Melinda Chateauvert will read excerpts from Sex Workers Unite! and sign copies of the book on Wednesday, March 12. For more information and to RSVP, visit http://sexworkersunite.eventbrite.com.

Do sex workers have rights? Put another way, can whores, hustlers, strippers, streetwalkers and porn stars demand respect and justice?

The idea that people who trade sex for money, drugs or survival should enjoy civil rights or liberties deeply divides public opinion. The ACLU position holds that laws against prostitution violate “the right of individual privacy because they impose penal sanctions for the private sexual conduct of consenting adults,” but the suggestion that sex workers themselves possess other basic rights is controversial.

For example, many citizens believe that “public women” (an old term for prostitutes) should not be allowed to work on public streets. Numerous cities have created “prostitution-free zones” that permit the police to target undesirables, forcing them to “move along” through arrest, prosecution, and banishment as a condition of probation; in Phoenix, women arrested for offending “public morals” are sent immediately to a church-operated “prostitution diversion” program and prohibited from speaking to an attorney.

In several states, sex workers convicted of felonies must register on public sex offender lists—making them vulnerable to stalking and harassment. One Virginia assemblyman recently introduced a bill that would allow law enforcement to seize the assets of any person arrested for prostitution.

Stigmas against sex work and sex create this hostile environment. Clients—specifically heterosexual males—have become new targets for public humiliation, with legislatures in several states proposing laws that levy steep fines, even prison terms, for those who choose to pay for sexual services. In practice, these laws actually endanger sex workers more. Clients who fear arrest may refuse to negotiate openly, or react violently when they feel threatened. Sex workers, concerned about self-incrimination, rarely report crimes committed against them.

Public harassment and misconduct by law enforcement are some of the dangerous consequences of client criminalization, prostitution-free zones and other laws against sex work.

Chicago police have arrested transgender women—particularly African American and Hispanic transwomen—for “buying” rather than “selling” sex and charged them with felonies, while simultaneously “proving” that they are arresting both “men” and “women.”

Even more chilling for public safety, US Department of Justice investigations of several police departments revealed patterns of systemic violence against street-based sex workers. Police officers have been convicted on charges that include the kidnapping, rape and sexual exploitation of “suspected” prostitutes; homicide detectives have conducted haphazard and careless investigations of serial murders when the victims are, or are perceived to be, sex workers.

Despite limits on “stop-and-frisk” policing in New York City, sex workers, especially young transwomen of color, are still routinely stopped. Though New York has no law against carrying condoms, police use possession of three or more condoms as grounds for arrest on suspicion of intent to engage in prostitution—a practice that goes against all the logics of harm reduction. Police departments in San Francisco, Washington, DC and elsewhere have similar policies.

The myriad federal, state and local laws against prostitution mean that “rights for sex workers” will require more than decriminalizing sex for money or other consideration.

Sex workers are human beings with the right to self-determination. It’s time for policymakers, the courts and law enforcement to recognize they are equally deserving of the civil rights, civil liberties, and above all human rights accorded to the rest of us.

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Anonymous

The LAW is not grey . They are breaking the law then they suffer the punishment of the court should they be found guilty. No grey here the LAW is the LAW.

Anonymous

And laws can be wrong.

Anonymous

I knew one of those. She used to do it until she got married, had two kids and now she does nothing of the sort.
And what "law" are exotic dancers breaking? The people who pay to watch them are all filthy-rich men. Like the guy in the song says: "She takes a bus over to the west side of the city and takes a job stripping for the rich white men..."

Being from Los Angeles I know they're talking about living on the EAST side and trying to make ends meet, and all the rich white men she's stripping for have no problem watching Latinas take off their clothes for them in between the time they complain and call them illegal immigrants - whether they are or NOT.

Anonymous

Not with the Green River killer they didn't. When they brought him in, the first words out his mouth were "But I only killed prostitutes," as if THAT should mean they were going to let him go.

History Paver

This excerpt was spot on!

I am currently trying to work with the ACLU and a lawyer to make brothels legal in a few states if not nationwide. Brothels are the only way that prostitution can thrive healthily and safely. PERIOD.

Brothels should be legalized across the nation because they [brothels] are free from STDs and other nasties; they bolster tourism and help state commerce; they help regulate "the world's oldest profession"; and most importantly they help protect the women who have a constitutional right to work in the profession.

The Nevada legislature in March 1988 upheld a state law that required condom use in all brothels and the law has been rigorously followed since. (Facilitating Condom Use with Clients during Commercial Sex in Nevada's Legal Brothels, 1997, A. Albert). Having been myself, I know that the girls do "dick checks" and check for STDs. Some girls like my first two parties make you flash them by loosening your belt and dropping your drawers. Other girls, like my party with Caressa, ran her hand over my penis and felt for any bumps or any other signs of STDs. They make checking for STDs not only sensual but also make you not feel awkward. In the above cited article written by Mr. Albert, he found that women who worked in brothels were more likely to attract an STD in their home lives than at brothels. That's how safe brothels are because I think most women who work at brothels are honest, good people and know that if they don't follow the rules they will not only break the law and the brothel's code of ethics but also put themselves in danger of getting pregnant or catching something.

As I stated, brothels attract all kinds of tourists. I myself have been several times. I used to fly to Reno but due to my severe anxiety it makes flying impossible. So my last visit and for my future visits (like next month) I take the the amtrak. Though the ride is 8 hours one way and can be so boring it is worth it. The people that know I am a client to brothels ask why I would take a train 8 hours to have sex and to be with a woman and then to come back 8 hours. The answer is because I'm an honest man and because I was born with a disability.

As I would not like to reveal too much about me, I will say that my disability is obvious. People always tell me the well known cliche: wait and you will find the right woman. My question to them is: how long must one wait to meet that right woman? What if that person is the best he can be and takes care of himself and is in shape and is young and ambitious and bends over backwards for every girl he meets but his disability is the hindrance that stops anything from ever blossoming then what does he do next? Continue to wait? For ten more years? For twenty years? For the rest of his life? And when he dies he realizes he never had that chance to share that special moment with a woman? I'm sorry but I am a human being and deserve to feel affection; not to wait in the shadows and wait for "Mrs. Perfect" to come along.

There are those out there who have even for severe disabilities than myself and yearn to be with a woman. That is their life's dream is to share a special experience with a girl. These guys could go to a brothel but with brothels only being legal in Nevada and depending on how much money the man has (brothels aren't cheap) and how far these guys live from Nevada they may never feel the touch of a woman. Banning brothels is also discrimination against the disabled.

Besides attracting tourists, the brothels -- though aren't required to pay state tax - donate to the local communities they are in. Schools and others in the community are given donations to by brothels.

Face it. Prostitution is not going away. It only appears that it is booming because of the advancement of technology where there are tons of escort websites and escorts that use twitter and other social networking sites and apps. But these women put themselves at risk of being raped, robbed, beaten, and murdered. A study shown in the magazine,Business Insider, in the article: 7 Reasons Why America Should Legalize Prostitution (http://www.businessinsider.com/why-america-should-legalize-prostitution-...) showed that girls who were prostitutes had already been raped and robbed in comparison to non prostitutes their age who hadn't (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9698636) In brothels, these girls are protected. They have a "panic button" to push if clients are hostile. Since brothels are licensed they have the protection of the sheriff's office and response is quick. Some brothels like the Mustang Ranch have a security guard on the premises 24/7. At the Bunny Ranch, my cab driver friend, Glen, told me that one person in the house is always armed with a gun.

People argue that brothels are prisons for prostitutes and therefore should be left in rural Nevada and be Nevada's problem. I strongly disagree. They may have the appearance of a prison (large metal gates that you have to press the buzzer to be let in) but that is only because of Nevada law which requires brothels to be fenced in. These women also are fed 3 good meals a day and can go out and about when their shifts end. Many drive their own cars and live locally. And most importantly they CHOOSE who they want to see. If they encounter a man they don't like then they politely decline him. So they are anything but prisoners. If you want to see how they work, look at Dennis Hof's brothels and you will see a beautiful system in place that the nation should model.

Last time I read the Declaration of Independence, the second paragraph begins: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...with certain unalienable Rights, that among these areLife, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Working girls and those who choose to venture into this profession have the right -- a constitutional right -- to work as prostitutes as indicated in that famous sentence. It doesn't matter if critics and politicians deem it "immoral" and "wrong" because they've lost all arguments about deciding the morality issue by legalizing gay marriage in a few states and decriminalizing pot in other states. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America in its first section, boldly states: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

With this amendment, Roe v. Wade was heard and abortion was legalized. DOMA was struck down and paved the way for Gay Marriage in many states and in many more to come. So why can't legalized brothels be protected by this amendment. Why can't working girls be protected and the clients that pay them?

As my friends of the LGBT community have so boldly stated, they have been the victims of bigots and have become "legal strangers" (http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=28851361). So have been my friends who choose this profession or choose to be a client. I say to those against the legalization of brothels: if you are against us then you are for human trafficking. You are for the spread of disease. You are for the victimization of young girls. You are for the rape and murders of many with bright futures who just want money for college. You are against the way society should be. You are not part of the solution. You are just enlarging the problem. Brothels are the solution to this age old problem.

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