BY Matthew Lawrence
Donna Hughes, the URI professor who has made it her personal mission to ban prostitution in the Ocean State, has used a lot of tactics over the years. She has testified before the state house, she has written melodramatic newspaper editorials, she has put a lot of words in quotes for no reason, and she has created her own anti-trafficking coalition because she disagreed with the one that was already there. But now, in response to the letter to state legislators signed by fifty academics explaining why indoor sex work should not be criminalized, she has taken to personal attacks.
Just days after the release of a Canadian study indicating that criminalization actually increases the chance of harm to female street-based sex workers, Hughes wrote a missive implying that the signers of the other letter are all sexual deviants with an agenda to take over the world. (No, really.)
The signers of the letter, particularly Sex In The Public Square’s Elizabeth Anne Wood, are mercilessly subjected to Hughes’ McCarthy-ish scare tactics. “We found shocking information about what they stand for and the goals of their international campaign,” says Hughes about the fifty signers of the letter, and apparently she plans to eventually tell us all about them. [full disclosure: I also get an indirect mention. Hi!]
Wood–who is not, as Hughes states, affiliated with $pread Magazine except as a subscriber–is described as “crossing the line into sex offender territory.” (There isn’t even a “possibly” in front of that statement.) Questions addressed by commenters on Wood’s site–about parenting, no less–are linked to Wood as though she herself said them. An entire paragraph is devoted to the fact that she went skinny-dipping once. Another is devoted to the fact that Wood likes bondage, as though her personal sex life as a New York teacher was in any way relevant to the laws of Rhode Island. There’s another paragraph about how “[her opponents'] international campaign is being orchestrated using Internet technologies, such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.” Internet technologies! The nerve!
Hughes wonders why signers of the letter come from places as far away at the Netherlands and New Zealand, neglecting to point out the important fact that prostitution is legal in both of those countries. (Also, you’re not allowed to voice opinions about laws happening in other parts of the world? What an odd idea for a woman who teaches a class called International Women’s Issues.)
She implies that more tawdry letters are forthcoming. And she still insists on putting the words sex work in quotes. More on this as it develops.
[Hughes' photo via ratemyprofessors.com, where, incidentally, the most recent student comment mentions that "she is incredibly prejudiced against Islamic people and culture, has a terrible teaching style and is publicly rude to her students." Just saying.]