2015 YEAR in REVIEW 2015
Sex Workers Outreach Project Philadelphia [SWOP-PHILLY] is a grassroots organization – part of a national network – dedicated to improving the lives of sex workers – those with life experience in the sex trade – in Philadelphia & Pennsylvania.
Though the PHL chapter is not officially active as of this 2016 re/post, we – the sex workers and professional allies – are available to consult and assist with industry issues.
We are here because we have been there, are there, and we really do care!
2015 left 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 , so I’m going to give it a try. Let’s step to it!
2015 PENNSYLVANIA (PA) LEGISLATIVE: Harrisburg – Philadelphia
- 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 inner city 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 2015. This is a federal bill which needs your support! Did you know: currently faith based shelters may deny access to GLBTQI youth in need of shelter and safe harbor? Show your organization’s support for the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S.262 and H.R. 1779) to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). You can read and sign the letter to U.S. Congress HERE summarizing some of the important updates. #EndHumanTrafficking #passRHYTPA
- 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.
Winter 2014 – Winter 2015 SWOP-PHILLY OUT OF STATE
M. DANTE on behalf of SWOP-PHILLY testified in other states on trafficking 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.
2015 SWOP-PHILLY GLOBAL:
- 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: দুর্বার মহিলা সমন্বয় সমিতি Durbar Mohila Shômonbôe Shomiti “Unstoppable Women’s Synthesis Committee”) . M. Dante invited by A. Mohammed. Thank you for including me!
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
SWOP, SAFE, NJRUA and NYC Health Alliance at PHILADELPHIA FIGHT
Bella Robinson & M. Dante UALE PENN STATE
- 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.
Reverend Beverly Dale & M. Dante 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
- 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 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 pro connections. Commercial relationships ARE real relationships. We get this!
2015 COURT EFFORTS TOWARDS DECRIMINALIZATION (DECRIM)
- SWOP-Philly supports DECRIM, endorsing: ESPLERP v. Gascon.
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 intent 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 GETTING CULTURAL WITH IT:
NEW in PHILLY: Ethan & Zach Trio
- 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.
- Look for my new UNION LIP SERVICE (ULP) blog on ESPU, along with regional posts and shares on SWOP-PHILLY.
- I am so sorry to announce I am stepping away from the Erotic Literary Salon (ELS) for a season or more while working on the increased sex work v sex trafficking project agenda.
2015 FAVORITE MEDIA: On the Best Use of Law Enforcement
Multiagency task force created to deal w/ 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 the Hell are you DOING with those painted women?
2015 KEY WORD TOPICS
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.
CEASE DEMAND ABOLITION
OPERATION CROSS COUNTRY
NEW ZEALAND MODEL
TERF / Trans-exclusionary radical feminism
THIRD WAVE FEMINISM
SWERF / Sex worker exclusionary radical feminism
CRIMINAL SEXUAL ACTIVITY
STREET BASED OUTREACH
PETITION MSNBC / SEX SLAVES IN AMERICA
PORNY EMAIL SCANDAL
AGE OF CONSENT
CONSENT V COERCION
SHERIFF DART & HIS CRUSADE AGAINST BACKPAGE / MASTERCARD
2015 IN MEMORIAM
BESIDES THE DECEMBER 17TH MURDER LIST –
WE TAKE A MOMENT to REMEMBER:
- 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 of ovarian cancer, at way too young an age. A pleasure to have known you, and an honor to have worked with you. Safe Journey. Peace and Blessings Be.
Heather killed a serial killer instead of getting killed.
You Go Girl! Be Safe.
~ MAY EVERYONE BE SAFE OUT THERE ~
Special Thanks to SWOP-USA Savannah Sly & Katherine Koster
for all your dedication & hard work!