In the previous message I wrote in memory of Robyn Few, I mentioned how she has been subject to verbal assaults for her advocacy, yet kept persevering. Among such people vilifying Robyn was Melissa Farley, on the grounds that Robyn was a madam and therefore lacks credibility to speak on sex workers’ issues and policies affecting sex workers. -even though Robyn also identified as a sex worker. This was very hypocritical considering that Farley was aligned with a madam named Jody Williams–nicknamed “the high tech madam” who was convicted for running a prostitution service: http://sexworkersanonymous.webs.com/aboutthefounder.htm.
Thus, I’m not stupid and naive enough to believe for one second that Farley’s objections to Robyn or anybody in the sex workers’ rights movement have anything to do with whether they were in management when she herself was aligned with somebody in sex work management, and perhaps still is. This seems like nothing more than a tactic to draw attention away from the actual arguments of this movement because she lacks any legitimate rebuttals. If she’s really so against madams, then why would she align with at least one…
Also, if Farley is going to define everybody in sex work management as a pimp, then she was aligned with a pimp by her definition. As part of this alliance, Jody Williams wrote a chapter in Farley’s book against the legal Nevada brothel system and participated in a panel promoting the book and her’s as well as Farley’s agenda against sex workers in the legal brothels: http://archive.pahrumpvalleytimes.com/2007/Sep-07-Fri-2007/news/16519321.html .
Yes, you read that correctly. I say their agenda against sex workers in the legal brothels because they were trying to take away one of only two ways we had to work legally in this country. (At the time, indoor prostitution through agencies or independently was legal in Rhode Island, but has since been criminalized. Now, the legal Nevada brothels are the only way that sex workers in prostitution can work legally in the U.S., though this is restricted to just cis women and also perhaps trans women who can pass for cis. One legal Nevada brothel hired men, but that didn’t last long. ) I’ve worked in the legal Nevada brothel system and acknowledge that it leaves a lot to be desired and is far from ideal, but I do not know of any sex workers in the these legal brothels who want the brothels to be criminalized and who want to be pushed onto the criminalized sector, regardless of whether we enjoy working in the brothels or not.
Though Melissa and her supporters may defend their support and alliance with Jody on the grounds that she is doing such wonderful stuff and has experienced atrocities in her life, the same can be said of Robyn. Yet, that doesn’t stop them from vilifying her. What’s Melissa saying–that madams are pimps unless they’re aligned with her and then they’re not so bad?
Here are my feelings about madams. Though I’ve never been one, I have worked for madams in the legal Nevada brothel system and don’t agree with conflating all madams with abusive pimps. I don’t support enslaving anybody into prostitution or any industry, so I certainly don’t support madams who do this. I also oppose all forms of verbal and physical abuse against sex workers, whether committed by madams or somebody else. However, I have worked for madams who treat sex workers with more kindness and dignity than some anti-sex work folks do and some sex workers may prefer to work in brothels or for agencies with ethical management since such management could take care of behind the scenes business work such as getting us clients and setting us up with appointments (thus helping us make a living which is more than many of these anti-sex work folks are doing ), providing us with website space, transportation, screening, and providing a person or place where we can call into when we arrive and leave a session as a safety precaution. In the case of brothels, management can provide us with a place to work when we may not have another location.
This vilification against all management totally ignores ways ethical management can be helpful to us as sex workers. However, I also totally support the right of sex workers to work independently and realize some prefer to go that route…and I support the right not to be sex workers and to exit sex work without being discriminated against in other jobs because we have been sex workers. This is one of many reasons why I advocate against the criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers.
Furthermore, some people who hold management positions are or have been sex workers themselves, so simply saying somebody holds a management position doesn’t necessarily deny their experience as a sex worker or their ability to speak on this experience. If we’re going to discredit the voices of all sex workers who hold management positions, then that would discredit the voices of the dancers at the Lusty Lady peep show in San Francisco who successfully unionized to improve conditions and then bought out the club to form a worker-owned co-op.
Please don’t mistake me. I don’t write this message to vilify Jody for being a madam, as I have worked for madams before and don’t consider them all to be bad. I write this to point out the hypocracy on the issue, how certain opponents are arguing that some people in the sex workers’ rights movement hold management positions and then using this to discredit our whole movement, even sex workers who do not even hold management positions when Melissa Farley has herself aligned with somebody who was in management in the sex trade. Stop the hypocracy. It does nothing to promote the rights and well-being of sex workers nor does it stop pimps who actually are abusive.