The Invisible John Interview About Jane
ORIGINAL POST ON SWOP PHL SEPTEMBER 30, 2015
Journalists ask the darndest questions then don’t publish the answers sex workers give them or purposely don’t share all viewpoints if the views don’t fit in with the desired angle of an expose. So – we’ve decided to publish an unpublished and unquoted requested dialog by a journalist who interviewed SWOP Philly’s M. Dante. Showing the journalist courtesy, we will leave her identity out of this post of raw questions. The point isn’t to demonize the mainstream journalist. The point is that this is a broader problem the S/W community is experiencing with mainstream media. Though we strive to share our knowledge and experiences, we don’t always need journalists (or papers) to publish our perspectives and stories. This is why S/W have platforms of our own to showcase what is really going on in our lives —
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: How long have you been working in the sex trade?
M. DANTE: My first active exposure to the adult entertainment industry was 1986.
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE:Do you consider yourself trafficked, or have you ever been trafficked?
M. DANTE: Legally I’m defined as a former victim of domestic minor sex trafficking as a result of being a homeless teenager engaging in survival sex for food and shelter, along with working in various capacities in the adult industry. However — I have twenty-five plus years of interaction with federal and local law enforcement agencies from working in the industry, and because of that, I don’t apply the term “trafficking” to my personal adult history. Though I will certainly say that fair labor practice was not always present in my erotic service exchange.
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: Or has your whole career been purely voluntary?
M. DANTE: No. I was never pimped out like you see on Dateline. However, I am from a pretty poor, broken background, so choose how to define “voluntary”.
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: Some law enforcement officials (like Sheriff Dart) are cracking down on backpage.com and targeting johns as a means to curb sex trafficking. How does that affect you and your job?
M. DANTE: I realize the media is fond of jargon, however, if it is okay to say, I find the slang “john” to be – well – offensive. Male sex buyers are “sex buyers,” “customers”or “clients”. If a male sex buyer is harmful to themselves or others, there are proper clinical or legal terminology for the men who are not quite right. Using the words “John” or “trick” is as purposely degrading as calling me “whore” or “ho” for an entire interview.
Now, If law enforcement successfully dismantles the consensual U.S. sex industry, I don’t believe it actually gets to the root of global human trafficking, be that trafficking into sexual or labor exploitation.
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: Do you have any specific stories of how tactics like this have affected you?
M. DANTE: Since “Coming Out Under the Red Umbrella” lDecember 2014 , mixed with the last few years of media and law enforcement frenzy, my work world has been devastated. This all has endangered my welfare, and my safety, much more so then when I was simply a consensual sex worker with good day or bad days. Every new call I am terrified I’ll be on some new version of Sex Slaves of America, 8 Minutes, or caught up in some deviant, for-profit diversion program.
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: Do customers you work with seem concerned about getting caught?
M. DANTE: No. My friends and I try to treat each other well, and don’t do bad things. Sometimes – sure – there is a bad apple in the batch, but on the whole, we aren’t doing the no-no things.
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: How has the removal of Visa and MasterCard from Backpage.com affected your work experience, if at all?
M. DANTE: Unless traveling on a working vacation, I wasn’t advertising on Backpage. My position in favor of Backpage is about 1. advocacy for the women who are dependent on Backpage as a safe, consistent way of interacting with their customer base. 2. the right for consensual adults to interact with other consensual adults to discreetly engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activities.
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: Some argue that legalizing prostitution entirely would end trafficking. Do you think that’s true?
M. DANTE: No. I do not believe legalizing prostitution in the United States will end global human trafficking defined as labor or sexual exploitation. I do believe in decriminalizing prostitution, especially in zoned city areas, as well as at designated private retreats or spas.
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: Are there enough willing sex workers to meet the demand?
M. DANTE: Since I don’t know the global population of adults interested in consensually sharing erotic services, I am sorry I can’t answer that. It would be a very expensive poll to attempt, wouldn’t it? We’d have to call the Pew Foundation in for that!
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: If you could tell Sheriff Dart one thing about how his policies have affected current sex workers, what would you tell him?
M. DANTE: I believe suddenly freezing access to Backpage as an advertising outlet endangers the welfare of adults consensually engaging in erotic exchange, and dependent on that income. Desperation and lack of options almost always leads to bad outcome. I get this is all a quick fix solution to make law enforcement look responsible under a lot of pressure, though it doesn’t address the core socio-economic and cultural issues. The issues may take a decade to resolve. The issues may take a generation to resolve. I do not believe canceling known advertising outlets will truly change anything for the long-term. This action is bad for people who love working in the sex industry. It is bad for people looking to make a few fast bucks, and go back to their normal day-to-day. It is bad for the customers seeking safe outlets for their interests. Without clear policies on consensual erotic services, all these scramble efforts to stop trafficking seem like fear based p/r campaigns.
MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE: Do you have anything to add?
M. DANTE: My closing comment is if you really want to contribute to the global effort to stop trafficking, boycott chocolate. Or at least buy from small Fair Trade collectives and farms. Boycott corporate controlled chocolate!
That link is from the 2013 U.S. Department of Labor study on one of the worst forms of human trafficking in the form of exploitation of child labor: cocoa / chocolate plantations. Not as easy as shutting down third-party credit card merchants for advertising in the consensual U.S. adult sex industry, is it?
Thanks to COYOTE RI for the follow-up information on Operation Chokehold & Domina Elle Colorado for information on 8 Minutes and Broken Heels.