Sex Worker Rights Are Human Rights

This is a good representation of what Human Rights should look like in my humble opinion. I believe this is what we should all be fighting for and insisting on.
XOXOX- Pussy Willow

Sex Worker Rights Are Human Rights

By Juhu Thukral, On The Issues Magazine
Posted on August 28, 2008, Printed on August 30, 2008

Link-View this story online

The idea of sex workers fighting for their human rights is a foreign concept to most people, even those who identify politically as progressives or feminists. Sex workers have lived on the margins of society through most of human history, and despite the prevalence of this work all over the world, sex workers are often treated as less than human, both in cultural attitudes and public policy. In fact, it cannot be said enough: sex workers are people — friends, neighbors, family members, wage earners, and parents — and they deserve the same human rights as everyone else.

What Human Rights?

Feminists and advocates of all stripes have argued that they want to work for the human rights of sex workers, often without an analysis of what human rights for sex workers might look like.

While many people would agree that access to human rights includes the right to be free from harm, to have access to health care and housing, and to seek safe employment that pays a living wage, there is fierce debate as to what any of this actually means. Some feminists argue that sex work is inherently harmful and that the very act of trading sex for money is a violation of a person’s sanctity or dignity, and is, in and of itself, an act of violence. For these feminists, the story ends there, even when sex workers all over the world speak out, not to ask to be pulled out of sex work, but to demand that their rights be protected as they work.

Others, like the Sex Workers Project, believe that a human rights framework includes active participation of sex workers from different backgrounds and experiences; efforts to combat violence, whether it is at the hands of customers or of the police; advocate for public health programs that promote the autonomy of sex workers, and work to empower sex workers so that they can make the best choices for themselves and their families, assessing their life circumstances as best as they can. These elements are key to any effort to respect the human rights and health needs of sex workers; to properly assist those who want to leave sex work for other work, and to protect the rights and safety of those who continue in sex work.

Another key issue that gets less attention is the fight over the role of the criminal justice system. Some feminists view prosecution and punishment through the criminal justice system as the cornerstone for helping victims of violence. Others view rule of law as one of many important keys toward guaranteeing human rights, but argue that an excessive focus on the criminal justice system is detrimental to many marginalized groups, including sex workers, who have been victimized by the police. There are fundamental clashes between the needs of a criminal justice prosecution, and the needs of a human being who would most benefit from a rights-based approach.

Feminists Line Up Differently on Law Revision

These debates, often centered on agency and autonomy, might seem theoretical and unimportant in the realm of people’s daily lives. However, the debate often plays itself out in concrete policy terms, especially around the issue of human trafficking.

While human trafficking involves the experience of force, fraud, or coercion in any type of labor, such as domestic work, agricultural labor or sex work, it has been salaciously painted as being synonymous with prostitution. The idea that prostitution equals trafficking has been burned into the public mind by lurid headlines that scream of victims rescued from their captors, often without follow-up news items that might explain that the reality is more complicated, and that any number of prostitutes decided to go into that work because it was a way to make enough money to live on and also support their families, who are often in other countries.

Feminists who wish to abolish prostitution entirely have found strong allies in the Christian right and in the Bush administration. The efforts to incorrectly equate prostitution and trafficking as the same have culminated in recent efforts around the federal anti-trafficking law that Congress has been considering for reauthorization in 2008 (final vote still pending in early July).

The House version of the legislation includes a dangerous and unnecessary change to the Mann Act, a federal law that prohibits interstate travel for the purpose of prostitution. This change has nothing to do with human trafficking, and thus far, the Senate has bravely withstood pressure from some feminists and have not included this expansion in their version of the bill, SB 3061.

The federal anti-trafficking law, enacted in 2000, already defines anyone under 18 who is involved in commercial sex acts, and anyone in prostitution who experiences force, fraud or coercion as a victim of human trafficking. Changing the definition of trafficking so that law enforcement does not need to look at a person’s age or experience of coercion (the heart of the trafficking crime) will put the focus squarely on prostitution, rather than on labor and prostitution situations in which people are living under a climate of fear and experiencing genuine human rights abuses.

Are We Listening?

As law enforcement look for more victims, they will inevitably arrest more sex workers, and will lessen their focus on people who are trafficked into sectors other than prostitution. This will lead to untold harms to people who have been trafficked into other labor sectors and who cannot receive the help and attention they deserve; and to those who work in prostitution for reasons as diverse and complicated as any that go into deciding how to make money and build a life. At the Sex Workers Project, we find that most of our clients go into sex work because they can make more money and work more flexible hours than in other industries. In our 2005 study, 67 percent of the sex workers we interviewed did not make a living wage in other jobs such as waitressing, administrative work, or retail. For many, sex work was not their only form of work — 46 percent supplemented their income from mainstream jobs with sex work.

The people we see every day at the Sex Workers Project are just like everyone else — they want to know that if they are a victim of a crime, that they will receive the same attention as anyone else. What they do not want is to be classified as a victim of human trafficking as they go about the complicated business of living their lives and supporting their families as best as they can.

All feminists need to agree that when we hear the voices of sex workers advocating for their human rights, we need to really listen, rather than impose our own views of what life decisions we might deem acceptable.

Juhu Thukral, Esq., is the director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City. She has been an advocate for the rights of immigrant women in the areas of health, work, and sexuality for fifteen years.

© 2008 On The Issues Magazine All rights reserved.
Link-View this story online

Kill Liberals– The TN Unitarian Church Murderer’s Motive

OpEdNews

Original Content at;
Kill Liberals – The TN Unitarian Church Murderer’s Motive

July 28, 2008

Kill Liberals– The TN Unitarian Church Murderer’s Motive

By Rob Kall

The 58 year old killer who entered a Unitarian Church in Tennessee was set on killing liberals.

He’d learned the Tennessee Valley Universalist Unity Church was a liberal organization that supported Gays and liberal issues. He hated liberals.

The Sheriff who reported on The message the killer, Jim D. Adkisson, left behind, stated the murders were motivated by “hatred for the liberal movement.”

The killer intentionally chose the Universalist United church intentionally, coming prepared to engage in a massacre, with over 70 shotgun shells, ready to keep on shooting people until the police arrived to kill him.

He does not appear to a member of any organized group, but the episode is being investigated as a hate crime.

Adkisson does not have a prior record other than two previous DUIs.

Those are the facts. Now we have to ask some questions.

Was Adkisson a member of any groups, or a church that might have fomented his hateful views?

Was this a terrorist act? Joe Lauria says so;
Even if this man hopefully acted alone it is chilling to all progressive people and groups, like the Unitarians. Are we free to express our views, indeed to allow our children to perform in a church play?

Adkisson must be tried on terrorism charges and the White House and Congressional leaders must speak out against this form of domestic terrorism too, not just the inflated threat from Islamic extremists that threaten American political and economic interests abroad and help drum up defense contracts at home.”

Did he listen to talk radio that espoused ideas or actions that could have inspired his murderous actions? One commenter on the ABC website commented,
Day after day so-called “conservative” radio talk show hosts go on the air and blame the “liberals” for everything that has ever gone wrong in the world often times outright lying about something to bolster the point. The target audience of these shows is the not-too-bright crowd to begin with but a certain percent of any group is going to be mentally or emotionally unstable, this particular group moreso than others perhaps? So day after day these not-too-bright, emotionally unstable folks listen to Lush Rimjaughbe and his ilk tell them that the liberal, god-hating, gay boy, gun grabbers are responsible for making their lives miserable and eventually some of them snap. When this happens lets not pretend that the right wing vitriol that they have been exposing themselves to played no role in the snapping or at the very least the choice of victims.

Did he talk to anyone who could have persuaded him not to take the steps he took? Or did he speak to people who encouraged him to think this way?

R.J. Eskow writes, on the Huffingtonpost.,
Who really killed those Unitarians? Was it the preachers who spread hatred and intolerance? The politicians who court and flatter them instead of condemning their hate speech? The media machine that attacks liberals, calls them “traitors” and suggests you speak to them “with a baseball bat”? The economic system that batters people like Jim Adkinson until they snap, then tells them their real enemies are gays and liberals and secular humanists?

If you ask me, it was all of the above.

You killed them, Pat Robertson. You killed them, Pastor Hagee. You killed them, Ann Coulter. You killed them, Dick Morris and Sean Hannity and the rest of you at Fox News.

How’d I hear about this last quote. I tuned in to Sean Hannity. He was chastising Arianna Huffington for publishing Eskow’s article. He now calls the liberal media the “obama media.” Sean just doesn’t get it that when he villifies liberals, when he characterizes liberals as causing the problems in society, he actually DOES influence unstable individuals like Jim Adkisson.

This is a horror story. A man walks into a church where children are performing a version of the musical, Annie, on the stage. He’s carrying a guitar case, but pulls a shotgun out of the case and starts shooting.

UU churches are probably the largest denomination of reliably liberal church in the USA. The very thought that they are now endangered by psycho right wing haters is a terrifying one. We’ve seen people like Adkisson shoot or kill people who work in abortion clinics and in pregnancy counseling facilities. What’s next, drive-by shootings at Obama campaign headquarters?

Naah. That’s not necessary. Greg Palast reports that already, in many key states, blacks and other left leaning voters have already been inappropriately, possibly even illegally purged from voter rolls. Why bother killing when you can mass purge?

Poll
Did Right Wing Hate Radio Influence the Tennessee Unitarian Church Killer?

Did the hate spewed by toxic right wing talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Glen Beck plant the seed of the idea to kill liberal Unitarian church members?

Harm Reduction Training Collaborative on; *Women, Drug Use and Trauma:*

Please distribute widely… Harm Reduction Training Collaborative on; *Women, Drug Use and Trauma:* *Successfully Addressing Women’s Issues in Recovery*

Date: *Friday, 06/06/08*

Time: *10am – 1pm*

Location: MATEC 1640 W. Roosevelt Rd , Chicago , IL

Trainer: Maureen Rule, CMHC, Program Coordinator, Tierra del Sol: Women’s Residential Recovery Program Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, Albuquerque , NM

Workshop participants will: Explore new ways of addressing women’s stability in housing and program involvement, including:

– Discussion of and appreciation for how focusing on drug use as a prerequisite for addressing other issues (such as housing or mental health, for e.g.) may actually discourage positive changes around drug use–and other behaviors that may have become problematic.

– Explore language around drug use and new ways of looking at “relapse”.

– Address the role of 12-step programs as one of many choices for addressing women’s addiction and other health issues within the context of women’s experiences of trauma.

– Understand at least two harm reduction-based interventions that encourage development of self-care and constructive communication of needs/goals/ decision- making.

– Resources for further exploration.

Ms. Rule comments, “We are not dealing with problem people, but rather people with problems. The brain changes that occur with trauma and with constant bombardment of use are very real. Harm reduction…reduces the burden on providers …The basis is care, respect…Women need to be given a voice, and taught how to do that in a constructive way, to learn how to be validated, how to get others to be open to hearing them, so that they can feel that they matter.”

Youth Services Director

Chicago Recovery Alliance

http://www.anypositivechange.org 

Sex Work vs. Trafficking: Understanding the Difference

 

Sex Work vs. Trafficking: Understanding the Difference

By Melissa Ditmore, RH Reality Check
http://www.alternet.org/story/84987/

Originally posted at RH Reality Check.

Even those who mean well sometimes confuse the human rights abuse of trafficking in persons with the human occupation of prostitution, or sex work. It’s understandable because of the history of the two fields, but it creates rather than solves problems. Let me try to sort it out here.

The tendency to treat trafficking and prostitution as if they were the same thing has a long and problematic history. Legislation and social discussion have often blurred or denied any difference, but that has always made things worse rather than better for those involved.

The trafficking of women and children into sexual slavery is undeniably a gross abuse of human rights. Like all trafficking, it involves coercion or trickery or both. Sex trafficking is an odious forms of trafficking, but it is far from the only one. Men, women and children are also — and more commonly — trafficked routinely for purposes of household and farm labor as well as sweatshop manufacturing. Their lives may be less media-genic than those of sex trafficking victims, but they are no less brutal, dangerous and degraded.

A narrow focus on the single aspect of sex trafficking is often fueled by sensationalist and sometimes salacious accounts of sexual abuse. It leads us to ignore these other forms of trafficking, and so denies help and protection to all the men, women and children forced into and trapped in abusive working situations in other industries.

By the same token, treating sex work as if it is the same as sex trafficking both ignores the realities of sex work and endangers those engaged in it. Sex workers include men and women and transgender persons who offer sexual services in exchange for money. The services may include prostitution (sexual intercourse) and other services such as phone sex. Sex workers engage in this for many reasons, but the key distinction here is that they do it voluntarily. They are not coerced or tricked into staying in the business but have chosen this from among the options available to them.

A key goal of sex worker activists is to improve sex-working conditions, but self-organization is impossible when sex work is regarded as merely another form of slavery. Then authorities and laws trying to stop true slavery — trafficking — get misapplied to sex workers, clients and others involved in the sex industry. Law enforcement raids in the U.S. and abroad, for example, have led to little success identifying trafficked persons but instead have driven sex work underground. This exposes sex workers to an increased risk of violence and denies them any protection of laws against assault or access to medical, legal and educational services. It denies them their human rights.

A national anti-trafficking law enacted in 2000 recognizes “severe forms of trafficking” as a modern form of slavery that involves a broad spectrum of workers and industries. In this interpretation, trafficking is clearly distinguished from voluntary sex work and thus avoids the absurdity of equating the fear and suffering of a trafficked person with the typical working conditions of voluntary sex workers. These conditions are often far from ideal, but nevertheless they are far removed from debt bondage or enslavement.

It is regrettable that despite the obvious reality of this perspective, the popular imagination of sex work tends to return to images of young girls forced into sexual slavery. Perhaps people would rather read such stories than hear about more prosaic struggles for workers’ rights — to organize, to be free from harassment, to get decent health care. But their preferences should not be allowed to dictate policy about either human trafficking or sex work.

Traditional standards of morality have been a major influence on legislation aimed at trafficking, and on the ways that trafficking legislation changes the legal treatment of prostitution. But the ‘moral’ position opposing sex work is actually a specific political and ideological position, and its net effect is typically to limit women’s autonomy.

Sex law is often a front for ideology that constrains rather than liberates women. What most appalls me about the recent conflation of trafficking and sex work in law and policy is that some feminists support the confusion. These women would normally never dream of telling other women how to behave, because they have fought against imposed constraints in their own lives. Yet they seem to think it is acceptable to tell sex workers what is best for them, and they are prepared to use dubious political alliances to advance their moral agenda.

Women’s studies professor Donna Hughes even told the National Review that George W. Bush is the president who has done the most for women on the strength of his policies aimed against sex work. The fact that these policies do nothing to halt human trafficking and in fact may be counter-productive seems to be irrelevant. So does the worse fact that President Bush has presided over a deliberate reduction in access to reproductive health care for women in the United States and around the world.

Women are not the only victims when trafficking is conflated with sex work. The confusion squanders opportunities to address real victimization and to assist people in real situations of abuse. Resources, time and energy that might actually help trafficking victims are wasted in sensational “rescues” that are also ineffective and often counterproductive.

There is a clear need to formulate public policy that is less emotionally driven and better able to recognize the real causes, nature and effects of trafficking in persons. People concerned about the health and rights of migrants should choose to talk in terms of migration and mobility and workers’ rights — including sex workers’ rights — rather than confusing matters by using the term “trafficking” with all its attendant baggage. That should help clear the debating field for useful and separate discussions of both.

Melissa Ditmore, Ph.D., was the inaugural Chair of the Advisory Board of the Sex Workers Project and is a research consultant on issues of sex work, mobility and migration, HIV and sexual health. She edited the Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work (Greenwood Press, 2006) and edits Research for Sex Work, the journal of the Network of Sex Work Projects.

© 2008 RH Reality Check All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/84987/

Satisfied Sex Worker or Domestic Trafficking Victim?

 

By Kari Lydersen, AlterNet
Posted on May 8, 2008, Printed on May 18, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/84748/

A teenage girl from Chicago is being sexually abused by her mother’s string of boyfriends. So she flees home with a boyfriend of her own. They hit the road but run out of money, so the boyfriend shows her how to work the truck stops, and she becomes a prostitute. Several years later, she is working for a pimp who forces her to serve 10 or more customers a night, driving her to different locations in the city and suburbs, and keeps almost all the money himself. She wants to leave prostitution, but is emotionally and financially dependent on the pimp and afraid he will physically harm her if she tries to leave.

This story is a composite of very common situations, according to a groundbreaking study of 100 young prostitutes and their relationships with pimps released by DePaul University’s College of Law and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority on May 7.

Public and governmental attention has been increasingly focused on victims of international sex trafficking over the past few years, with immigration visas and social services offered to victims. By current legal and social definitions, the girl described above has not been trafficked. But advocates argue the DePaul study shows U.S.-born prostitutes working in the United States should, in many cases, be defined as trafficking victims, exploited and trapped in situations beyond their control. The House version of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA, also HR 3887), passed overwhelming in December 2007, redefines trafficking to include many domestic prostitutes. If a similar bill is passed in the Senate and becomes law, it will mean that women — and some men — in this situation would be treated as crime victims deserving of resources and institutional support, rather than as criminals. And their pimps and traffickers would face increased criminal penalties.

Among other things, the legislation widens the U.S. Department of Justice’s definition of trafficking, which currently hinges on the presence of “force, fraud or coercion.” The House bill designates trafficking involving force, fraud or coercion as “aggravated trafficking” and expands simple trafficking to include other forms of deceit, manipulation and control including threats, verbal abuse and withholding of support. It also makes sexual tourism to foreign countries a crime akin to importing people to the U.S. for sexual servitude.

In coming weeks, Sen. Joe Biden is expected to introduce the Senate version of the TVPRA, which also includes provisions on slavery and child soldiers. Some advocates of HR 3887 are afraid the Senate version will be introduced without the expanded definition of trafficking, based on internal conversations with politicians. (Policy staff for Biden’s office were not available to comment for this story.)

Samir Goswami, outreach and policy director of the legal advocacy firm Justice Partners Against Sexual Harm, said the DOJ is likely loathe to expand the trafficking definition because it would give them the responsibility to investigate and prosecute many more trafficking situations in the U.S. And it would bring more attention to the extent of commercial sexual exploitation in the U.S. even as the country is gaining accolades for its fight against global sex trafficking. Goswami said HR 3887 mirrors the treatment of trafficking in the United Nations’ Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, which was ratified by the United States.

“This federal bill just catches us up with the rest of the world,” he said.

The federal Mann Act of 1910, which received attention during the Eliot Spitzer scandal, does criminalize interstate trafficking. But it is rarely used; it was left out of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA); and it is associated with politically and racially motivated prosecutions such as that of boxer Jack Johnson for “transporting” his white girlfriend across state lines.

In Illinois, state legislation addressing domestic trafficking passed in 2005 but has not resulted in any prosecutions. If the language in HR 3887 becomes law, prostitutes arrested on city streets or in Internet sting operations would be questioned by law enforcement to determine whether they are trafficked or being forced to work against their will. “That’s what they do for cases of international trafficking now,” said Goswami. “Say someone goes to a Greyhound station, sees a 14-year old girl who has been abused and run away, he offers her a ride, shelter, affection and attention and she falls for him. He then sometimes uses force and the threat of rape to prostitute her, and even transports her to clients — that’s trafficking.”

The DePaul study found that, in general, the vast majority of young women in prostitution are controlled by pimps and suffer worse conditions in terms of violence, number of clients and lack of autonomy the longer they stay in the trade. Sixty-four percent of women reported wanting to leave sex work, but 43 percent reported they could not leave without physical harm. Sixty-four percent of women also have a romantic relationship (usually an abusive one) with their pimp, adding extra layers of emotional vulnerability and manipulation to the situation.

The study found that 58 percent of women were transported to different locations for prostitution (26 percent out of state), 53 percent could not keep any of the money they made, and many were watched or guarded when not working — hallmarks of trafficking situations.

“This is a highly organized sex trade,” said Jody Raphael, co-author of the DePaul study. “They take these women to where they know there is demand” — including Las Vegas or the state capitol when the legislature is in session. “To me, transportation and control equals trafficking.”

The study also confirmed that a majority (57 percent) of women were deceived as to the conditions or terms of their work when they were recruited into prostitution.

For example: “He told me I would never get hurt. I get hurt on a regular basis.” And, “He promised we would get rich, and we didn’t. He promised no violence; there is violence.”

Some sex workers and women’s rights groups do not support the expanded legal definition of trafficking. Though the new definition does decriminalize prostitution for many women, since it increases criminalization of the pimps involved, it signifies that prostitution itself is a crime, even if the woman is not treated as the criminal.

The Young Women’s Empowerment Project, a Chicago group of youth in sex work, said their experiences with police — who often demand sexual favors — and the court system give them no faith that abuses can be addressed through the justice system.

“Making more laws and hoops to jump through will not change this situation,” the group said in a collective statement. “If adults really want to support young women who trade sex for money, they will keep us away from the criminal legal system — away from cops and courts and social workers. They will ensure that we have the documentation and the skills that we need to achieve our goals, and they will offer us concrete assistance (jobs, housing, transportation — where we set the terms of the assistance) rather than roping us in to a larger system that hurts us.”

Raphael said that while she supports the expanded legislation, she doesn’t think law enforcement is the key to ending domestic trafficking.

“Communities themselves have to say this is not acceptable,” she said. “This has been normalized in many communities; that needs to change. Change has to come from the bottom up.”

Kari Lydersen is a Chicago-based journalist writing for publications including The Washington Post, In These Times and ColorLines, and is the author of two books.www.karilydersen.com.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/84748/

Article, LA Times Sunday- High Tech Hooking

LA Times Sunday- High Tech Hooking. I forgot to post this last month. There were 6 drive by shootings of non gang members in LA in the last 3 weeks and this is how the City utilizes it’s funds and limited resources.

LA Times, Sunday March 16,2008
L.A.’s streets move online
Modern call girls now turn their tricks on Craigslist.
Steve Lopez

March 16, 2008

Midafternoon on a workday, and what am I doing? 
Surfing the Internet for hookers.

But it’s not what it sounds like, I swear. The Eliot Spitzer scandal back East made me wonder how a lonely politician might get into trouble here in the land of milk and honey. So I’m with the vice squad at a downtown Los Angeles police station, tracking suspicious ads on Craigslist and other websites.

Yes, Craigslist, which offers much more these days than used sofas and 1997 Subarus.

“College Girl Available for Naughty Fun All Day And Night,” says one ad.

“Independent Hottie,” says another, one of hundreds in Los Angeles offering something for every conceivable gender and sexual preference.

“This is the new age of streetwalking,” says Officer Manuel Ramirez, who answers the ads and sets up sting operations with his colleagues. “It’s not as conspicuous as standing on a corner.”

Jody “Babydol” Gibson, the Hollywood supermadam who served 22 months when her Hollywood operation was busted, told me the job she and Heidi Fleiss used to perform has been made obsolete. Her new book, “Sex on the Internet,” is a guide to the websites the cops now peruse.

“There’s no need for a madam or a brothel today,” Gibson said.

Some of the ads on those sites are fairly discreet, while others let it all hang out, so to speak, complete with photos no mother or child should ever see.

“Hung Hot Guy” shows the proof, for instance.

“I want to give you some early morning satisfaction,” says Jessica, who posed without her britches. She lists the price of a good time at $80 for 15 minutes, $120 for 30 minutes or $180 for an hour.

Some of the ads are a little more legally savvy and the prices can soar into Gov. Spitzer’s high-roller territory. Take Alysha, for instance, who advertises on another popular website that she takes “donations” ranging from $500 for an hour to $3,000 for a “naughty night.”

Some of the most expensive hookers in Southern California have been known to work the hotels near LAX, said LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith, where they might sidle up to traveling businessmen at a bar.

But there’s no doubt, the vice cops tell me, that the bulk of sex industry business is now conducted on the Internet.

“I kind of think of Craigslist as the pimp,” Capt. Jody Wakefield said when she walked into the vice room and saw her officers at work.

That’s one way to look at it. On the other hand, Craigslist and other sites are providing thousands of good leads to cops, and maybe helping to expose sociopaths.

Craig himself, last name Newmark, e-mailed me to say that he has cooperated fully with police in Los Angeles and elsewhere, helping with “forensics” to “pursue Internet crime.”

Even so, I thought it was only fair to ask why the vice squad is working the Internet on the trail of what is often referred to as a victimless crime, and a misdemeanor at that.

Legalize prostitution, some argue, and redeploy the cops to go after car thieves, burglars and gang-bangers.

Smith had an answer. Prostitution investigations aren’t just about selling sex. They often lead cops to crimes involving drugs, child exploitation and assault.

The working girls and boys are “sometimes on drugs, they’re beaten up, they get their teeth kicked out and get into a huge downward spiral,” said Smith. Some who work the ritzy downtown L.A. hotels have ended up addicted and desperate on skid row, he added, where assaults and even the murder of prostitutes is not uncommon.

The vice team of Sgt. Dan Gonzalez and Officers Ramirez and Jose Contreras has been hitting expensive downtown hotels of late. Typically, the officers said, a prostitute will check into a hotel room for a few hundred dollars a night and immediately post an ad on Craigslist, saying she’s available.

“I’ll pamper you and take care of you head to toe!” claims an ad by a blond named Porsche. “Come visit me in my hotel room . . . I’m waiting.”

The pros don’t name a specific hotel, but list a phone number or an e-mail address. The vice squad recently answered one for a 19-year-old woman, set up a rendezvous, and knocked on a hotel door to find a 14-year-old who was booked for prostitution and taken to juvenile hall.

It’s common, the cops said, to find someone other than the girl in the photo when answering an ad. The 14-year-old was no exception.

“She looked like she was closer to 12,” said Officer Ramirez. A pregnant older companion had apparently rented the room earlier that day, and the 14-year-old claimed to have already earned $1,000 from clients paying about $200 apiece.

The officers tried to talk some sense into her, but the angry young prostitute told them to mind their own business.

“She said, ‘The money’s too good,’ ” and boasted of $2,000 days, said Ramirez.

The same vice unit also arrested a 15-year-old female hooker and a 15-year-old boy recently. In the latter case, hotel security called police to say there was loud screaming coming from a room. Police found the 15-year-old boy and a man in his 40s in bed, and the 15-year-old, who was drunk, told them he had advertised his services on Craigslist.

While I watched the officers work the phones, Gonzalez scanned Cityvibe and Craigslist, printing out ads for his officers to check out. There’s no fetish that can’t be serviced, and there was no shortage of pregnant women ready for action, including a brunet who called herself “showing and glowing.”

“Sweet, sexy and worth every penny,” said an ad by Carmen, who listed a 310 phone number.

Contreras dialed and got an answering machine.

“Hey, Carmen, this is Alex,” he said. “I just saw your picture on Craigslist. You look delicious. Give me a call.”

He left a message for Jenny too, who offered a massage at $200 an hour. Contreras said he was in town for the Pac-10 basketball tournament, and had some free time before watching his alma mater, Arizona State, play USC.

Less than a minute later, Jenny called back.

“Yeah, hi, this is Alex,” he said.

The trick is to get the suspect to agree to a sex act for a dollar amount. But experienced marks avoid such details over the phone, and Jenny cut Contreras off when he broached those subjects.

“I’ve gone to these places before and it’s a totally different girl,” he told her.

“Well, I’m the girl in the picture,” I could hear her say as Contreras held the receiver close to my ear. “I’m not fat,” she went on. “It’s not like I’m a model.”

Jenny told him to call back later and she’d tell him where to meet her in South Pasadena. He said he would, but that’s beyond the LAPD’s jurisdiction.

So the police went back to working the darkest alleys and corners of the Web galaxy, where the oldest profession is using all the newest tricks.

Related Link: Link to latimes.com

 

LAGent4TS has attached this image

Article, Prostitution looks chic, but truth is ugly — chicagotribune

4/28/08 10:49 AM  chicagotribune.com 

Prostitution looks chic, but truth is ugly 

Real face of sex trade is pain, not profit 

By Anne K. Ream and R. Clifton Spargo 

April 27, 2008 

The problem with much of the coverage of the Eliot Spitzer scandal was not just the pulp fiction-worthy headlines (“Bad Gal!” “The Love Gov!”) or the endless loop of commentary about why married men cheat. It was that the media delivered a basic untruth. This was not a love (or even a lust) story: The now-former New York governor wasn’t stepping out on his wife with a consenting “other woman.” His was an illegal and dehumanizing business transaction, one in which a man of great privilege purchased the sexual services of a woman of far more limited means. 

But instead of treating Ashley Alexandra Dupre—who has said she was abused and once homeless—as a victim, the media have turned her into a vixen. Why address the oppression that is prostitution when we can serve it up as a form of sexual self-expression (or as a savvy career move) instead? 

It’s tempting to blame it all on “Pretty Woman,” the wildly successful 1990 film that launched Julia Roberts’ 

career, and the myth of prostitution as a way to get the guy (and the designer wardrobe). 

But that film’s wrongheaded celebration of the redeeming possibilities of sexual servitude seems almost quaint in comparison with the “Prostitution Chic” of today. “Pimp and Ho” nights have become a staple at downtown clubs and uptown benefit parties. “Turning Tricks” pole-dancing classes are offered at Crunch Gyms. 

Hit shows such as HBO’s “Entourage” and “Cathouse”—where a Nevada pimp and his “girls” are portrayed as one big, happy, sexually uninhibited family—are an ode to the joys of being sexually serviced by women. The Top 40 success of the Pussycat Dolls—part predictable pop music, all bump and grind—hasbrought the burlesque back to the mainstream. 

And here in the Windy City, the Discovery Center’s Sex Tour brochure promises to take tourists to the “freaky and little-known locations of Chicago’s sex industry.” 

The new vogue of voyeurism substitutes prostitution for the carnival freak shows of old. The trend is not unprecedented; respectable Victorians also took prostitution tours. But it reinforces the modern-day, market- 

driven perception that those working in prostitution are merely indulging their own bent for 

entrepreneurialism and sexual self-expression. Make no mistake: Our cultural fascination with and glamorization of pimping and prostitution do not make for a kinder and gentler sex trade. 

“Every reliable study of women working in prostitution finds that more than 90 percent have been victims of childhood sexual assault,” said DePaul University College of Law researcher Jody Raphael. “Most entered the sex trade in their teens, after fleeing abuse and having no other way to support themselves. Many are alcohol and drug dependent. 

“People talk about this as sex between two consenting adults, but it is hard to talk about this as a ‘choice’ when we are talking about women who entered into prostitution when they were so young,” Raphael said. 

The painful conditions that drive girls and women into the sex trade often pale in comparison with the dangers they face once they become part of what people far too blithely refer to as the “world’s oldest profession.” 

A comprehensive 2004 mortality study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, shows that workplace homicide rates for women working in prostitution are 51 times that of the next most dangerous occupation for women (which is working in a liquor store). The average age of death of the women studied was 34. 

Some have argued that those working for “high end” escort services, as Dupre was, cannot be compared to the “average” woman working in prostitution. But the $1,000-an-hour escort of today will often become the woman on the street of tomorrow, as age, alcohol and sexually transmitted diseases take their toll. 

Much has been made about the “benefits” Dupre may enjoy as a result of her newfound celebrity. But her short-term economic gains merely distract us from the reality of the institution of prostitution, making us less critical of the grave damage it does to millions of women and girls. Yet the glamorization of prostitution continues, unabated by the facts. Nowhere was this more clear than on a recent edition of “Larry King Live.” During an interview with Natalie McLennan, the woman who allegedly trained Dupre at the escort agency New York Confidential, King asked, “Do any hookers ever marry their johns?” “They do!” she exclaimed, telling King the tale of a fellow “girl” who “went on a date with a client and then we never saw her again. It turns out that they met and they fell in love and she never returned. It’s a real sort of Cinderella, ‘Pretty Woman’ story, you know. Which is I think . . . just a fantastic story—every girl’s dream.”

For the vast majority of women working in prostitution, however, the reality is less fairy tale, more grim fable. But who wants to let that get in the way of a good story? 

The hypocrites’ club

 

Lexington

The hypocrites’ club

Mar 13th 2008From The Economist print edition

Now with a new diamond-level member

 

 

ELIOT SPITZER is a hard man to defend. He was the most self-righteous politician in America—which is saying something—and an arrogant bully with it. If anybody deserves the opprobrium that is being poured on his head this week, following theNew York Times‘s revelation that he has a taste for expensive prostitutes, then it is Mr Spitzer.

As New York’s attorney-general, he perfected the art of threatening Wall Street types with criminal prosecution unless they paid huge settlements; as New York’s governor, he tried to drive a steamroller over anybody who got in his way, and consequently proved a big disappointment after taking office last year following a landslide victory. Even before his spectacular fall this week, his governorship seemed badly damaged. His promises to clean up Albany politics had borne no fruit and his proposal to give illegal immigrants driving licences had exploded in his face. He leaves plans for congestion charging in New York City up in the air, along with the state budget. A man who liked nothing more than braying about “betrayals of the public trust” and “shocking” and “criminal” behaviour has admitted to the former and may be charged with the latter.

Mr Spitzer had no interest in the distinction between “public” and “private”. He prosecuted “prostitution rings” as vehemently as he fought other forms of crime. His aides circulated unfounded allegations that Richard Grasso, who was the head of the New York Stock Exchange and one of Mr Spitzer’s many bugbears, was sleeping with his secretary.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the country is enjoying a fit ofSpitzenfreude—and that Wall Street’s trading floors are decorated with photoshopped pictures of him cavorting with bodacious babes in various states of undress. Some people have even attributed the markets’ mid-week bounce to glee over Mr Spitzer, rather than to the $200 billion shovelled their way by the Fed.

But distaste for Mr Spitzer—or keen pleasure in seeing a hypocrite hoist with his own petard—should blind no one to the fact that the whole affair is a crock of nonsense. What business is it of the federal government what Mr Spitzer got up to in Room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC?

Defenders of America’s tough laws on prostitution argue that it goes hand-in-glove with many other forms of crime (sex-trafficking, drug-trafficking, gangsterism). But surely this is an argument for focusing on those heinous crimes rather than trying to prevent an activity that is as old as human society. Besides, if prostitution were not criminalised, the victims of such abuses would feel much less wary of going to the police about them.

America, of course, is not the only country that produces spectacles like the one enjoyed this week. The British tabloids like nothing more than catching a politician with his trousers down (though British headline-writers would be sacked for such feeble offerings as “New York’s Naked Emperor”, from the New York Post). But America manages to be more unbalanced than other countries. This is partly because its legal system is out of control—an unstoppable clanking machine that has lost any ability to “draw the line” or respect “common sense” (to echo the titles of two books by Philip Howard, a New York lawyer).

The government, which began with a straightforward investigation of Mr Spitzer’s finances (the authorities initially suspected him of corruption), ended up devoting considerable resources to his favoured “prostitution ring”, the Emperor’s ClubVIP—resources that might have been spent on something more urgent, such as looking for terrorists. It went to the trouble of obtaining a federal wire-tap and examining thousands of e-mails. All sorts of draconian punishments are now possible for Mr Spitzer. He could get a year in prison for violating a 1910 federal statute, the Mann act, which prohibits crossing state lines for “immoral purposes”. (Mr Spitzer bought “Kristen” a train ticket to travel from New York to Washington,DC.) He could get five years for arranging his finances to conceal his payments to the agency.

Revisiting Salem

American history is littered with examples of puritanism deranging the law, from the Salem witch trials onwards. Anthony Comstock, a 19th-century anti-porn campaigner, used his position as a postal inspector to seize 50 tons of books and 4m pictures. He boasted that he was responsible for 4,000 arrests during his career and 15 suicides. Under Prohibition people could be imprisoned for life for consuming alcohol.

Puritanism continues to stalk the country in new guises. The most dramatic example is America’s new version of Prohibition—a “war on drugs” that helps explain why one in 100 American adults are in prison. But there are plenty of humbler examples. Schools impose zero-tolerance rules that result in expulsion for minor offences. The citizens of Texas may not buy dildos. Americans are banned from drinking until they are 21.

The combination of legalism and puritanism invariably produces the same dismal results. It creates expensive government bureaucracies that seize on any excuse—rules relating to inter-state commerce are a particular favourite—to extend their powers to boss people about or spy on them. It throws up swivel-eyed zealots who pursue their manias with little sense of proportion or decency (remember Kenneth Starr). And it ends by devouring its children. Mr Spitzer is only the latest in an endless line of self-righteous crusaders impaled on their own swords.

He certainly had no choice but to resign (as he did on March 12th) if, as it seems, he broke the law. But that still leaves the bigger question of whether the law is an ass. George Bernard Shaw once defined “Comstockery” as “the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States”; but it is hardly a joke for the people who are caught in its tentacles. There are enough real problems for America’s law-enforcement officials to worry about.

Link to this article (From The Economist print edition);

http://www.economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10852872