Elizabeth's picture

An academic response to criminalizing prostitution in Rhode Island

Several weeks ago, first in the Providence Journal and then here, Ron Weitzer, a professor of criminology at George Washington University, debunked myths about prostitution that were being circulated during testimony and press coverage of Rhode Island's attempts to recriminalize the private exchange of sex for money. Donna Hughes, a Women's Studies professor at University of Rhode Island, wrote a commentary piece for the Providence Journal in which she continued to promote those myths and the moral panic they fuel, and in the process also ridiculed sex educator a Megan Andelloux and $pread, a magazine by sex workers for sex workers.

It has been easier for a small but vocal group of academics to ridicule the sex industry and condemn it with deeply flawed research and tired stereotypes than it has been for a larger more reasoned group to publish honest examinations and advocate for evidence-based policy. In light of the steps that Rhode Island's legislature is taking to criminalize legal sex work, Ron Weitzer and I, with organizing help and feedback from a Michael Goodyear (Dalhousie University) and Melissa Ditmore (Editor of the Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work, and research consultant at the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center) decided to coordinate an academic response to the irresponsible attempts to promote moral panic and bad policy under the guise of protecting women and communities.

That effort resulted in a letter to be delivered to the Rhode Island State Legislature and to Rhode Island media outlets. It is a letter that involves compromises, as all collective efforts do. The letter does three important things:

Elizabeth's picture

Queer and Rebel Days - Halifax

Queer and Rebel days flyerThose of you in Halifax are are in the middle of Queer and Rebel Days and I'd love to hear about them.

From the web site:

Queer and Rebel Days 2009 is a week of performances, discussions, food, and workshops in Halifax, NS, running from July 10 - 16, 2009. All events are free, trans and queer positive, and childcare is available upon request. Most events are based at the Roberts St. Social Centre, 5684 Roberts St., Halifax; see the Event Details page for more info. 

Our goals are:

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ERV's picture

Microbiology and Abortion

RU-486, or mifepristone, was approved for use in 2000 in the US, for medical abortions.

Shortly there after, something weird started happening. A handful of women who used RU-486 were dying from sepsis, caused by a really rare bacteria, Clostridium sordellii. Like, these women didnt have AIDS. They werent meth addicts or recovering from cancer. They were previously completely healthy 18, 22 year-old women dropping dead.

To pro-lifers, the message was clear: Abortion kills women.

Planned Parenthood's recommendation to use the abortion-causing drug Misoprostol vaginally rather than orally has led to fatal infections according to a research study released by the University of Michigan.
...
"This study shows Planned Parenthood not only disregards the lives of babies in the womb, but the lives of their mothers as well," said American Life League's Jim Sedlak. "This is scandalous, if not criminal. It's time people stopped viewing Planned Parenthood as a responsible healthcare organization and saw it for what it is -- a money-making, social engineering group that plies its trade of sex and abortion without regard to human life, born or preborn."

To rational people and scientists, there is a different puzzle afoot.

Michael's picture

Coordinating research and informing policy in sex work

We have previously written about the need for the sex work research community to influence the overall research agenda to ensure that resources are directed to research that is responsible, responsive to need and that informs public and social policy.

Caroline's picture

Sex workers and the media

Here's an interesting blog I've found via Dolly. Rebecca Dakin, author of The Girlfriend Experience, is blogging about getting "back into 'normal life' after a whirlwind exciting 9 years of escorting". She wrote it, in her words, "to educate people about the infamous 'girlfriend experience' and challenge peoples views on escorting". So, what's interesting - she's been writing about how the media have portrayed her and her book. She writes,
I was trying to understand why I have been so upset about newspapers printing stuff that's in the book. The thing is I wrote the book to try and show people that there was so much more to escorting than what people think, which is that men only pay for sex. Since the press want to just discuss and print all the graphic sex making me out to be a convent girl and sex crazed loon that became a hooker, it's a little frustrating to say the least. Because the things they printed are taken out of context it doesn't really achieve what I wanted it to achieve. I'm trying my best to think that any publicity is good publicity but I'm having second thoughts (no good now I know!) now as to whether I have done the right thing by putting my face and name to it.
Check out the "I went from convent girl to to hooker" story in the News of the World and file under typical. It's a new blog, so you can catch up very quickly. Do be sure to read her posts News of the World... and More Press.

Lou FCD's picture

Jill and Phil Fell Down the Hill

Blindfold game 2 by Lee Carson @ Flickr

I was actually looking for some good sex-ed resources for linking here at SitPS when I recently stumbled across one of the most bizarre and counter-factual rants I've seen outside of the Discovery Institute's network of self-referential web-dust-collection blogs. Admittedly, I don't carouse around the right wing blogs often, preferring to have the straight stuff filtered for me by writers with a firmer grasp on reality. For that reason, I was thoroughly blind-sided by the utter credulity with which some blogger named Jill Stanek breathlessly repeated some pretty outlandish claims by a Canadian child psychiatrist named Dr. Philip Ney. I had never heard of Stanek, but after poking around it seems that she is a leading light of the forced birth/anti-sex-ed religio-political movement.

Apparently, Dr. Ney asserts not only that there is no need for comprehensive sex education for students, but that sex ed is detrimental to their mental health. Stanek doesn't really contribute much to this particular article herself, but opts to simply parrot some of Dr. Ney's "more noteworthy points".

Stanek begins her article with a rather foreboding exclamation.

With renewed debate over how to curb the rampant, irresponsible sexual activity of our youth - the other side pushing more of what sexualized our children to begin with - we thought it a good time to resurrect a good piece on Life Site News last year by Psychiatrist Dr. Philip Ney regarding sex education for children.

Right away, the tone of the article is set by the assumption the reader is supposed to take for granted - that our youth are engaging in rampant, irresponsible sexual activity. Even granting the assumption (a dubious proposition to begin with), the rational response of educating the youth in question is brushed aside without consideration by Stanek. Still, it's not unheard of for scientific findings to be counter-intuitive, so let's take a look at the "more noteworthy points" Stanek points to from Dr. Ney, and the evidence to support them. 

Michael's picture

Fundamental freedoms or moral soapbox?

There are essentially two ways to change unjust laws, by appealing to the legislature, or by referring the statutes to an independent judiciary for a  determination of whether they transgress fundamental freedoms protected by the constitution. Both approaches have been tried in Canada with respect to sex work legislation. 

The last judicial review ocurred in 1990, and was lost in an interesting split of the Supreme Court along gender lines. It nearly succceeded however. It passed the first test, in that of two sections of the Criminal Code that were being challenged, the majority of the court held that;

Section 195.1(1)(c) of the Code is inconsistent with s. 2(b of the Charter but is justifiable under s. 1 of the Charter

Section 195.11(1)(c), as it was then, dates from 1972 and prohibits solicitation in public. Specifically it states that;

Melissa Ditmore's picture

Research for Sex Work 11 is online

Marthe Bouvarde "Prostitutes of Europe" Research for Sex Work 11 is online. It's the only journal like it, with contributions from sex workers, health workers and NGO staff. Articles from India, Mali, Spain, the UK and the US, illustrated with beautiful photographs by Mathilde Bouvard, discuss pleasure and sex work, the failures of raids to help trafficked persons, violence against sex workers and more.

DANAYA SO, a sex worker organisation in Mali, co-produced this issue with the Network of Sex Work Projects. Photographs were supplied by Mathilde Bouvard. This bilingual issue is in English and French. Migration scholar  Laura  Agustín was the guest editor for this issue.

Hard copies will be distributed during the IAS Conference on Pathenogenesis to be held in Capetown, South Africa, 19-22 July 2009.


If you would like to receive a paper copy free of charge, please write to
editor at r4sw dot org.

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