Prohibition

How the War on Sex Work Crushes Underprivileged Women

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That prohibitionist laws are always, always, enforced more heavily upon the poor, the disadvantaged, and minorities is not, I think, controversial. One would have to contort one's brain in a manner worthy of a Cirque du Soleil performance to ignore the facts that cops more heavily patrol poor and minority neighborhoods and actively look for people to arrest; that judges and juries have less sympathy for those they perceive as "others"; and that, because poor people overwhelmingly lack the resources to mount an adequate criminal defense (or even bail), they are far more likely to plead guilty to whatever a prosecutor offers, just so they can get it over with and at least try to get back to their lives. Protectionist laws (including occupational licensing) similarly harm those who are not yet established in a field, since nonincumbents are less likely to be consulted about the content of those laws and far less likely to be able to afford compliance costs after the regulations take effect.

These are among the reasons sex workers almost universally prefer prostitution "decriminalization" to the regulatory systems characteristic of what is called "legalization." The former—unlike so-called drug decriminalization—takes sex work out of the hands of the police altogether, while the latter plants a thicket of special sex-work-specific rules, regulations, laws, licenses, permits, codes, and prohibitions that invariably creates a two-tiered system: one for those who have the money, knowhow, political or business connections, and other resources to comply and thus function "legally," and one for those who do not. In every country with a "legalized" system, we see the same pattern: Well-connected businesspeople who have never themselves done sex work buy up all the brothel licenses, while racial or gender minorities, migrants, and other disadvantaged groups are far more likely to be arrested for working illegally within that "legal" system—often for violating the same kinds of ridiculous and unnecessary rules that governments love foisting upon industries to which politicians or the cartels who own them have taken a dislike.

Even within the fully criminalized systems typical in the United States, there are glaring disparities of enforcement. Most of y'all reading this probably already know that while white and nonwhite Americans use recreational drugs at roughly equal rates, minorities are arrested more frequently, charged more heavily, and more frequently caged (and for longer terms). And most of y'all can probably guess that it's the same with sex work: While there are sex workers and clients of every description, sex workers of color, trans sex workers, and street workers are dramatically more likely to be hassled, arrested, and even robbed or raped by police than their white, cisgender, and indoor-working counterparts. Black trans street workers, falling into all of these groups, practically have targets painted on their backs; they're often arrested merely for daring to show their faces outdoors, a phenomenon that activists call "walking while trans." The same is true for their clients: Poor minority men who can only afford the (generally lower-priced) services of street workers are far more likely to be ensnared by policewomen looking to entrap them into committing a crime than are affluent white men who visit "high-end" escorts who discreetly do business in apartments or houses in "nice" neighborhoods. In one raid a few years ago, nearly every surname of the men arrested in a "john sting" in Seattle was Hispanic, despite the fact that Seattle is, to put it politely, much less ethnically diverse than most U.S. cities.

Just as poverty, minority status, and other disadvantages make people more vulnerable to the predations of police and prosecutors, so too do such attributes expose them to a greater likelihood of exploitation by criminals and unscrupulous businesspeople who don't quite qualify as criminals (but are bad enough). Disadvantaged sex workers face a greater likelihood of violence from people—whether law enforcement or civilian sexual predators—posing as clients. And they usually lack the resources to set themselves up as indoor escorts, which requires things like professional photos, quality lingerie, a professional-looking website, advertising, beauty treatments, the rent for an "incall" location in a neighborhood wealthier men won't be afraid to visit, the cost of a dependable car for doing "outcalls"—I could go on, but I suspect you get the picture.

It shouldn't be surprising that, in desperation, some women will become involved with smooth-talking boyfriends or other middlemen who promise to help them access those things and thereby move off the street into a safer mode of work. But often, the boyfriend is a liar, or the middleman wants more money or more control than the sex worker anticipated, and before she knows it she finds herself in an exploitative or abusive situation. Both the frequency and the severity of such situations have been outrageously exaggerated by moralists, who liberally bandy about the label "sex trafficking," who characterize the workers involved as passive victims rather than rational actors trying to do the best they can with very limited options, and who pretend that exploitation is the norm in our trade rather than an outlier (and an occurrence that would be even less common in the absence of prohibition). Nonetheless, as you can imagine, these situations are more common among poor women, migrants, underage sex workers, and so on.

The artificial hysteria around "sex trafficking" has made it an effective excuse for any oppressive law the government wants to pass, beginning with more money for cops and expanding into mass surveillance, greater restrictions on women's movement in public, and—perhaps most pernicious of all—internet censorship.

In March 2018, Congress passed a legislative package colloquially known as FOSTA-SESTA and formally known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. Even before President Donald Trump signed it into law a few weeks later, it had done tremendous damage to the sex work ecosystem.

The law makes a web platform liable for "facilitating prostitution" and "sex trafficking" (neither of which it defines adequately) if someone uses it to advertise illegal services. The chilling effect was dramatic; the majority of sites frequented by sex workers immediately shut down, closed themselves off to U.S. visitors, enacted draconian censorship policies, or—if the site's entire business model was based in sex work advertising, as with industry leader Eros.com—established a series of continually changing, increasingly incomprehensible, and confusingly silly rules about the types of pictures, links, and words that would be allowed. At about the same time, the feds shut down Backpage, the colossus of inexpensive sex work ads; its former owners have been subjected to a campaign of persecution that has not yet run its course.

Almost overnight, the industry was thrown into chaos worldwide. Although it was founded by Americans, Backpage was popular in Australia and many other places where prostitution is legal to one degree or another. Sex workers in those countries were forced to scramble for new ways to advertise their services. In some cases, they opted to build their own websites, domiciled and hosted in countries beyond the reach of American puritanism.

In the United States, the consequences have been nothing less than catastrophic. Many disadvantaged sex workers were forced to return to street work. Some younger women who had never worked without online ads were pushed to the street for the first time, placing them in far greater danger than either their indoor-working sisters or the older outdoor workers who at least knew what to expect. Naturally, "not in my backyard" (NIMBY) interests reacted badly to the increasing number of street workers, and many police departments have responded with more raids and arrests on popular strolls.

Other U.S. sex workers were able to scrape together the resources to move to more expensive ad sites, such as the aforementioned Eros. But the personal information that platform now demands that advertisers share—scans of a photo ID with legal name clearly displayed, full-face photos in the same outfits used in face-blurred ad shots, etc.—have become so terrifyingly invasive that many established escorts, myself included, have abandoned it on the theory that the company may be amassing data to offer as a bargaining chip when the feds come after it, as the Department of Justice has already indicated it will.

Even those who have succeeded in moving into more "upscale" forms of work have a big problem: In recent years, U.S. law enforcement agencies have been adopting the faux-feminist "end demand" model of prohibition, which involves prosecuting clients more heavily than sex workers. A goal of this strategy is to win the support of carceral feminists who can't or won't comprehend that attacking a business's clients is an attack on the business, regardless of rhetoric.

The shift has understandably made potential clients much warier that the "escort" behind an ad might actually be a gang of cops out to ruin their lives—and that in turn has made many men more reluctant to provide the personal information that sex workers use to screen potential customers. Of course, established providers will generally have a considerable online footprint (ratings and reviews, a blog or Twitter account, a personal website, videos, searchable pictures—even articles in libertarian magazines!) that would-be clients can examine to help them be sure a sex worker is the real McCoy and not a trap. More mature ladies also generally have a healthy number of regular clients built up over years. I'll be just fine, for example—and every time I'm quoted in an interview or appear in a documentary, I get more requests for dates.

You know who isn't likely to have such an unmistakably real internet presence? Those who are trying to move indoors from the street. Those who used to take out cheap Backpage ads and don't have their own professional websites. Part-timers who can't be too conspicuous about their side hustle for fear of losing their day jobs (or their kids). Those who were new to the industry when FOSTA-SESTA hit. 

In short, the disadvantaged. And so, as is always the case, the effects of prohibition and policing fall most heavily on those members of society who already suffer far more than their share of misfortune and violence.

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  1. Use y’all when speaking, not writing.

    1. The SOUTH shall rise again!

      1. Loves the Constitution, but wants to rise up against it, again

    2. “All y’all” is the preferred grammatical nomenclature.

      1. What about “youse guys”?

        1. South, not Jersey.

      2. And then there’s “you’uns” which is y’all plus three.

      3. He lost me with ‘walking while trans’. Fuck these assholes who suck the bodies of those they pretend to defend. He’s just another fucking shill who is trying to make money on poor people, and is nothing but a collaborator with The Man.

      4. She also forgot the lovely Southernism used after describing some particularly heinous miscreant: “…bless their heart”. I’ve known Southern women, and the more sweetly it’s delivered the more acidic the sentiment.

    3. Leave her alone, she has a real authorial voice. The one thing we DON’T need is another opinion writer whose style has been hammered into insipidity.

    4. Don’t worry, “Don’t look at me,” nobody will.

    5. “Y’all” is a widely, though not universally, accepted expression of the second person plural, which English otherwise sadly lacks. Works for me.

  2. That prohibitionist laws are always, always, enforced more heavily upon the poor, the disadvantaged, and minorities is not, I think, controversial.

    True, but not because of prejudice so much as adjacency to high crime areas. Nevertheless decriminalization would be great for all.

    1. Sigh. I saw a guy take a 300 lb. hooker behind a dumpster in the alley behind a machine shop where I worked night shift. A dumpster that many, many street people used to relieve themselves.

      Maybe people with a little more money are just smarter and more discreet when engaging their vices.

      But yeah, let’s make it about how everything is so terrible and unfair for the “underprivileged”.

      1. No law requires YOU to do business behind dumpster with a 300 lb hooker. Live and let live. None of my business as long as nobody’s civil rights are violated.

    2. True, but not because of prejudice so much as adjacency to high crime areas.

      Or, could be both.

      Nevertheless decriminalization would be great for all.

      Agreed completely.

  3. There is zero US constitutional authority to ban products or services. State Constitutions do not include the power to ban products or services.

    Prostitution is a service.
    US Federal and State Prostitution Laws and Related Punishments

    1. But how are we going to protect people from themselves?

      1. Oh, gods! If we could only persuade the Chattering Classes to STOP trying to protect people from themselves!

        It would probably take the prescription of Dr. Guillotine, though.

        *sigh*

        1. You mean Señor Woodchipper.

          1. More spectacular, I grant you, but what do you have against the poor slobs who would have to clean up the mess?

    2. The Constitution grants Congress the power to make laws, it does not stipulate exactly what kinds of laws it can make. There is no constitutional prohibition on banning products or services, so Congress is constitutionally permitted to create laws banning products and services.

      In your world, civilians would be allowed to own machine guns, hand grenades, rocket launchers, any kind or amount of explosives even. That would be awesome for our society I’m sure.

      1. Oh, Jesus. You’ve obviously never actually read the Constitution.

        it does not stipulate exactly what kinds of laws it can make.

        Uh…yes, it does. See Article 1, Section 8 for the list of legislative powers of Congress. See also the 10th Amendment which clarifies that restriction.

        1. This!

          The constitution very explicitly says that it grants a very limited set of powers to the Federal government.

          “Make any laws you want” is not one of those powers.

          Congress can only legally make laws that exercise powers granted to the federal government in the constitution.

          Unfortunately, we abandoned that principle long ago. The courts have decided that expediency and getting their preferred policies enacted outweigh the actual written text of the constitution.

      2. The Constitution grants Congress the power to make laws, it does not stipulate exactly what kinds of laws it can make

        Are you ending kidding? Not only does the Constitution itself say that Congress shall only make laws corresponding to its enumerated powers, it then explicitly lists laws that Congress shall not make.

        For example, the Constitution does not grant free speech rights; it forbids the federal government to make laws restricting speech.

  4. These are among the reasons sex workers almost universally prefer prostitution “decriminalization” to the regulatory systems characteristic of what is called “legalization.” The former—unlike so-called drug decriminalization—takes sex work out of the hands of the police altogether, while the latter plants a thicket of special sex-work-specific rules, regulations, laws, licenses, permits, codes, and prohibitions that invariably creates a two-tiered system: one for those who have the money, knowhow, political or business connections, and other resources to comply and thus function “legally,” and one for those who do not.

    I am going to have to disagree with this analysis – forcing everyone to abide by the same thicket of rules and regulations that add compliance costs via standardizing work and production rules across the entire industry is the only way to create a level playing field for everybody engaged in the trade. It’s not fair that some have lower taxes and labor costs, fewer regulatory costs, less burdensome mandated standards and oversight, and in general a lighter government hand in meeting community stakeholder interest goals. Equality of outcome here mandates that everyone have the same costs associated with doing business.

    Or so it has been explained to me by those who support Trump’s tariffs – fair trade is better than free trade and if foreign companies have cost advantages because there’s no EPA, no minimum wage, no OSHA or Wage and Hour Division, no union rules, no thicket of regulation, well, tariffs simply add those totally fair and reasonable costs back into foreign production and we’ll know they’re fair when the trade deficit is erased and equality of outcome has been achieved. It’s how all the best social justice warriors define “fairness” and why we’re cheering the demise of NAFTA and the new USMCA deal that imposes American-style regulations on Mexican industries simply to drive up the costs of foreign production.

    1. What about pimps though? If a pimp is forced to abide by all of the laws and regulations it can really screw up his hustle in the free sex markets. While I’m not certain if his hoes are employees or independent contractors (may depend on state) I do know that such kinds of regulation will greatly hinder their ability to sling puss for green. Most pimps cannot compete with the big box hoe factories and any hit the pimps take to their fat stacks will be thrown onto his bitches. Instead of being allowed internet access or to view the television when they’re not out giving up the honey for money they’ll be forced to spend that time camming to make up for the losses in puss profits. We must protect pimps because if daddy aint happy then shorty aint either. #notallpimps

    2. There is a difference between imposing tariffs as a negotiation strategy with trade partners who have already engaged in unfair practices (*cough* China *cough*) and doing so to raise revenue or tweak the domestic market.

      1. Quite a few hookers have engaged in unfair trade practices as well but I don’t necessarily want the government involved in the negotiation.

        Then of course you have the issue of unlicensed overseas sex workers coming here. So I don’t see how some sort of tariffs on happy endings can be avoided if you had a legal licensed profession.

  5. “Maggie McNeill was a librarian in suburban New Orleans, but after an acrimonious divorce economic necessity inspired her to take up sex work…”

    When is the movie coming out? I bet there’s enough librarian-fetishists to make such a movie a paying proposition.

    1. I don’t know if it’s specifically a librarian fetish, or just finding intelligent, bespectacled women especially attractive, but I would definitely be interested in such a movie.

      1. It was a typo. Should be libertarian-fetishists.

  6. Racism! … she cried.

    And yet who votes for the politicians (Democrats control the cities) who pass all of these laws that are heavier enforced on the “underprivileged?”

    1. Ha! You think those types as not racist? Just try being a member of a minority group who dares to disagree with any position of theirs.

      1. Yep, just be a reliable member of the designated voting block and STFU.

      2. Considering you nuts doesn’t make us racist

        1. If sticking to one’s principles is a sign of being nuts, then I’m definitely nuts.

          I abhor racism, period. I don’t think it’s acceptable when it’s directed against someone who disagrees with me.

  7. While this may be your personal experience, it is not true for all sex workers. The fact remains that many girls and women are forced into sex work against their wills through lies, coercion, and direct threats of violence. Unfortunately, legalizing sex work makes protecting these girls, women and men and boys. I highly suggest you spend time with those that have been forced into sex work against their will to work toward a solution that protects both. If you can find a solution that protects sex workers from being exploited, you would get more support. Unfortunate in every country where sex work in various forms are allowed, exploitation has increased.

    1. Nonsense.

    2. At present, the laws against sex work mean that anyone who feels they were tricked or forced into it cannot go the the authorities without placing themselves at their nonexistent mercy. Legalize (with minimal regulation, damnit!) sex work and they can go to the authorities without being pretty sure of being arrested.

      The ‘sex trafficking’ panic is the Victorian Era White Slavery Panic with the serial numbers filed off. Before you go around spouting its talking points I suggest you do some reading on what historians think of the White Slavery drivel.

    3. Re: “many” Citation, please.

      And please make sure that the citation uses a definition of actual physical force, not merely “my economic situation forced me to get a job and I chose this one “.

    4. If my boss lies to me about the job or, for instance, shorts my pay, I can hire an attorney to sue him. If he threatens or assaults me I can call the police.*
      But if the work I’m doing is illegal, any interaction with the legal system ends with me behind bars, so both legal avenues are closed. I either have to suck it up or respond with violence. And violence is likely to have even harsher legal consequences.
      That’s when you get exploitation.

      * Libertarian disclaimer: I know the legal system seldom works as well as it should.

      1. I have read that a lot of prostitutes prefer to go through a pimp because it gives them an extra layer of protection.

        If you simply decriminalized would the potential for abuse change? Probably not but can’t imagine that full legalized licensing would be better.

    5. It’s exactly the opposite, and that’s what sex worker activists are trying to convey. When an activity is illegal, it is much easier and more likely that coercion and exploitation will exist.

      Let’s say I work in a restaurant and I feel I am exploited, and I tell my boss I quit. Not only can I jjust walk out with no reprisals, I will even expect to receive my last pay check. My ex-boss will not come after and beat me. That is because restaurants don’t operate in the underworld.

      How often do you hear of drug dealers shooting at each other for encroaching in one another’s territory? By contrast, how often do you hear of a pharmacist at CVS shooting a pharmacist from a Walgreens that opens down the street?

  8. Here’s the only question you need to ask of our in-house Stormi Daniels:
    Would you want your daughter tom do it?
    [Silence]

    1. Would you want your daughter in jail?

    2. No, but I also wouldn’t want her working at McDonald’s. And she shouldn’t face a threat of jail for either choice.

      1. McDonalds isn’t horrible. Like a Walmart, they promote from within and pay more for good performers.

    3. Here’s another question:

      Would you want the government to arrest your daughter for every choice she makes to do something you wouldn’t want her to do?

      What about the government arresting her for everything that I wouldn’t want her to do?

      And what about the government arresting her for everything that Dana Carvey’s Church Lady wouldn’t want her to do?

      And finally, what about the government arresting her for everything that AOC wouldn’t want her to do?

      Or… as an alternative…. how about you counsel your daughter as you see fit, but lets leave the government out of it.

  9. What makes this an intractable problem is that anti-sex laws are largely the work of women. Since women are privileged they virtually always get what they demand.

    1. Oh, my, yes. Many historians believe that the recurring White Slavery Panic of the Victorian and Edwardian eras was largely driven by middle to upper middle class women who were scared that if men could get sex elsewhere no man would put up with them.

      1. That’s the same reason why many women refuse to accept the reality of male homosexuality. They see it as a fashion statement rather than an innate characteristic.

        1. Who you talking to? Most women I know are very very comfortable with gay men, both because of the reduced threat and the increased gentility.

          1. Gay men are more ‘artistic,’ and are usually rather well turned out. I wish I could say the same of Lesbians.

          2. I don’t see a contradiction between what you said and what I said.

            1. OK, let me make it clear:

              many women refuse to accept the reality of male homosexuality

              Not a single woman I have ever talked with about this (dozens) has ever denied the existence of homosexuality. The gay wedding I attended last summer included numerous women.

              Maybe you are experiencing mostly religious fundamentalists, since some of those faiths question the innate essence of homosexuality.

              1. No, it’s not mostly religious fundamentalists. We’ve simply had a different experience. I stand by what I said.

                1. I’ve only ever heard one person question the reality of male homosexuality. And she’s a great person, but she’s dumb as a stump. And she comes from a religious fundamentalist background where she was taught that homosexuality is a sin and is just some perversion that people give in to.

                  Like all dumb people, she never questioned it because she doesn’t question anything. That would require understanding what you are questioning.

                  This is, in my experience, an exceedingly rare phenomenon. Most people seem to accept that gay dudes are just gay dudes. Even folks who “love the sinner and hate the sin” mostly seem to accept that there is something different about gay men… they just think they shouldn’t act on those desires.

    2. Women are privileged, lmao.

      Men still hold nearly all positions of power in government and business and thus write the rules in this country and the world. Women are starting to make inroads on this and you feel oppressed.

      1. Women and children first!
        If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.

        Our society has been very deferential to women forever. Now they are adding political power without shedding their favored status. The most privileged in our society are white, young, attractive, prosperous women. And yet they bitch the most. Go figure.

        1. “The most privileged in our society are white, young, attractive, prosperous women. And yet they bitch the most.”

          That’s actually not surprising. Their used to getting everything they want, so naturally they want even more. It’s like a spoiled child who demands to get his way in everything.

          1. Adam Carolla has a bit about this. He calls being 19 and hot a “superpower”. This superpower lets them get anything they want. People just buy things for them. People are obsequiously nice to them, all the time.

            It is so ubiquitous that they do not realize that this is not how most people are treated.

            And then eventually their superpowers leave them. And it is a real slap in the face. They are used to being able to act in any way they see fit and still have people fawn over them… and then one day they don’t put up with it any more.

      2. Women live longer than men; women (as a group) are net recipients of massive government handouts; we spend far more on women’s health than men’s health; women are underrepresented in dangerous and dirty jobs, and overrepresented in academic and safe jobs; women are less imprisoned, receive lighter prison terms; women are far more likely to receive children and support in divorce; and women are the only ones who control whether to have children and with whom; and even when women lie and cheat in order to have a child with a man, the man is still held responsible.

        Yes, women are massively privileged in our society.

        As for those “positions of power in government and business”, they are not positions of power. CEOs and representatives aren’t dictators. In fact, given that women are responsible for 80% of spending in the US and are the majority sex in our society, those “positions of power” are nothing more than men who do the bidding of women.

      3. Yeah, you’re begging the question you fucking tard,

        Don’t see it? Of course you don’t.

        You’re making the assumption that the men holding “nearly all positions of power in government and business” make decisions, policies and laws to exclusively benefit some SACRED CULT OF MANHOOD or some shit, apparently. That this is glaringly, obviously, not true is something you are either too dim to perceive, or deliberately obfuscating.

        So fuck off.

  10. “Underprivileged”: such a neo-Marxist word. You mask is slipping .

    1. As opposed to “underachieving”? Like Hunter Biden?

      1. When it comes to Hunter, I prefer ‘spoiled crackhead loser’.

    2. Calling anything you don’t like neo-Marxist is a way to shut down debate.

      Some people are underprivileged, extremely so. Rich people can game our legal system like crazy, see Trump as a great example. He drove small businesses out of businesses by refusing to pay the fees for their services. They couldn’t take him to court because he would have drowned them in endless legal bills so they were forced to go out of business.

      1. Calling anything you don’t like neo-Marxist is a way to shut down debate.

        And where did I call “anything I don’t like” “neo-Marxist”? I use the term rarely. Applying the term to the propagandistic and manipulative term “underprivileged” is correct.

        Some people are underprivileged, extremely so. Rich people can game our legal system like crazy,

        We agree that there is massive rent seeking, cronyism, and regulatory capture in our government. Referring to this as a “underprivileged”, i.e., “lack of privilege”, is idiotic, because it falsely implies that the solution to the problem is to give more people more privileges (i.e., bigger, more powerful government), instead of eliminating the unfair benefits some people receive from the government.

        see Trump as a great example. He drove small businesses out of businesses by refusing to pay the fees for their services. They couldn’t take him to court because he would have drowned them in endless legal bills so they were forced to go out of business

        That is not an example of what we are talking about. Small businesses know the risks they take when they enter into contracts with limited liability entities. In fact, the risk exists in both direction since many small businesses can also declare bankruptcy and stiff their large corporate donors out of lots of money.

  11. People keep getting the terms “decriminalize” and “legalize” backwards. Not sure if there is an intention behind that.

    1. They do mix that up. One example. Recreational pot is still illegal where I live. The city announced a new policy that possession below a certain amount would not be prosecuted or charged. They effectively decriminalized it. It is still illegal.

      1. A simple incentive-based analysis shows why that happens.
        Does it maintain the wages and department/agency size of the affected government entity?
        Does it decrease workload for employees of said entity?
        Does it maintain or increase the discretionary power of enforcement for those employees?

        “decriminalization” is a big YES for those questions. “legallization”? Not so much.

  12. “Maggie McNeill was a librarian in suburban New Orleans, but after an acrimonious divorce economic necessity inspired her to take up sex work”

    By sex work I assume ‘prostitution.’ I wonder if any women in such situations take up a career in pimping. The war on pimping only seems to victimize underprivileged men.

    1. I don’t think sex work is only prostitution. Aren’t strippers sex workers? And people who act in porn?

      And what about people who work behind the scenes in professionally produced porn, such as cameramen, editors, lighting technicians, and boom operators? If they are earning a living through porn, aren’t they sex workers, too, even if they themselves are not having sex on the job?

  13. Why can’t we all use language simply and plainly, instead of each field using its own jargon to confuse and apparently stake out turf? “Decriminalize” means “make not a crime” (though it could still be a civil violation). “Legalize” means “make legal”, i.e. not illegal.

    Drug reformers have used “decriminalize” to apply only to drug possession, and not to other acts involving drugs, so why don’t they just say “decriminalize possession” instead of implying the word “decriminalize” alone could apply only to possession?

    Sex reformers are apparently using “decriminalize” to mean “repeal” or “make laissez faire”, as if the only laws in existence were criminal laws. Meanwhile they use “legalize” to imply a bunch of extra baggage, as if you couldn’t make something legal without tacking on a bunch of conditions.

    Just bugs the hell out of me, and leads me to believe reformers are as interested in claiming turf and not acknowledging each other as they are in actual reform. It also leads me to think sex and drug reformers are a bit hostile to each other, like, “My reform is better than your reform, my issue is more important than your issue, we deserve to control the language.” Like the way “choice” has come to mean “abortions” only, like no other choices are important.

    1. Yeah, I accidentally ran in to that naming convention the other day.

      I don’t like a version of legal that keeps a black market in place – like current “legal” marijuana in the US. The part that maintains the black market could be a quasi-illegal status, like pot. Or it could be an overly burdensome tax and regulatory scheme…. also like pot.

      So, let’s not follow the pot model.

      You should be able to go to the corner store and just buy it from a name-brand provider. Like getting a Bud Lite from Walmart for pot, or like getting a haircut from Great Clips for prostitution.

      Anything less than that is not going to address the problems that need solving.

  14. Poor minority men who can only afford the (generally lower-priced) services of street workers are far more likely to be ensnared by policewomen looking to entrap them into committing a crime than are affluent white men who visit “high-end” escorts who discreetly do business in apartments or houses in “nice” neighborhoods.

    This is an unfortunate but not-so-bad consequence of a frequent compromise between libertarian and “family values” sentiments. What bothers most people is not the thought of there being prostitution going on in private, but seeing it in public. I’ve thought that if we could just have a secret agreement between the powers that be and people who want to violate sex and drug laws that violations won’t be tolerated on the street but won’t be pursued in private, that would pretty well satisfy both libertarians and traditionalists — that only true authoritarians would want to conduct undercover operations to root out private behavior that they condemn, and there really are very few true authoritarians; while traditionalists would be satisfied just not to see it (and not have their kids see it), and to be able to pretend it doesn’t exist.

    1. I’ve noticed that *some* people who are clearly “authoritarian” by their observed behaviors are often only interested in getting paid. Having some enforcement power is monetizable. Creating moral panics always creates opportunities for profit. (note that the current “opiod scare” has resulted in openings for the creation of (no shit) “marijuana dependence treatment facilities”)

      I guess some people would be dedicated to unearthing the private actions of citizens, but most of them are just interested in gettin’ dat money.

      Years ago, me and my gang from work named no less than 10 places to get cocaine and/or pot within A MILE of our workplace. Also, none of us knew the name of a single local police officer, they were so disengaged. Sounds a little like what you describe.

  15. Maggie McNeill was a librarian in suburban New Orleans, but after an acrimonious divorce economic necessity inspired her to take up sex work;

    Why do we not see bios here like, “…but necessity compelled D. McCloskey to become an economist.”? See, even here there’s a stigma against sex work, undercutting the supposed attitude that most sex workers are not in desperate situations. If you don’t want readers to think sex workers are badly exploited, then don’t write an excuse like this into a bio!

    1. In other words, slave off, fucker.

      1. +1, genius transposition

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  20. I find it ironic and a little sad that the world’s oldest profession is regarded with such disdain from most quarters. Other professions with very long histories, such as farmer, carpenter, stonemason, or ship builder are not. Just the fact that it’s the oldest recognized profession and one that is still in demand should accord it a good deal of respect.

    The sci-fi show Firefly is the only one I can think of where sex work was portrayed in a wholly positive light, at least as practiced by the companion Inara.

    1. A courtesan is not in the same business as a cheap hooker. And let’s not forget that the crew of the Firefly wasn’t exactly mainstream respectable society to begin with.

      Finally, people avoid socializing with sex workers not because of irrational prejudice but for rational, practical reasons.

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