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Sex Work Is Not An Invitation To Rape

November 24, 2009

Sex work is not an invitation to rape.

[Trigger warning -- news story contains description]
There is a range of feminist opinion on what role sex work ought to have. But there can’t be a range of opinion on sex workers: they are people. No means no. Stop means stop. Whatever services they sell — cam shows, penetration, BDSM or whatever — do not and cannot be seen to invalidate their humanity. And ignoring a person’s right to say, “stop penetrating my body” is the most basic denial of humanity.

The problem with a jury system is the same as the problem with judges (recall this awful shit): they reflect first and foremost the biases of the society they operate in. Here, there wasn’t a real question about what happened:

A New South Wales District Court jury cleared Petty Officer Timothy Davis, 25, of a charge of sexual intercourse without consent, with the aggravating factor of causing the woman actual bodily harm. … The woman told the court she had protected, consensual sex with Davis at the brothel where she worked, but said he became aggressive when she told him his time was up and forced her to have unprotected sex. The jury was shown police photographs of scratches on the woman.
Davis denied forcing the woman to have sex, but admitted in court that he used a “lock down maneuver” to pin her to the bed when she said she wanted to stop. He told the court he backed off when she kicked him, though he said he muffled her mouth with his hand when she began to scream after he demanded his money back.

Laws regarding prostitution vary between states in Australia. Brothels are legal in New South Wales.

This is not a legal problem. This is not a problem statutory reform can solve. Her work was legal where she was doing it. She was a service provider engaged in a lawful business enterprise, not meaningfully legally different from a masseuse or a personal trainer or a manicurist, for these purposes. Her work puts her in close contact with customers to whom she provides services. Nothing about that implies that she waives her basic human rights to do her job.

And this is not an enforcement problem. The police made an arrest and the prosecutors brought the case. The judge didn’t throw it out. The case went all the way to a jury.

This is a cultural problem. He admitted he pinned her down, he admitted he covered her mouth, he admitted that he put his penis inside her with no condom … and a jury of ordinary citizens acquitted him anyway. I can’t see any way that happens unless they simply decided that they are so biased against sex workers that they think sex workers deserve to be raped when doing their job.

Shouldn’t it be so obvious as to be unnecessary to say this? Sex workers do not deserve to be raped — while doing their jobs, or at any other time, ever. It’s a basic syllogism, really. Major premise: No human deserves to be raped. Minor premise: Sex workers are human. Conclusion: No sex worker deserves to be raped. The operation of the syllogism is Logic 101. The truth of the premises is Humanity 101. Disagree with one of those premises? Fail the course, repeat Humanity 101.

So much of policy around sex work is driven by a phobic and hateful reaction. There are basic things about sex work that everyone who identifies as sex positive or feminist or both ought to find common ground on: e.g. that sex workers ought to be protected from rape, including while working; that providing sexual services, even if illegal, ought not to be punished more harshly or more frequently than being a customer of the same services; that underage sex workers ought not to be prosecuted at all because someone who lacks the agency to have zir consent to noncommercial sex recognized ought not to bear criminal responsibility for the same acts if money changes hands. Shouldn’t those simple propositions get universal agreement from everyone?

And let’s not forget the person who caused this shitshow of basic human rights violation. Congratulations PO Tim Davis. You’re a piece of shit. You abused a sex worker, and you got away with it because the jury hates sex workers. You fail Humanity 101. Repeat the course. You know what? Don’t. I want you off my fucking planet, now. Eat your service sidearm. Your next victims will thank you. Because we both know it’s highly likely you’ve done this before, and I’m goddamned sure you’ll do it again.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. michelle permalink
    November 24, 2009 3:34 pm

    DO you think that it is a problem in that people falsley believe that “sex workers is an invitation to rape” or is sexual assault not taken seriously in the military. According to the Military Rape Crisis Center (http://www.stopmilitaryrape.org) only 2-3% of all those accused of rape are ever Court Martial and over 90% of women that report an assault are forced out and lose their careers as a result.

    • November 24, 2009 4:36 pm

      This was not a US Court Martial under UCMJ. This was a civilian criminal jury trial in New South Wales, Aus.

      • michelle permalink
        November 24, 2009 8:45 pm

        don’t you think that the military has something to do with his innocence? do you think he would have gotten away so easily if it was not for his US military status?

    • November 24, 2009 8:50 pm

      I don’t know. Is there reason to believe that a jury of Aussie civilians is biased towards American military personnel? I’m inclined to think that this is a matter of bias against sex workers.

  2. November 24, 2009 5:13 pm

    Waow loved reading your blogpost. I submitted your feed to my blogreader.

  3. orlando permalink
    November 24, 2009 6:16 pm

    This should be so simple. He admits he held her down against her will. It’s illegal to hold someone down against their will. Even without the sex, he’s confessed to assault. This seems to be a case of a jury openly declaring that because this woman has been prostituted, she has no value as a human being.

  4. catgirl permalink
    November 24, 2009 10:52 pm

    A lot of prostitution-apologists will insist that prostitution is just like any other job, so let’s look at it from that perspective. What if this man paid for access to a movie, then insisted on staying around for another movie without paying for it? That would certainly be considered illegal. What if he paid for a movie but was breaking rules in the middle of it and asked to leave? The theater manager has the right to kick out patrons who are disruptive. Why should a prostitute have to continue providing services that aren’t paid for? And shouldn’t a prostitute have the same right as a movie theater manager to kick out or refuse customers, even ones who have paid, if they don’t follow the rules? Even if the jury didn’t think this woman was really human, shouldn’t they have still considered this to be wrong from a theft perspective? It’s not just that they ignored her humanity; they believed that she really deserved to be punished.

    • November 25, 2009 7:39 am

      The whole “theft of services” thing is highly offensive to a lot of sex workers. Aside from that, I think it’s wrong — rape is a personal violation, not a property crime. See generally my Yes Means Yes essay.

      Anyway, I’m going to ask you to stay away from the “theft of services” terminology.

      I agree with your conclusion, though. The jury hates sex workers and wants to see them punished. It’s so hateful.

      • catgirl permalink
        November 25, 2009 7:28 pm

        Oh, I think I wasn’t clear about my point. I’m really sorry if I offended you. I certainly don’t agree with the “theft of services” idea. My point was that even for people who do think of it in that way, they still should have realized this wrong. Those people are being hypocritical on so many levels.

      • November 25, 2009 9:54 pm

        Totally agree that they should have convicted for something. Stunning the disregard for basic humanity.

  5. December 18, 2009 8:00 pm

    “It’s a basic syllogism, really. Major premise: No human deserves to be raped. Minor premise: Sex workers are human. Conclusion: No sex worker deserves to be raped.”

    Very well put. All jobs have their dangers, and with prostitution they are especially acute. However, no one has the right to physically impose himself or herself on another without the other person’s consent.

  6. February 4, 2010 2:29 am

    It is a I adore a few of the articles which have been written, and especially the comments posted! I will come back!

  7. February 13, 2010 9:26 pm

    Hey – nice blog, just looking around some websites, seems a really nice platform you are using. I’m currently using WordPress for a few of my sites but looking to change one of them over to a platform similar to yours as a trial run.

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