Sex Workers Get Shut Out of Seattle’s "Sexual Exploitation" Conversation a Second Time

Comments

1
If Satterberg has never seen a happy sex worker, that sounds like a personal problem.

Ba-Dum Tish.
2
This is government dodging failure and/or lack of leads on the traffickers themselves by enacting policies that make it look like they are doing something.
I've read that the police are putting up fake prostitute ads to lure johns (entrapment). I am curious of the women pictured in the ads could be passable as potentially trafficked, underage, or any other type of exploited woman.
Our puritanical society is most to blame for this farce. This is government pandering to moralistic (albeit well intentioned) scolds.
This is a massive waste of money that puts men who could be guilty of nothing more than being losers who can't get laid in a more appropriate way into our corrupt criminal justice system.
5
Sex work is like marijuana in the war on drugs: the negative impacts are over stated, positives are ignored, and prohibition makes things worse for all parties.
6
Funny how no one mentions immigration reform when discussing this topic. It seems that many of the sex slave rings that have been busted lately have involved women smuggled in from the Far East, Eastern Europe and Africa. Perhaps if the illicit immigration situation were addressed, these "labor pools" wouldn't be so easily exploited?
7
Politicians using imaginary numbers and wishful rhetoric to justify pursuit of their own agendas (moral and otherwise). They don't feel the need justify their plans because who (that they cannot silence or ignore) will boldly say to them "Sex work not all bad" ? Who dare doubt their well-to-do, white, commonly-held moral assumptions?
8
I grew up in Portland knowing voluntary sex workers and have generally considered myself pro-sex workers rights, but working with a few organizations in town have started shaping a more critical, nuanced position.

First, the claim "That same New York City study found that only 14 percent of the sex workers had pimps." Glosses over the issue of survival sex. You address the fact that it's largely a part of economic circumstances, but fail to address the multitude, and severe, acts of violence that still plague the youth that are involved in sex work. Whether they are under the control of a pimp, or not.

Second, you don't particularly acknowledge sex worker privilege. A large contingent of voluntary sex workers come from more privileged backgrounds. They have an understanding of the resources available to them, and often have support communities in place to prevent, avoid, and heal from abuse. Think of it like legal weed... Disenfranchised communities of color bore the burden of mass incarceration for weed. But because more privileged white people wanted weed, the policy followed suit and a bunch a privileged folk a making loads of money form something that literally tore disenfranchised people apart. It follows through with sex work. A few privileged workers of the larger population would stand to make money off the backs of disenfranchised, or trafficked, people. When it comes to it, much of public policy has to be a line of best fit that isn't going to be perfect. You could argue that not focusing on criminalizing sex workers and instead focusing on johns gives some space for privileged sex workers, while trying to assist the much larger disenfranchised population.

Third, the population that was represented at Town Hall shouldn't be conflated with the population that is represented in the work that a lot of the anti-trafficking/survival sex organizations are serving. The policy recommendations that have come out of those organizations is driven by direct input and participation of the disenfranchised communities. Asking them to come up in front of an audience to give a crowd of educated white people a feeling of policy recommendation authenticity is just a shrouded way of exploiting their stories and struggles in the name of "validation". It often takes months, or years, to get victims to share their experience and build trust, even just conversationally. The last thing that would sound appealing is getting in front of a crowd and having to relive their experience in order to give people of privilege a feeling authenticity to the policy proposals.

There's more that I would like to flesh out, but in the interest of time, I won't. I understand where you're coming from, but it's very one-sided coming from a place of privilege. You do acknowledge that privilege, but a quick parenthetical exclamation doesn't exempt you from the status. Like I started, I come from a background of priivilege and pro-sex workers rights. I have, and had, friends that opted for the profession. That doesn't mean that I get to live only in that bubble of privilege, and cry foul when a much larger swath of the population that is being exploited is working toward social change. In this instance, I'm more interested in understanding the problems and issues that face people that lack that privilege. Hearing what they feel are applicable and appropriate solutions. But, at minimum, I think (or hope) we can all agree that eradicating the problem of violence against sex workers/trafficking victims/survival sex victim should be a top priority.

9
Sex workers are victims! On this we agree in as far as all wage labor is exploitation. And that cannot be reformed completely. The conditions can only be mitigated.

Why don't you work on bringing those that trade sex for wages into the light instead of shoving them further underground or, making them only accessible to those that are privileged enough to skirt the rules safely and have plans and means in place when they get busted.
10
@8, thank you. You make excellent points, and I'm rethinking my opinion on the topic. What do you think the women and children you've talked to would find most helpful from local and state government?
11
@8: Thanks for a knowledgeable and nuanced point of view. Far more research went into your response than the original post, which just trotted out the same tiny sample of cherry-picked studies the Stranger has always used.

Of course, the Stranger has a vested interest in keeping the coffers filled from those back-of-the-paper ads.
12
Of COURSE Satterberg doesn't know any happy sex workers, they probably avoid him like the plague because he's a prosecuting attorney who's friends with the cops.

I mean, duh.

There *are* happy sex workers, I know & have known several. "Sex trafficking" is so relatively small, percentage-wise, that throwing cops at the issue is only going to make consenting and voluntary sex workers' lives worse. Give them police records, and marginalize them as people.

LABOR trafficking is a much bigger problem in the US and Washington (ahem, farming?) Why not focus on the bigger fruit -- trafficking, itself -- and leave the SEX=BAD,MMM'KAY?! moralizing out of it.

Focus on trafficking, you'll get the sex traffickers.
Focus on prostitution/sex-work, and... you'll get the sex workers.

And in this difficult economy who are we to stop someone doing a little guerrilla capitalism to make ends meet? Or is doing it as a job they in fact enjoy?

The concept of "End Demand" is positively religious: You want to put a cap on people's sex drive?? Really? Is that what you're going to do? Stop a biological urge? You gonna lobotomize everyone to stop their fundamental biology? For fuck's sake... "end demand"... my god, such brainwashing.
13
In fact, if you want to stop 'sex trafficking'... then decriminalize sex work, and enlist the aid of sex workers, and johns... who are perfectly placed to identify and inform on non-consensual sex work.

If patronizing a sex worker were not illegal, then if a john (most of whom are good guys) came across someone who is being trafficked... he could go to the police and help her escape

But no, Satterberg won't do the logical thing, the thing that would have the most success;
he would rather marginalize & criminalize part of the population so that he can look good to his boss & the cops can bust people.
14
Maybe Satterberg's sympathies lie elsewhere. During the Neuheisel fiasco, Satterberg was one of the ones in Norm Maleng's office who was "livid" when Jerramy Stevens was arrested for anally raping a semi-conscious girl in the mud outside his frat house. Stevens was a hero, and the King County prosecutor's office has always made it a priority to protect UW athletes from legal consequences for their crimes.

Satterberg also worked closely and personally with Husky AD Barbara Hedges, updating her on how the case against Stevens, which he vigorously opposed, was proceeding (it was later dropped).

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2…

In Satterberg's world, sex workers are garbage but athlete-rapists are heroes.
15
'Satterberg has never seen a happy sex worker'

These jokes. They just write themselves.
16
Sex workers need RIGHTS, not rescue.

That alone will bring and end to sex trafficking.
17
@11: "the Stranger has a vested interest in keeping the coffers filled from those back-of-the-paper ads."

Not sure when it happened or why, but the escort ads at the back-of-the-paper have disappeared and have been gone for a few months at least. Off topic for this thread, but I've been curious about their disappearance.
18
@8 I am just wondering where in the whole world you found survival sex workers who felt it would be helpful to them if you destroy the market their livelihood depends on by targeting the clients?
19
"And hey, was he just making that 99 percent vs. 1 percent stat up, or is it grounded in real data?"

Oh grounded in real data for sure!
20
@8 "cry foul when a much larger swath of the population that is being exploited is working toward social change"

What are you implying here? That the 'much larger swath of the population that is being exploited' is working toward ramping up the already thuggish and puritanical war on sex work in this society?

I'm sorry but if that is what you are implying I think you are completely full of shit. It is precisely the 'privileged' who are the zealots who are most in favor of the continued criminalization of sex work and as far as I can tell most 'anti-trafficking' organizations are in fact made up of privileged prudes who's actual agenda is simply 'anti-prostitution' or even more simply 'anti-sex' and who mostly believe that grown women are mewling infants who need to have their decisions made for them by colossal pricks the likes of Dan Satterburg.
21
@18 I sincerely hope you re-read your comment. Or at least try to understand what survival sex actually is. We can begin to address the issue of survival sex by expanding the social services necessary to prevent it from needing to take place. No person, juvenile or adult, should have to rely on selling sex in order to survive. Please, if you are serious, take some time to learn what survival sex is, and the damage that it causes. Just about every organization, on any side of the debate, acknowledges how difficult and horrible survival sex is.

@20 I'm implying that there is a much larger population of trafficked/survival sex/involuntarily prostituted people who are finally making ground in changing the way our community addresses them. For years the focus had been on criminalizing the agent (the person selling sex) with little regard for the circumstances. Now the priority is shifting toward offering them social services and focusing on criminalization of the buyers of sex. I'm not sure if you misread the article, or were confused by the new approach, but this is actually moving away from criminalizing the sex worker, whether they are willing or not. It is true that there are religiously affiliated organizations that are approaching the issue from a moral standpoint, and I can tell you that there are plenty of organizations that are incredibly critical of that, and will not partner with, participate with, or accept money from those organizations. The focus in these new initiatives (which were based on policy recommendations by various non-profits and agencies, not particularly Satterburg and Richie) is to stop arresting the workers and focus on the men (mostly) who feel they are entitled to purchase sex with reckless disregard for the circumstances of the person they are exploiting.

Lest I be grouped in the prude category, let me be clear that you should have all the consensual sex you want. You should feel free to explore kinks, groups, positions, clubs, whatever may strike your fancy. Be smart, and be safe. I'm very sex-positive. But do it with another consenting adult who you aren't exploiting. Take some time to learn more about this issue. You'll learn a lot, I certainly did. Much more than I anticipated, and it certainly altered my views. Understand that there is a privileged class of voluntary sex workers, but a MUCH larger population of involuntary participants. By shifting focus to criminalizing the act of buying, rather than selling, we can focus less on locking up those that are exploited and more on the people are doing the exploiting.
22
@21 What I find highly dubious is your assertion that the exploited 'survival sex' workers represent any significant voice in the arguments/debates/policy decisions surrounding this issue at all.

I think it is much more a matter of the privileged on both sides and it seems crystal clear that the vast majority of the privileged on the 'anti-trafficking' side actually have a much wider agenda than opposing trafficking. I acknowledge that there are sane activists out there who are not anti-sex work but there is ample evidence that they are a tiny minority.

'Anti-trafficking' is more often than not a facade set up by sex-phobes (and we are not just talking about religious organizations but 'feminist' organizations that come from the sex-phobic faction of American feminism) who know full well that everyone is opposed to trafficking, hence if they can spin all sex-work as involuntary servitude they can obtain widespread support for their often authoritarian aims.
23
Thanks to Sydney Brownstone for bringing attention to this issue. I was one of the sex workers present at the Town Hall presentation who spoke up, and I'd like to share some thoughts on how this is playing out.

While it is extremely intimidating to try and pipe up for one's rights in an auditorium full of people who misunderstand your work and loathe your clients, it is worth it, especially when you receive even an ounce of receptivity to your ideas. After the Town Hall presentation closed, my peers and I approached Val Richey and Dan Satterberg about gaining audience with them, which they accepted. We look forward to meeting with them, and feel that this is an important first step towards sharing the needs and perspectives of the sex worker community.

It is indeed true that members of the sex worker community were denied testimony on sex-trafficking bills last Thursday at the State House, due to time running out in the hearing. The silver lining here is that we have scheduled meetings with both Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D) who introduced the bills and Senator Mike Padden next week to discuss our concerns over these bills. This is good news, as we will be heard.

I am an optimist, and a trust in the inherent goodness of people. In the midst of all this, I hold onto the belief that everyone involved in this dialog is trying to solve a problem the best way they know how. We may agree to disagree on our moral beliefs, and our assumptions may lead us to making poor decisions, but at the end of the day I feel hopeful that we can develop policies and (ultimately) a cultural shift that will enable our society to help those who are vulnerable and protect those who are harmless.

Sex workers want to help end exploitation, and we want to see our own community respected. Let's work together on this.

24
@21 What you're seeing here is *not* the decriminalization of the sex worker. That is, in fact, what SWOP-Seattle and most sex work activists in general want: decriminalization. If a sexual act would not be illegal if no money changed hands, then adding money to the situation should not make it a crime for either of the two people involved. That's not what this is. All the same laws that have always been in place criminalizing someone who sells sex for any reason remain in place here. It would be extremely naive to think they won't still be enforced against us.

No, this is merely a continuation of the US problem of incarcerating people for non-violent "crimes". Most of the people jailed will be lower-income people and people of color, because that's how this kind of policy works. No one who is being exploited will be made more safe by these new policies.

I agree that poverty, homelessness, and labor exploitation of any kind are bad. We should work to provide a safety net to everyone. But arresting and jailing more people is not the solution to that. The money being spent cycling people through the justice system could be directed to more shelters and support systems instead. If sex work truly *was* decriminalized, then people who were being exploited could safely come forward and ask for help. As it is now, they're just as likely to be arrested, if not more so, than the people harming them. Most sex workers - including people who work on the street, or in situations of minimal safety and control - fear police and often report being abused by them.

As for "anti-trafficking" organizations - well, there are some that mean well, but there's plenty of reason to think a lot of them do as much harm as good. I will point you to this article, only one of many exposes on how those orgs work and what functions they fulfill - or don't. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28763…

Sex workers must have a say in the laws that control them. Until we do, the system will continue to unjustly stigmatize and harm people at every point in the social spectrum.
25
@21 "Take some time to learn what survival sex work is"?



- Funny, I would have THOUGHT the 6 years I already spent as a survival street worker would have been enough already?

...and believe me, however "difficult and horrible" it is it doesn't get any better if the market is destroyed and making the money you need (usually, contrary to popular fiction, to feed, house and nurture children) is made far harder or even impossible.

Notions like ramping up social services should be FULLY ESTABLISHED, and checked for relevance with service users (because, to date the majority of "social services" available to sex workers who wish to exit are truly are mentally and emotionally abusive exploitation opportunities for the privileged) before anyone even talks about destroying the market or other forms of abolition.

How long do you THINK survival sex workers and their families can live without food or housing in Seattle while they wait for Social Service that do more good than harm?

It takes months, even years "anti-trafficking/survival sex organizations" to pester a survival sex worker into engaging with them because you *ARE* a patronizing, condescending and thoroughly exploitative threat to their survival, not to their available choice in shoes, and contrary to what you might like to believe, the survival sex worker tends to be a pretty smart cookie with enough spirit to bite down her person aversion, haul herself up onto her own two feet and start using bitterly hard, but honest, sex work to fight for her own survival and that of any family she is responsible for.

The fact that her skin may be a different color, or she may not have had access to education (I last went to school aged 13) doesn't make her a dumb animal, and you can bet that, guaranteed immunity from prosecution and stigma, any one of them is WELL ABLE to address privileged white people (isn't that a euphemism for "their betters"?) and put their heads on straight.

The downside being that if they were facilitated to do so those privileged white people might notice that everything "anti-trafficking/survival sex organizations" have claimed to say on their behalf was without consultation or mandate and...er...basically a crock of self serving, funding harvesting, power mad ****.

Survival sex workers are the people who need the market their income depends on protecting most, day by day, as they have to live, and I feel confident they would have no problem standing on the stage at Carnegie Hall and shouting that out loud to every privileged white person you could muster.

26
Thank you for bringing your voice here @21!

"contrary to what you might like to believe, the survival sex worker tends to be a pretty smart cookie with enough spirit to bite down her person aversion, haul herself up onto her own two feet and start using bitterly hard, but honest, sex work to fight for her own survival and that of any family she is responsible for. "

Say it!

*applause*
27
"________ must have a say in the laws that control them."
...is the very basis of a functioning democracy.
28
@AnonymousCapHiller

I also think (and hope) we can all agree that eradicating the problem of violence against sex workers/trafficking victims/survival sex victims should be a top priority.

Understanding the role of social injustices and economic circumstances which push individuals into situations they would not otherwise choose and which makes them vulnerable to abuse is vital to being able to understand the complex nature of the industry and the human rights abuses that can be found within it.

This is not as simple as "all clients are exploiters" as the anti-trafficking panelist were pretty all clear in claiming. (To the point of recommending putting clients on the sex offender registry list!!!) Further criminalizing tens of thousands of men does not reduce or prevent youth from being vulnerable (homeless, without support networks, without viable economic opportunity, etc.), nor does it prevent those animals who are abusers from abusing the vulnerable. It does not fix ANY of the problems, and can make matters much worse for everyone involved - clients, consensual sex workers, those who are trafficked, and the general public at large.

Criminalizing all clients makes it much more difficult to discern where the abuses are and to be effective in combating them. Additionally, clients are on the front line and can be an amazing resource for identifying and reporting potentially abusive situations. This is already something many will not do because of the legal charges, which will be even less likely should they have a threat of gross misdemeanor, and most certainly will not happen if they are looking at being put on a sex offender registry.

“ A few privileged workers of the larger population would stand to make money off the backs of disenfranchised, or trafficked, people.”

I would like to ask you to reconsider this comment. You seem to buy into the theory that participating in the industry at all is equal to supporting or creating harms to others in the industry. This is akin to saying that that clothing designers on Etsy are making making money off the backs of those who make Old Navy clothing in a Bangladesh sweat shop. There is no correlation. Yet, let's pretend there is - should we "End Demand" for clothing?

I would also like to challenge the belief that there are "a few privileged workers of a larger population of disenfranchised or trafficked people." Please consider that many thousands of sex workers around the globe (including those who have been trafficked and/or are disenfranchised) have participated in marches and sex worker rights events calling for their right to do their work in SAFER conditions. (December 17th events, Sex Worker Rights Day, etc.) Here is just one event:

http://www.theguardian.com/global-develo…

I have personally met and corresponded with *thousands* of sex workers. The comment about the privileged being maybe 1%... based on the fact that a prosecuting attorney has never met us? Perhaps on an international level, I simply do not know. Within the US, and the Seattle area specifically? Please consider that along with avoiding serial killers and rapists, avoiding law enforcement is key to our safety and security. We are not seen because it is not safe to be seen. We are here, and we are here in masses.

Just as the population represented at Town Hall shouldn't be conflated with the population they are serving, the population that those organizations serve should not be conflated with the entire sex industry.

For a further understanding of advocacy positions I would ask you to take some time to hear from sex worker advocacy organizations directly, and perhaps refer to some of the articles in this blog post about position statements from well respected national and international organizations.

http://swop-seattle.org/about/an-open-le…
29
@Gaye

Thank you for adding your invaluable voice to this conversation.

"the survival sex worker tends to be a pretty smart cookie with enough spirit to bite down her person aversion, haul herself up onto her own two feet and start using bitterly hard, but honest, sex work to fight for her own survival and that of any family she is responsible for. "

**Applause!!!**
30
This isn't the first time Seattle OPS staffers have helped disinclude actual recovering sex workers out of the conversation on Seattle/KC policy development. In fact, Seattle OPS actually informed me last year that I was no longer welcome to receive charitable benefits (art therapy workshops and art shows for prostitution survivors) without prebiotic any reason for refusing services to me.

I am still waiting for any response from Peter Qualliotine or Dr. Debra Boyer as to ANY comment on what I did wrong, how I can make it right, or what I can do in the future to keep from making a similar mistake elsewhere. Apparently Seattle "OPS" is actually the "Organization for SELECTED Prostitution Survivors," as they definitely are NOT "for" my survival or recovery. This, after they asked me to represent then on KCTS9!

It was, and is still, a source of the deepest heartbreak for me - I really need support in my recovery, and have been denied it without reason or rhyme. How bad is it, when an organization designed to help society's most rejected individuals, when even THEY reject you? It hurts, and I still don't know why.
31
Venusshakti,

I am very sorry to hear about your hurtful experience and do hope that you hear back from OPS. While I disagree with much of their rhetoric, I like to believe that they are doing amazing work.

I encourage you to reach out to SWOP-Seattle. They host a variety of events for sex workers and retired sex workers (they choose not to use "recovering", as sex work is not an illness.) They do host a variety of events and even a self-defense course which is wonderful for recovering a sense of power and strength.

With much love to you in your journey!
32
@Gaye

Thank you for your well-worded, thoughtful insights. Also, thank you for including your blog URL in your bio - I added your blog to my blogroll reader. :)
33
@31 considering that my requests for information were sent multiple times throughout October and November last year, I doubt they will ever respond, thanks for your thoughtful reply.

I agree, my use of the term recovery was off... The rest of that phrase was supposed to be "recovering drug-addicted street prostitute" - thanks for pointing out my typo, it is potentially confusing to those who don't know the issues involved.
34
@31 also, since human trafficking was very much a part of my story on multiple occasions, SWOP hasn't really been an organization that I felt really addressed my personal needs... Though I do fully support their efforts, as I know well that not all prostitutes are trafficked persons.
35
@Venushakti seems to me I should say:
"Welcome to my world" - I am always forgetting to kiss the right posteriors while keeping my independent thoughts to myself (GUARANTEED to be the reason services are withheld from you) too.

Glad to meet you :o)
36
@33 and
I'm wondering if your emails got caught up in the NW-SWOP to SWOP-Seattle transition last year? Their tech stuff was quite a mess for a couple of months in the change. If you have no reply you might want to double check the send address? The current contact is Info@SWOP-Seattle.org

Even if the org does not address your personal needs, I know that they would love to hear from you as to what types of events and services the community wants, especially as a priority goal for them this year is to do more direct street outreach work, and to increase the populations that they are able to serve, and the resources that they provide. (Speaking as a volunteer who is personally very vested in this...
; )

37
@36 I'm talking about Seattle OPS, not SWOP. SWOP seems to be doing great work but, for the reasons stated above (being a trafficking survivor) their work didn't seem to apply to my needs.

Seattle OPS, on the other hand, is one of the agencies that attended and were included in the panel giving the press release discussed in this Slog article above.
38
@Venushakti

Why not try SWOP? They seem better suited to you ideologically (which is the art of myself I would protect first, and would advise you to do the same) and if there is a part of your truth they do not accommodate why note persuade them to expand their thinking to fit it?

This is also vital. Where there is a void like that, if good people do not try to bridge it, then bad people will pour in to fill the vacuum. Only in the last week I came across a new org in the UK that was peddling the very worst kind of "penny dreadful" misery memoir and exploiting the poor girl at the center of it to the point o guaranteed damage...this is usual, what is *NOT* usual is that, on a cursory check, that they were also pro sex industry, a slightly deeper check revealed accounting and other evidence to suggest that they were little more than crooks...they saw a vacant opportunity and jumped in with both feet...

Where there is real trafficking and abuse (and I firmly believe that if a bad thing is physically possible, somebody, somewhere will be doing it) lets get the real stories into the Sex Worker Rights Orgs and start to get an honest analysis of the problem and how best to deal with it...

...and leave the career "trafficking experts" in peace to buy shoes, attend premiers, and stay out of real people's lives.
39
*I* know happy sex workers, this is awful, just goes to show you that politicians have no idea how the real world works I guess
40
*I* know happy sex workers, IN SEATTLE, this is awful, just goes to show you that politicians have no idea how the real world works I guess
41
you could almost replace the word sex worker with military soldier.