Don't let personal attacks distract us
I woke this morning to find lots of support in the face of a personal attack by Donna Hughes against me and the other signers of a letter to the Rhode Island legislature arguing against the criminalization of prostitution there.
Thank you to all those who are being so supportive of me. I will respond to the attack myself later, but first I want to say that I am very worried that this could distract from the real issue at hand, which is our work to keep consensual adult sexual exchange from becoming criminalized in RI.
Both for the sake of those who are victimized by players in the sex industry and also for the sake of those who find meaningful careers there, and for all those in between, we need to keep our focus on the creation of sane and useful laws. Criminalizing prostitution will eliminate a source of livelihood for some and will drive harmful activity further underground. This must be avoided.
Some important points to keep in mind, and to keep in front of those who make the laws:
- Adults need to be free to make decisions about the kinds of consensual sex they do and do not want to engage in with other adults.
- Everybody deserves a right to earn a decent standard of living.
- Physical autonomy is a basic human right.
- Everybody, regardless of industry, ought to have safe working conditions and be free from violence. Laws to protect workers, and laws to prohibit violence, need not criminalize work in order to be effective.
- Just because lots of states have irrational laws doesn't mean that Rhode Island needs to follow suit. (Just because something is, doesn't mean it ought to be.)
Tara Hurley, director of "Happy Endings?", wrote a fantastic letter to the RI legislators. She calls for others to do the same. She got an encouraging response from one legislator who said he was being bombarded by Hughes supporters and really needed to hear from those who oppose criminalization.
You can use these email addresses to write to the lawmakers in Rhode Island. If you live in Rhode Island your voice is even more important right now.
With her permission I am reprinting Tara's letter below. Please feel free to use it as inspiration for your own:
First let me offer condolences on the recent passing of Representative Slater. I think a lot can be learned from his career. It was difficult to pass a medical marijuana law, but Rep. Slater remained the forceful voice for its passage, and I know he gained the respect of many of his fellow Assembly Members.
One of the lessons I hope that was learned during the debate and ultimate passage of the “Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act” is that for the benefit of the citizens of Rhode Island debates should be based in reason and fact, not emotion and propaganda. I wish the atmosphere in which the medical marijuana was debated could return for the debate on prostitution.
I know many women who work in spas from when I made my film. I want what is best for these women. I want what is best for Rhode Island. I know that these two things are not mutually exclusive.
As a woman and Rhode Islander, I am offended at the tactics of Donna Hughes and Citizens Against Trafficking. It seems like Hughes and CAT do not care about the women, all they want is a "moral victory". They have no basis for their attacks on me, the spas, the people who have been writing to you, and basically anyone who does not accept or promote their agenda, including RI Coalition Against Human Trafficking. I have been following this a long time, and it is bad enough to attack me, fellow academics, or even the women they claim to be trying to help, but to attack a RI Coalition Against Human Trafficking is beyond the barrel. It is horrible that this radical fringe group could drive out the coalition that seemed to actually care about the women.
To use an analogy, I would say that Hughes and CAT are to Rhode Island and sex workers as Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are to homosexuals. They are both radical fringe groups that use fear and hate mongering. I am an artist, so I believe in freedom of speech, so even though I do not agree with Hughes or CAT, I believe they have the same right to freedom of speech as everyone else. I just hope that people don’t confuse the propaganda and fear mongering for fact. If you would like to save yourself some time, just delete anything that comes from Hughes or CAT, unless you enjoy reading fiction and extremist propaganda.
Director "Happy Endings?"