The slut police

20120307-201058.jpgIs carrying condoms a crime? In New York it might just stop being evidence of one, if a new bill passes the state assembly.

Just as Rush Limbaugh’s outrageous slut-shaming was hitting the airwaves, a bill that may help a lot of sex workers — as well as any woman who carries condoms in her purse — is making its way through the New York State Assembly. Sponsored by two Democrats, the bill aims to stop law enforcement from confiscating condoms and using them as evidence of prostitution. Indeed, using condoms as evidence has been a common tactic in the War on Sex Work (see: Washington, DC’s law against having more than three condoms). While the bill has been proposed each session since 1999, proponents (who include Planned Parenthood, the New York Civil Liberties Union and others) think the time is right this year.

As Yvette Gonzalez, a former sex worker who now counsels prostitutes through the non-profit Positive Health Project, told the New York Times:

“The police need to understand: Don’t take their condoms. You’re taking someone’s health from them.”

Of course, the practice of confiscating condoms is typically less about finding justice and more about shaming sex workers, who are predominantly women. After all, sex workers are arrested at a much higher rate than their clients. And penalties and sentencing are often more severe for sex workers, too. When you factor in a much higher rate of rape and other forms of violence, sex workers are not just being punished more, they are getting less protection under the law, too. There’s no way around it, all of this is representative of a system designed to punish women.

And you want to take away their protection against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS?! Hello misogyny!

In Nevada, where prostitution is legal in brothels in counties with a population below a certain threshold (translation: rural counties), the business of sex work is quite regulated. Sex workers are required to get licensed and certified as disease-free before they can work in the brothels, where the money is certainly better than the illegal rates I was told of back in 2006 (by a factor of 10, at least). And, depending on brothel ownership, the sites can be quite a bit more clean and physically safe than life on the streets.

And I’d like to think that even here in Las Vegas, where prostitution is not legal, no one would take away your condoms. In fact, the Clark County Health District does community outreach to sex workers in Las Vegas and distributes tens of thousands of condoms a year. And there are many community organizations that do the same.

Whether or not you are for or against sex work on a moral level, this is the reality: Sex work happens and it needs to be as safe as possible. This includes access to condoms!

In fact, you could say it was on the moral high ground that New Zealand decriminalized prostitution back in 2003, becoming the first country to do so. When I met with Parliament Member Tim Barnette, who wrote and spearheaded the campaign for the Prostitution Reform Act, he said it was to protect the safety of sex workers and in particular LGBTQ sex workers, who were disproportionately targeted by police. But it was also because he felt a moral imperative to do something about the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Here’s hoping that the New York State Assembly passes this law and sets a valuable precedent. Sex workers are people and they deserve to be protected and protect themselves. But more than that, if all this slut-shaming from Rush has taught us anything, it’s that all women deserve to have access to and use contraceptives. And there’s nothing criminal about carrying them with you!

Cross-posted on Fem2.0.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “The slut police

  1. Rush Limbaugh is such a moron. I try not to get up-in-arms about him because he is so chauvinistic and defends his opinions with no intellect, but this is too far. And his open support of the LRA is at LAST under question because of this (albeit complicated) Kony 2012 campaign. Thank you for this.

    Also, do you have other posts on decriminalizing prostitution? I want to be more educated on this!

  2. Pingback: New York City’s Slut Police | Fem2pt0

  3. Pingback: Suspicious minds | The Sin City Siren

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s