In the last 24 hours, there’s been a lot of discussion about Eliot Spitzer, trying to divine his motivations for visiting high-priced call girls and to look into whatever future he has politically. The feminist blogs are filled with speculation about what the hell his wife was doing standing behind him at the press conference and a lot of very predictable moral outrage over Spitzer’s “complicity” in the oppression of women by hiring a prostitute. In all the madness, there’s little talk of the woman who Spitzer hired. Below is a press release from four sex workers’ rights organizations asking the question that seems to get skipped over in all the chaos.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Shakti Ziller, Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK), firstname.lastname@example.org 877-877-2004 x 2
Audacia Ray, 718.554.1714
Sarah Bleviss, Sex Workers Outreach Project NYC (SWOP-NYC), email@example.com
Prostitutes of New York (PONY), firstname.lastname@example.org
Desiree Alliance, http://www.desireealliance.org/
WHAT ABOUT KRISTEN?
New York Sex Worker Organizations Respond to Spitzer Scandal
New York, NY – In the last few days, Governor Eliot Spitzer has publicly admitted to being associated with an escort agency and is considering resignation. As sex worker advocates, we are concerned about the representation and fate of “Kristen” and sex workers who are being thrust into the spotlight because of the investigation into the Governor. We also share the widespread concern for Governor Spitzer’s family.
Sex worker organizations urge the press and the public to focus on the violation of sex workers rights and the need to change these laws and policies, rather than simply on the story of one individual who has purchased sexual services.
“Nobody is talking about the impact of this story on ‘Kristen’ and other women, men and trans people who are currently working in the sex industry,” Shakti Ziller of SWANK in NYC added, “Prostitutes disproportionately face punitive action after arrest as compared to clients. Whether or not she will face prison time, “Kristen” has been dragged into the spotlight and will be subjected to public humiliation. Shouldn’t the police emphasis be on catching perpetrators of violent crime and protecting sex workers – not exposing adults who are consenting to a transaction? All she did was try to make a living.”
“Governor Spitzer ran on a platform of being a different kind of politician and then portrayed an inaccurate image of himself. Being involved with the services of sex workers is a very common thing, if all forms of consensual sex work were decriminalized for adults involved in a consensual transaction, sex workers could access the services they need,” says Dylan Wolfe of SWANK (Sex Workers Action New York).
Governor Spitzer took a lead role in developing the NY State Anti-Trafficking Law. Over the objections of advocates who worked directly with victims of human trafficking and with sex workers, Governor Spitzer pushed through penalty enhancements against clients of all sex workers. Sex worker advocates fought against such provisions because these policies drive people who need help further underground.
“Spitzer has stood up for workers’ rights in certain capacities, but has not followed through with meeting the real needs of sex workers,” Audacia Ray, author of Naked on the Internet, noted, “It would be great if the government could use money towards services, not punitive measures.”
The press has picked up on the relationship that inter-state trafficking laws (under the Mann Act) have to this case. This connection illustrates a point that sex worker advocates have been making for a long time: Laws against inter-state transportation for the purposes of commercial sex are too often used for punishing people working as sex workers and those who work with and patronize them.
The exposure of Randall Tobias last year as a customer of an escort agency, Senator Vitter’s rumored association with sex workers and now this recent news of Governor Spitzer, are continual reminders that the corruption and hypocrisy inherently associated with prohibiting consensual prostitution will always be brought to light. Shaming these men will do nothing to improve the nature of the sex industry and the deeply-rooted corruption that is associated with the prohibition of prostitution.
“The criminalization of prostitution breeds this type of hypocrisy and makes our politicians (and other public figures) vulnerable,” says Carol Leigh of Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA. “This vulnerability exists until our society recognizes that consensual sexual behavior is private and these private acts should no longer be criminalized.”
“Many of our clients are politicians, judges, lawyers and even police,” Monica S., 26 of Brooklyn said. “It’s odd that they spend so much effort putting us into jail, but then turn around and give us their money in exchange for sex. Why do they think they won’t get caught breaking the laws that they make?”
The commentary on Dealbreaker.com, a Wall-Street news site, says about Wall-street’s anti-Spitzer reaction to the ‘Client 9’ story: “‘There is a God’ was the first thought on Wall Street. The next thought is, ‘Please don’t let it be revealed that I’m Lucky Number 7.'”