Community is Love. Community is Life. Community is Big.
Let's start and end on good things. Community for sex workers isn't just with other folks who trade, but the many people who comfort, support and share love and space with sex workers.
This Portland chef is offering healthy late-night food options for sex workers who are appropriately ravenous after getting off work.
"Ethical Pimp" Antonia Murphy talks about her work and her typical days in New Zealand, the only country which has decriminalized the sex trade for citizens.
An organization named "Saving Moses" uses some questionable language and is run by an American woman who set up shop in the global south, so I'm tentative, but the org addresses a facet of service provision to sex workers that is often forgotten, and does make a world of difference: child care while sex workers head to work.
We have to talk about Jeffrey Epstein
I don't like to put things on arrests, stings or trafficking cases on here, but I'm going to break that this week and the section ends with a paragraph on why.
Trigger and content warning, and please feel free to skip the details and links.
This week Jeffrey Epstein, a politically well-connected billionaire, was arrested on charges of trafficking of minors for commercial sex. Trafficking is legally defined as either the exploitation of a person through force, fraud or coercion, or with a minor involved in commercial sex. Because they were underage, the court doesn't need to prove that anyone was coerced or forced. Also, because of an expansion of the law which occurred a few years ago, clients of minors engaged in commercial sex are included as "traffickers" as well. The charges are that Epstein sought out dozens of young women from the age of 14 for sex in exchange for money since at least 2002, as well as having some of those young women become recruiters for him. Allegations include rape with physical force, but those aren't in the charges.
While he was arrested this week, though, it is not the first time he has faced legal challenges for his behavior. In 2005 a woman reported that her stepdaughter had been molested – kicking off a two year investigation into Epstein, resulting in allegations from dozens of potential victims, including those who admitted to bringing their friends to him, and a 53-page indictment. The billionaire responded by hiring a team of investigators to specifically target the character of his accusers, and hired attorney Ken Starr (yeah, that Ken Starr) to negotiate with then-US Attorney (and until Friday, when he resigned over the situation), Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta. In 2008 Epstein pled guilty to solicitation and procurement of minors, was put on the sex offender registry, and spent 13 months in county jail.
This story is not dissimilar from the situation of R. Kelly, which has been unfolding over the last several months. This week R. Kelly was charged in New York on charges of kidnapping and sexual exploitation of a minor, and in Chicago on charges of child pornography, and enticement of a minor. Similar to Epstein, Kelly had a well-known history of targeting very young women for sex, and the number of his victims are well into the double digits. In this story as well, the situation was prolonged because of the disregard for the pain suffered by marginalized young women, in Kelly's case specifically Black girls and women. The documentary miniseries Surviving R. Kelly dives into the disturbingly long story, and you can follow #MuteRKelly to keep up on the campaign to help survivors find justice and peace.
Now, why does this matter? Because it's going to come up. Epstein's connections to Trump, Clinton, Acosta and the extent of his behavior is going to keep dominating headlines, and it is going to come up when people talk about clients and commercial sex.
Epstein targeted youth, especially marginalized young women, and exchanged sex for money – this is the story that 'End Demand'ers will make sure to tell when anyone brings up decriminalizing the purchase of sex. There are some things that are incredibly typical to trafficking situations - people preying on vulnerability especially. But there are a few things to remember when it comes up:
- Epstein would never have been caught in a john sting. There is no evidence Epstein was looking for young folks on Craigslist or out finding a stroll. John stings wouldn't have ever caught someone like him.
- Targeting young people who were marginalized and needed help should make us expand resources and services for young people who need money – he wasn't going after well-off and strongly supported folks.
- Being on the sex offender registry did nothing to make him stop offending. The registry has a range of impacts on someone's life – but it didn't stop this.
Back to other things!
People are loving the new seasons of Harlots.
Pose broke our hearts, and Angelica Ross asks us to turn our pain into action.
In These Times talks about the intersection between HIV and sex work - and the on-going debate about HIV positive sex workers being allowed to work in legalized industries.
Last week in Portugal, sex worker group APDES marched in the country's Pride Parade and it was beautiful:
Did you know there are people running for things that aren't President?
Candidate for Seattle City Council Shaun Scott talked about a more inclusive Seattle – including understanding the health and safety needs of sex workers, like decriminalization.
Despite a stunning 1,100 vote lead on election night, the Queens District Attorney race is still up in the air. Paper ballots now put candidate Melinda Katz at a 16 vote lead over pro-decrim pubic defender Tiffany Caban, so all 93,000 votes are being recounted, and then possibly headed to court again. To make the whole thing even shadier, Gov. Cuomo has been sitting on signing a bill into law which would make it easier to certify affidavit votes and not require they be forced out over technicalities like not including a past address. The bill passed the legislature almost a month ago and is only waiting for the Governor's signature.
Stay Safe and Informed
There are reports of raids targeting people trading sex coming in from coast to coast on top of the immigration raids set to occur. While no one can ever be 100% sure, it might be the moment to ramp up screening protocols and hit up some regulars. If you do end up face to face with a cop instead of a client, here are Know Your Rights Guides from the ACLU and Communities United for Police Reform, as well as a guide specific to your electronics from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Because no matter what happens, you should always know your rights.
Back to the Grind.