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Published: Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2017 05:36:05 -0500


Tampa Bathhouses Become Latest Target of Sex-Trafficking Panic

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 13:42:00 -0500

Three sex-trafficking victims told their stories in a dramatic Tampa City Council meeting yesterday. The purpose of the testimony was to get support for a new city ordinance on bathhouses—a mammoth package of new occupational licensing requirements, record-keeping mandates, limits on hours of operation, and other rules. Problem: None of the victims who testified said they'd been exploited at a bathhouse. Indeed, local lawmakers failed to offer any evidence at all that sex trafficking is an issue at Tampa's bathhouses. In saner times, people might point out that this testimony amounts to an emotional ploy to conflate these establishments with horrific violence. But "sex trafficking" has become such a magic invocation that politicians can use it to pass just about anything, no matter how unrelated to the law's professed purposes. In this case, the city is using the specter of sex trafficking to collect new fees, take more control over local entrepreneurs, and make it much easier to shut down businesses they don't like. And they had ample help from the D.C.-based Polaris Project, which receives massive amounts of federal funding to undertake questionably beneficial trafficking projects. "Polaris has been working with the City of Tampa on this draft ordinance to figure out what needs to be updated," reported 10 News Tampa. "They've also been flying in from Washington for the past eight months to attend each city council meeting on cracking down on these parlors." "Rochelle Kahoon with Polaris...says this updated ordinance will no doubt run these parlors off," 10 News continued. "Members of Polaris also brought the website 'Rub-maps' to the attention of Tampa council members. It's a website where users can share feedback on massage parlors that offer sex." Again, it's unclear how the evidence presented—reviews of erotic massage parlors—relates to bathhouses in Tampa, other than that Polaris is trying to make that link. Tampa has entirely separate regulations regarding massage therapists and parlors. While the new ordinance could target some ambiguous area "spas" by counting them as bathhouses, the regulations would mainly apply to the combination sauna, gym, and social clubs that are a fixture of Tampa's gay scene. Complying with all the new rules would be a huge burden on these small businesses. Even if they manage to stay afloat under the new regime, setting up so many hoops all but ensures that city authorities can find some code violation if they go looking for one—while giving them a new mandate to go looking all they want. Enforcement of the rules would fall to Tampa police, the Department of Planning and Development, and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, with violations punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 60 days. Enforcers could drop by for random inspections up to four times per year. Among other things, bathhouses would be forbidden from staying open past 10 p.m., keeping signs lit after closing, or allowing customers to enter through more than one front-facing entrance. Managers and owners at bathhouses would have to take a "human trafficking and prostitution awareness course" and apply for a new permit every year, subject to police and city approval and a clean criminal record. Any employee who was present in a room where customers were dressing or undressing would be guilty of sexual misconduct. Tampa's original bathhouse regulations were written in the 1980s. The new draft regulations were approved by the Tampa City Coucil on Thursday, and the bill will get its first reading on December 21. It must pass two readings to be approved.[...]

Cops Out HIV-Positive Woman to Neighbors and Media

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 14:05:00 -0500

Every time I think sex policing cannot hit a new low, the news delivers something like this story out of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. After an arrested woman informed the police that she was HIV-positive, the cops decided to broadcast this information—along with her full name and photo—to all the local TV news stations. They also left letters on the subject on about 50 cars parked near her place of employment. The 40-year-old woman was arrested after a November sting on a massage parlor where she worked. The parlor's male owner was booked for procuring prostitution and for possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony, and he has since been released on bail. The woman, who remains in the Tulsa Jail on a $5,000 bond, was booked for prostitution—a charge that was later dismissed—and knowingly spreading an infectious disease. Yet police present no evidence that she engaged in unprotected sex with customers—nor, for that matter, that she had sexual intercourse with them at all. They say they got a search warrant and raided the massage parlor based on a tip from a concerned neighbor, online ads that featured scantily clad women, and info from a confidential informant who had posed as a prospective employee. Police encountered the arrested woman for the first time during this raid, when they found her in a massage room with a naked customer. Notably, the customer did not say he was paying this woman for sexual intercourse, merely what the cops call "a sex act"—generally, police speak for oral sex or hands-on genital stimuation. And detectives have no record of her offering to have sexual intercourse, with or without a condom, with anyone. But let's say, from a public health and abundance-of-caution perspective, that it makes sense for officials to warn city residents and encourage them to get tested. Why couldn't they have simply noted that an employee at the raided massage parlor was HIV-positive? Public health concerns must be balanced with a respect for privacy and due process. And there's simply no way that a local publicity tour with this woman's identity and image is necessary to achieve any public health aims. (Indeed, if the aim is to encourage the institution's customers to get tested for the virus, narrowly focusing on one employee will be counterproductive.) Naturally, the TV stations that broadcast this woman's picture and HIV status do not share such ethical qualms: They put the woman's name and photo in segments that now live forever online. The reporters seemed less interested in questioning the cops' story than in expressing shock that prostitution could possibly exist in their town. "There are two schools on the next block, and just around the corner, there's a family neighborhood that's decorated for Christmas," Charles Ely reported at the local ABC affiliate, assuring us that these "crimes just don't fit Broken Arrow." Meanwhile, simply gave up on any pretense of not being a police propaganda outlet, running supposed details about the story with the end disclaimer that they were "provided by law enforcement with the request News 9 inform the public" and "News 9 can make no independent verification of the accuracy of the information."[...]

Cops Brag That They Bullied a Woman Out of Town After a Neighbor Said She Sells Sex

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 15:40:00 -0500

Why should cops bother with investigations and due process when they can rely on anonymous tips and social shaming? That seems to be the attitude in Larksville, Pennsylvania, where police are bragging to local news that they bullied a woman out of town after a neighbor suggested she might be a sex worker. "People living on Vine Street in Larksville say they knew something was going on at a home in their neighborhood and that is probably wasn't anything good," reports local news outfit WBRE. There were too many cars pulling up to a local apartment building and too many men getting out of them—at least according to one nosy neighbor, who reported this activity to the Larksville police and then spoke to WBRE on condition of anonymity. Traditionally, police receiving such a tip might wait to see if any other neighbors complain, conduct some surveillance of their own, or pay the building a visit to talk with its residents. Not in Larksville, though. Based on that one tip, Chief John Edwards went straight to Facebook to post a warning notice to potential criminals. "'ALLEGED' prostitution" is taking place "in an apartment in or near the 200 block of Vine Street," he wrote on the department's Facebook page. "Our department will use all legal means to bring as much pressure to bear on the person(s) involved," he added, noting that "I and my officers will provide you with a never-ending stream of police activity." He also said the cops would talk to "all the neighbors in the area" and instruct them "use video and photography to document" the comings and goings on the street. Then Larksville police—still without talking to anyone at the allegedly suspicious apartment or conducting due diligence of their own—went to the street in question, put physical copies of the warning on any vehicles in the area, and handed them out to people door-to-door. "We went down there, half of my department went down there, parked four cruisers, banged on doors, and made our presence well-known," Edwards told WBRE. "It immediately stopped. It went from Grand Central Station to a ghost town." Yes: Unsurprisingly, police announcing that they are canvassing an area may make people scared to go there. But it's hard to see how Larksville cops consider this a win, unless they believe their role is not actually stopping crime but simply driving it deeper underground or to other areas. I'm all for police not prosecuting consensual prostitution, but I'm also for them not spending time spooking everyone about prostitution; not outing or mislabeling people as sex workers; and not storming into neighborhoods and barging onto people's property based on vague, uninvestigated tips about too many cars near an apartment building. And if a tip is sufficiently serious to warrant some action, then I'd prefer the police actually look into what's going on rather than just decide it must be about sex and announce that they're watching. If something truly bad was going down on that street, the police have certainly ruined any chances of figuring out what it was or stopping it from happening again. And if it was just someone selling sex, and police really wanted to stop neighbors from complaining about it without resorting to arrests—which would be laudable—then they could have at least tried giving a warning directly to those involved, not announcing to the whole damn street and Facebook that an "ALLEGED Prostitute" was in their midst. Taking this to Keystone Cops level of dumb policing, Chief Edwards said he was satisfied with his department's work because a woman had called him saying she was the one they were after and would now stop selling sex and move out of town. (Apparently, the number one rule of policing in Larksville is to never question the veracity of anything anyone who calls them says.) An investigation would've taken several months, he said. They were able to shut down an operation much more quickly his way.[...]

Young Man Arrested for Consensual Underage Sex, Then Rearrested for Sharing Pizza with 17-Year-Old, Now Headed to Court

Tue, 05 Dec 2017 10:45:00 -0500

Zach Anderson, the young Indiana man originally sentenced to 25 years on the sex offender registry for having consensual sex at age 19 with a girl who told him she was 17 (but turned out to be 14) is not off the hook yet, thanks to a probation officer who seems bent on ruining his life. Anderson will be back in court this Friday in Berrien County, Michigan, for a review hearing, facing a report by Indiana Probation Officer Melanie Godden, who claims that Zach violated his probation by 1) being in the same room as his brother's friend, age 17, while eating pizza at his parent's house, and 2) volunteering on a church committee that a girl, age 17, also joined. If that sounds insane, read on. Zach's story began two years ago, when he met a Michigan girl on the app Hot or Not, and they hooked up. When she wasn't home on time, her worried mother called the cops. After she got home they asked her where she'd been and she confessed. The cops then went to Zach's home across the state border in Elkhart, Indiana, and arrested him for statutory rape. At trial, both the girl and her mom appeared on Zach's behalf. As the mom told the South Bend Tribune at the time, they did much more than just beg the judge for leniency. "We asked him to drop the case." But Judge Denis Wiley threw the book at Zach, in part because he "went online...trolling for sex," which the the judge found to be "totally inappropriate behavior." Zach got 25 years on the Sex Offender Registry and was also forbidden from using the internet. This draconian decision was revisited only after the case landed on the front page of The New York Times. At a new hearing, Anderson was sentenced to two years' probation instead. (Judge Wiley was re-assigned to civil court.) Zach's probation was just coming to an end when he took a lie detector test which asked if he'd had any contact with anyone under age 18. He confessed to the two incidents above: Eating pizza in the same room as his brother's male friend, and volunteering at church where a girl was volunteering, too. Even though he never spoke to either of those 17 year olds, Probation Officer Godden deemed this behavior a violation based on "Condition 20," which is "failure to report incidental contact within 24 hours." That was in October. Just a few weeks ago, Zach's lawyer, Scott Grabel, discovered something significant: Condition 20 is illegal. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the condition was too broad in July 2015. Under the terms of Condition 20, probationers were forbidden to "be alone with or have contact with any person under the age of 18," including "face-to-face, telephonic, written, electronic or any indirect contact via third parties." What's more, should contact somehow happen —if, for instance, a probationer went to McDonald's, ordered fries, and was served by someone age 17 -- that probationer was required to "report any incidental contact with persons under age 18 to your probation officer within 24 hours of the contact." In other words, mundane daily life was transformed into a legal minefield—until the Appeals Court declared Condition 20 unconstitutional. So why was Probation Officer Godden still using Condition 20 against Zach Anderson well after the court had declared it illegal? "Because they don't want to let him go," Zach's father, Lester Anderson, says in a phone call. "To me, it looks like a witch hunt. They turn a blind eye to the fact that [incidentally encountering some people under age 18] is normal behavior." Now that attorney Grabel has informed the probation officer that Condition 20 is off the books, Lester Anderson is cautiously optimistic about Friday's hearing. There are no other charges pending against Zach, who is now age 22. "There would be no greater Christmas present than to have Zach free," he says. I can think of another welcome present. If a probation officer uses an unconstitutional law to threaten or prosecute a citizen, especially one whose original crime was consensual teen sex, it[...]

French President Vows Crackdown on 'Verbal Violence' Against Women

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 15:10:00 -0500

"We are not a puritan society," French President Emmanuel Macron claimed Saturday in a speech marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. He then called for the criminalization of wolf-whistling and gender-based insults, and for requiring France's TV and radio regulators to police video games and web content. That last item is aimed mostly at online pornography, which Macron sees (sans evidence) as a prominent cause of violence against girls and women. Porn is infiltrating French schools, Macron warned, and "we cannot ignore the kind that makes women an object of humiliation." If Macron gets his way, France's Superior Audiovisual Council will be tasked with monitoring online videos for "the protection of the young public," and schools will implement an awareness campaign about "stereotypes, domination, and violence" in porn. On Twitter, French porn star Manuel Ferrara pushed back against Macron's suggestion that exposure to porn is linked to a propensity to assault women. Rather than "demonize" porn, Ferrara suggested, the president should sit down with adult entertainers for a discussion. Ferrara later accused Macron of "faire un amalgame"—jumping to conclusions—about the supposed effects of online pornography. "It's the same with video games," Ferrara told France Inter. "It's like saying a teenager who plays Call of Duty is going to pick up a gun and kill everyone in his school." Macron also said Saturday that "legislative changes will be made not only to better prevent but also to prosecute those who act on the Internet to harass." And he promised penalties for IRL harassment, too, suggesting that that gender-based insults and catcalling should soon "be punishable by law" and that "offenders will face a deterrent fine." For a long time, people reacted with indifference to the "verbal violence" women frequently face on the streets, said Macron. This is unacceptable. Women must feel comfortable in public spaces. Women in the republic must not be afraid to use public spaces. This must be one of the priorities of the police. Not all of the ideas Macron touted were terrible. He also suggested a sensible system allowing sexual assault victims to file an initial complaint online or at a hospital instead of having to go in person to a police station. And he called for the country to set the age of sexual consent at 15. (France currently has no minimum age of consent.) To enact such measures, Macron promised to increase the budget dedicated to female and male equality to more than 420 million Euros next year. On Saturday, Macron tweeted that "the first pillar" in his fight for "equality between women and men" is "the fight against violence against women." However, he added, "I do not want us to fall into a society where every relationship between a man and a woman becomes a suspicion of domination."[...]

Legalize Medically-Assisted Sex

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 10:00:00 -0500

Nine out of 10 doctors agree sex is good for you, or at least better for you than smoking. But what happens if you have a disability that makes it difficult to engage in sex, or find a sexual partner in the first place? Enter sex surrogates, professionals who help the disabled work through their sexual problems (in large part by having sex with them). Although there's a case to be made for the medical, if not psychological, benefits sex surrogates provide, they're operating in a legal gray area.

In the latest Mostly Weekly, host Andrew Heaton makes the case that we should all be adults about sex and not deprive the disabled of services from which they'd benefit.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton, with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind.

Script by Sarah Rose Siskind with writing assistance from Andrew Heaton and Brian Sack.

Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

Subscribe at YouTube.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. Still Lives, But Homeland Security Raid Has Sex Workers Worried

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 10:18:00 -0500

The adult-services site Eros is still live for now, but federal agents seized servers, documents, and computers containing sensitive info on thousands of Americans in last Wednesday's raid of its North Carolina headquarters. And the feds won't say why. "That is going to expose a whole bunch of innocent people," Maxine Doogan, president of the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project told Raleigh-Durham's ABC 11. "There's a big question about how the government will honor people's privacy. People have the right to their privacy and they should not be convicted or set up for moral judgment for adult activity." is billed as an "escort and adult entertainment directory." It's affiliated with a company called Bolma Star Services, run by Greg Huling, which operates out of Youngsville, North Carolina. But its reach is much, much broader: more than 100 area-specific sites worldwide. Agents of Homeland Security Investigations spent hours at the place on November 8, loading lots of boxes into their trucks, according to local news reports. The U.S. Attorney's Office said the raid was part of an "active investigation," but no charges have been filed nor arrests made. Whatever is happening, the case remains sealed for now. And the fate of the popular ad-platform remains unclear. When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI took down adult ad platforms such as, The Review Board, and MyRedbook, their web presence was simultaneously shuttered. So it's possible the Eros raid is related to a specific criminal case involving one or more users, not an attempt on the site itself. If so, however, the volume of stuff taken from the Eros operations center is troubling. Surely the government could have merely demanded account information for those under investigation. The size of this seizure suggests more than an interest in a few Eros users. That, or a stunning overreach. A third possibility is that the owners and companies behind Eros (and there is a confusing web of them) are under investigation for financial reasons. In any event, the DHS now may have access to millions of people's "images, financial information, sexual preferences, gender identity and more," the Sex Workers Outreach Project notes in a statement. "[W]hat does Department of Homeland Security want with all of this information?" "With sites like and being added to the government shut down list we [lose] the opportunity to safely and properly lay out service boundaries, expectations, and guidelines for our interactions," the group continued. "Another site down directly puts more people in danger. Department of Homeland Security is creating an environment where perpetrators of violence can run a muck and go on to their next victim undetected." Eros is one the few adult ad sites that takes extra measures (like checking real IDs) to ensure underage people aren't advertising or being advertised there—steps that now makes Eros users more vulnerable to government meddling and menace. "Over the past few years, Eros has required progressively more revealing ID checks in order to confirm advertises are of age," writes Caty Simon at the sex work blog Tits and Sass. "Now those IDs, including those of migrant and undocumented sex workers, are in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security." "No arrests have been made yet, or charges filed," notes Simon.* "But collectively, we sex workers shudder with that familiar fear: we're witnessing yet another instance of an ominous multi-year pattern, from Craigslist to MyRedBook to Rentboy to Backpage, of our advertising platforms being raided or pressured out of existence." More panic-inspiring in the immediate term for many sex workers, though, is the loss of another advertising venue that made their lives safer and their work more profitable. "As many Eros workers pointed out on social media, they're [...]

Potheads Have Hotter Sex Lives

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 14:59:00 -0400

(image) For the Friday afternoon files: new research has discovered that regular marijuana users have sex more regularly than their non-toking counterparts.

The study, from Stanford University's School of Medicine, found that (heterosexual) folks who smoked marijuana daily had roughly 20 percent more sex than non-marijuana users. "The overall trend we saw applied to people of both sexes and all races, ages, education levels, income groups and religions, every health status, whether they were married or single and whether they had kids," said senior study author Michael Eisenberg, an assistant professor of urology at Stanford.

The data Eisenberg and his team used comes from a large Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of Americans age 15-49. Answers from around 28,000 women and 23,000 men were considered for their study, which was published online today in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Women who smoked pot daily had sex with a male partner 7.1 times per month, compared to 6 times per month for women who didn't smoke pot, according to the new study. Male pot users reported an average 6.9 sexual encounters with women per month, compared to 5.6 times per month for men who don't smoke pot.

While the findings don't necessarily show that marijuana use causes an increase in sex drive, they counter a longstanding idea that smoking pot will depress sexual desire or ability.

"Frequent marijuana use doesn't seem to impair sexual motivation or performance," said Eisenberg. "If anything, it's associated with increased coital frequency."

Researchers found the frequency of sex rose steadily with the frequency of marijuana use. This trend held even when researchers accounted for other drug use by participants.

Harvey Weinstein's Downfall Marks the Rise of Sexual Equality

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 14:23:00 -0400

As disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein half-asses his way through sex-addiction rehab, more and more women, ranging from Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o to former teen star Molly Ringwald, keep coming forward with stories about his abusive and sometimes criminal behavior. Even his brother and longtime business partner Bob Weinstein has disowned him, calling him "indefensible," "crazy," and "remorseless." But the Weinstein story is not just about the end of a career. It's about the end of an era. The Miramax co-founder is only the latest in a long line of powerful older men whose professional lives ended with revelations of long-term harassment and worse. Fox News cashiered its founder Roger Ailes and star host Bill O'Reilly because of similar charges and Bill Cosby's 2014 comeback was destroyed after claims surfaced that he drugged and raped over a dozen women. The head of Amazon Studios was forced to resign last week after he was accused of "repeatedly and insistently" propositioning the producer of the streaming service's acclaimed series, The Man in the High Castle. Weinstein was widely (and rightly) derided for blaming his decades-long behavior on having "come of age in the 60's and 70's, when all the rules about behavior and work places were different." Among other things, such a defense ignores the inconvenient fact that the Seventies ended nearly four decades ago. But he is right that workplace expectations have changed--and that's largely because the workplace itself has changed. About 60 percent of women are in the workforce--compared to just 43 percent in 1970--and they are more likely to hold managerial or leadership roles than ever before. In fact, more than half of management, professional, and related positions are held by women. The pay gap has also essentially vanished. A study of 33 countries, including the United States, found that when comparing workers doing the same job, men made just 1.6 percent more than women. With higher pay, positions, and status comes more workplace power--power that is amplified by social media and other technologies that empower dissent and make it harder and harder to maintain a sexist status quo. There's a real issue that in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, behavior that is merely boorish or one-time-only will be conflated with systemic sexism and far-more-reprehensible crimes. That's something we will sort through as a society. But surely it's more than coincidence that the Weinstein scandal broke just after Hugh Hefner, the absolute personification of old-school, pre-equality male sexual identity was being lowered into the ground. The old days--and the old ways--are being laid to rest. And that's a very good thing, for all of us regardless of gender. Produced and edited by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie. Subscribe to our YouTube channel Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes[...]

Federal Court Ponders Constitutionality of Prostitution Ban

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:22:00 -0400

A federal court heard arguments yesterday challenging California's criminalization of prostitution, in a case that could have implications for sex work laws across the nation. Brought by the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project (ESPLERP), the constitutional challenge claims that California's prostitution laws violate residents' right to privacy, free speech, and free association. "Our hope is to see this bad law struck down," said ESPLERP President Maxine Doogan, "so that consenting adults who choose to be involved in prostitution are simply treated as private citizens again, and are afforded all the privacy and constitutional rights thereof." During oral arguments before Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges Thursday, ESPLERP attorney Louis Sirkin stressed that the case "is not about sex trafficking, it's not about the abuse of women, and it's not about the abuse of minors. It is about consenting adults that voluntary want to work in the sex for hire industry." Dozens of civil rights, public health, and LGBTQ groups have filed briefs in support of ESPLERP's challenge, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern and Northern California, the California Women's Law Center, the anti–sex trafficking group Children of the Night, the First Amendment Lawyers Association, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, and Lambda Legal. "Lambda Legal's landmark Supreme Court victory in Lawrence v. Texas, the case that struck down laws that criminalized sex between same-sex partners, underscored that our right to liberty protects our decisions about adult, consensual sexual intimacy," says Kara Ingelhart, a Lambda Legal law fellow. "It is merely logical that Lawrence extend to the adult, consensual sexual intimacy that occurs between sex workers and their clients; the fact that money is exchanged shouldn't matter." The Ninth Circuit judges seemed at least somewhat sympathetic to that view. "Why should it be illegal to sell something that you can give away for free?" Judge Consuelo Callahan asked the state's attorney, Sharon O'Grady. She replied that it should be illegal because the legislature declared it so. Judge Carlos Bea suggested that the state's arguments for why it could ban prostitution also would allow California to ban one-night stands. But overall, it might be "a tough panel for petitioners," notes lawyer Amanda Goad, who livetweeted the oral arguments yesterday. Callahan and the other two judges are conservative appointees of George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Judge Callahan overtly skeptical from the very beginning of Sirkin's argument -- not a surprise. — Amanda C. Goad (@AGoadEsq) October 19, 2017 J.Callahan making generalizations about sex workers as drug addicts. I didn't think we would get there so fast! #sigh #SexWorkIsWork — Amanda C. Goad (@AGoadEsq) October 19, 2017 Much of the court's focus Thursday was on whether a ban on prostitution implicates adults' sexual liberty and privacy or their right to form intimate relationships as they see fit. The U.S. District Court that heard ESPLERP's challenge last year contended that only "intimate personal relationships," not purely sexual ones, were protected from state interference per the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in Lawrence. Sirkin pointed out Thursday that, in fact, the men who had been arrested in Lawrence were not in an ongoing relationship. He said that the fundamental right implicated here, as in Lawrence, concerns sexual privacy. O'Grady concedes "you might have an as-applied challenge" if sex work happening "in the privacy of your own home." This is great! — Amanda C. Goad (@AGoadEsq) October 19, 2017 Judge Callahan agreed that a ruling for the right to engage in prostitution seemed like "a natural [...]

Feds 'Rescue' Women from Freedom and Money in 11th 'Operation Cross Country'

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 11:25:00 -0400

The FBI just wrapped up its 11th annual "Operation Cross Country," a massive multi-day vice sting conducted under the guise of stopping sexual predators. Efforts started in early October, spanning counties across America and even some operations in Thailand. On Wednesday, federal officials announced the end of this round of stings on "pimps, prostitutes, and their customers," insisting that their "primary goal is to recover children." The media will largely lap up this sensationalist pageantry, as it has in previous years. And once again, everyone will ignore the real victims of Operation Cross Country: the vulnerable women and girls tricked, frightened, robbed, detained, arrested, incarcerated, and otherwise mistreated by police and federal agents as part of this sick charade that claims to help them. The earliest local news report about this year's operation came from Harrison County, West Virginia, where FBI agents helped the Greater Harrison Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force arrest five women on misdemeanor prostitution charges. Other stories have began trickling out ahead of the FBI's official announcement Wednesday. In Anchorage, a sex worker named "Alanna" said she was detained by a squad of FBI agents after meeting an undercover agent in a hotel room, denied medical care when she began having asthma and anxiety attacks, and had her phone seized. An agent "went in my bra" to pull out her cellphone, Alanna told Alaska sex-worker activists in an interview. (Listen to the whole thing below.) "I'm so confused why my phone was taken when I wasn't even arrested." There were pictures of her family and "sentimental stuff" on the phone that cannot be replaced, she said. Alanna also alleges that the agents told her they had called for medical attention but didn't actually do it until she also called 911 herself. Overall, the experience was "scary" and left her feeling "violated"; she did not get the impression that law enforcement saw her as a potential victim or even cared about her well-being. src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> "This operation isn't just about taking traffickers off the street," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement today. "It's about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse." In Cheektowaga, New York, local police teamed up with the FBI to arrest five women ages 18 to 30 for prostitution. In Kansas, the Salina Police Department, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI worked together to take down two women, ages 22 and 26, for advertising sexual services online. This is pretty typical of how Operation Cross Country works. During last year's efforts, nearly 1,000 people, almost exclusively women, were arrested for prostitution with the help of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies. Meanwhile less than a dozen people were booked on federal charges—a batch of prosecutions that included zero cases of sex trafficking a minor by force. But several people on were on the hook for violating the Mann Act, a Progressive Era law criminalizing the transportation of someone across state lines for prostitution or any "immoral purpose." It's too early to tell how many people were arrested this year, but early news reports suggest that once again, plenty of adult women were arrested, jailed, and face criminal charges—felonies in some places—simply for trying to make a living. The only victims in these cases are the sex workers themselves, who have any money they have on then taken by the cops; who may spend days in jail (and away from families or day jobs) before even going to court, and more time after; who have their names a[...]

Vanessa Grigoriadis on the 'Blurred Lines' of Consensual Sex and Assault on Campus

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 17:00:00 -0400

"Young women are really putting their foot down and saying, 'These are our bodies,'" says Vanessa Grigoriadis, author of the new book, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus. "'We don't care what you, 55-year-old college president, think is consent.'" From the conviction of Vanderbilt University football players for raping an unconscious student to the he-said-she-said story behind Columbia University's "mattress girl" to the discredited Rolling Stone account of a gang rape at the University of Virginia, few topics generate more emotion and outrage than sexual assault on college campuses. Grigoriadis's book is a deeply researched and nuanced take on campus relationships and the often-fuzzy boundary separating consensual sex from assault. Over the past three years, she interviewed over 100 students and 80 administrators on 20 different campuses, and her findings further complicate an already complicated story. Millennial college students are actually having less sex than their baby boomer and Gen X counterparts did, writes Grigoriadis, but today's encounters take place in a hyper-sexualized and "pornified" social media context that has rewritten the rules of consent and privacy. The result is confusion and recriminations from all sides when it comes to sex and assault on campuses. Are assault rates and rape culture out of control, or have we entered what left-wing Northwestern Professor Laura Kipnis has called a new era of "sexual McCarthyism?" In a wide-ranging interview, Reason's Nick Gillespie and Grigoriadis, a National Magazine Award-winning journalist who writes for Vanity Fair and The New York Times Magazine, grapple with this question, the proper role of campus tribunals in administering justice, what constitutes due process for alleged offenders as well as victims, and whether a "yes means yes" affirmative-consent standard should be the norm. Edited by Justin Monticello. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Andrew Heaton. Music by Silent Partner. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Gillespie: Your book is not only richly reported, it's filled with interviews with dozens, if not hundreds of students, administrators, researchers ... It's a deeply nuanced look as a subject that typically evokes really sharply polarized positions. But you write, 'It's tempting to chant "believe woman" and simply leave it at that, but there's a mushy middle here or a blurry middle.' Describe what you mean by that mushy middle or blurry middle. Grigoriadis: I went to 20 campuses. I talked to students themselves, tried to interact as a peer, not as an adult coming, asking weird intrusive questions, right? I'm kind of a gonzo journalist out of the Rolling Stone mold. I put on a backpack, I look relatively young, not like a gen X mother of two, which is what I actually am. And went to campus food courts, went to frat parties ... I took my babysitter's ID, she's 24-years-old. So I would take that with me to campuses so I could show that to bouncers at college bars, and at frat parties to get in, so that the person wouldn't think that I was using the worst fake ID in the world of my actual age in the 1970s. So, I spoke with these students and what I learned is, yes, of course, there is rape on campus. And I'm talking about physically violent rape, where a woman's will is overridden, and also, rape of women and men who are passed out from drinking, right? Almost like a necrophilia kind of thing. It's really repulsive. But much more often, what I was finding is people, kids, talking to me about cases that were blurry. And they weren't blurry in terms of the way we might have once though[...]

D.C. Could Become Only U.S. City to Decriminalize Prostitution

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 14:17:00 -0400

Will Washington, D.C. buck national trends and actually take a stand for sex-worker rights and safety? It will if politician David Grosso gets his way. The at-large councilmember has just introduced a bill to decriminalize prostitution in the District. "I do not think the criminalization of sex workers has worked for the District of Columbia," Grosso told DCist. "Arresting our way out of the problem is not the solution. The approach should be a harm reduction and human rights approach." The "Reducing Criminalization to Promote Public Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2017" would amend D.C.'s criminal code to make both the selling and the buying of sex legal. It's co-sponsored by At-large Councilmember Robert White. Unlike moves by Canada and many Western European countries, the D.C. plan would not attempt to regulate sex work by setting up red-light districts, providing for brothel permits, or similar schemes. In countries where prostitution is highly regulated (including parts of Nevada), those engaging in sex work outside these parameters are still sought out and punished by police, thereby recreating all the worst harms of criminalization. This is especially true in countries that have adopted the "Nordic model" of sex-work regulation, wherein people who pay for sex are still criminalized but those offering sexual services are not. Grosso's bill would do several specific things: Repeal the 1935 bill requiring "for the suppression of prostitution in the District of Columbia," thereby removing criminal penalties for engaging in or soliciting prostitution. Abolish the city's Anti-Prostitution Vehicle Impoundment Proceeds program and fund Repeal prohibitions on procuring someone for prostitution, operating a house of prostitution, or operating a "place used for the purpose of lewdness, assignation, or prostitution" It would also repeal D.C.'s prohibition on "pandering" (i.e., placing, causing, inducing, enticing, procuring, or compelling someone somewhere "with the intent that such individual shall engage in prostitution"), because any elements of "pandering" involving force or juveniles are covered by the city's law against compelling prostitution, and would amend the compelling prostitution statute to include bans on detaining or compelling someone "to marry the abductor or to marry any other person." The legislation would create a temporary task force "to study and make recommendations regarding the removal of criminal penalties and providing supports for individuals engaging in commercial sex" and issue a report on what it finds. The task force would include members of D.C. government, public health professionals, sex workers ("and people profiled as sex workers"), and nonprofits that provide services to people in the commercial sex industry. Grosso pointed out in DCist that his approach is supported by health and human-rights groups like Amnesty International and the World Health Organization, and said he hopes his colleagues keep an open mind. "It's about treating people with dignity, respect, and love, over whatever they were taught in church or whatever hangups they have about sex."[...]

California May Add Gender Category 'X' to State IDs. Good—Your Gender Isn't the Government's Business.

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 10:37:00 -0400

California is poised to become the second American state to allow for a gender category "X" on state-issued documents such as driver's licenses. (Oregon became the first this past June.) The California change—which would go further than Oregon's by allowing "X" instead of "M" or "F" on birth certificates and other forms of official ID, not just licenses—was approved by the state legislature and now awaits the governor's approval. The new non-binary category is being heralded—and slammed—as part of the growing U.S. movement for transgender rights and the recognition that many people don't fit comfortably into the gender roles and traits typically assigned to their sex. The latter has given rise to the growth of gender-neutral pronouns (they, ze) and self-descriptions (genderfluid, genderqueer, non-binary) among Americans, especially younger ones. Libertarians—even those just fine with the gender binary and their place in it—should celebrate the change. It allows people more choice about how to define themselves in a way that is noncoercive and decreases government control. Should D.C. ever give residents the option to essentially delist their sex/gender from their driver's license, I would do it. (At least, you know, the next time my license is up for renewal or if there was some sort of online option; I'm not crazy enough to subject myself to the Department of Motor Vehicles any more than necessary.) And I would hope anarchist, libertarian, and limited-government-supporting types of any sex or gender might do the same. There is no good reason the state, its representatives, and the countless people tasked with checking IDs for one reason or another need to know every individual's gender or sex. In Beyond Trans (which I reviewed in Reason's August/September issue), Heath Fogg Davis details the many objections people raise to this, then obliterates each one. For each purpose in which a need for sex/gender identification is assumed, Davis reveals a surveillance-state mindset, a status-quo prejudice, or social conservatism at the root—not a legitimate government purpose. The bottom line for driver's licenses and the kinds of IDs we deal with on a daily basis is the old adage: A picture is worth 1,000 words. Whether someone identifies as male, female, or X doesn't matter so long as the photo on their ID looks like they do in person. Bouncers don't look to see if you're male or female; they check your age and photo. Airport agents check your photo and name. And so on. Adding an X designation to state-issued IDs doesn't threaten to destroy gender as we know it, but it does say that it's none of the state's business—a rare decollectivizing move from politicians. Davis doesn't think that this goes far enough: it "neither dismantles nor significantly challenges the bureaucratic use of the traditional sex binary," argues Beyond Trans. "These policies create exceptional categories." Rather than give people the option to choose "X" or some other non-binary designation, Davis encourages the removal of sex- or gender-identification markers from government-issued IDs and documents more broadly—a step fitting of the fact that "a person's sex classification is irrelevant to most public transactions." There's a lot of interesting material for libertarians in Davis' arguments, or "for anyone interested in privacy, individualism, and striking a blow against needless bureaucracy," as I wrote in my review: Davis situates the struggle for transgender dignity and rights squarely within a larger framework of personal freedom and privacy concerns, and shows how removing institutional barriers to living beyond the gender binary can help everyone live fuller, freer lives. Californi[...]

What Hugh Hefner's Daughter Told Reason About Feminism and Pornography

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 10:20:00 -0400

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner passed away yesterday at age 91. Reason interviewed Hefner's daughter, Christie Hefner, back in 1986, a time when the magazine was facing intense criticism from elements of both the left and the right. (At the time, the younger Hefner was Playboy's chief operating officer.) Here's an excerpt:

(image) Reason: What do you think of feminist efforts to ban or restrict the display and dissemination of pornography?

Hefner: Well, I think it's an enormous error of judgment, both in misunderstanding what impact pornography has on society and in misunderstanding what laws like that would be used to do. On the latter, the reason why a lot of feminists have now become so outspoken against that effort is because censorious laws are interpreted by the people with power in society, not the people without power. It was only the '70s when Bill Baird was arrested for talking about contraception in front of an audience that included a woman with a baby—and he was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. So if you think that laws that have to do with sexuality are going to be interpreted by feminists, that's very naive. If you think that the first things that are gone after are not things related to abortion and lesbianism, that's a very naive understanding of the process. So that's one perspective that I have that I think a lot of feminists share.

On the impact of pornography on society, the rhetoric has so overwhelmed the reality that there is no reasonableness applied to the subject at all anymore. If, for example, the president of the United States really wanted to have a useful commission on pornography, one would have thought that what the commission would be doing is updating the research that the 1970 Commission on Pornography and Obscenity did. That would mean original research, reviewing research that has been done in the interim, looking at what's happened in Denmark and other countries that have liberalized pornography laws, and coming out with a thoughtful report. Instead, the commission has no budget for research and has been traipsing around the country listening to individuals give their life stories, which is anecdotal evidence that has no validity. It would be like deciding whether or not to go back to Prohibition by having people come forward, and some people would tell terrible stories about being beaten up by a husband who was drunk or having their child killed by a drunk driver. I don't want to take away from the seriousness of those problems, but they don't have anything to do with the cause and effect of pornographic images in society.

Other questions from the Q&A include "Would Playboy survive in the marketplace without pictures?" and "Is Playboy a victim of hardercore pornography?" To read the whole thing, go here.