Friday, June 12 2015
Last week Congress passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. This follows a series of laws that have been passed to align the penalties for trafficking human beings with the brutality of the crime. In a nutshell, this legislation provides greater benefits to U.S. citizens and permanent resident who are victims of severe forms of trafficking, expands programs that assist law enforcement with recovering child victims, and provides for enhanced services. Nationally, we are chugging along in the right direction. However, it is important to remember that anti-trafficking legislation is not a panacea for commercial sexual exploitation. It is a tool that our community will use to help victims and hold pimps and traffickers accountable, but it cannot carry the burden of preventing the exploitation of young or vulnerable members of our community. Click on the title to continue reading.
Friday, May 22 2015
In my last post, we learned about the Disposable Sex Worker trope as it is used in media and pop culture. Today, we’ll discuss how the trope impacts the real lives of sex workers.
In real life, many men who buy sex (known as ‘johns’ or ‘tricks’) prefer engaging in sexual activity with women that fit the trope—nameless (pseudonyms are commonplace for sex workers), with no personal ties to him or anyone he knows. They are women who exist solely for the john’s sexual pleasure or need for control, and he is not expected or required to maintain even the barest sense of intimacy with any of the women he buys. They may be estranged from their families and isolated from their friends, and like the trope, are nearly always defined by their profession, using derogatory and demeaning terms. Each of these factors greatly increases the chance that any person not integrated into their community will experience violence, but for sex workers, who are 40 times more likely to die than women who are not sex workers, the odds are stacked high against them. Click on the title to continue reading.
Wednesday, April 22 2015
Have you ever traded sex for things that you need? Have you ever sold sex for money or drugs? These questions might seem hard to ask, at first. But, what if we asked? What if asking lifted the veil of secrecy around commercial sexual exploitation and helped women?
At CASH we served almost 200 women last year. Of those women, more than half had never talked about their involvement with sex work, even though a majority have been involved in the criminal justice system, experienced homelessness, or had mental health issues. Over time, there were so many opportunities to ask these women if they wanted help with this aspect of their life. But, I understand why it didn’t come up. Click on the title to continue reading.
Saturday, April 04 2015
In movies and television, a prostitute is usually depicted as a woman walking the streets, wearing a short skirt, a rabbit fur jacket, high heels, heavy makeup, and perhaps a garish wig. This depiction is known as a trope, a device or convention that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. Tropes allow a writer to focus on more important parts of the story or other characters, without spending a lot of time on minor characters and story elements. In upcoming blog posts, I will discuss five different tropes about sex workers and the real-life repercussions they create. Today, we will discuss the Disposable Sex Worker trope. Click on the title to continue reading.
Sunday, March 22 2015
You may have heard about the Justice for Human Trafficking 2015 bill this week. The bill caught media attention because there are abortion limitations listed in certain subsections of the bill. Those sections are technical and political – and not the subject of this blog!
Instead, I want to talk about the wisdom of limiting services to minors. On the surface, this seems reasonable, considering the legislation is designed to address the trafficking of minors. However, the reality is, we are very early in our fight to remedy this problem – leaving many in the unfortunate position of graduating out of service eligibility, just when they are in a position to advocate for themselves. Click on the title to continue reading.
Saturday, March 07 2015
Sex work, and the women who engage in it, has been a recurring theme in the history of rock, pop, and hip hop music. Classic 70s songs such as The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” and LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” detail the yearning and nostalgia of the sex workers’ clients, while songs such as Nick Glider’s “Hot Child in the City” and Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” are cautionary tales about young girls ensnared in the sex trade. The 90s and early 00s brought us songs that glorified pimping and denigrated sex workers, such as Ice-T’s “Pimp Anthem” and 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P”, and in the last couple of years we heard Lana Del Ray’s sad ode to a sex worker, “Carmen.” No matter the genre, few songs have told us stories from the sex worker’s perspective, but when they have, they have illustrated the social ills that make the sex industry thrive. Click on the title to continue reading.
Sunday, February 22 2015
In a word, everything. For far too long, when we talk about prostitution we talk about women. Are they victims or are they making a choice? What is in their background that leads to this? Why would anyone stay in the life? When we imagine prostitution - a woman appears. Why is this our default image? What about the buyers? What about the drivers of cars that are picking up women in our neighborhoods or arranging “dates” online? Click on the title to continue reading..
Friday, February 06 2015
As Training and Outreach Specialist for CASH, I often give presentations to the public about the issues faced by adult sex workers—in this context, women who trade sexually-oriented services for money. Inevitably, I am asked, “What do you mean by “sex worker”? Don’t you mean “prostitute?” No, I don’t.
Friday, January 23 2015
You can fill in who “they” are and what you want them to do - endlessly. For CASH, they are commercially sexually exploited adult women and prostitution is what many would like to see stop. Why, so many wonder, don’t women don’t just leave "the life" in favor of something that is better, healthier?
Unfortunately, it really isn’t that simple. There are reasons for starting and barriers to leaving this life. The visible pattern of prostitution or drug abuse is only part of the story. A more complete story includes grief and loss, trauma and strength. It includes being OK with “the life” and hating it. It involves choice and coercion, violence and friendships made on the street. At CASH, we watch women navigate this harsh place. We see them work to stay connected to their families and their community – even though their daily struggles are very real. We’re pretty sure we can learn from women with so much fight. Click on the title to continue reading.