getting away with murder in texas

I had three people send me different links to the same horrible story (Gawker, MSN, and ThinkProgress). I was relieved that the vast majority of the comments show the general population to have some sense. They’re appalled that Lenora Ivie Frago’s life was worth a mere $150. Not to mention a lot of people pointed out he was insisting she perform an illegal act (i.e. sex for money), a crime he apparently was never charged with. Even better were those who understood her right to autonomy and the right to say “no” if she felt like it, that she was a human being and not a piece of property, especially not his piece of property. I can’t imagine the pain her family feels.

It’s a very sad commentary on Texas. It’s no secret to anyone who lives here what a gun-nutty, sexist state it is but…wow. This is a new low, even for our court history of allowing crimes against women to go underpunished.

For those men who want to start whinging about possibly being ripped off $150, stop. If you were planning on giving her the money anyway, then it’s already gone. Your precious penis and your presumed constitutional right to get off is not worth a human life. It really, truly is not. You’re not that special. Consider your lost money a lesson learned, and try to find someone else you think you might be more be in tune with your desires. (Escorts get ripped off all the time and they learn to tighten up their business practices. They dust themselves off and try again. This is the correct, mature, response.)

After all, Ezekiel Gilbert clearly had the money to spend tens of thousands on his defense. So why was he so upset over losing $150 he was going to spend anyway? He whines about how hard his life has been over the past four years and how he has nightmares. He could have avoided all that drama by not shooting and killing Lenora. How easy and simple to avoid all these problems! Put the damn gun down, get back to Google and find a new escort. There’s not a single escort in the country who costs more than a criminal defense attorney in a murder case.

He got away with murder because he truly got a jury of his peers. I wish every one of their names could be discovered and put on national blacklists. They set him free and therefore they believe it’s right and proper to kill sex workers who don’t do exactly as demanded. This is a horrific precedent, especially for sex workers who see clients in the evening.

Looked at it from another angle, the jury sort of sees prostitution as a legal business transaction. If that’s the case, then anytime a client beats, rapes, or rips off a prostitute at night, she should lethally shoot him (quite a few sex workers carry guns). If this case is going to be a precedent, then let it be a true precedent.

Realistically, the status quo doesn’t change. Escorts who blatantly state what they will and won’t do for money are setting themselves up for arrest. Or they can be coy, avoid arrest, and set themselves up for disappointed clients who decide to kill them. Either way, their lives are ruined. Their clients’ lives are not.

PS: I hope Gilbert changes whatever career he currently has and takes a service-industry job in Texas, preferably on the night shift. He just doesn’t strike me as someone who can get an order right, such as whether or not I want fries with that and please hold the mayo. At the very least, I hope he never gets to hire another escort again. These articles are even better than a blacklist.

Afterthoughts:

Does this mean that the deaths of strip club bouncers will go unpunished? Every year, some strip club bouncer is shot to death in Dallas, either trying to remove a [drunk, angry] patron or later in the parking lot as revenge, often for protecting the strippers. These men could be seen as thieves just as Lenora was. It’s a very strong possibility. It’s bad enough some of these low-paid, high-risk employees get killed because of stupidity (not theirs) but now there could be no hope of justice for their families either.

I have fantasized about Gilbert being cross-examined during his trial like rape victims are. Has he given away money before? What exactly, is his history of charitable donations? (do full audit in court). Does he have an established pattern of charitable donations to individuals or organizations? Has he ever been robbed before, in any circumstance? Has he ever been shortchanged at a store, or rendered poor service in a restaurant? Does he have a history of fighting back against these injustices or just letting it slide? Has he purchased items off Craigslist or eBay that were not as described? Did he leave negative feedback or shoot the seller? Does he have a habit of inviting strangers to his home at night with promises of giving them money?

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.

a little bit of progress

Though the news is disturbing (a NC trucker who kills sex workers), the quotes in the article and comments from readers are mostly positive. That is, they actually condemn what he did and feel sympathy for the women who lost their lives to this monster; as opposed to the usual flood of hatred toward sex workers in online articles like this.

There is hope yet.

Dec 17, words and remembrance

Today (for me) is December 17 — The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. The history of it is here and I highly recommend you read it. It’s also particularly relevant today because they’re recently discovered more remains in Oregon of yet another Ridgeway victim.

Dec 17 is our day to remember that stigma kills. Sticks and stones break bones, words like “criminal” “illegal” and “No Human Involved” kill. I encourage you to peruse the list of victims, updated every year through word-of-mouth and news stories. Though no one has done a Google map of the victims yet, I’m willing to bet that the greatest numbers of victims occur in countries where prostitution is illegal. Words — i.e., the local criminal code — kill. Words — i.e., shame –kill.

If you think I’m over-generalizing, think again. Criminalizing and shaming sex workers kills us. Forcing us underground leaves us to the mercy of predators. Though some sex workers embrace their outlaw status, I’ve yet to meet a single one who wouldn’t like to be able to freely press charges when raped or robbed. Every one of us want police to take the murder of a sex worker as seriously as the murder of a college student or housewife. None of us see violence as part of our job description.

Nor do we see shame as part of it either. Shame is a by-product of society, not the work itself. A lot of sex workers unfortunately internalize the shame — as we’ve seen when sex workers commit suicide after arrest or trial. Words can kill.

There are plenty of strident “feminist” voices in mainstream America who wish to abolish all prostitution. Most recently, they won a victory in Rhode Island by getting prostitution criminalized. Aside from the arrests of consenting adults, what do you think will be the consequences of this criminalization? The empowerment of criminals. Not those who are made criminals by an act of words (i.e., exchanging sex for money instead of sex for love), but real criminals — people with the desire to cause harm to others.

Dec 17 is not a day to say that sex work is violent and that all sex workers are going to meet a bad end. Not at all. It is a time to recognize that more needs to be done to prevent us from being targets. The criminalization of prostitution continues to create a class of people who have no rights, including the right to live and their families the right to justice.

Dec 17 is a time to remember my brothers and sisters who were killed merely for working to pay their bills, for doing the same thing I’m doing. Their families rarely receive justice; were something to happen to me, I doubt mine would either. If that turns your stomach — it should.

I feel the real criminals in this situation aren’t even the men who kill sex workers — the real criminals are those who work to uphold the current broken legal system in the US that perpetuates a class of so-called “criminals”, probably the only class of criminals in the world who are simply targets for other criminals. The crimes against sex workers are far worse than our so-called crime (felony robbery, assaults, rape, homicide; compared to misdemeanor charges of prostitution, solicitation or loitering).

Dec 17 is not a time to paint sex workers as victims. Hardly. Few people are willing to go through as much as shit as we do just to put food on the table. The victimization comes not from sex work itself, but from the helpless vulnerability the legal system forces us into. This is true of all countries where prostitution is illegal.

Dec 17 is a time to remember daughters, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, friends, colleagues. The difference between you and them is only in your mind.