Apparently I Lied
When I started this blog and said “it won’t have a constant stream of sex worker’s rights stuff”, apparently I lied. Sorry ’bout that.
To tell you the truth, I don’t even really think of it as sex-worker’s rights stuff, I think of it as general human rights stuff. It’s similar to when I would rail against the drug war; that wasn’t because I wanted to do drugs, it was because I’d seen so many people’s lives ruined by the attempted legislation of morality and I wanted it to stop. It wasn’t about the dope smokers and line snorters who got thrown in jail either, it was mostly about mandatory minimums being applied to drug offenses, which resulted in violent criminals being released, and the forfieture laws that violate the right to presumption of innocence and cost truly innocent people their homes, land and savings. I had been sentenced under mandatory minimum guidelines, and not too long after I’d been released a cop was shot and killed by a violent repeat offender named Robert “Mudman” Simon who’d been granted early parole:
In May 1995, Robert “Mudman” Simon, a motorcycle gang member, shot and killed a New Jersey police officer during a routine traffic stop. 4 Mudman had been paroled from a Pennsylvania prison only months before the attack. (source)
between 1970 and 1982, “Mudman” Simon was convicted nine times for crimes that included things such as murder; robbery, rape, weapons charges, receiving stolen property, larceny, issuing worthless checks, forgery, and many other things. [...]Even though he was at one time charged with murdering an inmate, on February 18, 1995, he was released from the State Correctional Institute at Graterford, and on May 6, 1995, just several months later, he shot a policeofficer on a routine traffic stop. (source p264)
When the Mudman story broke I felt compelled to write my first-ever letter to the editor of my local paper. I ranted about the mandadory minimums on drug offenses that had sent prison population skyrocketing up to 130%~ capacity and resulted in violent offenders - who were not covered under mandatory minimum laws – being released far, far too soon and with horrific results. They printed it, I was happy, and I still have a copy of it stashed away somewhere on a shelf in a box of memories.
Tom Ridge was the Governor of Pennsylvania at the time: ”He was elected in 1993 on a campaign stressing fighting crime. He sought and won new anti-crime laws early on, though some were ruled unconstitutional. During his two terms, Ridge pursued a get-tough agenda using all the police-related branches of state government. He’s had little patience for critics, from death penalty opponents to civil libertarians.” Of course, mandatory minimums are a federal sentencing guideline, so the governor had no power to override them, Ridge served as Pa.’s tough on crime governor right up until Bush appointed him director of Homeland Security - and we all know how well that worked out.
Now, when I read about the anti-trafficking organizations targeting the commercial sex industry I have the same worries; that a lot of truly innocent people are being put in far worse situations than they need to be. It seems so simple that decriminalization, or legalization and regulation of sex work is the only way to truly help the people who have been trafficked against their will. It’s the illicite nature of the sex industry as it is now that makes autonomous sex-workers as well as those who have been forced into servitude extremely vulnerable.
When anti-trafficking activists talk about other forms of trafficking they talk about “fair market consumerism” and they pressure manufacturers to pay decent wages and offer safe and fair working conditions – and these are really good things – but because sex work is not treated the same as these other industries and is often illegal, these tactics can’t be used effectively. The current focus on ending demand is dangerous and primarily motivated by the same dogmatic religious teachings that result in purity balls, abstinence only education and efforts to restrict access to abortions.
It’s especially disheartening to see the rift in feminism that sometimes forms along this sex-work issue. I understand the concerns all too well; that women and girls may come from backgrounds that already put them at an extreme disadvantage, and that our culture currently operates to sexualize women and girls, that women too often learn to see themselves and behave in ways that men expect of them; a sort of conform-perform-conform circle that we are somehow stuck in. Most of that I whole-heartedly believe, but I still see far too much potential for brutalization done at the hands of police and governments and even charitable rescue organizations who are supposed to be helping these women.
Truly, the radfem in me wants all of these rescue organizations and police units to be comprised only of females only. Sorry dudes, but you guys can stay at the home office and take care of the paper work end of things, but you are not allowed in contact with women who’ve been rescued from servitude or slavery or even with women who at one time chose the life but have decided to leave. I don’t say this because I think all men are skeevy like that, I say it because I think that victimizers go where the vulnerable are. The victimizers I’m talking about are the ones who won’t bother going to a prostitute who is in control of her environment and fully owns herself, they won’t even bother going to a prostitute who has to get in his car… the victimizers I’m talking about are the ones who get off on the mind-fuck more than anything else – I’m talking about the ones who get an extra thrill out of using and debasing a woman who has absolutely decided that she does not want to be used in that way and has found the motivation to work towards change. These are the victimizers who get off on destroying hope.
So, uh, yeah anyway… I lied before. sorry…