The Sexist

D.C. Police Arrest 9 on Internet-Related, Prostitution-Related Crimes

This weekend, the D.C. police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, some Logan Circle hotels, and "community members" came together to stop nine people from trying to exchange money for sex over the Internet. Third District Captain Aubrey Mongal on how it all went down:

members of the Third District's Crime Suppression Team, ICE, community members as well as the management of various PSA 307 hotels, worked together to arrest 9 individuals for prostitiion related crimes related to the use of the internet. Along with these arrest, came the seizure of various electronic items that were utilized to enhance their trade as well as money and various evidence. This inititave is another example of psa stakeholders coming together to get things done and we wish to say thanks to all that took part as well as we look foward to working on many more projects in the future. Thank you

In response to the announcement, some community members remained unimpressed. The sex workers are off my Internets, now when will they get off my sidewalks? R. Kelley (seriously) of the MPD-3D listserv has this to say:

There are still a lot of Street Walkers around 13th & K Streets NW; Mass Ave, etc. when I arrive at work around 6:00AM.

Mongal assured Kelley that police "are currently putting plans together to do a better job at elimintaing that problem" and solicited "any information or details relating to the activity, such as descriptions, cars, locations and tactics" of said "Street Walkers." Meanwhile, on the listserv, Ashley Shillingsburg politely requests that police not follow R. Kelley's every lead: "They are not 'street walkers,' they are 'sex workers,' and the only effective means of combating illegal sex work is by going after the people who purchase such services," she writes. "What are MPD's tactics for going after those people as opposed to those who are victims of both pimps and johns?"

  • kza

    Yea and as long as we're going after the johns why don't we stop arresting drug dealers and only arrest the people buying drugs. Brilliant!

  • NAV

    well said kza

  • DB

    "seizure of various electronic items that were utilized to enhance their trade"

    Like... E-stim?

  • J

    Interesting how it fell on the same weekend as pride. Was this gay related prostitution?

  • squirrely girl

    DB - if it's anything like i've read before, they usually take the laptops, digital cameras, and cell phones. there's a sting near where i live ever couple of years because of the SERIOUS problem with child prostitution rings.

    kza - not sure how to really "fix" this problem. your drug dealer example would suggest we should be cracking down on pimps not the prostitutes (dealer versus the "drug"). but i would argue that only going after one end of a problem means you chase your tail in circles. providing more economic opportunities and chances to get "out of the life" would hopefully cut down on the supply or "amount of the drug" available for sale. attacking the demand is another issue but still incredibly relevant. people general sell what other people buy.

  • kza

    Or if you know the people selling sex that might work to. Or just make it legal that seems easier.

  • squirrely girl

    i'm torn on legalizing prostitution if only because i feel like it sends the message that it's okay for people (mostly men) to purchase other people's bodies for their pleasure. that sex is something a person has the right to buy. i also think that simply legalizing prostitution won't remove the social problems that cause women to engage in it. in other words, i think poor and/or ethnic minority women will still be the most likely participants and that, to me, is socially unjust. without SERIOUS consideration of all elements of the problem, simply legalizing prostitution wouldn't HELP women... it would just make it easier and legal for men to buy them.

    don't get me wrong, i'm not so naive to believe this isn't reality, but i don't have to like it.

  • kza

    A person's body belong to that person. It's pretty insane to me that you're not allowed to do what you want with your body. Why is abortion okay when prostitution isn't?

  • Amanda Hess

    kza, interesting that you draw the parallel between abortion and prostitution. I think my approach to both those issues are pretty similar---legalize it while working to reduce possible harm and attempt to make the choice less necessary.

  • Elise

    Actually, someone I talked to recently did a research project on prostitutes and other sex workers (generally in the United States) and found that most of these women saw their job as any other job - until they were told what they were doing is "wrong." Most of the sex workers interviewed or included in the research were able to make the choice to go into pole dancing, stripping, or prostitution, clearly differentiating them from other, non-consensual sex-workers, but the fact remains that they saw this as a job, and a good one at that (higher pay, shorter and more flexible hours) until they were told they were wrong for doing the job they chose. (These studies, I am told, of course had the problem of being focused on lower-class but not poverty-stricken women, did not include men, and did not generally look at non-heterosexual sex acts. Just a disclaimer.)

    So, while the practice of forcing women into sex work is indubitably wrong, I believe that prostitution should be legalized and regulated in the United States like in many other countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

  • squirrely girl

    @kza "Why is abortion okay when prostitution isn’t?"

    I think neither are okay if the person is coerced or left with no choice.

  • kza

    @ Amanda
    I like that approach

    @ squirrely
    Left with no choice? There's always a choice.

  • Flutterby

    "Left with no choice? There’s always a choice."

    Oh, really? Awesome! So the chick who lives somewhere where abortion is illegal and who gets accidentally pregnant or is the victim of reproductive coercion can just magically get a safe abortion!

    And those girls and boys and men and women who are forced into prostitution can just decide NOT to be prostitutes any more! It's not like they're kept in that line of work because pimps abuse them at the first sign of disobedience and threaten to kill them if they leave, or can simply abandon them on the street because they're otherwise homeless.

    When abortion is outlawed, no choice is available: you can't get one. When someone is the victim of reproductive coercion, there's not a choice: disobeying the coercer will result in abuse and possibly death. When prostitution is outlawed, it's not a choice for many because they're being coerced and abused to keep them in place and can't go to the police for help.

    That one sentence, "There's always a choice," is so offensive on so many levels that I just cannot operate any longer under the assumption that you are anything but a troll.

  • kza

    She said coerced or no choice. I agree that if they are forced to be in prostitution obviously that's wrong. People that start having sex for money because they would become homeless do have a choice. Poor men make due.

    "So the chick who lives somewhere where abortion is illegal"

    I've seen 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days and illegal abortions look like a gay old time.

  • Elise

    No, they don't, kza. I know several people who work as counselors to the homeless in my town, and very few of the men "make do" by any sane definition of the word - when hurricane Ike hit, these men suddenly had decent clothes to wear, enough food to eat, and the medicine they needed for the first time in years. Once the do-gooders left, all the men at the shelter went back to living how they had previously - poor, underfed, wearing too-old clothes, none of the medicine they needed, and mostly without care. Shelters do what they can, but there's just not enough of anything. Being homeless is not a choice anyone should have to make, and frankly, any job (however horrible) is better than how the homeless where I live, and everywhere I have been, are treated.

    So, I suppose your statement could be interpreted as correct if you define "making do" as somehow surviving each day - even when you don't want to.

  • Amanda Hess

    @Elise Is it possible to point us to that research? Has it been published yet? I'm surprised that sex workers are perfectly content with their line of work until a punctuated moment when they're informed what they're doing is "wrong." It seems to me that sex workers are constantly being told that what they're doing is wrong. People treat sex workers like shit most of the time. They're not afforded much respect in our culture. And I'd imagine that a great deal of the undesirable aspects of sex work stem from that attitude, whether the denigration is coming from pimps, peers, police, customers, or the media.

  • Elise

    I'll do my best to find the research, but that is how it was portrayed to me; it is indeed possible that the situation is more complex.

  • Elise

    Here's a link to an excellent article, specifically a page that deals with prostitutes choosing or not choosing to engage in sex work: I have not yet finished it, so bear with me. More links coming as I find articles.

  • Elise

    Another good article, but some of it takes a really strong stomach or a lack of empathy to read:

  • Elise

    Yet another article:

    Note that all of these articles deal solely with prostitution, not with stripping or some of the other forms of sex work. I am having a great deal of trouble finding that sort of article. If anyone else has links, etc, please post them.

  • Elise

    And one more article, in abstract form (I can't get access to the article itself without paying through the nose):

  • Amanda Hess

    Elise, thank you so much for compiling these.

  • Elise

    I wish I could find some on sex workers, but I've lost access to the library journals since graduating.