Happy International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers!

Okay, so it’s a horrible name, and I’m sure you’re as sick to death as I am of every day being the International Day to Start/End/Remember/Celebrate/Unite Against _____________, but I think this one’s kind of important, especially since we live in a state where certain kinds of potentially dangerous sex work are legal.

There’s vigils and celebrations around the world (including sex worker Christmas Caroling in London, which sounds awesome) but nothing in New England, as far as I can tell, though the blog Bound Not Gagged is hosting an online vigil today.

I could barrage you with thousands of articles about violence, but I thought I’d go the more optimistic route and share my favorite sex workers story of the year, courtesy of the $pread Blog:

Mara Carfagna, Italy’s Equal Opportunity Minister (?!) and a former showgirl and topless model, thinks that prostitution is gross and that she doesn’t understand how any woman could sell her body for money.  This past September she started pushing to criminialize prostitutes, pimps, and their clients. (Which, while I don’t agree with that at all, at least makes more sense than just criminalizing the prostitutes and not the dudes that pay for them.  But anyway…)

In Rome, the mayor decreed that women should stop wearing unseemly clothing, because it “distracted male motorists and caused car accidents.”  So what did the women do?

They dressed as nuns.

Even the way in which sex workers stand is under scrutiny – the decree bans the women from “adopting poses or behaviour or wearing clothing that unequivocally manifest the intention to solicit or practise the activity of prostitution”.

Sex worker welfare groups have called the decree absurd and have pledged to challenge it in any way they can.

“We’ll dress as nuns so that the police will arrest scantily dressed girls outside discos or other women with their cleavage on show,” said Pia Covre, of the Committee for the Rights of Prostitutes.

And in Florence, where women were banned from walking up and down the street, the prostitutes started riding bicycles.

6 thoughts on “Happy International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers!”

  1. dear Matt,
    to clarify the story regarding the letter…..it wasn’t my landlord that owned the building that the spa was in…I only cc’d the letter to them.

    And You right, the realty company that owned the building new darn straight what they were doing when they rented/leased out the space to a “spa”. In my opinion It was an attempt to mark their turf and I will say a successful one (it still is there).

    the reason I became so passionate about this ….was that the “spa” our new addition to the “neighborhood” was a blow (don’t mind the term) to what alot of residents and business owners at that time (remember this is 2003-2004) were working towards. We were working toward getting people to come visit us dam it!

    Many bask in the glory but forget what was created……as I said before “life experience necessary.”

    Back to the Spa’s landlord……
    For example…Maybe the spa building owner could of helped out the hood to attract more people by renting their space to a:
    • Less up-scale bars – something like Liquid Lounge or Wickendon Pub
    • Pizza and beer joint, like Minerva pizza in Wayland Square who’s windows opened to the street….
    • Better Liquor/wine store
    • Fast-food place (nothing wrong with this, we needed SOMETHING, like Wendy’s or cheap taco’s or a cool vegitarian rest.)
    • Video store
    • A vintage clothing store
    • Pool hall
    • Bike shop

    The whole gist of my starting to write on this blog was because I guess I got interested that a filmmaker took this project on…and bravo to them.

    I don’t know were I have been to miss this, ooops I know working my ass off so that I can support myself and a work force of capable but uneducated women so that they don’t have to depend on the state for money but could sure use the help.

    The more I read about the film project Maybe I would suggest the next film could include a section on “The Who’s Who of Enabling…the landlords of Brothels in R.I.” wouldn’t that be interesting.
    No offense but…..Why did the Mayor only take a big interest in the Fox Point one?? the other 2 were right outside the city hall doors??

    regarding the “high school” comment …..sorry about that but I was a bit taken back by Marc’s comment ” if you don’t like the smell of boiling animal fat, don’t move in next to a rendering plant” it kind of grossed me out cause me no likey meat!

    What is this world coming to I ask you, what it is all about…..I say we go form a bowling league, are you in?

    Note I have a smile on my face now……

  2. matthew lawrence

    while i don’t always agree with marc’s comments (in fact i don’t, usually) i don’t think there’s anything particularly high schoolish about his argument.

    i don’t believe that your landlord really considered his tenants to be legit, and if he asked you to write an apology letter then that sounds even shadier than if he didn’t know. but, while the spas might not be legit, it doesn’t follow that consensual sex for money should be illegal because THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING. i mean, it’s not much different than suggesting that we should all become nudists because the garment industry is so vile.

  3. Dear Marc,
    regarding your comment “I’d say that this industry is a boon for the state, and provides a viable income to women who are under-educated and/or ‘unskilled’ and would probably need state assistance otherwise.”
    If you feel this is the best Providence and RI can do to give these unskilled women a job, then it’s a real sad day indeed. Is this your idea of economic development?

    So here is an idea…….. let’s just put all of our RI unskilled, uneducated women to work in brothels, (which by the way is about all the work force we have left) and don’t forget about all the uneducated boys that can go work in the bathhouses that are a thriving business in providence as well. Why just help out the girls!

    Your comments were smart but a bit textbook.
    Once you get out of high school I’m sure you’ll be able to form your own opinion from experiences as I have.

    And just for giggles…..I’m no prude…..just stay out of my neighborhood Mr. Creepy.

  4. But indoor prostitution is -legal- in Rhode Island, Stylin. Personally, I think it’s absolutely -great- that women can make money this way here legally, despite my own feelings about the nature of the work. I’m not a believer in ‘consensual crime’, so prostitution is fine by me as long as:

    1. It doesn’t cause a public nuisance. (the ‘indoors’ part of the law handles that here)
    2. People aren’t being trafficked or forced into the labor, it has to be totally consensual. (we could use a bit more enforcement of this -all around-, not just in the sex trade)
    3. There is a facility whereby the workers are getting paid a fair and equitable portion of their revenues. (the best way, in my opinion, to enforce this would be to have the women ‘rent’ their spaces from the house at a flat rate)

    So we live and have lived in a state with legal prostitution. I can’t say that it’s ripped the social fabric apart, and we don’t have hordes of streetwalkers and pimps in tough spots (and trust me, if w made prostitution illegal, we would). We don’t have a higher STD rate than average (see: http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats/figures/figure3.htm ). I’d say that this industry is a boon for the state, and provides a viable income to women who are under-educated and/or ‘unskilled’ and would probably need state assistance otherwise.

    I would say to you that if you don’t like prostitution, don’t move in between two ‘spas’, just like if you don’t like the smell of boiling animal fat, don’t move in next to a rendering plant. Both are legal, and you’re the one with the freedom to find a different place to live.

  5. Dear Happy Endings,
    I just checked out your film trailer. I thought I was alone in this. so glad to see this and thank you for your efforts. I used to live downtown right between 2 spas the Madori and the one on Westminster St, I moved out about a year ago…but regarding this issue..A while back I had sent a letter to the owner of the building that leased their ground floor space on westminster street to a “spa” that was CC:d to the the mayor, chief of police and my landlord. I mentioned in the letter that “it bewildered me that they didn’t realize they were renting this space to a “house of prostition” ” the story gets better…they called me up and told me that they thought it was a real spa, you now with facials an all….and then ordered oh I mean told me that I was to write an apoligy letter to him and cc it again to all….nice people…real nice……note NO one reponsed to my letter except the owner of the building. And of course I never wrote an apoligy letter…keep up the good work.

  6. While prostitution is legal behind closed doors in RI we do have to think about the street workers. I remember while working on my documentary, Jeffery Mailhot was arrested for killing 4 sex workers in Woonsocket. I thought it was odd that the police were working hard at arresting the women in the spas and didn’t seem to be working hard at finding “The Rhody Ripper” who was killing street workers.

    Check out”happy endings” a doc film on Asian massage parlors in RI where prostitution is legal. Check the blog and youtube channel and leave comments. Sign up on the website to get updates on the release.

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