Category Archives: rights

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

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



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.

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)
Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU)


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


Legal Self Defense Workshop

Sunday Oct. 21, 2007 It’s time for another Legal Self Defense

Workshop by noted criminal defense attorney Katya Komisaruk. Katya,

a graduate of Harvard Law School, specializes in representing sex workers and is the author of Register Now