Be Wary of 'Sex Worker Voices'

Camille Henrot, My Anaconda Don’t  ...more

Madame Helen: Notes from the Brothel

I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives....more

Its all in the Ignorance: Why Men Buy Sex

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"If you must eat his shit": advice for women in the sex work trade.

SWOP, or the Sex Worker Outreach Project, has many organizations throughout the country and they, like St. James Infirmary in San Francisco, do a lot of truly wonderful things.Many SWOP chapters provide free legal advice, peer support, and access to special resources for sex workers. Their primary goal is to educate the public, reduce the stigma of sex work, and advocate for full decriminalization of the sex work industry. St James Infirmary is a health and safety clinic for sex workers. They distribute clean needles, condoms, lube, food, and clothing. They also provide HIV and Hep C testing, harm reduction counseling, case management, acupuncture, and massage. Like SWOP, they promote the idea that sex work is just work, no different from waitressing or hairdressing. As stated in their “Occupational Health and Safety Handbook”:“Our approach is inspired by and grounded in principles of harm reduction because we understand that sex work in itself is not harmful…” (emphasis mine). Like SWOP, St James Infirmary believes that it is criminalization, not sex work, that causes harm. “Sex work in itself is not the harm; rather the harms from sex work are a result of our diminished social capital; labor rights violations; lack of legitimacy as an occupation; and criminalization of us, our work and our efforts to work collectively and organize…When the work we perform is criminalized and stigmatized, we are denied the dignity and safety that are the inherent rights of every human.” (emphasis mine) (http://stjamesinfirmary.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/sji_rg_v3-2010.pdf)When SWOP and St. James Infirmary speak of harm reduction, they are referring to the harms resulting from criminalization, not violence committed by pimps and johns.  But if it’s true that criminalization is what makes sex work harmful, then sex work should be harmless in the Netherlands where it has been legal since the year 2000. But is it?Clues can be found in a pamphlet distributed by both SWOP and St James Infirmary entitled “Tricks of the Trade: Health & Safety on the Job.” This pamphlet was originally published in Dutch to be used in the Netherlands, where prostitution, being legal, is supposedly not harmful. http://www.berkeleyneed.org/resources/tricksmanual.pdf Among the many  “health and safety tips” provided in the manual is this one:“It’s never safe to get shit in your mouth (even your own shit), vagina or near your urethra.  If you must eat his shit, seek medical advice afterwards. It might be a good idea to take antibiotics.” (emphasis mine) Again, sex work is completely legal in the Netherlands. And yet if “you must eat his shit” is presented as a legitimate “work” issue, how does this not contradict the “sex work is just work” philosophy of organizations like SWOP and St. James infirmary? In what other profession does a woman need advice on how to cope with being forced to eat shit?Other helpful “Tricks of the Trade” included in the pamphlet are:“Try to be the pisser, not the one who gets pissed on- Piss stinks, and your ability to attract another customer may be limited. ““Its probably safe to get urine in your mouth. ““Use some mentholated salve, like Vicks Vapo-Rub, inside your nostrils - you'll smell the customer less when you give head and you'll be less sniffly if you're dope sick. ““Try not to rest any part of your face (chin, cheeks, forehead) on his balls or thighs. If he has sores, herpes, or lice you may get them too. “One subsection of the pamphlet is entitled: “If you must give head without a condom [remember, this is a country where sex work is legal and sex workers are supposed to be “empowered”]. The advice given here explains that you must “be aware that throat tissue is fragile & try to keep contact shallow. If you must deep throat, don't panic. Tension will make your throat tighten and tissues easier to tear.” (emphasis mine).Torn throat tissues that result “when you must deep-throat” are dangerous because they make it easier to get infected with an STD.As the pamphlet states, “It is possible to get sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, warts and HIV from giving head to an infected person...HPV is incurable, but warts can be surgically removed. ..HPV in the mouth can affect larynx and vocal chords. Surgery here is complicated.” The “Tricks of the Trade” pamphlet also includes some tips on how to Dress for Success (or at least how to Dress for not being brutally murdered):“Avoid necklaces, scarves, across-the-body shoulder bags, or anything else that can accidentally or intentionally be tightened around your throat… Wear clothing that doesn't have to be removed to fuck [so] you won't lose your clothing if you have to run away…Clothing should be “straitjacket-proof." A half zipped or buttoned jacket can be pulled over shoulders to trap arms… do not wear large earrings because they can accidentally or intentionally be pulled out…wear shoes that are easy to remove or that you can run in.“ (emphasis mine). Pro-sex work advocates claim that the police are the greatest threat to  prostituted women’s safety. And yet even in countries like the United States where “sex work” is illegal and police are more likely to pose a threat, the most frequently asked questions from prostituted women are about how to protect themselves from “customers” not police. Here are just a few examples of their “frequently asked questions”: “I find clients outdoors. Do you have any advice on how to stay safe?”Answer: “Jot down the license plate number as the car drives up, and text it to someone if you can (or at least, pretend to…)Avoid getting into a car with more than one person in it.  If the vehicle is a van try to check out if anyone is in the back.*“I work independently, indoors. Do you have any advice on how to stay safe?”“Ask for an ID when they arrive to confirm their identity. If you must meet with someone who does not give you their full name and work information, try to Google whatever information you have about them.”“*Do you have any safety advice for visiting a client at their house?”Answer: *Do not follow a client into their basement.  Be aware if he is taking you to a potentially unsafe area during “the tour.”  Basements provide a soundproof area for them to hurt you and it is easier to clean up the mess.  Basements generally have floor drains.  Especially unfinished ones.”http://www.prosnetworkchicago.org/faqsforworkers/ These are all extremely important tips to consider, because prostituted women are 40 to 50 times more likely to be murdered on the job than the general population. But in Sweden, where pimps and johns are criminalized and prostituted women are not (this is called the Nordic Model) there hasn’t been one single murder of a prostituted woman by a john in the past 15 years. Not one. But the Netherlands, which has a population only 50 % higher than Sweden, has seen 28 prostituted women murdered by johns in this same time frame.  This is truly startling, given that Sweden and the Netherlands have almost exactly the same murder rate overall. And in Germany, since prostitution was fully legalized in 2002, at least 55 prostitutes have been murdered by johns, and there have been at least 29 attempted murders. In New Zealand, which has half the population of Sweden, several prostituted women have been gruesomely murdered by johns in the past ten years.  And yet again, in Sweden, not one prostituted woman has been murdered by a john in 15 years. http://prostitutionresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Prostitution-in-Germany-Murders.pdfhttp://prostitutionresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Prostitution-in-Germany-Murders.pdfhttp://pasteurella.blogspot.nl/2009/02/prostitutiemoorden-in-nederland.htmlhttp://www.stuff.co.nz/national/772189/Murdered-prostitutes-worked-at-sa...These facts are significant, because people on both sides of the “Nordic Model vs. Full Decriminalization” debate have their own sets of statistics to “prove” which approach is safer for prostituted women. But statistics on sex trafficking, child prostitution, and non-lethal forms of violence tend to be unreliable, because so much is dependent upon self-report, and concrete evidence is hard to find. But dead bodies are pretty concrete, and manipulating statistics on the murder of sex workers is extremely difficult. Based on the body count, full decriminalization is much more deadly for sex workers than the Nordic Model. But why is this reality so vehemently denied by people who claim to “care” about sex workers?Perhaps because “sex work” is a multi-billion dollar industry. If the Nordic Model spreads to too many other countries, it could cost some very powerful people unthinkable amounts of money.Perhaps it’s also because prostituted women are viewed as providing a buffer between creeps and “respectable” society. Many pro-sex work advocates cite decreases in rape statistics that correlate with increases in prostitution. But I wonder, in what moral universe is it acceptable to feed the most vulnerable members of society (mostly poor women and girls of color) to sexual predators so the rest of us can feel “safer”.  That is simply not an acceptable option to me, nor should it be to anyone who claims to care about human rights.“I want you to eat my shit” is probably not something a man would include in his online dating profile, nor is it something he would ask of a woman he respected. So for men who like to have women “eat their shit” prostituted women are a valuable commodity. Shit-eating is the province of prostituted women who have no choice (economically, or in some cases, physically and psychologically) but to eat a man’s shit upon request.And yet sex workers’ rights organizations claim: “When the work we perform is criminalized and stigmatized, we are denied the dignity and safety that are the inherent rights of every human.”But I propose that it’s “sex work” that denies people “the dignity and safety that are the inherent rights of every human being.”Because here’s a fact: Prostituted women are still eating shit in the Netherlands, even though prostitution is as legal as being a waitress or a hairdresser. Prostituted women still get urinated on and give blow jobs to men with lice, scabies, crabs, and genital warts. They still put Vicks vapo-rub up their noses so they don’t have to smell the men they must suck off to survive.Those of us who genuinely care about human rights – especially the rights of poor women and girls - must fight hard to promote the Nordic Model and use it as a tool to eventually abolish the “sex work” industry.We must do this because “dignity and safety are the inherent rights of every human being.”      ...more

Which “sex workers” should we listen to?

When it comes to decriminalizing pimps and johns, we are constantly told to “listen to sex workers”. But which “sex workers”?  Those who have escaped prostitution or those still “choosing” to be involved in the sex trade?  Organizations headed by women who have escaped prostitution  (SPACE, GEMS, Breaking Free, Survivors For Solutions, The Sage Project, Sex Trafficking Survivors United, Street Exit, Sex Trade 101) overwhelmingly support the Nordic Model, which decriminalizes prostituted women while continuing to criminalize pimps and johns....more
enbrown that turn of phrase has always seemed to be dripping with agenda whenever I hear itmore

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White House Recognizes Nashville Priest Becca Stevens

 Stevens (courtesy of HER Nashville Magazine)...more

Her Story...

It sounds like a vague title but the meaning couldn't be any deeper in my life. I am just the voice behind the tale, but the life in question is that of my older sister. An older sibling who fled home at fifteen years old right after I was born almost three decades ago. Writing without a name attached to me has become an outlet for the emotions life has handed me in these difficult days. A life that has withstood disease, heartbreak, and more near death experiences than Evil Kenevil. An amazing person with a troubled soul. A wife, mother, pathological liar... ...more

Whatsyourprice.com: The New Face of Prostitution or a Pretty Good Idea?

Whatsyourprice.com: The New Face of Prostitution or a Pretty Good Idea?     Brand new website promises to hook up The Generous and The Beautiful on first dates....more
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