The War On Whores

Author and Whore, Maggie will be joined by Triple-X Secretary Kerry Porth and New Democratic Party candidate Sven Robinson will host a panel discussion following the film. The War on the Whores is a feature-length documentary that exposes the harms and waste of America’s escalating crackdown on sex work which masquerades as fighting sex trafficking and rescuing vulnerable women and girls caught up in sexual exploitation.


PA Women: Extreme Differences Of Opinion

One op editorial. Two totally different opinions. Posted below: Project SAFE's Aisha Mohammed's January op ed in Philly dot com, and Villa Nova's Legal Fellow Shea Rhodes discussing the op ed from an abolitionist perspective. Compare / Contrast. For those of us defined as youth survivors and adult sex workers we are caught between these radical extremes. As the PA motto goes its seems that No: both can’t survive!

Bella Robinson on Sex Trafficking Inside the Trump Campaign

The gig is up. The government now admits that they don’t see any difference between trafficking victims and sex workers. They see both as criminals; women who refuse to conform. Poor women that refuse to live in poverty and become homeless. Mothers that struggle to pay their rent and feed their kids are all seen as criminals. Services should never have required anyone to prove that they were a victim. Services should be for all people who are living in poverty. However, the government invented the trafficking narrative so they wouldn’t have to provide any services for sex workers and they only had to pony up when it came to legal services for victims. - Bella Robinson

Philadelphia Free Press On: #IDTEVASW

"We, as one global community renew our commitment to solidarity on December 17,” said Melanie Dante, former sex worker who was one of the organizers at the Philadelphia events this year. "December 17 Events aim to raise outrage at violence against sex workers and strengthen sex worker communities and responses to the systematic, daily violence and exclusion sex workers experience.” Philadelphia Free Press. Article by David Block

I Support The New Zealand Model

Remembering Robyn: Whore Mother Patron Saint Of Prostitutes

Until prostitutes have equal protection under the law and equal rights as human beings, there is no justice.  –  Robyn Few

Robyn Few (October 7, 1958 – September 13, 2012) was an American sex workers’ rights activist who worked for the decriminalization of prostitution, against violence targeted at sex workers, and, generally, for the improvement of sex workers’ working conditions. A former prostitute, she founded and directed the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA (SWOP-USA), and helped organize the annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. She was born in Paducah, Kentucky. She advocated the complete removal of prostitution from criminal codes. – WIKIPEDIA

Bloggers note: Robyn was also my professional peer and housemate in San Francisco before all that happened.

2012: Sex workers all over the world were saddened to hear of the death (after a long battle with cancer) of the charismatic and tireless Robyn Few, founder of the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA.  When the day finally arrives on which sex work is recognized in the majority of the world as work like any other, hers will be one of the names remembered as instrumental in achieving it.

Robyn L. Spears was born in Paducah, Kentucky, on October 7th, 1958, to Virginia Owen Spears; she had an older brother and a younger sister and lived in the small community of Lone Oak, Kentucky.  She attended Lone Oak Elementary and Lone Oak Middle School, but dropped out and ran away from home either during or after her 8th grade year, when she was 13 years old.  The causes of her leaving are not clear, but whatever they were she later reconciled with her mother and in fact died while visiting at her home.  Like so many runaways she soon turned to survival sex work, and though she later received vocational training to be a materials tester for concrete and tried a few “straight” jobs such as drafting, she was never satisfied with these and became a stripper soon after turning 18.  As she says in the video below (recorded in Chicago in July of 2008), “I loved it so much; it was so empowering to be able to get up on the stage…I came alive, and for me being paid to dance and to show my body [that] I was so proud of anyway…it was just an amazing experience.”

After stripping for a while she started working in a massage parlor, then later escort services and a clandestine brothel; in her late 20s she married one of her clients and had a daughter, but after her divorce in 1993 (after which she retained her married name, Few) she moved to California and began to take college classes with the intent of earning a degree in theater.  She became interested in marijuana and AIDS activism, but the bills had to be paid so she returned to escorting in 1996 and soon became a madam.  Like so many of us, she never told anybody about her sex work; her activism was directed toward other causes until fate decreed otherwise.

The events of September 11th, 2001 engendered a heightened climate of paranoia, and the enactment of the PATRIOT Act soon made an unprecedented level of funding available to any government agency which could make even a remote claim to “fighting terrorism”.  And though then-Attorney General Ashcroft had been strongly rebuked by Congress for devoting more FBI agents to the “Canal Street Brothel” case in New Orleans than to counterterrorist operations, he had learned his lesson and justified later whore persecutions with flimsy “anti-terrorism” excuses.  Robyn’s agency was accused of having “terrorist suspects” as clients and she was arrested in June of 2002,  then convicted of “conspiracy to promote prostitution” and sentenced to six months house arrest (during which the trial judge allowed her to continue her activism).  After her arrest, she was angry to discover that both neighbors and supposedly “enlightened” activists treated her differently once they knew she had been a prostitute; she threw herself even harder into medical marijuana activism, but began to think about how people’s ignorant attitudes and the oppressive anti-sex work laws could be changed.

Her inspiration came a year after her arrest, in the form of the US Supreme Court decision Lawrence vs. Texas:  Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out in his dissenting opinion that “state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult  incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery,  fornication, bestiality, and obscenity  are likewise sustainable only in light of [the overturned Bowers vs. Hardwick decision’s] validation of laws based on moral choices,” and though the other justices tried to pretend otherwise Robyn knew that Scalia was correct, and that the court had opened a door for sex workers’ rights.  So after a Berkeley, California high-school teacher named Shannon Williams was arrested for prostitution in August, Robyn gathered a group of sex workers to protest outside the courthouse at Williams’ arraignment in September.  Unfortunately (but understandably), Williams wanted the whole mess to go away as soon as possible and so had no desire to become the “poster child” for prostitutes’ rights.  Robyn of course backed down, but the fire had been lit; with the help of her partner Michael Foley and sex worker Stacy Swimme (whom she had met earlier that year at a medical marijuana protest), she founded SWOP-USA the following month.

The organization was modeled on SWOP Australia, and Rachel Wotton (who now specializes in sex work with the disabled) was instrumental in securing permission for the American group to use the name and helping to set things up.  Within a few weeks the new organization was contacted by Dr. Annie Sprinkle for assistance in arranging the very first Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, and for the next year Robyn worked furiously to contact politicians and get the attention of the media so as to let them know that sex workers were not going to quietly accept persecution any more, and were mobilizing like those in many other parts of the world to demand our rights.  But after the failure of “Proposition Q”, a ballot measure she wrote which would have established de facto decriminalization in Berkeley, Robyn and SWOP settled in for the long haul and committed themselves to the slow, arduous task of reversing centuries of stigma and decades of oppressive legislation.

Shortly after the two shorter videos were recorded at the International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harms in Warsaw, Poland (May of 2007), Robyn was diagnosed with cancer; she continued to work tirelessly for the cause all through her chemotherapy, and though the disease appeared to have gone into remission in January of 2010 it returned by July of 2011, and this time proved terminal.  She died on September 13th, 2012 while visiting her mother, and there will be a memorial service on what would have been her 54th birthday (October 7th, 2012) at the Milner and Orr Funeral Home in Lone Oak .  I never had the pleasure of meeting Robyn, but as you can see from the personal accounts on her website and the many expressions of grief all over the internet, those who did speak without exception of her warmth, her strength, her good humor, her courage and her plain human decency.  And though it’s an oft-used phrase, there is no other which sums up the way everyone in the sex worker rights community feels about her passing:  she will be sorely missed.

 

(Cross-posted from The Honest Courtesan.  I am indebted to the Sin City Alternative Professionals’ Association (formerly SWOP-LV) for information and links, and also to a group of Robyn’s school friends from Lone Oak, who contacted me Sunday morning and filled in a number of vital details I could not find anywhere else.  If anyone reading this can correct an error or omission, please email me with the info.)

Bound, Not Gagged

Until prostitutes have equal protection under the law and equal rights as human beings, there is no justice.  –  Robyn Few

Last Thursday, sex workers all over the world were saddened to hear of the death (after a long battle with cancer) of the charismatic and tireless Robyn Few, founder of the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA.  When the day finally arrives on which sex work is recognized in the majority of the world as work like any other, hers will be one of the names remembered as instrumental in achieving it.

Robyn L. Spears was born in Paducah, Kentucky, on October 7th, 1958, to Virginia Owen Spears; she had an older brother and a younger sister and lived in the small community of Lone Oak, Kentucky.  She attended Lone Oak Elementary and Lone Oak Middle School, but dropped out and ran away from home either…

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OPPOSE FL 540: FL Senate Considers Creating Prostitution Registry

WE OPPOSE FL 540: Senate Considers Creating Prostitution Registry: Florida Senate Bill 540 with the Orwellian title “Human Trafficking” would create a registry for people found guilty of the loosely defined crime of “soliciting, inducing, enticing, or procuring” another to commit “prostitution, lewdness, or assignation.” #sexworkersagainsttrafficking

FOSTA: A Death Sentence for Sex Workers

FOSTA: A Death Sentence for Sex Workers By Meghan Peterson and Bella Robinson Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE) Rhode Island
 Introduction On April 11, 2018, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) were signed into law. While outside the Capitol building sex workers condemned the bill for its inevitable impact on safety, the bipartisan FOSTA-SESTA package sailed through the United States House and Senate. FOSTA/SESTA outlined new provisions to amend the Communications Decency Act to note that websites can be prosecuted if they engage “in the promotion or facilitation of prostitution” or “facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims." While supporters of the law claimed to target sex traffickers, its text makes no effort to differentiate trafficking from consensual sex work. Its passage was hailed by abolitionists as a victory in the fight against “sex trafficking,” an invisible force that anti-trafficking lobbyists claim victimizes innocent women and coerces them into the evils of sex work. Among actual workers, its passage was denounced as a death sentence for sex workers who were then further pushed underground and away from tools used to maintain safety and screening.

Sex Workers Are Human Resources

JAN 10 • Thank you so much for your fair and balanced coverage of the 15th Annual IDTEVASW. Since 2012 SWOP and SAFE have strived to stand up and speak out in Philly on issues specific to stigma and gratuitous violence against sex workers. Folks are always amazed at how hard and painful this event is to do, yet in the end how truly blessed we are to be able to come together to do it. Many households in most areas of Greater Philadelphia, if not all of PA, are touched somehow by this issue. Talking about sex work and prostitution is hard. Living in shame and silence is harder. D/17 is not fun, though it is full of love. Truly. We are here because we have been there, and we care. Our voice is their voice. Thank you for covering the memorial. Words cannot even express the gratitude I feel right now. Philly is proving we got LOVE!

IDTEVASW 2018

The date of December 17th was selected for the observance because it was on that date in 2003 that Gary Leon Ridgeway, the notorious Green River Killer,  was sentenced for his crimes. “Between July of 1982 and January of 1998 Ridgeway was responsible for the deaths of dozens of women and girls in King County, Washington, the county that includes the cities of Seattle and Tacoma. Many of his victims were prostitutes and others marginalized by society, such as runaways. Ridgeway was sentenced to 48 consecutive life terms for his crimes plus 480 additional years; a plea agreement eliminated the possibility of the death penalty. The first International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers was observed on the day he was sentenced and utilized art as sublimation through the conflicting emotions of relief, grief, anger and fear.

The Red Sand Project

At the intersectionality of sex work and trafficking are the people who lived it and no longer fit any of the definitions others are creating except by saying: We too are here. 
Photo of Mistress Lilith, Miss Gabrielle Monroe and M. Dante sharing some love taken by Blind Filmmaker David Block at the 15th Annual International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDTEVASW) at Thomas Paine Plaza Philadelphia.

Press Release: Under The Red Umbrella   

Press Release: Under The Red Umbrella    Monday, December 17, 2018 will mark the 15th annual observance of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. As people gather around the globe to celebrate the holidays, some mourn the loss of those close to them. In Philadelphia, the observance features two connected community events: … Continue reading Press Release: Under The Red Umbrella   

New laws in Penna: Pensions, gambling, domestic violence, DUI, human trafficking, animal abuse, and more

HUMAN TRAFFICKING Child victims of human trafficking cannot be prosecuted for crimes they are compelled to commit under a new law that also requires police to contact the state Department of Human Services whenever they encounter a child who has been sexually exploited. The Department of Human Services also must establish ways to provide victims with homes, schooling, training and counseling.