SaneSurvivor

Toughing It Out

Too Close To Home — January 8, 2016

Too Close To Home

The Honest Courtesan

Given the takedown of MyRedbook and Rentboy, and the repeated assaults on Backpage, I couldn’t say that the seizure of Seattle’s The Review Board by local cops in conjunction with the FBI was shocking; in fact, as I told the first reporter I talked to about it, my initial reaction was “Here we go again.”  Of course, there’s one big difference between this case and the earlier ones:  I was currently advertising on TRB, and in fact the screenshot of the board which was included in the cops’ press release included the headline of my most recent ad, with my name right there for anyone to read.TRB seizure

From my point of view, the way the news unfolded was this:  I had just arrived home on Wednesday afternoon to prepare for a date when one of my sex worker friends texted me to tell me she had tried to sign onto the board…

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Wild-Eyed and Spittle-Flecked — January 6, 2016

Wild-Eyed and Spittle-Flecked

The Honest Courtesan

Nothing is more horrible than my self in the mirror of hysteria.  –  Karl Kraus

screaming womanAs I’ve often pointed out, moral panics don’t slowly subside; on the contrary, they pick up speed as they go, with the claims growing ever wilder and the official responses growing ever more extreme, until they fly apart and hurl debris in every direction.  In the terminal stages of such a panic, many of those who failed to voice their skepticism in the early days are at last moved to open their mouths; however, others double down and continue to vomit out whatever evil nonsense the hysterical narrative demands, with their eyes bulging and froth flying forth from their lips.  Domina Elle sent me this prime example of the genre in early December, but once I started trying to edit it down for inclusion in a news column I realized it deserved to be…

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Screening 101 — December 12, 2015
SALLY ANNE. HER PERSONAL STORY OF A PAPERLESS LIFE. — November 16, 2015

SALLY ANNE. HER PERSONAL STORY OF A PAPERLESS LIFE.

Harlots Parlour

I would like to introduce Sally Anne to Harlots. She is a sex worker based in Florida, USA. She has a very interesting story to tell about her life as a sex worker and the issues she faces living effectively as a non person in her home country. Sally Ann refers to her life as a “paperless life” because she has no paper record of being a citizen of the USA, or any other country. 

I am sure Sally Ann will welcome comments and perhaps advice. It is certainly an interesting story and I think illustrates that sex work is one of the few professions that allows a person to live regardless of their legal status. If sex work did not exist how would someone in Sally Anne’s situation survive? It is a question to ponder.

My name is Sally Anne. I am a foreign adoptee, originally from south Asia…

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In the News (#586) — November 7, 2015

In the News (#586)

The Honest Courtesan

Social policies do not have to be so dumb.  –  Laura Agustín

The Scarlet Letter

This article is so stupidly evil it’s almost fascinating:

A plan to publicly shame those who solicit sex with minors moved forward…with a draft ordinance covering Los Angeles County expected next week…Don Knabe has been pushing for a “shame campaign” since late last year…the…ordinance that would provide for the publication of names and booking photos of those convicted of soliciting prostitution or loitering with intent to solicit prostitution…Sheila Kuehl…questioned the practice of arresting people for loitering with intent, saying she thought the allegation amounted to “mind reading”…The Los Angeles Times editorial board, when Knabe first made his proposal, called the plan “anachronistic” and said it amounted to “sensationalism”…

Parable Kesha

Noah Berlatsky with another analogy for the absurdity of prohibition:

Should young women be allowed to enter the music industry?  That seems like a preposterous question…

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The St. Paul’s Rape Trial and the Meaning of “No” — September 15, 2015
Rape, Sex Work and Opinions —

Rape, Sex Work and Opinions

I really dislike bathing my 2 nine-year old golden retrievers.  I can delay it forever and they wouldn’t mind if I never did it again at all, but all of us know it will eventually have to get done and we all look forward to it being over.  I felt similarly about reading an op-ed article regarding the rape of a Sex Worker in Chicago.

Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an opinion editorial regarding a sex worker who had called the police after being raped by a man who had contacted her from an ad she posted on the adult section of Backpage.  My Twitter feed quickly filled up with links to the article accompanied by condemnations of Mary Mitchel, the Chicago Sun-Times and then later more links to more publications, blogs and posts with both large and small organizations and individuals  calling for apologies and retractions.  My inbox filled up with angry and hurt emails and my Facebook page was deluded with more links and comments.   The intro to the links on both Facebook and Twitter were filled with fury and resentment and I delayed actually reading the article for the better part of two days because I knew this was going to be a trigger for my anxiety to crush any hope I had that the lives of Sex Workers were going to improve any time soon.  So yesterday afternoon over a cup of chamomile tea, I read – and reread – Mary Mitchells opinion piece.

Violence in general, has always been a good way to get me riled up, but violence against women by other women is just unforgivable.  Women have fought too hard for too long to allow any one of us to behave in such a way without concern for consequences.  There is no room for a woman in a place of power as a board member of the editorial staff of the Chicago Sun-Times to voice her opinions about the victimization of another woman.  Particularly one, like this sex worker, who has been violated in such a horrific criminal act and then shamed for her profession in such a public manner.  For Mary Mitchell to say that it was “hard to see her as a victim” and to be “grateful” that the perpetrator hadn’t done this “to an innocent woman on the street” and to have the Chicago Sun-Times rubber stamp their approval and publish it, was like a knife to the heart.

Mary Mitchell has been found guilty in the court of public opinion of violence against women by her op-ed piece and she should have to pay a price for that.  She has nothing to offer the community in Chicago or anywhere else for that matter that will ever makeup for this gross violation of ethics.  Mitchells insinuation that Sex Workers cannot be raped and her own “risky” behavior was just cause for her bad luck at being raped at gunpoint are the verbal equivalent of a hate crime.   Victim blaming, minimizing the act of rape and a complete disregard for the framework of “consent” are all issues that Mary Mitchell completely disregarded, setting us back decades in the Human Rights for Women in general and Sex Workers in particular.

I spent some time looking at other issues that Mitchell has written about and she seems to enjoy controversy and almost appears to have taken this stance in an effort to gain notoriety.  I think she got the notoriety she sought but I’m hoping she loses her job, her place on the editorial board of the Chicago Sun-Times and is forever considered a pariah in the media.  I also hope that this despicable article reinforces the need for better protection for Sex Workers and the furtherance of the cause for decriminalization of Sex Work as recommended by Amnesty International this past August.

But my greatest hope is that women everywhere will recognize that we MUST unite and force each other to be accountable for our actions.  We could achieve so much if we would simply understand that we are stronger together and find our commonality instead of looking for ways to be divisive and unkind to each other.

 

Amnesty Decision on Sex Work For Anti-trafficking NGO’s — September 13, 2015

Amnesty Decision on Sex Work For Anti-trafficking NGO’s

The week before the “Big Decision” by Amnesty International, someone told me that NGO’s who were anti-trafficking supporters would fold if they voted to support the decriminalization of Sex Work.  I was doubtful that it would have such a serious impact that it would cause them to pack up and go home, but I could see that some who had been fence-sitting on direct questions regarding consensual sex work might take this opportunity to gracefully bow out of this arena.  After all, the most common complaint I heard about Prostitution Outreach efforts from Anti Trafficking groups was their efforts were met with such resistance from their target audience.  I thought they would welcome the opportunity to relinquish their freakishly self-righteous control on a subject they clearly had no knowledge about how to address, successfully or otherwise, and refocus their efforts in places they could make a difference.  I was almost amused that most of them didn’t even bother to read more than the Headline on this pivotal Amnesty decision, and instead immediately started the process of demanding Amnesty “change their mind” and reverse their decision.

That is simply not going to happen.  And if they had taken the time to read the entire decision, the Anti Trafficking community would have found they had truly been given a get-out-of-jail-free card instead of wasting more time and resources trying to change that which cannot – and will not – be changed.  In fact, when Amnesty International makes a decision you don’t agree with, you really need to step back and reassess your position from a Human Rights perspective.  Amnesty International has brought us so far with so many other Human Rights issues and we should listen to them.

But just in case you are an Anti Trafficker and have sand in your ears, here is a quick primer on what this policy decision really could mean to this – in the very words of Amnesty International – most marginalized group of people world-wide.

Decriminalization does NOT mean legalization.  Legalization – as in Germany and in Nevada  – have unintended consequences and most Sex Workers do not support it.  Legalized sex work leaves sex workers tangled up in a mess of burdensome regulations where they must conform to license requirements that bring an unfair burden on women who are already living in poverty and the very application of a license can immediately stigmatize a sex worker and keep her from eventually accessing other employment opportunities.  For example – a Sex Worker in a legalized model in the United States would be required to register as a sex worker and pay a licensure fee – kind of like an occupational license – before she began working as a Sex Worker.  This would probably mean she would have to have a physical and be tested for STD’s which is a good thing if she is not already having problems accessing affordable healthcare.  Women’s Healthcare – particularly low-cost affordable healthcare – has always been a problem and even more so with the problems organizations like Planned Parenthood has faced over the years.  Before she got her license, she may even have to attend government sponsored Sex Work classes or submit to questionnaires that she may or may not fully understand.  She might also be required to perform or conduct Sex Work business in a location that also requires a legalized, bureaucratic process as well and might be hampered unfairly by a lack of transportation to get to this location. This legalized location would most likely be a brothel. Brothel owners have a clear interest in maintaining their image as law-abiding, trouble-free businesses to keep their licenses and maintain good relations within their communities. The owners ensure this by making it policy to call the police at the slightest hint of trouble to send a message that they don’t tolerate bad behavior. The whole name of the game is control.  Just that statement alone is cause for concern about legalizing Sex Work in a Legalized environment – it almost immediately removes the control from the Sex Worker over who and when she sees a client and who she alone decides what she considers bad behavior.

Women in a poverty situations often undertake Sex Work as an intervention to crisis (pay the rent, buy food, provide for her children)  and would be subject to fines and tickets and court costs to defend themselves about participating in sex work while unlicensed in a legalized environment.  Then, of course, she would be ineligible to get the required license or registration because of the financial penalties that would accrue if she were “caught” performing Sex Work without a license.  This sequence of events amounts to the criminalized system we already have firmly in place in most areas of the United States.

Legalization would mean the regulation of prostitution with laws regarding where, when, and how prostitution could take place.

Although often presented as a more tolerant and pragmatic approach, the legalized model still criminalize those sex workers who cannot or will not fulfill various bureaucratic responsibilities, and therefore retains some of the worst harms of criminalization. It disproportionately excludes sex workers who are already marginalized, like people who use drugs or who are undocumented. This makes their situation more precarious, and so reinforces the power of unscrupulous managers.

The US has actually had some experience with both models. Nevada has a highly regulated legalized prostitution system.  Rhode Island also decriminalized prostitution in 2003 and, according to University of California researchers, instances of reported rape and sexually transmitted diseases plummeted after Rhode Island stopped policing prostitution.  Nevertheless, due to public moral outcry and absolutely NO input from Sex Worker voices, Rhode Island outlawed prostitution again in 2009.

The Amnesty International policy recommendation that calls for the decriminalization of one to one consensual Sex Work refers to the removal of all criminal and administrative prohibitions and penalties on sex work, including laws targeting clients. Removing criminal prosecution of sex work goes hand-in-hand with recognizing sex work as work and protecting the rights of sex workers through workplace health and safety standards.

Decriminalizing sex work allows workers to access financial services like bank accounts and insurance and other financial services.  Moreover,
decriminalization means sex workers are more likely to live without stigma, social exclusion, and fear of violence. All good things, right?  To effectively protect the health and rights of sex workers, governments must remove all criminal laws regulating sex work, including laws that criminalize the purchase of sex.  Systems that maintain criminal penalties for clients – like the Swedish model – who purchase sexual services continue to put sex workers at risk.  Rather than ending demand for sex work, penalties on clients force sex workers to provide services in clandestine locations, which increases the risk of violence and limits the power of the sex workers in the transaction.
Not only does the decriminalization of Consensual Sex Work benefit the of-legal-age Sex Worker, there are a host of other benefits as well.  For one, in a decriminalized environment, who do you think is in a better position to recognize and assist in the identification of underage sex workers?  Do you think it’s an actual full-time Sex Worker or a church lady who volunteers for one of your Faith Based Alliances a few hours a month?  And you can bet your bottom dollar that a Sex Worker will recognize – and report – a predatory member of the community faster than you can say “Call 911!”
When sex work is decriminalized, sex workers are empowered to realize their right to work safely, and to use the justice system to seek redress for abuses and discrimination. 
Even if sex work is decriminalized per the Amnesty International policy recommendation, the prostitution of minors and human trafficking can and should remain criminal acts although we should really take another look at a better plan for minors than criminalization as well.
So Anti Trafficking Organizations should happily put their stamp of approval on this Amnesty Policy recommendation and be assured that your lucrative efforts to freak out the general public about Human Trafficking “taking place in your backyard” is safe and secure.  You just don’t get to speak for Sex Workers anymore without even bothering to consult them.
Scale? What Scale? — September 11, 2015

Scale? What Scale?

I’ve had a pretty bad relationship with my bathroom scale for – well – forever.  I really don’t care for scales in general. Or math or measurements or portion control or counting calories or carbs or fat grams or whatever tricks are played to calculate my self worth in relation to my body image.  And at the same time I am facinated by the numbers games – or really mind games – that I am willing to play to register my dedication to the process.  In the days before smart phones, I kept a food diary and I was less than accurate about my food budget.  The new apps on my iPhone are much more condusive to accurate reporting my intake of not only calories and other nutritional info, they are generous with calculating the activities that burn the calories and carbs.  I’ve actually lost two of those expensive wearable fitness accessories that communicate steps, sleep and activity.  Maybe it was for the best.

scale

In fact – I have signed up for so many of these diet and fitness apps that I frequently get alarming emails admonishing me to enter what I had for breakfast or asking me if I plan to go to the gym in accordance with my profile goals, or even announcing a new sequence of ab exercises I have mysteriusly “unlocked” by virtue of being a “member”.   One of them even tells me how much I would weigh in 5 weeks if I were to have the exact same food and exercise routine every day after I proudly complete my entry for that day.  Some of them sync with each other and others don’t so really all I have managed to do is feel incompetant.  But feeling incompetant to manage my addiction for electronic apps that tell me how I should be feeling have not really impacted my actual fitness results.

After 7 and one half months of going to the gym every day (I’ve only missed 6 days total when the gym was closed completely and 2 days when I drove there and just couldn’t get out of the car) I can easily say I feel pretty good.  I don’t feel satisfied that I am making the kind of progress I would like to have made but there is a deep satisfaction in the achievement of simply showing up that supercedes my reaction to the reflection I get in the mirror and the number on the scale.  Spending this first hour of my day at this independently owned gym on a treadmill or reminding myself to count the number of reps is where I find sanity in the numbers.  Even when the scale doesn’t say a number I’d like, there is an overwhelming peace in this place.  Its become a refuge.  A shelter.  Even the physically brutal time with my trainer twice a week is something I look forward to because all of my preconceived notions of what kind of brain a personal trainer would have have been dashed.  We have breathless (or rather I am breathless and he picks up my counting reps slack) discussions of philosophy and community and humanity and often transition to business discussions of ROI or joke about how nice it would be if we could do business without clients or employees.  It has become my preferred form of therapy.  It is making me a better person even if not the skinny person I was hoping.

I still have my bathroom scale although I have been setting it in the bathtub behind the shower curtain in an effort to honor my pledge to only weigh in once a month instead of 3 or four times daily. I lost 8 pounds in two months for a grand total loss of 23 in 7 and a half months and I recite “MUSCLE WEIGHS MORE HAN FAT” out loud three times before getting on.  I take three readings at each weigh in to satisfy myself that it is as accurate as its going to get and immediately pet my beloved golden retriever Sugar Bear afterwards, who stoically has accompanied me for these dreaded weigh ins, afterwards.  She loves me regardless of the number on the scale.

My husband and lover (same person) of nearly 15 years has been guardedly respectful about this process.  His love for me has never been measured by the number on a scale or the size of my jeans.  I think it is partly because the gym and the trainer and the dedication I have demonstrated the past 7 1/2 months has curbed my desire to power-shop for silly outfits which I will never wear.  I have a closet full of designer labels from size 4 to size 14 that still have tags on them and I’m not even sure I would wear most of them if I could.

The other number in my life that is not a reflection of who I am is my age which recently rolled over to 51 years.  Some days I feel older than that pesky number and some days I feel like I am in my mid 20’s.  If you have read earlier posts you will know that I have been taking HGH injections as part of an anti-aging regimen and I have reported a general overall sense of well being in addition to smoother skin and lasting energy.  I don’t give all the credit to the HGH, but I think it has been a large part of my devotion to making the rest of my lifestyle match that effort and expense.

I know my relationship with fitness and health numbers are going to always be a part of my life but it is no longer the method that determines my mental attitude when taking on my daily activities.  I have accepted my age and my weight as a part of my overall desire to be a better person and I feel ready to take on new challenges that reflect all that I am becoming.  A recent visit to my physician for the whole annual physical was a positive reinforcement of my progress when my blood tests, sugar and cholesteral and all the other “lady stuff” came back with an all clear.  And if the doctor says I’m doing well…well than I must be doing well.

My Thoughts on the Amnesty Decision to Decriminalize Sex Work — August 14, 2015

My Thoughts on the Amnesty Decision to Decriminalize Sex Work

I was surprised to be asked about my thoughts on the Amnesty decision to recommend that Sex Work be decriminalized World Wide.  Not only did I not think anyone care about my opinion, I thought it would get lost in the shouting from the opposing sides.  It seems as though everyone is selecting to interpret the Amnesty decision how it would best suit their feelings.

The Anti Sex Trafficking and Survivors groups are dedicated to their position that the world is teeming with pimps and traffickers who they imagine are now free to organize and exploit women at children at will.  The Sex Worker Rights Organizations are declaring and celebrating a victory that has really not been won quite yet.  Everyone seems to have gone to their extreme right or left of the issue and are calling for Amnesty to either deliver its head on a platter of apology or elevate it to some sort of God Like status as if it had any kind of immediate impact on local or regional policy.  I have seen many of my friends on Twitter and Facebook clearly rattled that this decision didn’t immediately settle the issue, allowing us to shake hands and start working within the framework of these recommendations – within our respective positions – to create a better world for women.

The facts are that Amnesty is a respected World Wide Organization who has consistently removed the passion and prejudice from historic Human Rights issues and made recommendations for polices that create a fair and just platform for people of all races, genders, religious and political issues.  They are an independent Human Rights Organization who isn’t swayed by gossipy chatter, political opinions, religious hissing or fanatical rhetoric. They assess the facts, listen to experts from a variety of perspectives and then do the right thing from a Human Rights point of view. In fact, “historic decisions” are sort of their “thing”.

I’m relieved that Amnesty has finally made decision on the subject of decriminalizing Sex Work world-wide.  As a rational person, I know it is not going to have a single iota of immediate relief for literally anyone who is a victim or survivor of sex trafficking OR anyone who is a willing participant in the sex trade.  Certainly not in the US. There will still be stigma.  There will still be discrimination and there will still be abuse.  Only now there will be no question as to whether or not it is wrong.

Regarding Sex Work, the Amnesty policy states that “Human rights belong to everyone inherently by virtue of being human — and that includes sex workers. Sex workers are particularly at risk of human rights violations, including physical and sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, extortion and harassment, medical interventions, and exclusions from health care, housing and other social and legal benefits.  The goal of this policy is to protect the rights and safety of sex workers.  Existing research suggests that to fully protect and empower sex workers to defend their human rights, we must decriminalize both the sellers and the clients who buy sex.

Regarding Sex Trafficking, the Amnesty policy states “This vote does NOT condone sex trafficking. As a global human rights organization, Amnesty International opposes all forms of commercial sex based on force, fraud, or coercion, including any sex act involving a minor. Such situations are sex trafficking, not sex work.”

To those within the Sex Worker Community, I hope that there will be a concerted effort to make sure that the information in the Amnesty decision is filtered to the people who won’t know about it because they aren’t on Twitter and Facebook and have no idea that anyone is trying to make their lives better by allowing them access to housing, healthcare and social benefits.  I hope that the Sex Worker Community understands the seriousness of their responsibility to let the Sex Workers who are consistently abused and harassed and excluded from the conversation know there is relief on the horizon and the constant fear of being arrested or detained or discriminated against is something they might possibly experience in their lifetime.

To those who are in the “Rescue and Restore” community who say they work to rehabilitate those who made a choice to engage in Sex Work for whatever reason, I hope that you will take a moment to consider how you can elevate your standards of care and concern in order to achieve a new understanding of how you can infuse your rehabilitation programs with more empowerment and respect for women in general, but for Sex Workers in particular. I hope that you will set aside your moral judgement and distaste for the subject of Sex Work in order to simply understand what Rights for Humans really is and set your lofty goals on how you can influence this ideal… while Sex Work is not Sex Trafficking – the conversation is fluid and the process of social change must continue to include Human Rights for ALL the humans you discover…even the ones you disagree with or don’t really like.  You will find success in any effort where RESPECT is held as an ideal.

To our Law Enforcement contingent – the gig is up.  Regardless of how long it takes for decriminalization to take hold in your community, you may no longer violate the Human Rights of Sex Workers without consequences.  You already know the difference between Sex Work and Sex Trafficking and it will no longer be acceptable for you to make sweeping determinations and calculated abuses as individuals or as a group.  You may still be legally able to arrest Sex Workers and their clients for now, but you will be violating the code honor you swore to uphold of Protecting and Serving Humans and their Rights.

I know that my hopes and dreams for the subject of Sex Work falls mostly on deaf ears and that we are a long way from treating each other in a manner that would make Amnesty proud.  I know that many people and organizations in the US will double down on their efforts to further exploit and discriminate against impoverished sex workers in particular.  In reality I’m sure there are new abuses and exclusions that will take place in order to skirt the Human Rights campaigns that were so hard-fought on the behalf of Sex Workers.  Discrimination is such a part of our culture, I know that I can’t rationally expect that this will be the effort that will finally bring about real conversations about poverty and what we can do to address it.  But I would hope that as a nation, we would at least consider that Human Rights are for Humans.  And discrimination, abuse and exclusion is not where we want to “set our hat” forever.