XXX: A Cultural Exploration

XXX: A Cultural Exploration (c) 2003

Abstract: Questioning the relationship of prostitution with feminism, XXX investigates the history of the sex industry, and how over the last thirty years it has contributed to fragmenting the American women’s movement.  Amidst the disagreements there are issues that greatly need unified attention, not just to better conditions for women who choose to work in the sex industry, but also to assist in defining the laws to protect women that are brought into the trade against their will;  e.g. during armed conflict.

At what point will women be able to reconnect when it comes to commerce, sexuality and their combined  power?

Defining the Movement. 

What is feminism?  How is it really defined?  Especially with respect to the sex industry? 

Multiple categories of feminism have been defined amongst academics over the last twenty five years.   I will discuss some of the categories of commercial sexuality that have created the division of the term ‘feminist’,  and how that has created the need for definitions of the antithesis of the feminist: The Sex Worker!

In the next  section religion, philosophy and the history/law of the American sex industry will be discussed, followed by different categories of non-consensual sexual labor and misappropriated sexual labor to show how true sexual slavery, rape and degradation differ from the arguments against formal prostitution and pornography.  New trends in international laws and advocacy will be discussed, and by the end of this essay I will bring sex workers and feminists  back together, hopefully, as women. Maybe women with slightly different opinion or perspectives, but equal women, nonetheless. 

Note: This piece of writing was completed in 2003, so Governance Feminism and evolving  perspectives beyond the Third Wave are not explored here. 

Classic Conservatism  is a political philosophy which enforces that it is the State’s right and responsibility to determine what will be considered acceptable behavior for adults based on social climate, moral tone, preservation of historic and cultural traditions, public opinion or values and how harmful an activity might be to other people, and to one’s self.  A Classical  Liberal position is the idea  that the state should only interfere with the choices and conduct when one’s activities are harming another.  John Mill’s work, in particular, On Liberty,  is often mentioned in legal and philosophical discussions pertaining to Classic Conservatism, and Classic Liberalism.

 We are familiar with the terms of the opposing perspectives in various contexts: gun control, drunk driving laws, the sale of tobacco to minors, and industrial safety standards. Society finds a balance in the boundaries of the arguments between one side and the other. When the issues focus on sex or gender,  the standards seem to change.  No longer is it one or the other, but a plethora of emotional, moral, legal, and  philosophical differences. 

The introduction of feminism into the political sphere as a result of the women’s movement of the 1960’s has benefited numerous causes, adding breadth, depth, and compassion to issues of public concern.   The feminist community bonded as they fought to have items added to  American forum and agenda.  As women have become equal in position in many parts of our culture and society new concerns pertaining to sexuality, gender, and reproductive health have been addressed.  These issues have complicated what in the past seemed a fairly straightforward stage of debate.

Since the late 1980’s, the sex industry has been a  primary issue that has complicated the feminist perspective,  with domestic violence and sexual aggression (rape) first creating heated debate.  Leah Platt, author of the article, “Regulating the Global Brothel,” comments that:

“… the feminist community, which is the champion of women’s rights in the workplace in many realms, remains bitterly divided over prostitution.  On one side are the abolitionists, who call prostitution a crime against women, akin to rape or domestic violence; on the other side are the pro-choicers, for whom the rhetoric of victimization is itself demeaning, and who say that women should be able to do whatever they want with their own bodies, including renting them out for pay.”[1] 

In my exploration of feminist perspectives on the sex industry,  I have come across much more dynamic categorization than the two points of separation Ms. Platt mentions.    I had thought that it would be a relatively limited argument, but have found  I was very wrong.  Feminism, as I was raised to define it, has been shattered into fragments of a movement over sexuality, with commercial sexuality taking the blame at the end of many disagreements.   The “Bonding of Sisterhood”  vibrantly alive thirty years ago, disintegrated by the late 1980s.  The sexual revolution  had not prepared women for the deeper issues that lay beyond the surface of each woman’s  individual idea of sexual freedom.  The battle for one’s body was against all men, and their stale patriarchal laws and limitations.  Feminists stood together for the right to be women who earn top dollar in any chosen career. A feminist was considered one who has sex when and with whom sex is desired, invests, uses birth control, owns property,  is treated with respect and is in good physical and mental health as a result of her control over her life. 

Feminists fell apart from the central ideal when the topic turned to the woman that is for sale.  That  girl.  The Working Girl.   Whores.  Harlots.  Hookers.  Escorts.  Companions.  Sluts. Courtesans. The term depends on the dollar amount, right? 

So – What are  the feminist perspectives on commercial sex, and why is it  important for women to find a common ground to discuss, not battle, the issues?  Does it really matter?  Will it in anyway change the world?  It might; if only women can stop calling each other by all of the names that separate them.

Now I adore  vibrant and vocal Pro-Sex activists like the Scarlet Harlot  San Francisco, but must women make such an extreme statement to speak on behalf of a woman’s right to suck dick and spank —  by choice, and for pay?  Well? Actually, YES!  It took women like  Carol Leigh to get out on the street, and make a scene for the ball to really get rolling. “Sex Workwas a term  coined and  defined in the 1970s as a result of the prostitutes’ rights movement in the United States,  and later in  Europe.  This was not a movement that Gloria Steinem marched with (though she did strut at the Playboy Mansion when “Bunnies” were all  the rage),  but it is a movement that came out of its closet as a result of the more mainstream, middle class movement.  It is similar to the Victorian movement when the “Bluestockings” and the “Redstockingsstood stocked in opposition to one another.  Cathy Crossman explains how the “Redstockings” included such trail-blazing pro-sex feminists as Victoria Woodhull, the early Margaret Sanger, and Emma Goldman.   The “Bluestockings” in contrast,  sought succor from the state they presumed to be beneficent, and in a bolder mood, aspired to become its agents.  Their politics were elitist, and centered on the right to vote.

 “Bluestockings” were mainly middle class and sought to protect their own rights, while disapproving of the issues coming from the working class,  and immigrant women.  Presently, in many other countries,  radical women’s groups have  protests over women’s and sex worker’s rights, and base their movements on the American movement of the 1960s and 1970s.  What is interesting is that the movement that inspired the European sex workers movement, and recently  the Third World  movement, became bitterly divided over the issue of commercial sexuality.[2]   How to include rich/poor, black/white/, citizen/immigrant, young woman/old woman into one set of sexual standards?  We had a moral, emotional, legal, and political meltdown; though at least we  did create a new platform for international debate and discussion.

Where is a good starting point on prostitution?

In his recent research, “Charges Against Prostitution: An Attempt at a Philosophical Assessment of Prostitution”, Lars Ericsson presents contemplation deeper than many of the feminist articles I’ve read.  The article opens with the statement that philosophical discussions on the legality and morality of prostitution are neglected amidst much continuous attention to  other areas such as pimps, drugs, etc. The author wonders if it is possible to even have a contemporary and philosophical discussion about “harlotry”.  After questioning different angles, the intent of his discussion is crystallized:

It is the purpose of this paper to undertake a critical assessment of the view that prostitution is undesirable.  I shall do this,” he states, “by examining what seem to me the most serious and important charges against prostitution.”[3]

  1. The Charge From Conventional Morality.  This is the most common and general of arguments against women having sex for commerce.    According to the moralist, a prostitute is “a sinful creature who ought be banned from civilized society”.[4] Whoredom is a social evil which involves degenerate behavior, existing outside of  heterosexual, homogenous,  sexual intercourse which is acceptable within the union of marriage.  Prostitution is viewed as an act which can adversely affect the nuclear family, and the roles created with respect to sex being strictly for procreation.

The author feels that moral opposition to “mercenary love” is fanatical and ridiculous:

If two adults voluntarily consent to an economic arrangement concerning sexual activity and this activity takes place in private, it seems plainly absurd to maintain that there is something intrinsically wrong with it. In fact, I very much doubt that it is wrong at all…”[5]

  1. The Sentimentalist Charge: Sentimentalists, as they are called, view sex between two persons who love and care for one another as the most precious of things.  To the Sentimentalist, commercial sex lacks all of those qualities, and therefore transforms the sexual experience into something negative.
  1. The Paternalistic Charge:  This is a legal category wherein if a person is found to be hurting themselves as a result of their behavior, the state may intervene and prevent them from doing so.  This argument has been used in illegal raids of private S/M associations, and prevents individuals involved in a scenario from pressing or not pressing charges against each other; the State overrides personal involvement and decides if an engaged activity is suitable or unsuitable. The paternalist argument against prostitution is that a “working girl” runs the risk of being physically and mentally abused / harmed.  The “working girl”  runs the risk of being exposed to venereal diseases and the HIV virus.  She also runs the risk of inducing depression, neurosis and compulsive, self-destructive behavior onto herself.    The paternalist feels that though there is no moral reason why prostitution should be illegal, it is in the best interest of the prostitute to be something other than a prostitute.
  1. The Marxist Charge:  The Marxist is in opposition to a human being forced by economic necessity to become like a machine, and use themselves as a means of eternal productivity, especially for the profit of any other person or business.  The parallel here is production, and wage labor.   Aleksandra Kollontai states  that:  “… bargaining over the female body is closely related to bargaining over female working power.  Prostitution can only disappear when wage labor does.”[6]

A contemporary socialist, Sheila Rowbotham has a similar view:  “Just as the prostitute gives the substitute of love for money, the worker hands over his work and his life for a daily wage.”[7]

Marxists have no moral perspective on the issue,  since Marxists are usually agnostic or atheist.   In Marxist philosophy, it is believed that there are two sides to prostitution.  One side is supply,  and on the other side is demand.  The two sides have completely different questions and agendas attached to them.  One question posed in the essay is: Why do women become prostitutes?  The Marxist answer is purely  because of their socioeconomic position in a class society.

I was intrigued by this way of viewing prostitution, since I am accustomed to the basic American arguments of morality and class separation.  I decided to do a bit more reading.  Rosemarie Tong[8] discusses the genre with a bit more in-depth categorization.  She describes the Classical Marxist Feminist Interpretation, the Socialist Feminist Interpretation, and brings these two together in her forum on Radical Feminist Interpretation, and Opposition to Prostitution. 

The Classical Marxist Feminist Interpretation: With some variations, classical Marxist feminists adopt the Marx / Engels analysis of prostitution: no woman under capitalism, be she a prostitute or not, can transcend the conditions that determine her and which prevent her transformation into a subject, a person who is in charge of her own destiny.  Try as she might, social and economic conditions are such that she must remain an object, a plaything in the hands of those who control the contours of her existence.  This is why, as Marx and Engels see it, the difference between a married woman and a prostitute – upper –, middle –, lower-class – is one of degrees and not of a kind.[9]

I decided to look up Marxism and prostitution to see if there was an established connection, or if this was a contemporary academic thing. To my surprise, I did find reference.  It was not philosophical, but rather pragmatic statistics on urban life, factories and prostitution.

“Further, the factory system has to be considered, which began to develop in England in the second half of the eighteenth century, and very soon, with its resulting concentration on women and children, had the worst possible effect on public morality, so that as early as the 22nd June 1802 the indiscriminate employment of children as factory workers had to be prevented by law.  The factories, with their concentration of large numbers of people of different sexes, mostly young, were, first in England, later also on the continent, a ceaseless source of prostitution.  Colquhoun estimated as early as the year 1793 that amongst the 50,000 London prostitutes, not less than 20,000 were factory workers, whilst only 3,000 came from the domestic servant class.”[10]

Another reference to a need for evaluation of the role of human as absolute commodity is the following:

“… in the year 1838,  amongst 3,103 prostitutes 3 were under 15 years of age, 414 from 14 to 20,  872 from 20-25,  525 from 25-30,  237 from 30-40,  88 from 40-50,  and 19 from 50-60.  Talbot knew prostitutes of 10 and of 50 years of age.  Those over 50 years were usually procuresses and brothel keepers.  Nowhere was the youth of some of the prostitutes so astonishing as in London, and in no town was child prostitution developed to such a shocking extent as in London.”[11]

Marxism was greatly opposed to the dignity of mankind being manipulated by the reality of man-as-machine for labor for the sole profit of the rich.

The (formal) Feminist Charge: To quote Ericsson directly, “Like the moralist and the Marxist, the feminist is of the opinion that prostitution can and ought to be eradicated.  Some feminists, like the moralist, want to criminalize prostitution.  But, unlike the moralist, they want to criminalize both whore and customer.”[12]

The Feminist Charge against commercial sexuality is also known as Radical Feminism.  Though it is against the sex industry, it has contributed to the betterment in understanding the sex industry by  defining  the differences between prostitutes. In most texts or articles there are street hookers or  penthouse call girls.  There are single mothers, drug addicts, runaways, and aged whores who never knew how to do anything else, and were stuck.  The  list adds a new and necessary dimension to the question of who she is, and why,  the prostitute even exists. 

The categorical  reasons women become prostitutes according to the “radical” feminists are:

  1. Women who inadvertently fall into poverty.
  2. Women born into poor families, with little or no education.
  3. Women abducted against their will, and forced into sexual slavery.
  4. Women who enter into commercial sexuality voluntarily because of defects in her moral character.  A natural born predator (meaning women who view sex and money as easily as they do food and drink, and feel that men are supposed to serve their needs.  A woman considered being without any moral or ethical foundation.)
  5. Women who were “distanced” and  demoralized in a competitive childhood, and did not fully develop psychologically and emotionally as a result.
  6. Women of low intelligence.  Women who have physical or mental defects.
  7. Natural whores.  Some women are just born  to do it.
  8. (The most minimal of categories) Attractive women who are very smart.  Opportunists.
  9. People with irrepressible personalities who like excitement, challenge and danger: artists, poets, writers, political activists, etc.[13]

Even if you disagree with part of the list, it does show that not all prostitutes are the same, and therefore no solitary  argument or law can cover the entirety of commercial sexual politics.To explain  the opposition that women have to the sex industry,  Sara Brohmberg[14] explains that feminists are divided by that which is considered to be moral and that which is considered to be political. We can better understand this by considering the difference between women in middle class households and women from working class households, or married women vs. single women, or urban women vs. rural women. Ms. Bromberg’s explanation seems very simple, but there is a great divide.  Do you know what side you are on?  By asking that, doesn’t it seem even greater a point of distance between each woman and her perspective?

In the same book as Ms. Bromberg’s essay appears, there is a list similar to categories defined by Mr. Ericson.  These categories are not against prostitution, but rather they define  arguments for and against commercial sexuality.  There is  Liberal, which believes that prostitution is conceived of in the contractarian sense of a private business transaction.  Socialist believes that states of oppression have psychoanalytical and social roots which we need to define and solve, and that prostitution is a form of oppression.   Marxist, which believes that material greed has dominated social concerns.  The Radicals believe that women’s oppression is the most fundamental form of oppression, and that women must be freed from the restraints of the patriarchy.  To me the  most interesting category was that called Existentialist.   This category was named after Simone de BeaUvoir , who  believed that “one of the keys to a woman’s liberation [was/is] economic.” [15]

Before  I began this senior study,  I  thought that there were only those that were for the sex industry,  those who were against it, and those that did not care at all.

Who knew people give so much thought to what others are doing?

We can argue that prostitution and pornography harm and degrade women, but to that I found strong and intelligent words  which I will state in full as conclusion to this section:

“If the primary cause of predatory services and trafficking is a function of overpopulation, education deficiency, feudal social policy, or fierce competition for attention at school, (for) wealth and jobs, the fact that prostitution thrives and subsequently degrades women is beside the point.             

Feminists are likely blaming the wrong people for the existence of a degradation that is part of a vicious cycle of degradation that has its sources elsewhere.”[16]

 Does all this seem like a lot of repetitive, contemplative theory?  It did – at first  – for me.  The categories and the terminology are all very well and good, but it does seem a bit far away from the subject.  It is the difference between the street hooker and the student in a classroom.  However,  the more that I read and began to think about all of this material, the more I began to realize how important it is to be able to discuss these categorizations.  At the beginning of the women’s movement, they did not exist outside of the  private realities of the women who were working themselves.  Though sex work, and research on sex work,  is still not parallel, there are presently  efforts to change that into more comprehensive understanding in order to better women’s studies and women’s lives. Elizabeth Bernstein, author of the dynamic essay, “What’s Wrong With Prostitution?  What’s Right With Sex Work?  Comparing Markets in Female Sexual Labor” notices, “Amongst feminists, prostitution has been abundantly theorized, but insufficiently studied.”[17] 

Much of the available writing on commercial sex is much too academic and segregated either from actual workers, or by sex workers in a way that is, seemingly, only for other sex workers.  The graphic and pedestrian style of the material at times alienating readers as much as fascinating them,  such as with Annie Sprinkle’s post modern feminist art and video or editor Matthew Bernstein Sycamore’s collection of sex worker tales, Tricks and Treats:  Sex Workers Talk About Their Clients.  Both have offered important views into the American sex industry, the extremes of their work brought about by the extremes saying the realities of their experiences  did not exist, or was not proper to speak about.

Dirty Looks: Women-Pornography-Power[18] contains fourteen essays and articles written from a diverse selection of “Pro-Sex” feminists, activists and artists.  From fetish photographers to university professors, the dynamic differences between the women brought together in these format makes it a really exciting book to have on the reference shelf!  Most of the articles are about pornography, as opposed to prostitution, and that is because at the time it was published, it was written in response to the growing number of feminist activists attempting to have government interference in the production and distribution of pornographic material.  One of the main points involved in this argument is “Who is to decide what is to be deemed pornographic?”   The concern is that material that may be erotic within one subculture, may be found morally devoid or sexually incorrect  in another community.  But who is to deem a sexual relationship right or wrong?  The difference between a Mennonite couple in Lancaster, PA,  as compared to a  lesbian couple in  Vermont, or a  male couple in San Francisco, CA or a fetish lifestyle couple in Los Angeles, CA or Miami, FL, or a Mormon family relocating to Philadelphia,  is – potentially – extreme in their difference of opinion.  Then there are young couples in Anytown, USA who may want to explore slightly progressive twists on their attraction to each other and don’t even realize they are partaking in controversy. I mean, everyone uses an vibrator or dildo these days, don’t they? 

During the mid 1980s,  commissions on both sides of the Atlantic were set up to establish what  pornography was, and how pornography affected values, morals and behavior.  At the same time, Andrea Dworkin stampeded forth in a blast of anger against the industry.  I will discuss this more in the next section, but to understand why women began coming out of the closet in support of material that normally would not be discussed,  it is essential to understand that many of the advancements that were made during the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s were under full force attack in the 1980s[19]. 

Dirty Looks was written in response to this attack.  The contributors vary from professors to filmmakers to video artists to writers  to critics and curators to freelance photographers to fetish magazine staff.

The book would best be described as “pop culture”, unlike Sex, Morality and the Law which would not have a strong audience outside of the academia and legal researchers. What makes it more viable intellectually and politically, as opposed to some other material I’ve seen, is that over half of the writers come from advanced academic backgrounds, but are appealing to a broader audience.  They were willing to step out of their conventional parameters.                        

Another excellent reference on the subject is Caught Looking, written by a feminist collective from the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

    “…  we believe that the debate over the nature, the effects and the future of pornography must continue.  Further, we believe that this debate should not just take place in the feminist journals and academic conferences only.  At a time when a “post-feminist generation” has supposedly dismissed the women’s movement, it raises issues that bring into focus the radical nature of the feminist project which is still a long way from fulfillment.  Women have a lot at stake and a lot to gain from dealing openly with their sexual fears and desires.  Open discussion of sexuality presents an opportunity for women who live and support themselves in a wide variety of ways to create a politics which is liberating for all of us. 

We therefore want to keep asking questions:

  1. What is the role of sexually explicit language and images in women’s sexual arousal?
  2. What role do images play in the control of women?
  3. How can the attempt to control women, which is at the heart of sexism, be most effectively subverted?
  4. Would violence diminish if violent images were removed from our culture. 
  5.  How can we incorporate our need for sexual speech and freedom of sexual expression into our feminist thinking and goals?…” [20]

I  chose to include that section of Caught Looking’s  introduction, which was written by Kate Ellis, Barbara O’Dair and Abby Tallmer, because their own words state better than a paraphrase the direction of their project.  Written in 1986, Caught Looking is a creative collective process which discusses pornography, the history of women’s sexual rights, women’s fantasies, and  the laws on women’s sexuality.  Included within its decadent retro covers is writing by Pat Califia, Paula Webster, Kate Ellis and Carol Vance; amongst others.  It also shows in photographs a selection of explicit imagery from the last one hundred years.  There is a layered intent within the publication: there is the desire to explore sexual imagery to come to an improved state of awareness of what it is; there is a political motivation behind it in opposition to Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon, Women Against Violence in Pornography and the Media (WAVPM),  and the Meese Commission;  and there is an obvious  desire of the collective to communicate with themselves and others, not just about pornography, but about the reality and importance of women looking their sexuality in the eye without shame.

Andrea Dworkin, advocate against the sex industry, was once a prostitute.  After leaving the sex industry, she was  raped.  These two events are not directly  interconnected, though they obviously impacted her perspective on men and sexuality.    In short, her aggressor was given a much lighter sentence than was expected because his attorney used pornography to explain his behavior, and made the argument well.  The rapist was not actually a rapist.  He was a “victim”.  He was altered by the images he consumed while watching pornography.  Sexually explicit material “made” him do it.  The material was to blame for his behavior, not him.

After the trial, Andrea Dworkin decided that all pornography was synonymous with violence against women, and she went on a crusade to make the United States government stop the violence.  In the name of feminism, she, and like-minded radical right feminists such as Catherine MacKinnon , took on the pornography industry, and the United States Constitution.  It was a very violent time emotionally, intellectually, and politically for many women/feminists, and even a great deal of men.

Caught Looking is an excellent reference source for people looking to read very intelligent, candid, raw and racy essays in opposition to censorship in the name of feminism.  It was the effort of the women involved with the project to “ …gather together some of the best work by feminists in the last decade (1975-1985) on the issues of pornography and pleasure, censorship and the impulse to control, sexual politics and sexuality in women’s daily lives.  It is meant to be used as a source book from which to derive new questions regarding these topics, to provoke discussion of the nature and goals of feminism, and to expand the relevance of the movement to our daily lives and struggles….”[21]

What exactly is pornography?  The easiest place to begin is  the most pragmatic, and that is with the law.  To be considered obscene, material must meet the following standard:

“… it describes or depicts, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by state law (which may include actual or simulated sexual contact or nudity); and it lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.[22]

That said, it still does not answer what is being asked.  What is pornography?  Outside of material found in XXX shops, many people find pornographic material to include some poetry, paintings by Rembrandt and Picasso,  performance art, TV shows, plays and photographs.  We all may think we know what pornography is at the first sight of the word, but do we really know? No.  There is no unanimous answer, and that is why when pornography was taken to court, it became so vicious an argument.  How can all pornography be banned with the label, “violent to all women”,  when a lot of women are involved with it?  Do they have a say in any of the arguments?

In 1984 the Feminist Anti Censorship Taskforce (FACT) was formed in Suffolk County,  New York.  The activists, feminists and scholars who formed this organization were opposed to the anti-pornography ordinances written by Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon.  FACT New York  made itself a “clearing house” for groups in other cities where the ordinance was proposed.  Chapters sprang up all over America, and in every city where the ordinance was presented it was defeated.  Finally, in 1986, the Supreme Court ruled the anti-pornography proposal unconstitutional.[23]

Was this expensive argument about the right of men to read girlie mags while they jerk off?   No.  Regardless of what some people do with their magazines, the anti-pornography act was viewed as another attempt to bring the women’s movement back a few paces.  For all of the complex issues the Sexual Revolution may have raised in the hearts of many women, how many really want to go back to the time of petting until marriage?   For scholars who remembered the obscenity battles over Henry Miller’s writing or the writing of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, or over films such as I Am Curious, Yellow! , the anti-pornography act presented the possibility that  book and film codes would revert back to standards of the early 1950s.  Most people have entirely different opinions on the issue, but there are only two sides to choose from, and the line had not been fought over before quite like it was during the late 1980s.

Now, quite a bit of what I have just written I already knew.  So, what did I learn from reading the booklet instead of just looking at the racy photographs?  Quite a bit, actually.   I am in the Generation X category of being in between the “feminists” and the “post feminists”.  Since most of the women my mother’s age were exploring active aspects of feminism, I figured it was set in stone and there you go.  I didn’t realize that I was being raised in an environment which many still  oppose. It was simply being lived.  And since it was being lived, I never read that much about it.  Finally reading essays from women a decade or two older than myself gave me insight into many aspects of feminist thought and theory that I realized I needed to learn.  Considering Madonna appeared when I was 11, I grew up with a pop icon image of what the decadent and daring feminist had evolved into, but pop images only show a doorway to what it is that created the image, and that image was created and maintained by the female public need for an outlet to their own feelings,  fantasies and secret realities.  It was a new way of fighting the revolution.  I understood that aspect of it. I had never read, though, about what women fought for in the 1960s and 1970s to allow the sexual personae to do her  business in front of us all.

In Ann Snitow’s essay entitled “Retrenchment vs. Transformation” (the only essay of the eight or so in the book which I will mention), she discusses the roots of the feminist movement in North America during the nineteenth century.  Women began to battle over the right for control of their bodies within marriage.  There was no choice about pregnancy, and middle class women wanted rights. In an effort to justify their cause, they became moralists, proving their position of betterment over other women, and therefore creating a pedestal which protected them from being affiliated with other female rights issues beginning to come to attention such as with prostitution and the other results of class struggle.  This was the crack in the wall that would maintain  the divide between feminists. Different classes of women had different issues with which they were concerned to protect themselves, better themselves and secure their financial welfare.[24]  This is still a cause of separation in women’s issues today, I believe.  There is unity on the issue of breast cancer amongst women, but not over birth control or abortion;  and especially not over commercial sexuality.

Also, to confirm the need for specific rights outside of basic civil rights, the original women’s movement had to set differences between the genders.  In the present, gender is an enormous debate as bisexual, lesbian and transsexual rights are brought into view, and on a more mainstream level, the need for equal rights and pay  in the workplace.  Gender separation, which once protected women, is now seen as an issue of concern.

Connecting pornography to the contemporary women’s rights movement  Ms. Snitow discusses how in 1977, the same year that the U.S. Supreme Court began to consider reversing the 1973 Roe V. Wade, pornography began to be reviewed by right wing feminists with disapproval.  Meanwhile, and this is my point, I would say a lot of urban, left wing feminists were involved in the industry without having to “review” it.   Many cosmopolitan / career  women were living it.

Her essay walks through the “high’s and low’s” of the feminist battle, and how a lack of quantum speed change disillusioned many women who had felt so impassioned about the movement.  She talks about how many people thought that their passion would make everything different;  that working for change and realizing it would take generations made some women angry.  She discusses new issues which came up as women entered the workplace, divorced more often, dated as single mothers with children.  Suddenly feminism was forced to deal with sexual  harassment policies, battered women’s shelters, rape crisis centers, child support issues and deadbeat dads. Denial and violence were becoming more of a problem for women of the 1980s.  What was causing this change?  Many concluded, Pornography!   Sexual activity which degraded women.    Ms. Snitow makes a comment on this point that is important, “Instead of recognizing that the new visibility of women’s sexual victimization is a great leap forward, some feminists are drawing energy from the assertion that women’s situation is fast deteriorating.”[25]

What I respect about the comment is the  honesty.  Women fought for change, and change from the nuclear family with housewife intact has happened.  Women are now out in the real world, and having to face men in a new way, and that is not always a positive experience.  It will evolve if people keep working for betterment. No one said it would be instant or easy. Or, we can scapegoat the issue and say that pornography creates this hostility, and these breakdowns in communication and etiquette. 

I guess that is why so many of us liked Madonna so much, even if we didn’t listen to all of her music.  She went out there, and obviously took her punches, but she punched back, stood strong, did her thing and made big money doing it her way.  To many people (Andrea Dworkin and Tipper Gore included), Madonna was, and still is, pure pornography.  There is a vast dimension of sexually explicit material available between the pornography shops and Madonna’s Sex book, though.  Look at the absolute success of publishing empress, Helen Gurley Brown, best known for Cosmopolitan Magazine.  Mass consumption mainstream feminism has profited grandly off of everything from the steamy stories of Danielle Steele to the glossy magazines that teach you how to dress for sexual success, or reveal the darkest secrets of strangers suddenly your intimate friends. 

Like Carmen.

For two years of her life, ‘Carmen Cash’ became ‘Casey’, an escort in San Diego, California.  At 20, she lived in Alaska working a string of dead-end petty jobs.  She got up the courage to move to California to become an actress, and wound up a hooker.  The diary reveals her experiences with her clients, the man with whom she worked and the trauma she experienced.  In the opening photo, she is sitting on bed in a hotel room with a pants suit on and very  high heels.  She looks  sad. At the end of the article, she is smiling vibrantly saying she is over the trauma, and will never sell herself again.  It is a dirty diary.  It is moralistic,  with its point that she got out and that she has a psychiatrist now. Ms. Cash hopes her experiences will help prevent other women from exploring prostitution.  “Carmen Cash”, writes Glamour Magazine News reporter Liz Brody, “spent two years selling her body to strange men in hotel rooms all over San Diego.  Here, in a Glamour exclusive, she wants to warn other women about life as a high-priced escort.”[26]

The regret  irritates me about the article.  Glamour could not have taken the chance on  publishing a story like that if the woman was without regret at the end.  Some of the advertisers who need sex to sell their items, don’t need THAT much sex to sell them.  The other thing is,  if she was giving blow jobs for fifty bucks on the boardwalk when the phone at the agency was dead, would they have still published the story?  It is okay to have been a high priced escort,  and to redeem yourself in the eyes of this brand of feminist “literature”.  It is not alright to be a lower level whore, or to be a high level whore and stay there. 

I  picked this magazine up while on a job myself.   Most mainstream women purchase Cosmopolitan, Glamour and other similar magazines, and really, they are the best way to learn how to be a whore. Many prostitutes keep these magazines around their working rooms, and not formal pornography.  These magazines,  which are sold at every grocery store and drugstore, have more juicy details on how to do it, do it right, and look great while you are doing it.  Who needs pornography when you have the guide to getting  it yourself?  If life leads you into more than just looking the role, there are plenty of articles to show you that you can live through the trauma of experience.  After sitting and reading the whole mag,  I have to wonder why Andrea Dworkin didn’t take on Helen Gurley Brown?  She may have realized that she would have lost that battle of the bitches.

Then there is the question of how many “Bunnies”  find Playboy covers an oppressive form of rape, or degradation of their virtue. Hugh Hefner’s daughter now runs the enterprise.  In fact, she “discovered” Pamela Anderson when the, now femme-fatale,  Pam was nearly a – teenager.   And what about the Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit issue?  Or Victoria’s Secret catalogues.  These are the safe “sneak peaks” that good men all want to get at, and which women aspire to emulate each New Year’s as is revealed in  resolutions to join Weight Watcher’s.

Regardless of how it is packaged, sex sells. And even when it is not sexual intercourse that sells, it is the power of prowess that sells, along with a young, youthful, healthy, happy attitude about sex. Smile, and  get that man to do exactly what you want him to do.

Many women like to make money off the concept of their sex, whether it is pushing it forward, or taking it back.

At the end of the day, someone is going to be making the money; just stop by an urban kiosk or suburban Barnes & Noble, or if feeling really  daring, hit your local porno shop and see the real deal raw and raunchy in techni color. 

Somewhere. Somehow. People are being happy being  sexy


whether or not they are getting laid

they are getting paid for it. 

XXX: A Cultural Exploration

to be continued

UNTANGLED described as beautiful & awe inspiring

image3A BELATED NOTE of THANKS to  SWOP BAY, and BROWN GIRL DANCING / IRIS for ALLYING with The ESPLER PROJECT & ESPU for the presentation of the contemporary dance performance and fundraiser:



brown girl dancing present…


A cumulative creative project researched by Iris, and performed by her and accompanied dance crew. This performance supports the full decriminalization of sex work and The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (Dec 17th). This performance is in remembrance of sex workers victim to violence.

WEDNESDAY DEC 30TH @ THE FLIGHT DECK in OAKLAND. Suggested Donation of $15. The proceeds collected at the Dec 30th event will benefit Bay Area Girls Rock Camp and ESPLER Project Inc’s legal fund for the lawsuit pending in Federal Court.


Additional Performances
Abas Idris from Noises of a Native.
Q&A with SF Bay Area’s Sex Workers Outreach Project on Dec 30th

XXX: A Cultural Exploration

August 2003,  at age 33, I am completed my BA Senior Study at Goddard College.  This was huge! I had been homeless or semi transient on and off from age 16 – 27.

Goddard advisor Karen Campbell and graduating student M. Dante at the Goddard College Summer Graduation in Plainfield, VT August 2003
Advisor Karen Campbell w/ graduating student M. Dante  Goddard College 2003 Summer  Graduation Plainfield, VT 

Most of the body of my work was locked until 2014 when – at the Anchorage, AK International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers – I   “Came Out Under the Red Umbrella” with /for  Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP) and Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU).

My Coming Out:

Ethan & Zach Trio Podcast
M. Dante speaking out on the Sex Industry. Thanks for the Ethan & Zach Trio.

As a  special thank you to The ESPLER Project & Maxine Doogan’s dedicated and unwavering support of my writing related to the industry.

M. Dante w/ Daisy & Amy photo Maxine Doogan
M. Dante w/ Daisy & Amy Photo Maxine Doogan  2002

XXX is being shared here on Union Lip Service (ULS) for the first time outside of Goddard and Academia dot edu.

Maxine Doogan & M. Dante Anchorage, AK 2012
M. Doogan & M. Dante Anchorage 2012

At this time XXX Part One will be shared in installments between blog posts.  XXX Part Two is not available for public view to lack of informed consent options while embedded at the time of the original writing. Private discussion potentially an option.

Note: XXX was written over a decade ago between 2000-2003

XXX: A Cultural Exploration of Contemporary Feminism’s Relationship with Commercial Sexuality

Abstract: Questioning the relationship of prostitution and feminism, XXX investigates the history of the sex industry, and how over the last thirty years it has contributed to fragmenting the American women’s movement.  Amidst the disagreements there are issues that greatly need unified attention, not just to better conditions for women who choose to work in the sex industry, but also to assist in defining the laws to protect women that are brought into the trade against their will;  e.g. during armed conflict.

At what point will women be able to reconnect when it comes to commerce, sexuality and their combined  power?

 Combining critical and experiential writing, XXX explores erotic labor from the  classroom where academia creates the cultural concepts of the sex industry, to the working rooms of women performing the acts of sex for money.  Within each segment feminism is redefined as consensual and  nonconsensual acts are presented and contemplated, hopefully opening new doors for dialogue on the sex industry.

“ It is [the] statistical analysis of many facts that seems to guide [conclusions] rather than a deep understanding of or intimacy with the world of sex work.  The way prostitutes are analyzed – in some instances – objectifies, dehumanizes, and strips them of any personality, like so many flies pinned to a board for an entomologist to study.” 

Quote by Radical Feminist Kathleen Barry

The Prostitution of Sexuality

Introduction: The XXX Industry.

What IS the sex industry? A basic definition might be:

The sex industry is mature, safe, consensual, profitable, casual sex,  simulation of sex, or a sex act that brings about a form of satisfaction for one or all of the parties involved; either the contracted workers, the consumers or both.  But what – – really  — is it?  It is prostitution which spreads out into so many categories within itself that it would be absurd to try to  approach it in this essay.   There is pornography which has the basic separation of soft core, hard core,  and XXX.  There is heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, fetish and S/M pornography. There are porno magazines, books and videos, digital flicks,  and live stream sex shows on the Internet. Then there is also  the debate between the erotic and the pornographic, which I’ve read a lot on, but will not address here.  There once was the art of burlesque and go-go dancing, which has evolved into more explicit forms of no-sex sexuality for sale.  There is topless dancing. There is lap dancing.  There is nude dancing.  Then there is domination. There are a lot of fetishes which replace “straight” sex, or accent it.  There is phone sex, which has basically been replaced by cyber and virtual sex.  There is sex supply distribution, which consists of sex toys such as dildos, vibrators, lubricants, clothing and accessories.   There is a legal sex industry, and there is an illegal sex industry.  There are apparent aspects of the industry,  and there are hidden aspects of the industry.  It is a  global phenomenon, with few places on the planet spared from its existence.  Sex and money are understood in any language and culture.  Adult entertainment, as it is called, does not entertain everybody. It  leads to arguments as to what adults may and may not do, with whom, and how.  It stimulates moral, legal, financial, and philosophical debate.  Yet, the more it is discussed the less we are able, in many ways,  to touch upon what it is that actually keeps it alive.  Sex is, in many ways, most vibrant when it is silent and private, even if that means it is paid for in private.  It is a chameleon when displayed before public and legal scrutiny.  It presents itself within a masquerade. Over the last twenty years, some very serious discussions have taken place about sex, the sex industry, and what that means as far as personal freedom and feminism.  It has made some women wonder where it is leading us, others wonder from where did  it come, and still others wish it would simply go awayThe sex industry is growing more global right now, though, and the issues are only becoming more complex.   For the purpose of this discussion,  the sex industry is defined as the specific sale of female to male sex.  To keep things in a simple format, this essay  will focus on that which is  relative to the feminist debate: of age, and/or heterosexual prostitution, and why it is part of the feminist movement’s r/evolution.       

XXX: A Cultural Exploration 

to be continued

US PROStitutes Collective Connects YOU to HB 1614 Support

Re/Post – Thank you Rachel West and the US PROStitutes Collective for organizing this easy access activists listing:

US PROStitutes Collective
P.O. Box 14512, San Francisco, CA. 94114, 415 626-4114,


Please write and/or call in to support New Hampshire Bill HB1614 to decriminalize prostitution!


Dear Friends,


You may have heard the exciting news that a Bill is being put forward to decriminalize prostitution in New Hampshire. NEWS This is the first bill that we know of that is proposing decriminalization in the US!  The sponsors have said it was influenced by the groundbreaking Amnesty International policy supporting decriminalization.


HB1614 has been introduced by three women legislators, two Democrats and one Republican. It “legalizes consensual sex between consenting adults and makes solicitation of sexual contact involving a person under 18 years of age or through the use of force and intimidation a felony”.


On Thursday January 28 there will be a hearing on the Bill at the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.


We are in touch with one of the sponsors of the Bill. Please consider writing in or calling them to make your case in support of decriminalization.

Points to make in your letter may include that decriminalization would:

·         Increase safety as sex workers could work together and more easily report violence;

·         Enhance health as sex workers could more easily access services and wouldn’t be deterred from carrying condoms for fear that they will be used as evidence of prostitution;

·        Free up police time to focus on the investigation of violent crimes such as rape and domestic violence rather than the policing of consenting sex (particularly important as the Committee is primarily made up of former and current law enforcement);

·         End criminal records which bar sex workers from getting other jobs. This is crucial for anyone who may want to leave the sex industry and is unable to.

You may also want to raise that rising poverty is increasing the numbers of women, particularly mothers, going into prostitution and that tackling poverty and providing resources would be much more effective.

New Zealand successfully decriminalized prostitution in 2003 and a government review showed positive results: no rise in prostitution; women able to report violence without fear of arrest; attacks cleared up more quickly; sex workers more able to leave prostitution as convictions are cleared from their records; drug users treated as patients not criminals.

In August, Amnesty International’s voted “to protect the human rights of sex workers, through measures that include the decriminalization of sex work”. This appears to have been an impetus for this legislation.

Please see below the list and emails of committee members to send your letters to or call.

US PROS [went to] New Hampshire to testify in support of the bill.

On the road to decriminalization in 2016!

House Criminal Justice and Safety committee members:
Robert Fesh (r),
Shawn Sweeney (r),
Robert Fisher (r),
Dennis Green (r),

Timothy Robertson (d),

Andrew OHearne (d),

Dick Marston (r),
Arthur Barnes (r),

John Martin (r),

Laura Pantelakos (d),

Robert Cushing (d),
Latha Manjipudi (d),

John Burt (r),

Ed Corneau (r),

Harold Parker (r),

Roger Benrube (d),
Geoffrey Hirsch (d),

Len DiSesa (d),

Or go directly to the links:

Robert Fesh (r) Dick Marston (r) John Burt (r)
Shawn Sweeney (r) Arthur Barnes (r) Ed Comeau (r)
Robert Fisher (r) John Martin (r) Harold Parker (r)
Dennis Green (r) Laura Pantelakos (d) Roger Berube (d)
Timothy Robertson (d) Robert Cushing (d) Geoffrey Hirsch (d)
Andrew O’Hearne (d) Latha Mangipudi (d) Len DiSesa (d)



Free State Leading the Nation in Sexual Liberty? HB 1614

From left to right, Bella, Elizabeth Edwards, Rachel West + Phoebe Jones
From left to right, Bella, Elizabeth Edwards, Rachel West + Phoebe Jones



image from  Cop Block dot org

BACK STORY: New Hampshire (D) Representative Elizabeth Edwards has stepped up in support of  decriminalization of prostitution in New Hampshire. Since 2012 most of the Lower 48 has  been engaged in aggressive changes of legislation conflating consensual adult sex work with sex / human trafficking.

Press Conference and Committee Hearing


So why does New Hampshire support DECRIM? From what ULS can find out so far, it  seems to be both fiscally prurient, along with supporting the view that consensual adults are allowed a definite and certain amount of sexual privacy.

Sound fiscal planning. It is not economically feasible to process prostitutes in the prison system:

The New Hampshire Municipal Association states the legalizing prostitution when the participants are consenting adults may result in a decrease in local expenditures if law enforcement expenditures decrease.

SEX WORKERS OPPOSE 1613-FN aka The Nordic Model 


AN ACT relative to criminal prosecution for those charged with prostitution.

SPONSORS: Rep. Hoell, Merr. 23; Rep. Itse, Rock. 10; Rep. Ingbretson, Graf. 15; Rep. Abramson, Rock. 20

COMMITTEE: Criminal Justice and Public Safety

ANALYSIS:  This bill makes it a misdemeanor to purchase or offer to purchase sexual contact.


SEX WORKERS SUPPORT HB1614-FN Decriminalizing Consensual Adult Prostitution


AN ACT relative to the criminal penalty for prostitution.

SPONSORS: Rep. Edwards, Hills. 11; Rep. Bouldin, Hills. 12; Rep. C. McGuire, Merr. 29

COMMITTEE: Criminal Justice and Public Safety

ANALYSIS: This bill legalizes consensual sex between consenting adults and makes any solicitation of sexual  contact involving a person under 18 years of age or through the use of force or intimidation a felony.

FREE KEANE reports: Elizabeth Edwards is a Free State Project early mover and elected democrat state representative who has heroically put forth the only proposed repeal of the prohibition on prostitution that I’ve heard of in my near-decade here in New Hampshire. Were HB 1614 to pass, adults in NH would be able to trade sex for money without fear of arrest, prosecution, and jail. It does NOT create a regulatory structure (legalization) it just strikes the statutes criminalizing prostitution, and keeps in place prohibition on sex slavery. It’s an excellent bill and surprisingly, everyone who testified on it, testified in favor.


So – Inner Industry buzz  is on why SWOP-USA is  still chatting – without testifying  – whether or not to support  DECRIM?  Especially since SWP came out in support of the effort.

(Note: Sex Workers Outreach Project = SWOP Sex Workers Project = SWP in affiliation with Urban Justice Center (UJC) Manhattan. )

SWOP-USA on HB 1614:


“The bill is straight decrim – did you even read it?  And Rep Edwards did reach out to several sex workers and organizations that actively work on policy.  SWOP has been really clear about its inability to reach consensus and take a policy position regarding the decriminalization of it’s members.  It is appalling that a supposed sex workers rights organization is treating an ally this way and sabotaging a bill that would decriminalize us and that other sex worker activists have put so much work into.  I think you owe Rep Edwards a public apology and thank you.”


The bill is very clear.

It would decriminalize all adult prostitution in NH.  

Representative Edwards DID reach out to several sex workers in our community,  and a few sex worker rights organizations.

From left to right, Bella, Elizabeth Edwards, Rachel West + Caitlin Edwards
From left to right, Bella, Elizabeth Edwards, Rachel West + Caitlin Edwards

I (BELLA)  testified in support of 1614, and testified to oppose 1613.  

Rachel West of the U.S. PROS Collective, and “Phoebe from Philly also testified.  I organized, and had sociology professors from 3 universities send in letters of support.  I help organize sex workers and allies to email letters in, by using the list of all the committee members with their contact info that Rachel West drafted.  

Pheobe traveled to New Hampshire to testify because, as her Red Hen blog, shares, she believes DECRIM will:

  •       Increase safety as sex workers could work together and more easily report violence;
  •       Enhance health as sex workers could more easily access services and wouldn’t be deterred from carrying condoms for fear that they will be used as evidence of prostitution;
  •       Free up police time to focus on the investigation of violent crimes such as rape and domestic violence rather than the policing of consenting sex (particularly important as the Committee is primarily made up of former and current law enforcement);
  •       End criminal records which bar sex workers from getting other jobs. This is crucial for anyone who may want to leave the sex industry and is unable to.

Phoebe’s blog adds: “… poverty is increasing the numbers of women, particularly mothers, going into prostitution and that tackling poverty and providing resources would be much more effective.

New Zealand successfully decriminalized prostitution in 2003 and a government review showed positive results: no rise in prostitution; women able to report violence without fear of arrest; attacks cleared up more quickly; sex workers more able to leave prostitution as convictions are cleared from their records; drug users treated as patients not criminals.”

 BELLA ROBINSON. Dedicated Speaker on Sex Work and DECRIM:

When I testified I  educated the committee on the difference between legalization and decriminalization and many other topics that affect the “erotic community”.  I took time to explain that sex workers need to work together to ensure their safety,  and that”3rd party support staff” were hired help, not pimps and traffickers.


During the hearing,  One guy who was there to oppose it changed his mind on the spot once he heard us testify.    One lady was –  like –  “will this mean prostitution houses in our neighborhoods?”.  I could tell she was going to suggest regulations,  and I shut her down with,  “there’s already residential brothels through the whole state,  and you don’t notice they are even there!”  

They tried throwing street workers under the bus, and we said no, they tried introducing HB 1613 –  the nordic model – and we said NO! I explained clients had rights too and that we have a disabled client as a plaintiff in ESPLER v GASCON.  I am pretty sure we killed HB 1613. I told them about the NGOs taking the money & leaving our youth to live in the streets.  We told them they take children away from sex workers and how we are discriminated against in housing and child custody and that HB 1614 was just a start because we also need discrimination and hate crime legislation. Then a state trooper testified last + the committee shut her down with questions.  Every time she answered it was “I am not sure I will have to check”, and all she seemed to know is that they only had 3 people in prison for prostitution related charges and that only 500 people have been arrested for prostitution in 15 yrs in NH. The only reason the trooper claimed to oppose HB614 is because they think decriminalization will bring criminals to NH.  Most of the committee members looked at her like she was stupid.   I think at that point they saw how ineffective criminalization is.   

Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU)
Important to note: More of SWOP-USA and SWP/UJC seems to be using our ESPU, ESPLRP & CoyoteRI work, while not bothering to give us a mention & excluding us  their board.
Important Note:  SWOP-USA and SWP/UJC seems to be using our ESPU, ESPLRP & CoyoteRI work in their social media formats, while not bothering to give us a mention & excluding us  their board. We are posting their relevant links, though feel they should be more inclusive in  accrediting our efforts of the last decade.




Bella & M. Dante w/ Rosie the Riveter 2015 Penn State
Bella & M. Dante  w/ Rosie the Riveter Blow Up Doll Sister Solidarity 2015 Penn State

01/25/2016 PRESS RELEASE re:  NH SB 1614

CoyoteRI testifying to decriminalize prostitution in New Hampshire

As the executive director of CoyoteRI (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), I will be testifying for the committee hearings on House Bill 1614,  (Thursday January 28th 2016 at 11am) a bill that seeks to decriminalize prostitution, on Thursday in New Hampshire. The main reason I want to see prostitution decriminalized is because it is the only harm reduction model proven to reduce violence and exploitation in the sex industry.


In August 2015 Amnesty International voted to adopt a policy to protect the human rights of sex workers. The resolution recommends that Amnesty International develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking, and violence.


“We recognize that this critical human rights issue is hugely complex and that is why we have addressed this issue from the perspective of international human rights standards. We also consulted with our global movement to take on board different views from around the world,” said Amnesty’s Salil Shetty.


Amnesty’s research and consultation was carried out in the development of this policy in the past two years concluded that this was the best way to defend sex workers’ human rights and lessen the risk of abuse and violations they face.


The violations that sex workers can be exposed to include physical and sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, extortion and harassment, human trafficking, forced HIV testing and medical interventions. They can also be excluded from health care and housing services and other social and legal protection.


Amnesty’s policy has drawn from an extensive evidence base from sources including UN agencies, such as the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. We have also conducted research in four countries.

The consultation included sex worker groups, groups representing survivors of prostitution, abolitionist organizations, feminist and other women’s rights representatives, LGBTI activists, anti- trafficking agencies and HIV/AIDS organizations.


Amnesty International considers human trafficking abhorrent in all of its forms, including sexual exploitation, and should be criminalized as a matter of international law. This is explicit in this new policy and all of Amnesty International’s work.


In 2003 New Zealand passed the “Prostitution Reform Act,” which decriminalized all aspects of adult prostitution. Upon a 5 year review, New Zealand has just about rid the sex industry of exploitation. Sex Workers reported that they had better relationships with the police.


It is crucial that sex workers can work together and share work space to ensure their safety. Many sex workers, utilize 3rd party support staff to help keep them safe. Under current US laws 3rd party support staff are legally classified as traffickers. Sex Workers need “equal protection under the law”. Sex Workers need to be able to report violence and exploitation to the police, without fearing that they are in danger of being arrested and further persecution.


Criminalization of prostitution is a failed policy. It hasn’t stopped anyone from “buying or selling” sex, but it has caused a lot of collateral damage. From our failed “Safe Harbor Laws” to the insane Homeland Security trainings of hotel staff who have been told to report people who have too many condoms. We need to ask, where are the big pimps and traffickers?


Could it be that the majority of US Sex Worker are under their own control? Even the minors interviewed in Surviving the streets of NY: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YMSM & YWSW Engaged in Survival Sex study by the Urban Institute, say that “they did not have pimps and they taught each other how to find clients, while avoiding police and social workers..


To add insult to injury, researchers have found that “the biggest threat to underaged Sex Workers is the police.” Jenny Heineman, a sociologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas worked with the federally funded Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children program, in collaboration with research teams across the U.S. Says “More than half of the young people I interviewed stated that they regularly perform sex acts for police officers in exchange for their not being arrested”.


In the Special Report: Money and Lies in Anti-Human Trafficking NGOs we find that the US is funding US trafficking NGOs, over 600 million a year to “create awareness on human trafficking” yet these NGOs do not provide any direct services to trafficking victims or sex workers.


We can do better than this which is why I support New Hampshire’s House-Bill 1614.


Bella Robinson


Meet the Board: Bella on ESLPERP v Gascon

The ESPLERP V Gascon

Union Lip Service Meets The Board:

Bella & M. Dante w/ Rosie the Riveter 2015 Penn State
Bella & M. Dante w/ Rosie the Riveter 2015 Penn State

Bella Robinson on ESPLERP v. Gascon

The Erotic Service Provider’s Legal & Educational Research Project  or The ESPLER Project (501C3) was founded in 2009 by Maxine Doogan with the mission of empowering the erotic community and advancing sexual privacy rights through legal advocacy, education, and research:

“In our legal advocacy, we seek to create change through a combination of impact litigation, policy statements, and voicing our concerns for our community in political arenas. Through educational trainings and outreach, we will empower and capacity build to address discrimination of erotic service providers and the greater erotic community. Lastly, we strive to archive and rate much of the research which has been done by and of the sex worker community, and build on this history with research which seeks to be increasingly inclusive, respectful, and ultimately, relevant to the erotic service providers and the larger erotic community.”

Currently involved in a precedent legal case, inspired by COYOTE v Roberts (1976), and more recently Lawrence v Texas (2003), the ESPLER Project challenge has named California Attorney General  Kamala Harris, and 4 Bay Area District Attorneys as defendants for enforcing an unconstitutional statute known as California Penal Code 647(b).  The case is now known as ESPLERP v Gascon is named after the current San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.  The historic lawsuit contends that California’s 1961 anti-prostitution laws violates the U. S. Constitution to freedom of expression,  to associate,  to right livelihood and access to substantive due process.  By asking the federal court to injunct this bad law, ESPLERP envisions a safer, saner independent sex industry in the form of decriminalization (DECRIM). The challenge is asking the federal courts for declaratory relief from being persecuted as a sex worker or as a client of a sex worker.  It is about liberty: the right for sex workers to earn a living, and to access equal protection under the law.


Historic Lawsuit in the News An unusual lawsuit has been filed against the state of California. It’s being brought by three prostitutes and a client who say their First Amendment rights are violated by laws banning what they do.  The lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. It names California Attorney General Kamala Harris and four bay area district attorneys.  “I’ve been working as a prostitute for 20 plus years,” Maxine Doogan said.  Doogan is the force behind what she calls “prostitute nation” and the three colleagues and a client who have filed a lawsuit, arguing California’s anti-prostitution law is unconstitutional.  “Were adults and we can make decisions about our sexuality. We think it’s protected under the first amendment the right to free speech, right to sexual privacy,” Doogan said. But what about sex workers who are not consenting. San Francisco is a hub for human trafficking. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is one of four Bay Area district attorney’s named in the lawsuit. “There are people victimized on a daily basis, under duress, beaten. Having said that I don’t negate the fact there may be some consenting workers and if there are, how do we differentiate one from the other,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said.


Cited on KABC Los Angeles The Drive June 24, 2015,  Gascon references abolishing human trafficking as the core problem related to prostitution: “There are people victimized on a daily basis, under duress, beaten,” Gascon told the local ABC affiliate, referring to sex-trafficking victims. “Having said that, I don’t negate the fact there may be some consenting workers, and, if there are, how do we differentiate one from the other?”


So – on the note of how to differentiate consensual adult sex work from forced or coerced sex trafficking – Union Lip Service (ULS) gave a shout out to sex worker, advocate, activist  Bella Robinson,  COYOTE RI (  founder, and ESPLERP ( board member. Let’s listen to a recent Coalition Radio RI radio show with Bella and Maxine, and then chat with Bella!


Listen to Bell Robinson and Maxine Doogan on Coalition Radio


ULS: Hi Bella! Thanks for taking a moment out of your day to chat with us here at Union Lip Service. You are on the ESPERP board in support the legal challenge happening in California. Really exciting. Can you share with us  a little about your views on the  challenge?  Why you support it?


BELLA: I support the case because I understand that the decriminalization of prostitution has been documented to have reduced violence against sex workers and it also reduces sex trafficking.  The effects of decriminalization in both Rhode Island and in New Zealand resulted in both forcible rape offenses and gonorrhea incidence to decline for the overall population.  I support the case because I believe Sex Workers deserve “equal protection under the law”.


ULS: George Gascon – San Francisco District Attorney –  is one of the defendants mentioned in the case. What are your thoughts on the point he makes as far as the challenges with defining differences between sex work and sex trafficking: Is it possible to set a criteria to determine what is consensual adult sex work, and what is sex trafficking?


BELLA: I think common sense tells us that it is easy to exploit and abuse a population of people who can’t report violence to the police because they have been criminalized.  Both sex workers and clients could help monitor the industry to report any minors that they come across.  Sex workers and clients sometimes find themselves as the first responder, when another sex worker is trying to flee from an abusive domestic violence situation.


ULS: Fundraising is always a challenge, though I understand raising money for the litigation has been even more complicated than usual due to fear of having donor’s names made public, and also because of bias against sex workers on the behalf of online crowdsourcing sites. Do you have any thoughts on this?


BELLA:  ESPLER understands that this is a valid concern so we set up our 501 c 3 so people can donate and remain anonymously and they can still get their tax deduction. We have also had to deal with challenges like when “Go Fund Me” shut down our fundraising.   Sex Workers are tired of being discriminated against. We refuse to be treated as 2st class citizens.


ULS: If  those of us concerned about sexual freedom and constitutional privileges,   who want to get involved,  how do we do that?


BELLA:  Please send us an email to inquire about volunteer opportunities


ULS: And to better understand the litigation, or to donate?





Or to mail donations:


ESPLERP 2261 Market St #548 San Francisco, CA 94114


ULS: Besides ESPLERP v Gascon, what inspires you to be an active board member?


BELLA: I joined ESPLERP because they were the only organization in the US that understood that they only way US Sex Workers would get access to “equal protection under the law” would be by filing litigation.   ESPLERP also provided me with opportunities to attend labor training and many tools which helped me to become a more effective activist.  


ULS: The Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU) is the first union of of it’s type once there is advancement in changing the current legislation. What are some of the differences between The ESLPER Project and ESPU?


BELLA: ESPLER is a 501 c 3 whereas ESPU is an association for Erotic Service Providers and it was founded to start organizing our population to get the skills it needs to get the center of our own advocacy in a more solidarity type way.


ULS: For 2016 what are your top three organizational goals?




  • Continue our fundraising efforts to continue to fund ESPLER vs GASCON.
  • Continue labor trainings.

and —

  • continue to educate the public about the issues sex worker doesn’t need to be criminalized.


ULS: 2016 Personal goals back in RI?


BELLA: I will finish surveying RI Sex Workers and draft policy recommendations.  I will be presenting those findings at the Desiree Alliance Conference in July 2016.  I will be attending more labor training over the summer of 2016.  I will continue presenting at New England Universities.  I am taking trainings to become a volunteer at a local DV shelter and I continue to forge relationships in my community.  I will continue to organize local events such as “International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers”.


ULS: Fabulous focus, Bella. Anything you would like to add?


BELLA: I want to express how important it is to collaborate and work with other Sex Worker Rights organizations.  I have come to value those relationships.


ULS: We value you, Bella. Union Lip Service (ULS)  absolutely does appreciate your time and attention. We know you are a busy lady! Looking forward to seeing you at UALE 41 Summer School for Union Women at Rutger’s University in July.

Blowing kisses in the cyber winds.

 ULS  Over & Out


Union Lip Service-PHL: 2015 Year in Review




2015 YEAR in REVIEW 2015

ESPU  East Coast Perspective

2015 leaves us with so many sex work / sex trafficking subjects to cover, generating a year-in-review for both the industry-familiar, and new-to- the-discussion-novice seems daunting to do, however it is all important history-in-the-happening, so I’m going to give it a try. If you have any questions or comments when we arrive at 2016, let me know. If I do not know how to resolve the query, someone close to me certainly will! Let’s step to it!

After a year of working as a volunteer with SWOP-PHL, I stepped down after learning SWOP-USA allocated 2014 funding for “Safe Smoke” Kits (crack pipes) for Project SAFE.

As a federally defined formed victim of U.S. Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, and a 25 year veteran Consensual Adult Sex Worker (CASW), working for free for SWOP-PHL, I am dismayed and disgusted as this misappropriation of funds in the name of “harm reduction” and “street based outreach”.

Though I believe in safe sex kits including condoms, gloves and lubes, along with clean need exchange, I do not condone spending $4,000.00 on crack pipes for distribution in North East Philly.

 I have to ask: WTF?

The 2015 Year in Review outlines a lot of my volunteer contributions to sex workers issues under the name SWOP-PHL.

Moving on, I am not affiliated with SWOP efforts as long as they continue to condone paying for crack kits over paying survivors of the youth sex trade / sex workers working for their chapters.

PA LEGISLATIVE: Harrisburg – Philadelphia

(Feedback on how I am reporting the legislative points is welcome cause it was all like Greek to me when I first started on it, but I feel like I’m finally getting it down!)

  • SWOP-Philly opposed former Councilman Neilsen’s stand on amending Section 9-3902 of the Philadelphia Code, entitled, “Property Licenses and Owner Accountability”, along with a second ordinance amending Title 9 of the Philadelphia Code, entitled, “Regulation of Businesses, Trades, and Professions”.

Though hotel staff should – of course – be trained to recognize the signs of potential trafficking: creating a  mandatory patron registry, along with enforcing PA photo id for check in,  credit card, and cell phone to pre book a hotel room online, potentially endangers individuals in need of respite or shelter from the street or an abusive companion; especially those in need who do not feel safe at shelter drop-in centers. Also by-the-hour rental spaces used  for profiting off commercial sex acts are rarely hotels, but rather private homes or commercial businesses (e.g.: porn shops, braiding or nail salons, beauty supply outlets, etc) accepting cash for hourly transactions. The hotel ordinance removing the hourly rate option didn’t even address the fact that few – if any – city hotels still have day rates, and even more importantly, potential sex trafficking may not even be happening at mainstream tourist hotels, but rather at ambiguous local places of business. When we tried writing to the former councilman, he was caustic in response, adding that the Philadelphia Special Victims Unit (SVU) had those concerns covered, which he knew, because he toured the facility in the spring of 2012. The SVU shared with Project SAFE’s Lindsay Roth that they are not  – as of winter 2014- 2015 – prepared for potential trafficking related intake. Also – to note – the inclusion of additional licenses and fees to rent rooms out of a multi-family dwelling, rooming house, dormitory or hotel was not publicly clarified in the promotion of stopping human trafficking. This seems like a way to raise municipal revenue, which is important, though perhaps should be discussed at face value, as opposed to placing it in the category of hotel staff anti-trafficking training. PATC also opposed the effort for the fact that the ordinance targeted inner city hotels, though did not reference the airport or extended stay hotels between the airport and New Jersey. This is an example of a topic we would love to have a PROS Professional assist us on, because understanding city codes can be complicated, and we want to be as well educated as possible to determine the best position on upcoming efforts.

  • SWOP-Philly THANKS Project SAFE for their outreach pertaining to: Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) (P.L.110-378) Reauthorization 2013.
  • SWOP-Philly endorses Pennsylvania SB 851 SAFE HARBOR as presented by Senators  GREENLEAF and LEACH. Defined as: An Act amending Titles 18 (Crimes and Offenses) and 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in human trafficking, further providing for definitions; repealing provisions relating to appropriate implementation for minor victims of human trafficking; providing for special relief to restore victims dignity and autonomy; adding provisions relating to safe harbor for sexually exploited children by imposing duties on law enforcement officers and the Department of Human Services and establishing the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund; in public indecency, further providing for the offense of prostitution and related offenses; and, in juvenile matters, further providing for definitions.

However, it was disappointing to attend luncheons and fundraising events mixing SB851 with Act 105, including speakers who were never homeless youth in the sex industry representing the bill,  along with seeing the attendees pandered for donations for Polaris Project,  and other large, well funded non-profits that are not a part of our state or municipal revenue. The conflation of purposes is confusing, to say the least, and seemed to imply funding Polaris and voting for whatever bill was coming up was the point. Also, social service professionals at the event, who did not know they were sitting with a former victim identifying as a sex worker, made disparaging comments about consensual adult sex work – such as escorting – in a manner that was hurtful and showed how superficial their training is if they are to be working with us.

  • SWOP-Philly has been researching the 2010-2012 findings of the Joint State Government Commission, leading to the 2014 installment of ACT 105, which – though active – is not yet funded. After two seasons of following updates with the PATC, and through communication with Shea Rhodes of the new Villa Nova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE), SWOP-Philly feels disappointment and frustration – shared with PROJECT SAFE – that those identifying as sex workers, and those who are former victims of minor sex trafficking due to homelessness or actual commercial sexual exploitation prior to the inception of new legislation, are not included or supported in any of the current legislative language or conservative community efforts. If we are not going to be included, then we should have a grandfather clause of protection or immunity. We continue to work on bridging this divide since the Institute has confirmed they are not available to  us as community advocates or advisors because they are a private think tank for their own research in support of CEASE Demand Abolition / The Nordic Model. 
  • SWOP-Philly opposed HB262, amending Title  68 requiring ALL adult entertainment employees (1099, part time, full time, performers, janitors, security, d.j.’s) to register with the state via the state department, along with the bill banning all alcohol on adult entertainment premise, and requiring a six foot distance between patrons and performers. Again, though we absolutely want to support legitimate anti-trafficking efforts, we feel this is more of a moral brigade against those who choose adult entertainment as a lifestyle, clearly defining the effort as discriminatory. SWOP-Philly thanks a community allie for drafting a letter to Hon. Dush, who sponsored the bill, which we posted and mailed to Harrisburg. We also appreciate VICE (media) for keeping in contact with us on the bill.
  • Government official Brian Sims put his stamp of approval on House Resolution 605, including Pennsylvania in recognizing International Human Rights Day. SWOP-Philly applauds this action, and utilized the opportunity to contact him about the importance of recognizing prostitutes / sex workers in PA Human Rights Day, writing: “With respect to dramatic change in perspective since 2010 on the ethics and socio-economics of erotic labor and sexual commerce, I urge you to consider the importance of recognizing the needs of those of us who are currently without voice in Philadelphia or Harrisburg.Relevant to our inclusion as constituents  in your sponsoring an International Human Rights Day in Pennsylvania:

2015 UNIVERSAL PERIODIC  REVIEW of HUMAN RIGHTS where the State Department affirmed United Nations Recommendation #86, stating: “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.”

2015 AI DECRIM “Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse. Our global movement paved the way for adopting a policy for the protection of the human rights of sex workers which will help shape Amnesty International’s future work on this important issue,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

2014 PA Act 105  Offers no inclusion of sex worker advocacy organizations, sex worker friendly academic research, no legal or support services for adults who identify as sex workers, nor a grandfather clause to protect former victims/workers whose experiences are prior to the 2010 General Assembly review. Act 105  also seems to define and conflate all sex work as potential criminal sexual activity / human trafficking. Consensual adult sex work quite simply is not human trafficking.

  • Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s law license may be suspended, but she is standing tall stating she is  still taking on the misogyny of the old boy’s club style of government, which has tarnished PA reputation with whole “Porny Email” scandal. Business and law in PA are both challenged by the problems caused by state government officials sending pornography in email while on the tax payer dollars. Sending pornography via email is technically illegal.


SWOP-PHILLY has testified in other states on trafficking related issues:

  • In Alaska SWOP-Philly testified before the Alaskan Senate Judiciary Committee;  and also on behalf of Amber Batts, a sex worker herself who also ran an agency of consensual adult workers, and who has been charged with human trafficking.
  • Speaking in support of Maxine Doogan, and the ESPLER Project, SWOP-Philly contributed testimony to the California Assembly Public Safety Commission Hearing on Human Trafficking. This is the first hearing of its kind including pro sex worker testimony, something Pennsylvania may want to consider at some point with respect to Act 105.


  • SWOP-PHILLY was approved for membership with the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP).
  • SWOP-PHILLY participated in the shared statement organized by Katherine Koster at SWOP-USA, along with other chapters and allied organizations, on PEPFAR Policy,  and the unconstitutionality of the Anti-Prostitution Pledge. M. DANTE offered independent testimony in addition to the group document.
  • SWOP-PHILLY signed on in support of Amnesty International (AI) DECRIM.
  • SWOP-PHILLY signed on in support of the Australian NSW Health & Safety Petition in support of the Scarlet Alliance.
  • SWOP-PHILLY signed the petition in support of: English  Collective of Prostitutes petition, DECRIM:TAKE THE PLEDGE.
  • Katherine Koster referred SWOP-PHILLY /  M. DANTE to the Marshall Project where an official op/ed ran in the criminal justice journal in opposition to Irish citizen Rachel Moran’s U.S. tour promoting global abolition.
  • SWOP-PHILLY participated in a three hour teleconference UPENN Philly & Indian Sex Workers Collective Teleconference. One hour panel discussion with Project Safe, SWOP Philly, NJRUA and others hosted by T.J. Ghose and Kristen Smith, University of Pennsylvania. One +  hours international tele-conference with the The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Bengali: Durbar Mohila Shômonbôe Shomiti “Unstoppable Women’s Synthesis Committee”) . M. Dante invited by A. Mohammed – Thank you. 
Love's Labor: Durbar Mahila Collective
Love’s Labour Just Labour: Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee

2015 PHILLY & PA Conferences and Educational Intensives

  • SEXx Interactive hosted by GALAIE & Dr. Timaree Schmit
  • Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference
  • Philadelphia FIGHT ~ AIDS Education Month
  • United Association for Labor Education 40th N.E. Summer School for Union Women
  • Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit
  • Strength Alliance Community Day BBQ


  • CHURCH CHAT: Survival Sex, Sex Work & Sex Trafficking. The Reverend Beverly Dale and a selection of women from the United Christian Church Congregation in Levittown, Bucks County, PA discuss: Survival Sex, Sex Trafficking and Sex Work / Presenter
Reverend Beverly Dale & M. Dante at #SFS15
Reverend Beverly Dale & M. Dante at #SFS15
  • DECEMBER 17th: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers  in affiliation with Project SAFE, and the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC).  Great job, SKY! And thank you to the members of the  Erotic Literary Salon (ELS) who attended the rally! 

Our heartfelt sympathy for the families of: Kiesha Jenkins, and London Chanel.

SWOP-Philly had an evening in silence

In  memory: Donna Gentile. In memory: Susan Walsh.

I am also going to suggest we acknowledge sympathy for the family of Dr. Howard Baker.


  • COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES of PHILADELPHIA. Behind closed doors discussion and powerpoint on the lack of sex work specific legal services, and the severity of the PA prostitution laws.

2015  into 2016 BROADER COMMUNITY

  • (Just about ) Every Sunday evening from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm I am on Google Hang Out with Maxine Doogan, and the Sex Worker Activists Open Call. Sometimes two people – sometimes twenty – men and women from all over the nation get on the free conference call to discuss issues in their part of the country, and collectively find solutions and support.
  • Seasonal overnight visits to sex workers in different parts of the country who we bond with, or who are requesting a specific type of training, barter, or work share.
  • We’ve also sent out anonymous donations to sex workers in need because of bad diversion programs, and other anti-trafficking agendas that do not offer exit strategies or proper resources to prostitutes – and others in community –  caught in the crossfire.
  • Private counsel and community support for clients or patrons who have lost their commercial outlet.


  • SWOP-Philly supports DECRIM, endorsing:  ESPLERP v. Gascon. 

Entrepreneur Magazine writes on the precedent case:

In California, there is already a case in progress. In 2008, after a proposition to decriminalize prostitution in San Francisco failed, activist and sex worker Maxine Doogan began organizing plaintiffs to file a complaint that would become “Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) vs. Gascón.” The complaint, filed against San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and other attorney generals in their official capacities, challenges the constitutionality of laws criminalizing prostitution as violations of the rights to sexual privacy, freedom of association and free speech, as well as the right to earn a living.

“The rights of adults to engage in consensual, private sexual activity (even for compensation) is a fundamental liberty interest,” reads the complaint. “That right is one that is, objectively speaking, deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition and one that is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”

Judge Jeffrey White canceled a hearing to dismiss the lawsuit scheduled for Aug. 7 and has not yet ruled on the motion. ESPLERP’s lawyers say that it is unlikely the court will dismiss the suit in its entirety, and, if the judge does grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs plan to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals..

“This is a case about LIBERTY. It is about the right to be let alone, about controlling one’s own destiny, and about limiting the role of the state in certain spheres of our lives.”



Believe it or not there is a community divide which I have to express here because it is not simply a divide, it is a totally disappointing disparity. I have continuously found that the GLBTQI communities do not want to address the category of “sex work”, while I am also finding that sex educators,  certified sexual surrogates,  and allied  workshop specialists who focus on couples training,  tantra, and white light love styles do not want to address the category of “sex work”.  Amidst the newsletters and year end reviews I’ve been reading, I keep hearing about the plight of the Rent Boys,  murdered trans youth, street based POC trans hate crimes,  Planned Parenthood murders, and other brutal injustices, but interestingly, sex workers are excluded from the roll, even if just to mention December 17th names of those murdered and lost to suicide.

Another sex worker advocate noticed the same trend, adding:

“My question is how do we get LGBTQ, trans + rentboys to mention violence and stigma against sex workers EVERY TIME they are talking about marginalized communities who are being oppressed.  It is INSULTING that they exclude sex workers, especially since we have been supporting their rights for decades.  Even on Dec 17th a majority of the posters were about trans without the mention of sex work.” COYOTERI

I agree. I guess we will have to keep at it, because they seem intend on being “something other than us”.  Until “sex work” as a temporary experience or lifestyle choice is acknowledged by the broader communities supporting sex  education,  sexual lifestyle freedoms, and gender identity rights”, we are failing in our outreach.

We expect this from the anti-trafficking  and abolitionist organizations, but not from our extended sexual freedom communities. This is an issue which concerns and saddens me, because it shows how opportunistic many are to jump on the trend in support of  fringe causes, yet only if  it is “safe” for them to do so because it fits into their class politics.

Research is proving just about every class and culture have sex workers of some sort.

Murdered sex workers

are just as important to recognize as any other murder.

2015 into 2016 CULTURAL OUTREACH

Ethan & Zach Trio Podcast
Ethan & Zach Trio Podcast
  • Ethan & Zach Trio Podcast on Philosophy and Sex Work. Coming soon to iTunes!
  • Sex with Strangers Podcast. Recording soon!
  • Awaiting audio from J/Noir Live at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) / Litquake San Francisco.


My One Disappointment

So I submitted a grant proposal for the Leeway Foundation Transformation Award.It seems like they rejected it without even having the panel review it, saying I showed capacity with social justice and  activism, though not as an artist. I guess that is the price  I am paying for stepping up and speaking out about human rights,  but after twenty years of working around, and in, both the adult industry, and the arts, I had to stop to work for my right not to be identified within the context of human trafficking. Hopefully this will not bar me from other creative scenarios, because after watching peers arrested, placed into diversion programs, and stripped of dignity – along with the losses I personally have endured the last few years –  I simply had to “Come Out Under the Red Umbrella”.  Perhaps I’ll try again in 2016 with a clearer scope on what I’d like to achieve in the context of both social justice and the arts, as opposed to what I am currently doing. I’ll see!


On the Best Use of Law Enforcement

Multiagency task force created to deal with topless Times Square women TIMES SQUARE, N.Y. — Mayor Bill de Blasio says a multi-agency city task force will be convened to address what he calls the “growing problem” of topless individuals and costumed characters in New York’s Times Square.The ranks of nearly nude women at the major tourist attraction have been growing. Many of the women wear only body paint and a thong. They charge a few dollars to pose for photos with tourists.De Blasio says Thursday that Police Commissioner William Bratton and city lawmakers will study the legal issues associated with regulation and report back their findings by Oct. 1.One idea under consideration is to eliminate the pedestrian plaza where the topless women gather. The costumed Elmos and other characters gather there as well.The pedestrian plaza was created under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. POSTED 6:32 PM, AUGUST 20, 2015, BY JEREMY TANNER, UPDATED AT 06:48PM, AUGUST 20, 2015

Elmo, what are you DOING with those painted  women?


I have so many  primary community links, and secondary media links,  it will take a truly dedicated intern – or team of talent – to get it into a content management system to archive and share with ease.








TERF / Trans-exclusionary radical feminism

SWERF / Sex worker exclusionary radical feminism































  • Community Friend, Sex Worker, and advocate: Shannon Williams:  48 year old Shannon Williams – known respected and loved across the nation for her dedication to sex worker rights after she was fired from her teaching job years earlier –  died of a brain tumor at the start of the year, January 2015. 
  • M. DANTE also taking a moment of silence in memory of Domina Coral Korrupt, who died this summer of ovarian cancer,  at way too young an age. A pleasure to have known you,  and an honor to have worked with you. 

And Heather

Heather killed a serial killer instead of getting killed.

You Go Girl! Be Safe!


Welcome to Union Lip Service




covering –  with love –  topics related to erotic labor, laws, & legislation  

Currently, most of my writing, editing, collaborating,  and blog posting is related to advocacy, and the issues surrounding the sex work v sex trafficking debate.

Why do I write about this topic? Well – I  am federally defined as former victim of U.S. domestic minor sex trafficking because I was a homeless teenager, and I evolved into a consensual adult sex worker. I’ve been there. I am here. I care.

To make this more publicly understandable, in 2014,  for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers   I “Came Out Under the Red Umbrella“. 

Currently, I am recording informative podcast discussions, along with  assisting on content for posts, speeches, discussions and panels, educational surveys and classes, and also for workshops.

Let me share a few educational power points I created in 2015:


Sex Work & HIV Prevention

In upcoming posts, I’ll be adding a  great mix of culture, philosophy, and legislation!

Prior to focusing on sex work and sex advocacy  much of my writing was more pop culture, you know, creative, critical and commentary. I loved the social aspects of  conducting  interviews, and performing  at open mics.  So  often there was crossover between creative,  and stronger sexual content platforms. Here are  samples of some published posts and interviews:

M. DANTE writing as Lady Dahlia Ent for The Erotic Literary Salon 

The Erotic Literary Salon Interview with Slixa (Pt. 1)

The Erotic Literary Salon Interview with Slixa (Pt. 2):

The Erotic Literary Salon on Slixa

There is also video content of my poetry readings on the site.

M.DANTE writing as Lady DahliaEntertainment  for:

SLIXA Undercover

Lady Dahlia Entertainment Slixa Undercover – Story of O

(photo Fred Hatt)

Lady Dahlia Entertainment  Slixa Undercover – Blood Ban

RE/VISED copy now on SWOP-Philly  – Blood Ban (2)

Lady Dahlia Entertainment  Slixa Undercover – Condoms Keep the Kitty Clean

Lady Dahlia Entertainment Slixa Undercover – Couples are the New Client

M. DANTE writing as Lady Dahlia Entertainment  for:

SLIXA Late Night

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa: The Erotic Literary Salon

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa: Interview with Rachel Fogletto

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa: Male Orgasm Control

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa: Interview with Nina Love

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa: Life After Sex

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa: Strapping it on in Style

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa: Male to Female Anal Sex

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa: Touching Me – Touching You

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa – Foot Fetish

(article and photography  LDE)

Lady Dahlia Entertainment  on  Slixa – Tease & Denial

(photo  Marcos Adrian Villas)

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa – Fucking like the Fokkens

Lady Dahlia Entertainment on Slixa – Double Dipping

Lady Dahlia Entertainment  on Slixa – Creep Huffing (photo  LDE)



What’s New


Need to Support New Hampshire HB 1614


For Immediate Release-Labor Day Rally Info Sept. 5th 1pm

Dear Amnesty International Register NOW Legal Self Defense Workshop Sept. 19, 2015

Please Help Us Demand MSNBC Remove This Show SIGN THE PETITION

M. Dante, Sister and Sex Worker Sister Solidarity, newsletter for the UALE NE Summer School for Union Women. July 18, 2015

Bella Robinson- Fighting for Our Sisters in the Erotic Community Sister Solidarity, newsletter for the UALE NE Summer School for Union Women. July 14, 2015

< Summer Union School 2015 Sign up NOW Join Domina Elle at the Libertarian Party of Colorado April 24-26, 2015

for more info email ( info ) AT espu (dash) ca (dot) org

Don’t miss M Dante speaking at the Philadelphia SEXx Interactive on The Romance of Erotic Labor: Intimacy & Commercial Sexuality. Friday 08 May, 2015 Liberate to Emancipate! Historic Court Case REad More HERE and Donate Online HEREFlyer The Grim Sleeper In Honor Of World AIDS Day, please take the time to review Webinar, Rashida Richardson, Center for HIV Law and Policy, Ayako Miyashita, The Williams Institute, Marco Castro-Bojorquez, Lambda Legal, 2014 as we work together to end the criminalization of HIV in California On October 21, 2014 the Oakland City Council voted to expand an existing law that allows the city to evict private property tenants under the guise of being a “nuisance”. The ordinance permits city-led evictions of both residential and commercial tenants. Proposed by City Attorney Barbara Parker, will now allow anyone to be profiled as as sex workers to loose their housing; no one needs to be engaging in actual sex work on the property to be evicted; no one needs to be arrested or charged or anything; the city can conduct evictions without the landlord; this ordinance does not guarantee evicted tenants access to the evidence against them and raises serious due process concerns. Sign the Petition and send a message that discrimination isn’t acceptable Join the letter writing campaign here Eastbay Express Article about Oakland’s Threat to Sex Workers NEW ONLINE FREE CLASSIFIED ADS Managing Sex Work-Canadian Research Also contact i n f o ( AT ) California State Legislation AB 336 to remove condoms as evidence in prostitution cases We support AB336 SB 782 – the Sexual Assault Victim Equity (SAVE) Act We oppose SB782 Dancers awarded 13 million dollars. In addition to the financial hit to the 16 companies that were sued, the clubs have agreed that within six months they will no longer treat dancers as independent contractors or lessees, but as employees, shareholders, partners or some type of owner. In California specifically, dancers will no longer be charged stage fees. WE ARE DANCERS We’re a group of current and former exotic dancers in New York City. We’re raising money. What you can do to help News Article about how laws violate dancers right to privacy World Charter For Prostitutes’ Rights I.C.P.R. World Charter For Prostitutes’ Rights International Committee for Prostitutes’ Rights (ICPR), Amsterdam 1985, Published in Pheterson, G (ed.), A Vindication of the Rights of Whores. Seattle: Seal Press, 1989. (p.40) Laws Decriminalize all aspects of adult prostitution resulting from individual decision. Decriminalize prostitution and regulate third parties according to standard business codes. It must be noted that existing standard business codes allow abuse of prostitutes. Therefore special clauses must be included to prevent the abuse and stigmatization of prostitutes (self-employed and others). Enforce criminal laws against fraud, coercion, violence, child sexual abuse, child labor, rape, racism everywhere and across national boundaries, whether or not in the context of prostitution. Eradicate laws that can be interpreted to deny freedom of association, or freedom to travel, to prostitutes within and between countries. Prostitutes have rights to a private life. Human Rights Guarantee prostitutes all human rights and civil liberties, including the freedom of speech, travel, immigration, work, marriage, and motherhood and the right to unemployment insurance, health insurance and housing. Grant asylum to anyone denied human rights on the basis of a “crime of status,” be it prostitution or homosexuality. Working Conditions There should be no law which implies systematic zoning of prostitution. Prostitutes should have the freedom to choose their place of work and residence. It is essential that prostitutes can provide their services under the conditions that are absolutely determined by themselves and no one else. There should be a committee to insure the protection of the rights of the prostitutes and to whom prostitutes can address their complaints. This committee must be comprised of prostitutes and other professionals like lawyers and supporters. There should be no law discriminating against prostitutes associating and working collectively in order to acquire a high degree of personal security. Health All women and men should be educated to periodical health screening for sexually transmitted diseases. Since health checks have historically been used to control and stigmatize prostitutes, and since adult prostitutes are generally even more aware of sexual health than others, mandatory checks for prostitutes are unacceptable unless they are mandatory for all sexually active people. Services Employment, counseling, legal, and housing services for runaway children should be funded in order to prevent child prostitution and to promote child well-being and opportunity. Prostitutes must have the same social benefits as all other citizens according to the different regulations in different countries. Shelters and services for working prostitutes and re-training programs for prostitutes wishing to leave the life should be funded. Taxes No special taxes should be levied on prostitutes or prostitute businesses. Prostitutes should pay regular taxes on the same basis as

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other independent contractors and employees, and should receive the same benefits. Public Opinion Support educational programs to change social attitudes which stigmatize and discriminate against prostitutes and ex-prostitutes of any race, gender or nationality. Develop educational programs which help the public to understand that the customer plays a crucial role in the prostitution phenomenon, this role being generally ignored. The customer, like the prostitute, should not, however, be criminalized or condemned on a moral basis. We are in solidarity with workers in the sex industry. Organization Organizations of prostitutes and ex-prostitutes should be supported to further implementation of the above charter.

of great loss at a time when our community is under another viscous attach. Veronica called Robyn while she was dropping me off at the train station on Monday after speaking to the Sacramento Bee editorial board for the No on Prop 35. Robyn couldn\’t talk but her care giver was able to rely to her Veronica and I were together doing the good work of which she was huge part and we wanted to share it with her. Robyn\’s legacy is forever immortalized in our community. In honor of her good work, take a moment to consider her contribution to raise our voices as valuable members of society. Our condolences to her family. Maxine Doogan, Erotic Service Providers Union

Join No On #prop35 Sex Educator Training Classes San Francisco Sex Information 2012 the Summer Institute For Labor Union Women 10 Reasons to Decriminalize Sex Work-by Soros Landmark Report-Global Commission HIV and the Law UN Calls for Legalization of Prostitution A BENEFIT FOR THE EROTIC SERVICE PROVIDERS UNION PRESENTS… HOOKERS BALL Punk Rock Show of 2012 SPONSORED BY THE HARVEY MILK DEMOCRATIC CLUB FEATURING BANDS… MEATHOOK AND THE VITAL ORGANS (SAN FRANCISCO) GET SHOT! (SACRAMENTO) INFERNO OF JOY (SAN

FRANCISCO) THE CRUNCHEES (SACRAMENTO) PLUS THE DANCEFLOORJUNKIE DOLLS BURLESQUE SHOW FROM RENO!!!! ALSO BUY A RAFFLE TICKET TO WIN SEX TOYS donated by Mr. S Leather of San Francisco Vintage Porn mags and Fetish Fashion: Undressing the Corset WE ASK A $10/$50 DONATION FOR ADMITTANCE TO THE EVENT DOORS OPEN AT 9:00 PM AND ITS 21 & OVER W/ ID THE EROTIC SERVICE PROVIDERS UNION ANNOUNCES HOOKER BALL!!! Exciting Spring Fundraiser Punk Rock Show to Support our Legal Action Fund April 14, San Francisco, CA – The Erotic Service Providers Union (, in conjunction with Margo St. James HOOKER’S BALL, is proud to announce a special benefit that will support our legal action to expand sexual freedom rights by our continuing to challenge the anti prostitution laws. The Erotic Service Providers Union seeks to gain agency on behalf of all erotic service providers regarding their occupational, health, safety, social, civil, and economic rights. The ESPU’s and Hooker’s Ball Punk Show takes place Saturday, April 14th, 2012 , from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., at Thee Parkside, 1600 17th Street, located at the corner 17th and Wisconsin street in San Francisco, CA. Tel: 415-252-1330. Admission: $10-$50 Sliding. For directions, please visit: Thee Parkside Join this event on facebook ESPU Salutes and Congratulates Canadian Sex Workers on the March 28, 2012 Appeals Court Ruling And victory in Louisiananew law does not eliminate the “Crime Against Nature” SlutWalk comes to the San Francisco Bay Area August 4, 2012 Come Join US Sign the Petition to Demand the Department of Justice Do Its Job Updated list of San Francisco Hotels still on the Boycott list Grand Hyatt Hotel, Union Square Hyatt Regency Hotel, Embarcadero Hyatt Hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf HEI Le Meridien Hotel, Financial District Hotel Frank, Downtown International Sex Workers Rights Day Celebrated Feb. 23, 2011-San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee passes Resolution to Demand Congress Remove the Anti Prostitution Pledge from the Global AIDS Act. Feb. 14, 2011-San Francisco Labor Council Resolution to Demand Congress Amend Current U.S. Policy and Practice on HIV Funding: Therefore, be it resolved, the San Francisco Labor Council shall send letters to our elected officials – House Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Diane Feinstein – to advocate for removal of the Anti-Prostitution Pledge from the Global AIDS Act and to bring this matter to the attention of our President. And further, be it resolved, this letter shall request that, as Congress continues to review renewal legislation for the Global AIDS Act, our representatives promote legislation aimed at saving the greatest number of lives and protecting the most people, and promote the Sonagachi Model.* *Peer to Peer education Groups Challenge Disparate Punishment Under Louisiana’s Crime Against Nature Law. People Convicted Under Archaic Statute Forced to Register as Sex Offenders for 15 Years to Life Another Ruling for Canada: Vancouver Sex workers win right to challenge Canada’s prostitution laws Congratulations Canada. Onterio Superior Court strikes down 3 federal prostitution laws Read the decision Here United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review 2010 ushr_Final_for_print Former New Zealand Parliamentarian, Tim Barnett explains how they decriminalized in that country. July 2010 A must watch Erotic Service Providers Union Salutes the Foxhole Dancers for standing up for their rights to not be intimidated out of work! This is an ongoing protest-every Sunday Read about it here The Fox Hole is located at 32260 U.S. 36, Walhonding, OH and the protest is at the actual congregation that has been harassing the workers. New Beginnings Church of God 305 Church Street, Warsaw, OH 43844 (740) 824-4878 Call the church to let the know they need to stop harassing workers. A Must See The Brothel Project THE BROTHEL PROJECT follows these two dynamic women-on-a-mission and their foray into the world of modern day prostitution in the tea and crumpets city of Victoria. It isn’t

long before they are approached by two other women – booking agent Harvi and independent escort Mia – who also claim to have the same vision. Read it on Global News: Brothel Project – airs June 9, 2010 Canada’s 1st Adult Entertainment Awards honours sex industry stars Celebrate the Sex Industry on 6.9.Venue: Rio Theatre, 1660 East Broadway, Vancouver. Doors open at 7 pm. Advance tickets: Via PayPal Day-of tickets: Available at 3pm at box office. Contact: Annie Temple • 604-351-6301 • Formerly Known As: Art and performance by male sex workers Tuesday, June 1, 2010, 7pm Rainbow Room, LGBT Center 1800 Market St. at Octavia $10-20 sliding scale For centuries, erotic pioneers and outlaws have made art. Without sex worker artists, San Francisco would be boring. This is a variety show featuring a dozen male sex workers. Expect stories, performances, music, videos and photography by men who are current or former sex workers. Last year’s event sold out both nights, so we’re in a larger venue for one night only as part of the National Queer Arts Festival. curated by Kirk Read, featuring performances by Suppositori Spelling, Inbred Hybrid Collective, Adela Vazquez, Jesse Hewit, Christraper Sings, George Birimisa, Cyd Nova, Kirk Read, Ben McCoy, Jaime Cortez, horehound stillpoint, a slideshow of visual artists and more! Event website: Contact: Kirk Read, 415-722-0828, Adult film industry launches anti-piracy campaign Film Industry Launches Antipiracy Campaign Adult film industry launches anti-piracy campaign May 5, 2010 | 4:55 pm Would you steal from Ron Jeremy? That’s the question LAist poses in its blog post “Your Arousal Doesn’t Come for Free.” Blogger Zach Behrens reports that the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry’s advocacy group, has launched a new campaign and a series of all-star public service announcements urging people to pay for their porn — and not download it for free. The videos feature Jeremy, Alektra Blue, Kaylani Lei and a host of other adult film stars. “We work hard to entertain you and arouse you,” says one performer. “So please show your support by buying our products.” Sign Up Now for 2010 Union Women’s Summer Schools ACTION ITEM-New York State Assembly Bill to amend the civil practice law and criminal procedure law, in relation to the use of possession of condoms in evidence Support San Francisco Hotel Workers Local 2 Strike-If your clients want service at a San Francisco Hotel , tell them you can’t cross the picket line and they can find another hotel Here International Checkin and Community Building by and for Sex Industry Workers on BlogTalk Internet Radio January 31, 2010 Watch Video forum on Sex Workers, Clients and the Law. November 23, 2009 hosted by Canadian FIRST: Feminists Advocating for Rights and Equality for Sex Industry Workers November 23, 2009 Forum Sex Professionals of Canada Make historic Legal Challenge to anti prostitution laws Move to legalise prostitution welcomed New Delhi Releasing of the report-Trade Union Protections for Sex Workerspdf By Com. Ashim Roy (General Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative) On 9th September 2009, Wednesday, at 4PM At Ashirwad, 30 St. Marks Road, Opposite State Bank of India, Bangalore Trade Union Leaders, Human Rights Activists and Sexworker Leaders will address the meeting after the report release. This report, Trade Union Protections for Sex Workers, shares insights from a meeting held from January 30 to February 1, 2009, in Belém, Brazil, in conjunction with the World Social Forum. The meeting brought together trade unions, sex workers, and other activists who believe that workers in the sex sector deserve basic labour rights, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, to be free of discrimination and to be free from forced labor. The participants came from Bolivia, Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, the United States. Karnataka Sex Workers Union Read More Here Turkey’s sex workers seek to establish a union June 25 2009 Con Stellation Magazine May 2009