dec 17 — violence

“360 International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers 2010” by Steve Rhodes, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, started SWOP-USA. Violence against sex workers takes many forms, such as the legal violence of criminalization or the stigma that gets sex workers killed. There’s also media violence, amply demonstrated by the recent raids in Soho (London) that has angered the sex work community. There is violence some sex workers experience while working, which is always aided by the stigma of criminalization (criminalization empowers violent criminals, it doesn’t protect anyone).

The worst violence is when sex workers are killed because they’re sex workers. Books and movies are filled with serial killers who “practice” on sex workers because they know no one cares. For once, fiction is reflecting reality perfectly. This is why the IDEVASW exists. This is why every year there are names to be read and remembered.

There are events scheduled, but they’re few and far between. Sex workers exist everywhere on the planet, but sex work organizations do not (for a lot of reasons). If you want to Tweet about it, common hashtags are: #Dec17 #IDEVASW #EndVASW #sexwork #solidarity. I wish I knew of an online compendium of essays for Dec 17; pretty much everyone who has a blog is using it, so start with your favorite bloggers. For many of us, it’s the only way we have of making public acknowledgment of today.

One wonders what attorney Jan Schlichtmann would have to say about the value of a sex worker’s life. Though I guess there isn’t any real reason to wonder.

It’s like this. A dead plaintiff is rarely worth as much as a living, severely-maimed plaintiff. However, if it’s a long slow agonizing death, as opposed to a quick drowning or car wreck, the value can rise considerably. A dead adult in his 20s is generally worth less than one who is middle aged. A dead woman less than a dead man. A single adult less than one who’s married. Black less than white. Poor less than rich. The perfect victim is a white male professional, 40 years old, at the height of his earning power, struck down in his prime. And the most imperfect? Well, in the calculus of personal injury law, a dead child is worth the least of all.

One victory happened last week. California has ruled to allow sex workers access to the victims of violence compensation fund. At least in the state of California, sex workers are acknowledged to be human and vulnerable to violence regardless of the circumstance of the violence. Sex workers are acknowledged to have some sort of value as people. That’s a huge step forward, considering that the LAPD used to tag dead sex workers’ case files with N.H.I. (No Human Involved).

There’s not a sex worker in the world who sees violence or death as part of the job description.

reactions

Since I often read things and want to comment but don’t, here are my comments. A lot of these links came from Tits and Sass since I no longer bother with my Google Alerts.

escort photo documentary

While the story is somewhat unique, the pictures of Eden working are completely recognizable to any touring hourly escort. Locales may differ, there may be a lack of cigarettes and wigs, but everything else is very, very true. Escort work really can be this boring and mundane. Just like stripping. Just like data entry. Just like anything.

Hong Kong escorts and review board exploitation

I remember Sex141.com when I went to HK. I was never on the site because it wasn’t a good fit for me. I was: too old, Western, English-speaker, outcall-only, had much higher rates than the local girls. I had no idea it developed into the terror it has. (TER is probably kicking itself for not figuring out the bad review scam Sex141 pulls.)

HK girls work in limbo. Sex work is partially decriminalized and partially illegal, depending on what, where and how. While the laws seem clearly defined on the surface, sex workers face almost as much police harassment as US sex workers. My firm belief is that anytime there is an illegal aspect to sex work, the workers will suffer. The public and police will exploit the illegal aspects as far as they can, nullifying any legality. This is why sex work has to be completely decriminalized across the board. No exceptions.

Because of this half-and-half system, they have no recourse against Sex141. Because of the market and the laws, the girls are regularly ripped off: unlike sex workers in the rest of the world, they’re afraid of getting the money upfront because the client will run away or call them a ripoff (I did not have that problem with the clients I had in HK — different market). They’re stuck with abusive clients and there is no legal recourse for them. After the murders in 2008, all the one-woman brothels had CCTVs installed and the images of bad clients are regularly printed out and circulated but there is no way to make sure every sex worker has that info. They have problems with clients every day, just like US sex workers.

This is not to say that the girls don’t want to work there because they do. It’s far safer than China and the money is better. The problem, as always, is illegality. The only solution, as always, is full decriminalization.

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just pay her

So, a bunch of over-privileged dudes rips off a sex worker for $50 and complains that she stole a bunch of stuff. Reminds of some other guys who were haggling over price.

Seriously, how hard is it to just pay her? Paying people money for the work they did makes them happy. Doesn’t matter if the agreed rate is $50 or $500, just pay as agreed and everyone gets to quietly go back to their lives. A really simple concept.

If, for some reason, you don’t have the money in the first place, then don’t play until you do. (Kind of like a casino.)

This is a local story and caught my attention. That they were stupid enough to leave her in their house after they ripped her off makes me laugh. I hope she put them all on National Blacklist. Will look great when potential employers Google their names. Someone who is willing to steal a mere $50 from another person who provided exactly what was requested shouldn’t be trusted with more than a mop and mop bucket.

This also illustrates why so many girls have a “30 and over” rule and why it’s traditional to collect the money first.

criminalization vs having rights: the scandal

As I suspected when I first heard the news this weekend, the whole Secret Service prostitution scandal was caused by good ol’ cheap rip-off clients so near and known to US sex workers.

According to the news article linked above, two agents slept with the Colombian sex worker but didn’t want to pay full price for each, instead they wanted to halve the price. That’s not how it works anywhere. No prostitute in the world is going to do double the work for half the rate. Not only that, but we get a really good dose of Western imperialism because they were haggling over $20 (she wanted $60, they only wanted to pay $40).

This is endemic in Asia. I got to witness it third-hand on discussion boards over there, secondhand via client stories. Men would haggle over $10 — a great deal to the sex worker and absolutely nothing to a Western man who can afford to travel abroad. No doubt the same problem exists anywhere in a country with darker-skinned sex workers and especially in countries whose economies aren’t as strong as the US (or countries where the US is the invading army). There’s a whole lot more I could say on this topic, but will leave it for some other time.

Other than the blatant racism, the only other thing I have to say on the scandal — and this hasn’t changed from my very first reaction — is that these Secret Service agents are used to being asshole clients in the US. In the US they can get away with ripping off sex workers, beating us and even murdering us if they really want. All without recourse or worrying about the girl saying a single thing because that’s the true beauty of criminalization: it empowers criminals. They forget they were in a foreign country where sex work is legal and sex workers have rights. Different playing field, ain’t it, boys?

dec 17 — back in the usa

Not only am I late with this post, but I’m honestly not doing much of anything about it this year. Last year I was in Hong Kong, marching with Zi Teng (still need to post about that). This year, in Dallas, going to spend the evening with someone I’ve just started seeing, someone who I feel isn’t sex-worker-friendly. So there is only so far things can progress. A good friend’s relationship just went down the toilet, due in part to issues surrounding her being a sex worker.

Though none of that compares to the lives lost this year. SWOP-USA has put together a great Dec 17 site, so please peruse at your leisure.

Expendable can happen in so many ways. The job can overshadow so much: who the sex worker is, their basic civil rights, their claim to humanity.