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.
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.