Euro Spa Sting

On Thursday, July 14, The Seattle Times reported on a sting operation conducted by Seattle Police from July 5 to July July 14. SPD netted 22,000$ from the money the clients brought to pay their provider and expect over a half million in fines to follow.

Several things disturb me about this event. Aside from my obvious disagreement with the current laws regarding my work and my clients, these sorts of nonviolent crimes should not be a priority for SPD when we have violent actions right here in Seattle, particularly in the primarily black Central District. The comments left by readers reflected that opinion, citing specific instances where even upper class white neighborhoods see long response times, if any at all, while time and resources pour into this lucrative yet socially damaging operation.

Some say that it’s justified since these men were looking to see “sex slave[s]” and that they were planning to exploit vulnerable women. From the comments made by the Undercover Officer who played the provider and by Police Chief Umporowitz, the woman these men thought they were seeing for sexual services was neither a slave nor vulnerable. She bragged about her ability to convince reluctant clients to agree to exchange money for services (a crime now called Misdemeanor Sexual Exploitation instead of the clearer but less emotionally charged Misdemeanor Patronizing a Prostitute) and all officers quoted in the article expressed disdain for the men they arrested. The article specifically mentions men crying and begging not to be charged as charges like this, particularly with such a vague and damning title, can cause the loss of family, employment, and establishes far reaching stigma. In each case, the writer showed no compassion or sympathy. For those who believe that a sting like this helps end demand for sexual slavery or sexual human trafficking, that is a misperception. There will always be a market for sexual labor and if that market is saturated with consenting adults operating legally, the vast majority of clients will choose the legally operating providers over those who expose them to legal risks such as underage providers or drug users.

So we see that first, stings don’t decrease the demand for sexual labor, they simply drive the market for it further underground and scare off respectable clients. Second, this particular sting did nothing to combat actual abuse considering the clients had no reason to think abuse was occurring, nor were they attempting to abuse the provider. Third, the social and financial consequences these men now face are more harmful to the public than helpful considering the emotional and economic fallout of strong punishments.

My heart goes out to these men. This article was posted to the Seattle subreddit and one of the young men arrested posted a comment.

I was one of the men arrested through this sting. I haven’t told any of my friends or family because I am embarrassed and I just wanted to let my feelings out. As someone who often times feels alone this was a way out and a way I could have physical contact with someone. I knew what I was doing was illegal. But a way to escape the loneliness even just for a bit seemed with it. I am very young in my early 20’s (not the one mentioned in the article). This happening so early in my life makes me feel that any hope for a positive future very unlikely. I am going to school right now but not sure if I’ll keep going. Since it does go on my record everywhere I apply to will see it and make it hard to get a professional job so I don’t see the point in trying. Not to mention the $2700 fine will make my life for the next year a much more challenging. I am working on accepting what happened and moving on but it’s hard. This is just a different perspective on this issue.

Thank you for reading.

Regardless of whether or not you believe that the act of prostitution itself is morally right or wrong, ruining lives over a nonviolent act is not healthy for society. This poor young man, just starting his life, now faces enormous hurdles for simply trying to find someone to touch him in a nonjudgemental, human way. I have many clients looking for the same thing: human contact. They are all kind, thoughtful, appreciative, and undeserving of this ridicule and harsh punishment. This sting was not about aiding vulnerable women, it was not about safety or equality, it was about money, pure and simple. SPD made over half a million dollars from fines alone and the publicity this generates will go toward winning another grant from anti-prostitution NPOs. While the time and energy of a dozen officers over the course of ten days went into arresting and punishing guys who just want to be touched, Seattle citizens suffered from decreased enforcement for real time, potentially violent crimes.

Please readers, stay safe. This work is good and meaningful and fun and pleasurable and I would hate for anyone else to get caught in the political crossfire. SWOP is talking with legislators, city attorney’s, and others in response to activities like this and continues to fight for the decriminalization of this harmless work so that you, our client, can better know who is and isn’t safe and so that resources are focused on actual abuse and violence.

To those who went to Euro Spa and felt the harsh hand of the law, I am so sorry. I am also interested in talking with you about your experience. I would love to paint a verbal picture of what it looks and feels like to go through that process. People should know how it feels to go through something like that and a sympathetic portrait of a victim of a sting could be a huge step towards humanizing my beloved clients.