What’s in a name?
Being renamed by those who have no regard for you is a drag. Hence the case of California Senate Bill 1388 authored by Sen. Ted Lieu set to go before the California Senate Appropriations committee on May 5th. His bill is called Human Trafficking but really his bill renames us prostitutes as ‘performers and our customers as ‘purchasers’ and mandates the later to spend 48 hours in jail and pay a $1000 fine to be split between police, prosecutors and non profits creating a sex bounty. The bill says the fines must go to provide those shame based sex negative substandard ‘peer to peer counseling’ for minors who have been working as prostitutes. ‘Bounty’ and ‘self dealing’ are words the analysis of the Senate Public Safety Committee used described this bill before they voted to approve it.
This bill is just like the First Offender Prostitution Program here in San Francisco. The FOPP was sold to the pubic under the guise of holding our customers financially responsible for all structural race, gender and social inequalities on the planet but really the public has been subsidizing the salaries of the uncredentialed counselors, the police and prosecutors all these years.
My current legal title is prostitute. I’m fine with that. I used to be an escort when I first started working in the biz in a massage parlor the mid 1980’s that was also licensed for escorts. I got a massage permit, so then I was a masseuse. When I stared working as an outcall escort, I got a license for that too thinking I would be afforded protection. I was wrong. I really liked the term sex worker until I figured out the other people who were using it weren’t doing prostitution. I don’t know what they were doing but it didn’t seem to involve the touching of other people and they weren’t at risk for being arrested for prostitution. The sw terms seems to have some sort of class connotation to it. Political commentators on MSNBC use it now with a smile. I stopped using that term to describe myself for the most part. I am a provider, a provider of erotic services, an erotic service provider, I’m definitely not a performer.
California criminal code 647(b) is the legal definition for prostitution which is anyone providing a ‘lewd act’ for money or ‘consideration’. A ‘lewd act’ means anyone touching breasts, genitals or buttock area with anything by another. So even using my feet to give a sensuous massage of the groin area, or sliding my riding crop over someone’s nipples or grinding my hips on a lap where a penis resides, all constitutes prostitution in California.
Now agreeing to do a ‘lewd act’ for money or consideration is currently protected under the first Amendment but taking any ‘furtherance’ to do or receive the ‘lewd act’ for money or consideration, like even offering or accepting a ride down the street for example, can constitutes an arrestable prosecutable criminal offense under current law and under the proposed bill. However SB 1388 goes way beyond criminalizing behavior. This bill actually renaming us without our permission. This is shocking considered the bill’s title is human trafficking. Human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, you know that mantra. Slavery like how Africans were captured and sold on action blocks here in the good ol U S of A to have their labor extracted by any means. People who were turned into slaves in this way were striped of every right known to mankind. Typically when they were sold, they were renamed by their masters.
Now I’ve never formally met the sponsor of this bill that’s attempting to rename us. But I did have occasion to sit near him at the April 22nd California Senate Public Safety hearing where he stated his case for his bill, SB 1388. Well he didn’t really that say much. He let Daphne Phong, of Prop 35 and some other woman who spoke about how her daughter liked to watch Disney at the age of 20 but then started dressing ‘like a cheep ho’ do most of the talking. The mother of the daughter testified that her daughter abused other women because he boyfriend made her. Somehow all of this domestic violence justifies reaming of us as ‘performers’ and our customers as ‘purchasers’ and recriminalizing our customers to spend 48 hour in jail and conflating them to sex traffickers to pay new high fines. It’s all about ‘that money’ according to the mother. That would explain why all the police and prosecutor associations supported it.
I’ve never spoken to Senator Ted Lieu before. I wondered why he wants to rename me to be a ‘performer’ and my customers as ‘purchasers’? So as I was sitting there in front of the Senate Public Unsafety Committee near Ted Lieu, a man of Asian decent and looking at one of 3 co sponsored for his bill, Holly Mitchell a black women, I’m wondered what possessed people of color to rename us to create a funding stream for counselors? Coining a pejorative term to refer to human beings is undignified and legislating it into law is certainly below the station of a state senator and the state of California.
I stated in my oppositional testimony among other things, that renaming us without our permission was a human right violation. The Chair of the Public Unsafety Committee, Senator Loni Hancock asked Ted Lieu and Holly Mitchell to address the issues we brought up in opposition to their bill. Senator Holly Mitchell said that we couldn’t just walk in and testify and expect her to respond. That we would have to submit our issues in writing if we expected to be addressed. One of the purposes of speaking up at hearings is to have a chance to speak why decision makers support or oppose something; that’s how our democracy is supposed to work. Chastising us, the unfunded already marginalized workers, publicly for not using a particular process is typical cheap shot and a form of political escapism to avoid taking responsibility. Besides, many of the issues we raised were already written in the 19 page committee analysis in great detail. Her high handed remarks to us made me think she had not bothered to read it.