I pretty much have Maggie McNeill as my own, personal Google Reader…only decidedly more entertaining and lovely. This next post is inspired by hers on the subject of California’s Proposition 35, “Worse Than I Thought”.
Anyhoodle, there is a particularly noxious proposal that aims to, you guessed it, “end human trafficking”. Noble endeavor, yes? Except, like so many of its brethren, it is contributing to the dilution of the definition of human trafficking to the point that it will be difficult to take it seriously. And, silly me, but I just can’t see how that will help actual victims of the continuing human practice of making others do work you won’t and taking all their earnings.
But, again like so many of its brethren, it has the distinct stench of being influenced by the abhorrent Swedish Model. Very specifically highlighted by Greg Diamond of The Orange Juice Blog and some of his readers is §266 and that it just goes after johns*, pimps, drivers, and roommates. But while this is seen by non-sex workers as sympathetic to us, as I pointed out in my comment response, it is not. Unless these proposals and legislation only target violent versions of those relationships, then it is anything but sympathetic to us.
Sometimes, even erstwhile allies don’t consider this when looking at propositions like Prop 35 or other similar legislation.
*First, the term john. While undoubtedly there are many prostitutes who never get the real name of their clients, many of us do. Those of us who require screening most certainly do. The term john is about anonymity, which is dangerous in sex work. While screening is not a surefire prevention of all violence (though, it depends on how many hoops you make ‘em jump through), it certainly deters a lot of the wrong type contacting you. Assuming that none of us know our clients real name also hints that we do nothing to ensure our own safety and that couldn’t be further from the truth. It also very unfairly paints all clients with a tarbrush. I make certain that I actually like my clients; many providers do.
On that note, however, propositions and legislation like this, make screening more difficult for providers to do. For those who only have sex work as their income, they are more likely to become lax in their screening in order to secure an appointment with an increasingly jittery client pool…or one made up of men who have nothing to lose and no respect for sex workers. Those of us who do have other income that can support us will wait for cooperative clients who understand our need to protect ourselves in a society that thinks we have it coming when we’re harmed.
Targeting non-violent clients, roommates, drivers, landlords (!!) etc. removes protectors and people who care about us enough to worry about our safety and to contact the police should we get assaulted, raped, robbed, go missing or worse. And it’s not that these people will run from our presence as soon as a proposition like this is passed, but we would feel compelled to push them away for their own protection. They can’t possibly look out for us if they’re serving a prison sentence for human trafficking. As far as landlords, hell, it’s hard enough finding a nice, affordable place to live. How many landlords will hesitate renting to any single woman with legislation like this? Or what about a single woman who is a little “too attractive”? Or a single woman who has a lot of casual sexual encounters? Slippery slope, like all moral crusades of this caliber.
Despite the stereotypes, which like all stereotypes are indeed true for some, we’re not all broken little women-children doing sex work because our damaged souls and minds can’t fathom doing anything else and living in an empty home bereft of any other human life and only filled with substances to help us numb the pain. No, we don’t die of consumption in attics anymore, sorry, but check your local lyric opera if you simply must see La Traviata**. Even those women who do fit the preferred stereotype of “damaged whore” has someone who will notice her absence.
Isolation is never a good thing, whether a person is a sex worker or not. It can be death for marginalized populations for whom, all else being equal, do not cause harm to anyone else by their mere existence.
Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education, and Research Project has more information on Proposition 35 as well as other educational resources.
**Actually, the Metropolitan Opera is staging a production of La Traviata for their 2012-2013 season with Plácido Domingo portraying Germont. Should be good!