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Archive for January 21st, 2021

The phenomenon of politicians feeling safe in espousing support for sex worker rights is such a new one, it’s unsurprising that sex workers tend to get excited every time it happens, especially when a politician demonstrates that he’s read enough on the topic to use some of our own talking points.  But while most outsiders speaking against American-style full criminalization seem to have learned enough to know the word “decrminalization” will get our attention, few if any seem to understand what it actually entails (or if they do, they pretend otherwise).  Furthermore, the majority of journalists covering these stories do not comprehend that “decriminalization” has a specific meaning; it doesn’t mean “legalization” or Swedish-style criminalization as prohibitionists pretend, nor does it mean “temporary tolerance” as in this article:

…Washtenaw County [Michigan] Prosecutor Eli Savit announced…his office would no longer seek prosecution of individuals engaged in consensual sex work, focusing instead on cases involving human trafficking, sexual assault and the sexual exploitation of children…Savit, who was newly elected in 2020, has issued a variety of new policy changes in the prosecutor’s office including the ending of cash bail and the rescinding of zero-tolerance policies.  The newest policy, citing various reasons for the decision, aims to ease tensions and make it easier for consensual sex workers to report crimes committed against them and aid them in leaving the life.  Research demonstrates that the criminalization of sex work enhances sex workers vulnerabilities to violence and exploitation…“Some people who engage in sex work would prefer to do so for only a limited time.  But…being convicted of sex work-related offenses gives sex workers a criminal record, which can make it hard to find non-sex work employment.”  Savit emphasized the policy is only directed toward cases where the exchange of money for sex is the sole basis of the charge…

Though he carefully avoids the semantically-loaded dog-whistle “pimp”, the last sentence of that block quote makes me wary.  As sex workers in “legalized” regimes will tell you, this still leaves us wide open to cop persecution for “offenses” such as sharing an incall, doing duos, or helping other sex workers in any way (“pimping”), or from having an incall in the first place (“brothel-keeping” or the equivalent).  These non-legislative “tolerance policies” can also be revoked without warning at a moment’s notice (or due to an election), as has happened in many US cities many times over the past century.  Moreover, they don’t stop cops from raping sex workers via threat of bogus charges of the type described above, or harassing us or clients by bullshit arrests (complete with arrest record and press release) that don’t get prosecuted.  In short, “baby step” is the right term for this sort of announcement; it’s a development that signifies a politician knows something is wrong with the system, but is unwilling (or unable) to really do anything substantial about it beyond signalling his view.  Yes, it’s better than yet another sociopath vomiting out lies about our lives and sending out thugs to rape and abduct us and call it “rescue”.  But it is not decriminalization by any stretch of the imagination, and even the limited protections Savit is promising are nothing more than words written in the dust until they are enshrined in law.

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