Tag Archives: documentary

Forgiveness

Today is Easter.  I was raised Catholic and told that Easter was about forgiveness. Although I would not consider myself a practicing Catholic, I do believe that forgiveness is important part of life, and not just a part of this season.

One part of the prostitution law that passed in November was this allowance of forgiveness.   Women who were charged with prostitution would be able to get their first offense expunged.  This was a very important part of the law, to me this was the most important part of the law.  It would allow for the women to not face life with a burden of a criminal record.  It would allow them to not face employment or housing discrimination.  This would allow them a second chance, where they would not be destined to be in the lifestyle if they wanted to get out. (This only applied for first time offenders)

Well it seems that a few women decided they wanted to get out.  They wanted to change their lives, to be able to apply for jobs without marking down they had a criminal record.  We all know that the job search in Rhode Island is abysmal, 3rd highest unemployment in the country, can you imagine if you had the Scarlet letter of a prostitution charge on your file?

One women commented on this blog:

I work for a social service agency that assists ex-offenders. Last month, several of the women we assist applied for expungement of previous prostitution related offenses. ALL met the current criteria (had only one offense), and ALL WERE DENIED in the 6th District by one VERY prejudice and lousy jurist.

It is sad that this law that was changed with the mantra of “Helping the women” has not helped one iota.

Fiscal Responsibility?

Toilet Paper MoneyI guess I was misled.  I thought RI only had one “problem”.  The problem we in RI have been told is that we have a loophole in the prostitution law.  We have been told we need to shut down the spas, but I guess the politicians (Actually the Governor) forgot to mention that they didn’t have enough money to even keep the government open, never mind pay for the additional toll this law will have on our system.

Yesterday the Governor held a press conference to let the people of RI know that the government will be shutting down for 12 days and local cities and towns will not receive millions in promised aid, so a $70 million hole in the budget can be plugged.

I wonder if this will put the “CLOSE THE PROSTITUTION LOOPHOLE” on the back burner?  Seeing that the government doesn’t even have the money to pay it’s workers, why should it create a new class of criminals that they will be forced house, feed, and “rehabilitate”.

The Family Life Center recently released a report on the the current cost of prostitution in Rhode Island.

From the report:

Rethinking Arrest: Street Prostitution and Public Policy in Rhode Island. According to the report, street prostitution is still prevalent in Providence, Central Falls, Woonsocket, and Pawtucket, involving over 350 women in the last three years. The report analyzes public policy and concludes that the state could save at least half a million dollars by not arresting and imprisoning women for street prostitution, which resulted in at least 215 incarcerations in 2008…. Of the 215 women incarcerated, 102 were sentenced to prison for an average of 102 days. These women had on average been convicted of prostitution 6 times before and as many as 23 times. The report concludes that Rhode Island should focus on a prostitution policy that includes an expansion of the RENEW outreach model to other cities and a reduction in the use of incarceration.

The state is spending $500,000 a year on sending women to prison for outdoor prostitution, I would assume that this would minimally double when they criminalize indoor prostitution.  Is this worth it?  Should we have the state workers take another day off so we can send these women to prison?  Maybe we should cut a few more programs…


Why am I getting involved?

FeministThis really isn’t my fight.  Or is it?  Sometimes I sit back and think why am I involved in the fight to stop the General Assembly in Rhode Island from passing a law against prostitution?

I am not a sex worker.  I am not a customer.  I do not make a living off of the sex industry.  I am just a chubby tattooed lesbian who made a film on the Asian massage parlors.  Surely I should be fighting for something else, something that matters more directly in my life?!?  (Maybe Gay Marriage, RI is the only New England State that doesn’t allow for Gay Marriage.)  How ironic it is that I am one of the leading voices to stop the prostitution law, a law that is really targeting consenting heterosexual adult sex.

So why am I getting involved?

Sure, I would have liked to have moved on to my next film by now.  But I feel an obligation to speak for the women I met when I made the film.  There are three things in life that aggravate me more than anything else.  Lying, picking on defenseless people, and lying.

I think it is horrible that the women in the spas have been targeted.  With indoor prostitution being legal, the police have gone above and beyond the call of duty to go after these women.  Even though there are many other places in RI that can be called “brothels”, the only ones that have faced raids have been the Asian spas.

These raids on the spas have all been in efforts to “help the women”.  That brings up number 1 and 3 on my list, LYING!

Even in the most recent raid, the police claimed Human Trafficking.  In a raid on a spa in Warwick, where 3 women were working (two of whom were sisters) the police came in and took the women’s cell phones, laptops, and money.  If these women were victims of trafficking, don’t you think you would not take their money and all forms of communication so they could call for help?

So yes, this isn’t my fight.  I wish the women would speak for themselves, but until they do I am going to speak.  I am going to shine a light on what I think is not right. It might not be my fight, and people might think I am strange for being involved, but when I see such wrongs committed based on lies, I can not bite my tongue.

It is a 3 legged CAT!

Some of you who have read this blog for a while know I actually know the women in the spas.  I have actually been in a few of the spas, met the so-called “slaves”.  I remember it was almost a year ago when my cat Kolangi died and I brought his left over food to one of the spas because I knew they had a stray cat they liked to feed.

It is weird that story popped into my head when I learned today that CAT got a third member.  CAT, or Citizens Against Trafficking, is now a 3 person group that has never met any women in the spas, yet loves to talk to the press about them.  This 3 legged CAT has sent a letter to all the Senators today, responding to the 50 professors that wrote a letter against new prostitution legislation.

The letter attacks the professors who have signed, and since I know the source to be Hughes, I know not to believe 99.99% of it.   Back in May when I was on the radio a few times, Hughes and Shapiro wrote a 7 page paper on me.  Unfortunately I never got a copy of that paper, but when Dan Yorke saw it he said he would not  let Hughes or Shapiro say anything on it because it was an un sourced character assassination.  This is Hughes obvious m.o.  Attack and make up ridicules propaganda, stay away from the facts in the debate.  Hughes can not debate on facts because she doesn’t have any.

So lets look at pieces of the letter, I will disect some parts, but not link to the entire pile of shit the letter.

“Part 1 focuses on initial discoveries made by Citizens Against Trafficking researchers about some of the authors and signers of the letter. We found shocking information about what they stand for and the goals of their international campaign…The leading signers of the letter call themselves “sex radicals,” meaning they oppose any limits on any sexual behavior as long as it has the superficial appearance of being consensual.” My uncle could drink a 24 pack and not be as loaded as that sentence.  The repetition of “any” builds the sentence up and the “superficial appearance”  puts the cherry on top of that propaganda sundae!  Since I guess all is fair in a political war, I will now define Citizens Against Trafficking.  CAT is a trio of “radical feminists” some even “radical lesbian feminist” who oppose any heterosexual behavior as long as it has the superficial appearance of being a product of force, fraud, or coercion.

The sex radicals are very worried that we might achieve a “moral victory.” “Moral Victory” excellent choice of words.  CAT does not care about women who are working in the spas.  They want to impose their moral values on women who obviously have a different set of morals.  Even when you look at Hughes’ history and see her ultimate goal is to not only impose her morals but also profit once again from the criminalization of prostitution by setting up “John Schools”.  In California “Johns” are given redemption if they agree to go to “John Schools” and learn about stds and the lives of prostitutes. (Actually I might like to see a politician like Spitzer in a class led by Hughes just for shits and giggles)

I could go sentence to sentence and rip apart this pile of propaganda.  When you have no facts, when you have never talked to one women in a spa in RI, when you have no reason or logic on your side, you have to rely on emotional arguments based in morals judgments.    The tactics of CAT offend me as a woman, a feminist, and a Rhode Islander.  To use an analogy, I would say that Hughes and CAT are to Rhode Island and sex workers as Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are to homosexuals.  (Actually, Phelps is more honest with his hatred and moral judgements and doesn’t try to blanket it in an a false idea of helping homosexuals.)   I am an artist, so I believe in freedom of speech, so even though I do not agree with Hughes or CAT, I believe they have the same right to freedom of speech as everyone else.  I just hope that people don’t confuse the propaganda and fear mongering for fact.


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.


Why complain?

I always do searches of blogs, news, and videos with my keywords so I can see everything related to the topic of this film.  I usually post on those topics.  One of the most popular blogs I ever did  gets hits everyday.  It is very short and even though I don’t want to complain, it annoys me that every day it is the highest on my page views.

The page I am talking about is “Barney Miller and Asian Massage Parlors“.  I guess you never know why people end up on your blog, what brought them here or what they are interested in, but either way I am happy they are reading.  I hope they end up walking away with some tidbit of information that they didn’t have before that might humanize this subject matter.

It was odd yesterday when I came across another woman who had a similar complaint that I had.  This woman runs a Catholic blog, and while I was annoyed that my blog on prostitution gets hits for Barney Miller, she is annoyed her blog on Catholicism gets hits for people looking for a Prostitution Saint.  Here is an excerpt, (I don’t want to link because I can only imagine how upset she would be to think she would be getting clicks from a blog about a documentary on Asian massage parlors in a state where prostitution is legal)

Patron Saint of Prostitutes ~ The posts I wrote on that remain among my most popular. So….there are 2 Patron Saints of Prostitutes: St. Nicholas (yes, “Santa Clause”) Why? Because he saved two girls from being sold into prostitution by their father. This is also among the reason he’s also a Patron Saint of children. The OTHER Patron Saint of Prostitutes is St. Mary of Egypt, because she had been a prostitute, reformed, and, well….achieved the heights of holiness which the Church acknowledged by declaring her a Saint!
And for those who are looking for a Saint that ENDORSES prostitution: there isn’t one. Saints don’t endorse sin, and no, none of us has the authority to decide what is or isn’t a sin. Prostitution is a horrible evil in this fallen world and it CANNOT be justified. I hope that answers your question.
It is funny to think two women on such opposite ends of this issue have the same complaint when it comes to blogging!  You can never control the audience.

Is the message setting in?

Today there is letter to the editor in the Providence Journal that calls for RI to “Regulate, License, and Tax” prostitution. I have reprinted it below, but check the link to read the comments. ( I always think the comments to these letters and articles really give you the pulse of the political will of RI)

I’ve been following the controversy over Rhode Island’s indoor prostitution laws for a while now. Although I’ve seen many impassioned statements suggesting that the women involved are virtual slaves to pimps, I haven’t seen any reports of anyone being arrested for slavery or holding any of these women in servitude. I believe there are laws against slavery in these United States.

Any argument that the police are powerless to investigate and prosecute these perpetrators is nothing more than a vote of no confidence in our police forces. Police departments routinely investigate, infiltrate, make arrests and prosecute a wide variety of criminal organizations. Why haven’t we seen any arrests in these dens of iniquity?

It may be that the women working there are just trying to make a living, albeit in a profession derided by a large segment of society and known as “the world’s oldest profession.” I’m amazed that any society would believe it could eliminate any activity of such antiquity.

The laws of supply and demand would dictate the failure of most of these establishments if the demand for these services did not exist. However their proliferation indicates a good portion of our citizenry prefers their “product.”

Rhode Island enjoys streets devoid of gaudily dressed women, flagging down carloads of “johns,” creating traffic jams.

It might better serve our community to regulate, license and tax this activity.

ED FATZINGER

Here is another letter to the editor from June 24th from Donna Hughes titled “RI’s Carnival of Prostitution”.  I commented on the letter here on my blog calling Donna Hughes the sad clown at the center of the Circus, but here it is with my corrections to her letter in Red.


AFTER MY EXPERIENCE at the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, I believe Rhode Island is headed for a human rights disaster and nationwide political embarrassment. It is becoming apparent that the Senate is not going to pass a much-needed prostitution bill . Rhode Island will continue to have an expanding number of spa-brothels, prostitution of minors in clubs, and no law that will enable the police to stop it. Well, there was a bill  proposed that would have “closed the loophole” but the police, Governor and Attorney General didn’t think that it was tough enough because the women only got a $100 ticket.  I assume that using the law that would give the women a ticket would have given them the tools to stop this “human rights disaster” but it wasn’t worth it to them if the women they were trying to save didn’t get to go to prison too.

The hearing (on Senate bill 0596, to close the loophole allowing indoor prostitution) was a sordid circus, with pimps and prostitutes coming forward to oppose the legislation. Funny you use the word circus.  Circus is usually full of acts and  illusions.  For all the years I have followed this legislation all I saw was actors and illusions at all the hearings until the people who are actually going to be directly impacted by the law showed up to testify.  For years we there were people testifying about how the women were slaves, yet they never talked to ONE women in ONE spa in RI.  When we finally get to see the people are at the center of the debate you call it a circus?  I think all hearings before this one was a circus. When we actually get to hear the truth, you want to dismiss it.

Midway through the hearing, filmmaker Tara Hurley That Is Me! ushered in women and men she collected from the spa-brothels.  Men? I didn’t usher in any men.  I didn’t drive, transport, or go with any men at all, never mind men I collected from the spa-brothels. Why would I bring men with me?  When I testified I told the senate that if they were hell-bent on creating a new prostitution law why not do a prostitution law like in Sweeden where selling sex is legal but purchasing sex is illegal.  Why would I bring men to a hearing where I asked the senate to make them criminals? They settled in the back of the room. Somewhat later, the women made a dash out of the room and hid in the hallway. Hurley had to coax them back in to testify with an explanation to the committee that they are afraid of cameras.

One 53-year-old Korean woman who needed a translator to speak said she worked as a “receptionist.” She said she had never seen any women coerced into prostitution. But at the end of her testimony she revealed that she had previously been arrested for being a pimp.  Even if this is true an arrest is not a conviction, we see how police go into these places and arrest everyone on site.  The woman is a receptionist, get over it.  I think Donna Hughes just likes to throw around the word Pimp.

Then a man reeking of cigarette smoke and other odors came forward. When you can’t attack the argument attack the person. He was identified to me by Hurley as a pimp. LIAR LIAR LIAR, When did I identify anyone as a pimp? He claimed credit for the growth of the spa-brothels in Rhode Island for his now-deceased wife. Another Korean woman came forward and said she did “it” for depressed, shy guys who needed stress relief. She implicated construction workers, judges and lawyers. She proudly exclaimed that she does “it” to make money. Donna Hughes has no problem saying Pimp every other word, but can’t say sex.  I think this could be really interesting if  that was psycho analysed.

Then a tattooed woman, calling herself a “sexologist and sex educator,” spoke against the bill. She is also a reporter for a prostitutes’ magazine called $pread. (I couldn’t make this stuff up!) No, Hughes didn’t have to make up the fact there is a sex worker’s magazine.  Yes, sex workers can read.  But she makes up so much other stuff in her letter, it is great she points out the fact as the only thing she didn’t make up.

All of their testimonies were accepted by the committee without critical questions. I guess this sentence all relies on the word “critical”, because all the people I saw testify were questioned. Their outrageous appearance and statements muted the serious, precise testimonies of representatives of the Rhode Island state police, the attorney general’s office, the Providence police, and Richard Israel, a former attorney general and Rhode Island Superior Court judge Also all the people who part of their career is involved in putting people in prison, why wouldn’t they want more laws to do so?

Two senators, Charles Levesque and Rhoda Perry, who are known opponents of the prostitution bill, dominated the hearing Because they were basically the only ones left there, most of the senators left. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael McCaffery left and turned the hearing over to Senator Levesque, who seemed pleased and entertained by the cadre from the sex industry.

On at least two occasions, Senator Levesque has expressed his opposition to a prostitution bill to me in e-mails. During my testimony, he badgered me to make a statement I knew wasn’t true, until Sen. Leo Blais had to get out of his seat to calm his colleague down.  I think it is safe to say that Hughes will attack anyone that is not in lock step with her views.

Also during my testimony, Senator Perry challenged my report by reading to me from the work of Ron Weitzer, an academic advocate of decriminalized prostitution when it’s indoors. In a June 18 letter published in The Journal (“Some lurid prostitution myths debunked”), he called Rhode Island’s laws — and lack of laws — “a model for other states.”  Hughes was asked a question that compared both her and Weitzer’s point of view.  But I think more people should challenge her report.  She handed in a list of places that she believes are brothels and have human trafficking and she took her information from the internet. When she handed in the list she said you might have missed some because she didn’t get all the nail salons.  I guess the internet doesn’t have updated lists on nail salons.  I think Hughes might just have something against Asians.

I have testified at hearings in the State House on a number of occasions. And said the same thing over and over, propaganda to try to link prostitution with human trafficking. Never have I witnessed such a carnival. In April, I testified for the House prostitution bill (Rep. Joanne Giannini’s H-5044A) and the atmosphere was serious and respectful, even though there was opposition to the bill.

In contrast to the passive encouragement for prostitution in Rhode Island in the Senate Judiciary Committee, earlier on Thursday Governor Carcieri held a press conference calling for passage of the House bill. He was supported by state police Supt. Col. Brendan Doherty and the attorney general’s office. Freshman Rep. Robert DaSilva, a Pawtucket police officer, spoke compellingly about the problem of prostitution. He said there is more juvenile prostitution than he has ever seen before. Representative Giannini said that we do not want Rhode Island to be a safe haven for the sex industry, but then when the Senate bill passed and looked like it was going to become a law, all of them came out against the bill.  So I guess they are not “passive” in their encouragement, they are full on encouraging.  If it is not going to be a bill that throws women in prison, then they really don’t care about saving the children.

The end of the General Assembly session is near. From my observation, I believe the Senate is going to let another year go by without a prostitution law. This will be a tragedy for victims caught in the sex industry, a black eye for Rhode Island’s reputation, and a victory for the pimps. Here we go with pimps again.  Everyone hates pimps, and we already have laws against pimping in RI, so how is not putting women in prison a victory for the pimp?

Donna M. Hughes is a professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island.