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Another myth debunked: why “a third of runaway youth are trafficked within first 48 hours” is NOT true

Date: April 24, 2011

Last July, I debunked the false claim that “the average age of entry into prostitution” is somewhere around 13, which has been in circulation among anti-trafficking groups, politicians, and media.

But that is not the only falsehood that is passed off as a fact about domestic minor sex trafficking. Another oft-repeated claim is found in the 2010 Congressional testimony by Ernie Allen, president and CEO of National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, otherwise a legitimate and reputable organization:

Some runaway groups have estimated that as many as 1/3 of teen runaways/thrownaways will become involved in prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.

This “statistics” is often presented without source, or attributed to the National Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children (NISMART-2), which has been compiled by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Depart of Justice.

For example, “U.S. Trafficking Facts,” a document created by anti-trafficking group Love146 states:

Astonishingly, with in the first 48 hours of being on the street, 1 in 3 children are lured into prostitution (National Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children/NISMART-2)

However, NISMART-2 does not include any such information. And yet, variations of this factoid are repeated by many other anti-trafficking groups as well.

An estimated 1.6 million children run away from home each year in the US. The average time it takes before a runaway is approached by a trafficker or solicitor is 48 hours (National Runaway Switchboard)
GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services)

It is estimated that it takes as little as 48 hours for a child to be lured into exploitation by individuals promising love, money and lavish lifestyles
Rebecca Project for Human Rights

Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one-third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution and pornography (The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
Stop Child Trafficking Now

As many as 2.8 million children live on the streets, a third of whom are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home
Shared Hope International

There are more, but I’ll stop here.

There are some variations: some attribute the data to NISMART-2, while others attribute it to Center for Missing and Exploited Children or National Runaway Switchboard–these two organizations don’t have any report showing this data either. Also, some groups claim that one third of runaway youth are trafficked within 48 hours, while others say it takes an average of 48 hours for someone to be trafficked, or simply that it may only take 48 hours for some to be trafficked.

Where does the factoid come from? The only document that show some actual numbers is on the website of Gracehaven House, a faith-based organization in Northwest Ohio providing “shelter, security, and rehabilitation” to female victims of commercial sexual exploitation under the age 18. On its “fact sheet” about CSEC, Gracehaven House cites another Ohio group, Huck House. The document states:

Huck House FY 2007
– Served 1,409 youth in 2007
– Approximately 600 girls
– 1/3 will be approached within 48 hours by a pimp
– 200 girls &lt18 approached by a pimp
– 60-90 involved in prostitution

Huck House, or Huckleberry House is an organization in Columbus, Ohio that provides safe place for runaway youth. The one-third figure seem to come from the survey of its client/participant base for FY 2007, which included about 800 boys and 600 girls. Assuming that this report is accurate, here are some things to consider:

1) The one-third figure is often presented as a national data (attributed to NISMART-2, Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or National Runaway Switchboard) but it is based on a survey of participants at a Columbus, Ohio social service agency.

2) It is often claimed that one third of runaway youth are recruited into prostitution within first 48 hours, but the data do not support this. Huck House figure states that one third of girls who came to Huck House have been approached, but if all “runaway youth” are included the figure is close to 14%, not 33%.

3) That one third of girls who showed up at Huck House have been approached by a pimp does not mean that one third of runaway girls are. Here’s why:

If we assume, reasonably, that short-term or casual runaway youth (which comprise majority of runaways) are far less likely to be approached by a pimp or engage in prostitution than those who run away longer period of time or farther distances, many of the girls who are not approached by a pimp and don’t even come close to it go home (or find other arrangements) without showing up at Huck House’s door.

To illustrate this point, let’s imagine that 100 girls ran away from home in a hypothetical city or region. Imagine that 70 of them are casual runaways (i.e. low risk of being exploited), and 30 are high-risk runaways. Pimps generally approach girls in the high-risk group, so let’s say 10 out of the 30 are approached. Once the 70 casual runaways return home or find other arrangements, it leaves 30 longer-term, high-risk runaway youth who show up at Huck House.

Huck House surveys those 30 who showed up, and report that a third of its client base have been approached by a pimp. But you cannot conclude, based on this figure, that a third of all runaway youth (or just girls) are approached: we started with 100 girls, 10 of whom are approached, so the actual rate is 10%.

In short: Huck House, or other groups like it, does not serve a representative sample of runaway youth; they serve those who are part of a higher risk group. Therefore, you cannot take figures from its survey and generalize it to the entire runaway youth population.

4) Even though a third of the girls who showed up at Huck House report to have been approached by a pimp within 48 hours, only 10-15% of the girls (60-90 out of 600) at Huck House are involved in prostitution (and this includes any girl who became involved at any point, not just within the first 48 hours), according to Huck House.

In other words, it is false to claim that one third of the girls at Huck House are “forced into prostitution” or “trafficked,” as some anti-trafficking groups claim; they are simply “approached”–and at least a majority of girls are smart and empowered enough to turn them down.

Further, if we include all youth into the analysis (and there is no reason not to, because anti-trafficking groups claim that one third of all runaway youth are recruited, not just girls), it is 60-90 youth at Huck House among 1400 total. That is 4-6% of the group surveyed, far lower than the anti-trafficking groups’ claim.

None of us wants to see any number of (non-casual) runaway youth, whether 33% or 4%, having to engage in prostitution to survive on the street. But there is a huge gap between the claim that “one third of runaway youth are trafficked within the first 48 hours on the street” and the actual figure of 4-6% over the course of homelessness.

Bad factoids misinform the public about this very important issue and mislead our discussions over what to do about it. Those who traffic fake statistics and launder its true source must stop doing so.

Case in point: just a couple of months ago on this blog, I criticized GEMS for using this fake factoid on its main site. Later, in mid-March, I took a screen capture of the site, showing the line about “48 hours” myth, in preparation for my lecture at Grand Valley State University.

But when I visited the site again today, I found that GEMS had removed a line about the “one third” figure from its main site. The quote you saw earlier on this post is actually from GEMS’ ning group, because the main site no longer carries this fake factoid.

I don’t know if my criticism had anything to do with this, but good job, GEMS! Please also start verifying other equally questionable factoids on your site too! And please be brave and be more transparent about why you have removed that information, rather than just quietly removing it from the main site, because it will help other anti-trafficking groups recognize the errors they have made as well.

Will the Real Human Trafficking Hub Please Stand Up?

Date: April 22, 2011

“Houston is hub of human trafficking”
The Houston Chronicle, 11/26/2008

“Oklahoma’s position […] makes it a hub for traffickers”
The Oklahoman, 04/15/2011

“Portland a center for human trafficking”
The Oregonian, 01/09/2011

“Las Vegas: ‘Hub’ of Human Trafficking”
Las Vegas Tribune, 04/10/2011

“California […] is a hub for both international and domestic traffickers”
Oakland Tribune, 01/09/2011

“Toledo’s reputation as a hub for enslavement of people for the sex trade”
The Blade (OH), 01/04/2009

“Chicago is a major ‘hub’ for human trafficking”
The Chicago Sun-Times, 04/23/2006

“Atlanta is the east coast hub for human trafficking”
WALB News (GA), 03/30/2011

“North Carolina’s location makes it an increasingly attractive regional hub for human trafficking”
Gaston Gazette (NC), 04/08/2011

“The city [San Francisco] is a major hub on the global trafficking network”
San Francisco Chronicle, 03/09/2007

A response to the “economic coercion” argument that equates all prostitution with trafficking and then with slavery

Date: April 21, 2011

An “economic coercion” argument often invoked by anti-trafficking/prostitution activists holds that, even though many prostitutes and other sex workers appear to be making a free choice to engage in their work without “force, fraud or coercion,” they are nonetheless victimized by the sex industry and should not be viewed as freely choosing to do what they do because they have little or no other means for self-sufficiency and are therefore “economically coerced.”

I do not disagree that freedom to choose one’s occupation is severely restricted for many sex workers as well as for others who occupy low-end of the American workforce. Under capitalism, we all have to make choices under economic constraints (unless one is super-rich), although some of us have more and better options to choose from than others do. The “choice” to engage in sex work is often (but not always) made by people who do not have very good pool of options to begin with.

But it is not useful to talk about “choice” and “free will” in abstract or absolute terms, or to equate one’s difficult decision to choose the “least bad” option available to her in a pool of bad options with “coercion” in a more traditional sense.

Instead, I suggest that we start from this simple question: “If a better opportunity or option comes up, is she free to take it?” Below is a chart demonstrating why this is a more useful approach.

If a better opportunity or option comes up, is she free to take it?

  “Yes” “No”
Why is this person in prostitution? because it is the best option among what is available to her because she is not allowed to choose something else
What will benefit the individual? more and better options within and outside of the sex industry freedom so that she can make decisions for herself
How will “rescue” action impact her? possible criminal record; forced to choose among inferior options freedom, provided that appropriate support and services are provided
What should society do for this person? no persecution; make more resources and options available intervention to restore her freedom; resources to rebuild her life

I made a PDF version of the above chart available for download so that you can share it with others.

What this chart demonstrates is that we must reject the equation of so-called “economic coercion” with “force, fraud or coercion” that involve another actor (i.e. the trafficker) because there are very significant differences between the two, and conflating them leads to wrong policies and interventions that harm sex workers.

That of course does not mean that we should not address the fact that many people “choose” sex work under dire economic constraints. It just means that we need to understand the problem correctly and intervene in ways that are actually helpful rather than harmful. We must work toward reducing economic desperation among women, homeless youth, immigrants, queer people, and others by enhancing programs that ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met, and creating better and wider range of educational and employment opportunities for all.

Yes, “economic coercion” exists. But the problem is not selling and buying sex; it is the lack of options. Let’s actually address the problem, rather than depriving the “least bad options” from the already disadvantaged population.

Simple chart debunking the “average age” myth

Date: April 21, 2011

Politicians, media, and anti-trafficking/prostitution groups repeatedly claim that the average age of entry into prostitution is 13. I’ve debunked this myth before by pointing out problems with how the number has been reached, but here’s a more simpler, common-sensical debunking.

Assuming normal distribution, mean of 13 and standard deviation of 5, here’s a chart depicting what age of entry into prostitution would look like.

Average Age Chart

As you see, you’d have to accept that there are equal number of 5 year olds and 21 year olds entering prostitution, and also that it’s more likely to enter prostitution at age 0 than at any age past age 26. If this is your view of the world, your sense of reality is severely distorted.

Yes, we read about 12, 10, and 8 year olds being rescued from forced prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. But they are in the news precisely because they are rare. Non-commercial forms of sexual exploitation (i.e. plain old sexual abuse) is much, much more common, but it doesn’t make the news the same way.

(Of course, there is also a possibility that the distribution is not normal, which might explain why we hardly see 0-10 year olds in forced prostitution. But it would also mean that there are *huge* number of 10-13 year olds entering prostitution to compensate that, if we assume that the average age is 13, and it just isn’t true.)

Academic parasitism on activists must change.

Date: April 20, 2011

A Boston-area university instructor contacted me to seek permission to distribute copies of my (very old) article, The Transfeminist Manifesto. As you can see on my “readings” page, I have instituted a licensing fee policy: anyone who wishes to redistribute my article must pay $0.10 per page per copy (because there’s no middleman, my fee is lower than $0.12 that copy shops charge for copyright clearance), or give me a good reason for me to waive the fee.

The instructor wrote that she was hoping that I would waive the fee because she would be “using it in the classroom.” I understand that many people consider this a good reason, as education is given a special moral position in our society, but I did not feel it was. Below is my response to her.

* * * * *

Hi *****,

I am sending you a printer-ready PDF file, because my purpose for instituting the licensing fee is not to prevent someone from using my article. I am granting you the permission to print and distribute copies of the article in the class, though not the PDF file itself. This file also includes a “bonus” that explains some of the backgrounds of the Manifesto.

That said, “using it in the classroom” at an institution like ***** is exactly the situation for which the licensing fee is intended. I would challenge your assumption that liberal arts education at an elite private university might somehow deserve to be subsidized by this activist and author whose income is a fraction of the tuition necessary to attend *****.

I would question further: Do students get textbooks for free because it’s for use in the classroom? Are the chairs and other equipment donated to ***** for free because they are for use in the classroom? And of course, do instructors teach the class for free? The answers are obviously “no”–why, then, are materials published and made available online by activists any different?

As you might have gathered by now, I don’t request licensing fees just because I need the money. I do so because I want members of academic institutions to consider these questions and try to build a more respectful toward and mutually beneficial relationship with activists whose work is studied. Scholars and students often rely on countless hours of uncompensated access to activists and their work for information, source material, interviews, etc. to further their careers or degrees, and yet act as if they are actually doing them a favor by paying attention to the issues. It needs to change.

As I said in the beginning, I am already granting you the permission to use the article in your classroom. But if you feel like paying (or having students pay) for licensing, please make (and encourage your students to make) donations, in lieu of the fees to: The Network/La Red in Boston.

(By the way–the article is also available, sans the “bonus”, in the anthology Catching a wave: reclaiming feminism for the 21st century. You would still have to comply with the copyright law, but you can have students find my article in libraries that way. If anyone had to pay fees for copyright clearance, I prefer that the money go toward The Network/La Red instead of some copy shop).

Best,

Emi Koyama

* * * * * (End of email)

In this case, I decided to give her the permission to use the material for free, but only after she is forced to read the above (and hopefully it made her think); I have waived fees in other instances, for example when an isolated trans student contacts me from a small college in the Midwest because she wants to educate her classmates about trans issues in a class presentation.

That’s an example of what I’d consider a good reason for me to waive the fee, because what she is trying to do is a form of activism and it matches what I wrote the article for in the first place. Teachers sometimes think of “exposing students to new ideas” as a form of activism too, but it’s also their job and I expect to be treated professionally in that context–unless of course there are other factors.

I was attacked at the Tea Party rally–but not by Tea Party members.

Date: April 18, 2011

This past Friday, April 15th, I went to the Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland to check out the Tea Party tax day rally. It was my second time attending a big Tea Party event after the Oregon Tea Party convention right before the 2010 election, which was at the warehouse of a gun shop (I’m not making this up). Readers of this blog may remember that I’ve also attended an Oregon Right to Life rally in the past.

I of course do not support these groups, but I am interested in learning about groups and people who are politically active and hold views that are very different from my own. I am particularly interested in reading hand-made signs people bring to these political events, because I feel that they demonstrate the inner logic and emotions of people who hold (what I believe to be) reprehensible views more than any official speakers, or FOX News hosts that repeat lines calculated to energize the crowd.

So here are some of the signs I saw at the rally:

“Obama’s spending means freedom’s ending”
“Cut taxes, cut spending, no more pork”
“Are you better off than you were 4 trillion ago?”
“Re-distribute my work ethic, not my wealth”
“Less gov = more love”
“God bless the USA #1”
“Obama – Don’t let your socialist chefs cook Ameria’s goose”
“We the people own this house” (picture of capitol)
“Obama… You’re Fired!” (picture of Donald Trump)
“Wake up America – The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants”
“Prosperity follows liberty”
“Give me liberty not debt”
“Hell no to tyranny”
“Impeach Comrade Obama”
“Your ‘fair share’ is not in my bank account”
“We are not a piggy bank” (worn by young children)
“My debt today is $45,979.25” (worn by young children)
“Stop Obamunism before it stops U.S.”
“Taxation is theft!”
“Who caused the recession? The federal reserve bank!”
“$ support police fire military not banks”

As this was the tax day rally, many signs focused on taxes and how they take away (economic) liberty. Several speakers made critical comments about the public transit system Portland is famous for, and how they must stop the light rail’s expansion to Milwaukie and Lake Oswego, both of which are predominantly white suburbs to the south of Portland. Public transit is a public system funded in part by tax money, but I felt that there was more to their opposition than simply that they oppose public projects; it seemed that they disliked these suburbs connected to Portland by fast light rail because they think that it would bring criminals and other undesirables (including people of color, except those who clean their houses and cook their meals) to their neighborhoods in the suburbs.

There was also a small group of protesters who showed signs opposing the Tea Party. Here are their messages:

“Tea puppets for Koch”
“Tea puppet fascist”
“A future with the Tea Party: Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever”
“Pay your taxes asshole”
“The party is over”
“Free humanity not free market”
“My movement isn’t paid for”
“Support people not corporate greed”
“Tea Party – No bright ideas from dimwits”
“Don’t be a Koch sucker”
“Tea Party – This is not 1773”
“Veterans Against a Dick Armey”
“Tax wealth like work!”

In case you didn’t recognize the name, “Koch” (pronounced Coke) refers to billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who have contributed close to 200 million dollars in the last ten years in conservative politics and is now the biggest funder of Tea Party groups such as Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. Dick Armey by the way is a former congressman who heads FreedomWorks now. The sign stating “My movement isn’t paid for” is a snipe at how Tea Party claims to be a grass-roots movement of regular people, but is in fact heavily financed by super-rich like Koch brothers. But that doesn’t justify the statement “Don’t be a Koch sucker,” which, given the context, I find homophobic.

Some statements like “Pay your taxes asshole” seems to be an attack on the tax breaks rich people and corporations enjoy, but directing that at average Tea Party attendees doesn’t make very much sense, considering the fact that most of them are not rich. Calling them “puppets” or “fascists” probably only leads to further polarization, which make us forget that many Tea Party participants are angry about the same thing that those of us on the left/liberal/progressive are, which is the bailout of rich bankers while the rest of us struggle to find or keep employment and pay rent or mortgage or healthcare costs. I don’t agree with their solutions, but calling them fascists does nothing to improve the situation.

I experienced first hand what being called fascist feels like. I was taking pictures of Tea Party, and then moved on to the gathering of protesters to take their photos as well. But as I approached the protesters, I was surrounded by three white men who began yelling and screaming at me from three directions “Fascist!” “Go home teabagger!” “We’ll post you on YouTube” and various insults about my appearance. They apparently thought that I was a supporter of Tea Party, but this is not an acceptable treatment of another human being even if I were one.

At first, I didn’t want to tell them that I’m not a Tea Party supporter, because I didn’t want to imply that it was okay to act this way to someone if they were one. But I felt scared for my safety, so after some hesitation I told them “hey guys, I’m on your side.” But when I thought about it, I’m not really on their side: I oppose Tea Party, but I also oppose people who lack some basic level of civility and common decency.

My feeling was further reinforced when I saw the only physical violence that took place that evening. Pioneer Courthouse Square has a theatre-like stairs on the edge where protesters were gathering while Tea Party rally took place at the base of the stairs, but there was an elderly woman on a wheelchair on the other corner of the top of the stairs. She was sitting there by herself with a Gadsden flag (“Don’t Tread On Me” with the rattle snake), which Tea Party as adopted as a symbol. It made sense that she would sit there: it’d be dangerous for someone on a wheelchair to be in the middle of a crowd, and she wouldn’t be able to see the stage if she went to the square.

At one point, several protesters walked over to the woman and surrounded her with big signs, blocking her sight. They also used whistle to make loud noise next to her so that she could not see or hear the rally. Someone carrying a Tea Party sign noticed this, and came over to demand that the protesters leave her alone. Protesters ignored him, so he jumped on the protester holding the sign and took him down. Others from Tea Party saw this, rushed over, and quickly separated the two.

As much as I oppose Tea Party and I also oppose violence, in this particular instance I totally support the Tea Party guy who came to defend the elderly woman who was surrounded and intimidated by the protesters. She probably benefits personally from government programs like Medicare and social security quite a bit, programs that would be eliminated if Tea Party had its way, but it doesn’t matter: there simply is no justification for behaving the way some protesters did. Who is fascist here?

It appeared that most of the rational, reasonable liberals and progressives did not show up to protest Tea Party, perhaps because Tea Party is not a big factor in Portland. But these protesters do nothing to promote rationality and civil discourse and probably push Tea Party attendees to be even more extreme in their convictions. If I was a Tea Party supporter and experienced what I experienced that evening, it would probably make me less likely to listen to those who protest Tea Party. And if I was a Tea Party supporter and witnessed the protesters’ harassment of the elderly woman, I would further strengthen my belief in the moral superiority of the Tea Party movement.

I don’t question that Tea Party is a fundamentally deceptive and irrational movement fueled in no small part by racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and other prejudices. But if those of us who oppose Tea Party also practice these same prejudices or inhumane treatment of other humans, we are simply creating a left-wing version of the Tea Party movement. Still feeling scared from the hostile encounter, I went home feeling disappointed by the protesters’ inability to imagine something better.

Text of the flier holding journalist Mika Tsutsumi accountable for her endorsement of the racist/xenophobic agenda in Japan

Date: April 14, 2011

Note: Following is the text of a flier I made in preparations for Japanese journalist Mika Tsutsumi’s scheduled talk at Portland State University on April 14, 2011. I found out on the day of the talk that it had been canceled, so the fliers were never handed out.

For those of you who don’t know: Ms. Tsutsumi is the author of “United States: Poverty Superpower” and other books that expose social and economic problems within the U.S. for the Japanese audience, and is considered very liberal/progressive. However, in this particular case she aligned herself with the racist/xenophobic nationalist camp that target immigrants and migrant workers.

*****

Until 2008, Japanese law did not grant birthright citizenship to children born to a Japanese father and a non-Japanese mother unless they are legally married.

This “loophole” mostly affected children of temporary migrant Filippina women who work as “hostesses” serving alcohol to Japanese men at clubs. The legal situation was convenient for Japanese men who seek extramarital affairs with these women without taking any responsibility for the consequences: both the women and their children disappear from Japanese men’s lives as they are forced to go back to the Philippines or wherever the women came from. Children are sent back to an unfamiliar country with unfamiliar culture and language without any financial or other support from their Japanese father.

In 2008, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled this part of the citizenship law unconstitutional, and demanded that the legislature fix the problem. All major parties endorsed the change to the citizenship law, while a small but vocal group of right-wing nationalists (mostly organizing in the social media) argued that granting citizenship to children born to foreign mothers would result in massive citizenship fraud and the foreign (often claimed as “Chinese”) “takeover” of Japan.

Journalist Mika Tsutsumi, along with her husband and member of the Parliament Ryuhei Kawada, joined with the right-wing nationalists to lead the opposition to amending the unconstitutional citizenship law. Tsutsumi warned of the “dangers” of historic proportion eroding Japan’s sovereignty if the law were to be changed, while Kawada specifically insisted that the immigration law’s impact on Japanese unemployment must be addressed before proceeding with protecting the rights of the children whose citizenship rights are unconstitutionally denied.

By the end of 2008, the change to the citizenship law passed both houses of Parliament by overwhelming majority (with Kawada and a few right-wing politicians opposing it). Contrary to the racist/xenophobic arguments in opposition to the change, there have been no report of massive citizenship fraud, or foreign “invasion” of Japanese homeland in the three years since the change.

Ask Ms. Tsutsumi to investigate and report how her own claims regarding the citizenship law hold up with the reality. And if they don’t–which, they don’t–demand that she make a public statement regarding her endorsement of the racist/xenophobic nationalist agenda in Japan. That is her responsibility as a journalist.

“End Demand” approach harms women. Here’s why.

Date: March 18, 2011

Some people concerned about prostitution on our streets are pushing for the strategy to “end demand” of prostitution. It means that, instead of going after people engaging in prostitution to make ends meet, criminal justice system would be instructed to pursue johns (clients) who purchase sexual services from them.

The appeal of this approach is obvious: many people understand that women who trade sex for money do so under dire economic and personal circumstances, and feel that it would be unfair to punish them for their predicament. On the other hand, few people feel any sympathy toward johns: in fact, some may find it deeply satisfying emotionally to have them punished severely.

However, we must seriously consider the full implication of such policy if we are truly concerned about the women who would have to compete for declining demand for their services. While the approach to “end demand” is far more preferable to punishing the women for their poverty and lack of options, it is nonetheless harmful to the safety and health of the women who work on our streets.

The first obvious consequence of suppressing “the demand” is that women will have to compete for a smaller pool of johns, forcing them to do more for less money. The decline of the demand would give remaining johns greater bargaining power, because it would become easier for them to “take the business elsewhere” (i.e. go find another worker willing to do more for less) if their demands are not completely satisfied. For example, a woman who had always insisted on using a condom might be forced to engage in less safe practices simply to stay competitive.

Second, an increased pressure on johns displaces prostitution onto less populated or traveled areas, where they are less likely to be reported to the authorities or caught in a sting. The same environment makes it more dangerous for the women, both because it would be less familiar to them, and also because nobody would be around when they call for help.

And finally, the profile of a typical john would change as we make it riskier to buy sex, since not all potential johns respond to the increased risks equally. “End demand” approach would drive out those men who are relatively rational and sensitive to risks, while the reckless and/or impulsive types remain undeterred. These johns are precisely the ones likely to demand sex without condoms, haggle mercilessly over price or specific acts, or use threats or violence to get what they want.

In short, “end demand” campaign is harmful to women because it diminishes their bargaining power, forcing them to do more for less money, with more dangerous johns, under less safe environment. We cannot criminalize our way out of the current situation; we must address this social and economic concerns with solutions that achieve social and economic justice. We can begin by funding affordable housing, childcare, treatment programs on-demand (instead of many months’ wait list), and education and job training programs, instead of more jail beds or police cars.

(A version of this article was distributed as a flier at the community meeting on street prostitution on the 82nd Avenue in October 2008.)

I am not a sex industry activist.

Date: February 18, 2011

Sex-positive news site SEXIS (part of EdenFantasys) has an article (02/16/2011) about the successful burlesque cabaret fundraiser for the LA chapter of Sex Workers Outreach Project. The fundraiser sounds a lot of fun, and Mariko Passion who organized it is a friend of mine, so I’m glad to see the event got a good coverage.

But I was surprised to see my name pop up in a paragraph that goes like this:

The most common depiction of a sex worker in popular cultural is the down and out, victimized, street walker who needs saving. Interestingly enough, only ten percent of the entire sex industry is comprised of street sex workers and thanks to a “Whore Revolution” being waged by industry activists like Emi Koyama and Passion, they don’t need your saving. What they do need; however, is your support in their fight for rights, respect, and the ability to do their work without prejudice.

“Whore revolution” refers to the ‘zine I made in 2004 titled “Instigations from the Whore Revolutions: A Third Wave Feminist Response to the Sex Work ‘Controversy’,” but if this writer is mistaken if she thinks that “whore revolution” is just about achieving rights and respect for sex workers. Whore revolution that I’m calling for, and I believe Mariko is too, is aimed at bringing down all forms of violence and oppressions that make sex work dangerous, disrespected, stigmatized, exploitative, coerced into, and/or illegal.

Beside, I don’t like that the article refers to me as (sex) “industry activist.” I’m not a sex industry activist; I am a sex worker activist and advocate. It astonishes me that many people equate advocacy for sex workers with supporting the sex industry, as if workers and the bosses that leech off of our work share the same interest. The sex industry is incredibly sexist, racist, classist, ableist, transphobic, fatphobic, etc. and I don’t advocate for it. I advocate for workers, not industry.

cf. Why I’m more like “sex-neutral” rather than sex-positive.

fuck survivor poems

Date: February 1, 2011

fuck survivor poems

i don’t write survivor poems
i don’t write about the journey
from a survivor to a thriver
from a wounded child to a
bad-ass feminist revolutionary
that is not me most of the time

i don’t write about healing
about forgiveness
about grief and letting go

i don’t write about strength
i don’t write about the courage to heal
and i never want to hear again
oh you are so courageous to speak out
about your story
that i haven’t even began to tell

i don’t write to inspire

i don’t write about finding purpose
about finding jesus
about finding self-love

i don’t write about the truth
because truth is too fragile
like a particle whose location and velocity
cannot be simultaneously observed

i write instead
about the lack of counseling
that is actually competent and affordable

i write about the fake sympathy
and the lynch mob that robs me of my rage
and repurposes it to build more prisons

i write about the need for validation
even if our survival involves slashing on the wrist
not eating overeating and purging alcohol drugs
avoiding sex having too much sex

i write, in fact, about survival
through not just the abuse from the past
but survival in the society that doesn’t give a fuck

i don’t write survivor poems
because my story is not for your consumption
i don’t write a coherent and compelling narrative
and i don’t exist to demonstrate the resilience of the human spirit

i write survival poems
i survive

31 january 2011

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