The Body Politic: Sex & Money in North America

This week saw some struggles and some victories for pleasure professionals in North America, demonstrating both the need for more activism  on this continent, and the benefits of organizing against  unfair laws and practices.

In North America: Philadelphia arrests exotic dancers, Lousianna removes "sex offender" status for those convicted of "crimes against nature" and Ontario upholds the planned decriminalization of prostitutes.

PENNSYLVANIA LOSES Philadelphia Daily News recently reported that several exotic dancers in Philadelphia “Gentlemen’s Clubs” have been arrested for agreeing to perform sex acts for money. In the article, anti-porn activist and sexual trauma counselor Mary Ann Layden was quoted as saying. “You can’t truly separate stripping from prostitution. It’s a continuum.”

Using this logic, it could be argued that shaking hands and anal sex are a continuum, but most folks have shook hands with many, many more people than they have had anal sex with (if in fact they have ever had anal sex). It might also be asserted that dating and sex, or sex and rape happen in a continuum. The “typical scenario” Layden describes in the Daily News column may be typical for exotic dancers that end up seeking counseling in the sexual trauma and psychopathology center she directs, but seems by no means “typical” for the myriad of female college graduates who have moved on after stripping their way through school. If you want to provide counter-opinion to this news story, which quoted only enforcement and pro-enforcement voices, email the Daily News and tell them that they should not exclude the voices of the true victims in this story, women who are doing their jobs (in some cases above and beyond the call of duty) and are harming nobody.

Philadelphia burlesque performer Melissa Bang Bang is organizing a day of actions to protest both the police actions and the media coverage of the Philadelphia stripper busts. Look for news posted in the comments section.

The larger issues at hand are why the government is even involved in the logistics of consensual sexual entertainment/ activity. If the same women arrested in strip clubs this past month were having sex in private without the money, there would be no crime. Without a victim, where is the crime to enforce in a city where violent crimes like assault, robbery and murder are prevalent?

This is not an issue that is specific to Philadelphia. There is a movement, often fueled by the religious right (but on this issue often supported by liberals and feminists) to limit/criminalize sexual activity, especially where the exchange of money is involved, in the name of “protecting women and children” from abuse. Anti-sexwork crusades have shut down the adult entertainment sections of Craig’s List and are attempting to shut down the adult sections of The Village Voice‘s Backpage online classifieds, without acknowledging that lack of a voice drives workers underground where there is less “evidence” and where it potentially would be more difficult to track and prosecute violent and abusive customers.

Victories have been won elsewhere on the North American continent, though, so here’s hoping that Philadelphia’s law enforcement and criminal justices systems will find more worthy battles to fight than crimes without victims (other than the people arrested).

LOUISIANA WINS: From Center for Constitutional Rightsattorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights argued that individuals convicted prior to August 2011 under Louisiana’s “Crime Against Nature by Solicitation” (CANS) law should not have to register as sex offenders, a federal judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana agreed and granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs. The statute was amended in August 2011 to no longer require those convicted of CANS to register, but the change was not made retroactive until March 29,202. READ MORE

Decades of activism pay off in Ontario!

ONTARIO WINS In 2010 , a judge in Ontario overturned many of Ontario’s prostitution laws in an effort to allow prostitutes to create safer working conditions and to report violent crimes against them. Last week, Canada’s high court upheld the limited decriminalization that will go into effect next year.

Get involved!
If you are  a sexworker or an ally (customer, family worker, friend, etc) looking to support and create safer working conditions and full civil liberties for persons involved in these industries, take a moment to plug in to groups and organizations fighting this fight.
Demand basic human rights for all adults who perform pleasure professionally.
Exotic Dancer Advocacy Resources
Sex Industry Advocacy Resorces

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