by Furry Girl
This week in Arizona, two "sacred temples", aka, Pagan-themed sex businesses, were raided on charges of "illegal control of an enterprise, prostitution, maintaining a house of prostitution and receiving the earnings of a prostitute." The busts at the Phoenix Goddess Temple and the Sedona Goddess Temple have liberal sex bloggers rushing to cry foul and act shocked, asking, "What about freedom of religion?!" It's apparently an outrage that sex workers who are Pagan (or claim to be Pagan to earn money) weren't given a special exemption from the laws that apply to other sex workers.
First off, for those of you not familiar with the funny double-speak about "tantric healing," "goddess worship," and "sacred touch," you might wonder what goes on inside a typical "sacred temple." Sometimes, sensual massage parlors and brothels are gussied up with a bunch of new age mumbjo jumbo, and the businesses stress that they are "churches" that are not selling sex, but providing sacred healing sessions for "donations." You're not supposed to notice that these "sacred healing sessions" look exactly like regular prostitution, and if you suggest such a thing, you will be accused of oppressing people for their "religious beliefs." Whether the owners and workers in such sex businesses choose to go this route because they think it will offer them legal protection, or because they honestly believe they have magical powers, seems to vary on a case-by-case basis.
Earlier this year, an Arizona paper ran an exposé, "Phoenix Goddess Temple's 'Sacred Sexuality' Is More Like New Age Prostitution," for which the "temple" workers were happy to demonstrate a "healing session" where a nearly-naked woman massaged a naked man and then fingered his ass while giving him a handjob. Really, go read that article and tell me that the "temple," which took in $20,000 in "donations" each month, doesn't sound anything like a for-profit sex business. (Tracy Elise, the "Mystic Mother Priestess" who founded the Phoenix Goddess, had her last business/"temple" shut down by law enforcement in Seattle for allegedly being a brothel.) The article is full of gems, like one worker's claims that being touched by him will cause you to re-grow lost body parts, or this, a description of language:
There's a euphemism for everything in temple-speak. There are no johns, but "seekers." No sex, only "sacred union." There are no handjobs, only "tantric touch." No payment is accepted, but hefty "donations" are expected. There are no hookers, just "goddesses." They don't work with penises, but "wands of light."
Let me emphasize: I support all consenting adults' rights to buy and sell sex, but there is no difference between selling sex while burning incense and selling sex while not burning incense. I am sick of seeing sex-positive people act as though Pagan-themed sex work is morally/ethically superior to non-Pagan-themed sex work, and that if you claim a certain religious belief, that you deserve special treatment under the law.
I absolutely support freedom of religion and our First Amendment rights. However, arguing that the law should apply differently to people of certain religions is actually the opposite of "freedom of religion". It's state-sponsored favoritism, which is what the First Amendment was set up to prevent, not to create. I don't want to live in a world where each faith has a different set of law books, and people can pick and choose which religion they say they're currently a part of based on which laws they want to follow. Again, I don't think consensual adult sex work should be illegal for anyone, but I don't support carving out special legal rights only for sex workers who are Pagan, or those who pretend to be Pagan to make money as a part of their work persona.
I have sympathy for the "temple" people arrested in Arizona, and I hope they beat their charges, but my sympathy is not because I think they have supernatural healing powers or deserve special treatment, but because they're sex workers like me. It's too bad that so many of the people who will now rally around the Phoenix Goddess "temple" are not doing so out of concern for sex workers' rights for all, but because they want special rights for Pagans only.
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
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- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
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- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
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- Amanda Brooks
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- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
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- Whore Madonna