Stacey Swimme

Innovative Thinking On The Sex Industry & Social Justice

10 Years of Fighting Violence Against Sex Workers

Image In 2003 I was working as an exotic dancer in San Francisco. I liked the work. I didn’t like the management as much. I resented the financial structures that defined my relationship with the house and the poor maintenance of areas of the facility that were primarily utilized by the dancers, our dressing room and the women’s restroom. I didn’t have a problem stripping for money; I just wanted better conditions in which to do my work. My privilege as a white, adult, cisgender woman created a relatively safe experience for me as an exotic dancer.

While I was dancing I was also taking classes at a local liberal arts college. I enrolled in courses with titles like “Women, Sex and Money” and “Activism for Social Change.” In some classes I found myself defending sex workers of all stripes against ridicule and judgment when topics of exotic dancing and sex for money came up. We viewed films like Hima B’s “Straight for the Money” which examined the experiences of lesbian women who have sex with male clients for cash. We took a field trip to a local movie theater to view a feminist-made porn that focused on full-figured women. Despite these unique looks into the sex industry and the women who work in it, some of my classmates still seemed to feel a divide between women who do sex work and women who don’t.

Outside of school I was organizing. I had been meeting other women who worked in various parts of the sex industry. Robyn Few and I started the Sex Workers Outreach Project with the intention of mobilizing sex workers into a fight for justice. Later in 2003, Gary Leon Ridgway was finally convicted after 22 years of getting away with the rapes and murders of dozens of sex workers and young runaways in the state of Washington. As the news of his trial and sentencing spread sadness and fear among our community, Dr. Annie Sprinkle had the idea of holding a ceremony to honor the lives of his victims, who were easy targets for him because of the stigma and oppression they faced as young runaways and poor women, most of whom were women of color. SWOP joined forces with Annie and created the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th, 2003.

Ridgway, better known as the Green River Killer, famously said that he targeted women living and working on the street because he knew he could kill as many as he wanted and get away with it. Predators like Ridgway are opportunists who use society’s prejudices against poor people, people of color, transgender folks and sex workers as a cover for getting away with abuse and murder. Laws that penalize sex workers who engage in prostitution exist to reinforce the state’s oppression of racial and gender minorities and deny these groups their right to safety and economic security.

Today, on the 10th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, I’m reminded that my struggle for better working conditions is in many ways a privilege. And the privilege of that struggle drives me to work as an ally for the deeper struggles of resisting hate and oppression. December 17th is an opportunity for me to stand up and honor all of the sex workers who’ve been harmed or died due to violence. And it’s an opportunity for me to declare solidarity with people of color, transgender people, migrant workers, low-wage workers, poor women and mothers who aren’t just negatively impacted by the bad laws and poor working conditions affecting sex workers, but are engaged in a broader struggle. Not just a struggle for worker and civil rights, but a struggle for their lives.

After Passage Of Prop 35, Sex Workers Need Support From Family, Friends and Allies More Than Ever

Update: The next hearing for the ACLU/EFF lawsuit will be heard by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson on November 20th.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation have successfully blocked one part of the CASE ACT aka Prop 35. Their move is intended to protect the freedom of speech and privacy rights of more than 72,000 registered sex offenders- a number that is going to increase when sex workers are forced to register as sex offenders under this new law.  This lawsuit is an important step, but it is not enough. Sex workers in California need support from friends, family and allies more than ever.

Prop 35 was passed on Tuesday by 81% of the voters in California. Looking over some of the county results, I suspect that many people just skipped over the question, or voted yes because it sounds good. Everybody wants to go after the “traffickers,” right? Voters might have made a different choice had they read this story in the Chicago Reporter highlighting the failures of a very similar law in Illinois:

“…a Chicago Reporter analysis of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office data shows that prostitution-related felonies are being levied almost exclusively against sex workers. During the past four years, they made up 97 percent of the 1,266 prostitution-related felony convictions in Cook County. And the number is growing: Felony convictions among sex workers increased by 68 percent between 2008 and 2011.”

The situation in Illinois reflects the problem at the core of the CASE Act- it will ultimately result in enhanced arrests and sentencing of sex workers and will do nothing to actually prevent human trafficking. All those felony convictions and arrests of sex workers make it nearly impossible for them to get out of the industry and into other work. The CASE Act is enhanced, life-long punishment of sex workers disguised as punishment of predators.

The ACLU/EFF lawsuit calling out the problems with the Sex Offender Registry portion of the act is helpful, but we have more work to do to expose the way that campaigns like Prop 35 are organized for the benefit of the organizers rather than the victims they claim to be protecting. These “saviors” of trafficking victims understood that the issue was not only confusing, but that few people really cared about it.  As Melissa Gira Grant writes: “What they counted on was the profound and damning absence of grassroots support for people in the sex trade and people most impacted by criminalization – people who might oppose them…”

California voters most likely never saw any opposition to Prop 35, considering the complete lack of funding available to the opposition campaign. Nonetheless, a coalition of organizations did work to raise awareness, including The Erotic Service Providers Union, Black Women for Wellness, St. James Infirmary, BaySWAN, Global Network of Sex Work Projects, US Prostitutes Collective, Global Women’s Strike, SWOP Chapters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and others. They got the word out to their membership, targeted the media and organized phone banks.

It’s impossibly expensive to win or defeat a ballot initiative in California. This is why we have to focus on educating our families and communities. We need to expand the ranks of people who know us, care about us and support us. The next time an opportunistic, office-seeking millionaire uses us as pawns in his bid to gain recognition with a deceitful proposition, we will have a grassroots army to do the important campaign work. We need our friends and family to be part of this struggle with us, to help humanize sex workers and to illuminate the real conditions of the industry.

But more urgently, sex workers need to strengthen our support networks, help each other stay safe, keep an emergency response plan, spend time together, talk to each other, meet people we can trust to share our stories with, resist being isolated and alone as much as possible. The results of Prop 35 were an ominous reminder to me that we are almost completely alone in our struggle. A super-majority of people in California are indifferent to what happens to us. All we’ve got is each other. Let’s take good care of us.

 

“What’s Next?”

Last Friday at the Sex Worker Symposium I led a discussion called “How to be an Ally to Sex Workers.” It was a privilege to be invited by CalPEP to lead this discussion at the end of their day-long symposium attended by social service workers, HIV prevention/treatment workers, sex workers and employees from the departments of public health in Alameda and San Francisco counties.

Throughout the day participants attended workshops that included topics such as:  youth in the sex trade, sex over 50 years of age, Prop 35, transgender sex workers, cultural competency for people working with sex workers and more. The program was amazing. The only complaint I had about it was that there was too much good stuff packed into too short a time period. They had 2-3 days worth of great material packed into concurrent workshops in a single day. It was hard to choose which workshops I was okay with missing.

By the end of the day when my talk began, symposium participants had heard from several sex workers, some allies to sex workers and some foes of sex workers. These foes, however, are people who believe they’re doing good by supporting policies that keep sex workers and our clients criminalized. There is still confusion about the difference between trafficking, exploitation and sex work. Some still believe it’s necessary to arrest prostitutes in order to “rescue” trafficking victims. It was valuable to have this mix of perspectives so that conference participants can be best informed about why sex worker activists are opposed policies such as “End Demand” and Prop 35.

Some who attended my presentation arrived a bit confused. They needed to have explained to them that Prop 35 will further criminalize adult consensual sex workers and give more money to the police who harass us. They needed to learn that our methods of protecting ourselves by screening potential clients, sharing safe clients and sharing apartments/hotel rooms with each other are considered pimping/pandering and that Prop 35 would enhance penalties for those activities. It was more information than could be eloquently presented in such short a time. Nonetheless, this was an invaluable staring point!

The most important question asked during my presentation was “What’s next?” The participant was asking, what do we do if/when Prop 35 passes? How will we minimize the harm caused by Prop 35? How are we all going to work together to improve the safety and well-being of sex workers? It was my favorite moment of the day. In that moment it was clear to me that the symposium was an astounding success. People who do important work in our communities have taken a new interest in sex work and understand that they have a role to play in advocating for policies and projects that both affirm our rights and protect the vulnerable from exploitation. They had learned how to be our allies or at least demonstrated the desire to do so.

We closed with a comment from a participant who pointed out that 30% of the money procured through Prop 35 goes to “training law enforcement officers,” she felt this is an area in which allies should be active, to ensure that this training promotes better relations between officers and sex workers. That’s a great place to start. Our allies must understand that as long as the police view us as criminals, it’s not possible to be treated fairly by them. This symposium was just a beginning, seeds have been planted that will blossom into advocacy that I hope will include: decriminalization of prostitution, protection and resources for runaways and support for mothers/families to end child abuse and sexual abuse in the home. Some other ideas I have for our allies:

  • In-service trainings from sex workers in DPH, at hospitals/health clinics and at domestic violence prevention/service agencies.
  • Invite sex workers to apply for jobs in health, social work and advocacy organizations
  • Participate in December 17th activities
  • Speak out when prostitution busts or other violence against sex workers is reported in the media
  • Discuss these issues with friends and family members

These are just some ideas to get started with. Like I said in my presentation, we’ll have to change hearts before we can change policies. I’m deeply grateful to those who participated in the Symposium, especially the people who organized it! Thank you for your vision and your follow through. I can’t wait to attend again next year!

 

“Building Bridges in The Sex Industry”

This Friday I’ll be speaking at the Sex Worker Symposium: “Building Bridges in The Sex Industry”  in Oakland, CA at 2:30pm. I’m thrilled about this opportunity to connect with the folks at CalPEP and meet people in the county departments of Public Health from Alameda and San Francisco. They say this is the first annual! Hopefully service providers and county workers coming together to hear from sex workers will become a yearly activity! From their website:

Join us, Friday October 19, 2012 at the Oakland Marriot from 8-5pm for the “Sex Worker Symposium”. This event is open to providers  and both Men & Women in the sex industry . This will be a space to listen to community based service providers, gather resources, ask questions as well as  enjoy yoga, raffles and much more. Registration will begin at 8:00am and both breakfast and lunch is FREE to the firsts 200 people.

The purpose of the Sex Worker Symposium is to increase the strength and diversity of the community-based response to the Sex workers needs through education, training, new partnerships, collaboration and networking. This will be the 1st annual symposium hosted by California Prostitutes Education Project, Sex Worker Outreach Project and Alameda County Public Health Department Office of AIDS . The symposium is a gathering of the sex industry, bringing together all fronts –from all types’ sex workers including street-based, Internet-based, male, Transgender and their advocates; case managers and physicians, to public health workers and advocates, and policymakers–to build support networks, exchange the latest information and learn cutting-edge tools to address the challenges of safety,criminalization and health related concerns.

Oakland Marriot Convention Center

1001 Broadway,

Oakland,CA

Also, the after party will be at CALpep’s new location, 2811 Adeline from 6-11pm . A $15.00 donation is requested.

Tauriq Moosa Up For 3 Quarks Daily Philosophy Award

Tauriq Moosa wrote  a great article called The Moral Significance of Sex Workers and People With Disabilities over at BigThink.com

That article has now been nominated for a Quark in the category of Philosophy.

I’d love to see the important issue of sex workers and disability get more attention. Please go vote for this article before 11:59pm New York time today!

And if you’d like some more info on a professional approach to serving clients with disabilities, check out Touching Base. Touching Base is a Sydney, Australia-based professional training program for sex workers. I had the pleasure of attending their 1-day seminar back in 2008. I’d love to see this kind of program become available to sex workers in the US!

Prop 35 Does More Harm Than Good

USPros/Global Women’s Strike have written a fact sheet that clearly illustrates the problems with Prop 35, the full text can be found here.

In summary, they state:

Existing anti-trafficking measures are primarily being used to increase police powers to criminalize sex workers and target immigrant sex workers, in particular women of color, for arrest and deportation.

Existing laws against rape, kidnapping, sexual assault, false imprisonment, extortion . . . could be used to prosecute the real exploiters of women and children. But traffickers and violent men escape prosecution because protecting women and children is not the priority — 94% of rapists don’t see a day in jail and only 50% of reported rapes end in arrest .(1)

Any increase in prostitution among young people has primarily been as a result of the economic crisis and cuts in welfare. The Act says nothing about this or about the continuing criminalization of under 18 year olds for prostitution offences and the fact that criminal records prevent sex workers leaving prostitution.

We urge you to vote no because Proposition 35:

 

  • Will not help victims of trafficking including those under 18.
  • Will cut victims off from potential support by criminalizing anyone that associates with a young person in prostitution regardless of whether there was any force or coercion involved.
  • Uses phony and sensationalist statistics to exploit the public’s understandable concern about trafficking.
  • Expands the definition of trafficking to include any sex with a minor “because minors are legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity.”
  • Increases police powers to detain and interrogate people under the pretext of looking for trafficked victims including “a minor who has engaged in a commercial sex act”, a “person suspected of prostitution” or “a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault”.
  • Deters young people from coming forward to report exploitation, rape, trafficking and other violence.
  • Takes no account of the economic crisis and cuts in welfare, housing and other resources which is forcing increasing numbers of young people, particularly young mothers, into the sex industry to survive.
  • Encourages corruption. 30% of the funds collected from draconian new fines “shall be granted to law enforcement and prosecution agencies”

 

  • Gives non-profits a vested interest: 70% of funds collected from fines will go to “public agencies and non-profits”
  • Is an unnecessary expansion of pimping and pandering laws

 

  • Makes unwarranted changes to the Sex offender law

 

  • Attacks the internet

Additionally, they provide some useful references:

1. “Robbed, Raped and Jailed: Are Police Departments Underestimating Rape Cases?“ Senate Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Uninvestigated Rape Cases. ABC World News, September 14, 2010.

2. Chang, Grace and Kim, Kathleen, Reconceptualizing Approaches to Human Trafficking: New Directions and Perspectives from the Field(s). ibid

3. “Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence” by Jerry Markon, Washington Post, September 23, 2007

4. 80% of street workers and 46% of indoor workers experienced violence or threats in the course of their work. “Revolving Door”, Urban Justice Network

5. http://www.urbanjustice.org/pdf/publications/BehindDoorsExecSum.pdf

USPROS@allwomencount.net www.prostitutescollective.net

California: Vote No On Prop 35! (The CASE Act)

My instinctual objection to Prop 35 is my doubt as to whether the voter initiative process is the most appropriate arena to define human trafficking and to determine what appropriate penalties are for traffickers. I want those who profit from coercion and fraud to be adequately restrained, as any sensible person would. But shouldn’t that be determined by demonstrated evidence of what actually deters human trafficking, not just what gets a popular vote among a public that does not have all the facts?

Retired Lieutenant John Vanek says at his Human Trafficking Blog: “(I’ve never supported the language of the CAS initiative, nor the use of the proposition process to change laws regarding human trafficking)” With 25 years in law enforcement and 6 years of experience investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases, wouldn’t you think the proponents of Prop 35 would want to listen to his guidance on the topic? It seems the Police Officers Association also passed on an opportunity to get input from Vanek. Naturally, they have an interest in increasing prison sentencing- and getting their 30% cut of the fine monies that Prop 35 would potentially generate.

I met Mr. Vanek in 2010 at an Anti-Human Trafficking training in San Francisco. The fact is there are force, fraud, coercion and abuse happening out there; it drives all sorts of different labor, including sex. Mr. Vanek has clearly seen a lot of that- the real abuse- and he wants those cases to be tracked down and effectively prosecuted. He understands what works and what doesn’t. When I met him, I introduced myself to the entire room as a sex worker who consents to sex in my line of work. I spoke with Mr. Vanek briefly afterward. I provided him with the St. James Infirmary Occupational Health and Safety Handbook. He asked me what I thought about the closure of Craiglist.com’s Erotic Services section. I told him that we had lost a good tool for law enforcement to track down real predators. He said he agreed.

As it turns out, Mr. Vanek and I agree on many things, in particular, that Prop 35 will not prevent human trafficking or assist the victims of real exploitation. He lays out his case against Prop 35 in 3 excellent blog posts that you should see here, here and here. His message is clear:

“But weak sentencing – while perhaps not a disincentive – does not cause one person to enslave another.  For that we must examine a complex list of push/pull factors, including the effects of globalization, increased migration, conflict (including wars, and in-home conflict leading to increased runaways and homelessness among teenagers), elements of culture, and that most basic of needs – a job.”

“Proposition 35 (aka: the CASE Act) has several flaws, including proposing different sentencing standards for offenders who exploit victims for labor or services, as opposed to commercial sex offenses.  This is an insult to every victim forced to work in domestic service, agricultural fields, sweat shops, restaurants, or other forms of slavery that do not include sex.  The CASE Act even neglects to address the difference between minor victims (i.e., under age 18) and adults in labor cases!”

“…Prop 35 could actually harm the response to trafficking in our state.  Enhancing trafficking laws should be created via the legislative process, not the initiative process.  I urge you to vote NO on Prop 35.”

Thank you Mr. Vanek!

A few of the unintended consequences I can see are that this initiative continues to promote a scary conflation between consensual prostitution and forced sex trafficking. By failing to recognize that professional sex workers are not victims and should not be treated as criminals, we are silencing a huge number of people who could be key allies in the fight against trafficking. With sex work and human trafficking lumped together into a black market, an easy cover is created for those who would force non-consenting victims into sexual commerce. Consensual sex for money should not be a crime. Period. And any victim of non-consensual sex, whether for money or not, should be able to count on a swift and effective community response to both prevent it from happening and to bring justice to those who would seek out the vulnerable to make their profits.

The scariest aspect of Prop 35 for sex workers is the language in Sec. 3 Purpose and Intent: “…to ensure just and effective punishment for those who PROMOTE or engage in the crime of human trafficking.” To understand why this is scary, you have to understand that elsewhere in this initiative “force, fraud and coercion” are removed from the definition of trafficking and the distinction between minors and adults engaged in commercial sex is also removed. So essentially, anybody who works to increase the safety of consenting sex workers by maintaining a Bad Date list for example, or training internet-based adult sex workers how to screen out the bad clients can be accused of “promoting” human trafficking. Prop 35 is a blatant effort to misrepresent the real circumstances of human trafficking and targets those who work consensually in the sex industry. Prop 35 will lead to increased harassment and prosecutions of sex workers, the majority of which gets directed at the most vulnerable workers, including people of color and transgender sex workers. Any effort sex workers make to help keep each other safe by sharing clients, working together or sharing work spaces could be considered “trafficking” according to Prop 35. Who benefits from this? Not the real victims of exploited labor and sexual commerce.

It is clear that human trafficking is a complex and dynamic issue that should not be oversimplified as the CASE Act attempts to do. If people truly care about preventing human trafficking, resources should be directed toward ending child abuse and incest in the home; better services for runaways who are often escaping abuse and homophobia; and investing in education and employment opportunities for women and girls so that the sex industry is not the default option for people struggling financially. This initiative squanders money that could otherwise be used to build real solutions that prevent human trafficking.

Please join Lt. Vanek and me in voting NO on Prop 35!

(Click here for additional info on Prop 35)

Sex Workers and Clients Can Stop Human Trafficking (6 of 6)

Excerpted from a post I contributed at Sex In The Public Square on February 25th, 2008.

Sex Workers (and their clients) are Part of the Solution

Smoke and mirrors people… Look over there so we can violate you from over here. That’s how power works. Sex workers have a lot of experience in observing and actualizing the art of power. Sex workers have a lot to teach us. We all lose because sex workers are silenced.

Those who lose most of all are the people who actually are trafficked for labor in many forms. Billions of dollars are allocated so that regional and federal task-forces can cruise the web looking for ‘trafficked’ women. The results of these hunts produce thousands of misdemeanor arrests of US sex workers, costing tax payers millions in administrative and incarceration expenses- but they produce very little that actually serves the needs of trafficking victims.

When the sex industry is not criminalized, there is little incentive to employ those who don’t wish to do the work. Trust me, thousands of women are quite happy to work as prostitutes, there’s no gap in available service providers to meet the far over-exaggerated demand that is reported. The underground nature of some areas of the sex industry are a breeding ground for corruption and labor abuses. Keeping sex workers and their clients criminalized leaves them without routes for reporting violence, suspicious behavior or anything that suggests abuse.

Forced prostitution is not sex work. It is rape. It is in the best interest of all for those who do not wish to do sex work to have an avenue to get out of the industry that includes practical solutions and resources for a sustainable and independent life. Sex workers want to contribute to these solutions and it’s frustrating that when a sex worker is happy with his/her work they are accused of being part of the problem. Arrest-tactics, social stigma and compromised personal safety limit the ability of sex workers to participate in effective action.

Practical Solutions

Another Way is a list of 10 ways that as consumers in North America we can minimize our role in promoting the demand for cheap labor and our impact on the environment and economies of developing nations.

Sex workers have to acknowledge our role in consumerism and we have to make decisions with our money that are aligned with our values. Sex workers are uniquely positioned to make an economic impact because our income is often directly connected to the same corporations that are profiting from cheap labor. We have a responsibility to take that money back into our communities by buying local, buying fair-trade, supporting labor organizing of immigrant workers and joining in human rights projects that are working to raise awareness about the true nature of human trafficking.

This is a big, huge problem. I wish that I could just make 10 bullet points as a checklist for sex workers to end human trafficking. None of the solutions are going to be easy. I certainly am not as accountable as a consumer as I should be. This is an area that requires us to be very conscious about our decisions, to look at our daily lives and truly evaluate what sort of changes we can make to improve conditions on this planet. I think real change will require a collective sense of compassion that is seriously lacking in the world. US citizens are not the only consumers that are driving the demand for cheap labor. This is a global matter and I think that US sex workers need to consult our global community to seek out more solutions.

Sex workers will not be included in these conversations without putting up a fight. Those who believe that all commercial sex work is equal to rape won’t acknowledge us because we disprove their theories just because we exist. Those who work in any form of health/prevention services can’t or won’t work with us because their funding is tied up with the anti-prostitution loyalty oath.

There is a systematic effort to keep us silent and to censor those who support us. We challenge all of the imbalances of power, gender and authority that the anti-trafficking industry rests delicately on. We’re also an easy scapegoat. People are more than happy to believe that consenting adults in the sex industry are causing human trafficking, it means they don’t have to question their own role in the demand for cheap labor.

To end human trafficking we have to appreciate the very nuanced and complex nature of this problem, we have to be willing to look at the root issues and we have to stop scapegoating sex workers.

Sex Workers and Feminists Unite! (5 of 6)

Excerpted from a post I contributed at Sex In The Public Square on February 25th, 2008.

Feminists?

Women have been at the forefront of raising awareness about human trafficking and the economic exploitation of women. Sadly, there is conflict among feminists in developed nations. The conflict is a result of a generation divide as well as differences in attitudes toward sex, gender and sexuality. This often results in the exclusion of sex workers, immigrant workers, transgender women and young women in forming an effective response to human trafficking. This practice of exclusion is making the battle to change bad policies affecting women’s health increasingly difficult.

It also means that the anti-choice political forces don’t have to put as much effort into restricting access to birth control and safe, legal abortions because women are divided and working against each other rather than together. This division is killing the women’s movement and will have terrible domino effects for future generations of women and girls.

Most feminists fully support a woman’s right to choose on all matters of sexuality and understand that one woman’s choice to say ‘yes’ does not compromise another woman’s right to say ‘no.’ We have to question the motives of those who are the loudest and most influential in the human trafficking debate:

“Mainstream feminists like to say [Bush is] anti-woman, but by supporting the abolitionist work against the global sex trade, he has done more for women and girls than any other president I can think of. . . . Years from now, when the anti-Bush hysteria has died away, I believe he will be recognized as a true advocate for women’s freedom and human rights.” –Donna Hughes National Review (January 26, 2006)

Feminists know that when it comes to abortion and women’s rights, religious fundamentalists and the Bush administration in particular are not our friends. Why would any feminist claim that Bush has done “…more for women and girls than any other president I can think of…?” The first thing that Bush did when he got into office was re-implement the global gag-rule on abortion that limited funding to organizations who provide a variety of health and prevention services to women globally. [President Obama repealed that ban upon entering office.] Because of the limited funding, these organizations are unable to provide a wide variety of health services including counseling, condom distribution and well-woman care.

The anti-choice forces understand that by lumping prostitution into the abortion debate they can persuade women to abandon their right to choose for the sake of prohibiting prostitution- at least from an economic standpoint. PEPFAR is just one example of how the right to choose and the right to charge are both being attacked by the same anti-woman forces that keep Plan B from being sold in some pharmacies and the same forces attempting to require minors to get a parent’s signature in order to access safe and legal abortions. Feminists have to reconsider our attitudes toward sexuality, promiscuity and monogamy to adopt a more inclusive approach. If we don’t work together, we all lose.

Deceptive Politics (4 of 6)

Excerpted from a post I contributed at Sex In The Public Square on February 25th, 2008.

Political Posturing

Ever wonder why the ineffective anti-trafficking policies are so universally supported by both Republicans and Democrats? We know that it’s not because of their deep understanding of and commitment to human rights. It’s because politicians get an easy out. The Republicans get a high score with the ‘feminists’ and the Democrats don’t have to risk upsetting the ‘progressives’ (read: compassionate capitalists)… “We’re doing it for the women.” “We’re challenging the inherent exploitation that is prostitution.”

Oh, yes, for the women. It’s all about taking care of women. Never mind that women are being infected by HIV at increasing rates each year and the US is actually making that problem worse—not better. And by throwing billions of dollars into abstinence-only, anti-prostitution and anti-abortion (yes FEMINISTS we’re on the same team here!!!) efforts rather than ANTI-HIV and ANTI-POVERTY efforts, they are killing women and enslaving women, children and men into labors of all kinds in order to create cheap products for the capitalist economy to chew up and spit out…

The Cycle of Deception

Politicians don’t want to have to change policies that will affect the bottom-line of their donors’ companies. So focusing on sex trafficking exclusively is a pat on the back for both the politicians and the corporations. Consumers remain distracted and un-moved by the real plight of migrant laborers. They’re obsessed with the trafficking stories, assume that the government is doing something about it and believe that they are not part of the problem. Nobody wants to think too deeply about this. So consumers continue to give money to corporations that thrive on a cheap labor market. The corporations protect that cheap labor market by funding political campaigns and special interest groups to influence foreign and domestic policy. The media gets excellent ratings when reporting on anything sex trafficking-related, which drives up the advertising rates that the corporations pay. Then the consumers go out and purchase the products that they saw advertised during the sex trafficking news and TV dramas without giving thought to where and how those products were created… and the cycle continues… The media, the politicians and the corporations all win at the expense of human lives.

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