On May 16 and 17th, SWARM held a two day event to talk about sex work and decrim, and celebrate ten years of resilience. Below are just a few tweets from the conference, but go read #swarmcon to check out more!
The Kitchen Sink of Sex Worker Activism and News
Indian sex workers are lobbying for healthcare and pensions, since sex work is legitimate work.
And sex workers in Thailand are showing what's possible when we live into the idea of work and community with the Can Do Bar.
And in Seattle, this articles reminds folks that sex workers, while too often kept out of conversation on #metoo, are some of the experts on setting and holding boundaries around consent.
This month in New York, over 100 sex workers and allies went to the state's capital to push for the state to decriminalize loitering for the purposes of prostitution. This week, in a tiny step forward, the New York City Council President, Corey Johnson, came out in support of pulling the loitering statute, but in support of the Nordic Model of decriminalization. It's a small step forward, and a big invitation to do more education and outreach.
And just across the river from NYC, in New Jersey a law suit was filed by a police officer who was fired from her job for previously appearing in porn as a dominatrix. The law suit says that after she made claims of sexual harassment against a sergeant, the department fired her instead, citing the videos as "conduct unbecoming of an officer." For a little more context, this month a police recruit filed a federal law suit because of the "endless sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances" she experienced at the state's academy and in February the Princeton Police Department paid $4m to seven officers for the sexual harassment they experienced.
Fights in Florida
The Florida State legislature just passed a trafficking bill which included a provision for a Public Registry (they're calling it a "database"... po-TAY-to, pa-TAH-to, pa-Fucking-Bullshit) for everyone arrested for solicitation of prostitution. While the media has described it as a registry for clients and third parties, the language of the statute is broad enough to include people selling sex, too. The registry won't go public until January 1, 2021, but it's not clear when they'll start sending over records to fill it - which is especially important considering that the Super Bowl, known for its connection to expensive sting operations on the sex trade, is going to be held in Miami in 2020.
Also in Florida this last week, Robert Kraft, the Patriot's owner who was caught up in a clusterfuck of massage parlor stings in Florida scored a win fighting his charges. While charges against clients are usually lower on the list of priorities, the Kraft case has exposed something that we almost never see: what happens when people fight their charges, a basic freedom mostly reserved for people with incredible economic privilege. This last week, a judge threw out the state's primary form of evidence: the surveillance tapes from the cameras law enforcement secretly put in the parlors. This article details a litany of police fuck ups at every turn in the case.
Law enforcement does have the ability to do things like secretly put in surveillance cameras and wire taps in trying to build evidence for a crime if they file a warrant, but it's not absolute and they have specific parameters to abide by in order to narrowly tailor the surveillance. The judge in Kraft's case said they did not take these precautions and were pretty thoughtless in how they went about gathering evidence - something you would never see if the defendant takes a plea deal, or if you don't have lawyers with a lot of knowledge and, more importantly, paid hours to devote to your case. Based on this ruling the Judge is throwing out all the evidence gathered from the tapes, basically killing the state's case against Kraft (and hopefully, against everyone else who hasn't plead yet). What still makes things precarious, though, is a point made by attorney Linda Kenney Baden: "without the video and the subsequent stop there is no case unless the state’s attorney can somehow force the sex worker to testify," meaning the people most harmed by all of this - the people working in the parlors - might have their lives further compromised by being coerced into becoming a state's witness. Depends on how much Florida is committed to seeing this through.
The most honest take on the whole situation came from a Boston-based individual, who noted, "everybody hates to see the Patriots win." True story, bro.
All of our bodies under assault
A development that can't be ignored this week is the passage of the country's most aggressive abortion ban in Alabama. The bill, which is intended to challenge Roe v Wade, bans abortion and contains no exemptions for rape or incest, and only allows the option to terminate a pregnancy if the life of the monster is threatened. This attack is only one in a wave which has compromised the lives of people capable of pregnancy in a wave of states. In addition to the attack on pregnant bodies being similar to the rights of sex workers as an issue of bodily autonomy, there are also overlaps on how this is actually about women of color and poor women, and access to reproductive care is foundational for people looking to build economically secure families.
There are some amazing women of color-led groups on the ground which have been leading the charge to fight these bills, many of whom are going unacknowledged and unrecognized. Here are two below to follow, celebrate and honor:
Thanks to groups like Women with a Vision, SisterSong, SisterLove, SONG, and the many other Southern, WOC-led, reproductive just organizations for the fight you lead and the work that you do. We owe you, your vision and your leadership so much.
Back to the grind.