us. Which is understandable.

    Though for what it’s worth, I don’t think the Swedish model discourages condom use.

    I don’t think it actively discourages condom use but there are ample reports from both there and Norway that the law has the effect of discouraging condom use – for reasons discussed in comment 69. This turns up in the research from many countries, not only Sweden, as a consequence of enforcing laws against commercial sex, and I’ve also personally heard it from Irish sex workers – that at times of reduced demand, whatever that reduction is caused by, they start thinking about foregoing the condom in order to make up the loss of income. Of course it’s ultimately the fault of the client who presses for sex without a condom, but laws that reduce demand help to create an environment in which sex workers are financially more susceptible to that pressure.

    The sex industry is a market and, as such, is subject to market forces. And one of these forces is that a reduction in demand relative to supply increases the buyer’s bargaining power. That’s simple economics, which the sex trade is not immune to.

  341. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    Martine Votvik: I won’t defend Stella Marr in attacking Robyn Few either, if you’re gonna make such claims Marr you should have the evidence to back it up.

    Martine, if you go to Robyn Few’s biography page as the founder of the Sex Worker’s Outreach Project, it states that she was convicted of pandering (another word for pimping) in 2002. And it states she founded the sex workers outreach project in 2003. The bio also says that Robyn began working in prostitution in 1996. She was 38 years old at this time.

    For the record I wasn’t that interested in ‘attacking Robyn Few.’ Whatever that means.

    But the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA is often cited as the true voice of prostituted women. And yet, if you go to their website, you find that its founded was convicted of pandering, or pimping. The bio also claims that John Ashcroft somehow targeted Robyn Few for terrorism and that’s why she was convicted.
    http://www.swopusa.org/old_site/few.php

    As a woman who was prostituted for ten years, I think it’s my right to raise this issue. I don’t want someone who was convicted of being a pimp speaking for prostituted women. It’s certainly not attacking her to state what she says on her bio.

    As for the nonprofit organization stuff, again everything I said was the truth — all I said was I was concerned that SWOP Chicago was soliciting donations by saying that they were a nonprofit organization under SWOP USA when SWOP wasn’t in the IRS database of nonprofit organizations (nonprofit is a tax status, which is why the Internal Revenue Service keeps this database). By saying you’re a nonprofit organization, you’re telling people you are under strict oversight to make sure all donations are used properly, and you have submitted public information about expenses, and how money is spent. It’s dishonest to say you have this status when you don’t.

    And as a woman who was prostituted, I think I have the right to be concerned that an organization, which was founded by a pimp yet which claims to represent prostituted women, is soliciting donations in a dishonest way. Now if it had been a complete mistake about the donations — why attack me for pointing it out? Especially as I stated I’d be happy to admit I was wrong.

    Let’s look at what happened here. A survivor told the truth about an organization founded by a convicted panderer (pimp). A survivor of prostitution raised concerns which turned out to be legitimate about how SWOP USA was soliciting donations. A survivor of prostitution mentioned that this convicted panderer’s bio put the start date of her prostitution at age 38 — a very very advanced age at which to become prostituted.

    How is this an attack? In the meantime, look at the response. Including the spectacularly creepy blog post about my comments and those of another survivor commenting here — http://deepthroated.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/melissa-farley-sends-someone-to-the-naked-anthropologist-to-rant/
    And the comments on that blog post (which was about my comments here) mentioned Jody Williams, a woman who spoke out about pimps in Las Vegas. In the 48 hours following this, her daughter was run down by a car and had to be hospitalized with serious injuries and multiple broken bones.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just me — but I think it was kind of creepy to say that I, Stella Marr, was like this woman who’s daughter was nearly killed after she spoke out against pimps.

    Especially as most of those commenting on this blog post linked to above are pimps themselves — Norma Jean Almodovar was convicted of pimping, Maggie McNeill is a self-described madam, etc.

    All this activity at the very least indicates it’s highly threatened to people profiting off prostitution when survivors speak out.

  342. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm |

    I meant its highly threatening to pimps when survivors speak out, above.

  343. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm |

    bpbetsy: Decriminalization is important to me too – because I won’t be able to get a “legit” job (especially as a teacher, what I want to do) with a prostitution arrest on record.

    I agree it should never be illegal for a woman to be a prostitute. It’s hideous you have to worry about that. Did you read recently about prostitution arrests being removed from a woman’s record in New York State? It’s a start at least.

    I wish you much joy and good luck with becoming a teacher –

  344. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm |

    This article by Phyllis Chesler on Jody Williams describes how her daughter was run down by a car immediately following Williams speaking out about pimps:
    http://pjmedia.com/phyllischesler/2008/01/23/an_allamerican_hero_jody_willi/

  345. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm |

    Stella –

    Thank you for elaborating. I wholeheartedly sympathize with your concerns. I’m sorry if I used the term “attack” flippantly, but that was the way it looked like.

    The exchange between you and WL was going nowhere. Then again I know what it is like. Some times when I don’t get through to my opponent in debates/discussions the second best option is getting through to the audience.

    I really like your courage and commitment and I think I share most of your views on the industry and how to deal with it. Who knows we might have some common friends or acquaintances out there. But I get a bit skeptical when people make claims without linking to information. I don’t know under what circumstances Few was convicted of pandering, I’m not sure the legal system always reflect reality in it’s verdicts, I’ll probably be undecided about Few until I have more solid evidence than the way one verdict was interpreted .

    That being said, I’m Norwegian and probably know less about what goes on in the states and how your legal system works than you do. I don’t have any reason to believe that you made the claims you made with the best faith and intentions.

    I know this thread has been taxing for you to deal with and I hope you’re doing ok. Let’s save our strength for the real fight. Threads like this is good for little less than potential public education and honing of our arguments. I’m most probably joining Object in London next month. Gonna be great to do a bit of real live activism, it’s so much better for the soul than musty discussions on the net. Been too long since the last time.

  346. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy December 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm |

    “I couldn’t agree more, but coerced sexual labour is not a facet of sex work.”

    That depends on your understanding of coercion. For me, coercion is not limited to physical assaults or threats, but is also when you have to do something to put food on the table/access medical care/have a roof over your head. I don’t consider those things to be optional, and when someone has to have sex to get them, that is a coerced interaction. Such interactions are part of the sex industry, whether you recognize them or not.

  347. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    Martine, I agree that there are times the US legal system convicts people falsely. I

    Martine Votvik: Let’s save our strength for the real fight. Threads like this is good for little less than potential public education and honing of our arguments. I’m most probably joining Object in London next month. Gonna be great to do a bit of real live activism, it’s so much better for the soul than musty discussions on the net.

    Spoken like a true Norsk! The people of action. And very true, what you said about musty net discussions. Great to hear you’ll be joining Object in London. I wish you well and thank you for working on this issue. Are you at University?

  348. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm |

    Martine, I just found your blog and your beautiful photographs — wishing you an inspiring winter

  349. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm |

    Martine Votvik: I’ll probably be undecided about Few until I have more solid evidence than the way one verdict was interpreted

    For what it’s worth, I think your skepticism of the US legal system is proper — Norge, ja vi elsker dette landet

  350. matlun
    matlun December 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    bpbetsy: That depends on your understanding of coercion. For me, coercion is not limited to physical assaults or threats, but is also when you have to do something to put food on the table/access medical care/have a roof over your head.

    That is a valid argument, but in places with a working social safety net (such as Sweden) you will not starve nor lack medical care because of not working. So this type of argument is not universally applicable.

  351. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    So now you’re not only claiming that sex worker activists are a bunch of “pimps”, but insinuating that they’ll target you for a mafia-style hit for speaking out against them? Good grief! While what you have to say about your own experiences in the sex industry and the opinions you’ve derived from them are clearly valid, when it comes to what you have to say about people you don’t agree with, you are just the queen of slander and shitty accusations. At this point, I think when it comes to the subject of other sex worker activists, you have nothing of value to say.

    And I also have to point out the sheer hypocrisy of endorsing the story of a “pimp” (by *your* definition) like Jody Williams while attacking others as “pimps” merely because you’re ideologically opposed to their position. For shame!

  352. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm |

    Oh, and I have to add – Phyllis Chesler as a source? Right-wing feminism at its finest. Is there any reason I should take that article more seriously than anything else I’d read at PJ Media, Little Green Footballs, etc?

  353. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    Just to clarify

    “I don’t have any reason to believe that you made the claims you made with the best faith and intentions.”

    it should be:

    “I don’t have any reason to believe that you didn’t make the claims you made with the best faith and intentions.”

  354. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm |

    Stella –

    Yeah I’m at uni studying art, but I’m 29, wonder if it’s time to call myself a mature student.
    If you ever heard about those crazy radical activist feminists from Norway that’s probably the group I was part of when I lived there. I feel very privileged that I was able to take a small part in fighting for the law penalizing the Johns. Hell even those who disagree with us should be able to take some comfort in the fact that it is possible to change attitudes in society through relentless activism.

  355. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 15, 2011 at 3:51 pm |

    “Right-wing feminism at its finest.”

    It’s funny, because in Norway we are the left-wing feminists… and kind of sad that the US left seems to stop at liberalism instead of going further left onto socialism.

  356. DD
    DD December 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm |

    Stella Marr: As a woman who was prostituted for ten years, I think it’s my right to raise this issue. I don’t want someone who was convicted of being a pimp speaking for prostituted women. It’s certainly not attacking her to state what she says on her bio.

    SWOP does not speak for prostituted women, it speaks for sex workers. Again, with the intentional mislabeling.

    As for the nonprofit organization stuff, again everything I said was the truth — all I said was I was concerned that SWOP Chicago was soliciting donations by saying that they were a nonprofit organization under SWOP USA when SWOP wasn’t in the IRS database of nonprofit organizations (nonprofit is a tax status, which is why the Internal Revenue Service keeps this database). By saying you’re a nonprofit organization, you’re telling people you are under strict oversight to make sure all donations are used properly, and you have submitted public information about expenses, and how money is spent. It’s dishonest to say you have this status when you don’t.

    Please provide this link to the IRS database of non-profits. I had no idea that the IRS had a publicly searchable database. Also, SWOP accepts donations through paypal, paypal will not work with sexually oriented businesses. The only way paypal would work with SWOP is if SWOP had 501(c)3 status or is aligned with an allied 501(c)3 (like the Desiree Alliance, for example) while they await their status to be processed.

    I am done engaging with your fallacious claims.

    When one continuously engages in: intentional misrepresenation (for which they have been called out on *many* times on the web), the deliberate use of emotionally charged language, designed to inflame people (after they have been asked repeatedly not to use certain words and misleading labels), the insistent victimhood reframing of other peoples experiences, an association with someone who publishes very biased and questionable “research”; this detracts from this persons overall credibility.

    I am not questioning your experience, Stella, but your histrionic rhetoric makes it impossible to have an honest conversation with you.

    Again, you should more appropriately direct your efforts to advocate for victims of sex trafficking. You can not speak for sex workers, because you refuse to even speak the same language.

    victims of sex trafficking =!= sex worker

  357. Alexandra
    Alexandra December 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm |

    Having said that, from my readings over the years, many people on the sex work rights perspective write about deeply ambivalent or purely hurtful experiences in the industry, including some participants in this thread – but still believe that decriminalization, rights, and harm reduction approach is best for the people who are benefited and harmed by the sex industry and everything in between. And in conversations like these, they don’t highlight those experience, they mention them in passing – and as the result, they don’t get acknowledged. There has been a lot of empathy and support expressed for Alexandra and Stella – well deserved and necessary, certainly! But has any person expressing support for them, do the same for WL’s admission of being victimized by a violent pimp in comments 267 and 341? Well, I did not see it.

    This is a really fair criticism, and I want to apologize to you, wl, if you’re still reading this thread, for being so wrapped up in myself that I didn’t take the time to empathize with you. We disagree here, but there’s probably so much more we agree about within the whole realm of feminism. I know I’m hurting from this conversation, and I bet you are too. I wish this conversation hadn’t become so vituperative, so no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners brutal.

    Love in my heart for you.

  358. wl
    wl December 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm |

    Alexandra – it’s not good for me, but I can’t tear myself away. You probably understand.

    I appreciate your empathy, and I too am sorry that I didn’t get a chance to express mine for you. People clearly have different reactions to the same thing, and something can be traumatic for one person and not another. I think trauma issues are often not acknowledged enough in sex positive communities, and there’s a lot of overlap between sex positive folks and sex worker rights folks. This may not be obvious here, but I’ve advocated hard for the inclusion of people with bad experiences in sex worker rights activism, especially experiences of coercion. I’ve also advocated for the inclusion of youth – I take great offense to the idea that the sex workers rights movement is for “adult consenting sex workers.” It’s not. I just don’t deal well with trolls who may very well be Melissa Farley posing online, who at the very least are affiliated with her, and who advocate policies that make it harder for sex workers to require protection and to earn enough to meet their survival needs.

  359. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm |

    Stella, I noticed you’ve go onto various blogs villifying madams as female pimps. Like many things you say, this an attitude Melissa Farley promotes, who you’ve repeatedly praised.
    Speaking of madams, does the name Jody Williams “ring a bell”? She was a madam who was aligned with Melissa Farley. Here’s info. about Jody: http://www.lasvegascitylife.com/articles/2007/12/13/news/local_news/iq_18460027.txt . Jody came onto a sex worker advocacy board a few years ago praising Melissa Farley and promoting her agenda, while bashing sex worker advocates. She even mentioned that Melissa Farley invited her to write a piece for a book. Then, Jody came back onto that board saying that she’s no longer aligned with Melissa Farley, complaining that some of the anti-sex work people are getting more funding than she (Jody) is.

    I’m not sure if Jody Williams and Melissa Farley patched things up and that’s their business, but either way, this shows how Melissa Farley’s attitude is very contradictory and hypcritical when it comes to madams: That madams are female pimps who sexually exploit women, unless they’re praising her and her agenda. This is disgusting beyond words and very ungenuine. So, the next time you refer to madams as pimps, be sure to think about this.

    I’m going to post this message to different boards you’ve commented on, as it’s important for people to read and think about.
    .

  360. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 5:56 pm |

    wl: I’ve also advocated for the inclusion of youth – I take great offense to the idea that the sex workers rights movement is for “adult consenting sex workers.”

    I’d be very interested in hearing more about what you mean by this wl. And I too regret not responding with more empathy. The first time you addressed me you were saying you didn’t believe my experiences. This hurt so much that I stopped ‘seeing’ it when you mentioned a violent pimp. I certainly know what it’s like to be trapped and have to fight your way out. Sometimes we’re in situations where we’re trying to say something and it can feel like that.

    I don’t remember who linked to that article in the Rumpus, and the conversation between Antonia Crane and Cheryl Strayed, but for what it’s worth in that piece Antonia descibes how I gave her my phone number, she called, and we had a great conversation.

    Martine Votvik: Hell even those who disagree with us should be able to take some comfort in the fact that it is possible to change attitudes in society through relentless activism.

    It’s profoundly comforting, and I am so grateful to you and your colleagues in Norway for what you accomplished for women.

  361. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 5:58 pm |

    Martine Votvik: and kind of sad that the US left seems to stop at liberalism instead of going further left onto socialism.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  362. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 6:06 pm |

    Random Observer: Phyllis Chesler as a source?

    Actually she’s an acclaimed feminist and psychologist — but the reason I quoted that article was that it described how Jody Williams daughter was run down by a car in broad daylight right after her mother spoke out about trafficking and at the same time that her mother’s phone lines and electric lines were cut — many other sources site the same information

  363. wl
    wl December 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm |

    The internet. So bad for commmunication. I think there were a lot of us basically anguished over this thread. More later.

  364. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 6:24 pm |

    I liked the piece you wrote about allies wl.

    Many thanks to Martine and Alexandra for getting me here ;)

  365. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm |

    wl: The internet. So bad for commmunication.

    This made me laugh

  366. Martine Votvik
    Martine Votvik December 15, 2011 at 7:00 pm |

    Um, I now it might be a little late to address this, but it’s something I just remembered considering the issue of decriminalization putting the state on the side of the employers.

    In most countries people who receive benefits because of unemployment are expected or forced to apply for any jobs to which they qualify regardless of personal preference. I know this from experience. I think it’s fair to assume that most countries are tougher on this than Norway is, hell, some countries don’t even pay out benefits for unemployment at all.

    I recently talked to somebody that had been to Germany and they told me that positions in “sex work” are being advertised on the billboards of job centers.

    One of the consequences of “sex work” being recognized fully as just another job, is that it will put a lot of people in a position where they might be forced to choose between applying for these jobs or go hungry and homeless.

    I know this is not what anyone wants, except for some pimps perhaps. I assume that even the most passionate pro sex work activists would never condone anybody being forced to choose this as an occupation.

    But then, that means that we all do acknowledge that there is something different between giving a hand job and mopping a floor. How we choose to deal with this difference might vary, but I think that we can all recognize that there is a problem that needs to be addressed here.

  367. Anon
    Anon December 15, 2011 at 7:09 pm |

    Stella Marr: Actually she’s an acclaimed feminist and psychologist

    Meaning Phyllis Chesler! If anyone still needs convincing that Stella Marr’s isn’t engaged in some sort of twisted political performance art, this should do it. And if you don’t know who this odious character is, you should just follow Stella’s own link to that pillar of journalistic integrity, Pajamas Media, and sample Chesler’s fittingly disgusting contributions for yourself. Or go to Chesler’s own webpage which helpfully traces her career development from a middling professor of women’s studies to the war-mongering Muslim-baiter whose “feminism” is endorsed by David Horowitz.

  368. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm |

    I guess I haven’t had the time to do all of that, since I’ve been recovering from prostitution, which included getting a degree from Columbia University and studying at the Juilliard School. I know her reputation based on Women and Madness, which was considered a classic when I was last a student.

  369. Anon
    Anon December 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm |

    Stella Marr:
    IguessIhaven’thadthetimetodoallofthat,sinceI’vebeenrecoveringfromprostitution,whichincludedgettingadegreefromColumbiaUniversityandstudyingattheJuilliardSchool.IknowherreputationbasedonWomenandMadness,whichwasconsideredaclassicwhenIwaslastastudent.

    Funny how you seem to have plenty of time amid all that to peddle conspiracy theories promoted by a virulent racist hack (who diligently spewed her racism through the very same Pajamas Media online column that you linked to).

  370. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 8:13 pm |

    I don’t know enough about Phyllis to know anything except that Women and Madness was considered a classic when I was a university student. I linked to that article because I thought what she suggested: that Eliot Spitzer should donate money to help women in prostitution, was great — and because the article included information about Jody Williams. “Twisted performance art?” That’s very mean.

  371. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm |

    Martine Votvik: One of the consequences of “sex work” being recognized fully as just another job, is that it will put a lot of people in a position where they might be forced to choose between applying for these jobs or go hungry and homeless.
    I know this is not what anyone wants, except for some pimps perhaps. I assume that even the most passionate pro sex work activists would never condone anybody being forced to choose this as an occupation.
    But then, that means that we all do acknowledge that there is something different between giving a hand job and mopping a floor. How we choose to deal with this difference might vary, but I think that we can all recognize that there is a problem that needs to be addressed here.

    This is brilliant

  372. DD
    DD December 15, 2011 at 8:59 pm |

    DD: SWOP does not speak for prostituted women, it speaks for sex workers.

    I should have phrased this better, it is not my place to speak for SWOP.

    wl: An example of my views: http://deepthroated.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/swop-nyc-thoughts-on-being-a-good-ally/

    I really like this.

    Martine Votvik: Um, I now it might be a little late to address this, but it’s something I just remembered considering the issue of decriminalization putting the state on the side of the employers.

    In most countries people who receive benefits because of unemployment are expected or forced to apply for any jobs to which they qualify regardless of personal preference. I know this from experience. I think it’s fair to assume that most countries are tougher on this than Norway is, hell, some countries don’t even pay out benefits for unemployment at all.

    I recently talked to somebody that had been to Germany and they told me that positions in “sex work” are being advertised on the billboards of job centers.

    One of the consequences of “sex work” being recognized fully as just another job, is that it will put a lot of people in a position where they might be forced to choose between applying for these jobs or go hungry and homeless.

    I’m not sure I can follow this logic. I see it as sort of a straw man. I mean, right now in the US they require you to apply for jobs in order to get unemployment benefits and there’s advertising for exotic dancers all over the papers. Yet, to my knowledge no one is forced to apply or go hunger. Not to mention exotic dancers (in most of the US, I believe) are considered independent contractors, not employees.

    Though, I have no idea if German sex workers are employees or independent contractors.

    Also, someone correct me if I’m wrong, but independent contractors are not eligible for unemployment benefits in the US.

  373. DD
    DD December 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm |

    Sorry, I meant “forced to apply or go *hungry*”

  374. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm |

    Stella, I’m not doubting that Jodie Williams has experienced horrific, traumatic events as you mentioned. Yet, Robyn Few has been through horrific hardships too, such as surviving incest and currently living with cancer. Yet, you use Jody’s horrific experiences to justify supporting her while you say mean, melicious, evil, hateful things about Robyn and show no compassion for her.

    You also support Jody on the grounds that she has done wonderful things, yet so has Robyn. Robyn has tirelessly volunteered time and energy toward ending persecution and violence against sex workers, and she really played a major role in revitalizing the sex workers’ justice movement in this country. Despite the hatred she has had to put up with, she persisted.

    Yet, you’re supportive of Jody and hateful toward Robyn. I don’t think it has anything to do with pimping since Jody was also a madam (and thus would fit your definition of pimping). Rather, I see no other reason why you would support Jody and not Robyn other than because Jody promotes your ideolologies more than Robyn does. If Jody were advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution, I have no doubt you would be villifying her like Robyn, since you have no trouble villifying Robyn despite the traumas she has experienced.

    I read a message you posted previously, where you initially said Robyn was convicted of pimping and then that she was convicted of pimping or pandering. When I linked to the bio you provided, it did say that she was convicted of a prostitution offense, but not specifically the ones you mentioned. I did my own research and couldn’t find any information saying she was convicted of pimping.

    This wasn’t the only time you had trouble keeping your story straight about Robyn. I read on another blog where you said Robyn was never a prostitute, when you had know way of knowing this. Then you came back later and said she was a prostitute, but didn’t start until she was 38.

    I also couldn’t find any information supporting the claim that Norma Jean Almadovar was convicted of pimping. She was convicted of a prostitution offense after being set up by the LAPD while writing a book exposing corruption in the department, yet the conviction wasn’t pimping from what I found out. It seems like you just go along with what the haters say without taking the time to inform yourself and without any regard for the people you’re making these horrific claims about.

    Regardless of whether you agree with what Robyn and Norma Jean advocate for or not, they’re human beings with feelings, not just objects for you to villify just because you disagree with what they advocate for, such as the decriminalization of prostitution.

    I’m not villifying Jody for being a madam, as I don’t agree with conflating all madams with abusive pimps. I’m just taking issue with the hypocracy I notice, in which people sometimes villify madams as female pimps on one hand, but then support madams who promote their ideologies.

  375. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 16, 2011 at 12:50 am |

    This the only time I’m going to respond to this stuff, OK? First of all I don’t know Robyn or Norma personally. I’m very sorry to hear R has cancer. I only know that both were convicted of pandering. Norma was too — if you research her bio online you can find it. I was raped and beaten by pimps who terrorized me for years. So I get more than a little emotional when I see women who at least legally have been linked to pimping claim to represent prostituted women. I can see how a woman who’s legally charged with pimping might be one who’s less connected criminally the those who aren’t.

    But I wasn’t prostituted in California. In NYC female pimps all work with organized crime. It’s very very scary. And the madams were female pimps. And I think there’s some level of that anywhere because it’s about power. In NYC all the prostituted women I knew were scrupulous about never making a penny from the time another working girl spent with a John. This doesn’t mean Robyn deserves to have cancer. Far from it.

    Yes everyone is a human being. Yeats said all would be known or shown if time were but gone. And to saints even those who cause the most harm are worthy and beautiful.

    Pimps are my weakness. It’s much harder for me to see them this way, based on experiences. It’s a big flaw of mine. I really don’t feel I’m required to worry about their feelings. I feel like there are women somehwere they’re hurting. I feel like the girl I used to be locked in a windowless room in a brothel. It’s hard to be rational when one feels this way.

    I would much prefer to find common ground than keep around on this. When I was in prostitution my best friend killed herself after being beaten up by a John. She called our madam and asked her to send help. The madam said she’d send help, then she hung up and did nothing. Because she was afraid if she called 911 it would lead back to her business. My darling friend died. She was 23. Her mother had been raped and she was the result. She’d been hated because her father was the rapist — and she was biracial. She was the sweetest person I’d ever known. She deserved to have someone help her. I never would have survived most first months in prostitution without her.

    SO maybe when I see women who are associated with pimping I’m not seeing them I’m seeing this madam. I hope you can forgive me for upsetting you.

    This is the last time I will discuss this Robyn or Norma or anyone else like that here. Do you understand — I dont’ live in California and I don’t know them.

  376. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 16, 2011 at 12:52 am |

    That doesn’t mean they aren’t people. And all people deserve compassion. You are right.

  377. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 16, 2011 at 12:55 am |

    Robyn’s bio says she didn’t start in prostitution until she was 38, so I don’t think that was wrong to say. I am very sorry she’s dealing with cancer.

  378. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 12:57 am |

    Thank you for acknowedging this, Stella. That was kind of you.

    Stella Marr: That doesn’t mean they aren’t people. And all people deserve compassion. You are right.

  379. wl
    wl December 16, 2011 at 1:02 am |

    For the record – I wrote quite a bit of that piece I linked on allies but it was a collaborative effort and I would not want to take credit for the entire thing.

    Now to answer Stella’s question – I think the issues that affect youth in the sex trade are issues that the sex worker rights movement needs to address. We are not just a movement of adult consenting sex workers, but a movement for everyone in the sex trade. I feel very strongly that we need to be building a movement by and for everyone in the sex trade, and in some ways (not enough) we are.

  380. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 16, 2011 at 1:05 am |

    I hope Robyn’s treatment is successful and that the worst part of it is behind her.

  381. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 16, 2011 at 1:06 am |

    You’re right wl. I’ve got to turn in, I’ll check back tomorrow.

    Wishing everyone well.

  382. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 16, 2011 at 1:11 am |

    THe allies article was great

  383. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 1:18 am |

    I hope so too and she’s in my thoughts a lot. The last time I saw her was summer 2010, and she was in good spirits, giving off lots of love.

    Stella Marr: IhopeRobyn’streatmentissuccessfulandthattheworstpartofitisbehindher.

  384. wl
    wl December 16, 2011 at 1:29 am |

    Robyn is amazing.

  385. wl
    wl December 16, 2011 at 1:39 am |

    Ok, so, Stella, I’m sorry I doubted your experiences. You’re coming off as a lot more genuine and if I was wrong I did make a terrible mistake. If you’re open to it you can email me at whorelizard@gmail.com and maybe we could even chat on the phone. If you are indeed for real, it’s always good to talk with someone who understands. Melissa Farley hasn’t been there like we have, ok? With love in my heart for you.

  386. Cécile
    Cécile December 16, 2011 at 2:27 am |

    Happy International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, everyone. I am really touched by the constructive turns this thread has taken, and at such an appropriate time. I’ll slip back in briefly to say a few things on this day:

    wl: I think there were a lot of us basically anguished over this thread.

    wl, I’ve been remorseful about our misunderstandings, and want to apologize to you too. (I’ve been doing a lot of apologizing. I appreciate everybody’s sensitivity and acceptance.) Staying away from this thread has been very helpful, emotionally. I feel I can safely drop back in to extend the olive branch, for anything it might be worth. (olive branch to follow after this brief prelude:)

    Last night, laying awake with all the residual stress, I finally had a good gut-wrenching sob over all of this (a week in the making). Especially in reflection of December 17th, I was feeling very, very deeply, for all of the particular adversities all of us face. More than ever, I want to devote energies for improvement. If there is anything good that has come of all this raw emotion that everyone was confronted with, I feel that it’s been intense enough that I will be forever humbled by my missteps this week. I never want to inflict pain on anybody like this again, especially the people whose cause I am apart of and want to support.

    I am so terribly sorry that everyone got caught in the crossfire between what was ultimately myself and my “temper”/”adrenalin”/”stress.” I’m fully aware of the “loose, not always foreseeable, and disastrously disorienting ‘triggers'” of traumatic responses. I try to be open/cautionary about that with others, as well as recognize it in myself and control it the best I can. wl, you suffered the worst for this; as for the whole mess with assuming you were behind some manipulative conspiracy of, hah, I don’t know, creating a bunch of aliases that agreed with you—honestly, as I wrote that, I was LOST in a fog of not being able to tell up from down, and it felt like the absolute truth at the time, even though my parenthetical apologies were a painful indication of my awareness that the ‘feel of the truth’ does not always equal ‘the truth’)—One thing I didn’t articulate clearly at the time was that, also contributing to the combustion, I, like Stella, found that I questioned if you were speaking honestly about your past as a sex worker/SWOP volunteer (solely based on the empirical way the thread played out, of course), or if you were just “somebody” on the internet creating fictions under any given motive. Since this is the internet, and none of us really have any reason to ‘trust’ any internet alias, I hope, now that the storm has passed, you, or anyone else I dragged into it, don’t take it too personally. Creating a false identity is something anyone could potentially do—but now I can also see that it directly points back to past worries about all the possible foxholes when trying to screen new clients via the internet and phone *sigh*) <— implicit pro-sex work advocacy! heh

    Anyway, wl, I deeply regret to hear that you have been experiencing “anguish” as well. As trite as it sounds, I am genuinely sad to imagine the ways this must have been taking a toll on you and your life, too. Clearly Nelle and your girlfriend were concerned enough to come on here and try to help support you through this tough battle. I am ashamed and sorry to have contributed to your distress.

    wl: I think trauma issues are often not acknowledged enough in sex positive communities

    This is something that’s been on my mind a lot the past few days too. In advocating for sex workers rights, I know it’s tempting to perhaps want to deflect/minimize attention to this issue, because it’s already so misunderstood and stigmatized in greater society. And we all know how the prevalence of PTSD is/can be used detrimentally against sex workers advocacy, by only being presented/understood as a product of the work itself. (obviously, I am speaking specifically of “sex workers” with this point!) I’m definitely not suggesting that all (or even most) sex workers have PTSD, but under criminalization, are an especially vulnerable community to it… “Society” sets us up for it by leaving us vulnerable to be hit from literally every angle (be it from law enforcement, johns/clients, social stigma…). Fear of legal repercussions even—get this—made me afraid to seek therapy for a long time. By that time I was so paranoid of everyone and everything that I worried a therapist might ‘turn me in’ if I revealed I had been a sex worker.

    Here’s to a brighter future…

  387. wl
    wl December 16, 2011 at 2:36 am |

    Cecile – I was rude to you and I’m sorry about that.

    IDEVASW is December 17, Saturday.

  388. Cécile
    Cécile December 16, 2011 at 2:39 am |

    …oh no, I just realized it’s the 16th! >.<

  389. Cécile
    Cécile December 16, 2011 at 2:40 am |

    wl:
    Cecile–IwasrudetoyouandI’msorryaboutthat.

    IDEVASWisDecember17,Saturday.

    Thanks wl, for both points!

  390. Maia
    Maia December 16, 2011 at 8:08 am |

    So you believe that in every other kind of employment, the state is on “the side of the employer”, and that industrial relations and occupational health and safety regulations in all countries are currently set up to benefit employers over employees?

    Bizarre.

    Really? You think this is bizarre? 29 people died in a mine in NZ last year, because all the frameworks for mine safety had been disabled in the 1990s, and not reinstated after almost a decade of a labour government. 1,000 workers die a year from Occupational related causes in a country with a population of 4 million – of course the state is set up to benefit employers not employees. I know Australia has really strong labour laws and protection. But I also know enough about Australia labour history to know that when it comes down to a big fight – the state has sided with employers over employees over and over again.

    The idea that the state is ultimately on the side of capital is a pretty standard left-wing idea. I’m not saying that everyone has to agree (although I’m happy to argue law and history as long as people are interested). But I am saying that putting that outside the acceptable limits of discussion – is excluding all sorts of people.

    That depends on your understanding of coercion. For me, coercion is not limited to physical assaults or threats, but is also when you have to do something to put food on the table/access medical care/have a roof over your head. I don’t consider those things to be optional, and when someone has to have sex to get them, that is a coerced interaction. Such interactions are part of the sex industry, whether you recognize them or not.

    I fundamentally agree with this analysis. I do see work as fundamentally coercive – those of us with nothing to sell but our labour power need to work to live (I always sound like a Marxist when I talk abou tsex work)

    Matlun-

    That is a valid argument, but in places with a working social safety net (such as Sweden) you will not starve nor lack medical care because of not working. So this type of argument is not universally applicable.

    I think this puts a lot of faith in the reliability of safety nets. The most obvious example is that migrant workers often don’t have access to the same benefits that other workers do.

    But more fundamentally, I think even in a place with a good safety net – we have to work. How much choice we have about the sort of work we do depends broadly on priviledge – but everyone except the independently wealth have to work. I think that that makes work coercive for the vast majority of people. Although that’s about your analysis of work and society.

    However, on top of that I also think that most people experience of work as coercive some of the time. There are days when people really don’t want to go in, or weeks or months in a bad situation. I think for many people mapping sex-work onto their own experiences of work will imply some level of coercion at least some of the time. That’s why I think the strongest argument is not about whether or not sex work is coercive, but that it should be decriminalised whether or not it is coercive.

    In most countries people who receive benefits because of unemployment are expected or forced to apply for any jobs to which they qualify regardless of personal preference. I know this from experience. I think it’s fair to assume that most countries are tougher on this than Norway is, hell, some countries don’t even pay out benefits for unemployment at all.

    In New Zealand, legally no one is required to take up sex work as a condition of their benefit (although I’m not sure whether that’s in the law or in welfare regulations). There have been times when individual case managers have acted contrary to those regulations and suggested sex work and their actions have got to the media. Of course it’s unknowable whether people without the ability to go to the media have been treated differently.

    When I was writing about my experiences on the unemployment benefit some right-wing bloggers took exception. As well as making rape threats, one of them said that he owned (or knew someone who owned) a brothel – and that he would offer me a job and tell me that if I didn’t accept then they would say I’d refused a job and get my benefit cut off. This wasn’t a real threat – I don’t think they had enough identifying information, and I’m confident of my ability to navigate the benefit system. But that doesn’t mean that that threat has never been successfully made.

    This does add a question to the idea that sex work should be treated as other forms of work. It’s not really an issue for me – I don’t believe in welfare regulations that force people to take work. However, it is something that the state has to actively exempt under legalisation.

  391. Ingrid Nevin
    Ingrid Nevin December 16, 2011 at 9:01 am |

    Yay about the thread turn…

    Just a couple more thoughts: we all seem to agree that we need to create conditions that provide maximum benefit and increase choices and opportunities for the workers. We sometimes disagree about the specific strategies and use a lot of varied evidence to support our points.

    Have you heard of the concept of confirmation bias? I did not until I returned to school for psychology. The idea is, most people tend to seriously scrutinize evidence that opposes their views – and accept at face value evidence that supports them. Conscientious effort has to be applied to critically examine both, it doesn’t come naturally – I still have trouble with it. And it becomes even harder when strong emotions are involved, as it always seems to be the case here.

    I’ve also been wondering, if we can’t agree on large frameworks, can we talk about other supports and services that should be in place? I am interested in how we can help individuals find their own strengths, understand and frame their own experiences. A number of people here have talked about economic coercion, something I very much agree with, and that is not going to go away any time soon. So how do we support people who are in sex work right now, on all ends of the spectrum? Perhaps, it would be easier to find agreement on this angle? The way people liked the article on being an ally seems to point in this direction…

  392. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm |

    You were right in saying that, but it just contradicted your previous statement that she was never a prostitute, which to your credit, you did acknowledge this and corrected yourself. I realize that none of us are right all the time and we all sometimes need to correct ourselves, so I’m willing to put that behind us and just move forward at this point. Like Cecile, I also appreciate how the discussion is becoming more constructive and how we’re being more respectful toward each other. I hope this continues.

    Stella Marr: Robyn’sbiosaysshedidn’tstartinprostitutionuntilshewas38,soIdon’tthinkthatwaswrongtosay.Iamverysorryshe’sdealingwithcancer.

  393. matlun
    matlun December 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm |

    Maia: But more fundamentally, I think even in a place with a good safety net – we have to work. How much choice we have about the sort of work we do depends broadly on priviledge – but everyone except the independently wealth have to work.

    As I stated above: In Sweden this is simply not true. Even if you simply refuse to work you will be able survive and keep a roof over your head etc. In many other places this is not true, and the original argument becomes a strong one.

  394. Wendy
    Wendy December 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    Martine:

    One of the consequences of “sex work” being recognized fully as just another job, is that it will put a lot of people in a position where they might be forced to choose between applying for these jobs or go hungry and homeless.

    A few years ago, a British tabloid alleged that this had happened in Germany i.e. that women had been denied benefits because she refused to take up a job as a sex worker.

    More reputable journalists attempted to verify that study and were unable to find any evidence it had ever happened. In fact, they were told quite clearly that under no circumstances would this happen.

    (Personally I do not believe anyone should ever be denied benefits for refusing to take up work they are uncomfortable with, regardless of the industry.)

  395. Wendy
    Wendy December 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm |

    Incidentally, I’m going travelling tomorrow and probably won’t be able to check back in over the next week, so I’ll have to leave this discussion to the rest of you. I’m glad it’s taken a more positive turn.

  396. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    I work in the legal Nevada brothel system and most certainly am not going to jump on the bandwagon in support of Jody Williams, and have a lot of trouble seeing her as a champion for human rights even if she has done some good stuff. If she’s interested in helping sex workers and trafficked people who need and want her help, then she can do this without promoting our criminalization, which would have happened to us if the legal brothel sex workers if she were successful in having the brothels shutdown. She was a madam who profitted off of sex workers, but then she turns against us and joins Melissa Farley by attempting to have the legal Nevada brothel system where we make a living criminalized. Please understand that I’m not taking issue with Jody just for being a madam, but a madam who profitted off of sex workers and then joined the forces against us. She wrote a piece in a book that Melissa Farley wrote, and this book promoted the eradication of legal brothels. Jody also spoke on a panel Melissa Farley organized in support of this eradication.

    I acknowledge that the legal Nevada brothel system leaves a lot to be desired and is far from ideal, yet that doesn’t mean I want to be pushed onto the criminalized sector. Despite the short comings of the system, I like being able to work legally without having to worry if my next client is an undercover cop who will arrest me for prostitution; I like knowing that if I were to experience violence, I can report it to whomever I decide to without incriminating myself; I like that the clients are overall very kind and respectful and resistance to condom use is extremely rare from my experiences in the legal brothels; I like that if any brothel were to withhold our pay or cheat us, we could take legal action. This is a far cry from the criminalized sector, where sex workers in prostitution aren’t protected under even the minimal labor rights laws. I also like that under a legalized system, law enforcement seems more focused on our well-being and how we’re being treated than on pathologizing and arresting us. I had a very friendly conversation with a retired deputy who was sitting at a bar at one a brothel I worked at, and he explified what I was saying. I like that I don’t have to protect myself from the police who are supposed to be protecting us. Afterall, their motto is “To serve and protect.”

    Though we’re never guaranteed to be perfectly safe anywhere in this world, I feel as safe in the legal brothels as I would anywhere else. Criminalizing my clients would not make me feel any safer and I don’t want my clients to be criminalized just for compensating me for my time and services, so I don’t support the Swedish legislation and don’t know of any current sex workers who do. In fact, various Swedish sex workers have themselves denounced this legislation: http://petraostergren.com/pages.aspx?r_id=40716 . Though this may seem like progressive legislation on the surface, it’s really anything but. It’s very paternalistic and further endangers sex workers.

    I hven’t experienced violence in the legal brothels. I did experience violence as a sex worker, but this as a private exotic dancer. Though no level of violence should be tolerated, research has found it to be very rare in the Nevada legal brothels. For example, a study by Barb Brents and Kate Hausbeck from UNLV found that only one out of over 40 Nevada brothel sex workers they interviewed reported experiencing violence. I wish that number were zero, even though this is much lower than violence against sex workers found in research on criminalized systems. Yet, I realize that the only way to guantee safety in prostitution or anywhere else is to make the world a perfectly safe place, which we’re unfortunately very far from. I stil hope we never give up.

    Criminalizing brothels isn’t the solution, but decriminalization of prostitution is. One of my main problems with the existing legal Nevada brothel system is that it’s so restrictive in the ways we can work legally (only licensed brothels in rural areas in some counties) that the system leaves so many sex workers in prostitution on the criminalized sector, including independent sex workers who don’t work for management, street based sex workers, people who have other obligations that prevent them from being able to stay at the brothels for days or weeks at a time–such as other jobs outside of sex work, children, college, etc. Decriminalization would allow both brothel and non-brothel sex workers to work legally, provided that we aren’t engaging in any other crime. Violence against us would still be criminalized under other laws. For example, if somebody rapes a sex worker, that would still be illegal under rape laws.
    In addition to women, men and gender minority sex workers would also be able to work legally under a decriminalized system. Even though I don’t think there are laws prohibitting this in the legal Nevada brothels, no men or gender minorities work at legal brothels. There were men working as sex workers at one legal brothel, but this is no longer the case, and I don’t know of any legal Nevada brothels that hire men and transgender sex workers. If legal brothels won’t hire them, this pushes them onto the criminalized sector, where they’re more vulnerable to violence, harrassment, pressure for unsafe sex, and legal persecution.

    Though I realize some people may dislike what I say in this message, please consider it. I’m very emotional about this and my heart told me to write about it, so that’s what I’m doing.

  397. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm |

    Just to clarify, when I said no men or gender minorities work at legal brothels, I meant as sex workers. There are men in support staff positions at legal brothels, such as cooks, maintainance, etc. You can probably figure that out, but just thought it would be a good idea to clarify.

  398. wl
    wl December 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm |

    Robyn Few has talked publically before about doing sex work at 13. There’s a video out there if you search for Robyn Few where she talks about having done it her entire life basically.

    The last time I saw her was at the educational SWOP retreat where we learned about advocacy, media, law, and so much more. She was doing well and I hope she still is. She’s a survivor for sure.

  399. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    Please reject my previous comment about Jody Williams and the legal Nevada brothel system. Though it’s true, I was too emotional when writing it and will post another comment when I calm down.

  400. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm |

    I work in the legal Nevada brothel system and acknowledge that the legal Nevada brothel system leaves a lot to be desired and is far from ideal, yet that doesn’t mean I want to be pushed onto the criminalized sector. Despite the short comings of the system, I like being able to work legally without having to worry if my next client is an undercover cop who will arrest me for prostitution; I like knowing that if I were to experience violence, I can report it to whomever I decide to without incriminating myself; I like that the clients are overall very kind and respectful and resistance to condom use is extremely rare from my experiences in the legal brothels; I like that if any brothel were to withhold our pay or cheat us, we could take legal action. This is a far cry from the criminalized sector, where sex workers in prostitution aren’t protected under even the minimal labor rights laws. I also like that under a legalized system, law enforcement seems more focused on our well-being and how we’re being treated than on pathologizing and arresting us. I had a very friendly conversation with a retired deputy who was sitting at a bar at one a brothel I worked at, and he exemplified what I was saying. I like that I don’t have to protect myself from the police who are supposed to be protecting us. Afterall, their motto is “To serve and protect.”

    Though we’re never guaranteed to be perfectly safe anywhere in this world, I feel as safe in the legal brothels as I would anywhere else. Criminalizing my clients would not make me feel any safer and I don’t want my clients to be criminalized just for compensating me for my time and services, so I don’t support the Swedish legislation and don’t know of any current sex workers who do. In fact, various Swedish sex workers have themselves denounced this legislation: http://petraostergren.com/pages.aspx?r_id=40716 . Though this may seem like progressive legislation on the surface, it’s really anything but. It’s very paternalistic and further endangers sex workers.

    I hven’t experienced violence in the legal brothels. I did experience violence as a sex worker, but this as a private exotic dancer. Though no level of violence should be tolerated, research has found it to be very rare in the Nevada legal brothels. For example, a study by Barb Brents and Kate Hausbeck from UNLV found that only one out of over 40 Nevada brothel sex workers they interviewed reported experiencing violence. I wish that number were zero, even though this is much lower than violence against sex workers found in research on criminalized systems. Yet, I realize that the only way to guantee safety in prostitution or anywhere else is to make the world a perfectly safe place, which we’re unfortunately very far from. I stil hope we never give up.

    Criminalizing brothels isn’t the solution, but decriminalization of prostitution is. One of my main problems with the existing legal Nevada brothel system is that it’s so restrictive in the ways we can work legally (only licensed brothels in rural areas in some counties) that the system leaves so many sex workers in prostitution on the criminalized sector, including independent sex workers who don’t work for management, street based sex workers, people who have other obligations that prevent them from being able to stay at the brothels for days or weeks at a time–such as other jobs outside of sex work, children, college, etc. Decriminalization would allow both brothel and non-brothel sex workers to work legally, provided that we aren’t engaging in any other crime. Violence against us would still be criminalized under other laws. For example, if somebody rapes a sex worker, that would still be illegal under rape laws.
    In addition to women, men and gender minority sex workers would also be able to work legally under a decriminalized system. Even though I don’t think there are laws prohibitting this in the legal Nevada brothels, no men or gender minorities work at legal brothels. There were men working as sex workers at one legal brothel, but this is no longer the case, and I don’t know of any legal Nevada brothels that hire men and transgender sex workers. If legal brothels won’t hire them, this pushes them onto the criminalized sector, where they’re more vulnerable to violence, harrassment, pressure for unsafe sex, and legal persecution.

  401. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm |

    Yeah, ran away from her home as a teenager, had to fend for herself.

    wl: Robyn Few has talked publically before about doing sex work at 13. There’s a video out there if you search for Robyn Few where she talks about having done it her entire life basically.

    The last time I saw her was at the educational SWOP retreat where we learned about advocacy, media, law, and so much more. She was doing well and I hope she still is. She’s a survivor for sure.

  402. Cécile
    Cécile December 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm |

    Vi: If I had had to work in an abattoir, whether because someone made me, or because I had no other way to earn money, or because I for some reason decided it was a good idea, I am absolutely certain I would have found the experience extremely traumatic.

    I’m jumping in to comment before continuing reading the rest of this post. It’s an issue that I also find important, and just for anyone interested, would like to recommend ‘Slaughterhouse’ by Gail Eisnitz; many of the workers do have PTSD. (not trying to hijack this thread with the issue, but I think it’s of marginal relevance, and just important in general)

  403. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm |

    I don’t think sex work is just like any other job because no two jobs are totally identical. Sex work is also unique in the sense that it is stigmatized and in some cases criminalized in ways that “square” jobs aren’t. Yet something that sex workers have in common with people in various industries is that we’re human beings making a living and deserve working conditions that are as safe and sanitary as possible.

    [MODERATOR NOTE: PLEASE DON’T QUOTE A LONG COMMENT IN FULL WHEN YOU REPLY – PLEASE HIGHLIGHT ONLY THE SNIPPET OF TEXT TO WHICH YOU ARE DIRECTLY REPLYING ~ tigtog

  404. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm |

    Wendy: A few years ago, a British tabloid alleged that this had happened in Germany i.e. that women had been denied benefits because she refused to take up a job as a sex worker.

    Martine is not saying this has happened in Germany. She’s just saying that it could. She’s not saying that any ‘decriminalization’ activists want it to happen.

    Hope you have splendid holiday travels Wendy.

    Wishing you all very well.

    I am taking a break from this because it’s become extraordinarily painful for me. Love to all of you.

  405. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    ..and to further clarify, I’m referring specifically to the legal brothels in Nevada. There may be legal brothels in other parts of the world where men are sex workers.

    Vegan Vixen: Just to clarify, when I said no men or gender minorities work at legal brothels, I meant as sex workers. There are men in support staff positions at legal brothels, such as cooks, maintainance, etc. You can probably figure that out, but just thought it would be a good idea to clarify.

  406. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 16, 2011 at 5:51 pm |

    Cécile: I am so terribly sorry that everyone got caught in the crossfire between what was ultimately myself and my “temper”/”adrenalin”/”stress.” I’m fully aware of the “loose, not always foreseeable, and disastrously disorienting ‘triggers’” of traumatic responses.

    Hey C, don’t mean to be a broken record here, but just want to encourage you to take care of yourself. I’ve found when things are triggers to the trauma flashbacks and adrenaline, sometimes it’s best to detach. I’ve failed that at some points in these comments myself — started having nightmares.

    I guess I’m especially concerned because you’re in school. It’s a great accomplishment to be there with C-PTSD. I just want to encourage you to do everything you can to nurture that part of your life.

    I’m glad to see you’ve done so much research on trauma — I think it’s so validating and really helps with understanding what’s happening to us when the adrenaline runs and the flashbacks start. XO

    Happy Holidays to all of you, and much love to all of you too.

  407. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm |

    Yes, I get what you’re saying. I’m also very emotional about some of the stuff discussed on here. As addicting as the discussion is, sometimes it may be emontionally best to step away for awile. I’ve become so intrigued with the disucssion that I have trouble getting anything else done.

    Stella Marr: Martine is not saying this has happened in Germany. She’s just saying that it could. She’s not saying that any ‘decriminalization’ activists want it to happen.

    Hope you have splendid holiday travels Wendy.

    Wishing you all very well.

    I am taking a break from this because it’s become extraordinarily painful for me. Love to all of you.

  408. Cécile
    Cécile December 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm |

    wl: Now to answer Stella’s question – I think the issues that affect youth in the sex trade are issues that the sex worker rights movement needs to address. We are not just a movement of adult consenting sex workers, but a movement for everyone in the sex trade.

    Both of these points point back to a very important idea from one of the links Stella shared when she was giving info about Robyn Few (http://www.swopusa.org/old_site/few.php): “Decriminalization is the beginning of the solution, it’s not the solution itself.”

    …That opens the door to establishing and strengthening resources for all people, whether they need help to get out or empowerment to continue, or just want to exchange perspectives, information, or ‘fraternize’ and not be so… isolated. Worrying from the perspective of how things ‘are’ and ‘have been’ can so easily make us lose track of the idea that they can change…

    Stella, I read your responses to my messages the other day – your kindness is your very great strength.

  409. Cécile
    Cécile December 16, 2011 at 6:04 pm |

    Stella Marr: I just want to encourage

    You do, Stella :-)

  410. matlun
    matlun December 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm |

    Vegan Vixen: and to further clarify, I’m referring specifically to the legal brothels in Nevada. There may be legal brothels in other parts of the world where men are sex workers.

    Actually, since 2010, this appears to be no longer true

  411. Cécile
    Cécile December 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm |

    Stella Marr: I am taking a break from this because it’s become extraordinarily painful for me. Love to all of you.

    And Stella, please know I’ll be thinking about you and hoping you’re doing okay and recovering your peace and health and wellbeing. You’re an incredible survivor –

    “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”
    Judith Herman

  412. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm |

    That was short lived. There are no longer men sex workers at the Shady Lady. I work in the legal Nevada brothel system and do my best to keep up with the latest.

    matlun: Actually, since 2010,this appears to be no longer true

  413. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm |

    There wasn’t much business for the male sex workers at that brothel. I think that’s why the Shady Lady no longer has men sex workers.
    Though people may assuem that the media publicity would increase business, it may have actually decreased it since people often go to brothels looking for private, discreet experiences, and having the media and camera crews there could be awkward.

  414. matlun
    matlun December 17, 2011 at 7:29 am |

    So there is space for male workers (or one, at least) to work legally in Nevada to see women, but there are no legal male workers to see men?

    Yes, it is (was?) very limited. I just remembered seeing the news about this at the time.
    Still, since November 2009 it is at least also possible to be a legal male sex worker in Nevada.

    Also @Vegan Vixen

    I realized after writing my post that it may have come off as a bit abrupt or aggressive. It could have been better phrased.

  415. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm |

    No problem, Matlum. I didn’t think you were abrupt or aggressive.

  416. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm |

    Yes, technically it’s legal to be a male sex worker in the Nevada brothels, but if the brothels won’t hire men sex workers, then they’re pushed onto the illegal sector, at least in the U.S. Though there are things I like about working in the legal Nevada brothel system and am glad that I have the opportunity to work legally, it’s far from ideal and that’s one of the reasons why: The restrictiveness of it keeps various sex workers in the criminalized sector. I don’t see the problem as being mainly with the specific brothels, but more with the policies that criminalize sex workers in prostitution outside of the legal brothels. In the U.S., the licensed Nevada brothels are the only way we can work legally.

  417. DonnaL
    DonnaL December 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    Vegan Vixen: no men or gender minorities work at legal brothels. There were men working as sex workers at one legal brothel, but this is no longer the case, and I don’t know of any legal Nevada brothels that hire men and transgender sex workers.

    As to trans women (whom you include in so-called “gender minorities” — who made up that term?), that’s an utterly absurd statement. Neither you nor anyone else could possibly assert with any factual basis that no post-GRS trans women has worked or does work in any brothel, legal or otherwise. How would you know?

  418. Random Observer
    Random Observer December 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |

    “Robyn Few: ‘Decriminalization is the beginning of the solution, it’s not the solution itself.'”

    What she said. This is always my response to those who strawman the decrim position by noting that it doesn’t fix everything. Which is not what decrim advocates claim, at least those who speak about the subject with any depth. However, while decriminalization* in itself is not sufficient, it is necessary.

    True words to keep in mind this Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

    * (And when I say decriminalization, I mean actual decriminalization, not pseudo-decriminalization, aka the Nordic model.)

  419. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr December 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |

    Kathleen I just wanted to thank you for being so affirming and supportive.

    And much love to everyone, I’m still on break ;)

  420. Erotic Undulation
    Erotic Undulation December 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm |

    Gosh this has been a long and fascinating read! Like Vegan Vixen, I have been obsessed with this thread. I am juggling a lot of responsibilities right now (in addition to being on holiday), so it has taken me forever to read this and I have in the process forgotten many of the ponts I wanted to make.

    I copied this sometime earlier and can’t remember who said it, so am just pasting this here to post my response.

    “Are you saying that the US End Demand folks — the people who believe the Swedish model is the best way to prevent women from experiencing the sexual violence of prostitution — are actively campaigning to criminalize prostituted women in the USA? I don’t think you’d say that.”

    I would say that. Many of them vehemently supported Donna Hughes’s (successful) campaign to re-criminalize sex workers in Rhode Island, and her preferred legislation was so much harsher than the one that got passed.

    I also wanted to Dove-tail on the points about the isolation criminalization enforces on those of us who consent to being sex workers. Decriminalization would go very far to help eliminate this isolation and fix a lot that’s wrong with the profession. For instance, people could openly teach and attend classes on sex work, such as might be taught by Amanda Brooks, who wrote “The Internet Escort’s Handbook”. Such classes, and indeed the book, can helpe someone like Alexandra discover whether or not the work would be a healthy or appropriate choice. Currently, if anyone is reading this and finds themselves wondering about sex work like Alexandra once did, there are very few places to go to for real, helpful advice. Here are a couple of resources you can try: (you’ll have to google these as I read somewhere that including links may make your post dangle longer in moderation)
    In the UK, there is Sex Worker Open University and a website called SAAFE
    In the US there is the Desiree Alliance conference and also Sex Work 101
    There is EMPOWER in Thailand
    Durbar in India

    And a few books on the subject, the one I love most is The Internet Escort’s Handbook by Amanda Brooks.

    Please, please do your research!! Sex work is a very specialized profession that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. As was pointed out about abbottoire work, there are certain sensibilities you should have and certain sensitivities you should not have. One of the HUGEST things sex workers have to overcome is the internalized hatred and misogyny all women have when it comes to notions of unfettered female sexuality (illustrated by your knee-jerk reaction when anyone accuses you of being a slut and you immediately respond in a shocked and offended way, perhaps even offering “proof” of why you’re not a slut). This is so endemic that it is in my opinion one of the main reasons so many people have issues with the concept of transactional sex. Believe me- if you can’t get over that, you won’t like sex work. You’ll hate yourself for doing it.

    Sex work is most certainly not suited to everyone. But some of us truly love what we do and it is a shame we can’t be more free to do it. I agree with Vegan Vixen that the brothels in NV are good to have as an option, but it’s dreadful that it is the only option available without skirting the lines of legality. I am someone who feels that sex work is exactly what I was put on the planet to do, and have found great joy in my work. I want a world where someday everyone can feel about their work what I feel about mine.

    I am sad and horrified every time I read a story like Alexandra’s and Stella’s. At a slutwalk I participated in (wearing my “Sluts Unite” t-shirt), a woman spoke about how her father had actually turned her out at something like 16 years old after having raped her most of her life. It was gut wrenching, as many of these stories are, and I certainly feel the rage. Oh yes, I feel that rage. It comes like a fountainhead somewhere deep, deep down in my being and I think very violent thoughts about the perpetrators. As a nonviolent adherent, I then have to calm down and regroup…and remember that perpetrators are humans too and have probably themselves suffered great abuses in their lives. And then I pray to Goddess that someday we can have a society in which everyone is loved unconditionally. I continue to try each and every day to make my own life a meditation on that desire.

    In the meantime, I also continue my support for decriminalization. Because I believe that nothing will change until sex workers are no longer considered criminals. And the Swedish model actually makes me very angry, as I find it terribly infantilizing. Imagine being told that you’re perfectly within your rights to do something for money and then having those same people make it impossible for you to do that. That’s not respect or being treated as an equal. That’s patriarchal control over your life- having the state actually pass laws that tell you that you can’t be trusted to make decisions for yourself. Back in the 1800s, during the “white slave” hysteria, some countries actually prohibited women from traveling beyond their borders. Greece passed a law that prohibited women from traveling without a male chaperone. This is so parallel to the Swedish law in that both laws assumed that some people knew better what was/is best for women. Doesn’t anyone else see how this is scarily similar to the laws against women being able to divorce, being able to work outside the home, etc? Bless our hearts, we just don’t know what’s good for us. I love Gwen Stefani for singing about this.

    Ok- for now that’s all I will say, but I am sure I will think of a million other things to say after I turn my computer off.

  421. Erotic Undulation
    Erotic Undulation December 17, 2011 at 8:42 pm |

    Just thought of something! Can anyone tell me if in Sweden men are also targeted for reform and rehabilitation by the rescuers? Are women ever arrested for purchasing sex?

  422. Erotic Undulation
    Erotic Undulation December 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm |

    Oh- and if anyone is in London, And is curious about New Zealand’s policies, come and hear Tim Barnett speak!

    From the ECP’s website:

    Monday 19 December, 6pm

    Decriminalise prostitution for safety’s sake!

    KEY SPEAKER: TIM BARNETT 
    New Zealand MP who introduced decriminalisation
    He is in London only for one day. Don’t miss him!
     
    Tent City University, Occupy London Stock Exchange, St Paul’s, EC4M 8AD  

    Tim Barnett sponsored the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act which decriminalised prostitution in New Zealand, making it the first country to do so. This is the model law based on the demands of sex workers for health and safety. Find out how it was won and its impact so far — a five year review found sex workers are safer and have more rights. This talk couldn’t be better timed as even the Association of Chief Police Officers is suggesting New Zealand-style decriminalisation. Tim Barnett now lives in South Africa and is working with sex workers, community organisations and politicians for similar law change there.

  423. Erotic Undulation
    Erotic Undulation December 18, 2011 at 4:16 am |

    “Most of the male sex workers I know see predominantly or exclusively men. Women are often not involved in their work at all. Which makes the “sex work is violence against women” analysis fall a bit flat when applied to them.

    And that’s a key point. If the system that you’ve imposed on an affected community fails to even acknowledge the existence of a not insignificant sector of that community, that system and the analysis it is built on is broken.”

    I completely agree. But I have also heard arguments about the gendered nature of the power dynamic in a transactional sex exchange, and how the men buying sex from men are still perpetrating their male dominance over these other men. But this argument doesn’t hold up when it is women purchasing sex from men. (See Concierge du Monde)

    Cecile! Yes! And I love Cosines Fabian. One of my sheroes!

  424. Erotic Undulation
    Erotic Undulation December 18, 2011 at 4:18 am |

    Ugh. Typing on an iPad and it “corrected” Cosi to Cosine before I noticed it. Sorry!

  425. Erotic Undulation
    Erotic Undulation December 18, 2011 at 4:33 am |

    And Cecile, wasn’t it you way up thread who was talking about the way violence against women would still happen regardless of the existence of prostitution? I am pretty sure it was you, going by your last post. I really wanted to respond to that, but it was one of the points I forgot along the way. Thanks for reminding me!

    I happen to agree that “eliminating” prostitution is at the most just treating a symptom (if one believes that it is indeed a symptom of something bad). Violence against women would still occur and then what would you eliminate next? M/F sex? Sometimes I think that would be amenable to some folks. So you bring up a good point: how do we make it so that people respect each other with unconditional regard? Because even my statement ignores the fact that there is domestic violence committed by women against women and men.

    In contrast, I have always felt that my sex work nurtured the people I’ve engaged with, providing a safe, warm and loving space in which to heal or just revel, for both men and women. I happen to believe that love is transformative, and creating space for that love is a special gift I have been given to share. So in a way, I believe sex work that I do works towards eliminating that violence humans can foist upon each other.

  426. Erotic Undulation
    Erotic Undulation December 18, 2011 at 5:56 am |

    That’s the reality we understand, for sure. But so many misinformed conjectures are made about the exact relationships between client and sex worker. I often find myself wondering if, in the 22 years and several countries in which I have been involved in the sex professions, perhaps I missed that part. I would love to conduct a survey of sex workers and clients from a sex worker (rather than an academic) perspective. (or perhaps from a sex worker academic)

    The world that Stella describes is certainly a reality for some, but I cant imagine that world existing where there is decrim a la NZ and NSW.

  427. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 18, 2011 at 6:03 am |

    Hey. . .I’m not a sex worker and am not particularly knowledgable about these issues. But I do like feministe and have insomnia and read pretty much this whole thread (and some of the linked articles/blogs) all at once over the past 5 hours. I just wanted to say I was completely blown away. .I’ve learned so much about the lives of sex workers, shattering my stereotypes, and was truly impressed by the passion and intelligence of the advocacy on both sides. I admire the courage it took be so forthright about some terrible tramautic events y’all have experienced. I hope this isn’t seeming voyeuristic, but I was genuinuely horrified during the implosion during the middle of the thread and then stunned and moved when somehow things turned around and you all rose above it. I actually couldn’t stop crying when wl and stella finally extended olive branches to each other. I’m normally a pretty cynical person and haven’t had much faith in the possibility of social transformation lately, but threads like this remind me what’s possible from human beings, and by implication myself, and hopefully someday, our whole world.

    Um, OK, that’s it. Carry on.

  428. Erotic Undulation
    Erotic Undulation December 18, 2011 at 6:07 am |

    In MSM sex work exchanges, I think it’s complete rubbish to say that a man buying sex from another man is exerting “male dominance”, especially if he’s paying a man to take a dominant role over him, which is exceedingly common.

    Yes, according to my knowledge of the MSM sex work world this is so true. Many of my female escort friends have clients who ask them to set up an engagement where this exact scenario can happen. It’s very interesting how it so often involves the (typically hetero-identified) client paying to be “forced” to perform MSM activities.

    So then we could pose a new question: what is a representative client? Lol!

  429. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm |

    I work in the legal Nevada system and don’t know of any trangender people in this system. I started working in the system about 10 years ago and stay on top of the happenings, so if a transgender person were to work in the brothel system, that would make a lot of news like the man who worked as a sex worker and we would know.

    I don’t agree with excluding trangdender people from being able to work legally, which is another reason why I support the decriminalization of prostitution. I use the term gender minority, because it’s not just about transgender people. If I were referring to just transgender people, then I would say transgender. It also includes intersex people and anybody who doesn’t conform to the cis gender binary. There are so many different gender identities (probably some I don’t even know about), so gender minority is an umbrella term for people who don’t conform to the cis gender identities. If you can provide another term to use that is inclusive of all who don’t fit into the cis gender binary, then I’ll use that term. The term minority refers to marginalized, excluded, and unjustly stigmatized groups.

    DonnaL: Astotranswomen(whomyouincludeinso-called“genderminorities”—whomadeupthatterm?),that’sanutterlyabsurdstatement.Neitheryounoranyoneelsecouldpossiblyassertwithanyfactualbasisthatnopost-GRStranswomenhasworkedordoesworkinanybrothel,legalorotherwise.Howwouldyouknow?

  430. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |

    DonnaL, in my message that you’re taking issue with, I meant that no transgender people that I know of work in the legal Nevada brothels. You’re correct that post-GRS women may work in the system. Please forgive me if I wasn’t clear enough.

    Also, I learned the term gender minority from another sex worker who was attempting to use gender inclusive language and be gender inclusive. If we just say men, women and transgender, that’s problematic because for one thing, it doesn’t necessarily include the whole spectrum of genders. Also, saying men, women, and transgender is treating transgender people like a third gender, which a transgender woman I know of takes issue with, though I know another transgender person who expressed different feelings.

  431. Vegan Vixen
    Vegan Vixen December 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    I also disagree with the assertion that the client holds all the power. This is true in some cases, but not all. When my clients compensate me for mutually agreed upon time and services and respect my boundaries, neither one of us have all the control. Rather, it’s mutually agreed upon and we both have a say.

    EroticUndulation:Icompletelydisagreewiththeanalysisthattheclientholdsallthepowerinatransactionalsexexchange.It’snotbeenmyexperiencethatthat’swhatmostclientsareevenlookingfor,letalonethatthat’showthepowerdynamicactual