Of prostitution and carnivals in Rhode Island

by 3rdeye
Thu Jun 25, 2009 at 01:56:00 PM PDT
For those of you not tuned into the politics of the biggest little state in the nation, let me let you in on our dirty little secret: Prostitution is legal in RI.

No, I’m not joking. Go ahead and look into it if you don’t believe me. Go-on, I’ll be right here waiting…
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Back yet? See, I told you so! Well it seems that our little legal loophole may soon be closing.

Thanks to scare tactics and the intentional conflation of sex-trafficking with sex-work, a few of RI’s more conservative politicians have made prostitution into the hot issue to vote on. But would it interest anyone to learn how one of our local and noted University of RI professors has made a mockery of a little thing called ethics? Poll to freep and more after the break!

3rdeye’s diary :: ::

The scene: Deep in the RI state house in a room marked Senate Judiciary Committee.

The players: Dozens of witness speaking before the committee, roughly 80% there to urge lawmakers to vote against the bill to criminalize indoor prostitution.

The result: Aside from some hulabaloo over the surprize appearance of a half dozen “Asian Spa” sex-workers there to testify on their own behalf, it was a fairly typically boring committee hearing. Read the pro-jo’s report here. Full disclosure, as a resident physician in RI, I spoke to the need for services to treat sex-workers’ special public-health issues and how criminalizing them would make it tougher give them adequate health care.

Of special note, one of the few people there to testify for the bill in question was URI Women’s Studies Professor Donna Hughes. Amongst her reasoning for why prostitution should be made illegal were such gems as: Police can’t enforce sex-trafficking laws without strong laws against prostitution (Can they enforce labor trafficking laws without laws against labor?), and a lovely poster that depicted a dozen specially selected faces of sex-workers as they seemed to become more haggard and aged over their “career” (by her own statement though, these particular sex-workers were also addicted to drugs!).

Well, aside from some specious arguments and her church-lady dress, nothing really raised any alarms in my head. Untill yesterday.

I did a bit of research on the good professor. It turns out that she’s been a regular contributor to the national review and is a well known right-wing feminist. Oxymoronic? Well I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw this quote:

Hughes: President (George W.) Bush has been the crucial factor. He has created a political climate in which all of us, from local activists to high-ranking political appointees, could do this work. Mainstream feminists like to say he’s anti-woman, but by supporting the abolitionist work against the global sex trade, he has done more for women and girls than any one other president I can think of.

Never heard dubya labeled the first feminist president, have you? Well now it was making sense as to why this women’s studies professor was arm-in-arm with our repub governor and conservative politicians behind this bill to criminalize the victims of sex-trafficking!

It all got wierd yesterday though. In the editorial section of the Providence Journal was her new hit piece; It was a harsh tirade against our “Nationwide embarrasment”, and called the above mentioned committee meeting “a carnival”. It accused people of being pimps who are not, and was so insulting in tone and content as to be laughable. But the mockery got personal when she wrongly ATTACKED my life partner.

Then a tattooed woman, calling herself a “sexologist and sex educator,” spoke against the bill. She is also a reporter for a prostitutes’ magazine called $pread. (I couldn’t make this stuff up!)

My partner, Megan Andelloux, AASECT, ACS had just been compared to Lydia the tattooed lady. For the record, Megan is a nationally certified sex-educator and sexologist with over a decade of full time experience in the field. She is, in short, a professional (pun unavoidable).

That Professor Hughes chose to put quotation marks around her profession
is insulting. I’m sure Dr. Cox on Scrubs isn’t being kind when he calls the hospital psychiatrist “Doctor”. Then there was the attack on her tattoos. I can’t believe a professor of women’s studies would attack a fellow woman based upon their appearance! But finally was the crack on Megan’s occasional contribution to the well known sex-workers magazine $pread. Never mind that not all sex-workers are prostitutes, s this how a professor at URI shows her academic integrity?

Well neither Megan nor I could stand for this, and we drafted a response that was just posted on the pro-jo website:

Regarding “R.I.’s carnival of prostitution,” by Donna M. Hughes, June 24.

What “circus”?

Let me introduce myself: I’m the nationally certified sex-educator and derogatorily labeled “tattooed lady” mentioned by Donna Hughes in her June 24 opinion piece. It seems that the professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island was so put off by my appearance that she called into question my credentials. Putting quotation marks around my profession was insulting. And yes, I am a contributor to the sex-workers magazine $pread. Is it so shocking that sex workers can read?

This “opinion piece” was nothing more than an exercise in highbrow name-calling. She attacked the opponents to her pet bill as “a sordid circus,” as “smelling of other odors,” and as projecting the atmosphere of “a carnival.”

As an alum of URI (‘97), I would have expected faculty of our honored university to develop a reputation for science and truth. Instead, it seems that Ms. Hughes would rather resort to right-wing scare tactics. Perhaps if “the Professor” really cared about women, she wouldn’t attack us for the way that we look.

MEGAN J. ANDELLOUX

Pawtucket

The writer is a certified sexuality educator.

Here’s where you come in. We, along the health, well being, and human rights of sex-workers in RI need your help. If you’re a local, please call your local senator and urge them to vote against the bill. Incensed? Call URI to let them know that you don’t appreciate the ethics on disply from their noted faculty member. Not from “lil-rhody”? Call your friends who are. Blog about it. Rate up the proper comments on the pro-jo website.

And please, feel free to freep this poll!

Thanks for your help everyone!

Orihginal post at Daily Kos

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