Theater Feb 27, 2019 at 4:00 am

A night of film, poetry, and dance where sex workers will speak for themselves.

Maggie McNeill’s documentary The War on Whores plays at the Rendezvous on March 2. Paul Johnson Films



"There's very little good data on the number of sex workers who are trafficked in the United States versus the number who do it by choice, but if you ask Maggie McNeill, the vast majority of sex workers fall into the latter camp."

Well, I'm convinced.


As opposed to the King County prosecutor/police anti sex argument?

There's very little good data on the number of sex workers who are trafficked in the United States versus the number who do it by choice, but as a group of all white privileged cis males tasked with deciding for adult women what they can and cannot use their own sexuality, that lack of data supports our enormous expansion of government surveillance power into the private lives of consenting adults at enormous cost to tax payers to create a more violent, dangerous environment for sex workers where we give abusers, traffickers and violent rapists a free pass so we can focus all our resources on elaborate overtime intensive stings designed to target the very customers that traditionally reported the violent offenders we now give a free pass to.

We have decades of experiences with the harm escalation model during the war on drugs before the Feds cut off our funding, but we can still proudly point to the 5,000,0000 Americans we locked in cages as proof of our success.

Right Rolando, why on earth would law enforcement want to take the life experience of real sex workers into account? They don't have Swanee Hunt's $500 million dollars to buy them off. Fuck em.


SWERF? Is that even a thing?


@3 it’s a thing you get called if you support any efforts whatsoever to combat trafficking.


Great piece, Katie--good reporting. You've a real mind and a thick skin!


Considering that Stormy Daniels is a sex worker, we really should remove the stigma by removing the $130K campaign finance violation charge against Michael Cohen and Individual-1 (Donald Trump) so that it can be simply re-classified under 'Services Rendered'.


@2 Those same arguments were used to legalize prostitution in Germany. JĂĽrgen Rudloff - who proposed basically a chain of WalMrt like super-Brothels called "Men's Wellness Oasis" - lead the charge with a cadre of sex workers claiming the should be able to choose their own agency. It seemed very noble and convincing. So it was legalized.

Then it turned out that the majority of these women were indeed trafficked and existed in virtual slavery. And JĂĽrgen Rudloff is now going to jail for being a scum bag pile of shit. And thousands of women's lives were ruined by him.

I would like it to be possible to find some kind of sex-positive system where sex workers, who are not exploited, remain not exploited. But how?

It's not going to happen in our system driven by vicious market forces were exploitation is the inevitable result of just about ANY business that sells other people's labor. The issue is less about sex and more about capitalism.


I have the sneaking suspicion that most everything activism-related; sex-worker advocates skew significantly whiter, older, and richer than the general population of sex workers. While I'm sure that there are people who speak to the issues and needs of street prostitutes, almost by definition they're locked out of the advocacy process - so what we see are largely "choice" sex workers - who by and large don't need to be 'saved' from prostitution, have alternative ways to make money ("legitimately") - but I guess I wonder how representative are they of the people who are paid to deliver sex.

I see this play out in the Jupiter/Robert Kraft thing. Was there some advanced trafficking/slavery ring? It doesn't seem like it. Are women brought over and told that if they want to make money, they'll work at this salon and give handjobs (more?) on request, without workable english, without a passport, and without cash? They may not be sex slaves, but I don't want to round those people up into "willing" participants either.


@10: We protect sex workers the way we protect all other workers. We decriminalize, regulate, and tax their work, with proceeds going to enforcement of our laws for worker protections. You’re completely correct: the problem is capitalism. Well, right now, sex workers struggle in one of the most brutally free markets in existence. We can choose to regulate that capitalist free market, or not; but there’s hardly anything right, good, or virtuous in our leaving those workers to struggle alone, as they now do.

(Oh, and once upon a time in Germany, democracy itself failed catastrophically. The victors of the resultant war did not decide that democracy was therefore A Very Bad Idea which should never be tried anywhere ever again.)


@2, I'm aware of the King County prosecutor's position on prostitution and I'm fine with my tax dollars being used to target johns. @4, thank you.


I don't understand paying money for sex. I've always given it away for free.


It doesn't really matter what the percentages are. Clearly some sex workers do it by choice and some are trafficked.

The solution is to legalize it for those who choose to make this their occupation, and find ways to combat trafficking without having to arrest everyone who participates in the world's oldest profession. You can arrest people who coerce women into sex work without arresting people who freely chose to do sex work. You can arrest people who try to pick up underage girls (or boys for that matter) without having to criminalize a transaction between consenting adults.

This is not rocket science. You can have both legal sex work and combat trafficking. In fact, it would probably be a lot easier to find traffickers and pedos if consenting sex work were legal and out in the open.


I'm afraid your misinformed about Germany. Germany was not decriminalization, but legalizating. New Zealand is decriminalization and you know it's been a huge success based on the way prohibitionists avoid the topic like the plague. Under legalization, the government essentially acts as a pimp for the sex workers and promotes human trafficking by driving the industry underground the same way prosecutors and police do in King County under the Nordic Model and Asset Forfeiture.
It's not an exact comparison, of course. Pimps generally care about the welfare of the women who work for them from a purely self serving standpoint, whereas police and prosecutors take private money to promote a Nordic model that actively forces sex workers into a more dangerous rape intensive street environment. They do it in the name of "saving the children." I'm not sure how promoting the rape of sex workers helps children, but perhaps the police in King County can explain to you how that works.

Also in Germany (and Europe generally) prosecutors are not elected, but professional lifetime civil servants with far, far higher legal and ethical requirements. In the US the vices of the criminal are all too often standard procedure among the police and prosecutors.
In Germany, a private interest group like Demand Abolition, the KKK or a Neo-Nazis would never be allowed to buy off prosecutors and police. Not only would that be illegal, but it would be a public relations disaster. Even among prosecutors in America I think most prosecutors outside of areas like rural Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and King County would be uncomfortable with that.
The German people have strong recent memories of how private-government cooperation/surveillance under Adolph Hitler turned out that makes them uncomfortable in a way many Americans apparently are not. They would recognize the current state of affairs between King County, Demand Abolition and NGOS as the form of National Socialism that it is and would never allow such an extra constitutional relationship. They also don't have a history of the kind of prehistoric public shaming that has become so popular within King County.

Because it's legalization and not decriminalization, 99% of sex workers in Germany (same as Nevada incidentally) do not register as sex workers to avoid becoming the target of police rape, extortion and abuse as they are under the Nordic Model so popular in King County.

Anyhow, please take some time to read up on the topic. If nothing else, you may gain a better understanding why it's so dangerous for prosecutors and police to sell their prosecutorial discretion. Today Demand Abolition, tomorrow the Trump administration or some extremist right wing group.


"@2, I'm aware of the King County prosecutor's position on prostitution and I'm fine with my tax dollars being used to target johns. @4, thank you."

Translation: I've got this major unresolved kink for police who use tax payer money to coerce sex workers into having sex with them before busting them at gun point and steeling every penny they earned.
I am happy to spend other people's tax money to the last penny to fulfill this fantasy rather than confront and deal with my own sadistic kink in a healthy way.


"There is really no job you can do under capitalism that is not going to be exploitative to some extent. I've had plenty of vanilla jobs that made me feel shittier about myself than sex work ever did."

This is perhaps the most important part of the article, although it needs to be coupled with the fact that women are generally paid less and undervalued for the same jobs that men perform. The economic choice to do sex work isn't a completely free choice when the alternatives are exploitative simply because of unequal pay.


@19, johns exploit women. Opposing this is reasonable and understandable. But your position appears to be that no one could oppose this for any reason other than a sexual kink. That's pretty strange.


Capitalism is exploitation (see Marx). $300-$500 per hour is worse? I find your covert misogyny strange.


Upside, I assume you're addressing me. If you think most prostituted women are making $300 an hour, you're looking at the wrong prostituted women. Most prostituted women have pimps who get most of the earnings. Pointing this out is the opposite of misogyny.


You have yet to prove anything and to present yourself as a subject matter expert is beyond strange. In your mind, the prostitute is A-ok and it's the pimp that is bad. So it's not the act that disgusts you but the illegal structure that creates exploitative markets. Shouldn't we decriminalize and give legal identity and workplace rights to the prostitute? Wouldn't that benefit the prostitute more than your rescue bag filled with socks, soap, and religious literature?

If it's exploitation that concerns you, why do you never discuss marriage or universal basic income/health? You have a deep hatred for women, especially female journalists who don't acquiesce to your condescension. I wasn't asking for your response but you give it no matter what.

Thank you Katie for writing another good piece.


Rolando wrote: "Most prostituted women have pimps who get most of the earnings."
There was a John Jay study (summary: that found the following:

"What they found was that the narrative of commercial sexual exploitation of children (or CSEC) they had been sold by local activists—one where knife-wielding pimps lure girls into prostitution then brutalize them into compliance—existed in only rare cases and didn’t describe most people’s experiences."

When the rescue industry felt threatened by these results they found another researcher to federally fund and discover a better result for their NGO funding.


Upside, are you suggesting that $300-$500 per hour is a typical wage for prostituted women? If not, what exactly are you claiming in post 23?


also, even if it is untrue that "knife-wielding pimps lure girls into prostitution then brutalize them into compliance," that certainly doesn't disprove that pimps take a significant portion of the earnings.


Upside, I am not religious, I am not disgusted by the fact that prostitution is illegal, and I do not hate women. But please continue to get all worked up knocking down straw men.


I bet you MOST prostitutes benefit from their pimps (if you measure total earnings). A pimp isn't any different than a book publisher - they find buys and in exchange take a percent. Not too complicated. I wonder what percentage of pimps are out there working against the interests of their girls?

Also, yeah, $300/hr is fanciful, I bet you most sex workers would be thrilled with $200/day. That's $6,000/month, tax free




TIL women’s bodies are a product available on the shelf, with various parties entitled to take a cut, same as books.


@32 you already knew that, and you know it to be true


@32 are you under the impression that backpage was a service, run out of the goodness of people's hearts? That escort agencies aren't taking a cut? Every aspect of our lives has someone else's hands in our pockets, should sex work be somehow exempt? Grow up


@28 - Are you concerned about who/what takes earnings from prostitutes? Do you know that when a sex worker encounters LE money and electronics are confiscated. They call that 'rescue'. Does that concern you at all? They are then forced into a LEAD program, multiplying the very issues that caused the decision to work in the first place.

Excellent point made above about 'someone else's hands' being in pockets. The social entrepreneurs at Organization for Prostitution Survivors (who may be on this board posting) would not exist if it was not for LE intervention. They would have no clients if they needed to rely upon absolute voluntarism and only exist through coercion of the criminal justice system.

If it really is the pimp that disgusts you, think about LE and the moral entrepreneurs similar to Organization for Prostitution Survivors. Justify the confiscation of earnings from labor by LE. Justify the forced induction of clients to OPS.


TIL “Sportlandia” does not understand irony


@35 (addressing post 28), post 28 was questioning your apparent claim in post 26 that pimps don’t get a significant cut of the money brought in by prostituted women, “supported” by your link claiming that the idea of pimps threatening prostituted women by knifepoint is a “myth.” Do you have anything that actually addresses my comment in post 28? Also can you respond to post 27? Do you believe 300-500 per hour is a standard wage for prostituted women?


You do not even have the intellectual integrity to be honest, or even accurate.

Who is more dangerous to the "prostituted women?" Someone who wishes to destroy them (such as yourself) or the pimp? One is a leech and one is a cancer. You figure out which one you are.


@35, I've reiterated multiple times here and elsewhere that I am not affiliated with any organization. It's possible to oppose prostitution just because, as an individual, you recognize that it's bad. If you have anything to say to me that (1) isn't filtered through your belief that I work for an organization you oppose and (2) is a response to something I actually said and not your projection of what I must believe, please continue.


@38, where did @37 say they wished to destroy prostituted women?


Rolando/AMMW/Scotsman/etc. This is a comment section about an article, if you want dialogue about your personality schism, please find professional help, or even a friend.

Also, please start being honest. If you cannot even honestly assess what it is you are trying to accomplish than why are you asking me to help you? The fact that you even asked the question (despite trolling each and every article about sex work) demonstrates how myopic you truly are as a human being.


" I've reiterated multiple times here and elsewhere that I am not affiliated with any organization."

Well, I'm convinced.

(Rolando, I'm mocking you in case you didn't understand. You exert a lot of energy for someone whose finances don't depend on this topic. BTW, the answer to @38 is that you are both the leech [pimp] and cancer [white savior/moral entrepreneur].


OK, so now Upside is accusing me of posting under multiple names. I found this comment more than usually befuddling even from Upside, until I realized that I might have contributed to the confusion. When I read comment #35, I assumed it was addressed at me, because Upside has accused me in the past of being affiliated with some nameless organization he opposes. Now that I read again, I see that comment #35 was addressed at AMMW. I don't know if AMMW is affiliated with any organization that Upside might oppose, but the rest of my comment #39 stands.

I have to say though, that Upside's assumption is hilarious. What, dude, you think there's a maximum of one person in the world who might disagree with you? There's a whole world out there that's outside your comfy bubble.


But back on topic. This is all addressed to Upside.

37: You haven't responded to this.

40: You haven't responded to this.

41: Please show where I have ever asked for your help.

42: There's no equivalence between this comment and my comment #1. In comment #39, I was stating something that only I am in a position to know. Katie Herzog, in the article, was stating an assumption about the world without providing evidence.


@19 "But your position appears to be that no one could oppose this for any reason other than a sexual kink."

I am not basing your dysfunctional sexuality on an argument against sex work that can be misguided, but made rationally. I'm basing your obvious sexual dysfunction on your single minded obsession with project sexual exploitation on to consensual sex in situations where it does not exist. Whether it is homosexuality, inter-racial couples or consensual adult sex work, there is nothing healthy about a grown up obsessing over the consensual sex lives of other adults by projecting false violence narratives where no violence or coercion exists. Your idea that consensual sex acts between adults you have never met somehow magically harms you and the only way to fix that imaginary harm is to arrest them and lock them in cages shows either deep sexual dysfunction, or as Upside suggested someone on the take financially from a group like . Demand Abolition as apparently the King County prosecutors, police and NGO OPS are.

@19, johns exploit women."

That's as ignorant and non-sensical as claiming that all homosexuals are pedophiles.
As active sex workers will tell you, the greatest predators of sex workers are not their customers who are generally polite, kind and caring, but the vice cops that regularly abuse, exploit and sexually assault them with complete impunity.

Who's 'the Harvey Weinstein of' Sex Work? The Police

Traditionally sex workers don't report police and prosecutors who rape and assault them because their activity is heavily criminalized and stigmatized and the police know where to find them. Traditionally it has often been the customers who report situations they suspect might involve trafficking or underage women, work to keep bad clients out and are best placed to report police exploitation of sex workers that is so common. By criminalizing and stigmatizing customers you are removing the only remaining source for reporting under age prostitution, trafficking and police exploiation of sex workers so rampant in vice units.

Predators are always drawn to jobs where they can victimize their targets with impunity. Police and prosectors ask us to believe this happens with priests, grade school teachers and daycare workers, but never, ever among police of prosecutors all evidence to the contrary. Under the nordic model you are essentially giving the police a license to rape and exploit sex workers with impunity. With no fear that a customer will report them lest that customer be arrested and publicly shamed for seeing a sex worker.

Whether you criminalize the sex worker or customer, the arguments against criminalization of sex on any level are many and understood well by healthcare workers, social workers, human rights groups and sex workers vs. police and prosecutors who unsurprisingly have once again decided that profiting from the arrest, incarceration and public humiliation of a lifestyle crime is a better idea.

Criminalization allows police who are the largest single group of both customers and predators of sex workers to continue exploiting and raping them with impunity.
Sex workers themselves can point to workers within their own community to have been pushed into more dangerous street prostitution to be killed, raped and pimped as a direct result of the polices King County prosecutors and police openly support.
Police and prosecutors already have an extremely low clearance rate when it comes to violent crimes like rape, murder and theft that largely go not even investigated let alone solved. By pouring unbelievable amounts of time and money into policing consensual behavior we are guaranteed even lower rates of arrests and convictions for the violent crimes the like talking about instead of resolving.
Police and prosecutors cannot police sex work without policing the sex lives of all citizens since it requires them to examine all sex to identify the sex workers and clients they ultimately target. Do you really want the police state become performing active surveillance of your sex life as they currently do?
Policing sex work encourages bigotry, racism and in the case of foreign workers allows ICE an in to target and deport foreign nationals just trying to make a living. It has become common at Marriotts to kick single women out of bars for committing the offense of "not being dressed appropriately while drinking alone" and to harass interracial couples in airports as sex traffickers for committing the crime of falling in love with someone of a different raise and having biracial children.

The police and prosecutors encourage this type of racist profiling with their narrative that every women or child with brown skin and an accent is by default a sex traffic slave.

It encourages corruption as it did on King County when police and prosecutors take shady private money to carry out the legal and media agenda of an unelected private interest group no one hired or elected to make decisions how police and prosecutor resources will be used.

Confronted with all these problems that are a direct result from criminalization of sex work, your only answer is to shrilly repeat "arrest the johns, arrest the johns!"

And you claim you don't have deep seated sexual problems?

Incarceration and public humiliation are not the solution, they are a red herring to distract from and cover up all the problems criminalization creates. You are relying on America's addiction to policing social norms against marginalize communities promoted by police and prosecutors to avoid the real issues.


I should also had that legalizing sex work leads to far lower STI rates, which is why The well respected medical journal The Lancet" supports decrim. Sex workers have far lower rates of STI's that civilians, but as cops in King County use condoms as a form of evidence in criminal investigations they encourage less condom use, increasing the risk of STI's.

Syphilis and Gonorrhea rates in King County have doubled in the 3 years since the police and prosecutors declared a war on sex work. You can confirm this through the Harbor View Health Clinic.

Be sure to send Dan Satterberg a thank you note for making this possible.


@1 I'm gobsmacked! The one woman Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Eradication of Vice was the first to turn up here. Seriously, I think you might have some sort of disorder.


@45 to @47: "dysfunction," "disorder" ... No dudes, I just disagree with you.


@48 I don't know, a neurotic obsession with policing the sexual proclivities of other consenting adults would at least in some quarters be considered a disorder. In Saudi Arabia say it would be A-OK though. There's a place they know how to protect the virtue of delicate, naive waifs from beastly beastly 'pimps and johns'. Perhaps you should relocate?


@49, I think a consistent impulse to tell feminists they're disordered is more in line with Saudi Arabian culture than is a desire to end prostitution, but apparently we differ.


@46: "Syphilis and Gonorrhea rates in King County have doubled in the 3 years since the police and prosecutors declared a war on sex work. You can confirm this through the Harbor View Health Clinic."

I'd be happy to do that, but a search for "Harbor View Health Clinic" doesn't yield any contact information. (Source: Google). Ball's back in your court.


@50 Well you've got to give the Saudi's a little credit: they probably would not be quite so audacious as to claim that stigmatizing loose women and imposing draconian penalties for 'deviant' sexual practices was in any way 'feminist'.


@52, the record shows that I've never advocated for stigmatizing prostituted women.


The record shows consistently that you have deep seated sexual issues with other adults sexual choices and despise sex workers. Knowing how bad that makes you look, you project your pathology on customers in an extremely retrograde view of paternalism over women arguing that they are incapable of living as independent grown ups. Your solution is to support violent thugs in uniforms with guns to monitoring them when and control their sexual autonomy if they don't meet your puritanical view on how "decent women" should conduct themselves based on your personal moralistic sexual views. See "Saudi Arabia" for an excellent example of your world view on practice.

I don't know why you are now running from your 16th century view of women in society. It's a view deeply held by Dan Saternberg who is equally bothered by "uppity women" obtaining financial independence from men through sex work. As the movie "the war on whores" shows, he's even found a way to use the power of his office as head prosecutor to turn his dripping hatred of sex workers into a cash cow for his office.
Dan Satterberg has a long history during the war on drugs of pleasing one community of rich affluent voters by declaring war on marginalized communities that generally don't vote. When that view became unpopular with his voters around election time by magically discovered a family member who struggled with drug addiction that apparently showed his 20 years of mass incarceration of minor drug offenders was not the answer. We will know the public mood has shifted when he magically produces a second cousin during an election that was a sex worker that taught him jail was not that answer. By then he will be handing out beer felonies instead.


Wow this thread took a bizarre turn. Instead of addressing my questions in post 37, Upside accused me of being someone else?

Looks like he will never return and clarify though, so let me ask about this instead from Aurellaur.

“police who are the largest single group of both customers and predators of sex workers”

do you have anything to back this up? I’m particularly interested in “largest single group.” That is quite a claim.


AMMW, your post was bizarre (similar to your other profiles). I posted an independent study, you asked if I had evidence.

You do stigmatize with every word. The preferred term is "Sex Worker." You use "prostituted woman, "which is the passive voice. It extinguishes agency and presents the individual as a child without capacity to determine choices. You are obvious.


Upside, I assume the second paragraph of #56 is addressed to me. The term "prostituted woman" is an accurate description of the situation. Facts don't stigmatize.


@54, your characterization of my position is incorrect. I think it's telling that the only way you think you can win this argument is by saying I said things I didn't say.


Pathologizing rational choices do not make facts be. Those are choices you made to stigmatize.

Please wait...

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