A Rant Against the Defense of Johns…

You Call that a Defense?
If Jim Norton thought he was going to be an advocate for the legalization – or even decriminalization – of prostitution or sex work in literally any country with his article in Time magazine, he has not only fallen short of the mark…he has made a strong case for why we should encourage law enforcement to focus even more efforts to arrest the buyers of sexual services and insist that they attend one of the many John Schools that are popping up throughout the country.

Before you dismiss my comments as that of a sex-work-hating-rhetoric-spewing member of the anti-trafficking movement that has become drunk on the fear mongering liquor they liberally dispense throughout the country, understand first that I speak from both the experiences of the sex industry worker and the advocates for the women who want out of the sex trade. I supported the concept of John Schools long before they regained popularity and mutated from efforts to educate and inform to an agenda to shame and penalize. I also understand – as Mr. Norton clearly does not – that the reasons for a woman to engage in Sex Work range from those that truly enjoy the work and the financial remuneration the receive, to those who are forced into the trade by circumstance, perceived cultural norms and a lack of opportunity to support themselves in any other way.

Additionally – the National Day of Johns was indeed a parade of sorts – for law enforcement to crack down on juveniles who were being prostituted, multiple cases of physical and psychological abuse and the ever present abuse of power – including a border patrol agent trying to buy sex in full uniform as well as a mother who was selling her 15 year old daughter for sex. The issues of sex addiction, and ritualistic compulsions – as Mr. Norton proudly claims to be paying a therapist to address – are also paraded in this 15 state sweep where they arrested a “daddy” soliciting the services of a prostitute with his new baby in his back seat. Wow. Who is exactly is your therapist Mr. Norton? If tallying the dollar amount is the only recommendation this therapist has to make to have you account for your behavior, you might want to check the validity of their license.

Mr. Norton also claims to be “extraordinarily loving and comfortable” towards the prostitutes he charms through the passenger window of his car. And he worries about violent behavior like rapes and homicides but did nothing when – during one of his “gentle and intimate” sexual service shopping expeditions he witnessed a woman bounced across the hood of his car and tossed into a van filled with more women. How exactly would he recommend this – or any other – pimp get thrown down an elevator shaft” if Mr. Norton didn’t take a single action to alert authorities that he personally witnessed a violent kidnapping and did nothing?!? Way to take a stand Mr. Norton! I’m sure sex workers everywhere are taking up the mantle of legalization based on your action in hopes that they will be protected from violence in this manner. Perhaps you should volunteer to attend a local John School curriculum so that you could gain some understanding of how far off the mark your defense of johns actually is. It is not the legalization of prostitution that needs to be addressed here – it is the attitude created by those such as yourself that the woman who was bounced across the hood of your car didn’t deserve an anonymous call to the police with the license plate of the van in question. You display – by your lack of action – that this woman was of No Worth. Disposable. An antidote for a comedy bit.

Mr. Norton goes on to self-righteously claim that it is the society who is at fault for the prostitute being put in dangerous situations and quote studies that suggest that Rapes and STD’S would be reduced across the board if legalization of prostitution were to be signed into law when in fact this action would only legitimize the pimp and do nothing to protect the prostitute. Legalizing prostitution would not provide health insurance and a retirement package for the prostitute nor would it encourage her to report a violent crime against her person. Just exactly how do you see the “security” being “adequate” in places of legalized prostitution when the majority of violence would occur by the very providers of the security? It is the short-sighted, self-centered point of view of the john that continues to trip up the criminal and social justice system where sex work is concerned. You are not entitled to buy sex out of the passenger window of your car as if it were a Happy Meal of sorts and “giving johns a break” has never really been the central issue when the subject comes up.

Prostitution and Sex Work are complicated issues that demand sensitive and prolonged thought when considering solutions. Prostitution and Sex Work is not the same as Sex Trafficking but there is no clear delineation that both sides of the issue can agree on to make a law – or series of laws – that provide for the variety of needs that arise from the men and women – and indeed children – who work within the sex trade whether by free and fully informed choice or force, fraud and coercion.
Johns like Mr. Norton, who troll for paid sex indiscriminately in neighborhoods where poverty, hunger and homelessness are the primary economic factors that drive this facet of the sex trade can and should expect to be demonized and arrested posthaste. They are a danger to the community and they have no dog in this fight. There is a gap the size of the Grand Canyon when it comes to the difference between a john who discreetly seeks out the company of an independent responsible sex worker who is informed and over 21 and is willing to undergo a certain amount of screening and what Mr. Norton describes as his ritualistic addictive behavior to entice whomever might be working a corner under a streetlight.

Mr. Norton’s call to “give johns a break” is enough to confirm the need for education and information about sex work, prostitution and sex trafficking through a john school format. And if they have to be arrested in order to receive this information and behave in a socially responsible manner, then so be it.


The Woman In Me

The Woman in me laughs with enthusiasm.  She smiles when something is funny and she has a crinkle in her forehead that she refuses to inject with poison to make it go away.  She has trouble with her weight and she has really great hair.  She holds a grudge and she can be really stubborn.  She hates to be wrong and hangs on to righteous indignation for as long as possible.  She is a control freak.  She collects unfinished projects – always sure that they will somehow get finished at the last minute.  She can hold her fist high in defiance and she can sob in a corner barely able to see through the fog of tears.  She can be slow to anger and embarrassingly slow to forgive sometimes.  Once she forgives she forgets what she was mad about. 


She can see the big picture but can get hung up on the details.  She is big on instant gratification and loves to get the best for the least.  She can “make do” with what she has but she hates to be deprived of what she needs.  She thinks she needs more than she really does.  She is so passionate that she can become frozen in action – the never ending futility seeming to take over and smother her.


I don’t know which of me is the real me sometimes and I don’t know if I will ever be able to find a balance between all of those extremes.  Sometimes I feel fear that is overwhelming and sometimes the despair from the shame of feeling that fear makes me cringe.  Fear can creep up behind me and try to clutch my throat and kill me.  And that is when I am most determined that the Woman in me will prevail. 


Whoever she is and where she came from, she feels more deeply than the outside shows.  I have learned to cover my fear with a veil not unlike the ones worn by the Muslim women I see at the grocery store.  I feel a strange companionship with them because at least their veil is on the outside and not a mask worn over a broken heart or a life without meaning.  I have everything they have except the burka of denial.  Hidden denial on my part that I am any more of free than they are.  The difference is that I have created my own burka, my own mask, my own self delusion, my own fear of breaking through and announcing – not to the world – but to myself – “I am afraid!”


Whatever I am made of can show itself in both unbridled compassion and a wretched selfishness.  Polar opposites are inside me.  A fantastic web of contradiction.  I know I have power but I sometimes forget where I put it.  I know I have gifts but I have spent so much time playing around with my creativity I feel like I have hidden the most important gift in a box and put it high upon a shelf, never to be explored or reasoned with.  Some days I feel like I am moving around with purpose and then someone shuts the lights off and its dark and I feel afraid.  Like I can’t find a candle to get around or to find my way out of the dark. 


The wind blows hot and then cold.  The dark and the light are the same thing – they bring trepidation and uncertainty – a sureness of step and then a ditch where I fall and can’t get out.  Almost like a grave.  I step softly but I hear the thunder behind me.  There is rain on the way. 


Fear. It’s the thing I haven’t mastered.  It’s the unknown part of the equation that is the Woman In Me.  Not a fear of failure because I’ve had plenty of that.  I failed at nearly everything – even the things that I thought made me successful have really been success brought about by failure on some level.  It’s a general sort of all-encompassing fear.  Fear that my life is meaningless.  Fear that when I die I will have done little more than take up space. 


I would suppose that everyone suffers from some degree of fear.  Some fear of something.  Fear of the Unknown.  Fear of Snakes.  Fear of Wet Grass at Night.  The challenge then, is to identify what you are afraid of and decide if it is a reasonable fear and then move on to the next one.  All of the fears I mentioned above are I have had and I have determined that fear of the unknown – for me – is an unreasonable fear and I don’t fear it anymore.  A fear of what might come to pass tomorrow or next week or even in the next couple of hours are things that are out of my control.  Sure – I make plans for next week – even next month.  I book vacations in advance and I make lists of what I need to take care of before an event.  But I don’t let the fear of what might happen in the future control what I do today.


My fear of snakes used to be so strong that I wouldn’t pick up a volume of an encyclopedia that I knew had a picture of a snake in it. As a young girl, I feared about snakes being under my bed and would take a running jump to get into bed so that they couldn’t strike out and encircle my ankle and pull me under.  My fear bordered on phobia.  As a girl who grew up in the city, my chances of running into a snake – especially under my bed – were somewhere along the odds of America ever being interested in soccer.  Now, after careful analysis of my fear of snakes, my preference is to not see them or hear about them, but a story on the news about a monster python caught sneaking around a residential neighborhood doesn’t keep me awake or cause me to avoid that part of town.  I didn’t go through phobia awareness and I didn’t go to snake handling school.  I just realized that the chances of my running into a snake at the local grocery or while getting a pedicure was unreasonable and it faded away.


The fear of walking in wet grass is an offshoot of the fear of snakes and a far simpler resolution.  I wear shoes in wet grass.  There you go!


My fear of never accomplishing anything or making up for past transgressions is a far more mind bending than anything I’ve ever even acknowledged. 


When asked to be the Executive Director for the Restoring Humanity Foundation, I secretly coveted the ideal but feared I didn’t have the skills or the knowledge to complete such an enormous project.


My background as a prostitute or an escort service owner, or a felon, or a makeup department manager, or a corporate supervisor could never possibly prepare me for the task at hand.  I would be responsible for the lives – the actual lives of hundred of thousands of girls that I knew were out in the rest of the world waiting for me to come and rescue them – like Joan of Arc, I should sweep in under cover of night and with a wave of my sword fight off the villain and shelter them under my velvet coat and they would then be safe.


Or maybe not.


As the project continued to develop, it made no sense to me to leave out any of the women or girls who had disappeared from their families without any hint of where they might have wondered off too.  Many times, as I watched the tragic stories of Natalie Holloway and Jennifer Kesse on the news, in the bottom of my heart I knew these women would never be found.  At least not their bodies.  These women might alive and might have been kidnapped and ferreted across some border and were now sex slaves.  As their mothers spoke bravely to the media – trying so hard to accept the law enforcement mandate that they were probably dead, I felt an overwhelming empathy for them.  In some way – although not a mother myself, I felt that even though they must know what I knew, it must have been so much more comforting to think that their beloved daughters were not being tortured or drugged or threatened with their lives every day.  It would have been easy to accept that disappearance and death were a far better outcome that the alternative.   Let’s get real here.  A woman doesn’t just leave her purse and her cell phone and wonder off into the unknown.  They were taken by force.


I started to realize that victims of Human Trafficking were all one and the same.  They may have had different beginnings but they had been taken from their families and denied the life they were intended.  I realized that all of the victims we were going to be going after would have their own story and their own strength in enduring all of the atrocities that befell them during their time under the chaos and that the only thing that could heal their wounds would be to be set free and allowed to soar.


There is a special tragedy in that of a child who is stolen from her family.  Whatever their place in the “Scale of Humanity” that you accept – whether that child is from a slum in Uganda and faces starvation and genocide on any given day or that child that is born into a well heeled family in a safe suburb of Brandon Florida who – like so many of us who live in relative safety – simply didn’t lock the door or lower that garage door one night out of nothing more than false bubble of broken security.  That same special tragedy is that of a child whose mother is barely a child herself –  and a damaged child at that – facing severe mental issues that allow her to sell her child to strangers she meets in park in San Antonio and to tell the father he is dead.  The college student with good grades and a bright future that suddenly fails to show for class.  The high school student who doesn’t even know she is pregnant and leaves her baby on a doorstep without knowing what will become of him.  The family facing eviction, starvation and the cruelty of humankind that finds their only asset is a daughter who they force themselves to betray and believe the story told to them that she will be better off in another place for a few pennies.  The young mom who turns her back for a minute at a public park to turn around and find her child gone.  The young girl rebelling against her strict parents who buys into the promise of stardom, riches and fame in the land of America. 


They are all gone and – now – they are without hope. 


I had no choice but to act.  And to act in such a way that even if I couldn’t find one of them – I would find others.  And by my actions, someone would live to regret their choice to steal the life of a girl that was destined for greatness.


My wish is for the penalties for the actions of those who would take hostage, capture, abduct, lure, steal, rape, assault, damage, terrify, intimidate, terrorize, menace, endanger, jeopardize, and silence women, children of any nation, in any nation to be so harshly dealt with by all governments who value and embrace femininity, and for their victims to be healed from within and free themselves from the bondage of everything these “traders in shame” have sought to kill and let God make them whole.


And it is this that brings me here.