Archive for January 18th, 2012

Charleston was once the rage, uh huh
History has turned the page, uh huh
The miniskirt’s the current thing, uh huh
Teenybopper is our newborn king, uh huh.
  –  Sonny Bono, “The Beat Goes On

What, you thought we were done with updates for the month?  We’re getting so many of these now that I’m soon going to change the way I handle them; look for a new feature, “That Was the Week That Was”, coming February 4th.

Shifting the Blame (January 26th, 2011)

Remember how last year at this time the media was still trying to blame Craigslist every time something bad happened to a hooker?  Well, they eventually realized that Backpage was now the fashionable scapegoat, and since we can’t possibly put the blame where it belongs – the laws which force prostitutes into the shadows where we can be preyed on by evil men in and out of uniform – it must be Backpage’s fault when women are killed.  Here’s what Sex Workers for Choice has to say about the recent murders in Detroit:

Over the past month, 4 women have been murdered in Detroit, MI and another two have gone missing…It is unknown at this time if the cases of the missing women are related to the recent murders, but the possibility certainly seems too unlikely of a coincidence. Police say that 3 out of the 4 murder victims had profiles on Backpage…[which] has responded by reaching out to authorities to aid in the investigation, including helping to identify a number of other websites that the women might have had profiles on.  There is a sense of déjà vu in the rush from the media and other online sources to vilify Backpage as some sort of co-conspirator in the deaths of these women.  The “Craigslist Killer” was the tipping point in helping shut down Craigslist erotic services section, and this…will no doubt fuel the already strong campaign…[against] Backpage.  What these critics ignore is that the true co-conspirator is not these advertising venues, but rather…the laws that isolate us from the protections most others take for granted.  What makes…sex workers a target for violence is not how or where we advertise, but the fact that violent predators know that those crimes…are not investigated or prosecuted as diligently…[because we] are…viewed as criminals that somehow signed on for such violence…Until we have equal rights and equal protection, the predators will continue to seek us out in any and every advertising venue available…

Real People (February 6th, 2011)

It’s interesting that the New York Times, a major proponent of the “whores are passive victims” mythology, should publish this profile of an independent, strong willed streetwalker:

Like many single mothers, Barbara Terry, 52, scrounged for baby sitters and leaned on her own mother while raising her four children and working the night shift.  But Ms. Terry is a prostitute who has worked nearly her entire adult life on the streets of Hunts Point, in the Bronx.  “When they were old enough to understand, I would tell them the truth,” said Ms. Terry, whose daughter and three sons are now grown.  “I’d say, ‘This is how I’m supporting you.’  For me, it’s a business, a regular job.”  Yes, she said, she was arrested more than 100 times, sometimes landing at Rikers Island for several days or weeks — but that never deterred her from returning…Today, Ms. Terry lives nearby in the Bronx, but she hopes to retire in a year or so to a house she bought upstate…“I’ve survived because God was with me,” Ms. Terry said.  “Every Sunday, my mother and grandmother prayed for me out here”…

The story has a heaping helping of lurid detail, but never tries to deny Terry agency or paint her as emotionally damaged.  And though a story like this wouldn’t be unusual in the Canadian media (as you’ll see in the story below), I think it’s the closest thing to “sex work is work” we’re likely to see in the mainstream American media for a very long time.

Harm Magnification (May 15th, 2011)

The Canadian government, like its bloated US counterpart, seems intent on continuing the prohibitionist laws and policies which create crime, expose many thousands of citizens to danger and cause incalculable damage to society.  But unlike their U.S. counterparts, the Canadian media are refusing to be the stooges of their government.  Rather than mindlessly parroting “trafficking”  mythology in order to support anti-prostitute tyranny, Canadian reporters are almost universally laying the blame for harm to sex workers where it belongs:  on the bad laws and the evil actions of the police.  And though the American version of Huffington Post is happy to “cater…to the current fashionable delusions about us”, the Canadian edition is equally happy to go whichever way the wind is blowing up there:

…Repression from police has pushed prostitution into more dangerous, isolated parts of [Montreal], making sex workers more vulnerable to violence, said Anna-Louise Crago…[of the] advocacy group…Stella…”Criminalization and police repression against sex workers, our clients, and our work places make it impossible to work in safer conditions.”  Experts say the same pattern of repression has been repeated in other cities across Canada, making prostitution a more dangerous job.  In Vancouver, police engaged in a decades-long campaign to move prostitutes into the more isolated Downtown Eastside, where…it [was easier] for [serial killer Robert] Pickton and other predators to target women…

It’s not illegal to be a prostitute in Canada, but many of the activities associated with prostitution are classified as criminal offences…the ambivalence has caused confusion in the courts and made it difficult for police to do their job.  Efforts to protect sex workers often appear to be at odds with the police’s attempt to crack down on prostitution.  That seemed to be the case in December when Ottawa police chief Vern White, faced with a possible serial killer targeting prostitutes, warned them to be extra cautious.  Advocacy groups countered that it was the force’s very own tactics of aggressive policing and repression that had forced them into more dangerous situations.  A study…based on interviews with more than 200 sex workers between 2006 and 2008, found a link between prostitutes who reported having been harassed or assaulted by a police officer and the likelihood they were victims of violence in future.  In Montreal, Stella has recorded between 50 and 60 cases of violence, including rape, brutal beatings, and attempted murder against sex workers annually.  Yet only four or five cases reach the courts every year [because] the victims are often afraid to press charges…

…The debate about how to cut back on the violence may end up being settled by the courts.  The [government is] trying to overturn a lower court ruling in which a judge struck down three laws against prostitution, saying they force people in the sex trade to choose between obeying the law and keeping themselves safe.  Sex workers argue that the laws prevent them from working indoors where it’s safer, taking time to talk to a potential client to assess the risk they pose and hiring bodyguards.  The…government maintains that protecting victims of exploitation and supporting the enforcement of existing laws should be a priority…The top court’s ruling in support of the Vancouver safe-injection site Insite has given advocates cause for optimism…”That judgment gives us a lot of hope,” said [Stella’s director Emilie] Laliberte, who is also a former sex worker. “For us, it’s a really important sign that even though the government doesn’t want to respect our rights the courts will.”

American media would obediently echo the government’s ludicrous claim that persecuting whores somehow makes “victims of exploitation” safer, but the Canadian reporter dismisses it in a line.  Perhaps one day the American media may grow that bold again, but probably not for a few years yet.

One Year Ago Today

January Miscellanea” reported that the Dutch government had announced plans to collect sales tax on prostitution; that the city of Modesto, California recognizes prostitution as a victimless crime yet persecutes hookers anyhow; and that ultra-enlightened Sweden claims prostitutes can infallibly be recognized by our clothing.  And four other items, too!

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