Seattle Times Editorial Board Member Defends Sex Work Editorial with Flawed Research


Title should read: "Seattle Times Editorial Board Member Defends Sex Work Editorial with Stale Memes"
the sex work/sex-trafficking debate often lacks solid research, but even more often, it lacks nuance.

It's definitely not lacking in hysteria.
@3 Are you really implying that I'm not capable of developing my own opinion on the matter because of my gender?
I wouldn't put it past him.
Even if sex workers did have histories of sexual abuse or assault—histories that many women share, regardless of their occupations—does that mean they're incapable of making decisions in their own best interest?

I think human history is littered with examples of how people. left to their own devices, make decisions contrary to their best interests all the time.

Indeed, from a utilitarian perspective, one of the best arguments for preserving and maintaining social institutions like strong extended families, churches, schools, civic organizations, etc. is that they help guide people away from making decisions that might look appealing at the outset by might have all kinds of unforeseen consequences down the road.

As a gay man, I've never had to resort to paying for sex in order to indulge in my desires. On the contrary, I'm not ashamed to admit that I've done a little sex work on the side myself when I was younger. It always seemed like a harmless thing. Sex is enjoyable; I was scrupulously honest with my partners, and, when "working", used my position to advocate for and educate my clients on how to protect themselves. What's not to like?

Except, as I've become a little older, I find myself having second thoughts. Has my approach to sex helped contribute to problems with relationships? Does it perhaps point towards other issues that I'd been masking (indeed, my desire to act out sexually in pretty clearly unhealthy ways has decreased as I've worked on some other problems I've had). With 20/20 hindsight, it now occurs to me that my life might have been better without having taken the path I did.

And this doesn't even look at the potential harm to my clients and their families that I was enabling. I had clients who were closeted and married with children. Hiring me was their solution to the problem of their situation. But was I co-signing their dishonesty? What if, despite my precautions, I passed on an STD to a partner who thought he or she was in a monogamous relationship? Was a contributing to an escalating, ticking emotional time-bomb in those relationships? Was I making those relationships better or worse? Yes, the primary responsibility for those choices lay with the client, but I do bear responsibility too as an enabler.

Does that mean that my experience applies to everyone? No, of course not. And I hope that anyone who chooses this path ends up like Xaviera Hollander rather than with having any second thoughts or regrets.

But at the same time, I also know I'm not the only one in this position. Was I exploited by a pimp? A victim of sex trafficking? Damaged or abused? No; I freely chose to do what I did. But, even if I can't point to any of those obvious harms associated with the industry, I think it did leave its mark on me, even if that mark was only avoiding and hiding from issues that I needed to confront. I wish someone had had the opportunity to sit down with that younger version of me and really talk through what I was doing and whether I really wanted to be doing it.

Ideally, all of these hedges and social controls we build up around the sale of sex (and sex generally) should be opportunities to engage in those conversations. To encourage those second thoughts before we act in ways that could potentially harm ourselves and others.

I think sex work can be done in an ethical and healthy way. But I also think that that is a lot harder to do that than it would appear, and that for many people it would probably be best to avoid the business, as either a customer or purveyor, altogether.
@4: He made absolutely no mention gender of any kind.
"no mention of gender of any kind"
@9: How do you know you aren't just projecting?

Also, I am still waiting for an example of the tons of bigoted comments you claim I make.
@11: Haha, not a Trump supporter (Sanders all the way), you can't find a single racist comment (after claiming I make them constantly), and I have actually posted support for Muslim refugees coming to America on Slog.

You know, claiming you do not think about me while at the same time constructing a bizarre nonsense version of me in your head are not statements that match up. Stop projecting.
@13: Hey, do whatever you need to get through this issue you have obsessing over things I say only in your head. Good luck on your path!

@14: Thank you for confirming, now please strive to be better in the future, by not making such unfair assumptions. That's a bad Ken, BAD!
@14 Hm. I don't think seven years of reporting for local and national publications is inexperienced. But hell, let's let Adele have the last word on this:…
@14 And we all know that anti-sex work zealots have 'given the matter much thought'. Amazing that after all that deep thought they always come to a conclusion that syncs perfectly with their pre-existing puritanical hangups.
#6 Riding my bike to work at home depot, I started taking more and more risks. I stopped even bothering to look before running stop signs. Getting run down by a car was more appealing than another day in that shithole.

Does that mean it should be illegal to sell building supplies?

All sorts of jobs are harmful, sex work is just another job.
@16: How so? By telling him his assumption was unfair and bad? Let me know what the small version of me that lives in your head told you and maybe we can help parse out your confusion.

I'm here for you.
On this issue the Times reminds me of flat-earthers, climate change deniers, moon landing conspiracy theorists, and Holocaust deniers: intellectually stuck in blinders by ideology.

Thanks Sydney for calling them out and linking to debunking sources.
Sydney Brownstone, did you really just question the need to protect trafficking victims because you don't have a national study? Did you even bother to ask Youth Care about the HUNDREDS OF SEX TRAFFICKING SURVIVORS they've served? How about Auburn Youth Resources? Friends of Youth? Cocoon House? Did you really ignore all the records King County service providers have to keep about how many clients they serve, just to make your argument? Would not having exact numbers even matter if it were Rape, Sexual Assault, or Domestic Violence?

You are sounding a lot like the #NotAllMen folks. You might not be inexperienced, but this is some lazy journalism.
@22 Of course, questioning whether all sex-work is 'trafficking' = 'questioning the need to protect trafficking victims'. Hell if you question this ludicrous dogma at all you must be some sort of men's rights crank!
Very typical Theodore Gorath responses.
The level of obfuscation on this topic by Val Richey and the Prosecutors office should trouble every citizen of Seattle.

I happen to know most of the Korean Sex workers who were arrested/traumatized by the Seattle Vice Unit that arrested them and it will be interesting to see if the true story of their status will ever come to light, or if it will continue to be suppressed and ignored.
Because I remain in contact with them, eight of the twelve Asian immigrant sex workers "saved" continue to work in other cities under new names with a new found terror of law enforcement while Prosecutors Satterberg and Richey continue to claim they saved these women, all evidence to the contrary.
In the recent statement on the crackdown, it's clear where Mr. Richey stands on this topic:
“Richey, the lead prosecutor in the investigation, described XXX and the other men (here he is describing the men who belonged to the public and free website TRB) as holding an “obsession with sexual exploitation.”

This is a Prosecutor not just concerned with Prostitution, but a man who feels qualified to define sexual obsession and seems to have a keen interest in the sex drive of the men in the Seattle community. Is this the direction Seattle wants to go? Do you really want paid public officials who feel qualified to define the level of sexual interest of members of the community?

His Boss Dan Satterberg has openly stated “Even if happy sex workers do exist, Satterberg said, he personally does not know them.”…

So his argument is that because he has openly refused to speak with sex workers that are happy with this work they did not exist? That’s as unfair as me claiming that all Prosecutors participate in sex work based on this troubling story of a Michigan Prosecutor who personally hired sex workers while fighting a public war against prostitution as modern day slavery.…

I have no doubt Prosecutor Satterberg is an upstanding citizen who follows the law. It would be unfair for me to define him by the feelings or actions of others just as it’s unfair for him to define all sex workers based on only those who hold his view on the topic.

By using the slogan "Human Trafficking" the prosecutor’s office was likely able to issue questionable search warrants on email accounts and other forms of electronic communication (sheriff Urquhart in the Seattle Times article at the time states they obtained over 128 search warrants for this case, several of them no doubt involving email accounts) into the private lives of US citizens. Media has apparently signed off on all this in the name of combating human trafficking. The media likely will never come full circle to establish if in fact human trafficking was involved.
Thankfully, Microsoft is standing up for the 1st and 4th amendment at a time when the media, it's traditional ally in previous generations has decided to take a lunch break on this one.
As far as I can see, no one has been charged with a trafficking or coercion level crime and none of the Korean sex workers I know considered themselves trafficked or coerced. Is the Media really willing to sign off on all these unsubstantiated claims without a single statement from the women themselves, who the prosecutor continues to shield from telling their true story under the banner of "protecting the victims."

The only court statements I could obtain as a public citizen from the court documents was an interview conducted with one of the Korean sex workers who was arrested and charged with multiple felonies for being a pimp (although in the interview it's clear that definition simply means she was a sex worker herself who rented a 2-bedroom apartment and allowed a friend to use the other room in exchange for a room fee). It's obvious to even a casual reader that the Police interrogators are doing everything in their power with leading questions to obtain a statement from this Korean Sex worker that she is coerced and trafficked.

In the end, all they get out of her in the full 38-page interview was that she is a college graduate from Korea, came here by choice to do sex work and she describes Seattle customers as "they are so gentle."

Welcome to the true face of the Prosecutor's war on Sexual Exploitation, Coercion and Modern Day Slavery in the Seattle community.

Will the media invest the resources in fact checking a single statement from the Prosecutors office that coercion or trafficking was involved?

The Prosecutor office has responded to all challenges and questions from other sex workers by simply re-posting long discredited statistics on Prostitution in America (my favorite being the blatantly false and openly discredited statement that the average age a sex worker enters the business is 13) while the media does the equivalent or re-tweeting these false claims and signs off on whatever version of events the Prosecutor office chooses to give them.

Even if you are against the legalization prostitution, the tactics and untruths promulgated by anti-prostitution NGOs and the Seattle Prosecutor's office in this and other cases involving prostitution should concern all citizens who support an open and responsible system of justice in the Seattle area.