ANNOUNCING:

girlannouncephoto

EW-SWOP representatives have teamed up with a talented, professional photographer, who has been gracious enough to donate his time in order to help with our portfolios, at our next meeting, just in time for Halloween!

Beverages and munchies will be provided, but bring more to share and add to the fun.

This is your chance to expand on your professional portfolio, or to start one if you don’t already have one. People who do phone sex or other work where they don’t have a direct clientele are also welcome to have their picture taken.

Bring at least $1 for a disc with your pictures on it, bring more if you want to contribute to EW-SWOP funds. Any donations will be used for future meetings and activities.

Also bring 1-3 costumes/outfits to pose in for your pictures. No more than 3 costumes per person, you will have a chance to talk to the photographer about other modeling opportunities after the photo shoot. Please keep your clothes contained in a bag so they don’t get lost. There will be six shots per costume, per person so we can get through everybody.

We will have security present for this event. While this is mostly a sex worker-only event, we understand that some my not feel comfortable working with a new photographer without someone present, so you may bring ONE helper.

As the photographer preps for the photo shoot, we will take a little time to discuss SWOP events, concerns that we all face within the industry as well as safety issues. We will also be discussing and distributing resources that might be helpful to you in your work and we will gather ideas for other fun SWOP activities and meetings.

Please RSVP at my email, listed on this page.

We hope to see you there!

S & E

In a world where sexual topics are frequently shunned in most formal contexts, where walking into certain buildings requires us to attempt to leave our vaginae and penises behind, it is not surprising that conflicts will exist between sex industry workers and the rest of the working world. Sadly, a crossing over of the sex industry into other elements of American culture can have tragic results and adding to those matters the tendency for humans to be self-righteous and self-serving (not that all do this, but many do) and one sex worker coming out to the rest of the world can result in the biggest social explosion he or she will ever see.

That’s what happened to Lisa D. Chávez. Her story is actually pretty complex. The major players in the events that transpired each have their own agendas and have to deal with their own set of battles due to what happened with Chávez. I don’t want to assume that any single person is an evil individual, in this matter. Instead, I think there are some serious flaws in people’s thinking that builds upon this issue and creates a complete social mess that can ruin lives.

Does that sound overly dramatic? Well, it isn’t. People in the sex industry are constantly fighting against some extreme social stigmas that can affect the kind of future we might have. This isn’t because people in the sex industry have automatically done something wrong, instead, it is because society often assumes people in the sex industry are bad people, with questionable moral values and lacking skills. Furthermore, people often want to avoid being associated with those in the sex industry because they don’t want to deal with others questioning their judgment.

The Chávez case includes more problems than that, though, so I’m going to sift through the information that I have and see what we find. My first impression of this issue started here, when ScienceGoddess sent me the link. From there, I read the article David Kroll linked to, here. A quick Google search generates links that all lead back to the article in the Chronicle, but additional google-fu did get me to the site Chávez worked for*.

According to the Chronicle, Ms. Chávez took the phone sex job as a natural response to being stuck in a sucky economic situation. This isn’t an uncommon motivation for entering the sex industry, which has a high turnover rate because it seems like an easy way to make fast cash and, as our society becomes more sexually progressive, it seems like a more acceptable thing to do. That is, unless you’ve got some significant social standing, like being a professor. This kind of job, though, isn’t easy and people frequently leave the industry as fast as they entered, for a variety of reasons.

The self-described, pro-sex feminist, Ms. Chávez had heard about being a phone sex dominatrix through her students, she discussed the empowerment that such a job can give an individual and how this job could give the students good life experiences and improve their writing. I can tell you, based on my experience and the experiences that my peers have shared with me, those things are very true. Sex work can be very empowering and can give a person experiences in life that they can’t find anywhere else. The catch is, you still have to deal with the rest of society.

Back in 2008, it really bothered me how others reacted to the sex industry and how the people I knew within the industry didn’t really reflect the image that society seemed to create of them. As a result, I conducted a series of very informal interviews, asking my peers questions about how they saw themselves and about how they thought others saw them. One of the most disturbing things I noticed was that my peers seemed to indicate that the worst part of their job was not the work itself or how their clients treated them. Instead, it was how the people outside the industry treated them. There was a running theme that seemed to indicate that the thing that made working in the sex industry the hardest were the social rules that told each worker that they were bad for what they did; it was the people who discriminated against the sex workers who made life for the sex worker suck. The job was often power; general society were robbers of it. Sadly, it didn’t take much time for the empowered Chávez to experience this and part of the reason was due to a few mistakes she made.**

Chávex’ story, if her side is really what happened, doesn’t really show malicious intent. The errors that Chávez made appear to be that she might have influenced a student’s choices and she had her picture taken with another.

When I first started stripping, the experience was absolutely amazing. One of my friends was also a stripper and one night, we were sharing our experiences and talked about how our job made us feel. In that conversation, she said to me something like, “you know, when I see a girl in a sucky job, like bagging groceries, and I think about how pretty she is and how nice, I often wonder why it is that if I were to tell her she should try my job out, it feels like I’m selling crack. If I had any other job, though, it would be like I was handing her a life-saving tether.” My friend was right. My friend was right. Our jobs are looked at so negatively by society, telling a person that they should apply at McDonald’s ranks higher than telling them that they should be a stripper, even if the latter was more likely to meet all of her needs. There’s no way to know how the conversation played out when Chávez talked about the sex industry or her job with students, but even if we did know how the conversation went, the odds are high that her peers would have been just as critical. One of her students could have been starving and Chávez was likely to face criticism when her opinion on phone sex influenced a choice. In fact, the story of the student Chávez posed with, Liz Derrington, had a sad story of her own to tell, having gone through a divorce and apparently landing a job at the same place Chávez worked on her own, but people didn’t look at the events that transpired as someone trying to claw their way out of a pot of boiling water. The other student mentioned was also not seen with a very objective light on her story. Even the Chronicle hints at a concern that Chávez indirectly influenced her decision, but it ignores that this person is an adult that made her decision on her own and Chávez didn’t force the girl into it. Instead, they saw it as Chávez potentially abusing her position and harming the learning environment.

Pictures are the inarticulate mouthpiece of the sex industry. people say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but if that is true, pictures can be horribly deceptive bastards. People give pictures far more credit than they’ve ever deserved. I don’t want to say that pictures are horrible and all wrong, but pictures tell a very limited story which usually lacks context. So it was that when Chávez posed for a picture with her student, the picture spoke for them, but it didn’t really say much at all and, to some people, it said the wrong thing, entirely.

Chávez and Derrington were at work, at a job unrelated to Chávez’ position as a professor and Derrington’s role as a student when suggestive pictures of them were taken for the people they were working for. In other words, they were doing a different job. Yet, these pictures were a major player in Chávez’ becoming a target of her peers. The objection to Chávez’ alternate job could easily have cost her the position she had as a professor. Yet, most other alternate jobs that a professor might take wouldn’t have been a big deal, no matter if she was working alongside a student as an equal or not. So, is it an abuse of authority if Chávez poses next to a student, who happens to be a co-worker, in that context, for erotic purposes? Not anymore than if they worked alongside each other at a fast food joint because, in that context, Chávez wasn’t in an authoritative position over her student.

But that’s not all that fueled the controversy around Chávez. Chávez taught creative writing and her students complained to other professors about sexually charged conversations in class. This brings up some other interesting questions. When is it appropriate to talk about sexuality in a college classroom? If the person teaching Gender Studies classes can talk about porn, why can’t a Math teacher? It seems to me, the difference is in context. Is talking about sexuality relevant to the class or somehow important to the student’s experience in that class? If so, then discussion about sexuality should be open, honest and frank as long as nobody’s safety is compromised. Skill in writing is not an easy thing to gain. Unlike other subjects, where going from a problem to a solution is easy, where 2+2 will always equal 4 and knowing what the Fibonacci sequence is can unpack a number of useful applications for you, neatly, being successful at writing is complicated. Writing is barely formulaic and being able to write articulately about things requires knowledge and experiences to draw upon that aren’t mathematically constant. Furthermore, a good creative writer can write about all aspects of life. Sex, one of our most innate drives, is one of those aspects. So, does sex have a place in a class on creative writing? I am quite certain that it does, but society probably disagrees with me. I just don’t think they have a rational basis for their disagreement. So, for the students who complained about the sexually-charged conversations in Chávez’ class, unless they weren’t learning anything and/or someone was getting hurt, the problem in their class was with them.

The fact that people sought to harm Chávez by showing her pictures from her other job to her superiors is a horrible statement about the type of people they are. To me, it seems just as unethical as when people tried to get PZ Myers fired over unprovoked harm to a cracker. I know, having erotic pictures taken of you is not the same as violence to a cracker, but the similarity is in people being unable to keep in-work behavior separate from away-from-work behavior.

There is part of this controversy that is so sticky and confusing that I’m going to refrain from saying anything authoritative on it at all. In regards to a student, Carrie Cutler, there is a lot of he-said-she-said involved. There’s not really a way to gather information on what happened between them mostly because all that is related to them in this issue is from personal testimonies from people which appear to vary. It also seems as if there is some missing conflict that isn’t talked about, even in the article from the Chronicle. Basically, the conflict doesn’t make sense and appears to be something that should be disregarded when examining Chávez’ work as a telephone dominatrix. If either the student’s accusations that Chávez spoke inappropriately about her or Chávex’ claim that the Cutler was trying to harm her were true, those are matters that should be dealt with on their own. Chávez is responsible for her actions as a professor and students are also responsible for their own conduct. If the student and Chávez were moonlighting as waitresses, we wouldn’t consider drama carrying over from their waitress jobs to be questionable, just because it caused drama at the school. Instead, it would just be the conduct that took place at school, related only to the dramatic incident, that would be a concern for Chávez’ employers.

Yet another issue lurks in the murky water of this controversy, as well. When we look to an educator to help teach us a subject, we hold them to a kind of odd standard. Instead of measuring each professor based on what they can teach us, we set up other standards that go beyond that one thing. The classroom and general feel of a lesson is all the burden of a professor to carry. We call this, ‘the learning environment.’ Ms. Chávez was investigated for possibly creating a bad learning environment for her students. These accusations were not based on information gained from all of Chávez’s students. Instead, it was, again, the accounts of a few who may not have had all the information. Furthermore, this kind of investigation appears to make Chávez responsible for the educational environment when others could be influencing it. I’m glad that the investigation resulted in the conclusion that Chávez was not guilty of creating a hostile learning environment or of sexual harassment because it appears to be the case that it is the aversion that her peers had that was the driving force behind it, and not something Chávez did to actually harm someone. Chávez’ peers were then asked to reach some sort of peaceful settlement.

It didn’t help. The teachers are still objecting to Chávez staying with the school.

Enter another complicatedly tangled web: racism and sexism. Given the sparseness of evidence related to these issues, I’m only tossing them out there because they relate to the story. The hows and whys of their relevance have not been clearly revealed and so are not really worth commenting on other than to mention that they are there. Sadly, racism and sexism are a serious problem when it comes to issues related to the sex industry. That’s pretty much all I can say to shed light on that aspect of the story. Again, if these accusations are true, they should be treated as another matter, and not be used to influence decisions about Chávez’ work in the sex industry. For similar reasons, I have to skip over many of the accusations found in the Chronicle, such as faculty calling Chávez a prostitute. It is silly, but not uncommon for people to exaggerate the role an individual has in the sex industry. I get accused of being a prostitute, as well, and most of my work is done at home, while I’m completely alone (it is impossible to have sex with someone for money when there’s not a someone there with you). I think these accusations come from a desire for those objecting to the industry to demonize individuals as much as possible and it is a elementary school playground tactic. The biggest difference seems to be that, as adults, those involved in this scandal get to let their lawyers do the name-calling for them.

The saddest aspect of this whole debate seems to be that a whole department in a school has been affected by, not Chávez’ actions, alone, but by the reaction that her peers had to her work as a performer. Her work, which should not have mattered, has such a stigma attached to it that her peers were incapable of dealing with it as adults. Their tantrums over how they feel has created chaos that the rest of the school has to deal with. I’m not going to paint Chávez as a lone victim, but I really don’t think she’s as guilty of creating a poor learning environment for her students as her peers appear to have been.

David Kroll, from PLoS suggests that Chávez resign:

Not knowing anything more about the case than the article in The Chronicle, the simplest resolution would seem to be that the faculty member in question resign.

While I understand his reasoning, the student experience is a very important thing to consider, I don’t really think that is the right answer. If this issue really is being fueled by the offended peers of Chávez, then her career is lost due to their callous, bully hands. Her actions as a phone dominatrix were not harmful and were not an example of an abuse of power. Regardless of if they looked like coercion, they shouldn’t be treated as if they are because we know, based on the information given in the Chronicle, that they weren’t. Allowing her picture to be taken was a mistake by Chávez, but only because of how society reacts to these things, not because she actually was doing something wrong. Should she be forced to resign over the picture, then it is more of a testament to the power of bigotry against someone who worked in the sex industry than an actual, rational response to the situation.

As for the other accusations that exist in the comments and in the article, there’s no way for bystanders like myself and Kroll can’t really get enough information on them to take any objective stance, so we should really be responding to the whole thing with that in mind, and addressing only those issues which the Chronicle gives us sufficient evidence for.

*As a side note from someone who has been around in the industry for a while, the site Chávez worked for is an atypical contract arrangement. It doesn’t encourage the same safety standards that most other contracts do that allow people in the sex industry to keep their identities hidden. Further, in order to begin working for them, People Exchanging Power requires applicants to first pay for an information packet and then you can start working for them and, if you stick around for six weeks, you might get your money back. None of what is said to be in the information packet is something that couldn’t be put online someplace for performers. While it may not be the intention of PEP to do so, this stinks of a way to take advantage of people looking for this kind of work.

There is also a little deception in how they present your potential earnings on the site. While the website says that an individual makes $35-$50 per every hour of talk time, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be talking the whole time that you’re logged in to work for them. most companies have a range of per minute earning potential, but the catch is that you’re only going to make money when you’re talking and if there are large gaps of time between the calls you take, you are unlikely to make the kind of money they’re trying to imply.

**While I think my interviews with people are relevant and important to this article, I am aware that they cannot be considered something that was done with scientific rigor. While I do my best to preserve the scientific process as I go about my study of sex and the sex industry, I am only one person and my peers are not even close to including the diversity I would encounter were I ever able to have the exciting opportunity of doing a cross-sectional study.

Apparently, someone forgot to send Montana the memo about how homosexual sex is normal and probably shouldn’t be a crime. Montana’s Republican Party is still trying to make gay sex illegal.

Anti-sex themes in the law have existed for quite a long time. In the 1600s, colonists had a variety of punishments for adulterers and fornicators. A punishment of being whipped and then wearing a badge which marked your crime for your peers is, perhaps, the most well-known punishment, now. If a woman did not properly object to a man’s advances, she could be subject to punishments, such as whippings, even if she did not consent to sex. Homosexual acts have been punished with a range of actions from whippings to exile to castration.

All of these punishments were horrible things to do to people and have long since been eliminated from our legal systems due to their inhumanity. It has been recognized, especially in the last two decades, that punishing people for consensual sexual behavior is archaic and not in the best interest of preserving the rights of this country’s inhabitants. Laws against most consensual sexual behavior between adults have been declared unconstitutional and our current population of young adults is barely aware that laws once existed that could have punished them severely for things they do regularly.

This is why the Montana GOP’s stance is so startling. Why is a stance that has been abandoned by most of the rest of the country a part of a political platform in Montana? How can we enlighten them and get them caught up with the rest of the country who has now progressed to working on the next issue, equal rights in marriage?

Recently, I observed that my Rehymenator comic has had the most positive response of any comic I’ve done thus far. The comic was created specifically in light of this post on secondary virginity. The comic pokes fun at something that is actually a very serious issue around the world and one about which Dr. Martin Rundkvist wrote an excellent post on his blog in 2008. his post is mostly about how Swedish healthcare should cover the procedure, but he mentions some other important issues that are related and are global concerns. I highly encourage you to go read it and then come back to finish reading what I have to say about it.

Finished?

Good.

Dr. Rundkvist ties the issue of hymen reconstruction to another important issue, circumcision:

This recalls the issue whether public health care should offer male circumcision. As I have argued before, all genital mutilation of minors should of course be illegal — but as long as male infant circumcision remains legal, it should be part of public healthcare to avoid a proliferation of amateur circumcisionists.

I completely agree that unless there’s some sort of medical problem that requires it, all forms of non-consensual genital mutilation should be completely discouraged. It is horrible that, in this day, we try to uphold old cultural norms just on the basis that it is considered ‘normal,’ especially when those norms result in physically altering someone’s body, causing them pain and putting them at risk for things like infection. I don’t agree with one thing, though. I disagree with the approach, at this point in time, of making it illegal. I think it is too early. Circumcision is very popular in many developed and undeveloped countries and making it illegal right away is likely to push the procedure into an underground market and that would put infants and children at risk when unskilled and untrained individuals begin putting knives to their genitals.

I think that a better approach is to educate people about circumcision, the history and how unethical it is. With education, cultures tend to change and I think that making this a bigger issue can make them change rapidly, so that we can get to a point where the procedure is so rare that making it illegal is not going to be so risky and can be considered an overall benefit, at least in the United States. I think that’s probably true in Sweden, as well, but I don’t live there so I have to make room for the possibility of missing some contextual information.

Another thing I thought I should comment on is the very last part of Dr. Rundkvist’s post:

So, should public health care offer hymen reconstruction? In my opinion, yes, because hymen obsessives pay taxes too. But the procedure should only be available to people over the age of 18, who have the right to vote and must be assumed to make their own decisions about their fannies. The latter assumption is of course highly debatable in situations where a young woman runs the risk of being murdered by her uncles and cousins.

The only part of this that I disagree with are the age and voting restrictions. Sadly, many of the countries that have cultures that value in-tact hymens also have very young ages at which they try to marry their children off. Furthermore, because of the control that the male populace has over the women, sexual abuse is likely very common (though, obtaining statistical information on this is difficult and complicated). This sexual abuse puts the young girl at risk and if the only way to protect her from her family, even as a young girl, is to get her a new hymen, then I don’t think she should be restricted by an age law. I think that protecting her life should be a priority above all else. Until we can get her culture to progress beyond such a horrific state, if her life depends on that little bit of flesh, then any country which offers the procedure should avoid restricting it.

I should repeat, though, that Dr. Rundkvist’s post does contain some great points so I highly encourage you to go and read it.

2010-09-12-candc-52-undo-buttonAbstinence-only programs have been an absurd educational joke from their inception – many hundreds of years ago, when chastity belts were cool and a pregnancy could get a girl killed. As the evidence stacks up against the arguments that abstinence-only advocates use, their cognitive dissonance seems to increase and they come up with new ways to make them feel better about their ideas. This includes ignoring the problem once it has clearly failed.

In case you hadn’t heard, in order to regain the attention of teens who have failed to succeed at abstinence, there is an answer. As it turns out, people who have had sex before can still commit to abstinence and they can become a virgin again! That’s right, your sexual experiences apparently come with an ‘undo’ button, after all.

According to Reap (which is a really creepy name for a Catholic website), secondary virginity is a restoration of one’s purity after one has had sex. They say:

God has the power to restore your emotionally, spiritually and mentally to a place where you can be pure and whole again. Committing to chastity after mistakes is possible and helps you become an amazing gift for your future spouse.

Continue reading »

Thank-you, Beleth, for being an inspiration for me to draw this revirginizing image. The shout-out to my trekkie fans was just for giggles.

Thank-you, Beleth, for being an inspiration for me to draw this revirginizing image. The shout-out to my trekkie fans was just for giggles.

2010-09-12-candc-52-undo-button1

September 10, 2010 – Eastern Washington Sex Worker’s Outreach Group (EW-SWOP) is a new organization that wishes to help sex workers gain and maintain rights that they are often denied. Issues from legalizing prostitution to decreasing domestic violence within the industry are addressed by the group. Alongside these goals, the group helps to fight for equal rights for the LGBT community.

The group serves another purpose, though. The outreach group also serves as an alliance that allows sex workers to connect with others within the industry. The taboo nature of the sex industry often leaves workers feeling isolated and unable to discuss important matters with people who don’t understand life in the industry. EW-SWOP hopes to help those workers by giving them someone to turn to.

EW-SWOP is already planning on events related to the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th, International Sex Worker Rights Day on March 3rd, and joining in activities related to local Gay Pride events. The group plans to meet one or two times a month.  Web utilities or phone trees will be options for those who cannot travel or who lack internet access.

Introducing the Eastern Washington Sex Worker’s Outreach Project (EW-SWOP).

This is an organization devoted to unifying people in the sex industry to offer social support and to fight for the rights of sex workers around the globe. You can join us so you can feel less alone in the industry and you can help us fight to change the attitude that the world has regarding the sex industry. If you’re interested in joining our local chapter, please contact me at SophieHirschfeld [at] sexandscience [dot] org. I would be more than happy to hear from you. You can also reach me on twitter here and on facebook here.

In order to read more about SWOP, check out this website.

I will be writing several articles, soon, to discuss and elaborate on topics important to SWOP, so pay attention to this category on my website. I will be using it to keep everyone updated on local activities as well, and to encourage discussion amongst my peers.

Again, if you are in the Inland Northwest, especially if you’re in Eastern Washington, and you’re in the sex industry, we invite you to come and join us to help make our world a better place. Anyone in the industry from phone sex workers to strippers to escorts are welcome to join.

This morning, my attention has been drawn to this. A well-meaning feminist who thinks Jay Leno has hurt women, most of whom he has never met, by using two words. “Victims” of prostitution will now forever remain victims because of Jay Leno. At least, that’s what she appears to be claiming. I’m pretty sure this is not the case, so I took it upon myself to examine everything she said in order to see what is valid, what isn’t and what may or may not make sense. All the quotes to follow are from her, until I state otherwise:

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
3000 W. Alameda Avenue
Burbank, CA 91523

I’m glad she put the address there so I can write a letter of my own.

Dear Jay:
I watched your show for years but I can no longer do so. Why? Because words matter, Jay. Without fail, several times a week, you refer to women in the sex industry as “whores” or “hookers.”

Of course words matter. If words didn’t matter to us, we would not be the ja-y-offend1species that we are. We’d be something else; something else that does not use words. Just ask a zombie!

It is true that the words ‘hooker’ and ‘whore’ gets used a lot on some tv programs. I can’t really comment on the frequency with which they appear on the Tonight Show because I don’t watch it often enough. I have seen the show, though, and I am sure I’ve heard him use those terms. I don’t think, though, him using those terms would be a great reason for someone to stop watching his show. Jay Leno is an entertainer. It is his duty to keep people’s attention. Sometimes, he has to do this using words that are attention-grabbing. Most talented entertainers will do that.

Furthermore, words matter, but so does your reaction to them. Language changes rapidly as a result of people’s reaction to them. Feminists have whorechanged the meaning of the word ‘bitch’ and it is pretty likely that if Whore Magazine is a success, it will change the meaning of its name as well. We don’t need to throw a tantrum at Jay Leno to make this happen. We can do this ourselves.

Jay, did you know that most women, especially in lesser-developed nations, are sold into the sex industry, often by their own relatives?

Unless you have a seriously distorted idea of what the word ‘most’ means, that statement is wrong. Some women do get sold into slavery, sometimes into a situation where they are forced to become sex workers, but it certainly isn’t a majority and it isn’t necessarily the most common way for women to end up in the sex industry.

Did you know that right now, in India and probably many other counties, children as young as three are gang raped for profit and infected with HIV?

How could you possibly link Jay Leno’s use of two words to children being raped in India? Children being sexually abused, in any fashion, is a serious matter and I don’t want to downplay that or to pretend that it doesn’t happen. I do doubt that it happens on a regular basis. I doubt it is some sort of afternoon ritual. But, I know it can and probably does happen. It makes me sad and makes me feel like I’m not doing enough in this world. Of course, tugging at that emotional string is precisely what this sentence was for. Child abuse is a a pretty big deal and it is something that every country should be working to prevent. When you so carelessly swing the issue about, like this, as if it is a club against someone totally unrelated to the problem, that’s completely inexcusable. Shame on you, whoever you are, for using it that way! The children who do get abused in such a horrific manner deserve something much better than someone pinning the blame of their nightmare onto an innocent who couldn’t possibly be connected to it.

That in the United States, the average age of entry into prostitution is reportedly 13?

That’s a lie that has been repeated for a long time, all over the place. Someone did a study on children who were forced into prostitution and then assumed that the numbers in the study on children applied to the industry as a whole. Obviously, that’s really bad reporting. It is really bad science and it is a horribly damaging myth to spread. It is sad that it is such a widespread myth. It is one of those myths that people believe because it is scary, not because there’s a rational reason to believe in it. A quick meta analysis of the information gained from this study on women detained for prostitution, you know, an actual study that collected data on the actual group we’re talking about, the average age the participants started prostituting themselves appears to be 20. Of course, we need far more information and this study has a natural bias because the people conducting the study were after other information. However, applying that data to the question of what the average age people enter prostitution is would certainly be far more accurate than using a study that was only about children entering prostitution.

That one study in Colorado found that prostitutes die at a crude mortality rate of 391 per 100,000 in comparison with non-sex workers, where the standardized mortality for the general population during this same time frame was 1.9 per 100,000?

You must mean this study. Again, this doesn’t really have anything at all to do with Jay Leno’s use of the terms you’re upset about, but some important observations need to be made, here. Firstly, if you read the study, you’ll find that it shows that the cause of death for most of these women wasn’t because they were prostitutes. Correlation is not causation and in increased death rate for prostitutes may not be caused by the fact that they’re prostitutes. According to the study, the most common causes of death were violence and drug use. These are two issues that could more easily be addressed if prostitution were legalized and we could get people help more easily if they are on drugs AND we prostitutes who are victims of domestic violence can turn to the police without fear of being arrested because they did something illegal. A pretty decent argument could be made for the legalization of prostitution, based on this information.

That every prostitute is someone’s son, daughter, sister, brother or mother?

So is every serial killer, florist, asshole and lawyer, but that doesn’t stop us from making edgy jokes about any of them. Well, except maybe the florist. They have to deal with enough trouble in their lives, there’s no need to make jokes about them or invent crass terms to identify them with, those stamen fiddlers!

Jay, using words like “hooker” and “whore” further desensitizes people who barely care when prostitutes die locked up in cages, are tortured, thrown from cars or are left dead near a river.

There is absolutely no evidence that this is true. not a single shred of evidence. Again, we’ve approached a very serious matter and here is the author, flinging horrific events that can and sometimes do happen as if it is some sort of club that should hit anyone who happens to offend her. The abuse of sex workers is a very real and serious problem. Sex workers need to have safer environments and they need protection and they need to live in a safer world. Pretending that just saying a couple words on TV causes these problems belittles women in this situation. It devalues their experience and that can desensitize people to their troubles.

Getting a cheap laugh at the expense of these victims, and yes, they are victims, is pathetic. I really hope you are better than that.

Prostitutes, in general, are not victims because they are prostitutes. Some prostitutes are victims because people are careless. Some prostitutes are victims because they have no protection. Some prostitutes are victims because it is illegal for them just to do their job. Not all prostitutes are victims, though, and trying to make them all into victims is unappreciated and doesn’t help them.

Please take time to educate yourself on the reality of the sex industry. If you took a few hours out of your life to learn the realities of the sex industry in this country and many others, I almost guarantee you would stop throwing those terms around. There is enough pain and suffering in the world without you casually contributing to it with your callous disregard for these victims.

Jay Leno’s use of the word ‘hooker’ and ‘whore’ does far less of a disservice to prostitutes than your rant toward him does. That being said, I do hope that Jay Leno becomes informed about the sex industry. I don’t think it will change his vocabulary, much, but sex workers of all types could use more advocates. People in the sex industry face a great number of issues that tend to get ignored due to bigotry toward the sex industry. It isn’t the bigotry that leads to Jay Leno tossing terms around as an entertainer. Instead, the bigotry that hurts sex workers is the kind that claims they’re all victims, that they’re all drug addicts, that there are no other life options for them and that they’re all horrible people. It is the bigotry that makes excuses for the laws against the industry and for rants against the wrong people that creates the most problems.

I’m not going to leave this post here, though. I’m responding to a letter that was addressed to Jay Leno and posted online, encouraging people to join this person (who remains anonymous) in a writing campaign. I’m going to write my own letter. The following quote is what I will send to Jay Leno.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
3000 W. Alameda Ave.
Burbank, CA 91523-0001Dear Mr. Leno,

I understand that a writing campaign against you has begun. As far as I know, it at least involves one person, but could involve many. I would like to offer a counter-campaign that could involve just me, or could involve many.

The campaign against you is a complaint against you using the words “whore” and “hooker.” I would like to encourage you to, instead, use these words more. I don’t think you need to increase your random use of the terms, though. Instead, I want you to do just one of the things that the woman who is against you asked. I want you to learn about the sex industry.

The person who has complained about your word use seems to think that if you learned about the sex industry, you would use those terms less. it seems to me, though, that it would be wiser to use what you learn and use the terms more. It would be a tremendous help to those in the sex industry if you discussed how hookers face an incredibly high rate of domestic violence and that because their work is illegal, they can’t easily seek protection from the law. A story like that might require the use of the word ‘hooker’ several times! Likewise, discussing the tendency of the villainization of whores within the media and how it relates to stigmas that people in the sex industry face would allow you to use the word ‘whore’ a lot. I would also like to see you use the word in a more liberal way. Not only do I want to see you refer to hookers as whores, I want to see you refer to everyone in the sex industry as whores. Then, I want you to discuss how the fight against pornography hurts whores because it is literally a fight against society to take jobs away from whores. Whores need jobs, too.

Besides, if local whores are no longer doing the job, we may have to outsource and, as we all know based on our experience with call centers, heavy accents and poorly paid employees make for shitty customer service.

Sincerely,

Sophie Hirschfeld

P. S. Here is where you can find a copy of my response, online, to the campaign against you:

http://sexandscience.org/blog/?p=350

sophiefawkesIf you so desire, you can write to Jay Leno as well. However, please make your letter to him as productive as possible. Popular television shows get a tremendous amount of mail and it is possible that this campaign against Jay Leno could get overwhelming enough without them having some redundant counter-campaign going to them as well. If you do write back, it would be super-awesome if you included a reference to this post, just because I like to have credit for my evil deeds. Also, offer helpful suggestions for the show, don’t just gush over it. I like the idea of any campaign being productive, even though most of them aren’t.

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