Reason Roundup

Ashley Judd and Seth Meyers Say They Want to Help Sex Workers. They Could Start by Shutting Up.

Plus: climate change defamation suit can proceed, trade deal inches forward, and more…

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Celebrity activists co-opt sex worker messaging in push for policing sex. Actress and anti-prostitution activist Ashley Judd has been joined by Late Night host Seth Meyers and his wife, lawyer Alexi Ashe Meyers, to aid efforts to keep sex between consenting adults a criminal matter.

And, like some government-funded "awareness" groups, Judd and the Meyers are stealing the language of the sex worker rights movement in their battle to keep sex work criminalized.

The celebrity campaign calls itself one for "decriminalization." But what's its really pushing is simply asymmetric criminalization—a system in which some sex workers can avoid arrest but people who pay for sex will still be arrested and jailed. It's based on infantilizing assumptions about women and second-wave feminist conceptions of sex work, in which all porn and prostitution are "violence" against women, even when women consent, and all female participants in sex work are victims, even when they insist otherwise.

"For too long, victims of the sex trade have been subject to arrest by law enforcement, instead of those who should be held accountable," said Ashe Meyers.

To Ashe Meyers and her ilk, women are too feebleminded to be held equally accountable for the sexual activities they participate in; instead, we must treat them as legally equivalent to children, while holding the men they consent to sex with criminally responsible.

Incredibly, they call this a feminist solution to sex work policy. It's modeled after similar—and failing—policies in Nordic countries, often referred to as the "Nordic Model," the "Swedish Model," or (in the U.S.) the "End Demand" model.

With a lot of bad baggage attached to these schemes, and data showing their detrimental effects on sex workers, proponents of asymmetrical criminalization are now trying to rebrand it the "Equality Model."

Most infuriatingly, they have been pushing this plan to the media as prostitution decriminalization and portraying themselves as being on the side of sex workers. The New York Daily News described Judd's and the Meyers' efforts as "join[ing] with sex workers' rights advocates on Monday to call on state lawmakers to curb the exploitative practices associated with the sex-trade."

Sex worker rights advocates the world over have denounced the "Equality Model" for recreating the same harms as criminalization, including pushing people into unsafe working conditions, and often resulting in the same sort of bigotry-filled policing that currently plagues vice policing efforts. Don't be fooled: This is the same old moralistic claptrap, savior mentality, and pro-incarceration "progressivism" that we've seen for more than a century.

"Disappointed to see this. To try to present this as driven by 'sex workers advocates' is dishonest and paternalistic," tweeted New York state Senator Julia Salazar. "If you want to know what sex worker advocates want, answer the calls of the many sex workers and trafficking survivors leading @DecrimNY."

Here's what some sex workers and activists are saying:


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FREE MINDS

The U.S. Supreme Court will allow a Penn State professor to sue two National Review writers for defamation. From the Los Angeles Times:

Over a dissent by Justice Samuel A. Alito, the high court cleared the way for Penn State professor Michael Mann to sue the National Review and the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute for having compared him to the former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was imprisoned for sexual abuse. Both had been investigated by the university.

In his 2012 article, columnist Mark Steyn said that in Mann's case, as with Sandusky and football legend Joe Paterno, who was also involved in the sex-abuse scandal, Penn State "declined to find one of its star names guilty of any wrongdoing." His comment repeated the words of an online columnist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who first made the comparison between Mann and Sandusky.

The case involves a hotly disputed question that has split lower courts: When can statements of opinion form the basis of a libel suit? Ordinarily, the high court has ruled, a person can't be sued for expressing an opinion. But when a statement mixes opinion with a claim about facts—in this case, the claim that Mann had misused data—courts have struggled to decide whether lawsuits are valid.

CEI and National Review lawyers had been urging the Supreme Court to reject the case as a violation of the First Amendment.


FREE MARKETS

Congress is reaching a resolution on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. In announcing as much, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) sounded like a slightly more intelligible Trump. "Americans need more from the USMCA than just the same broken NAFTA with better language but no real enforcement," said Pelosi in a statement. "The original draft of the new NAFTA agreement, while promising in some regard, still left American workers exposed to losing their jobs to Mexico."

Pelosi said House Democrats are working with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and were "within range of a substantially improved agreement for America's workers. Now, we need to see our progress in writing from the Trade Representative for final review."


QUICK HITS

  • Christian health care sharing ministries are drawing the ire of state and federal regulators.
  • Al Sharpton is thwarting a menthol cigarette ban in New York City.
  • Support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic presidential race is waning once again.
  • Animal cruelty is now a federal crime.
  • "Denaturalization—or stripping naturalized immigrants of their citizenship—is an extreme measure typically reserved for Nazis and terrorists," writes Shikha Dalmia in Reason's December issue. "But in a little-noticed initiative called Operation Second Look, President Donald Trump is rummaging through past naturalization applications looking for reasons to remove the citizenship of nonheinous individuals."
  • Yujing Zhang, the woman who went to Mar-a-Lago under false pretenses and spawned all sorts of Chinese spy panic, has been sentenced to eight months in jail after being convicted (in what NPR calls "bizarre trial" where she represented herself) of trespassing and lying to federal agents. "Zhang's grasp of the English language remained unclear," says NPR, but the judge accused her of merely "playing games" by pretending not to understand.