Tag Archives: happy endings

Current Status on Prostitution in Rhode Island

Rhode Island

Since the end of the legislative session not much has happened.  Reports have said that the State Police and the Governor’s Office have been working on a new prostitution law, but both Representative JoAnne Gianinni and Senator Paul Jabour have said they have not seen the legislation yet.  I personally do not know how far the State Police and the Governor’s office have gotten on the bill, both have more pressing issues to deal with.  The Governor is dealing with his face off with the Unions,debating the fur-low or 1,000 worker layoff.  Now the State Police have to deal with one of its troopers beating up a Providence Cop.  Bad publicity and national headlines for both the Governor and the State Police.

Just a week ago Senator Paul Jabour and Micheal McCaffery wrote an Op Ed in the Providence Journal defending their bill.  In the letter they write:

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.

The woman who blurs these lines, Donna Hughes of Citizens Against Trafficking, blasted back at Jabour and McCaffery with her own Op Ed entitled “Senator’s Prostitution Bill is a Sham”

RHODE ISLAND needs a good prostitution law to halt the metastasizing problems of prostitution and sex trafficking. The growing number of spas and clubs are sordid destinations for foreign women and teens from around the Northeast. .. Contrary to the claim made by Senators Paul Jabour (D.-Providence) and Michael McCaffrey (D.-Warwick) in their Aug. 31 Commentary piece, the Senate bill does not “close the loophole.”

In order for a prostitution bill to pass, it must be the same on the House and the Senate side.  If the Governor and Police do actually submit a bill, Senator Jabour will need to sign off on it.  I can’t imagine he really wants to do any favors for Hughes, who has been dragging his name through the mud.  (She has published this op-ed in several local papers)

After all of these back and forth op eds, Senator Levesque jumped into the action and wrote his own titled “Anti-prostitution law means more deaths”  Opening up with the line “We have once again been treated to Donna Hughes slender relationship with truth.”  (Nice way to put it!)

With all this infighting, and the prostitution legislation pretty much grinding to a halt, Providence Mayor David Cicilline decided to get into the fray.  Mayor Cicilline has submitted an ordinance to be considered at Thursdays at the City meeting.  If found guilty, those accused would face, for each offense, a $500 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days, which is the maximum penalty allowable for municipal-level violations (the proposed ordinance would be adjudicated by the Municipal Court, but I wonder where they would house those found guilty, Providence doesn’t have any prisons). I don’t know how legal this ordinance is because it is in the massage ordinance, so essentially they will only be going after the massage parlors and if that isn’t selective enforcement I don’t know what is?!? (Selective enforcement is one of the reasons RI doesn’t have a prostitution law today)

Personally, I think there isn’t much political reason to pass a prostitution law this year.  Next year is an election year, so this year doesn’t count for much.  With the state in such economic shambles, the Governor going to court every other day to fight the state workers, the 60 million budget shortfall, I think the prostitution law will stop being front page news.  Besides, RI doesn’t have the money to implement it. When I was asked back in the beginning of June if a prostitution law was going to pass this year, I though the odds were 80/20 that it was going to pass.  Now I think it is 70/30 that it will not. (Not this year, but when January rolls around I will put the odds back at 80/20)

Also if you follow the links to the articles, be sure to read the comments by local Rhode Islanders.  There is not one that supports changing the law.

Mayor Proposes Ban of Massage Parlors

City Ordinance! What a Great Idea!!! *sarcasm*

Today, Mayor David Cicilline proposed a ban on indoor prostitution.  In a letter he wrote to the City council Cicilline proposes an amendment to Section 14-251 of the City Ordinances, which requires that massage parlors and health clubs be licensed by the city Bureau of Licenses.

“Anyone who knowingly permits, offers or receives any person into any place for the purpose of committing any commercial sexual activity would be subject to a $500 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days.
Anyone determined to be a customer shall be found guilty of a violation and subject to a fine of $500 and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days.”

While it is obvious that Mayor Cicilline is trying to jump into the limelight and “save the day” from the Asian massage parlors, there are a few other things that should be looked at in regard to city ordinances.  I am not a lawyer, I am just a filmmaker, but while browsing through the city ordinances, I didn’t see any ordinance that had prison time. Sure I didn’t read them all, (there are a ton about keeping swine in city limits and burying horses), but even in the ones that looked important, those didn’t have any prison time.

Also lets look at the idea that Providence has become a “victim” and over run by spas.  Recently an email was sent to me about Mesa, Arizona.  Mesa is a city outside of Phoenix and about 2 and a half  times the population of Providence.  Providence reports to have 20 spas, and Mesa reports to have 120.  Because of the size difference I would expect Mesa to have 50 spas.  Actually, I take that back.  Prostitution is illegal in Arizona, so I would expect Mesa not to have any spas, never mind having six times the amount that Providence has.  So I guess criminalizing doesn’t work, or at least it isn’t working in Arizona.

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.

What is that I smell??

bullshitA few days ago I  blogged about the overwhelming response to Donna Hughes letter against the 50 Acedemics who wrote to the General Assembly to advise them against passing a prostitution law.  (Just recently the British Medical Journal published a report that prostitution laws lead to violence against sex workers, so they must be radicals too)

While most of the response to the letters showed how Donna Hughes does not base her assumptions on fact, one blogger went beyond the letter and dissected the last few months in the debate.  Almost Diamonds writes “This is about sex, right?” a post where the observations of Donna Hughes schizophrenic right wing agenda are incredible, and the best part about this blog is not only the time line or the translations, but the fact that it  is written by a complete outsider.   Someone who could just smell the intense odor bull shit and had to comment.

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 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.


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.