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Aug 23 2007

Sting-a-rama

Hold onto your hats. There’s police corruption in Kalamazoo.

I know; it’s hard to believe. As is the fact that it involves a 2003 “prostitute sting.” O how Americans, excepting those self-interested pornsick idealists who think legalizing it would solve all the problems of the universe, love love love a “prostitute sting.” Because just who do those whores think they are?

And you know what else? Americans love to be incredulous when cops (and soldiers) turn out to be amoral pricks. “This casts a shadow over the whole department,” some ‘deeply saddened’ honcho always intones puritanically from a lectern, “but don’t worry, it’s a case of one-bad-apple.” Because the occupation of paid enforcer normally attracts serene, conciliatory, well-adjusted philosophers.

The specifics of the Kalamazoo case are cloaked in murk — the news report contains so many typos, and so little information — but apparently one of the “prostitute sting’s” gotcha! undercover cops enjoyed a blow job from a “call girl”; subsequently her client list — supposedly containing the names of more law enforcement dudes — mysteriously disappeared from evidence. Also at issue are allegations that city officials withheld public information concerning the case, yadda yadda. The Kalamazoo Gazette maintains that “you should care about [some random 4-year-old] prostitution investigation” — not because a woman’s human rights were violated — but because tax dollars were wasted.

But these particulars are irrelevant in the context of the global women-as-toilets continuum. A dude commercially used a prostituted woman, but the only reason anybody gives a flip is that a) the abuser was a cop, a guy who theoretically is remunerated by a grateful public for Upholding the Law with Honor but who, it turns out, has been drawing his salary in bad faith, and b) the dirty whore never did get collared.

Honorable men in public service don’t use prostituted women. This is one of the cozy tales male supremacy tells itself, so when it looks in the mirror it can gaze upon a more noble reflection. It is satisfied of its nobility because it restricts its toiletizing of women to its wives, as per the instructions of its invisible patriarchy-loving celestial handler. But, with occasional exceptions proving the rule, the honorable public servant is a myth. For those trusted guardians of patriarchal tradition, from Bill Clinton on down to the Kalamazoo cop, violating women’s human rights is a tiptoe through the tulips. I know this because Google Alerts constantly updates me on the prostitutional sexploits of America’s bureaucrats and other “prominent white collar professionals.” I get three or four or eight of these every day. There are millions of prostituted women worldwide, hundreds of thousands in the US alone, three hundred thousand of which are estimated to be children.[1] One now hears, unsurprisingly, of Iraqi women[2] forced into military prostitution as a result of war, and the Internet continues to broaden pimps’ horizons [3]. Somebody has to be using all these women and girls. Who better than the Neanderthals who seek out jobs to monitor them, prosecute them, and punish them?

_________________________

1. Sheila Jeffreys. The Idea of Prostitution. Spinifex Press, 1997, p.308.

2. Trendily, CNN alludes to this as a “choice” the women make.

3. The mayor of Atlanta thinks Craigslist is to blame for the rise in child trafficking.

50 comments

1 ping

  1. Sean

    “Prostitution is a choice more and more Iraqi women are making just to survive.”

    That sounds like a bad line for a cleaning products commercial. What’s more alarming is that the women continually mention how they are forced into the work (” ‘They took advantage of me,’ she says softly. ‘At first I rejected it, but then I realized I have to do it’” and “Because of the circumstance, she is forced to do such things”), and yet the CNN report continually presents prostitution as a choice. It’s a perfect representation of upper- and middle-class American values, to ignore the fact that labour as we know it is forced labour.

  2. Linden

    When money changes hands, it cleanses the transaction and adds that essential element of choice. Anything people are willing to do for money is okay, don’t you know. In fact, it’s even positive and empowering, to hear some “feminists” tell it.

  3. finnsmotel

    Have any of them tried the “lightning” defense?

    http://www.floridatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070822/BREAKINGNEWS/70822031&template=news0301

  4. slythwolf

    My best friend lives in Kalamazoo. Her parents live there. I might have to encourage a little letter-writing.

  5. Victoria Marinelli

    Rock and roll, Twisty, rock and roll.

    I live for the day when madams and pimps masquerading as prostituted women’s advocates are revealed as the shams they are, and their fictions about how legalization will cure all trafficking ills. Bullshit. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, prostitution is, by and large*, nothing but organized rape.

    *Which means there are exceptions.

  6. Crystal

    I’d be interested to hear your response to the pro-legalized-prostitution dude. I am unable to form one in response to the fact about women’s self esteem being raised through prostitution. Is that true????
    I feel very uninformed right now.

  7. Tanya

    I really get pissed off when people put legalizing drugs and legalizing prostitution in the same category. Paying to rape someone is not the same thing as smoking a joint.

  8. Bird

    To make things clearer, there is an inverse relationship between the number of prostitutes prosecuted/jailed and the number of rapists brought up on charges. It costs $2,000 total to charge, prosecute, and jail a prostitute. It costs $500 dollars for the police to send a rape-kit to a lab for analysis. In real-life, thousands of rape-kits go unanalyzed because the PD can’t afford the $500 fee for analysis. That means that for every prostitute that’s prosecuted, there are four rapists that get away with rape.

    Dude needs some help with basic logic on this one.

    I’m pretty sure that most police departments have a big enough budget to cover both, particularly in our current right wing, law-and-order culture.

    I’m not saying there aren’t lots of rapists getting away with it, but a shortage of cash for rape kits isn’t the main reason.

  9. Miller

    This entire legitimization of the commercialization of rape rests on the idea that if you simply wrap up bigotry, slavery, hate crimes, and even murder within the realm of (male) sexuality all of these effects are mitigated or justified. Religion can be exploited to validate and fuel extremism and even language can be hijacked to incite hate, but sex–an all-consuming power that defines our very essence–is a meaningless behavior that can only be positive or harmless.

    The idea that legalizing sexualized hate crimes serves the best interest of the woman (or girl) involved is outrageous. Even if you remove slavery or coercion from the equation, such “liberal” attitudes only result in glorifying bigotry and endangering the very lives of human beings. If blacks actually volunteered to recreate aspects of slavery, by having white men pay to whip them and hurl slurs at them, would that really be in the best interest of the black person, whom one can’t help but assume suffers from sever self-loathing? Would such overt incitement of racial hatred really beneficial to the public, especially other blacks? Well, according to the belief that males merely being aroused or climaxing magically removes harm, all one would have to do is masturbate and it would be deemed “human nature” and anyone who dare disagree would be a “prude,” an indictment that carries far more stigma than “misogynist” or “rapist.”

    You need not look any further than local high schools to realize the effect such acceptance of prostitution and pornography have on actual human beings. Girls–young girls–are conditioning their sexuality to be aligned with these misogynistic norms. Doesn’t anyone care to point out that the industries of porn and prostitution completely depend on child rape victims? The only women who can remotely deal with this so-called fun, raucous “sex” are those who have been horribly brutalized and radicalized as young girls and even then they have to disassociate during “sex,” a psychological reflex to defend the human mind from trauma. Not to mention these women depend on mind-altering agents to cope with their sexually “liberated” lifestyle.

    How do we reframe the debate from sex v. anti-sex, to reflect that actual harmful effects that result?

  10. norbizness

    Tanya: As somebody academically for the legalization of prostitution, I would never, ever try to equate the two. However, The War on Prostitution neither protects women nor is a woman-friendly expenditure of resources. Just like you’d like to use the War on Drugs money for treatment, you’d like to divest the power of the purse and the handcuffs from assclowns like every single local police department and put that money into women’s shelters, education, etc.

    Of course, that’ll happen around the 13th of never; your and Twisty’s enforcement scheme (treating johns as per se rapists) would be the only plausible enforcement scheme, because relying on women who are essentially gang commodities for outcries/testimony is impossible under the black market system.

    In essence, the legislators would have to act first (never going to happen, as many of them are probably johns themselves) and then rely on corrupt local PDs for enforcement. I just have no idea why we should trust in such a power structure given its abyssmal record.

  11. Crystal

    okay, well, I think I figured out the self-esteem thing. It’s kind of like a person who goes from living on the streets to working at McDonald’s having a boost in self-image. McDonald’s still sucks big time, but they feel like it’s an improvement. I would guess that most of these women are coming from possibly even shittier prostitution situations, i.e. an abusive relationship coupled with financial dependency, so it’s kind of a step up to be able to state your price and have some degree of control over things. I toyed with the idea that feeling all sexisexified might give them a boost, but from everything I’ve ever heard from a prostitute they do not, as a rule, enjoy sex. In fact, they’ve all reported that they consider the extremely rare other prostitute who enjoys sex in any context to be a true freak.
    I haven’t had any close personal friends or anything who were prostitutes, but the few that I have known have definitely not been paragons of mental and emotional wellbeing, from what I could see.
    I’m sure I’m stating the obvious here, but this is just sort of my own response to my questions above. I would be happy if someone had alternate thoughts on this.
    I do tend to think that legalized prostitution would probably be better than what we have now, but that REALLY isn’t saying much.

  12. Crystal

    Also, sorry to be longwinded but do teenagers really account for the vast majority of STDs being spread? I’m assuming he must be talking about some of the milder varieties because I find this hard to believe. Not that I think that prostitutes are the problem, I’m just wondering where he got that from.

  13. Miller

    Child “trafficking.”

    If this was referred to for what it truly was–the systematic commercialization of the raping of young girls (universally, they are girls)–would that just make it worse, in terms of desensitization? I read an article on the proliferation of online pedophilia and child rapists casually list their video clips as “Young Asian girls get raped!!!” or “Brutal, pre-teen rape,” so I am bit worried that any attempt to reflect the reality will backfire, especially since our society has associated such horrific words as “torture” and “rape” with “sex.”

  14. ironmaiden

    >>If blacks actually volunteered to recreate aspects of slavery, by having white men pay to whip them and hurl slurs at them, would that really be in the best interest of the black person, whom one can’t help but assume suffers from sever self-loathing? Would such overt incitement of racial hatred really beneficial to the public, especially other blacks? Well, according to the belief that males merely being aroused or climaxing magically removes harm, all one would have to do is masturbate and it would be deemed “human nature” and anyone who dare disagree would be a “prude,” an indictment that carries far more stigma than “misogynist” or “rapist.”

  15. Tanya

    I’m glad to hear it, norbizness. It’s just that I am continually having to argue with assclowns that say “Hey prostitution is just like the war on drugs! We should legalize prostitution.” Then I have to point out that women’s bodies are not commodities that exist for the use of men and that prostitution is paying for rape. At this point, the liberal dude will point out that he once knew an escort that loved her job and was not at all exploited by her “choice” to sell sex for money and gee, she sure had nice tits. Then I realize that this dude is insulated from my viewpoint by patriarchy and male privilege. I can be dismissed as one of those feminist man-hating sex-hating creatures because men must have access to poontang. It’s a human right.

    Then I re-read the pedantic asshole chronicles and realize that these dickblisters don’t really want to learn and think. They are even more brain-washed by patriarchy than I am. It’s a frustrating problem but the older I get the more strident and opinionated I seem to be. I am just not interested in putting up with any shit. Why just the other day I called a guy out for telling my daughter that “Girls don’t fight”.

    But if heroin or cocaine were available at the corner pharmacy, there would be fewer women turning tricks in order to support their drug habits. For some reason, that doesn’t seem to be a compelling argument for legalization. I wonder why that is? IBTP

  16. high-strung oddball

    Bird:

    Don’t you just love how in the quote you used, he just has to use the example of rape? Because we all know that the whores who sell themselves are the same issue as the whores who get raped.

  17. high-strung oddball

    Oh, and I dug this up myself:

    “Prostitutes are no more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts than other women.”

    Two conclusions we can draw from this*:

    1) women as a group are really not very happy people

    2) author believes all women NOT suffering extreme clinical depression or other agonizing conditions should be grateful to exist.

    *(aside from the internal inconsistency where earlier he tried to prove that men and women are equally represented in the trade of prostitution, thus it’s not just “women,” but as soon as he’s done with that he goes back to referring to all hookers as girls)

  18. Lara

    Do you folks at all realize that Twisty’s blog is one of the extremely few spaces online (none of these types of spaces exist at all in physical life) where we can actually criticize this moron and his pro-pornstitution bullshit without being called “prudes” and “man-hating bitches”? Do you realize how incredibly depressing and scary that is?….
    And as a last note, if this bullshit ever happened in a predominantly Muslim country at the hands of the local men almost all the Americans would be criticizing it as misogynist. The hypocrisy is stifling.

  19. pisaquari

    From RahRahLegalProstitootsies site: “the actual act, a prostitute and her customer agreeing on an exchange of money for sex, violates no one’s rights”

    What a laugh: the “actual act.” Not the part where the phallic bludgeon takes over it’s rightful domain! But the “How much do I owe ya toots?” part–OH!
    And another thing: if two people engage in the same act, like intercourse, (as in both *doing the same damn thing!*) then why the hell does someone need to be paid (or incur a financial loss)? It only makes sense that you’d have to pay for the oppression, financial coercion (ya know, shit-for-equalpay-opportunity), and degradation to birth the business and keep it thriving.

    Funny funny patriarch capitalists and their $tati$tic$.

  20. Ian

    When it comes to prostitution it’s always such a rough issue. I know that the system that we have currently in place doesn’t work, but what does everyone think about the legislation passed in Sweden punishing the purchase of sexual services and not the selling. It’s an idea to try and protect the prostitutes, but many prostitutes in Sweden have come out against the legislation claiming they feel more threatened by the fact that they have to work “underground.”

  21. gentaggard

    Oh, and I dug this up myself:

    “Prostitutes are no more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts than other women.”

    A third thing we can conclude is that this guy has not read the stuff I’ve read about what prostitution does to women. The CNN article about the increasing number of Iraqi women being forced to become prostitutes in order to survive specifically said most of the female suicide attempts the hospital emergency rooms are now seeing are prostitutes in despair. (I say once again that while the Bushies tell us that the world is better off without Saddam, I demand to know whose world.)

    Here in the U.S., women like Andrea Dworkin have done lots of work with prostitutes. According to her, they experience rape, depression, beatings…and every one who has ever been raped or beaten has, according to Dworkin, had it happen as some dude was wanting to act out some porn he’d brought along as his how-to manual.

    So, whose research has this guy been reading – can’t imagine!

    Lara,

    Yes, I realize Twisty’s place is one in a million, but I don’t think we can be reminded of that fact too often (so thank you). Twisty should be regularly praised as the goddess she is!

  22. gentaggard

    That was weird…this first section was supposed to be a blockquote:
    Oh, and I dug this up myself:
    “Prostitutes are no more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts than other women.”

    Also, after the paragraph on the Iraq situation, I had the following comment: No doubt, some jerk could make the argument that these women are suicidal just because society has imposed its negative judgments on what she’s doing and that, if only she were lucky enough to live in a Hustler-filled, “sex-positive” world, she could have opened her body up for cash and really just enjoyed it.

  23. thebewilderness

    Lara,
    I think we do realize it. That’s probably why we sound like sycophantic toad eaters sometimes, with the kiss, kiss, and the you rock, Twisty, and the the sheer delight of it bursts out of the tips of our fingers, and then we think she must think we are idiots, but she doesn’t seem to, and neither do we, so there ya go. Blame on.

  24. ivieee

    Officially de-lurking here, to say again this time in print, thanks to Twisty Faster for another reason I love living in Austin, TX, where magic is real and dreams come true, and Feminists kick ass!

    To Miller, thanks for the very concise argument regarding the “choice” of prostitution. Added to the quiver.

    So many of y’all have confirmed and reinforced my deeper intuitions, and I must also congratulate Twisty and/or her software for maintaining the integrity of this conversation. The vigilant exclusion of trolls has allowed this comment section to advance the dialogue which is impossible elsewhere.

    For the many various ways that I have found myself on the slippery slope/sliding scale of prostitution, IBTP.

  25. Hedgehog

    I respect Twisty’s opinion and I am glad that she voices her perspective even when it may contradict, on certain points, the opinions of other feminists including my own. I do think that rampant sexual objectification of women in the media is a problem and I don’t think that prostitution is ideal for many or most prostitutes. However, as a person who has worked in the sex industry, I am so. damn. tired. of sex workers being used as pawns in arguments. To do so is a cheap shot because prostitutes are so effectively silenced… just about everywhere. People keeping track of privilege: YOU as a person with access to the internet have privilege. Many sex workers do not have access to the internet, and the ones who do aren’t always blog junkies like I am. I am absolutely not saying that you can’t have an opinion on prostitution without having been a prostitute, but I am saying that simply being a woman doesn’t make you the expert, and it would be great actually if you acknowledged the privilege you have when speaking in being a not-prostitute. People do take not-prostitutes more seriously, in general.

    While I don’t feel particularly compelled to expound on my experiences or opinions here (I don’t really think this is an appropriate place to do that, anyway), I would ask all of you who are concerned about this particular subject to spend at least some time listening to what actual women in the sex industry have to say. You can take what they have to say with a grain of salt — that’s a good idea no matter what you’re reading — but don’t automatically assume they’re dumb, victimized, or brainwashed. A good place to start would be the magazine $pread (which does IMO try hard to air a variety of perspectives) or the book Whores and Other Feminists.

  26. Crystal

    As a fourth or fifth to Lara’s comment, I also totally love the fact that this is a place where people can criticize clearly unhealthy sexual norms without being labeled a prude. I hate it that somehow we have become so reactionary towards restrictions on sexuality that we can’t even discuss it in a normal way for what it is – something that can be expressed either in positive and healthy ways or really harmful ways and that has physical and emotional consequences.
    Also, I hope I didn’t come off as pro-prostitution in my earlier comment, it just seems like it’s the worst possible situation to further isolate already disenfranchised women by making them criminals. I just Miller’s comment, and I realize that legalization might actually lead to an even greater feeling of sexual “liberalism” and the resulting pressure on young girls. I just feel like maybe if things were legalized we could start to talk about them in a more rational way, like since it wouldn’t be a “taboo” anymore.
    I could go on for days about how much I hate people talking about things as “taboos” when really they’re legitimately dangerous or repellent things.

  27. Hedgehog

    Oh, PS. Sorry, I got wrapped up in my general response to a number of the comments and forgot to address the original post: I agree, it’s really disgusting that stings are treated as entertainment both by law enforcement and the main stream media. Blame the patriarchy!

  28. tinfoil hattie

    Why are the prostitutes — rarely the men abusing them for money — the ones who are always “busted” in these stings?

    And how coincidental that the cops have to actually rape the women for pay (I refuse to say “have sex with them”) in order to arrest them. I’m sure it’s absolutely necessary.

    If prostitution were legalized, how could any prostitute ever hope to bring charges against a “customer” for rape or assault? Not that most prostitutes would probably even report it now. But legalizing prostitution would openly legitimize the “she asked for it” defense.

  29. Panic

    Why are the prostitutes — rarely the men abusing them for money — the ones who are always “busted” in these stings?
    I’m not sure how the actual laws are written down there, but in Canada it’s illegal to buy sex, not to sell it. So it’s the johns that should, and sometimes do, go down for the crime, though sex workers definitely deal with a huge amount of hassle (to put it lightly) from law enforcement.
    This is a bit anecdotal on my part, so if someone has better facts on it, I’d be grateful. You can’t blame me for not wanting to google “prostitution law Canada” from work. :\
    BTW, I don’t mean to do yet another round of “Canada is better than the U.S.” I’m just making a comparison. Being a sex worker up here isn’t a world full of kittens and rainbows either.

  30. Bird

    Panic, in Canada, prostitutes are still arrested for solicitation. Buying or selling sex isn’t illegal here, but negotiating the transaction is, on either side of the deal.

  31. Twisty

    Hedgehog said: “I am saying that simply being a woman doesn’t make you the expert, and it would be great actually if you acknowledged the privilege you have when speaking in being a not-prostitute.”

    I believe if you click here you will find the answer to the question “Does Twisty represent all feminists/all women as an elected spokesperson?”

  32. Panic

    Thanks, Bird. I knew there was some odd quirk about it!

  33. Joan Kelly

    I interviewed a former vice cop in NYC about the law as it pertained to me as a kinky sex worker at the time, and he said that all any cop would have to do to be able to arrest a woman would be to offer money on the phone for a (patriarchally defined) sex act and have her accept. They don’t even have to have met face to face, never mind does she need to have sucked his dick. And I’m cranky that I even felt like I had to state as much.

    Hedgehog – I get uncomfortable myself when people talk patronizingly *about* sex workers instead of *to* sex workers, but considering that the majority of women around the world who are prostitutes/prostituted are forced into it in one way or another, and that these women and girls are reliably reported as saying as much over and over again, I don’t get why my disgust with mass rape-for-profit is ever reduced to casting prostituted women as dumb, victimized, or brainwashed. I am disgusted by all exploited workers under capitalism, and am additionally enraged at the ways capitalism likes to translate itself through racist and misogynist violence. I do not think the mine workers in Utah were “brainwashed victims” in the you-poor-pathetic-loser sense. I do note and despise their generational use and abuse in the service of enriching a few. It is the same feeling I have about sex workers. I don’t assume that huge amounts of women in sex work are exploited and raped and held hostage in it – they tell us that, and I hear it. Are there women who do not *feel* that way about their own or other women’s sex work? Yes. Are there women who actually make money and enjoy sex work way more than I enjoy my current secretary job? Yes, and I used to be one of them. So what, as regards the topic of the majority who are, as you said, being silenced? $pread Magazine is not the only place where women who are happy in sex work get to “speak” – mainstream media has always been happy to hear from (especially white, especially middle-to-upper class in background) women who are digging it or who dug it in the past. (See endless stream of I WAS A TEENAGED BLAH-BLAH-BLAH memoirs of recent years, and/or the similarly themed book I wrote [although nowhere near my teens at the time] and/or BITCH Magazine, Nerve.com, mens’s mags, and on and on.)

    Unless I misunderstood your so. tired. -ness, in which case I am more confused. Who do you feel is being not-listened to or spoken for or reduced to childlike helplessness and stupidity in this topic?

  34. Hedgehog

    Joan Kelly,

    re: so. damn. tired — I meant pawns for either side.

    And regarding $pread, your dismissive characterization of it makes me think that you have your own agenda, because the opinions it airs are not one-sided. Michelle Tea, for example, was on the cover of the second issue, and she’s very emphatic that she did not enjoy being a prostitute. Once time I gave a particularly naive client a (different) issue of $pread, and after reading it he said it made him feel bad.

    If you feel that $pread is dominated by high-end call girls who enjoy their work, well, that’s probably because prostitution is just as much a class issue as a sex issue, and the ladies who are making a lot of money have more time to write.

    I am feeling a little bad at this point because I feel like I am hijacking the thread. My intent is not to talk All About Me. I was responding to the peripheral issue of people in this thread (not the original poster) seeming rather clueless and asking questions about how to form opinions about this topic. Personally, I used to feel clueless in the same way about how anyone could be an Islamic woman and a feminist at the same time, so I tried very hard to read a variety of opinions on the topic particularly from Islamic feminists themselves.

  35. Joan Kelly

    You are correct (I am not being sarcastic), I do have my own agenda, and it is fair that you point that out. To be clear, I do not feel dismissive towards $pread, what I was referring to was the fact that it IS one place for happy sex workers to talk about that, and as such is yet another venue for those voices. Even if/when it is also a venue for any other voices. It is the fact that there are many such venues for happy-sex-worker voices – or at any rate, many MORE venues for those than for, say, women and girls forced into and enslaved by prostitution – that fuels my agenda. I was responding to what sounded like a scolding in your initial comment, where you talked about people using sex workers as pawns in arguments, and cheap shots. You wrote about people considering the fact that they are in privileged positions. You mention in your most recent comment that Michelle Tea was on a $pread cover and that she talked about not enjoying prostitution. I submit to you the idea that she is still someone with a voice that is privileged over others – she is white, she is a well known writer, “famous” in some circles, which to me does not subvert the idea that $pread is also a venue for privileged voices in sex work. It is my position that happy sex workers are privileged sex workers – to not be hurt and exploited in and through sex work is to have a rare position within it. Maybe there are thousands who are in that position. Compared to the millions who are not, it is still rare.

    I would like to be able to have a “motherfuck, I hate that women and girls are dehumanized” conversation about prostitution that does not always have to include a caveat of “but I know that not all sex workers hate it.” To me, it feels like a “what about the menz” type of insertion.

    If I sound jerky for saying this, I will own that. But I honestly do not care that anybody – including me! – has ever enjoyed sex work. It is not even important enough to me to qualify as beside the point. It is not within a ten mile radius of the point, never mind right beside it. I can be and have been and am interested in full bodied human narratives about really any kind of thing at all, including what people do for a living, potentially including sex work, the good the bad and the ugly. But interested in the mere fact that some people make money and enjoy being in the sex industry, just because it is “a different view from the norm” or from what’s expected or whatever? No. Not in the least. Find it rather banal and self indulgent and actually with its own air of personal agenda. Understand – I would rather someone be happy in sex work than fucking miserable and continually harmed by it, but I don’t see *why* or how that happiness has anything to do with the problem of the fucking miserable and hurt. I would like to be able to talk or read about anyone who gives a shit about the problem without being scolded for not considering something that is a…non problem. That’s all.

  36. Twisty

    Thank you, Joan Kelly, for articulating these points. I was about to drone on and on about the “individualist” view of prostitution (i.e. the idea that some women “choose” it), vs. a broader view of how prostitution is used, experienced, and constructed into power, but you saved me the trouble.

  37. slythwolf

    What’s been crystallizing in my mind over the past few days is how I see prostitution as very similar to the use of GHB. Why? In a capitalist society, the possibility of coming into possession of money is a drug. Witness the lottery and people with other types of gambling addictions. These are not “gambling” addictions. These people are not addicted to the thrill of gambling, they’re addicted to the possibility of having more money than they currently have.

    In this way, offering someone–especially a poor someone, generally, although sometimes the rich are even more susceptible to the lure of cash–money to do something is a very effective means of coercion, as one can easily see when watching preteen boys daring each other to eat a bug (or something)–once a five dollar bill enters the situation, someone eats the bug. Any form of coercion used to obtain sex is rape.

    There are clearly women who enjoy sex work. There are also women who enjoy BDSM, and women who enjoy wearing 5″ heels and 12″ skirts. All these women have the same reason for enjoying these things. That reason is the patriarchy.

  38. L.M.

    Hedgehog – you just told feminists to listen to sex workers, and when Joan Kelly, a woman who used to be a sex worker, wrote about her experience and her feelings about prostitution and sex work (which you disagreed with), you dismissed her as having an axe to grind.

  39. Joan Kelly

    Thanks Twisty and L.M. There’s one other thing I feel compelled to say, Hedgehog, but I don’t want to leave you feeling picked on. I do have an additional agenda (again, not being sarcastic) of really hoping to be persuasive about things that matter so much to me, and I know that I personally stop listening when the person addressing me goes into “…and ANOTHER thing…” mode. So I hope this comes across as being something that matters to me, not something to tell-you-off about.

    What you said about $pread maybe featuring more happy high paid call girl voices than others being a class issue, as such women may have more time to write, rather than necessarily an issue of who $pread does or doesn’t allow space for in the magazine – it is hard for me to just accept that as a possible explanation when I know folks who: are in grad school, are raising young children, are writing a novel, do activist work offline, and still manage to blog the shit out of their own sites in volumes that are damn near impossible to keep pace with as a reader. Oh, and who also have mentioned having to deal with bare survival level poverty and all the time it takes to try and get help from the agencies that are supposedly there to help people get a leg up. I don’t translate that directly to mean “there are bunches of $20 a day street prostitutes who have submitted work to $pread and been rejected because the articles they submitted were bum-outs and $pread is censoring that view.” What I do translate it to mean is that it is possible to tell something about editors’ own agendas if underrepresentation of majority experience in some field is shrugged off with an excuse rather than met with determined action to alter that underrepresentation. Damn me for having the worst short term memory in the history of mankind, but there was a thread up at a great blog recently, that had a link to a magazine that DOES publish work by prostitutes who make so little in such horrible conditions that they might be presumed not to have the time and space to write. Sorry I don’t have the link.

  40. Hedgehog

    L.M. No, I didn’t dismiss Joan’s feelings and experiences as a sex worker. I suggested that her description of $pread was one-sided. She has admitted herself that she has an agenda, and I think that’s fine. I don’t care.

    I was about ready to bow out of this conversation, since I have made my point, but it seems like JK actually wants to have a conversation about this so I shall say, in defense of the editors, that they are unpaid and on a low budget. They do actually send out calls specifically for stories from street walkers, and they have published a few, but it will always be harder to connect with these women for many reasons which you might imagine. I don’t personally know the editors, but I really hope that if you wrote a long bitchy article about everything that is wrong with prostitution, they would publish it. I really hope that if you interviewed other sex workers, they would publish the interviews.

    And as for agendas — I don’t think that we ultimately have different agendas. We both want to overthrow the female-oppressive system, but we have different ideas of what the New Order will look like once we get there. I think once the system is dissolved people will still probably keep doing a lot of the things they have always been doing, but we won’t lie awake tortured at night knowing that their “free” choices weren’t really free. And if you don’t agree with me about this I will agree to disagree because it’s so not worth fighting about at this point.

  41. Hedgehog

    Joan, one more thing because I just realized that I failed to address a major part of your post. You said

    “What I do translate it to mean is that it is possible to tell something about editors’ own agendas if underrepresentation of majority experience in some field is shrugged off with an excuse rather than met with determined action to alter that underrepresentation.”

    After I read my first issue of $pread, I wrote a letter to them about how I felt that they were presenting the voices of a very narrow range of sex workers. Their response was to publish the letter in their “letters to the editor” section and write back saying that they were aware of the problem and they were working hard to fix it.

    I also do not think it’s fair to compare grad students and novelists to sex workers. Grad students and novelists write for a living, and their method of procrastination is to write, so of course they own computers, have access to the internet, and blog the shit out of their own sites.

  42. Crystal

    Something just occurred to me about legalizing prostitution. Advertising, franchises, quotas.
    I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be a mostly independent contractor type of business.

  43. L.M.

    “a link to a magazine that DOES publish work by prostitutes who make so little in such horrible conditions that they might be presumed not to have the time and space to write.”
    Is this it?

  44. Joan Kelly

    YES!! Fucking love me some L.M.

  45. Joan Kelly

    Probably Hedgehog is not browsing around this thread anymore, probably nobody is, but I still am compelled to add something.

    In thinking about how we disagreed with each other, a couple of things nagged at me. One, I am/was interested in having the conversation, and although I am aware that things get pretty contentious in some discussions online, fighting’s not so much my thing even when disagreeing and discussing disagreements is. And I do want/hope to be someone who can talk about stuff, even passionately at times, without the person I’m talking with feeling pounced on. I don’t always succeed at that, but it is also an agenda of mine, to respect and listen to other respectable people who are listening.

    Two, I was thinking about why I felt at odds with your original comment. In my head I was like, fantastic, another sex worker or former sex worker who thinks her experience with it is more important and should get more consideration than everyone for whom it sucks, and that not-getting-attention for her view (and the views of women who feel how she feels) is some kind of oppression. And *she’s* the one exasperated!

    The thing is, I think it’s possible for Hedgehog (sorry to talk about you in third person here) to have felt what she expressed without being simply narcissistic privilege lady. Bear with me (as if anyone is even reading this, ahem) – I have had people I knew and people I didn’t know tell me how I felt about things when I was doing sex work. I never actually felt like in defense I had to pretend it was a great thing or that I was the happiest ever and it was a form of empowerment – but being talked down to fucking grates on my nerves regardless. I tend to have more patience around it when it’s people who I think are coming from a place I agree with or who care about me. I tend to not get the “but some of us like it so how dare you disrespect us!” screechies around it (not saying you had that, Hedgehog, just that I have seen it a lot). But, uh, my patience is not really relevant to someone else’s patience or lack thereof.

    I do really strongly feel like it’s unnecessary to talk about the I-make/made-$300-an-hour-to-do-things-I-sometimes-enjoyed sex work experience WHEN talking about what prostitution is and what it does, never mind talking about real examples where real prostitutes are treated as the subhumans that many people believe they are. I agree with Twisty’s points here, vehemently. And I have a verified bug up my ass about the way this culture hates the street prostitute but fetishizes the high paid “escort” and her sometimes much less critical take on hooking.

    But Hedgehog, I do appreciate (for real, not the casual use of that word) that you wrote to $pread and said what you did. I haven’t. And, I am still fucking head over heels for a couple of the women I used to know in that business. I don’t hate any of the rest of them, and it’s my experience that many in that field are, as someone in here implied or said outright, on drugs and fucking crazy. I will not assert that I am a bastion of mental health myself, although I haven’t been imbibing anything at all for a while now. Still, I guess my point is – the women I love(d) in that business were much like the women I love most, say, in the online world of kickass bloggers for example. They don’t take any shit, they don’t mince words, they have compassionate hearts and fierce senses of humor. Some of them, um, have sanity issues or substance abuse issues of one kind or another. So do some people I know and love who are not in the sex industry. (Although I am not aware of my blogger crushes having those issues, I am not making that parallel at all.) Some specific kinds of crazy are definitely a pattern among sex workers that I’ve known. I think that they do what I mostly did, to varying degrees – tell themselves this is the best economic deal for them with what their options are, and the free time is enjoyable, and the sticking-it-to-the-9-to-5-Man feeling is satisfying (not being stuck in an office all day), and everything that is unchangably horrible about sex work is minimized or ignored to the best of their ability in their minds and lives.

    And to me, all of that is a luxury. Being able to believe you have a livable life is a luxury in that business, when it is forced in so many people’s faces that their lives are shit, are worth shit, are for sale for almost nothing. I don’t imagine I speak for those women, but I do speak to their not-accidental silencing, because I can’t live with it.

    This is my exceptionally long winded way of saying, Hedgehog, that I didn’t want to leave it at me not acknowledging that I feel like I understand why you might have made your first comment, even though I got aggravated by it, and I don’t think you’re the enemy. There is so much going on lately that makes me feel like that’s necessary for me to state clearly rather than assume the other person knows it’s a given.

  46. Crystal

    Joan Kelly,
    I think I was the person who said the thing about crazy prostitutes and who was also totally generalizing about unhappy prostitutes. I hadn’t yet read Twisty’s FAQ about commenting as far as interpreting your friends’ experiences to be representative of women in general.
    That was lame. I apologize.
    I don’t know that much about prostitution outside of the reported experiences of women I’ve known and have done no substantive research on the topic, so that’s where I was coming from, but obviously totally leaving out a segment of the population. I’m sorry that my comment about the mental/emotional instability of the prostitutes I’ve known came off as an insult. I should have clarified that I am myself supremely unstable and even “crazy” and have been on assorted psychiatric medications, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people who feel that way, I just know that it’s a shitty way to feel. I brought it up because, as IBTP for my own serious emotional problems and most of the serious addiction and emotional problems that I’ve seen in others, I would assume that the trend I had noticed of women who work as prostitutes being seriously emotionally unstable reflects a greater-than-average degree of oppression and exploitation by the P. I was saying those thing as a reaction to the dude’s assertion that prostitution raises women’s self-esteem, something that seemed ludicrous to me in light of what I have seen of it. Reading some of the debate between you and Hedgehog has made me think that maybe I was wrong about this.
    I was thinking about posting this apology already, but figured the thread was dead, so I’m glad you brought it up again and specifically mentioned what I had said. Some of my views may be antiquated and in need of revision, but trust me, IBTP and not the women who have to suffer in it, and anything I say on here is completely in the context of blaming the patriarchy, so I’m happy to have any of these women keeping me more informed.

  47. Crystal

    I’m finding it really hard to write about the patriarchy without run-on sentences and ellipses. I guess that’s because it’s too insidious and all-emcompassing a beast by nature to be expressed in brief, succinct and direct language.

  48. Joan Kelly

    So, Crystal, bless your heart seriously. I say that with affection and not condescension. It is kind of you to write those comments, and by the way I find your writing quite readable. As an FYI, I was not insulted by what you or anyone else wrote. Really, even though sometimes it has infuriated me in person on the handful of occasions that someone’s said something presumptuous about my state of mind in connection with sex work, it’s never been a question of insult. (More like, I think they are right, but I wish they would accept that I am conscious of how I am selling myself out, and that it sucks, and I am not willing to stop doing it yet, so can we change the subject because I’m uncomfortable.) But, in this thread and pretty much any thread I’ve ever read, even ones where someone did start to talk directly to me, it never felt insulting to me. I am aware that it does to some women, and – this does not reflect that great on me – but mostly I have not cared. Mostly I have felt eye-roll-y and dismissive of women who hear it as insulting, like in my mind they are/were drama queens looking to get defensive about sex work so they could have someone to “rebel” against. And, I still don’t know all the places where I’m on track or misguided around EVERYTHING, including this, but…I thought about my friend, W., who still does kinky sex work like I used to. And I thought – what if she were the person saying what Hedgehog said. I would still have to say what I did about how it’s irrelevant that some women are happy in sex work, but it’s possible/probable that I would have at least thrown in a “I can see why that one thing in this conversation bugged you, but that’s not really what’s being talked about, and it’s frustrating to me that sometimes this exact conversation gets derailed by concerns like yours.”

    Anyway, that’s why I wrote what I did, not because I was insulted. And, actually, I didn’t see your comment saying any of the sex-workers-have-mental-issues stuff, it was someone else.

    Point being, you are a good egg for even wanting to consider stuff like this, and I appreciate it, whatever yours or anyone else’s conclusions.

  49. Hedgehog

    Crystal, word, thanks for posting that.

    Joan, it sounds to me like you have a lot to say. I think you should write it all out, and save it, or publish it online, or send it to a publication, or something. I’ll read it if you post it here, because I have this thread on RSS, but your thoughts deserve a real audience.

    LK, thanks for the link — I sent it to my roommate who is going back to India this month. I wish I read Hindi.

  50. Joan Kelly

    Hedgehog, thanks for the kind words. :)

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