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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Some of my favorites...

My best friend and I at SLUTWALK NYC

Sex Trafficking & Sex Work

I've been doing some research today on the problem of sex trafficking in both the US and Europe. It's been very interesting and informative to read the different viewpoints surrounding whether or not sex work and sex trafficking are correlated. Some say that the legalization of sex work would increase human trafficking, while others argue that legalization would lead to stricter regulations. So, would legalization of prostitution in CT increase or decrease human sex trafficking? While I believe that it would effectively decrease trafficking, it is important to take a look at both viewpoints:

Marjan Wijers, LLM, Chair of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Trafficking in Human Beings, in the chapter "Women, Labor, and Migration: The Position of Trafficked Women and Strategies for Support" of the 1998 book Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition, wrote:
"Criminalizing the sex industry creates ideal conditions for rampant exploitation and abuse of sex workers…[I]t is believed that trafficking in women, coercion and exploitation can only be stopped if the existence of prostitution is recognized and the legal and social rights of prostitutes are guaranteed."
The Economist, in the Sep. 2, 2004 opinion article "Sex is Their Business," wrote:
"Criminalisation forces prostitution into the underworld. Legalisation would bring it into the open, where abuses such as trafficking and under-age prostitution can be more easily tackled. Brothels would develop reputations worth protecting."
Valid points.
Let's take a look at the other side:
Barrett Duke Jr., PhD, Vice President for Research and Public Policy, Research Institute of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention, is quoted in the May 4, 2004 Pakistan Christian Post as having said:
"Instead of legalizing prostitution, they should work very vigorously at ending prostitution, which in our opinion would significantly contribute to the eradication of trafficking in persons and human sexual slavery."
Ending prostitution? Hmm...seems feasible. While we're at it, let's just declare that we need to work vigorously at stopping drug-use. Once again, because that's possible. *sarcasm*   Very idealistic. Cute, really.

Christine Stark, MFA, author and activist, said on "Justice Talking" on National Public Radio (NPR) on Mar. 4, 2002 that:
"...[Y]ou don't legalize organized rape. You just don't do that. What we have found is that legalization has caused an increase in the trafficking into the area where the legalization exists. The state then becomes the pimp… Legalizing prostitution creates more demand and mainstreams abuse of women and children... [I]t also makes it difficult to hold traffickers accountable." it rape, if the worker is consenting to it? Interesting.
Here is an excerpt from Opinion: Behind the Myth of  the Happy Hooker, 2010
"Research suggests that in most countries men buy women with impunity. For example, Victor Malarek, in his recent book "The Johns," cites numerous international studies that estimate that approximately 70 percent of men in southeast Asia and Japan buy sex; and between 19 and 39 percent of European men regularly buy sex depending on the country. And yet, the vast majority of women worldwide who engage in prostitution endure extreme abuse and violence, ranging from being raped to being kicked while pregnant or being choked with wire. Many prostitutes interviewed in a U.S. nationwide survey in 2004 said they had been punched, burned with cigarettes, hit with baseball bats and had their heads slammed into walls and floors, or held underwater in the toilet. That same survey revealed that 64 percent of women suffered permanent disabilities as a result of beatings and 33 percent had sodomy forced upon them. A 2006 British study held similar findings — 80 percent reported being “severely” beaten and 90 percent were forced into engaging in sexual acts they refused to perform.
If we are to really address the horror of the buying, selling and trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation, then we must make efforts to stop the demand by making the buying of sex a crime with harsh penalties. At the same time, the selling of sex should be decriminalized so that the women, who are already victims, are not further abused by the penal and immigration systems. (Legalization of prostitution only exacerbates slavery — human trafficking flourishes where prostitution is legal.) It is time we recognize that the commodification of women and children is a nefarious form of sexual violence and stop pretending that it is benign.
Prostitution is rarely a free choice and it is never a preferred career path. Behind the myth of the “happy hooker,” hides a horrific human rights abuse."
Those are some horrific statistics. What would happen if prostitution were legal? One would assume that sex workers would have legal rights, and would receive support from the authorities after reporting these crimes. With the current laws, sex workers cannot report such crimes, for fear of being prosecuted and arrested themselves. The men who assault them are obviously aware of the criminal status of the workers, making these women easy targets. These workers have no rights. The author seems to think that harsher punishment for those who purchase sex will decrease the violence against workers. Possible? Maybe...but why not also target the actual sex workers, give them more rights, work to protect them by considering their needs? 

Also of note is the fact that the article provides many statistics regarding violence against workers, presumably from self-report interviews with workers. The article then ends with the author's opinion that there is no such thing as a "happy hooker." How did the author come to this conclusion? Does this mean that all sex workers are forced into prostitution by means of coercion? Well, apparently not all...

Veronica Monet, prostitute and author, wrote in the 1994 Gauntlet article "Sex Worker and Incest Survivor: A Healthy Choice?" that:
"I'm complicated and defy the stereotypes about whores, as do most whores. We are a misunderstood and much maligned group of people (women, men and transgendered). Recent research has shown that many of us are extremely educated and experienced in the straight business world. We chose sex work after we did a lot of things we couldn't stand. Sex work is better. For me, sex work isn't my first choice of paying work. It just happens to be the best alternative available. It's better than being president of someone else's corporation. It's better than being a secretary. It is the most honest work I know of."

Hey look, are those happy sex workers? Real people who actually CHOSE to get into sex work? *GASP*

How can we learn more? Unfortunately, it is difficult to produce unbiased and representative research about this population...

David Kanouse, PhD, Senior Behavioral Scientists at the RAND Corporation, et al., in the Feb. 1999 Journal of Sex Research article "Drawing a Probability Sample of Female Street Prostitutes in Los Angeles County," wrote:
"...[L]ittle of what is known about the size of this population... has been derived from careful scientific study. Most studies of prostitutes rely on samples of convenience, typically recruiting in jails, STD clinics, and methadone maintenance programs. A few studies also include outreach recruitment of respondents in areas known for street prostitution....
The usual way to minimize sampling bias is through the use of probability sampling techniques. However, the nature of commercial sex work makes that approach especially difficult. Because prostitution is an illicit activity, registries or rosters of prostitutes are not available,... persons in the general population who are willing to admit to such activity is inefficient and unlikely to yield satisfactory coverage of the target population."
The workers that are found in these samples of convenience may not be representative of all sex workers. Research would be much easier if prostitution were legal, and workers were not afraid to speak out and discuss their experiences.

Ok, ok, I got a bit off track. Big surprise. I started off researching the correlation between trafficking and prostitution, and somehow ended up in a different place. There's just so much ground to cover...questions that beg answering...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Hello everyone! The blog has only been up for a couple of days and I already have over 120 views. Thank you to everyone who has been re-posting. If you are interested in joining, please go to my Facebook group, Sex Workers Outreach Project CT and ask to join. It is a closed group, so please do not worry about confidentiality issues. It will be a safe place for both sex worker advocates AND sex workers to chat, share ideas, and discuss ways to improve worker conditions in CT. I have spoken to members of the SWOP-USA development committee, and will be going to NYC next month to meet with members of SWOP-NYC. I will be assigned a mentor, who will help with the development of SWOP-CT. Anybody who is interested is welcomed to come with me.

Please join!/groups/292831967426443/

Here, you can speak directly to me and to other members. 

Also, thank you so much to for posting my ads.  Xoxo

Mission Statement

Mission Statement: SWOP-CT
Sex Workers Outreach Project of Connecticut is a local chapter of the national social justice network, Sex Workers Outreach Project USA. First and foremost, SWOP-CT is an anti-violence campaign, aimed to increase the rights of sex workers by providing education to the community. Sex workers are denied many basic rights that other individuals are entitled to, due to their criminal status. The current stigma of prostitution results in a lack of community support, as sex workers continue to be victims of violence, rape, and murder. Although some individuals feel that sex work is morally wrong, it is crucial that people realize that sex workers are human beings, and their voices deserve to be heard. This has nothing to do with morals, and everything to do with human rights.
 Prostitution is happening in Connecticut, out on the street and behind closed doors. The continued criminal status of sex workers only serves to further push prostitution underground, resulting in more crime.  Thousands of dollars are spent per year to arrest and prosecute sex workers. It is only through the legalization of prostitution that regulation can begin. Sex workers would be entitled to rights, and would be able to report sexual assault. Workers would undergo regular medical screens, thus reducing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. The state would likely see a decrease in the trafficking of underage women, and save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. SWOP-CT recognizes this problem as a public health issue and human rights issue.
 In addition, SWOP-CT hopes to reduce stigma, helping the public to understand that sex work is a choice for many women and men. There is a difference between a minor who is trapped in sex slavery, and a consenting empowered adult who chooses to engage in sex work. Let’s recognize the difference. SWOP-CT believes that it’s time to shed some light on the stereotypes. It is in fact possible for a person to engage in sex work, whether it be (prostitution, pornography, exotic dancing, etc.), and to also be a human being with a life and identity outside of work. It is only through education and advocacy that we can reduce the stigma, and improve the lives of the sex workers in Connecticut. Please follow this blog, and join the facebook page in order to be a part of the group. People from all backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, and occupations are welcome, as long as their values are in line with our mission statement. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Oh, the money that could be saved...

These are the statistics that I found for Rhode Island. I am in search of those for CT....stay tuned...

Criminalization Costs:

Incidents of Incarceration 215
Prison Beds Needed Per Year 30
Prison Costs ($55,420 per prison bed) 1.6 million

Number of Prostitution Related Arrests:
(includes probation violations for misdemeanors) 365

Savings (Estimate for what RI could have saved by not arresting and incarcerating prostitutes):
Police and court savings $45,625
Prison savings from 30 bed reduction $440,307

Rhode Island Family Life Center
Rethinking Arrest: Street Prostitution and Public Policy in Rhode Island

The controversy around backpage ads...

Below is a link to an article written by Raymond Bechard, June 24, 2011:

Has The Hartford Advocate Stopped Human Trafficking Advertising? "Not Yet."

Ok, I get it. Dennis Paris was guilty of trafficking minors on the Berlin Turnpike, claiming that he had an "escort business." Dennis would advertise in The Hartford Advocate's Back Room section (yes, we have all seen it...who doesn't check out The Advocate's fun section from time to time? C'mon now). Thankfully, Dennis is serving 30 years in federal prison. Ok wait...the story doesn't end yet. The point of the article is to get readers all riled up at the fact that The Advocate continues to print their Back Room section (I'm reading it right now...oooh..All Natural 40DDD Voluptuous, Mature Blond. In-calls only!). *GASP* How could The Advocate continue to do such a thing!? Ok, so are you riled up and angry yet, ready to call The Advocate???

I hope not. If you are, you've missed the point. Yes, it's true that Dennis Paris used The Back Room in order to traffick minors, and this is disgusting. However, the majority of the advertisements in the Back Room are placed by consenting adult sex workers. If we are to shut down The Back Room, we may as well shut down the millions of porn sites on the internet, all because of the child porn sites that exist. I have also read articles on this same topic that discuss the dangers of prostitution, the exploitation of women. Wait a second....I thought that the sex trafficking of minors was the concern....hmmmm. So, are these folks that are against the trafficking of minors also against prostitution? Are they aware that these are different issues, and that most of the women who put ads in The Advocate are regular ol' adult sex workers? Does anybody care about their rights?

So, that brings us to my next point. If The Back Room (and other backpage ads) are shut down, how will this affect sex workers?

This article brings up some great points:

Making Sex Workers Visible in the Village Voice Media Ad Controversy

“Efforts to close down third-party advertisers are a shortsighted and misguided tactic to address trafficking,” said the New York City branch of the grassroots Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), in correspondence with In These Times. Blanket crackdowns endanger sex workers by forcing them “further underground,” potentially pushing vulnerable people away from social services and other initiatives that could alleviate the social and economic oppression often underpinning sexual coercion."

SWOP-NYC argues:
"Sex work is real work, which means sex workers have the basic labor rights we all expect, including a work environment free of violence and exploitation. Targeting companies that work with people in commercial sex will only lead to more shrouded interactions. This marginalization and isolation increases violence, HIV/STI transmission and stigmatization, hinders access to basic services, and promotes a loss of autonomy over the conditions in which people engage in the industry. There is so much we can do to prevent trafficking and support people who do want to move out of the sex industry, and these tactics only pull valuable resources from those strategies.
The voice commonly missing from the media coverage on the Village Voice and Craigslist is that of sex workers. It has become too easy to forget that there are real people involved with sex work with real human and labor rights."

It's always important to look at both sides of every story. Just sayin'. Now back to browsing The Back Room....

The beginning..

I have given birth to my first blog!! I have NO IDEA how to even begin a blog, and it's way past my bedtime, but I am feeling inspired. I will post much more information in coming days. Simply put: this blog will be a space for my ideas, a platform in order to reach and educate others, and hopefully create some change in Connecticut (yes, I am aware that these are lofty goals!). It is my understanding that there is a growing anti-trafficking movement in CT, aimed to target prostitution as well as the backpage escort ads that are posted in The Advocate. Let me be clear; I am firmly against human trafficking, sex slavery, and the exploitation of minors. However, I think that the abolitionists of CT are lumping two different issues into the same category. An adult woman who CHOOSES to engage in sex work (Yes, perhaps a prostitute..gasp!) is NOT the same as a 14 year old girl who has been forced into sex slavery. Let's please stop assuming that all sex workers are coerced, miserable, and degraded. This is a common myth. Modern prostitution is much like abortion, before abortion was legalized: It may be illegal, BUT IT'S STILL GOING TO HAPPEN. The legalization of prostitution would give sex workers the same rights as other workers, including ability to prosecute rapists. If it were legal, sex workers could be regularly tested, thus reducing the spread of STDs and HIV. It could be regulated, and violence against sex workers would decrease. Just take a look at Nevada....

Let's put our moral judgements aside. A woman owns her genitals, and should have the right to do with them as she pleases, just like she owns her reproductive organs. I am a sex worker advocate, and this does NOT mean that I support human trafficking. I just support women, and non-violence. 

Here is a great resource to check out: 

I am currently in the process of beginning a SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project) chapter in Connecticut. Please let me know if you are interested in joining. 

More to come....