Mother of the Numbers

A Tribute to Norma Jean Almodovar at the  International Sex Work Foundation for Art, Culture and Education: 
    • Art is a powerful tool by which we can share ourselves, our lives, our goals, our issues.
    • ART EQUALS OUTREACH!
    • Sex Workers come from a rich and diverse cultural heritage, and have historically contributed much to the literary and artistic world.

Imagine…..

  • Our Foundation is dedicated to the collection, display and permanent preservation of the art, culture and information by and about sex workers past and present, from around the world. . . .
  • Our goal is to educate and create an atmosphere which encourages the artistic growth of current, ex and transitioning sex workers, and stimulates the academic research necessary to positively impact the lives of men and women in sex work. . . .

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International Sex Work Foundation for Art Culture and Education  is probably one of the least known sex work organizations in the nation, but ISWFACE was the first non-profit in the United States to take on the challenge of public discussion of  sex work rights. Probably most well known for her dedication to keeping the numbers when it comes to issues of police and prostitution,  I am honored to have met industry inspiration Norma Jean Almodovar in October 2015 when

22689286852_1d111a9c93_qI  traveled to California to testify at an Information Hearing  on Human  Trafficking which I attended with ESPLERP’s Maxine Doogan, Starchild, Ms. R. and members of the California ACLU and former Office of the Attorney General. After visiting Sacramento and San Francisco, we traveled down to Los Angeles where ESPLERP, ESPU, SWOP Los Angeles met with ISWFACE to better understand why our community alliances and continued efforts are so essential. With December 17th coming up I reached out to ISWFACE to pay tribute to her dedication, and see what her thoughts are on staying active in activism, sex work,  social justice, and statistics:

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1. Why is it important for us -especially as sex workers – to learn this research,  and acquire the county by county state by state numbers?
When I first started as an activist, I learned from Margo St. James that in order to counter the lies from the abolitionists, we need to have solid information- not just what we believe is true. So I started collecting the academic and law journal articles and that was a good start, but what was missing were the actual numbers from the government to counter the absurd claims about numbers of victims of child sex slavery and other nonsense spewed by the anti- prostitution folks.
Once I found that we could access the actual numbers of arrests, and other very valuable numbers, I decided that I had to put them in a format where we could see the data over a long period of time. Doing one spreadsheet led to another and I began asking myself “how many men would it take to provide clients to x number of minors?” (the abolitionists were claiming 100,000 to 300,000 annually) So I started doing the math and what I discovered was that there was no way on earth that it was possible for there to be anywhere near that number-based on the number of minors that were actually ‘found’ through arrest.
After I put the data in spreadsheets, I saw so clearly how much BS was being told to the media and the public by those who want to abolish commercial sex. The numbers they were touting were absolutely pulled out of thin air and were simply not possible. And the numbers from the government prove that the abolitionists are flat out lying.
So how does that help sex workers? By knowing the actual numbers. State by state and county by county- the government posts that information for anyone to find. Can the government be wrong and post the wrong stats? Of course- and we know that they make typos (as they did for Alaska in claiming there were something like 647 arrests one year, when there were actually 47…) but the government numbers in their annual tables are the only ones that count- because there is no other source of numbers that can be used to compare to the ‘numbers’ cited by the abolitionists.
If there are only x numbers of arrests of minors every year, consistently- (and the numbers have gone down consistently since the 1980s), how can anyone claim there are hundreds of thousands  EVERY YEAR- when all the cops manage to find are a few hundred? You cannot extrapolate from those few hundreds and come up with hundreds of thousands. That’s the first problem for the abolitionists. Then there is the fact that in order to accommodate hundreds of thousands of MINORS every year, who are forced to see “25 to 65 men per day” 7 days a week, 365 days per year, you would need BILLIONS of men, and there just aren’t billions of men around. And that’s just for the minors- who represent a fraction of all arrests for sex work- so who is it that are hiring  the ADULTS sex workers? Where do all those men come from?
All the numbers tie in together. How many cops are there, how many arrests can they make each year, how many unsolved reported crimes do we have now and how many more would go unsolved if the cops spent all their resources pursuing the alleged victims when so few can actually be found. How many reported rapes and sexual assaults are there and how many get solved every year? Is it more important to ‘rescue’ adult sex workers who haven’t asked for help than it is to solve the rapes and sexual assaults for which there is a victim who did ask for help?
If arresting millions of people for drug use over three decades has not ‘ended the demand’ for drugs, how can anyone expect there to be an ‘end to the demand’ for sex workers when the cops can’t even manage to arrest 100,000 ‘johns’ in a year? Especially if there are allegedly hundreds of millions of them?
It is so important for sex worker activists to get familiar with the stats which the government provides, so they can fully engage the antis and the media with real stats and show them the government numbers. Is the government lying or are they?

Numbers matter!

2. How do you decompress from the ugliness of it all?
Hanging out with my hubby is the most important way I decompress. It’s the way I end my day and sometimes during the day- we just hold hands and talk. We watch TV and laugh. I can’t watch most serious shows- so many of them include digs at sex work and once they do, I can no longer enjoy that series. So watching comedies and documentaries – animal, the universe, etc. are the best to calm me down.
Before my arthritis took away my ability to sculpt and draw cartoons, that was my primary escape from the horrors of the moral crusade against sex work and sex workers.
Music is my secondary escape, and I prefer classical and what is considered “new age” music to anything else- anything without human voices. Music is actually math realized in sound. I suppose that’s why I relate to classical so much is because it is like a constant soothing bath of math. Math is not someone’s opinion- it either works or it doesn’t (1 +1= 2). Music is the same. Harmonious sound is the arrangement of musical notes and timing, which is all based on math. It sooth my soul.
In the winter months when we have rain in California (occasionally), I burn incense, which also takes me to another plane. Between the music and the incense, I escape the insanity that is most of the world.
http://www.policeprostitutionandpolitics.com/
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Annie Sprinkle’s How To Avoid Sex Worker Burn Out Available on PoliceProstitutionandPolitics.com

 

3. Has it been worth it?
That’s a really difficult question to answer. One likes to believe that the blood, sweat and tears that one pours into one’s passion are worth it, because otherwise why do it?
There is no money in following this cause, and it cost me so much.
At the end of my life, will I have changed anything for anyone? I don’t know.
 I do know that I have to keep trying, and keep paying whatever price it costs, because it is the path I chose and must continue to follow.
Could I have lived a different life and been happy? I don’t know.
Am I happy with the life I have? Absolutely.
Would I do it all again? Yes.
Does that make it worth it? I guess it does.

ISWFACE

The specific purposes of this corporation are:
  • to serve as an educational resource center for serious research and other information about prostitution and sex work in order to provide the public with access to these academic reports and studies;
  • to foster, perpetuate and preserve an appreciation of the art and culture created by and about sex workers;
  • to establish and maintain a permanent collection of art (including but not limited to paintings, sculpture, photos, writings, etc.) and related archival materials created by and about sex workers, past and present, throughout the world and provide for their display, both through regular exhibits throughout the world and through the creation of a cyberspace museum;
  • to educate the public about sex workers, their art and culture;
  • to provide economic alternatives and opportunities for creative, artistic sex workers, to enable them to transition out of prostitution and into another profession if they are so inclined;
  • and to contribute or otherwise assist corporations, organizations and institutions in the fields of health care, law enforcement and education through the dissemination of accurate, timely information relating to this important social and political issue.
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