Scarlot Harlot vs. Bad Laws and Mean Women

These videos and missives are about my political encounters as a sex worker activist.

Friday, October 22, 2004

It never ends...

So I was painting my studio today along with Carol Queen from the Center for Sex and Culture...and I talked to Robyn who let me know there was a hit piece in the local Daily Planet about our initiative...No surprise. It's at

So I was pondering and I soothed myself remembering that what Robyn says at the end is right. We win just by bringing it out in the open. Our society rarely discusses or thinks about the fear mongering stands unchallenged, ofcourse, in our sex phobic culture. Smart progressives might even buy into the argument below that "... the best way to help (street prostitutes) to get out of prostitution is law enforcement."

Ofcourse some progressive types and liberals might question that notion...I think...I expect...this is the kind of thing that drives me crazy–don't nice, open-minded people question the ability of the police to protect prostitutes and arrest them at the same time?

To me it's a no-brainer...I haven't even managed to properly articulate my objection to this goofy assumption. I will. So, as society discusses the issues of prostitution more, people will think these issues through. Some will still believe prostitution control is best in the hands of the police, but those who challenge that formula will develop a familiar rhetoric, as as the argument becomes more sophisticated, trashy commentaries like the one below will take places in the anals of yellow journalism. It has to work out that way, right?

Measure Q Hurts Women, Neighborhoods: By ZELDA BRONSTEIN

(Who is this Zelda? I googled her name and sex to see if she generally has a gripe against sex workers. She does...More analysis and a url later) )

COMMENTARY (10-22-04)
If Measure Q passes, the Berkeley Police will be told to make the enforcement of existing laws against prostitution their lowest priority. Supporters say that this will help women.

In fact, Measure Q is likelier to hurt the women its supporters want to help.

(SH: Basically, Zelda is just repeatinng the fear mongering anti-sw rights rhetoric of the anti-measure Q campaign...rhetoric only, masquerading as information.)

That’s one reason it should be defeated. The other reason is that it will certainly harm our neighborhoods.

First, the women’s issue. The prostitutes who would be affected by Measure Q are the ones likeliest to get arrested, which is to say, the ones who work the street. In Berkeley, that means the prostitutes who frequent San Pablo Avenue and nearby neighborhoods. Often young (the average age is 14)

(SH: Well those studies are skewed, surveying teenagers and young women. In fact she even got the skewed stats wrong. The skewed stats say the average age of entry is 14, not the average age of prostitutes. Is she so rabid that she can't see through her own fog?)

and poor, these women became streetwalkers in the first place because they were fleeing an abusive family or, in an economy with shrinking opportunities for the disadvantaged, they were desperate for paying work. As prostitutes, many of them are trapped by drug addiction, isolation and low self-esteem into emotionally and physically abusive relationships with their pimps.

(SH: The survey by the court mandated rescue group is that 60% of the street pros in Berkeley don't have pimps...not to mention the huge off street sex industry in Berkeley, of which I was a part for at least 10 years.)

The best way to help street prostitutes is to help them get out of prostitution, and the best way to help them to get out of prostitution is law enforcement.

(SH: This drives me crazy.)

The City of Berkeley has a successful court diversion program, in which a judge offers street prostitutes who’ve been arrested for solicitation the options of going to jail or getting professional help through Options Recovery Services. This city-funded program helps women mend their lives, reunite with their families, and find meaningful work that will set them on the road to self-respect and independence. Options Recovery Services has had 65 percent success rate in getting people off the street and off drugs.

(SH: Duh? 65% of what, and what is success? I think they base this on about 10 people who have been through their program...If this 65% were true there would be no prostitution here. But Options recovery pointed to some local pros who had various (like 27) years in the business. I don't get it, but someone should call this group and get the info.)

The second reason to vote against Measure Q is that it turns a blind eye to street prostitution’s degradation of community and neighborhood life. After CNN and other TV stations reported that Measure Q had qualified for the city ballot, street prostitution increased in south and west Berkeley. We’re talking about sexual acts taking place in cars, on porches, in driveways. There are two schools in the area, the East Bay French American School and the Infant School for the Deaf. Children walking to and from school or just playing in front of their houses see prostitutes and their clients openly going about their business. They find condoms and dirty needles on the sidewalk.

(SH: The clients are the ones with the condoms on their dicks. They just toss them. Something should be done about that!)

But it’s not just kids who are being put at risk.

(SH: Since the pros don't have anywhere else to work, they work in deserted areas, schools at night. Duh again. If there were other options, they would take them.)

A man who lives near San Pablo told me a chilling story.

(SH: Anecdotal fear mongering...that always goes over big.)

He had walked toward a car parked on his block that had been used by a pimp to transport prostitutes. After memorizing the license plate, he had turned around and started to walk home when he heard a car door slam and a menacing voice behind him say, “You looking for something?” It was the pimp, who, having realized he was being watched, had gotten out of his car to defend what he had come to regard as his turf. The neighbor kept on walking. He got home, safe but shaken.

The group that put Measure Q on the ballot, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), never consulted beforehand with Berkeley residents or their elected representatives. Perhaps that’s because SWOP sees its campaign in our town as merely a steppingstone toward its ultimate goal: the decriminalization of prostitution, which is illegal under California State law.

At the July meeting of the Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women, SWOP spokesperson Robyn Few said that regardless of how Measure Q did on Nov. 2, the initiative had already succeeded, because she had been contacted by CNN and Reuters. “We have won,” said Few, “because all over the United States they’re talking about prostitution in Berkeley.” Repeatedly queried by members of the commission about harm protection programs for prostitutes, Few said again and again that she didn’t “have the details.”

(SH: There are many aspects to the issue and Robyn has much info, but to point fingers for not having statistics around benefits of a harm reduction approach is absurd. Wake up and smell the alternatives to imprisonment for poor women, Zelda!)

In fact, there no such details in Measure Q. Measure Q neither founds nor funds any programs that would help women get out of prostitution. Instead, it asks Berkeleyans to avert their eyes from the exploitation and intimidation of women that’s occurring daily in their neighborhoods. And it says nothing at all about protecting the women and children and, for that matter, the men, who already live and frequent those neighborhoods from the violence—physical and emotional—that sustains prostitution.

(SH: I think, (if I recall...will look that up) we were told that we were not allowed to put financial requirements in this initiative. This is obviously a first step, not a complete solution. Ofcourse we support programs for alternatives and funding for such programs.)

Berkeley is a proudly humane city. That’s why we’ve been targeted by Measure Q’s supporters. We should reject their simplistic, publicity-seeking initiative

(SH: Yes, publicity is a good thing, because if we publicly debate prostitution issues, the discourse will evolve beyond Zeld'a fear-mongering. People know so little about this issue that they will believe the hype, but with more discourse, some may notice that the anti-prostitution discourse has the same tenor and tactics of homophobic discourse and right wing fundamentalism.

and instead work to strengthen and expand the programs we have in place—programs that reach out to prostitutes and offer them real, practical opportunities to better their lives.

(SH: Right, more money to force us into programs that really only work for the smallest percentage in the long run (IMHO) )

For the sake of women and children and our neighborhoods, vote No on Measure Q.

(SH: Save the women and children! The Titanic is sinking!)
It never ends...


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