The Rhode Island senate’s going to be voting tonight on an anti-prostitution bill. I don’t need to repeat all the reasons why the bill is a terrible, terrible idea, but I thought I would mention an editorial written in the ProJo yesterday by URI professor Donna Hughes. Hughes, the Bush-loving enemy of sex-positive feminists everywhere, detailed a very colorful version of the Senate hearings, which she described as a carnival.
According to the women’s studies professor, testimony at the hearings was overshadowed by the “outrageous appearance” of the bill’s opponents. (One had tattoos! One smelled like smoke!* Several were Asian! How could anyone stand it?! etc.) She also thought it was necessary to put quotes around the words “receptionist,” “sexologist and sex worker,” and, because she is apparently a seventh-grader, “it.” (Imagine how much fun her classes must be!)
Megan J. Andelloux, the tattooed woman in question, responded today in a letter to the newspaper, calling Hughes out for name-calling. “Perhaps if “the Professor” really cared about women,” she says, “she wouldn’t attack us for the way that we look.”
Happy Endings? director Tara Hurley also responded to Hughes on her blog (which is how I heard about it), and the story was also picked up nationally by Sex Work Awareness.
(*Well, okay, she actually said “smoke and other odors.” Classy!)
15 thoughts on “URI Women’s Studies Professor Horrified By Tattooed Women”
“Would you really be OK with prostitution for your mother, sister or daughter, even if it was regulated?”
My sister has chosen, in addition to her reasonably well-paying desk job and work as a sex educator, to work as a professional dominatrix. That’s just a hair on this side of legal, and I call what she is doing sex, though it does not meet the legal definition.
And I support her absolutely.
Yes, we should stop abuses of power. No, I’m not going to tell my sister not to make money in a way that doesn’t harm her or her clients.
Simone, bless your little heart! You’re young and simple and have no idea what you’re talking about.
How many sex workers do you know? “Feminists” like you and Hughes gall me. How dare you presume to tell me that I am really not making a conscious choice.
Perhaps it is you who is brainwashed by your pathetically narrow little education. The only way you can handle the reality that people make choices so far beyond your own comprehension is to tell yourself that they are brainwashed. Poor love.
Presumably as a feminist you are familiar with GC Spivak’s work? Perhaps you could do with a refresher on her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?”
I am the subaltern. We speak, but you do not listen to us. You presume to tell us that our voices are not worth listening to because you can’t imagine making the choices we’ve made. Your reality is sad and narrow. And you insult me and you patronize me and you infantilize me by presuming to speak for me.
Grow up, little girl.
How does it feel to be condescended to, sweet pea?
Tara-I spoke briefly with Prof.Hughes when she was on Yorke’s show.
She took it upon herself to explain to me the differences between trafficking and smuggling of humans.
Since I actually spent some years in the INS Anti-Smuggling Unit in Chcago,and attended the Anti-Smuggling Investigations Course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco,GA. in addition to working a large scale anti-smuggling investigation here in RI about 24 years ago,I think maybe I have just a tiny bit more knowledge than Prof.Hughes.
Too bad I couldn’t have her interview Albert Cedillo,who I arrested in Illinois and charged him with smuggling-he had a woman captive in his basement making her service the aliens he smuggled in and harbored upstairs in his house.Albert is taking a dirt nap,however and can’t be interviewed.He also was convicted for raping his daughter and manslaughter.But that was just smuggling,right?I mean,he could’ve been managing a massage parlor or something.
This professor seems to have kept her distance from the real deal.
I don’t know what isn’t linked to human trafficking according to Donna Hughes. but Simone, did you read the article she wrote in the Projo?
How can you defend how she attacks the women she is trying to protect?
Simone, you must not have taken her class in the past few years. I asked her about the law in Sweden, one that I brought up in testifying and on the Dan Yorke show. Donna Hughes said that the law in Sweden has attracted human traffickers.
Simone – How dare you presume to tell 3 billion other women what their self-interests are?! On what grounds do you call the women who work in Rhode Island’s spas oppressed? I think they would get a good laugh out of that, although most of them who have heard these assertions are usually a little disbelieving and disgusted that some people could so groundlessly delude themselves. Are you familiar with their family backgrounds, or with the social and cultural conditions in Korea that have prompted them to emigrate? Have you seen their places of business and how they are operated and maintained? Do you know how they get paid, or how much? Do you know who the owners and managers of the spas are, those whom you accuse of being ‘pimps’?
OK Simone… Here’s my question for you. How is it that the ‘answer’ to the drug war is to arrest the suppliers and -not- the consumers, but your ‘answer’ to prostitution is to arrest the consumers and not the suppliers (which you call ‘victims’)? Can you show any evidence that this is an effective or enforceable public policy?
The fact that you consider all or most prostitutes ‘victims’ belies a bias already. While I agree that this may be the case in areas that prohibit prostitution, there has been -zero- evidence that this is the case in Rhode Island under our legalized context, and thee has been plenty of evidence to the contrary (hence the sex workers coming to speak at the hearings).
I’ll let you know a little secret, Simone. I dated two sex workers here in Rhode Island. One was from out of town and decided that it was the best way to get on her feet when she got here penniless, and the other was a trained nurse who wanted to pay-off her house really quickly. Both took their money, left the industry, and they are back to ‘regular jobs’ now. My sister knows a lot of women here who became ‘escorts’ in order to be stay-at-home single moms who could pay the bills, afford private health care, and the best lives for their kids after being pushed out of the job market for prior drug offenses (their record lasted longer than their habit). So there’s my evidence, out of the six sex-workers -I’ve met-, -all- of them are doing it willfully, safely, and for good purpose. None of them were ‘pimped’ or even pressured by management to do unsavory things (in the case of the escorts, they -had no- management, they kept every single dollar they made).
I have read Donna’s work, which was all conducted in areas that prohibit prostitution. My conclusion after my experiences with women in the industry here under the legal context vs. what I read in her work about prostitution under the illegal context is that prostitution is -much- safer and saner for the women under a legalized context. I might be wrong, but here’s the kicker… Nobody did a study here in Rhode Island. We had a whole different unique law for three decades with an industry built around it, and nobody (including an expert in the field, Ms. Hughes, who is on our goddamned state payroll) did a study to determine if things are going to be better or worse after this law passes.
As for regulation not working because there’s such big money involved… I could make the same argument about prohibition. I can guarantee you that in a year, Providence will still have ‘too many’ Asian massage parlors, and the Police will be saying that they ‘have checked them out, and found nothing unseemly going on’, because the spas have paid them off. Your argument is like saying alcohol should be illegal, because too much of it is getting into the hands of kids, you’d rather have Al Capone running the show than accept that ‘less than perfect’ availability is better than ‘totally fucked up’ prohibition. The only way to disarm organized crime is to have the laws be loose enough that it’s not cheaper to just pay someone off to skirt them. Remember, Al Capone couldn’t make money without prohibition.
You don’t find prostitution consensual? Who the hell are you to decide what adults do with their bodies!?! I know a lot of people who -do- do this consensually, and your side of the debate keeps saying ‘The women are abused! the women are brainwashed! the women are trafficked!’. If this is true, then why can’t you -produce evidence-? You say you need these legal ‘tools’ in order to rout traffickers, but even in California, a state with 60 times our population with these ‘tools’ already in place, there has yet to be a single sex-trafficking conviction.
Also, if what you’re saying is true about what Donna Hughes thinks should be public policy, then why did she just fight -so hard- to get a law passed that -does- arrest the ‘victims’, the same law that when applied all across the country, and has led to the conditions you studied in her class and found so deplorable? If the USA is overall doing a bad job, why should Rhode Island follow suit? Why didn’t she study the situation here first and create a ‘before and after’ picture so we can determine the best policy?
“Would you really be OK with prostitution for your mother, sister or daughter, even if it was regulated?”
Thanks for responding, though. I agree with some of your points, but still don’t think that prostitution is necessarily connected to statuatory rape or trafficking. Banning prostitution on those grounds would be the same as banning clothing because conditions in the garment industry are bad. There are other solutions.
I was a student of Donna Hughes at URI, in her Trafficking and Prostitution class (the capstone class for my Women’s Studies minor). In terms of her “bedside manner”, I can attest to it lacking. However, the class was unbelievably challenging. And no, I was not brainwashed by Hughes. She kept her political views private and presented all sides of the extremely complicated (and disturbing) subject matter.
I feel confident about what her stance is, and I think it is being misinterpreted. That isn’t surprising, since she doesn’t seem that good at making friends with the public. From my experience, she believes in public policy similar to Sweden’s- which is to criminalize the perpetrators of prostitution (pimps, madams, johns)- but not the victims (the prostitutes). It includes training to police and the convicted so as to sensitize them to the subject. This is based on the belief that prostitution is inherently exploitative and dangerous, particularly to the most vulnerable populations- children, women, the poor and the foreigner.
She does not believe in the typical American policy of criminalizing prostitution on moral grounds- which typically ends up not doing anything to dampen prostitution. It does tend to disproportionately target the prostitutes versus the johns and pimps since if the police actually do a raid, the prostitutes are the easy targets. And that is what RI already does outdoors, and what many want to have happen indoors as well.
Marc- I don’t think it is an idealist’s dream to want to end prostitution. To me it is like saying that since we can never eliminate other acts that society deems harmful (statutory rape, for example), we should just regulate it. Regulation (like in the Netherlands) doesn’t work well because of the nature of the beast- so much of prostitution and sexual trafficking is tied up in organized crime, because it is a big money maker, and the victims are threatened and abused in such a way to not be likely to report the situation—-it becomes a cinch for organized crime to meld in the trafficked with the legal “consensual” prostitutes.
And I don’t consider prostitution to be consensual- you can always find women who will go against their own self-interest, just like any other oppressed people- truly successful subordination means that society (or the pimp) doesn’t need to shackle you down, you do it because you don’t think you have better options. Would you really be OK with prostitution for your mother, sister or daughter, even if it was regulated?
It just passed, but the -entire- text of the law was replaced with different wording that seems odd to me, sentences are dramatically reduced, and the wording is possibly unenforceable. Is it -legal- to require STD testing of criminals? I was unaware that people forfeit their bodies to the state unless they’re incarcerated.
Donna Hughes doesn’t seem to have first hand knowledge of the situation.That’s no rarity for academics(with notable exceptions such as Scott Molloy) while Tara Hurley took the time to do the research “on the ground”.
Who would you believe?
There are serious federal statutes that address sex trafficking.
Oh, you’re right. The Journal article said they’d both be up by the end of the week, and because the anti-trafficking one had to be revised at the last minute I assumed the other one was coming up first. Of course we all know what happens when I assume…
I found the same thing on both the Projo site and the Senate’s Calendar – the human trafficking bills are the ones scheduled for tonight. The Senate version of the anti-prostitution bill has thankfully gone no further since the hearing on the 18th.
Very interesting to read the comment Tara found by the student who mentioned Hughes’ prejudices against Islam, after reading the very nasty comments Hughes made about the women using a translator at the hearing. And the women actually speak pretty damn good English, considering they’ve had to learn the hard way while simultaneously trying to make ends meet.
I have to say that I find nothing well-intentioned about Hughes’ involvement in this matter. If ending prostitution is her real goal, as Marc states, she has pursued it under the false pretenses of human trafficking. She has never produced a shred of evidence to support her claims regarding a connection between the two in Rhode Island, nor does she appear to have made an effort to learn the real circumstances of the women who work in the spas or the culture they come from. Now, as her wild claims are being exposed as bogus, and even those who are against the spas are pursuing their persecution on other grounds, she can produce nothing more then reciting her resume and spewing out spiteful, nasty insults about people’s appearance and background.
I believe the bill up tonight is ‘the good one’, regarding trafficking and involuntary servitude, not the one about prostitution. If anyone hears otherwise, please respond!
By the way, I spoke at the hearings, and also had a chance to listen to how the anti-prostitution folks think. Personally, I don’t think their logic makes any sense. Senators Jabour and Metts were saying how this would be ‘a good start’ to ‘cleaning up the neighborhoods’, but it’s obvious from a walk around town that there’s a -lot- less outdoor prostitution going on here than there is in other cities, and the only reason I can see for this is that our ‘legal’ market undercuts our ‘illegal’ one.
Donna is well-intentioned, she wants to end prostitution, but her goal is an idealist’s dream. Prostitution can’t be stopped, and allowing it indoors is clearly the only way to control and tax it.
When I testified, I asked “If you don’t want prostitution near your kids, is it easier to reason with the zoning board or a pimp?” because that’s the decision they’re making on Smith Hill soon.
Since you asked about how it would be like taking her class, check out her rating on the rate my professor site.
Here is the most current rating:
“I took International Women’s Issues with Donna Hughes and it was absolutely the worst class I’ve every taken. I’ve taken many women’s studies classes and this woman gives it a bad name — she is incredibly prejudiced against Islamic people and culture, has a terrible teaching style and is publicly rude to her students. AVOID HER AT ALL COST.”