2016 Sex Work Year in Review 2016

2016 Sex Work Year in Review 2016

M. Dante Philadelphia

Nihil de nobis, sine nobis

SUCCESSES  Community Allied Effort To Stop The Violence on December 17th at Thomas Paine Plaza! Kensington serial attacker and killer caught in Delaware County in December! Timothy Keller meeting with me on behalf of Representative Sims! ePGN Press Thanks To Tim Cwiek! Multiple successful  fundraisers making a real difference in the lives of sex workers in need. Educational Outreach. Community Action. We did good! 

The 2016 Year in Review proved an unexpected challenge for me. I finally realized the problem being because the review this year is from my personal perspective, as opposed to  bullet-pointing what is happening from the perspective of working within a designated non-profit. My role in the sex work v sex trafficking discourse – along with my role as far as contributing to or influencing your organization’s perspective – is potentially unclear so targeting specific actions of the year in accordance to a unilateral goal directive is – no pun intended –  tricky. Also I learned over the last two years  many visible non-profits representing sex worker and sexual lifestyle rights did not find my contributions or views comfortable bed partners with their current platforms or goals. That is all good, except that we are probably going to have overlap issues and a need to collectively contribute to the betterment of our work and lifestyle environments, and that does mean finding ways of working effectively well together regardless of generational and cultural differences. That said I’m just  going to roll with it, and see where it goes.  Let’s step to it!

BACKSTORY My 2003 Goddard College BA Senior Study is a discussion on feminism, commercial sexuality, forced prostitution, and trafficking. My project was inspired by the Millennial  Tribunals on behalf of the Korean Comfort Women. Part One of Two is available on Academia dot edu. Part Two is under a privacy lock with authorization by written request and response, and in person review required.

DO YOU KNOW?  I  am federally defined as a former victim of U.S. domestic minor sex trafficking. As the result of domestic violence I was a homeless / transient youth and young adult in the mid 1980s-mid 1990s.  I have thirty (30) years exposure to, and understanding of survival sex, sex work and sex trafficking. 

I support the New Zealand Model, and workers rights such as with Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), along with new efforts such as CoSWAC | Clients of Sex Workers Allied for Change, representing the rights of the clients who engage in commercial sexual exchange, and  also those in need of  ethical surrogate transactions such as Touching Base. Of course I also support efforts to keep our youth out of the sex industry, yet preferably in more humane ways than  justice based or rescue methods.

Stepping out in solidarity to  share my views in ways more more publicly understandable, December 2014 – January 2015 I “Came Out Under the Red Umbrella” in both Alaska  with Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP), and Pennsylvania via Erotic Literary Salon Adult Sex Ed (ELS).  

I have also taken an active voice against international abolition framing a narrative at the exclusion of those of us who have also lived the sex trade as victims/survivors/WORKERS.

imageAll last year – and currently  –  I am recording and contributing to informative podcast discussions, along with being interviewed behind the scenes for blog and media articles,  assisting with content for posts, speeches, discussions and panels, educational surveys and classes. I am considered an experiential expert on sex work and sex trafficking. Thanks Ethan and Zach Trio for the amazing recordings and contributions to the breadth and depth of the discussion, and also your contributions to Philadelphia’s December 17th.

A sample of the community adult education discussions Ethan Zach and I have been working on is available to listen to here. The attached conversation is on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and some of the differences in defining what constitute acts of violence against women, the boundaries of consent, and conflation in defining prostitution, violence against prostitutes, and human trafficking.

32004915746_9f8258f574_o
Ethan and Zach Trio

Sex Education is  – or at least was – a facet of my focus. Sex workers are not welcome in clinically observed environments often organized with social workers, sex therapists and clinical counselors; nor does the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) support sex workers in clinical environments or contributing to literature on the topic. This has been stated to me specifically in professional social circles surrounding Woodhull Foundation, Widener University’s Sexuality and Social Work Programs, AASECT members, and others.

Between 2011 – 2014 I contributed to the following sexual education programs:

  • Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). Over three years I co-hosted sexual and communication workshops as a psychology elective called, Fundamentals of Communication and Kindness (FUCK). This class interactive workshop allowed students to discuss dynamics and definitions of challenging contemporary issues in open room discussions including date rape, BDSM and other hard topics.
  • Regain that Feeling with Dr. Mitch Tepper: Surviving a serious injury or illness, or living with a chronic condition, brings a host of physical changes, emotional responses, and relationship challenges. Disabilities do not prevent the ABILITY to share intimacy, and function in conventional or surrogate relationships.

2012 into 2013 My return to the sex industry after a near ten year hiatus from the commercial trade started out as fun! I returned to sessions, along with publishing and presenting  – for pay –  adult sex education, social commentary and pop cultural coverage of industry events. I had a popular column on SLIXA both Late Night and Under Cover, though selected to  have it taken down when I came out as a sex trade survivor. Those flashy monikers of mine kept confusing the conversation. Now all writing = One name. One narrative. 

2014 The hot topics turned legal and legislative  as new laws challenged  professional rights and personal privacy for those in the sex trade, either as consensual adult workers or as former trafficking survivors involved in both sides of the industry. The independent escort industry is infiltrated by academics, activists, cops, media and new non-profits.

 2015 through 2016  The fun is done. Seriously done.  The last two years proved busier than imaginable due to national task force raids across the country, Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation (CEASE), End Demand, abolition bias media perspectives, and a definite push towards justice and rescue-based punitive and social services. Sex work is now completely conflated with HIV Policy, transgender rights,  sexual addiction and recovery treatments, trauma based rehabilitation services, LGBT youth services, faith based rescue,  faith based drop in shelters, street based prostitution, rescue conversion therapy, social and economically marginalized minority and migrant needs, heroin focused drug rehabilitation and harm reduction, prison reform and re-entry, expungement and lack of expungement for prostitutes, diversion, LEAD, sex trafficking of minors, human trafficking in general, and other extremely serious topics – all of which added confusion to conversations and efforts to reach out on important issues specific to current consensual adult sex work.

Sex work used to be a polite, euphemistic way to say: escorting, prostituting, strip club dancing, dominance and submission in the dungeons, pornographic film work, cam girl work or massage parlour type services with or without happy ending. It used to be sort of a public secret. An option full or part time for those who needed the money or just liked the work for whatever reasons. Now it is none of that. Sex work seems to have become a divisive class and cultural battlefield like abortion and birth control, only there was no mention of it in any of the presidential debates, and there is no mention of it as a platform political discussion: our legislators are changing state laws without any public discussion, and the people deciding our narrative have little to nothing to do with our actual lives.

In 2016 being a public sex worker felt like – I imagine – being gay was in 1956.
It hurt. More than the sex industry ever hurt. WoW. I wasn’t expecting the mainstream academic, nonprofit, social service and justice based  discourses to be worse than the worst of the work.

INNER INDUSTRY ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
How did 2016 define commercial sexual lifestyle and privacy?

Maxine Doogan and The Erotic Service Providers Legal Educational Research Project

  • ESPLERP v Gascon is the one legal challenge taking that on in the United States. The March 2016  motion to dismiss opened the door to the 9th Circuit where we will see if Lawrence v Texas and Reliable offer enough similarities for ESPLERP v Gascon to have impact on our right to commercial sexual freedom. Best of  luck to The Erotic Service Providers Legal, Educational, Research Project. For updates and information visit: http://esplerp.org/case3-esplerp-vs-gascon/

POLICY SAMPLE: Under the guise of “rescuing” trafficked victims, human trafficking legislation has to date too often relied upon, or been an accomplice to, the continued criminalization of our labor as prostitutes; clearly in violation of our Constitutional Rights. Although state statutes often classify erotic service providers as victims and specifically define what constitutes victimized behavior, they fail to recognize the agency of erotic service providers or our clients, and fail to provide equal protection under the law for members of our community. Labeling us as victims effectively perpetuates the state’s law enforcement approach toward our community, since the presence of a “victim” implicitly assumes the existence of corresponding “perpetrators” who must be brought to justice.

PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE LEGISLATION AFFECTING OUR COMMUNITY 1) “Our Bodies, Our Rights” ­ Consenting adults have the right to be free from state criminalization of their sex lives, whether or not the exchange of money or any other consideration is involved. 2) “Nothing About Us, Without Us” ­ When it comes to laws affecting people involved in the sex industry, the voices of those stakeholders themselves must be heard front and center in the debate, and the attitudes of “othering” us and denying our independent volition and agency must be excised from the legislative process. 3) “Individual Privacy, Institutional Transparency” ­ Any legislation that affects our community must protect our privacy and guarantee that government agencies and government­ funded non­profit service providers operate transparently and are held accountable for treating people humanely, non­-coercively, and with integrity, dignity and respect.

img_1491
We Believe in Our Constitutional and Human Rights
  • How About Ending Abolition for  Sex Worker  Inclusion In Our  Human Rights?

What is CEASE / End Demand?  Absolute abolition. CEASE – Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation –  is, according, to their website, a collaboration of pioneering cities committed to reducing sex-buying by 20 percent in two years. This action-oriented network is dedicated to innovating, testing, and sharing strategies with a proven impact on deterring people from buying sex in many major metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago (Cook County, IL), Dallas (North Texas), Denver, Houston, Oakland (Alameda County, CA), Phoenix, Portland (Multnomah County, OR), San Diego, and Seattle (King County, WA). The learning from these cities will create a blueprint for reducing demand at the local level, while fueling a national movement to end sexual exploitation in the United States.

However, CEASE wants to end all commercial sex work, not just sexual exploitation (in escorting, prostitution, commercial BDSM and porn); or unfair labor practices and issues with the  lack of equal protection as a result of criminalized status.

CEASE is stylized after the 1999 Kvinnofrid Law, most easily understood in popular mainstream press as the Nordic Model . The Nordic Model finds all forms of female prostitution to be an act of violent exploitation, and currently arrests sex-buyers (who those who oppose  consensual adult sex work (CASW) define as “johns”) in an effort to put sex workers out of business by – theoretically – “ending demand”. The current  U.S. effort towards the Nordic Model  relies heavily on interdisciplinary penal and social services for mainstream societal re/habilitation based on the Massachusetts Interagency Human Trafficking Task Force Policy of 2013.

In NO END IN SIGHT: WHY THE “END DEMAND” MOVEMENT IS THE WRONG FOCUS FOR EFFORTS TO ELIMINATE HUMAN TRAFFICKING Stephanie Berger explains “End Demand”   in Vol. iv of the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender:  “Efforts to end the demand for prostitution are based on an endorsement of longstanding feminist theories that conflate sex work with trafficking and view sex work as inherently harmful and exploitive. These theories have been influenced by ongoing feminist debates that have played an important role in shaping international law. These debates can largely be divided into arguments made by two camps of feminists: abolitionists and pro-work advocates. As Prabha Kotiswaran articulates: Abolitionists adopting a sexual subordination approach are against the commodification of sex and view sex work as a paradigmatic form of violence against women, embodying gender inequality. For them, sex workers are victims and lack agency in the context of pervasive institutional violence. Sex work advocates . . . are agnostic to the commodification of sex per se and, while cognizant of the circumstances under which women take to it, view sex workers as agents with some ability to negotiate within the sex industry. Thus, their emphasis is on protecting and promoting the rights of sex workers. Kotiswaran calls this latter approach the “work position.” This Article advocates against End Demand strategies through the lens of acceptance of the work position as the best approach to addressing the harms of sex work while respecting women’s agency.”

As a woman with thirty years exposure and experience with the criminalized sex industries, I have to admit there were – and are – a lot of problems in the world of prostitution. Truly. However, what End Demand forgets to consider in their aggressive effort to make the Johns find Jesus are people like me —  the women who have been – and are – in that paradigm.

Thirty years I have been a part of a world I woke up one day to find completely invaded by people who have offered me no alternatives, or inclusion in the discussion. Unless we accept being rescued on their terms, at the times they assign to rescuing us, on their terms,  we – the workers –  have no agency, no voice, no connection to the legislative process dictating and determining our fate and our futures. We have been left vulnerable, and as a result in more dangerous predicaments than when we were left alone to work.  

This, simply, is not okay.

All across the country – and the globe – sex workers are being researched and/or re-educated by law enforcement assisted diversion (LEAD) programs,  academic institutions, faith based organizations, NGOs and newly forming agencies  all aiming to save the exploited. Has this helped; or has all this aggressive rescue actually added additional exploitation of those who are already  disadvantaged? As someone who has lived this story, I believe sex trade survivors and sex workers are being caught in an unwelcome cultural crossfire, along with being excluded from the legal and legislative process, support services and funding for new opportunities and industries. Sadly, over the last few years I have found that  many groups who want to “save the slaves”, will not listen to the perspectives of those who know it first hand, nor do they offer long term, realistic  exit strategies or financing of new opportunities for sex workers or former sex trafficking victims who came before the trend became so “IN Demand” before End Demand. I personally believe that even when it was bad, the sex industry offered more opportunity for personal empowerment than the current situation. It seems Americans all want to start new rescue oriented orphanages and empowerment programs in Africa, South East Asia and India, though won’t contribute to those same types of programs here in the States with the inclusion of sex trade survivors, sex workers looking to exit or sex workers content being sex workers, though also interested in helping out or participating for whatever reasons may inspire us.

The ESPLER Project’s Maxine Doogan commented in an interview with SWOP-Seattle:

“We need to educate legislators at the local, state and national level and demand that they enact the Obama administration statement that was included in the 2010 Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, “We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution” 

Prostitutes who want to work – or openly admit they have worked –  deserve a voice in the discussion without discrimination or condemnation. End Demand only allows us a voice on our own social media. We – the victims and workers –  are not  invited to be civilly or legislatively engaged in the process of determining what to do about prostitution.  

2016 NEW Sex Work Support Systems in Response to End Demand’s Impact

  • COYOTEri and Professor Elena Shih, Brown University. Leading the nation in sex worker inclusion in the trafficking narrative, Elena Shih is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University and Faculty Fellow at Brown’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. During Fall 2016, Shih holds a visiting faculty fellowship at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. Shih’s book manuscript in progress, “Fair Trade Freedom: Moral and Political Economies of Human Trafficking Rescue in China, Thailand and the U.S.,” is a multi-sited and global ethnography based off 40 months of fieldwork on efforts to combat human trafficking in Beijing, Bangkok and Los Angeles. Drawing on fieldwork as a participant action researcher with faith-based and secular social movement organizations–ranging from grassroots evangelical Christian missionary projects, to sex worker rights cooperatives, to the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking–her dissertation explores the mobilization of rights and morality in between the state and the market in the contemporary movement against human trafficking.
  • Sex with Strangers Podcast. Awesome work! Thanks Chris Sowas for Episode 26 of his podcast: sexwithstrangersshow.   image1Mainstream discussions of the sex industry have mostly revolved around human trafficking. In this episode we explore why that narrative is misleading and harmful. The interviews featured here were recorded in Nebraska, Rhode Island, Alaska, California, and Illinois. Guests include Terra Burns (Community United for Safety and Protection), Maxine Doogan (the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Educational and Research Project), Bella Robinson (COYOTE RI), Monica Peterson and Rex Hamaker (University of Denver’s Human Trafficking Center), Hannah Marshall (Brown University), and Erin Black (The Sexual A-Team). Articles discussed in this episode include The Banks’ War on Porn Stars by Richard Abowitz and Marlow Stern, The Case for Decriminalizing Prostitution by German Lopez, Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler’s Why You Should be Wary About Statistics on ‘Modern Slavery’ and ‘Trafficking’ and The Biggest Pinocchios of 2015, Should Prostitution be a Crime? by Emily Bazelon. Also check out Bazelon’s follow-up concerning Amnesty International’s Policy on State Obligations to Respect, Protect and Fulfill the Human Rights of Sex Workers.
  • SWOP-USA for the inception of Swop Behind Bars (SBB): Creating Community for Incarcerated Sex Workers. 
    img_0213
    Sex Worker Advocates Are Learning How To Help Their Incarcerated Sisters: Prison Book Projects Are One Way; And Something Urban Minorities Have Known For A While Now.
    Do you know? There are more than 200,000 women currently behind bars in the U.S., and that number is on the rise. In fact, women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population in the country, and the rate of incarceration for women has been growing nearly twice as fast as that of men since 1985, according to the ACLU, and account for about 7% of the total prison population in the U.S.  The fastest growing population behind bars is black women. Prostitution is one of the few crimes where women are arrested more frequently than men, but prostitution alone does not explain the growing numbers of Black, Latino, and trans women behind bars. If we are going to make reforms to crimes based on morality, we need to consider laws that disproportionately affect women, such as the prohibition of sex work.
  • SWOP Seattle for contributions to the creation of  CoSWAC Clients of Sex Workers Allied for Change. CoSWAC is a website for clients of sex workers to share experiences and resources, and to dispel myths surrounding participation in paid sex. CoSWAC affirms that sex workers and clients have the same right of sexual expression as other consenting adults. CoSWAC supports social services that empower sex workers to improve their lives, acknowledges adult SWers have the agency to make decisions regarding their chosen careers, and aids those that choose to leave sex work. CoSWAC condemns force, fraud or coercion in any sexual encounter, and calls for safe and effective means for sex workers and clients to report abuses without fear of prosecution. CoSWAC  condemns efforts to stigmatize sex workers, their clients, and interested third parties.

CoSWAC  joins the growing number of diverse organizations calling for the full decriminalization of sex work:

December 24, 2016 – HRGJ Clinic Successfully Urges U.N. to Address U.S. Policies that Harm Trafficking Victims: The Special Rapporteur recommended that the U.S. adopt “a human rights based approach to trafficking which includes the de-criminalization of those who engage in prostitution” and “encourage[d] law enforcement officials to use their discretion to avoid arresting sex workers as they can be potential victims of sex trafficking.” Because services and immigration and other relief to trafficking victims are often conditioned on cooperation with law enforcement, which many victims are unable or unwilling to provide, she also urged government authorities “to refrain from conditioning services and residence status to victims’ cooperation with law enforcement authorities.”

  • COYOTE_ri and Board Member of The ESPLER Project’s  Bella Robinson  – as mentioned – has lead the national effort  in educational outreach as a result of her affiliation with Brown University’s Professor Elena Shih.

ALSO –

  • COYOTE_ri and ALL WOMEN COUNT/USPROS Collective in New Hampshire to support Representative Edwards’ DECRIM effort H.B. 1614

As a result of the 2016  H.B. 1614 fail,  Representative Elizabeth Edwards, a Democrat from Manchester, New Hampshire, wants to create a study committee to look into decriminalizing sex work. She knows it’s controversial, but  she’s been convinced by research from organizations such as Amnesty International (AI),  and data on  the New Zealand Model, decriminalization would make it safer for those in the sex worker trade.

“My goal,” said Rep. Edwards, “ is to educate people about these issues and to get them to see sex workers as human beings, and to realize that this practice of arresting people and throwing them in jail … is not a real solution,” she said. “And in fact it is very expensive and makes everything worse.”

1614
HISTORIC: Bella Robinson, Rep. Edwards, Rachel West and Phoebe Jones in N.H. for  1614
COYOTEri: NH Rep  Edwards was the first US legislator that had the courage to bring sex worker rights to the table, and bring forth a bill, NH HB 1614.  Let me note that it was her first year in office, and that NH representatives are only paid 100 dollars a year.

Edwards had read Amnesty International’s report and she immediately understood that she needed to do something to promote the health and safety of sex workers. Edwards contacted several US sex workers organizations including All Women Count, COYOTE, US PROStitutes Collective (USPROS), The ESPLER Project (ESPLERP) and Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), to discuss “the issues sex workers are currently faced with”, and she invited us to testify  in the committee hearings.

COYOTEri asks to be sure to include here: A New Hampshire (NH) state trooper testified that  only 3 people are currently in  NH prison for prostitution related charges, and that NH had only made 500 prostitution arrests over the past fifteen (15) years..   They stated that they opposed HB1614 because they thought it would bring crime to NH.  Of course they did not present any evidence that this could happen.  COYOTEri countered these concerns by testifying about evidence from New Zealand that showed that when they decriminalized prostitution that they just about rid the sex industry of exploitation.  Not only has NZ not had 1 sex trafficking case since they implemented decrim in 2003, NZ sex workers report having better relationships with the police, and report that they now feel safe reporting violence to the police.  NZ 5 year government review also showed that there was no increase in the number of sex workers and they found a decrim allowed for a labor approach.  There was no testimony that supported the state had a legitimate interest or reason to keep consensual adult prostitution criminalized.

On the first committee vote, HB1614 was voted to go to intern study which means the bill would have been studied for the rest of the year and then it would have been reintroduced in 2017. However two  weeks later Edwards was informed that they had lost the paperwork before it had made its way to the clerk’s office, so they took another vote without Edwards being present and voted to kill the bill. When Edwards defended HB1614 to the house, she explained the events, and she argued that voting NO would mean that the health and safety of sex workers didn’t deserve any future discussion or consideration.

New Hampshire continues to prove that the “Porcupine Push”  or “PorcFest”  “Free State Project” opens the door for important new dialog as opposed to cyclical two party political rhetoric on human rights and quality of life for all people, including sex workers and those exploring sexual lifestyles including gender.

city-hall-fullsizerender-2

PHILADELPHIA & HARRISBURG:
Happenings Here in Pennsylvania

Societal Re/Entry as a Victim/Survivor/Worker – What?

January – June

Here is where this gets really hard for me. This year I basically did the equivalent of a societal re/entry program. Though I’ve not been arrested and was not required to do so via Law Assisted Diversion (LEAD), 2012-2015 I lost almost everything I had worked for over a 13 year period due to someone else’s sex crime affecting my life.

The details can’t be fully discussed here, but I lost property, assets, resources and found myself having to start over in the midst of CEASE / End Demand and a completely different political climate than I’ve ever worked in. This lead to my choosing to come out as a former homeless youth as a result of child abuse, early entry into the sex trade and over a decade spent as a migrant sex worker.

Because I was starting over in my 40s with no savings or resources the situation became – well – bizarre and awkward. I found that even though I was defined as a former victim of sex trafficking, there were no – and I mean no – services available anywhere in Lancaster through Philadelphia Counties, in my home state of Pennsylvania. No therapeutic clinical counsel. No legal or other support services. No housing assistance. No mentor programs. No help finding “real” work with the understanding of resume nuances to do past status. Every anti-trafficking organization I appealed to – which I did because I am defined as a former victim – refused me services because of my sex work status or because I am not part of the new model of victim. The sex worker centered non profits were not helpful either because the current funding model is for street based outreach and harm reduction, along with acute trauma based for transgender women. The LGB community – which has a lot of resources especially for transgender women in need, is predominantly partner focused as far as sex positivity, and is not entirely sure how or if to welcome the conflation of sex workers. After three years of having my Medicaid canceled every one to three months, applying for food stamps and having them canceled within one to three months, having my housing be inconsistent due to neighborhood gentrification, while also sitting in on meetings all over city, talking on panels, and trying to find new work while there are less and less opportunities for my old work, I finally had to accept defeat. Last December I hit rock bottom, and so in January I owned that fact, and started over.¡

PHILADELPHIA LACKS SEX TRADE SURVIVOR and SEX WORK FRIENDLY SUPPORT SERVICES AND GUIDANCE. Which was worse: the sex trade or the effort to exit?

EXIT! The only Philadelphia nonprofit organization  willing to work with me knowing I am a sex trade survivor AND adult worker was the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) in West Philadelphia. Over two years especially I spoke with numerous city based agencies, vocational programs, non-profits, professional associations, coalitions, institutions, institutes, individuals and in the end PEC was the only organization who allowed me to be honest with them, and authentically offered support as best they were able to do with my situation. At first they were unsure why I was discussing my status as a victim / survivor / worker  publicly at all, though what became quickly clear was that even they – as a BenePhilly site – could not assist with the unique problems I was having as a result of there not being any city or state recognized status as a sex trade survivor or sex worker. When we have unexpected issues arise, everyone seems to go with the “what do you expect” mindset. We do not say this to people who are gay or trans or coming out of prison, so why say that to someone who has been – or still is – a sex worker? We can  potentially be sex workers, and – if we want – also work part time or full time jobs, too. 

My paperwork had to be referred over to Community Legal Services (CLS) in affiliation with People’s Emergency Center (PEC) / BenePhilly. The CLS benefits specialist had to reach out to the CLS main office  and the public defender office to determine how to authenticate my situation, and then once it was authenticated, how to respond to it. Part of the issue being how do I find a way to not have to share all the intimate details of my personal history every time there is a paper work glitch. It had become humiliating and dehumanizing to have to repeat over and over situational details going back to my being the victim of a child sex crime and homeless youth thirty and forty years prior. I was/am defined as a “domestic violence” case, my fluctuating income was reviewed and analyzed, and a systemic format was created with legal agency now assisting me with my basic benefits. Despite the CLS mission of working with the poor, the powerless, and those in need without exception, sex trade survivors and sex worker looking to exit are not a defined category of Pennsylvania population in need. Also because sex work is defined as a criminalized status, and CLS is civil services, they cannot necessarily assist a sex worker in need of advice or support.

CAREER READY TRAINING: Once the benefits were resolved, I was invited to a four week intensive Career Ready Training (CRT). We called it: Boot Camp for Back to Work! Here is where I will give PEC an incredible amount of credit. For a myriad of reasons the PEC CRT was one of the hardest things I have done in years. It was also one of the most beneficial. I admit it: I cried on the bus home a few times, but I gained a lifetime of valuable information and skills from the program. Jasmine Hunt-Robinson is an exceptional real life skills trainer and teacher. I am blessed for having completed the CRT. I am also blessed  for the six month neighborhood volunteer outreach literacy effort as a result of my shared program final project: Know to Grow. 

Know to Grow became a bookshelf for children in the shelter, a book drive and community literacy exchange, led to my attending Mayor-Elect Kenney’s City Hall meeting on the soda tax with PEC policy advocates, and support efforts for Universal Pre-K. As a result, I spent six weeks over the summer as a paid LEAD tutor at Belfield Community Center for Senator Haywood’s  Read by 4th initiative.  I have to say, that Philly Soda Tax for Universal Pre-K may actually be more a controversial hot topic than anything to do with sex work or sex trafficking. To note: I support the soda tax, and I am blessed to be welcomed in to work as a volunteer and tutor in the shelters and centers. Maybe in future I will revisit there.

H.R. 550 Eradicating Homelessness in Pennsylvania: Also a result of PEC I was invited to participate in conference calls and to visit Harrisburg on multiple occasions between March and July via PEC Policy Advisor Joe Willard to learn about HR 550, the PA General Assembly Findings on Homelessness, and to be engaged with legislative process on funding to prevent homelessness in affiliation with the Pennsylvania Housing Alliance and Home Matters America. This was truly a gift of an experience. I am very thankful for all involved allowing me the opportunity to visit the state capitol and meet with the general assembly and legislators.

Though extremely grateful, I found, however, that NO discussion and NO provisions are in place for sex trade survivors or sex workers looking to exit or exist.

  • The categories assigned to address issues of homelessness are: domestic violence, incarceration, mental hygiene and substance abuse, rural homelessness, children and youth.
  • Veterans concerns are segregated from civilian issues relating to homelessness.

WORK AT THE END OF CRT?

Yes.

Except NO –

Not  enough to secure housing or stability in the city.

With the assistance of a PEC Employment Counselor I actively applied for jobs, and had weekly communication in person and via email with my counselor.

red_umbrellas-in-the-sky

Ok. This is made more complicated than just my having been homeless young person, sex trade / sex work history. I am going to include this because people keep asking about it, and I don’t know how to resolve it. So – If you are a financial person or social work person who can help, please email me.

Here goes: So – I can’t really work a full time private sector position. I have $81,705.98 to pay off on student loans for a completed bachelors and masters degree. Due the repay status on my loans, I must either 1. Work in public health, senior or disability care,  or 2. Work for a non-profit or government agency or 3. Earn enough in a private sector position to pay rent and monthly overhead PLUS the student loans each month. The students loans, if taken off income contingent repay (ICR) will be 144.00 per month in interest payments, and 100.0 per every 10,000 salary earned.

Why – everyone asks – if I have a masters am I struggling to find work?

I don’t know. I really don’t anymore.

Maybe I should have just stayed at my station in life as it was when just a  sex worker.

red_umbrellas-in-the-sky

Then  the question was repeated to me in career oriented training and discussions:

Why are you talking about any of this?

Well – Because – Especially in the current sex work v sex trafficking era,  I can’t pretend my whole life hasn’t happened.  And people are getting arrested and murdered. End Demand has forced me to be chatty on it in a way I never imagined having to do. Trust me on that. Sex workers are looking for inclusive solutions to the issues affecting us. Since no one is representing our needs, we need to speak about our situations, and the situations of those who are without a voice.

So – The immediate work I was able to find in Philadelphia at the end of the CRT program was with a senior home care agency for – I believe – 8.25 per hour before taxes. I asked to work as a housekeeper as opposed to a personal care attendant (PCA).

Did you know in Pennsylvania it is illegal for people charged with prostitution to work in health care? So – As a precedence –  I didn’t want to work with care recipients. My first paycheck after three weeks was for less than $30.00 (thirty) U.S. dollars. I was fired a few months later because I changed from steel toe work shoes into flip flops to mop a small apartment floor on a day where the heat exceeded 80 degrees outside, and more inside. I own it. I changed into flip flops. I also realized around this time  I felt like committing suicide. I do not mean to be over dramatic, but things began to feel overwhelmingly depressing in the process of trying to find part time work. And also I was accused at one point by career counselor  of feeling I deserved special treatment when I chose to be – and come out as – a sex worker. This all felt by this time as if I was in a formal LEAD program, and not just doing this as a real life exercise for my own potential need for “societal re/entry” or  “exit”, though  I am grateful for the experience.  By the end of spring I was easily  able to understand how outsiders view sex workers coming in with homeless and hungry single mothers, more obvious victims of domestic violence, or recently released socio-economically marginalized populations of prisoners coming for support services. Also in part because I felt comfortable being honest with my counselor, as opposed to etiquette in place and on, I probably presented myself as a victim of situation in her eyes, and that is my bad. Now I know for sure not to ask people – or organizations set up for a seemingly relevant mission –  for much of anything.

img_0190

Philadelphia was working wonderful as far volunteer service and community engagement, but work was not working, so in April I moved to Montgomery County, and in June I reached out to a former supervisor at a nonprofit back in Lancaster County, and utilizing my new CRT training skills, I applied for a position. Even though I worked for the company prior to my “Coming Out”, I had to reapply, go through federal and state background checks, fingerprinting, drug testing, a multiple hour interview, and another half day of training. It took three months before I began to get consistent case work, though now I am working almost full time back in Lancaster County, while also being on call as a private driver nights in the Greater Philadelphia Metro. Half of my caseload is aware of my “status”  or at least aware that I was formerly homeless. I earn 10.64 per hour with no benefits.

REVEREND BEVERLY DALE and CHURCH CHAT ON SURVIVAL SEX, SEX WORK AND SEX TRAFFICKING. A Private Enlightenment Discussion at  LANCASTER SEMINARY

The Reverend Beverly Dale writes: The graduate seminary students at Lancaster Theological Seminary were given insights into the world of sex work by Ms. Dante in the spring of 2016 in a class on religion and sexuality taught by the Rev Dr Beverly Dale. In her presentation Ms. Dante  first shared her personal story of the family disruptions and betrayal that resulted in living on the streets. As a homeless youth she found support and solace from others in similar circumstances as well as an income engaging in sex-for-hire. Ms. Dante who, against all odds, attended college and completed both her bachelors and masters degrees focused her thesis on sex work. Using both her academic and personal insights she discussed the ways personal relationships develop between clients and workers and ways sex workers stay safe. She noted the negative impact of over-zealous efforts to prevent human trafficking that is putting the lives of sex workers at risk, who, although engaging in consensual activities now run the danger of being charged as being sex traffickers. She shared information of the lack of accountable political oversight and the financial forces operating to create this more dangerous environment. In addition, there is a paucity of resources that would help youth and sex workers to find other gainful employment. Her knowledge, both personal and academic, revealed this misunderstood world to the students in a way that brought sensitivity and  concern for the well-being of   sex workers and highlighted the injustices endemic to their world. This presentation by Ms. Dante was noted as one of the highlights of the semester by the seminarians.

168

DORNSIFE CENTER FOR COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS SIDE BY SIDE COMMUNITY BASED LEARNING AS SUGGESTED BY PEC CAREER COUNSEL

During the spring semester I participated as a community member in a Side by Side (SBS) class called, PHILADELPHIA STORIES: Contemporary African American Authors Who Call Philadelphia Home, as taught by  Professor Gabriella Ibieta, PhD, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature in the Department of English and Philosophy at Drexel University.

As multi-generational, multicultural, students and community members, we explored the literary and poetic works of Yolanda Wisher, Lorene Carey, Major Jackson, M K Asante, Ayana Mathis, Elijah Anderson, and the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. We completed the semester with a group powerpoint where four of us were assigned to share our combined Philadelphia story within the frame of the writers with whom we most identified. Our final product is available via Power Point. Email me if you are interested in seeing it!

OUR SHARED PHILADELPHIA STORY!

COMMON THREADS: A Compare Contrast of the Works of Ayana Mathis, Major Jackson and the Philadelphia Mural Art Program.

31233991673_aaaae9cfe8_o
Thank You Professor Ibieta For An Amazingly  Connective Philadelphia Story.
Dornsife Center Writers Room: As a result of the SBS class, I am blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in an anthology publication and live reading event at the  Dornsife Center Writers Room under the directorship of Rachel Wenrick and Kirsten Kaschock.

Thank you for feeling the passion of my poetry. So fabulous to be involved.

MEANWHILE MEDICAID AND SNAP BENEFITS CANCEL OUT AGAIN  Subject: MGD 51-3937359 – SNAP Hi Ms. Williams. This case –which you helped resolve in February to approve the January SNAP application – is somehow being renewed again already.  I’m confused by the Notice of Expiration of Certification, which says that the SNAP will end 1/31/17, but also schedules an interview for May 4. Why is the SNAP being recertified already?

In the end? I couldn’t find affordable new housing and a match for part time work, so I moved out of the Philadelphia, to Mont Co, cancelled my own food stamps to preserve the integrity of my Medicaid, and also to protest how ridiculous it became to have them at all. All CLS legal assistance canceled when I moved from PHL to Mont Co, and there are no Community Legal Services here to fill that role so my status is soon to expire. Last there is no housing assistance or low income home ownership programs for sex trade survivors or sex workers looking to exit. After reporting this to a local representative, the Home Matters /  Pennsylvania Housing Alliance network referred me to home buyer credit counselor on their website. At that meeting, where I did not discuss my sex trade status, my income was so low, the counselor suggested that home ownership was a real burden, involving a lot of upkeep. There were no services available through Home Matters or the Housing Alliance, or anyone. No one followed up with me on my feedback about that, and the policy people who invited me to  legislative special events like a dog and pony show are not offering any suggestions. Also  – to note – sex trade survivors are not welcome in any of the anti trafficking funded shelters unless they are brought in during task force rescue operations during human trafficking raids. Between three jobs I am living pretty close to poverty level in less than 300 square feet apartment with no food budget, though I own my own car, have work and did this without any rescue or tax funded efforts.

Exit? Other than End Demand, why? This is not so liberating or awesome. At least not yet.

July/ August

  • Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations hosting the  41st UALE Northeast Summer School for Women in Unions and Worker Organizations

img_0202

Thanks to a super successful Crowdrise, ESPLERP board member and sexworksolidarity star Elle traveled east,  and  together we went to LABOR SCHOOL! Recommended by The ESPLER Project’s Maxine Doogan  we are learning how  – as marginalized and disadvantaged – members of a now criminalized industry – to communicate and negotiate in accordance with formal systems of labor and academia.  

  • Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit (SFS) 16 in affiliation with the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.

Thanks to inner community allied support, I traveled for a second year to Alexandria, Virginia as a volunteer for the Woodhull Foundation Sexual Freedom Summit aka SFS 16.

I want to say wonderful things except that after experiencing verbal abuse on the volunteer floor from panel presenters without back up, support or follow up from admin or the board of directors,  I am just totally flat on that sentiment.  Entirely disappointing. I totally love a lot of the actual Woodhull Fam, but the verbal attack I experienced without back up, support or follow up simply was not okay. 

September

WoW! Neat. I made press in the Philadelphia Gay News (ePGN) which led to my meeting with Timothy Keller and Kali at  Representative Brian Sims office where we discussed:

  • The lack of confidential agency for sex trade survivors or sex workers in need of advice or support services as far as counsel, medical, legal, housing, anything.
  • The lack of inclusion in city or state legislation and law affecting trade survivors and workers for example: Safe Harbor and Act 105.
  • The lack of inclusion of sex trade survivors or sex workers in December 10th Pennsylvania’s International Human Rights Day.
  • The lack of city or state acknowledgement of December 17th: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers despite annual murders and cyclical cold cases.
  • Lack of 9-1-1- response to need based situations in the Frankford-Kensington section of the city, especially during a time when a serial killer was on the loose.
  • The need to address violent crimes against sex workers and trans, along with the possibility of seeing violent crimes against sex workers and trans defined as “hate crimes” similar to the British Merseyside Model.
  • The potential short and long term need for sex workers and trans friendly support services as far as emergency or acute need benefits, temporary and/or permanent housing,  legal assistance, and medical  access in Philadelphia and Pittsburg. A model similar to HIPS, D.C. (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive) is what I suggested to Mr. Keller as a potential option here in Pennsylvania.

img_0250-1
M. Dante at the 182nd
Last week, state Rep. Brian K. Sims (D-182nd Dist.), an openly gay lawmaker, indicated he’d meet with Dante. Sims’ office issued this statement: “Violence in any form inflicted upon any person is reprehensible. This is especially true of those perpetrators who target marginalized communities that find it difficult or impossible to access legal recourse or protection. Of course, we’d welcome any conversations or proposals which aim to reduce this issue.”

Dante hopes to meet with Sims shortly, to ask him personally to sponsor a Dec. 17 resolution.

“I look forward to the opportunity to speak with him,” she said. “My feeling is that he has welcomed one-on-one discussion on the needs of Pennsylvania’s marginalized populations, including sex workers and trans people. We may have different perspectives and different approaches but we all want the same outcome, which is to end the violence.”

Though Representative Sims did not meet with me, he did proactively  assign Timothy Keller and admin support Kali to meet with me to discuss the article, and the issues.  Mr. Keller spent a season researching the issues I brought to their attention, and – after finding authentic points of consideration – agree to give the matters thought to  reconvene in 2017.

I understand Representative Sims office also met this year with Eris Vayle and other dancers concerned about House Bill 262, a state registry for dancers at strip clubs.

Thank you ePGN and the office of Representative Brian Sims for being  the first to meet halfway on these “controversial” political talking points!
For reference Rep. Sims’ Committees and Caucuses are: Policy Committee Philadelphia County Delegation Homeless Caucus LGBT Equality Caucus PA SAFE Caucus Women’s Health Caucus

  • Thank you to Click Save Photography Kensington for the gift of  amazing new photographic portraits as result of the ePGN article, and also for coming out to December 17th and Thomas Paine Plaza to photograph the event.
  • The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) / Lisa L. Thompson

Re: VERIZON FIOS teen porn title on-demand: Ten Star Teens

Opposing Bed Fellows Fighting The Same Fight? YES! So, though, normally we would be on opposite sides of the debate, I reached out to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) after almost a year of failed effort in getting teen porn titles off Verizon FIOS in Pennsylvania. And we were successful! Or should I say, THEY were successful.

Congratulations and good work, Lisa L. Thompson, for dedicated championing against teen titles on-demand!

So – Sadly  – Yes: NCOSE  does support H.B. 262. I have explained to them  twice now why this endangers the welfare of workers – and family of workers –  in the legal industry, and hope they will consider the breadth and depth of the discussion to be inclusive of legal workers constitutional and human rights. I know this is probably futile, but we try, right?

  • Center for HIV Policy and Law announced: The Constitution Should Protect Sex Work: CHLP recently signed onto Lambda Legal’s amicus brief in a case in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging a decision that did not look at the facts of whether a prostitution law in California actually promotes public health. The brief argues that not only does the law not promote public health, but criminalizing sex work actually has a detrimental impact on public health. This Lambda Legal blog post from October 12, 2016 further explains their position of seeing “no constitutionally adequate basis to criminalize sex solely because one consenting adult pays another.”
  • Eris Vayle and M. Dante on Sex with Timaree podcast 264 where we discuss violence against sex workers, attacks on women in Kensington, community alliances to address violence against sex workers and trans, December 17th, LOVE and why we ARE like snowflakes. Tune in! Turn on! Episode 264: http://wp.me/p851bz-5E

Philadelphia NoirCon published my 1996 creative non fiction short story, Fear is Contagious, based on an actual  Bala Cynwyd sex worker attack and murder; along with publishing  SKIN, a poetic tribute to the darkly inspiring art and literary publications of German artist Heide Hatry. 

November

  • All Women Count, USPROS Collective, Legal Action for Women, and the  Women’s Global Strike Movement: GREAT WORK NINA, RACHEL and PHOEBE!

Nina Lopez led a PENN discussion introduced by Rachel West about the challenges women in countries like Haiti, India, Ireland, Peru, Thailand and the UK face in supporting their families,  and why their growing movements for change are calling for the decriminalization of prostitution. Rachel West and Phoebe Jones were also involved, along with contributing to public awareness and educational outreach on the L.A. serial murder of hundreds of African American women with the Grim Sleeper project.

img_4506
All Women Count
  • We also look forward to allied advocacy in the form of multi county court appearances on behalf of PA prostitutes,  and issues related to arrests and  child custody.
  • CROWDRISE for HIPS, DC (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive): Thank you to everyone who donated to the Birthday Benefit for HIPS, DC!
HIPS.jpeg
Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive

We raised 500.00, and that was matched at the holidays, so we – basically – raised around a grand, helping HIPS with their 24 hour emergency hotline AND a BRAND NEW VAN! ThX Vesta Zeneca for stepping up to suggest 2017 allied efforts for education via PARTIES. YaY!

  • First Person Arts in affiliation with WHYY Presented Sex for Sale: True Stories from the World’s Oldest Profession. Really good effort. Thanks for sharing.

https://dec17philly.com/2016/11/12/sex-for-sale-true-stories-from-the-worlds-oldest-profession/

December

SWOP-Dec17-01.png

DECEMBER 17th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

WE REMEMBERED PHILADELPHIA MURDER VICTIMS: Maya Young and  Ricky Morgan.

CEREMONY WAS  DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF NHI COLD CASE: Donna Gentile

PHILLY’S GOT: Community Allied Efforts to Stop the Violence. THANK YOU to everyone who braved the storm to add some light and love to the day, including though not limited to:  All Women Count, The Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, ELS, Erotic Service Providers Union, ESPLER Project, Food Not Bombs, New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, Philadelphia Red Umbrella Alliance, Project SAFE, Sex with Timaree,  SWOP Behind Bars, SWOP USA, US Prostitutes Collective  and  our amazingly supportive, awesome local community allies.  Thank you CEASE FIRE PA for your email acknowledgment. Thank you to Zucker Arts Studio West Philadelphia for Lady Liberty Crying.  Thank you to Kelsey Wet for the amazing political puppetry art. Thank you Eris Vayle for the flyer. Thank you Click Save Photography Kensington for the photos. Ethan Zach Trio for the recording. Sex with Timaree for the podcast. D and P for the Word Press Upgrade. David for a lot all the time. Thank you to the Reverend Beverly Dale for dedicated on-going efforts to bridge the divide between the spiritual communities and the sex work communities. You are angel, and we love you.

img_4562

NJRUA: Not only for coming out, but also for supporting the event. Respect. Deep. Always.

NJRUA speaking on the 10th Anniversary of the Black Horse Pike Motel Murders.
NJRUA speaking on the 10th Anniversary of the Black Horse Pike Motel Murders.
A VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO ELICIA GONZALES, who we all know from her former work with GALAEI and ongoing SEXx with Dr. Timaree Schmit. Elicia, you  really stepped up to bridge divides.

donna-gentile
Donna Gentile: A Philly Runaway and NHI / Cold Case Prostitute Murder Believed Killed By  San Diego Police

A Moment of Silence.

bad-revelations

The Good The Bad and The Sad of December 21st

  • DECEMBER 21st: Congratulations to the Delaware County District Attorney’s office for the capture of the Kensington Sport Killer that had been hunting women on the streets of Frankford / Kensington in Philadelphia County, along with outside areas.
  • DECEMBER 21st we also found out thanks to the New York Daily News that a  prostituted teenager from Philadelphia was strangled and  lit on fire in New Jersey.
  • DECEMBER 21st became a day of national mourning when transgender sex worker and artist Diane Hemingway committed suicide by  shooting  herself in Jonathan Dickinson State Park in California.

december17th_candle

red_umbrellas-in-the-sky

2016 HALL OF SHAME: Shea Rhodes and Her  “All Prostitution Needs To Be Defined As Trafficking” Rhetoric When She’s Got Sugar Baby Villa Nova Law Students!

Philadelphia’s Villa Nova School of Law, which runs the NEW Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE), also apparently supports censorship, especially when their own law students go public about whoring to pay their way through law school.

What’s the scandal? Well Villa Nova’s own law students are coming out as “sugar babes” or as they euphemistically say in the sugar circles,   “prostitutes light”.

Villa Nova Law School and the Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation publicly supports End Demand, wanting to define all prostitution as sex trafficking, yet their own students are coming out as sugar-baby-whores. Nice.  No!  Seriously WTF?

Especially after I appealed to  Shea and the Institute for help as a “victim/survivor” and they told me to go find an attorney who cared since they only do their own research for their own purposes. I have to admit: I’m sorta glad they got proven to be as much in need of the prostitution as the regular people.

Philly dot com and the UK Daily Mail both cyber scrubbed the link, however, we were able to Time Machine that back to the 2016 YiR for YA!

Meet the law graduate who used SUGAR DADDIES she met online to finance her entire $50,000-a-year education

  • Candice Kashani has graduated Villanova University with barely any debt
  • She said sugar daddies met online are a misunderstood ‘great resource’
  • Even with a scholarship she faced $50,000 in her first year 
'Great resource': Candice Kashani has graduated Villanova University with virtually no debt thanks to sugar daddies met online. Even with a scholarship, she faced $50,000 in tuition and expenses in her first year
You Go Candice: Girl Owns Her Degree, Interest Free!

‘Great resource’: Candice Kashani has graduated Villanova University with virtually no debt thanks to sugar daddies met online. Even with a scholarship, she faced $50,000 in tuition and expenses in her first year As the cost of tuition and rent rises, so does the apparent popularity of such sites among students.  But are they really providing financial relief, or signing women up for something more exploitative and dangerous than debt?

Kashani believes such sites are a ‘great resource’ for young women, but others say these arrangements smack of prostitution and take advantage of women in a vulnerable situation. Lynn Comella, an associate professor of gender and sexuality studies at University of Nevada Las Vegas, said that it is not unusual for students to turn to sex work such as stripping, prostitution or webcam work to pay for school.

But the sugar daddy sites are relatively new, and she says not entirely upfront about what they are really about.

These arrangements are more vague than prostitution – there is an expectation of material benefit but it is not always specified and sex is not guaranteed.

Ron Weitzer, a professor of sociology at George Washington University and criminologist with an expertise in the sex industry describes it as ‘prostitution light.’

‘Sugar Daddy’ arrangements have existed for ages, and it’s unclear if they are becoming more common because the phenomenon is not well studied.

But experts say at the very least the internet has made these transactions far easier to arrange and negotiate.

‘It allows you to hone in on what you want,’ said Kevin Lewis, an assistant professor of sociology at University of California San Diego who studies online dating. ‘You could argue it is just making the market more efficient.’

Kashani says she sifted through many potential suitors before finding one she clicked with. She says she considers her sugar daddy one of her best friends and that they care deeply for each other.

‘The people who have a stigma, or associate a negative connotation with it, don’t understand how it works,’ she says.

Kashani says she sifted through many potential suitors before finding one she clicked with

Kashani says she sifted through many potential suitors before finding one she clicked with

The law grad says she considers her sugar daddy one of her best friends and they care deeply for each other

The law grad says she considers her sugar daddy one of her best friends and they care deeply for each other

Top school: Kashani has graduated with a JD at Villanova University, one of the nation's leading schools

Top school: Kashani has graduated with a JD at Villanova University, one of the nation’s leading schools

 But unlike most relationships, she is paid a sizeable monthly allowance that helps her pay for school.

U.S. undergraduate students last year finished school with an average of $35,000 in student debt – a figure that has risen steadily every year, according to Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert. The average graduate debt load is $75,000, and some longer programs force students into much deeper debt.

Many students say their loans don’t cover the cost of living, and with rent skyrocketing in most major cities, they are left scrambling to make up the difference.

One graduate student at Columbia University in New York had a scholarship that covered almost all of her tuition, but not her living expenses.

She spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the potential impact on her job prospects. She tried to make do – sharing a room with a classmate and working a minimum wage job, plus any freelance work she could get.

But still she struggled to pay her rent and utilities, and her grades suffered.

‘That’s just not why I am here,’ she said. ‘I wanted to find the most amount of money I could make for the least amount of effort.’

So she found herself surfing Craigslist and Backpage.com and later, SeekingArrangement.com, the largest of the sugar daddy websites. Now she has two sugar daddies, one she sees occasionally and another who is more like a conventional boyfriend, except that he pays her a monthly allowance and helps rent her an apartment closer to him.

SeekingArrangement.com said it is most popular in Los Angeles and New York. The average rent in both areas is well over $2,000 a month, according to Zillow research.

 The people who have a stigma, or associate a negative connotation with it, don’t understand how it works Candice Kashani on ‘sugaring’ . The Columbia student says she plans to continue ‘sugaring’ after she graduates to buy herself time to find a more traditional job and remain officially unemployed so she can defer repaying the roughly $70,000 in loans she had already racked up. ‘There is a lot of moral panic about it,’ she said. ‘But what are the real estate and academic funding situations that led to this?’

Brandon Wade, creator of the site, touts it as an ‘alternative to financial aid’ but says the company did not set out to target students when it launched in 2006.

It stumbled on this niche and began in 2011 offering students a free premium membership, which usually costs $30 a month. It charges sugar daddies $70 to $180 a month, depending on the membership level.

Seekingarrangement.com also offers to connect same-sex couples looking for such arrangements, or ‘sugar mommies’ for men. But the male-female ‘sugar daddy’ dynamic makes up the bulk of its business.

It’s difficult to pin down exactly how many students are involved in such situations, because they are private transactions. And it’s a niche rarely studied by academics.

SeekingArrangement.com says student users on the site jumped from 79,400 worldwide in 2010 to 1.9 million this year and students make up one-third of its users.

And while it sees thousands of signups on any given day, the company says enrollment jumps during August and January when tuition is typically due, sometimes to more than double its normal levels.

Women who have used the site report experiences that run the gamut – from respectful chaste dates all the way to aggressive solicitation online, even though it is forbidden on the site. Sex is not guaranteed although most users say it is implied. The company says a few arrangements have even led to marriage, although it is rare.

Some of the women say they feel respected and cared for, but remain aware that it is an arrangement, not traditional romantic love.

‘It benefits me in many ways – we have a healthy relationship, we travel together, I’m able to enjoy the city more,’ said the New York graduate student.

Still, she said, it is a job.

‘It does kind of rub me the wrong way that some people don’t see it as sex work,’ she said.

Comella warns that unlike sex workers, many women doing this put their true identities online, and that could put them at risk. While Seeking Arrangement runs background checks, there have been reports of violence against both men and women stemming from sugar daddy websites.

Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center says that violence is common any time money is exchanged for sex. ‘You need to pay attention that there is a power imbalance,’ she said.

Wade says there are risks inherent in any dating website. He should know; he runs several, including one that allows users to bid on dates and another focused on open relationships. He said he created SeekingArrangement.com out of his own frustration with women.

An MIT graduate, he had difficulty meeting women and realized a site such as this would highlight what set him apart – money.

‘Money and sex are things that people want,’ he said. ‘I think the controversy comes into play on seeking arrangement because we are so upfront about it.’

2016 MOST BIZARRE SEX WORK / SEX TRAFFICKING STORY

The Pizza-Gate Conspiracy Theory Surrounding Monica Petersen’s Death in Haiti

monica_petersen

Monica Petersen in a false Facebook image

Despite my best effort, I don’t even know how to explain this one.

Yea. I don’t even know anymore. I really don’t.

Condolences for the family of Monica Petersen. We are sorry for your loss, and the chaos surrounding her mysterious death.

december17th_candle

2016 CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:  If anyone had told me when I completed my 2003 senior study on feminism, sex work and sex trafficking how bizarre and vicious  it was all going to become, I could not have in any way envisioned where 2016 was leading. I’d like to say something poignant, though all I feel is: 2016: What a shit show.  And that is all I’ve got! ##

COMMUNITIES WORKING TOGETHER CAN STOP  VIOLENCE. PLEASE – CHOOSE TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. – light & love  M. Dante

%d bloggers like this: