by Furry Girl

11.22.13

"I cried on the way to the hospital. It was the third time I ended up there on account of my erection. I'd considered myself drug-free for the latter half of my life. But I'd spent my entire twenties consuming erectile dysfunction pharmaceuticals. Over the past two years, on a more-than-frequent basis.

It was normal by default. To be a male porn star meant that you swallowed pills or shot up your dick.

I didn't think of it as fake. I'd found my process of arousal and allowed a sense of sincerity into much of my work. But the fear of failure always loomed. The work-flow of modern porn did not allow for the unpredictability of human performance. My psyche didn't allow for it either. I'd wrapped up my identity in the ability to fuck anyone under most any condition.

The choice came to either fuck like a god until I couldn't fuck at all, or to bring my sex back down to earth. An emergency room doctor had my attention once he'd opened a hole in my penis and let it bleed out. 'You keep doing this and you're not going to be able to get an erection, period.' There was something in his voice. It suggested that I'd already gone too far.

'What the fuck am I going to do?' I said out loud while driving home. It was meant for something greater than myself - a god I didn't believe in."

-- Danny Wylde in Transition on trvewestcoastfiction.blogspot.com  Also see his post, RIP Danny Wylde

Danny dislikes me, but I wish him all the best in his transition into new things, because I'm sure he'll be great at at.





by Furry Girl

06.18.12

"We know the prime users of alternative medicine worldwide - it's those middle-aged, middle-class, educated women with a high disposable income.  The younger end of this group is also likely to take their children to naturopaths and cranial osteopaths, to avoid having them immunised and to medicate them with shop-bought homeopathic and herbal remedies.  Alternative medicine offers these women a way to take control, to be remarkable in their day-to-day lives and to make them feel as if their needs as individuals are being attended to.  It touches them, both physically and emotionally, at a point in mid-life when many women in our society say they are beginning to feel invisible...  Marketing executives have been quick to appreciate the strong appeal of CAM for women.

[...]

Alternative medicine knows precisely how to make every user feel special.  CAM [Complementary and Alternative Medicine] says you are unique so your treatment needs to be carefully calibrated to reflect your individuality...  What matters is you, not your illness symptoms or even whether you actually have any identifiable illness or symptoms.

[...]

It is an abiding paradox that alternative medicine is used most keenly by the generation of women who, in the form of the women's liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s, asserted that it was 'our bodies, our lives, our right to decide' and rejected paternalistic medicine in the delivery room and beyond.  Yet these same women now want to be told what to do by a shaman."

-- Rose Shapiro, in her book, Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All.

My favorite part of this book was the commentary on the gender politics of pseudoscience, and the embarrassing fact that women will gleefully line up to empty their wallets for any woo-woo nonsense that holds their hands and tells them that they're beautiful and unique snowflakes.

Quack "medicine" should be decried for the same reasons as scented vaginal douches (which also profit from purposefully exploiting women's insecurities).  Instead, the very people who would balk at shame-centric, unhealthy "feminine hygiene" products are the same people in the "natural alternatives" section of the pharmacy picking up another expensive a tube of sugar pills that promises to truly appreciate their specialness.





by Furry Girl

06.15.12

After spending part of May looking exactly like the Forever Alone Guy and trying to diagnose a mystery ailment, it turns out that I had the mumps.  (No, I didn't take a photo of my weird face while I was sick, I felt too gross and ugly to immortalize it.)  After all the hours spent researching every country I've visited in the last few years in search of a tropical disease that might match my symptoms, I got the most pedestrian of diagnoses.  (It should be noted that Brooke Magnanti made the correct guess before anyone at my local clinic.)  It wasn't fun at all: the swollen lumpy face, the weird looks from strangers, all the of blood draws to test me for rare diseases, and about $1100 in medical bills.  I did receive the MMR vaccine as a child in 1985, but it did not take hold, as was also the case for Brooke, who contracted the mumps three years ago herself.

I consider my personal experience with the mumps as a success story for vaccination.

As my regular readers/Twitter followers know, I am a supporter of vaccination programs, and it's one of the few areas where I advocate heavy-handed state intervention into people's lives to force them to do something against their will.  I oppose any "religious" and "personal belief" exemptions to mandatory vaccination programs, and I consider it child abuse to deny your offspring medical care just because you don't believe in science.  While I'll laugh and smirk at adults going to naturopaths and chiropractors, I don't really care if adults want to throw away their money on that crap when it doesn't affect anyone else.  However, vaccination is a totally different story, because it doesn't just affect your family, it puts everyone at risk.

The anti-vaccination movement is not, as some might think, a product of the lunatic fringe of Christianity.  The people who oppose vaccination and profit from spreading lies and hysteria about the supposed "dangers" aren't just religious conservatives like Michele Bachmann trying to keep the HPV vaccine from saving lives, but often liberal/left wingers who champion a bunch of nonsense about the supposed evils of "Western medicine," aka, medicine that is actually proven to be effective at treating illness.  In the United States, especially in "progressive" areas like Seattle, we are experiencing increasing outbreaks of preventable illnesses because of anti-science dumbasses who are so selfish that they are willing to risk killing their own and other people's children on their vague unsupported guess that maybe everything humans know about biology, chemistry, physiology, epidemiology, and medicine might be wrong.  It's a very risky gamble with astronomical odds of being correct, and these people are playing this game at the expense of vulnerable members of society: babies and children who cannot or have not been vaccinated, and adults with compromised immune systems.

Why does vaccination go beyond a simple personal choice to do something potentially dangerous, like not wearing a bike helmet, or drinking alcohol, or visiting countries experiencing political unrest?  I strongly support people doing whatever risky things they like with their own bodies, but the personal liberty argument does not hold up when it comes to vaccination.  Successful vaccination programs require what's called "herd immunity," whereby diseases are controlled and essentially wiped out because most people in a society have protection.  Even if one kid in a school of 500 gets measles, it's not going to become a major outbreak if the other 499 children have had their vaccinations and the illness can't spread like wildfire through the community.  Some anti-vaccination people try to twist the issue of herd immunity, claiming that since most kids are vaccinated, then it doesn't matter if their kids are potential vectors of disease.  (That's like making an argument that it's perfectly okay to drive drunk just because most the majority of people drive sober, and so those other people will hopefully be alert enough to get out of the way as your car careens into oncoming traffic.)  The "free spaces" in herd immunity must be reserved not for anti-science conspiracy theorists, but for children and adults who truly cannot be vaccinated, such as young babies and people with immune system disorders whose bodies couldn't handle vaccinations.  Herd immunity is a biological/social safety net that is easily broken when too many people think they're entitled to use it.

Anti-vaccination crazies cling to all sorts of arguments to support their beliefs.  Some claim that vaccines cause autism (they don't).  Some claim that their God doesn't believe in medical intervention.  Some claim that all of "Western medicine" is some kind of patriarchal oppression, and that we must go back to the glorious old days of having sacred medicine women.  A recent anti-vaccination nut I met was opposed to it on the grounds that suffering - including getting polio or AIDS - is all a part of our magical life journey, and that it's wrong to deny humans those character-building opportunities.  Whatever banner they are waving, these people are not only fucking crazy, but also dangerous.  I don't want to see already-disadvantaged and vulnerable kids like an infant born with HIV have to suffer the added complications of measles or polio because some stupid hippie who thinks we shouldn't interfere with Mother Nature.

Back to me and my mumps.  I was vaccinated, but I still got the disease.  This is the sort of extremely rare case that anti-vaccination crazies would hold up as anecdotal proof that vaccines are evil and don't even work anyway.  On the contrary: getting the mumps has made me even more pro-vaccination.  That I was unknowingly susceptible to the mumps and did not get the illness until the age of 28 is a success, not a failure, of vaccination programs.  I owe a debt of thanks to the parents of the kids in my elementary school who got their children vaccinated.  I owe thanks also to middle schools and colleges for requiring MMR vaccinations as a condition of entry (even though some people still manipulate their way out with "philosophical" exemptions).  I am thankful that the "herd" I grew up in did vaccinate, which is why, unlike my parents and grandparents, I never knew a single kid with polio when I was growing up.

Because of the spectacular success of vaccination programs in the developed world, my generation is quick to forget how terrible the diseases are that we now vaccinate against, but they should try talking to some older people in their community.  They should ask their grandparents how scary it was to wonder if their children might be crippled by polio or die from diphtheria.  A couple of generations ago, you didn't have loony parents like Jenny McCarthy marching in protest of the government and science for trying to eradicate diseases, nor will you find an anti-vaccination movement in developing countries where these illness still claim countless innocent lives.  In short: you don't see opposition from people who know, on either an emotional or scientific level, what these diseases actually mean.

In closing, I always liked this nice visual demonstration from Penn & Teller's Bullshit, which shows that, even if everything the anti-vaccination crazies believe were true, they'd still lose the argument.  Read more in-depth information about vaccination and "alt med" nonsense over on Science-Based Medicine.  If you're more into books than blogs, check out Rose Shapiro's Suckers or Simon Singh's Trick or Treatment.





by Furry Girl

05.25.12

Women With A Vision is truly one of the most outstanding sex worker and harm reduction organizations in the US.  They're not part of the big city sex worker hipsterati, fawning over their own navels and lecturing people about obscure philosophical ideas.  WWAV rolls up their sleeves and directly helps those who most need help, and they do it without a lot of publicity and glory - or funding.  WWAV achieved a notable victory for sex workers in Louisiana by helping overturn a law that required convicted prostitutes to register as sex offenders, a bad law which pushed the most marginalized people even further out of society.

An arsonist broke into the WWAV office last night, destroying almost everything, and they need our help rebuilding.  Please see their donation plea on their web site.  Circulate the link on your social networks, and guilt-trip your friends with money into making a (fully tax-deductible) donation.  Here's a short list from their web site of what your donations can make possible:

$50 will buy a case of male condoms;
$100 will cover a month supply of harm reduction kits,
$250 will replace one of our reproductive health models;
$500 will enable us to make a month’s supply of hygiene kits;
$1000 will buy a case of female condoms; and
$2000 to replace our two cases of OraSure rapid HIV tests.

WWAV is also asking for in-kind donations such as computers and office supplies, furniture, and dressy clothing for women who are transitioning out of sex work and need something to wear on job interviews.  Do you have some extra clothing or shoes in your closet that could use a new home?  A laptop left over from your last upgrade?  Or perhaps you're in the New Orleans area and have furniture you're not using?  Everyone can pitch in, and every dollar counts.  Please send WWAV something right now, even if it's just $1.





by Furry Girl

05.21.12

"The Web sites I found, trolling through hundreds of Google hits for 'egg donor' were similar, placing heavy emphasis on the motivation of donors.  They spoke of fulfillment, of 'making a difference,' of 'one of the most loving gifts one woman can give to another.'  The pictures were of babies, clouds, building blocks.  The site I chose was among the most thickly written, its invitation to donate dripping with hyper-feminized expressions of motherhood and generosity.  It was the linguistic equivalent of a doily.

[...]

The application also asked, 'What is the least amount of compensation you will consider accepting for an egg donation?'  Elsewhere, the agency stated that it would not accept requests of more than $10,000.  So I typed in: $10,000.

[...]

When I suggested later that the egg-for-dollars swap is hardly a donation, [the doctor] looked genuinely confused and changed the subject to my egg-producing potential.

[...]

The mainstreaming of fertility treatments contributes to a larger concern among cultural conservatives, who worry egg donation is a step on the way to the much-feared designer baby.  'Do you really want to pick a kid the way you shop for a car?' Reader's Digest asked in 2001.  Feminists, too, find the mixture of capitalistic enterprise and female bodies disturbing.  The Nation's Katha Pollitt has called surrogacy 'reproductive prostitution.'  Sexual anxieties make for strange bedfellows: In 2004 National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote a column slamming egg donation, approvingly quoting Pollitt.

While egg prices range from a few thousand dollars to $30,000 or more, ASRM guidelines recommend donors receive a maximum of $10,000, above which compensation is deemed 'inappropriate.'  Paradoxically, such guidelines are sold as being in the interest of the donor, usually portrayed as cash-strapped and naive.  In the words of the President's Council on Bioethics, such women tend to be from 'financially vulnerable populations,' which implies they need protection from the temptation of incurring bodily risk for profit."

-- Kerry Howley in Ova for Sale on reason.com

I support the consensual selling of organs, bodily fluids, tissue, and eggs/sperm, as well as women renting out their uteruses for surrogacy, or people being paid participants in medical research.  The same arguments hurled at sex workers are also deployed against other "weird" or "possibly dangerous" uses of one's body for income.  (Though very few people will apply that condemnation of occupations with physical injury risk to sports, agriculture, construction, the military, manual labor, or any number of blue collar jobs.)

Also: the euphemisms and bullshit parade that accompany egg-selling remind me of the prostitutes who put on airs about how they are "erotic journey facilitators," "tantric healers," and "sacred goddess practitioners."





by Furry Girl

03.12.12

"...let's stop blaming men ('all-male church,' 'mostly-male Congress,' 'male-run Fox News,' etc.) for doing all this bad stuff to women.

Women vote to put anti-sex politicians in office; a majority of women voted for Republicans in the 2010 Congressional election.  Women support the churches that keep anti-sex politicians in office.  Women buy the newspapers and consume the radio and TV programs (like Rush's) that promote moral panics about sexuality.

And let's remember that when women get political power they typically act like men when it comes to sex.  Both Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin are aghast about Rush—not about what he said, but about how he’s been held accountable for it.  And virtually every female Republican governor and Congressmember of the last decade has voted to restrict access to abortion and birth control."

-- Dr Marty Klein, in It’s Not A War On Women—It’s A War On Sex on sexualintelligence.wordpress.com

 





by Furry Girl

02.21.12

I'm not a mainstream LA porn performer, so I don't write much about mainstream porn.  I tend to avoid writing about topics where I don't have a lot of personal experience, even if I have a lot of second-hand knowledge.  (This is why I don't write much about prostitution here - it's not that I don't absolutely support decriminalization, or know how to debate the issue inside and out, but I'd rather people read about prostitution-specific issues from those doing that form of sex work.)

However, I hadn't seen anyone post the exact regulations that will go into effect in LA on March 5th, so I figured I'd go look up the laws and do it myself.  You can read the full 6-page PDF document I downloaded from the LA City Clerk's web site.

The people of the City of Los Angeles hereby find and declare all of the following:

(a) The HIV/AIDS crisis, and the ongoing epidemic of sexually transmitted infections as a result of the making of adult films, has caused a negative impact on public health and the quality of life of citizens living in Los Angeles.

(b) Safer sex practices are a prime method of preventing and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

(c) The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has documented widespread transmission of sexually transmitted infections associated with the activities of the adult film industry within the City of Los Angeles.

(d) The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has opined that the use of condoms is the best and most effective way to stem the spread of sexually transmitted infections within the adult film industry.

[...]

The people of the City of Los Angeles hereby declare their purpose and intent in enacting this ordinance to be to minimize the spread of sexually transmitted infections resulting from the production of adult films in the City of Los Angeles, which have caused a negative impact on public health and the quality of life of citizens living in Los Angeles.

Porn production is not the root cause of HIV/STIs, I wish so badly that people would stop repeating that as though it were a fact.

First, there is no "ongoing epidemic" of HIV in the porn industry.  I don't know how to calculate the numbers, but a lot of sex happens on porn sets in LA.  We can all agree it's "a lot," right?  And every couple or few years, there have been HIV scares in porn where sadly, a small number of performers are infected.  (The HIV cases seem to all originate with a performer who has unsafe sex with "civilians" in their private life, and then brings the virus to work.)  While any new HIV infection is unfortunate, a few cases of HIV every few years is not an "epidemic," it's an anomaly.  According to the CDC, about 50,000 people are infected with HIV every year in America.

The ordinance starts off big about HIV/AIDS, the most scary diseases, but then the language changes to read "sexually transmitted infections."  Yes, people get minor STIs in porn, and it's not a secret.  Risking an occasional case of chlamydia (easily treated with antibiotics), or even getting herpes, is part of the known risk of working in the porn industry.  You know who spreads more STIs per sex act?  Everyone else.  How about the city devote its resources to providing free condoms and accurate sex education in every middle school and high school?  That's a group I'm more concerned about.  The porn industry is already hyper-vigilante about STI reduction, it's the last population that needs the government's meddling on that front.

While almost all porn performers strongly oppose condom laws, it's important to emphasize that condoms are not the only way to reduce one's risks, and nor are condoms flawless.  Their efficacy on reducing the transmission risk of genital warts, HPV, and herpes is debatable, so condom or no condom, those skin-to-skin STIs can be shared.  The ordinance's justification and language makes a huge error by implying that "safer sex" means "sex with a condom."  In fact, "safer sex" is not a single idea or product like a condom, but a term that implies a wide array of options which can be deployed by themselves or in combination.  Condoms are one way to reduce your risks, but they're not the only way.  "Pulling out" is also a safer sex tactic.  Regular STI screening is a safer sex tactic.  Only having sex with partners whose STI status you trust is a safer sex tactic.  Improvising "dental dams" from plastic wrap is a safer sex tactic.  Only sleeping with one person your entire life is a safer sex tactic.  Taking medication if you have herpes is a safer sex tactic.  Safer sex is a spectrum of choices to reduce one's risks, it is not some single-meaning word that stands in only for condoms.

An "adult film" is defined as any film, video, multimedia or other representation of sexual intercourse in which performers actually engage in oral, vaginal, or anal penetration, including but not limited to penetration by a penis, finger, or inanimate object; oral contact with the anus or genitals of another performer; and/or any other activity that may result in the transmission of blood and/or any other potentially infectious materials as defined in California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5193(b).

[...]

(4) All producers of adult films issued permits under the authority of the City of Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Police Department pursuant to Section 12.22(A)(13) of this Code or any other law authorizing the issuance of permits for commercial filming are required to maintain engineering and work practice controls sufficient to protect employees from exposure to blood and/or any other potentially infectious materials controls consistent with California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5193.

[...]

(5) Any film permit issued under the authority of the City of Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Police Department pursuant to Section 12.22(A)(13) of this Code or any other law authorizing the issuance of permits for commercial filming for the production of an adult film must expressly condition said permit on compliance with subsection (4) of this section. Any such permit shall contain the following language: "Permittee must abide by all applicable workplace health and safety regulations, including California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 5193, which mandates barrier protection, including condoms, to shield performers from contact with blood or other potentially infectious material during the production of films."

(6) The City shall charge, or shall direct any other person or entity contracting with the City to administer the film permitting process, to charge, entertainment industry customers seeking permits for the production of adult films a fee sufficient to allow periodic inspections to ensure compliance with the conditions setforth in Section 12.22.1 (B)(4).

Disappointingly, there's nothing about how these "periodic inspections" will occur, or who is held responsible if a violation is in order.  From the wording of the law, and it being based on filming permits, I'd assume the studio/producer/director would be responsible for paying a fine for facing charges.  Are performers themselves seen as passive victims of a greedy and corrupt porn studio if they reject condoms and then a condomless sex act is filmed?  I'd love to know how enforcement will work, and if the regulations will be used to crack down on porn makers, or performers as well.

So, what's in this Title 8 Section 5193 that keeps getting mentioned?  A gigantic long page of definitions about what constitutes a bloodborne pathogen or bodily fluid.  It's written for people in the medical and research realms who may get needle sticks or be exposed to contaminated bodily fluids at work, and how to dispose of medical waste and needles.  There's also a lot of vague language about "personal protective equipment," but how that will be defined when it comes to porn is unknown.  It could mean condoms, it could mean that each performer is legally required to wear a bright yellow hazmat suit like someone in a movie about a zombie or plague outbreak.  Will LA enforce the part of these workplace regulations that say one is required to wear a "face shield" or "protective bodily clothing," or even use a respirator?  Is this what porn could look like in the near future?

These new regulations go into effect in a couple of weeks.  How they end up being enforced is anyone's guess.  Based on the vagueness of the rules, and how any porn where performers are not wearing a full hazmat suit could technically be held in violation of the laws, I'd predict selective and politically-motivated prosecutions.  Did your studio kick and scream to oppose the law?  I wonder if the safety inspectors will be paying you a visit first.  Better have those face shields ready.

Edit: One of my Twitter followers brought up an important point: what if studios carry on as normal and just agree to pay fines?  I don't know what the fines are, or if jail time is also a part of the deal.  But, if it's a $500 fine on a production with a $10,000 budget, maybe it will just be another cost of doing business in LA.  An unfair increase, of course, but perhaps this is a case where it's better to just pay the fine than comply with the law.





by Furry Girl

12.09.11

"On the subject of ethics in sex work research, we usually think of the insensitivity and careerism of researchers whose interest is in obtaining information they will take credit for.  I want to point to another problematic angle: the issue of whether those being researched are honest with researchers.  Why, after all, should people who are being treated as objects of curiosity tell the truth?

[...]

To put it another way, keeping secrets may help sex workers gain independence or control over projects to help them.  Talking about sexual risks with people who think it's wrong to ever take any risks may cause them to treat you as irresponsible.  Admitting the desire to stay in sex work after getting out of the clutches of abusers can render you ineligible for victim-protection programmes.  The best policy may be to omit certain information from responses or to put on the expected front.

-- Dr Laura Agustín, in Alternate Ethics, or: Telling Lies to Researchers on lauraagustin.com





by Furry Girl

11.11.11

Last night, I was doing some reading about the most popular political panic of the mid-80s, and stopped to tweet, "Sex work activists should read about the political manufacturing of the crack 'epidemic.' 25 years ago, it was crack; now it's trafficking."  I'm no expert on drug issues, but I feel like I should explain my comment in more detail, so here is a (non-exhaustive) list of parallels between the crack epidemic and the sex trafficking epidemic.  I think it would benefit sex workers' rights supporters to look at how another moral panic was whipped up and profited from by those with special agendas.

Medicalized diagnoses, criminalized cures

First, I have to start out with an important note on how language is used as a tool to frame an issue in one's favor.  Proponents of both the crack craze and the idea of sex trafficking as a vast and ubiquitous problem (and inseparable from consensual sex work) use language of health problems like epidemic, plague, disease, and addiction, but their proposed solutions to both are arrest, shaming, further marginalization, and punishment.  Imagine if police responded to the health problem of people having the flu this winter by conducting taxpayer-funded raids, kicking in the doors of homes where people were suspected of staying home sick - arresting them, subjecting them to fines and imprisonment, and even keeping a public registry of the dangerous monsters who have been convicted of carrying the flu, preventing people who ever had the flu to be able to lead a non-flu-tainted life.  But we don't do that to flu sufferers for that "epidemic."

Causes and effects

Continuing on with of the topic of medical euphemism is the issue of confusing symptoms with causes of social ills.  The crack "epidemic" was framed by politicians on both sides of the political spectrum as not a symptom of poverty, inequality, and larger social disparities, but as the cause of social problems in the first place.  Urban ghettos weren't getting worse because of the lack of social services, educational opportunities, affordable healthcare, and quality jobs, they were simply suffering from crack cocaine.  Sex trafficking is also seen not as a response to social forces such as some countries having more wealth than others, the desire to go abroad to earn better money, few employment options for undocumented migrant workers, or the difficulties in legally entering a Western country if you're poor.  No, sex trafficking is the social ill to be eliminated, and all that complex stuff about class, race, immigration, and gender gets neatly swept under the rug in favor of an explanation that lets people scapegoat manufactured omnipresent boogeymen while failing to address real social problems.

At last, an issue everyone can support!

As mentioned above, the crack panic wasn't just a right-wing pet project, but a topic around which both liberals and conservatives could battle to see which party could take the loudest and harshest stance.  No more worrying about pesky minor problems like the economy and joblessness, let's give everyone a chance to come together and agree: the real issue plaguing the country is crack/sex trafficking.  There are few topics around which both Democrats and Republicans will battle over who supports/condemns it more, and when such is the case, you have to consider the idea that such an issue is being used as a shiny distraction.  (See also: hysteria around terrorism being successfully deployed by all politicians to keep people from thinking about eroding civil liberties and a tanking economy.)

Both panics exploded in popularity during major economic downtowns

The crack epidemic could be said to have peaked in the late 1980s, the same time as the US was experiencing a recession.  Our current recession and financial meltdown dovetails perfectly with the rise of interest in and coverage of sex trafficking.

The solution to both problems is not harm reduction, but arrest and locking people up

Billions of dollars were spent on stateside law enforcement as a means to curb the "epidemic" of crack addiction, but where did that get us, as a country, aside from having the world's highest rate of incarceration?  Likewise, does anyone really feel safer in when their tax money is used on costly police stings that arrest and jail prostitutes in hopes of being able to fin even one "trafficking victim"?  Lots of money is wasted on "cures" that do nothing to help real victims, do everything to drive both victims and criminals further underground, and ultimately only achieve good PR and further funding for police, politicians, and other people with a stake in selling the moral panic.  The solution is never to provide services to people at risk of exploitation, but to use arrests and imprisonment to try and cover up things that cause discomfort among members of the middle and upper classes.

Who needs evidence when you have hysteria?

Question the anti-crack rhetoric, and a public figure would be attacked as "soft on crime," and detractors could obtusely ask how one could be in support of the crack plague taking over the country.  Similarly, if you question any part of the agenda of those selling and profiting from the sex trafficking scare, you are painted as being in favor of raping children and the sexual enslavement of millions.  The topic is framed and such over-the-top hysterical ways, it leaves no room for reasonable discussion of the facts.  Anyone who questions anything is a monster.

Emotional-tinged "statistics" trump real data

Parents were told that young people around the country were falling victim to crack addiction, and that "an entire generation" was hooked on the substance.  However, even according to government surveys, cocaine use/experimentation of any kind had peaked among young people in 1982, and in 1986, while the media was touting the coming crackpocalypse, daily cocaine use of any variety among high school seniors was a mere 0.4%.  (How many of them were crack users in particular is unknown.)  Less than 4 out of every 1000 seniors is obviously not "an entire generation" addicted to crack, but boring facts like that have no place in a moral panic.  (Just like boring facts rarely get any play in discussions about sex trafficking, where people prefer to fantasize about how millions of children are being captured and raped at every turn.)

The "epidemic" is portrayed as a personal threat to all Americans and their children

Those with something to gain have managed to hype both crack and sex trafficking as attacks upon the fabric of our culture over which everyone must worry, painting pictures of crack dealers hiding behind every corner, ready to get Johnny Quarterback hooked on drugs, or kidnap little Betsy Countryclub from her ballet lessons and sell her into a child sexual slavery ring.  Everyone is a target, and the evil people are poised at this very moment to ensnare your children.  There's no time to think, only to worry hysterically.

It's not about race and class, except when it is

With both the crack and sex trafficking panic, there is this pervasive undercurrent of fear of the other, fear of nonwhite and poor people, fear of them infiltrating us and ruining everything "we" built.  The crack epidemic was about fear of poor, urban Blacks and Latinos, mostly young men who might be in scary gangs.  The sex trafficking epidemic, when not about stealing your children for sexual slavery, has the more subtle racial component of a fear of migrant workers sneaking into "our" country and doing morally distasteful things with our husbands, our dads, our brothers, corrupting us, tearing at our family values, and making us impure by association.

Extreme cases are way more exciting than our routine problems

Alcohol, car crashes, and tobacco kill tons of people, but that's not very exciting, and such "mundane" deaths hardly every make the news.  But comparatively-rare crack-related deaths and injuries became a top political issue for both parties.  Likewise, spousal abuse, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault are accepted as facts of life, only making the news when there's some bizarre, celebrity, or "funny" angle to the story.  Yet, when occasional cases of barbaric forced sex trafficking or the pimping of an underage girl are uncovered, it's held up by proponents as a major problem that is happening to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the country.  The focus is always on exploiting extreme cases for political gain and financial contributions, and insisting that extreme cases are the norm.

The issues play well on TV and make for dramatic publicity stunts

In 1989, George Bush Senior held a famous press conference to hype the crack problem where he showed bag of the substance and declared that it had been seized in a drug deal in the park across the street from the White House.  A photo of Bush holding the bag was printed in newspapers around the country, proving that crack was everywhere now, even in "good" neighborhoods, and thus, warranted the panic of all Americans.  However, the backstory to that photo-op is much more interesting.  Since no drugs, let alone crack, were available for purchase in Lafayette Park, the government needed to manufacture a situation that would make for good televison.  An 18-year-old African American high schooler was cajoled to come to the park to sell the crack, a young man who famously asked the undercover DEA entrapping him, "Where the fuck is the White House?"  I can't recall the last time a week went by that I didn't read about an anti-trafficking publicity push, carefully coordinated and framed for maximize sensationalism.

Now, the "war on drugs" is largely recognized as a failure

I can only hope the war on sex workers, framed as the "war on trafficking," will meet the same fate.  I'd love to hear how anti-drug war activists were able to shift public perceptions from the early 90s onward, because we should really emulate whatever they've been doing.  (Or how to play up everything the government and moral crusaders are doing incorrectly.)

 

If you have more interest in this topic, the most awesome and in-depth thing I read was The Construction of America's Crack Crisis by Craig Reinarman and Harry Levine.  Hat tip to their research for providing a bunch of the information in this blog post.





by Furry Girl

10.06.11

Yesterday, I went to check my mail drop, and was happy to see an awesome new postcard from the St James Infirmary, one of my favorite nonprofits.  They provide free healthcare and other services to sex workers and their families in San Francisco, and they need donations from people like you to keep their doors open.

Just like with the SWAAY billboard campaign, the St James Infirmary was rejected by a number of outdoor media companies, like Clear Channel.  (Don't worry, the SWAAY billboard isn't dead, it's just taken ages to find someone willing to accept out money, but we've finally signed a contract and our billboard was sent to the printers this week.  I've been waiting to post about that ordeal until I have a definite launch date to celebrate.)  I'm happy to see American sex workers' rights groups getting on board with the idea that we need to engage the general public, so it's exciting to see this new campaign.

If you're in the Bay Area, the St James Infirmary is having a launch party on October 16th, so go celebrate with some of the most awesome sex workers' rights advocates in the country.

For the link-phobic, here are the lovely ads that will soon be appearing on the San Francisco Muni:

The last one, featuring Cyd, is my personal favorite.

(My only nitpick is that two of the posters mention being a mother as a means of showing the public that we're good people.  I realize that this is probably a smart political tactic, but it will always bother me when parenthood is eagerly thrust forward by "weird" groups - atheists, queers, sex workers - to prove that they deserve to be seen as real human beings.  So, if one is childfree by choice, or remorsefully barren, you deserve equality and human rights less than people who have kids?  But I digress.)





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