Following the murders of Dora Özer and Petite Jasmine on the 9th and 11 of July 2013, sex workers, their friends, families, and allies are coming together to demand an end to stigma, criminalisation, violence and murders. In the week since the two tragedies occurred, the feelings of anger, grief, sadness and injustice – for the loss of Dora and Jasmine, but also for the senseless and systemic murders and violence against sex workers worldwide – have brought together people in 36 cities from four continents who agreed to organise demos, vigils, and protests in front of Turkish and Swedish embassies or other symbolic places.

Petite Jasmine was a vocal activist who lost custody of her children because of her profession. During a custody visit, her husband killed her.

Dora Özer was a transgender sex worker in Turkey, where only women are allowed to be prostitutes.

Check out #stigmakills on Twitter for ongoing reactions throughout the day.

Sex Trafficking at the Super Bowl

My friend Danielle Vermeer corrects a common misconception about massive sporting events like the Super Bowl: that they produce a marked uptick in sex trafficking for their host cities:

There are no credible, proven studies that show that sex trafficking does in fact increase dramatically in the city where the Super Bowl or other major event such as the World Cup is held. Certainly there are testimonies of victims who have been trafficked during major sports events, but inflating the numbers hurts rather than helps the cause and efforts to assist victims.

"The Best Interests of Prostitutes"

This profile of a Polk County, Florida Sheriff at The Daily Beast bothers me. It paints the man, Grady Judd, as an unorthodox but well-intentioned demi-hero because he rigorously enforces prostitution laws and frequently posts pictures of the arrested johns online. Witness this glowing excerpt:

Now, despite criticism that his stings wrongly target consensual adults, Judd is happy that his operation has become a national model. More and more communities have been conducting such sweeps, often publicizing the names of johns and prostitutes on the Web, as Judd does. (See here, for example.)

“People say you shouldn’t mess with prostitutes, but they don’t know about some of the mean, nasty folks who try to procure them,” Judd says in his own defense. “We save girls’ lives because they were arrested by us and there wasn’t some weirdo who killed them.”

If you click through to the example, you’ll see that Judd does indeed post pictures not only of johns but of prostitutes. How does that help those women? By exposing them as sex workers, a group many already despise? By shaming them for engaging in sex for money? Or, alternatively, if the Sheriff believes these women engage in prostitution against their will, does posting their mug shots help them break free of forced labor? I just can’t think of any benefit to be gained for prostitutes by posting their images online.

Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that even posting the johns’ mug shots online constitutes a violation of their civil rights, but I suppose that varies from county to county and state to state. I can, though, at least make a devil’s argument for the social good this might do. I can’t say the same thing about posting the prostitute’s pictures.

Also, I do not submit to this idea that prostitutes are better off being outed publicly by the Sheriff’s department because this definitely prevents them from returning to sex work and ultimately being murdered by a “weirdo”. Let’s see some data, Judd.

America Has an Incest Problem

Okay, actually, this op-ed piece by Mia Fontaine for The Atlantic is scary:

Here are some statistics that should be familiar to us all, but aren’t, either because they’re too mind-boggling to be absorbed easily, or because they’re not publicized enough. One in three-to-four girls, and one in five-to-seven boys are sexually abused before they turn 18, an overwhelming incidence of which happens within the family. These statistics are well known among industry professionals, who are often quick to add, “and this is a notoriously underreported crime.”

You don’t want to click on the words “an overwhelming incidence”. You really don’t. It will make you feel so sad and helpless. But we can’t afford to be helpless:

Ninety-five percent of teen prostitutes and at least one-third of female prisoners were abused as kids. Sexually abused youth are twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense as adults, are at twice the risk for lifelong mental health issues, and are twice as likely to attempt or commit teen suicide. The list goes on. Incest is the single biggest commonality between drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, teenage and adult prostitution, criminal activity, and eating disorders. Abused youths don’t go quietly into the night. They grow up—and 18 isn’t a restart button.

From Victim to Impassioned Voice

Jenifer B. McKim profiles Asia Graves, a former child prostitute who put her pimps behind bars by bravely testifying at their trial. She now works for FAIR Girls, an anti-trafficking organization, mentoring other young victims.

As part of her work, she recounts the tale of her harrowing past and inspiring turnaround to government leaders, law enforcement officials, and media outlets. Most importantly, she tries to connect with girls who are susceptible to prostitution, or have already been dragged into the sex industry underworld.

Even my 90%-stone heart warmed a little at this story.

Targeting the Wrong People for the Wrong Reasons

Yesterday the people of California passed Proposition 35, a ballot initiative intended to combat sex trafficking. As nice as that sounds, this article by Melissa Gira Grant explains why Prop 35 spells big civil rights trouble:

There is little evidence that strengthening criminal penalties and relying primarily on law enforcement are strategies to end forced labor; in fact, advocates who work with survivors of trafficking, as well as people involved in the sex trade and sex worker rights’ advocates, have documented the limitations and dangers of a “tough on crime” approach on trafficking.

Intellectually-Disabled Woman Charged With Prostitution

Laura Berte said her daughter has a mental capacity of a 9 year old. She said Allie, though now 20, was in special classes at Ashley High school, but was still on the honor roll for her level. This would be Allie’s senior year of high school.

“My daughter’s not a criminal,” said Laura Berte. “She doesn’t have the mental capacity to come up with this idea on her own. This is bigger than her and bigger than most people in this community know, and it’s happening right underneath our noses.”

Even if we continue to outlaw prostitution, we have got to decriminalize prostitutes.

To All the Girls Who Envy My Life

An escort theorizes about why so many young women find her career alluring:

Girls aren’t bombarded with messages telling them that their mental power is urgently needed to address issues like global warming or infectious diseases, or that their athleticism could be parlayed into a life as a professional athlete or coach. Instead, we’re told over and over again that we earn a place at the table—any table—by being polished and well-dressed, with glossy hair and a slim figure. The girls who e-mail me are not lacking internal resources. They’re educated, sensitive, observant, and they have the complex sentences and insightful wording to prove it. But they are living in a world where a woman’s worth is constantly equated with her sex appeal. Is it any wonder that many women might find it compelling to take that equation to its logical end?

You don’t need to a be a libertarian to find her thoughts intriguing and challenging.

The Oldest Profession Evolves

Gregory Gilderman writes for The Daily Beast on how the internet has revolutionized prostitution:

While critics have charged classified sites with facilitating sex trafficking, for women like Brittany, who have freely chosen prostitution and whose clients freely choose them, the Internet has made the transactions fast, simple, and discreet. New research suggests it hasn’t merely moved online and indoors those who once worked the street, but done something more transformative: created a different sort of sex worker—more educated, younger—and a bigger market of women selling sexual services in the United States and men purchasing those services.

“Brittany’s” final word on the subject, though? “I would honestly never recommend this to anyone.”