Sarah Jenny Bleviss brought this Editors' Note in the New York Times to our attention, in which the paper admits to serious reporting errors in its coverage of sex workers. An entire two-thirds of the original article has been deleted from the article, which supposedly profiled three "high class call girls" in New York. It turns out, though, that two of the women were sex workers but not prostitutes:
A while back I was critical of the way that some of the influential feminist bloggers at Feministe and Feministing and Shakesville were proclaiming their love of Bob Herbert writings on sex work. I want to take just a moment to applaud Holly at Feministe for her interview with The Sex Workers Project's Sienna Baskin. The Sex Workers Project, part of the Urban Justice Institute, is an organization I think very highly of especially as a source for sex worker advocacy and solid research on the sex industry. It's a great resource for the press, for policy makers, and for the rest of us.
There's typically few things more crass and disturbing than tampon ads in the United States. Honest to god, the coy manner of most menstruation product advertising is only one step away from openly calling it "the curse." This ad for U Tampons from Australia is a refreshingly playful approach to the vagina and its myriad functions. It makes me appreciate the old Aussie saying even more: "Thank god we got the convicts and the Americans got the puritans."
Tonight, ABC's 20/20 hit the streets looking for hookers & intending to cash in on the salacious sides of sex work ~ with Diane Sawyer as lead pimp, making her paycheck just another one of the profits earned from the poor, down-trodden, girls she herself called exploited.
Diane let us know from the start, with her Good Friday biblical references, that this was not actual news coverage nor anything remotely close to impartial reporting; and from that moment on both Secondhand Rose and myself, Gracie Passette, began typing furiously to one another ~ and no, 'furiously' wasn't our typing speed.
Here are our notes.
The two hour 20/20 was titled Prostitution in America: Working Girls Speak; apparently no one thought this ironic as Diane often interrupted her interviewees to put words in their mouths.
The last couple of weeks have brought more news coverage and public discussion of sex work than you usually get in a year. When Eliot Spitzer got nailed because of his hot dates with "Kristen," the press swarmed onto the story like flies on shit. The beauty of a scandal like the Spitzer story is that it lets the media have the best of both worlds: they can use the sex to sell product as enthusiastically as Joe Francis having a fire sale, but at the same time, they get to stake the moral high ground by pointing an accusing finger at both the client and the sex worker. If Eliot Spitzer's sin was the hypocrisy of hiring call girls after building a career for himself by putting their fellow sex workers in jail, it was little more than an insignificant blemish compared to the behavior of the press. A good chunk of the editors and writers at the New York Times should just get over their pretensions of respectability and hop on a plane for California, where they can become honest, hardworking pornographers.
As is typical of American discussions of sex, the Kristen/Spitzer scandal didn't turn into an opportunity to talk about the realities of sex work, or the ways that our private desires diverge from our public declarations, or anything resembling a forthright discussion of sexuality. It was just another opportunity to obsess about sex as if it were a particularly ugly scab that just won't stop itching. Nothing demonstrates that better than Audacia Ray's recent post about her interview with MSNBC. The first question the interviewer asked her, point-blank, was: "Have you been a whore?" The supposedly more genteel, public-radio intellectual Brian Lehrer wasn't much better in his treatment of Dacia when he interviewed her on the radio. The entire show had a leering tone to it, as if he too couldn't wait to get the juicy details. And Renegade Evolution got pretty much the same treatment when the media showed up on her doorstep:
I've always known that the New York Times is an elitist paper. Most national papers are pretty directed at the upper middle and upper classes. You can tell just by looking at their advertising. Million dollar studio apartments and thousand dollar watches are not for the masses, after all. And I learned from a beloved sociology instructor in college to recognize the significance of the fact that there is never a labor section but always a business section and that the Times has two "Style" sections a week where you can learn about the newest expensive trends. So it isn't like this is a revelation. But today's Metro Section really beats all:
...working for minimum wage? (And other problems of logic and evidence)
So according to Nicholas Kristof's op-ed today, Eliot Spitzer recently encouraged him to write a book about Spitzer's anti-sex-trafficking work. Perhaps he will. He certainly seems to buy the assumption that tightening penalties for johns will somehow help women who are victimized while working as prostitutes. Actually just the opposite is likely.
So, it seems that it's official. My favorite fag-bashing fratboy media figure is no more. He's not actually going to die of a fatal disease. It's even worse; Tucker Carlson has had his television series taken away.
It's Sunday and while there's wireless everywhere this is the first time I've been able to collect my thoughts long enough to post a quick update. SXSW is fascinating, super-busy and a bit overwhelming.
Yesterday Lux and I led our core conversation on Pink Ghetto Blasting. It was well received, the people who attended represented a really broad range of involvement in sexual content online (from producers of sexual content to people who just only browse it occasionally but who care deeply about sexuality and reducing sexual stigma). Melissa Gira Grant was there for Valleywag and gave us a shout out here. Melissa, it was great to meet you there! Thanks so much for all your encouragement about the sex work, trafficking and human rights forum last week.