Thursday, May 19, 2011

More Laws to Police My Body

Eva Rivera is a proud lesbian Chicana, daughter, sister and sex worker who can walk in 6 inch heels and twirl naked on a pole in front of total strangers but is still viciously afraid of moths. She hails from Fresno, CA and is a poet and aspiring film maker. You can find her more personal writing on her blog.  

I figured I should start with bringing us all up to date on the current laws and political/social atmosphere that affects sex worker's lives in the US. Our bodies are already in the spotlight. The spotlight of the male gaze, telling us what we must look like to be a desirable/fantasy woman. The spotlight of a society that tells us we are morally corrupt for selling images of and time with our bodies. And of course the legal spotlight which dictates how far we can go with our own bodies. Prostitution is illegal in every state with the exception of several counties in Nevada. Sex workers who feel its the right fit for them will often choose stripping for various reasons. Often its simply safer. Or a sex worker may be a stripper and provide other services which are illegal but she has cover as a stripper and a safety net. Lawmakers have been succeeding at taking away that cover and safety net as well as putting thousands of hardworking women and men out of work.  

I happen to live in a state (Missouri) which recently has banned nudity and lap dances and which has put into place several other limitations which are effectively shutting strip clubs down. For those of you who don't know, lap dances and/or private dances are a primary source of dancer income. Stage sets do not usually bring in much cash. Now that Missouri, in a struggling economy by the way, has put thousands of sex workers out of a job we have the choice to either travel across state lines which is unrealistic for many, or enter a new line of work. Let's examine these two choices. I was able to travel across the state line into Kansas and worked in a club 30 miles away from my home. The club which at one time had a peaceful and profitable balance of worker to customer ratio is now over saturated with women from Missouri. Profits plummet, fights break out and customers are no more morally pure than they were before. Entering into a new line of work entirely is difficult due to the lack of decent paying jobs in the area. Of course workers can also enter into escort/prostitution services and risk jail time and a blotched record which is what lawmakers are supposedly trying to avoid in the first place. Oh the tangled webs we weave. 

Equally troubling as the laws that were passed is the reactions to it. In an already fragile economy, lawmakers and community leaders should be demanding job creation and be outraged by these kinds of laws. The reason for the resounding silence has everything to do with the line of work we are involved in. When large manufacturing companies, who provide hundreds of jobs, close shop it makes front page news. It is made an example of. People highlight the devastation it causes to working families and rightly so. When this law was passed it was mentioned in near whispers. No outrage, no protests, no questions. Thousands of women and men unemployed instantly.  

The message is clear: Get a Real Job. 

The message is clear: You Don't Have the Right to Control Your Body.

Even the language used during the time when this law was still a bill was disrespectful and irrational. Even going as far as "citing" that "75% of them had a least one sexually transmitted disease" and actually using this alleged statistic as an argument. You can read the full Talking Points of the Missouri Community Defense Act here(PDF). There are several states who follow in this same, beaten path.

The fact is, our bodies are not ours to regulate and they must constantly be policed. Does this sound like a familiar struggle?