September 25, 2009

Donnis on Prostitution

Justin Katz

Ian Donnis has a radio story on WRNI addressing the prostitution issue in Rhode Island. It remains curious to me that those who advocate for the legality of prostitution on the grounds that it doesn't help the women to be thrown in jail aren't more vociferous about turning penalties onto the pimps and johns. They all admit that the vast majority of women involved in prostitution are so occupied out of destitution and addiction, and the lifestyle does nothing to move them away from that form of subservience.

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The moment a pimp or john threatens or lays a hand on a prostitute I will be for turning a penalty on them. If there is no coercion involved except "economic coercion", and all transactions are voluntary associations, then no, I don't advocate for throwing anyone in jail. No good can come from the "progressive" notion that we are all slaves to our circumstances and that government's job is to violently intervene into our private lives and save us from ourselves.

If a prostitute is drug addicted or destitute, that is her own problem to resolve and nobody else's, especially not the government's. I wish that the party of "personal responsibility" would come on board with that. I know there are plenty of libertarians and independents out there who are just waiting for that day so that they can give the GOP their votes and money in good conscience without fearing that they will be used for violent moral crusades and further expansion of government into private lives.

Posted by: Dan at September 25, 2009 2:10 PM

"drug addicted or destitute" anyone who believes that is failing to make a distinction between "streetwalkers" and "prostitutes".

Unless I am mistaken, the law under cosideration is about the legality of "indoor prostitution", not streetwalkers whose usual stock in trade is outdoor fellatio.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at September 25, 2009 4:39 PM

Just a thought while it occurs. I wonder if we have become totally mixed up. I spoke to a guy today whose wife is hosting a "Toys for Twats" party tonight.

I don't get it, suburbia is bursting with "sex toy" parties, similar to the old Tupperware Parties. Yet we are concerned about paid sex between consenting adults?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at September 25, 2009 7:43 PM

Every time I donate blood they ask if I've ever paid to have sex. I tell them, I'm a man, I always pay to have sex!

Posted by: bobc at September 25, 2009 7:57 PM

Justin, I think you'll find that virtually -all- of the people advocating for prostitution to remain decriminalized feel very strongly that -abusive- pimps and johns -should- be punished. That radio story was weak, they went to a place known for -street prostitution- and talked to an advocate from an organization that has dealt with -street prostitutes-, not someone who is familiar with what happens 'behind closed doors'.

What I think you'll find amongst those of us who know and work with women in the spas, Phoenix pages, and strip clubs, is that there aren't 'pimps' running the show in Rhode Island.

What's happened here is that a group of fringe right-wing 'all sex is violence against women' feminist radicals have taken the imagery from illegal street-walking subsistence prostitution and packaged it up as a comprehensive picture of sex work. While we hear from the prohibitionists that these women are in the charge of abusive pimps who abduct young runaways, addict them to drugs, use them as punching bags, turn them out, and keep the money, the reality in Rhode Island's spas is that these women come here with the intention of doing this work, and would choose to do it over the menial minimum-wage labor that they would otherwise be doing. They live at the spas to protect themselves from -us-, not because they are trapped there. They take field trips to Foxwoods and Twin River, they stand in the parking lots of the spas and chat on their cell phones, they walk their bichons around the block. Maybe that's not what you hear in Tiverton, where I'm not sure there's been a prostitution arrest this -decade-, but here in Pawtucket, within walking distance of three spas, that's my observation.

The people who have first-hand contact with the indoor sex industry, including those in it, are the ones trying hard to save it. Don't you think it's a little funny that a group of Asian spa workers came to testify that they wanted to keep their jobs at the senate judiciary hearing, but the senate still passed a bill under the guise of 'saving them' 35-0?

The fact is that there have been over 1,000 arrests of indoor and outdoor prostitutes in Rhode Island since the trafficking issue was brought up, the authorities interrogate these women to try to get a trafficking case, and they can't because -there's almost no trafficking here-. They've not found -any- illegal drugs or signs of physical abuse at the parlors. The women at the vast majority of these places have legitimate visas, citizenship, green cards.

After all the other issues are diffused by the facts, all you have to stand on is 'corruption of culture', and considering that making prostitution illegal does little to dissuade it, and only seems to cause more of the really nasty kind (drug-abusing street walkers looking to score their next hit), even that is a shaky leg to stand on.

The 'arrest the johns' idea might reduce prostitution, but at great cost to the state, and it fails to address that paying for sex is something that somewhere between 30% and 70% of men in this country have done. The 'arrest the supplier' and 'arrest the consumer' models of vice-control have failed time and again, at little social benefit and great taxpayer cost.

You want to buy sex? Go ahead, buy sex from someone willing to sell it. As soon as you assault someone, that's where you cross the line into an already-defined crime.

Posted by: mangeek at September 25, 2009 10:04 PM

A kooky analogy, since that's what I like to do most:

Interviewing RENEW on Barton Street about indoor prostitution would be like going to McDonalds at University Heights and asking about fine dining.

Posted by: mangeek at September 25, 2009 10:10 PM

A few more thoughts, although I don't think that they necessarily come to the wrong conclusion, I think that many people are not familiar with the underside of society.

Someone mentioned that there probably had not been an arrest for prostitution in Tiverton in a decade. Possibly true, but experience tells me that that there are probably 2-3 "call girls" living in Tiverton. I base this solely on its proximity to a metropolitan area.

Those who oppose prostitution have been described here as "right wing". It would seem to me that laws against prostitution are "big government". Being "right wing" this confuses me. But then, I have always wondered why the Nazis are frequently described as "far right wing", I have always thought of them as "far left wing". Russians who would like to return to the "old days" are called right wing. I always thought communism was the ultimate aspiration of the left wing.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at September 26, 2009 5:36 AM

"The 'arrest the johns' idea might reduce prostitution, but at great cost to the state"

Mangeek, the point about arresting johns is in response to those who say that they WOULD go after prostitution but they don't want women to be "victimized yet again" by being arrested.

The way around that objection is to go after demand, not supply. That way, you'll be carrying out both of your stated goals.

Posted by: Monique at September 26, 2009 7:59 AM

Monique, arresting the 'demand' is a great solution if you can accept that there are far more people on the demand-side then there are on the supply, meaning that the cost to taxpayers would be higher (more arrests and more difficult enforcement model). Also, it's a solution to the 'all prostitution is victimization' idea, which is a tough case to make when sex workers themselves are asking to be allowed to continue their work.

I (and most people) do not subscribe to the idea that prostitution is always something that johns inflict on victims.

Posted by: mangeek at September 26, 2009 11:12 AM

Apologies if I wasn't clear.

The point of proposing to arrest only johns, Mangeek, is to expose the flawed reasoning of those - especially those elected officials - who claim to wish to end prostitution. It is reasoning which raises questions as to whether they truly wish to end prostitution.

You, JoeB and others at least state your views on this subject forthrightly. This may or may not be the case with certain elected officials.

Posted by: Monique at September 26, 2009 5:28 PM

Ahh, I can agree with that. I think the politicians are doing what they are wont to do, which is to do the easy thing that looks good in the news, then pat each other back for being so brave and courageous.

You're right, the politicians aren't being honest with us about their motives, but their motives aren't as dubious as Ed Achorn imagines (envelopes sliding across tables and sexual favors for politicians), I think deep down, most Rhode Island politicians -know- that the ACLU is usually pretty on-target, and that the National Organization for Women isn't some deviant group, but they have a very vocal minority of 'blue dog' constituents they feel they need to answer to.

Posted by: mangeek at September 26, 2009 7:45 PM

The ACLU?On target?Defending convicted pedophiles;exposing CIA agents and thereby threatening their lives and our security;suborning perjury(I had personal experience with this in Chicago);defending illegal aliens proactively-those are just for starters.
The ACLU is an activist organization dedicated to the destruction of our constitutional republic and the institution of an international government.
WHERE did I get such nonsense?Glenn Beck?Rush Limbaugh?No-these are the aims of Roger Baldwin,avowed international socialist and founder of the ACLU.Check into him and his philosophy before you start calling me names(not like I give a s**t).

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 27, 2009 6:33 AM

If RI really wanted to get rid of these businesses, they would make it legal and tax it to death like they do with every business in the state.

Posted by: Happy Endings? at September 30, 2009 1:13 PM
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