It isn’t just second-rate poets. The publication of academic work on prostitution is an industry in itself, an obscenely wealthy competitor of the “sex sector.” In the 1800s, people read about the “diseased body” of the prostitute in works by William Acton and Havelock Ellis. These days, the New York Times and other periodicals lap up the advice of “prostitution experts” such as Ronald Weitzer.
The following is taken from an enlightening article “Do ‘High-Class’ Prostitutes Escape the Law?” from Cleveland.com:
Prostitution expert Ronald Weitzer of George Washington University says the way existing laws [against street prostitution] are enforced works just fine.
He advocates a tough stance on the streets because “street prostitution victimizes host communities and leaves the prostitutes themselves open to victimization.”
So . . . the street worker is a parasite and should be treated as such. Is that right, Ronald? While, the expert continues, the “de facto decriminalization” of indoor work would lessen the strain on law enforcement and allow boys, after all, to be boys. This, of course, is his solution.
Maybe I’m being too hard on Ronald, though. The focus on “de facto decriminalization” is central to sex worker rights-talk, too. The same articles showcasing “experts” pull quotes from managers, call-girls, and escorts who, at least as quoted, share the same racist and classist biases in favor of decriminalization, which would do little to decriminalize “loitering” and public nuisance laws specific to street work.
This kind of talk excludes low-wage workers and street workers, who are disproportionately, but not entirely, women of color, men who have sex with men, and transwomen. The fact that Ronald Weitzer and sex workers activists might agree on paper is a wake-up call to us involved in sex worker rights. The fight against police violence, the struggle for affordable housing, and the work toward economic justice should be at the top of our list of shared priorities, not separate and unequal concerns, and some of the first of our soundbytes. That and outing “experts” like Weitzer.