Tag Archives: sex work

New Review of a Review!

Many who have read this blog have seen me in the past argue with Donna M. Hughes.  “The Professor” was the leading force behind the re-criminalization of prostitution in Rhode Island.  Hughes hijacked the debate, publishing many misleading and reactionary articles in the Providence Journal editorial pages.   She also published a review of “Happy Endings?” that was misleading (to be polite)

Today, we have a review of that review.  May May has reviewed Donna Hughes’ review.  You can read the full review here.

Dissecting Decontextualization: Donna M. Hughes’ Happy Endings?

This is an incredible read.  I wont even bother doing highlights, as you should read the entire article!

The Other side of the camera…

The Other Side of the CameraI hate being on the other side of the camera.  It is mostly based on vanity.  I hate seeing myself.  (But I must admit, I love hearing myself! God bless Talk Radio!)  I love being the one making the films, but I hate to be the one in it.  With that said, I put my vanity aside and agreed to be part of 2 new documentaries on the subject of RI’s prostitution law.

Two groups of law students are currently making documentaries on the subject I covered in “Happy Endings?”.  I was interviewed by one of the groups (Suffolk Law Students) yesterday, and I will be interviewed by another group of students today.

Also interviewed yesterday was Mimi Budnick of D.A.R.E. (who also appears in Happy Endings?) and Marc from Citizens Against Criminalization and Matthew from Providence Daily Dose (both of whom I met after finishing the film)

The students were interviewing all the people involved in the recent legislative battle.  During the interview they said they could only find people who were for the law.  They wanted to hear why we were against it.  One thing I realized while being interviewed: Does my opinion even matter?

I don’t think it should matter what I think, just like it really shouldn’t matter what Donna Hughes or Citizens against Prostitution Trafficking think.  I am not a sex worker, as far as I know Donna Hughes is or was not a prostitute, so why does it matter what outsiders think of the industry? (I am talking about prostitution not human trafficking, it is unfortunate I have to keep reenforcing that point)

Why is it when the government debates healthcare the loudest voices are from the insurance company and health care industry.  Yet when the debate on prostitution, we don’t hear the voices of those in the industry?   If they are brave enough to speak, they are often attacked by those who claim to want the law because it “helps women”.

To me, it all goes back to privacy issues.  Why should anyone (including government) have a point of view on what two consenting adults do behind closed doors?   When you strip away all the propaganda, that is what this law is all about.  Actually if you look even closer you see that essentially all the time and energy spent on this is moronic when this is a response on 40 or so Korean women who were giving massages and hand jobs, very few of these places are “full service”. (The new law even has specific language for hand jobs)

I do think it is interesting that so many homosexuals were fighting for this law.  Actually, with the exception of Providence’s openly gay mayor, the majority of this anti-prostitution push comes from lesbians.  Yes, I am a lesbian too, one of the few who fought against it.  Why does it really matter to all these homos?  I would think they would be more focused on legislative efforts for gay marriage in Rhode Island instead of working on a law against commercial heterosexual sex, especially when the law will have disproportionate effect on women.  Where is the sisterhood?

Anti-Sex Crusade

no_sexThere are radicals in every group.  Radical Republicans, Radical Liberals, Radical Feminists.  What is unfortunate is when the media decides to focus on those groups and alludes to  them representing the larger majority.   For some reason these radicals are vocal minorities, sometimes bullying people in their own group who even share some but not 100% of the same views.

Donna Hughes is the perfect example of radicalism, taking over groups and media with scare tactics and propaganda.  As the force behind the “close the prostitution loophole” drive, she bullied women out of Rhode Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking, falsely promoted the idea that the Senate  did not pass an anti prostitution law (and they did as Senator Jabour and Senator McCaffery stated), she has attacked the 50 academics that support keeping indoor prostitution decriminalized, and she even attacked the women in the massage parlors (these are the women she is trying to help).

I understand that prostitution is a heated and controversial issue, but I have always been taught that time is  better spent  promoting your own ideas rather than tearing down the people that may have different ideas, and I find it incredulous that she would spend time attacking women that share some of her ideas but are not in complete lock step with her.

Now, it seems that Hughes has gone and attacked another women, this time not for prostitution or human trafficking, but for wanting to open a Center for Sexual Pleasure and Education.  The Phoenix reports

The trouble started with an e-mail sent a couple of weeks back by University of Rhode Island professor Donna Hughes, best known for her crusade to close the state’s prostitution loophole, to members of the city council. Utilizing the suggestive power of well-placed quotation marks, the missive read, simply: “Hello, A center for ‘sexual rights’ and ‘sexual pleasure’ is opening in Pawtucket,” and included the web site for the center. Deputy City Clerk Michelle Hardy said Hughes’ e-mail was the first time any of the council members had heard of the center.

The Providence Journal reports that

She (Megan) and her husband went to City Hall. They met with Mayor James Doyle and his chief of staff Harvey Goulet. Goulet says they seem like very nice people. He just doesn’t like what they want to do.

“You have elderly living near there,” says Goulet. “And, usually, the elderly are not too much in favor of stuff like that.”

Education?  The elderly are not in favor of education?  Good thing we have Donna Hughes an educator keeping us away from education!!!  How ironic.  Also ironic is the city not supporting a center for education when the state of Rhode Island is #1 in New England for teen birth rate, with Pawtucket being the 3 in the state.  The ironies are piling up when you figure in the fact that businesses are leaving RI at a record pace, one would think a city would welcome a new business.

With this attack on a business that A) is not a brothel B) is not part of human trafficking and C) women owned, I truly believe that Donna Hughes should not be able to cast herself as anything more than an anti-sex zealot.

I am sad as a feminist that this women is able to harm so many.  I will pray for her ;)

(Also for your information all links are included to the articles so you can read user reactions, if you visit the CAT website, you will notice that articles are written anonymously, or if they are newspaper articles they are in pdf form so viewers will not get to see the readers comments, another great way of censoring the public!)

I’ve been had!

But so has a bunch of other people on both sides!  A spoof site called Christwire.org did a story on Rhode Island named “Foreign Sex Radicals Invade Nastiest State in the US to keep Strippers and Hookers Legal”.   The story is a spoof, but at first I couldn’t tell.  It seemed like it was just another guy writing doing little to no research, similar to Donna Hughes, and expanding on the hatred of prostitutes.

Of course none of what was written was true, but since that has never stopped Hughes I figured I wouldn’t stop anyone else, but I didn’t know that the whole site was a parody site.  I even commented a few times before I realised what I was doing.

If one lesson can be learned from this event, it is that THE INTERNET CAN NOT BE TRUSTED.  (Donna, I hope you are reading this, and I know you are.  When you base you all of your research on the chat boards of men who go to spas, what percentage of the truth do you think you are getting? These chat boards are the 21st century version of men’s bathroom walls, how can you actually present research on that and consider it valid?)

I guess the old adage is correct “Don’t argue with fools, because people from a distance can’t tell who is who.”

The “Sex Radicals” Respond

On Friday, Donna Hughes and Citizens Against Trafficking put out a letter titled “International Sex Radicals Campaign to keep Prostitution Decriminalized in Rhode Island” .  I responded to this pile of propaganda here, and I was not the only one.

Here is a couple of the “Radicals” that responded to Hughes’ lies. (I have included some excerpts, but click on the links to read the full articles)  The interesting part is that Hughes says this is Part One of her attack on the 50 Academics that signed a letter to the RI General Assembly against the proposed prostitution law.

Starting locally at ProvidenceDailyDose.com check out Sex Radical’s International Conspiracy Afoot in RI, Apparently. Beside the article being great, check out the comments by local Rhode Islanders.

Now lets check out the woman who was actually attacked.  Elizabeth Woods responds with this: Don’t Lets Personal Attacks Distract Us, where she tries to keep people focused on issues, and also reprints the letter I sent to the General Assembly.  The next day Norma Jean Almodovar also wrote a excellent letter to the RI lawmakers.

The people who also responded to attacks by Donna Hughes who could hardly be labeled as a “Sex Radical” were Senator Paul Jabour and Senator Michael McCaffery.  In their Guest Opinion in the Boston Herald they write :

“The Rhode Island State Senate passed bill S596A on June 25, closing a “loophole” by making indoor prostitution unlawful in the state. Reports to the contrary are inaccurate…We must delineate the lines that have been blurred among the problems of indoor prostitution, outdoor prostitution, human sex-trafficking and strip-club dancing by minors. Each of these issues has an appropriate legal and moral response and confusing them will lead to ineffective policies and political responses.”   I wonder if they think that Hughes is the one “blurring the lines”

A great response to this letter can be read at Rhode Island’s Future.  Brian Hull does an incredible job disecting this opinion piece in “More About Prostitution”

But, back to the “Radical’s” response.

Renegade Evolution wrote “Donna Hughes & The War Against Whores”

Amber Rhea wrote “Notes To Self” where she points out one of the many major flaws in Hughes letter.

Wood isn’t a sex worker and is in no way affiliated w/ $pread (I also love your cute little comment about how, OMG, the “S” is a dollar sign! tee-hee!) other than as a subscriber – but why should that matter? We’re all a monolith to you.”

If you just want a good laugh, (not that this is a laughing matter) check out Looser Dust.  Radical Feminist gets facts wrong shock (among other things)

The best account of disecting Hughe’s letter is on A Feminist View.  In The Battle for Rhode Island’s Sex Life

In Bust Out Your Pepto, Jane Brazen makes the excelent point:

What I find most interesting is that of the two main signers of the letter (Elizabeth Woods and Ronald Weitzner), Hughes personally attacked Dr Wood. The woman of the two. Sexism for the win!

By the way, it is usual for Hughes to go attack the women and side with the men.  I wrote about that in a previous post when she attacked the women she was “trying to save” when they testified, and sided with the cops and judges who testified (all of whom were men) that they want to put them in prison.

I know I missed a bunch of blogs, if I missed yours, sorry.  Please let me know in the comments section if you know about anyone else responding to Hughes and her fear mongering.

It is the Fight of the Coalitions!

When I started “Happy Endings?” the National Association of Jewish Women RI Chapter decided to start the “RI COALITION AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING” or RICAHT.  I went to a bunch of their meetings.  It is obvious that I am against Human Trafficking.  I testified in favor of  the bill against Human trafficking this year.  This Coalition had a wide variety of people, men and women from various backgrounds.  Some were social workers, some from religious organizations, all were citizens of RI concerned about trafficking.  They were very adept in politics, and with-in one year they passed the first human trafficking bill in 2007.

It is unfortunate that this group had been hijacked by Donna Hughes and Melanie Shapiro.  People began to drop out.  Nancy Green, a nurse, Providence resident and concerned citizen was one of the first to go.  She wrote about her experiences in her blog calling the transition from their good work to a Big Anti-Trafficking Tent.

“I never wanted to be a part of a moral crusade using law as a weapon. All I cared about was legal protection for people who are trafficked, and punishment for the traffickers.

To fight immorality, I would use other weapons– reason, persuasion and example. Laws against immorality have never been very effective, and have often been cover for worse crimes. Remember the Scarlet Letter?

Morality, like patriotism, provides a convenient cover for other agendas.”

This year RICAHT decided to work for a new trafficking law.  They also maintained that they would not take any position on the two prostitution bills.  This angered Donna Hughes, and she spoke out against RICAHT bill, (yes the bill against Trafficking).  She then left RICAHT and began Citizens Against Trafficking with Melanie Shapiro.  From the CAT website:  “ This year, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking (RICAHT)  failed to advocate for the essential prostitution law needed to make sex trafficking law work.”

It is obvious that we have 2 coalitions.  One against Trafficking, and One against Prostitution.  I don’t understand why the “Citizens” group gets to use Trafficking in their title when the are actually focused on prostitution.  (And I think you should be required to have more than 2 people to have an official Coalition)   It is really unfortunate that a good group like RICAHT could be torn apart by radicals, and when the radicals couldn’t control it they could start their own off shoot with a similar name.  What is ironic is people think it is the Asian massage parlors that set up “Shell Corportation” to hide what they are doing.  It seems that this coalition is a shell corporation for Hughes xenophobia and hatred of prostitutes.

Who do you side with?

I guess it is not a surprise that I would call myself a feminist.  Some might even venture to call me a “Radical Feminist”.  I always go for the side of the woman.  Even when I watch game shows like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune I root for the women.  I would think that most feminist would be on the side of women, but they are not.  Donna Hughes, the “expert” in my film, has written numerous op. ed. pieces.  Just recently she wrote in the Providence Journal about “The Circus of Prostitution” and I called her the Clown at the Center of the Circus.   Professor Hughes essentially attacks the women she claims to be trying to help.  Not only does she attack their appearance, she attacks them for speaking for themselves.  Let me remind you these are the people she is claiming to help.    Even in her letter in the Projo Hughes writes how the Governor, State Police, Judge, Police, and Reps (all men) spoke compellingly, yet the women’s testimony turned the hearing into a circus. Now please don’t get confused, I think that Donna Hughes is a “Radical Feminist” just like me, but she always sides with the men, and that is something I can’t understand. I think that this is somewhat like the whole “House Slave” and “Field Slave” phenomenon, where Professor Hughes is the “House Slave” and I am the “Field Slave”.

It is really sad that Hughes showed her true colors in this manner, but what is even sadder is some people didn’t see this.  JoAnne Giannini who is the Representative who has put in the bill to re-criminalize prostitution has her heart in the right place.  She had been convinced by Hughes that there were women being victimized and forced into sex slavery.  Giannini wants to help the women, her heart is in the right place, but her brain is not.  For some reason Giannini thinks the women can not be helped or saved unless they are arrested and put in prison.  I don’t understand why she believes this so strongly, there are countries that have no prostitution laws and human sex-traffickers are convicted.  Beside that, the majority of human trafficking is for domestic labor, and we do not make cleaning houses or dish washing illegal to go after the human traffickers. I hope that JoAnne Giannini wakes up from the trance that Donna Hughes has put on her in time to stop this war on women.

Yesterday Donna Hughes wrote a new opinion piece on The National Review, but this time she toned down her woman hating just a tad.  (By the way, The National Review is the same publication that Hughes basically refers to George W. Bush as the first Feminist president)  In this opinion piece she does not attack women’s appearances, but she just calls them uninformed.

Some local and national anti-trafficking organizations have actually worked behind the scenes to oppose the desperately needed reforms. They blame the lack of trafficking prosecutions on lack of political will and inadequate police training. In reality, trafficking laws work only where law enforcement is empowered to fight prostitution.

Other groups, such as the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU and Rhode Island NOW, have opposed passage of a prostitution law for ideological reasons. They support the decriminalization of prostitution and mistakenly believe that good trafficking laws make prostitution laws unnecessary….

It is an unspeakable tragedy that women’s rights groups and even organizations dedicated to fighting trafficking are failing to understand how basic prostitution laws help officials to identify victims and prosecute traffickers.

I think it is incredible that Hughes believes that she knows more that countless women’s groups, anti-trafficking groups, and 50 other university professors that wrote a letter to oppose the law.  And not only does she think that she is better informed than these people who range from those who offer direct services to human trafficking victims to those who have a PhD in these areas, she has the gall to publish an article saying  all of these people lack understanding.  No Professor Hughes, these people understand that in order to free women you do not put them in handcuffs.

50 Very Smart Out-Of-Staters

A letter came out in the Journal today, signed by 50 College and University professors.  I titled this 50 very smart out-of-staters because it seems that people who want to change the law are not giving this letter credit because they are not RI residents. (On a side note I think these people would dismiss the Pope if he came down Providence and asked that the women would not be thrown into prison)  Here is the letter reprinted in its entirety.

PRESS RELEASE

July 31, 2009

LETTER TO MEMBERS OF THE RHODE ISLAND STATE LEGISLATURE

RE:  PROSTITUTION LAW REFORM BILLS, 2009

BY:  Professors Ronald Weitzer & Elizabeth Anne Wood, with 50 signatories (listed below) from the academic community

Rhode Island is currently the only state in the U.S. without a statute expressly prohibiting prostitution. State law bans loitering in public places, which is used to arrest street prostitutes, but does not ban solicitation itself, which leaves the indoor trade untouched because no loitering is involved.

This may change soon. The state legislature recently passed a bill criminalizing prostitution, although the House and Senate versions differ and will require changes before the bill can be forwarded to the governor.

In the past few weeks, advocates of criminalizing prostitution have lobbied Rhode Island’s legislators and made frequent appearances in the media. Many of their assertions about prostitution are myths.

Research shows that there is a world of difference between those who work the streets and those who sell sex indoors (in massage parlors, brothels, for escort agencies, or are independent workers).

Regarding street prostitution, the problems often associated with it are best understood as outcomes of poverty, addiction, homelessness, and runaway youth – suggesting that the best way to deal with street prostitution is to tackle these precursors rather than simply arresting the sellers.

Compared to street workers, women and men who work indoors generally are much safer and less at risk of being assaulted, raped, or robbed. They also have lower rates of sexually transmitted infections, enter prostitution at an older age, have more education, and are less likely to be drug-dependent or have a history of childhood abuse. Indoor workers also tend to enjoy better working conditions, although this is naturally not the case everywhere.

Despite what some activists claim, most of those working indoors in the U.S. have not been trafficked against their will. We oppose coercive trafficking whether for sexual labor, agricultural labor, or any other type of work. But when trafficking is conflated with prostitution, as is so often done now, it confounds law enforcement’s ability to target their efforts to fighting human rights abuses in the trafficking sphere.

Many indoor workers made conscious decisions to enter the trade, and several studies also find that indoor workers have moderate-to-high job satisfaction and believe they provide a valuable service. One Australian study found that half of the call girls and brothel workers interviewed felt that their work was a “major source of satisfaction” in their lives, and more than two-thirds said they would “definitely choose this work” if they had it to do over again. (This study was conducted in the state of Queensland, where indoor prostitution has been decriminalized.) In other studies, a significant percentage of escorts report an increase in self-esteem after they began selling sex.  These findings may surprise some people, because they are not the kinds of stories reported in the media, which usually focus instead on instances of abuse and exploitation.

This is not to romanticize indoor prostitution. Some indoor workers work under oppressive conditions or dislike their work for other reasons. We believe that worker safety should be a high priority in all industries. At the same time, there is plenty of evidence to challenge the myths that most prostitutes are coerced into the sex trade, experience frequent abuse, and want to be rescued. This syndrome is more characteristic of street workers, and is associated with the vulnerabilities of poverty, addiction and abuse. While these are issues that need to be addressed, it is important to point out that the vast majority of American sex providers work indoors.

Since street and indoor sex workers differ markedly in their working conditions, experiences and impact on the surrounding community, public policies should be cognizant of these differences rather than a monolithic, broad brush approach. Policy makers would also do well to listen to those doing the work; all too often, the views of the sex workers themselves are marginalized in public debates. Because street-based prostitution has negative impacts on neighbors, policies should address those impacts separately from indoor prostitution. Moreover, the opportunity to work indoors, in itself, helps to reduce the problems associated with street-based prostitution. Rhode Island’s current system of treating indoor and street prostitution differently is a step in the right direction. Criminalizing indoor sexual services is not the answer.

Signed by the following members of the academic community:

Ronald Weitzer, George Washington University

Elizabeth Wood, Nassau Community College – SUNY

Michael Goodyear, Dalhousie University, Canada

Barbara Brents, University of Nevada

Lisa Wade, Occidental College

Janet Lever, California State University, Los Angeles

Elaine Mossman, Victoria University, New Zealand

Susan Dewey, DePauw University

Christine Milrod, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sexuality

Mindy Bradley-Engen, University of Arkansas

Molly Dragiewicz, University of Ontario, Canada

Ann Lucas, San Jose State University

Frances Shaver, Concordia University

Ariel Eisenberg, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Juline Koken, National Development and Research Institutes, Public Health Solutions

Larry Ashley, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Barry Dank, California State University, Long Beach

Richard Lotspeich, Indiana State University

Tamara O’Doherty, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Canada

Lauren Joseph, Stony Brook University

Crystal Jackson, University of Nevada

Gayle MacDonald, St. Thomas University

Lyle Hallowell, Nassau Community College

Daniel Sander, New York University

Gert Hekma, University of Amsterdam

John Betts, New York University

Wendy Chapkis, University of Southern Maine

Suzanne Jenkins, Keele University, UK

Benjamin Reed, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Anna Kontula, University of Tampere, Finland

Janell Tryon, New York University

Mindy Chateauvert, University of Maryland

Jessie Daniels, City University of New York – Hunter College

Rachel Hsiung, New York University

Gillian Abel, University of Otago, New Zealand

Deborah Brock, York University, Toronto

Elizabeth Nanas, Wayne State University

Charles Watson, Curtin University

Ilona Margiotta, New York University

Jennifer Manion, Connecticut College

Lyle Hallowell, Nassau Community College

Emily van der Meulen, York University, Toronto

Rebecca Chalker, Pace University

Gilbert Geis, University of California, Irvine

Rachael Stern, New York University

Lynn Comella, University of Nevada

Alessandro De Giorgi, San Jose State University

Martin Schwartz, Ohio University

William Chambliss, George Washington University

Kelley Moult, American University

Can hookers get some good press??

The answer to that is a resounding NO!

Last week, Giannini and Donna Hughes was on Channel 10.  The “Rapp Session” had one side of the story, no debate.  The reported ended the session with saying, “after talking to you I can’t understand why this hasn’t become law yet?” and asked the people of  state to send in comments to the website and vote on if the prostitution should become law and the results would be read on Fridays show.

Well, the people voted and wrote in.  Drum roll please . . . . . . .

65% of the people voted against the law, 30% voted for the law, and 5% said they didn’t know.  Some people even left comments.  Even a few intelligent comments.

Channel 10 decided to skip reporting the results and reading the comments on air.  Just another example of how all this change the prostitution loophole hysteria is being led by one woman who can’t even say loophole, another woman who has never met any Asian spa workers that she keeps saying are trafficked, and newspapers and tv stations that are just trying to make a buck.   Sad.

Rhode Island supports Terrorism!

(I quit smoking cigarettes and drinking diet coke, so forgive me if I was a little slow to make this connection and report how Rhode Island supports terrorism.  It is taking me a while to get back into reality with out nicotine and caffeine)

Don’t be so shocked!  Yes, It is a difficult thing to understand.  Rhode Island supports terrorism!  Just recently RI legalized compassion centers for medical marijuana.  I guess the State Legislature didn’t get the memo that drugs fund terrorism.  Yes, in Rhode Island we have financially supported terrorism.

So does that sound a little outrageous to you?  If it does keep reading, if it doesn’t keep drinking the kool aid that the fear mongers love to poor down your throat in buckets.

Everyday for the past week, Rhode Islanders have been inundated with reports about the loophole for both prostitution and underage stripping.  While I do not agree with underage girls dancing in strip clubs, the entire media craze is a hype to push the agenda to change the prostitution law.  How does this relate to the pot funding terrorism link?  Well, the people trying to push the prostitution law are trying to link prostitution with human trafficking and underage stripping.   They call RI’s lack of indoor prostitution law “a human rights disaster” and say things like RI supports slavery?!?

So if you are the type of person that bought into the whole hype that said if you bought a bag of weed you killed an Arab’s grandmother, you are probably the same type of person that would believe that arresting women is the best way to help them.  I hope we don’t have that many  niave people in Rhode Island.  After reading reactions to articles in the Providence Journal, I tend to think that Rhode Islanders are smarter than that.  More importantly I hope the people in the general assembly are as smart as I think they are.