Legalize It: The Surprising Upside of the Colombia Secret Service Sex Scandal

04/23/2012 12:25 PM |

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When the news of the recent Secret Service sex scandal broke—if you haven’t been following the story, some Secret Service officers refused to pay the Colombian sex workers they hired the agreed-upon fee—a lot of the sex people and sex worker publications I read were saying “See? This is why we have to legalize sex work here.” In America, if someone promised you $800 for a night of work and tried to give you $30, going to the cops would not be an option.

I didn’t exactly expect to see such a smart, reasonable response in the mainstream press, though. The discourse around sex and sex work in the US can get pretty ugly, pretty fast. Remember Melissa Petro, the teacher fired for being open about her sex worker past? Anyway, so I was pleased and surprised to come across this ABC piece today. It has some great quotes from smart people, including Sienna Baskin from the Sex Workers Project:

“We’ve found in New York that when sex workers are criminalized, they are afraid to go to police when they are victims of crime, including theft, rape and human trafficking,” said Sienna Baskin, co-director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York, which advocates for sex workers and survivors of human trafficking.

“They are also subject to bad policing practices and police brutality,” added Baskin, who recently returned from a day of lobbying in New York’s state capital, Albany, to pass Bill A1008/S323, which would prohibit police and prosecutors from citing possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution.

I kept waiting for the “but as we all know, selling sex is immoral” counterpoint part of the article, but it was pretty respectful throughout:

But while they acknowledge the potential dangers to national security, sex workers in the United States think the “breach” argument is another form of discrimination against prostitutes. “If the issue is attracting attention or bragging about being in the security detail, then it would be a problem if they brought in any outsider,” said McNeill. “If that’s the case, then what difference does it make if she’s a prostitute or an accountant?”

Almodovar looks at it this way. “On a scale of 1 to 10, if murder is the worst thing you can do to your fellow human, giving them an orgasm has to be one of the best things, unless one believes that giving or receiving sexual pleasure is a bad thing… which I do not,” she said. “Why are so many people terrified of sex and sexual pleasure? I do not understand that at all.”

This, from ABC News! Is it possible we’re finally mature enough to discuss legalizing sex work without everyone losing their shit? Man, I hope so. If the people screaming about Backpage.com spent even just a tiny bit of their energy on making sex work safe and legal, it would do more to stop trafficking AND stop the abuse of adults who choose sex work as their profession than closing down all of the websites.