If you have been paying attention to California’s legislation over the last year, you may be familiar with Proposition 35, which passed with an overwhelming majority despite sex worker activists' tireless fight against it. Maxine Doogan was at the front of that battle; she is the leading voice of the Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project, also known as the ESPLER Project, a nonprofit organization based in California. Although Prop 35 was a loss, the fight for sex workers' rights is far from over.
The ESPLER Project’s goals are to raise awareness of research and litigation relevant to the rights and protection sex workers deserve, as well as fight for sexual privacy. They also actually go to court to speak against unfair legislation which uses the hot topic of sex trafficking to further laws that may look good on paper, but may infringe on basic rights of sex workers and escorts. Proposition 35 and Regulation 649.56 are heavy handed measures to increase the penalties for prostitution and trafficking charges; their primary function is to give the authorities’ ability to target independent consenting adults who have nothing to do with the real trafficking crimes that are committed. These legislative moves have little to do with actually helping trafficking victims transition out of nonconsensual sex work into safe housing and adequate vocational training or work.
Although Proposition 35 passed, ESPLER has not let this set back their efforts to share ethical research and resources for sex workers, activists, allies, and the public to educate themselves on the ongoing changes in legislation in California. In their blog, they include articles highlighting both their own upcoming fundraising events, as well as those of sister organizations, educational pieces like ESLERP Research Evaluation Tool, and articles calling out questionable anti-trafficking organizations.
How does the work of adult entertainers and allies like Maxine Doogan have to do with those who enjoy the services provided by sex workers, especially those who do not live in California? The changing laws will change the entire way a client can seek out and continue to enjoy the company of providers. Other states’ politicians may be paying attention to what is changing in California and become inspired to follow suit regardless of how redundant and ineffective these measures are.
Consider the rights you are entitled to as an employee or business owner, then consider how many consenting adult providers do not have those same rights for the valuable and consensual services they provide. Rather than giving in to hype organizations like Stop The Traffic, why not think critically about the changes that are proposed and how they effect the rights of women and men, who choose to work in this industry every day? These laws have a variety of negative consequences, ranging from having no legal recourse for theft or assault, to unfair housing practices, to discrimination that can (and often does) prevent sex workers from gaining a safe place to work, to being forced to register as a sex offender because of their job. Proposition 35’s penalties have a lasting impact on sex workers and the people in their lives, even after they leave the industry.
The ESPLER Project wants to see a positive change for the rights and protection of sex workers while encouraging better legislation that actually does help what victims there are without throwing sex workers under the bus. They believes in promoting the rights of the workers who just want to support themselves and their families by working. If you believe in the same, you can donate to ESPLER on their site. You can also contribute to their current fundraising campaign here.