I saw, I said

I just finished writing an email to a reporter from NPR regarding a story the aired recently on KUOW, our local public broadcast station. You can find the article with a quick google of “NPR Aurora Prostitution” but the gist is that police are beginning to take care of the street based sex workers, in their own way, instead of simply arresting them. While in general I approve of this shift, part of the article bothered me. This is the email I wrote:

Dear [Reporter]

I heard the article concerning street based sex workers on Aurora. While I strongly appreciate the shift towards harm reduction and away from legal action, there was one aspect of the article I’d like to draw attention to.

The detective mentions that he used to believe that prostitution was not a victimless crime but has changed his opinion based on the abused and addicted women he has interacted with. I would like to point out that street based sex work is not representative of the community, particularly in Seattle. Because he interacts with the most vulnerable of our populations and offers services not needed by those of us who are happy and independent he does not see the scope of us. For every one street based sex worker there are two dozen at least who are, if not as enthusiastic as I, at least satisfied with their choices and not influenced by addiction, coercion, a history of abuse, etc.

While I do empathize with the struggles these women go through, I urge you to do a more thorough investigation into the Nordic model. Criminalizing our clients will do nothing to deter those who already break the social contract by mistreating sex workers. Many clients are already terribly skittish and careful, but they are also usually kind and respectful. While criminalization does not change behavior, as we have seen through the attempts to criminalize marijuana, alcohol, and sex work, it does deter the most accountable to the social contracts. If we put in place a system in which I retain my freedom, property, and reputation in exchange for giving up my beloved clients, those beloved clients may well become fewer and farther between. If I cannot pay my bills with revenue from kind, respectful clients, I must either lower my standard of living or accept greater risks. I’m not saying that no action should be taken to aid the minority group of disadvantaged sex workers, I’m only asking for you to do your own research, using the resources made available by sex work communities in addition to law enforcement, into the effectiveness of various models of legalization.

I and my clients are in a privileged place: I am young, white, raised middle class with two loving parents and a husband who stands by me. I entertain gentlemen who have many reasons for their actions but violence and victimization are not among them. Please, do due diligence to a topic that may become more and more in the spotlight following Margaret Cho’s admission and the James Deen/ Stoya saga. After prohibition and the war on drugs, the war on consensual sex work may be next. Like reefer madness, trafficking hysteria has roots in genuine issues of chemical dependency, illegal organizations, and victimization. Do not allow the voices of the indoor sex workers to stay out of your journalism because of the agonized voices of the few who truly do need help.

You played a sound byte regarding the nordic model by a local leader for SWOP Seattle. When I texted her to thank her for chiming in, she didn’t know what I was talking about. I assume that it was a quote from past interviews and I feel that she was quoted unfairly. She was responding in general terms to the nordic model, not specifically to the difference between truly exploited women, the only voices the police actually see and hear, and those of us who are educated and privileged.

This is a complex issue and I only ask that you and your fellow journalists encourage each other to fully investigate. I am happy to respond to any follow up questions you have and I appreciate your reading this. The truth is out there, help the world find it.

Christina Slater
Seattle Indoor Sex Worker

I know we’re all very busy, but it’s like they say at the airport: “See something, say something.” If you see or hear an article in major, local news media that discusses sex work, please drop me a line and let me know. I will do my best to respond to the relevant parties. The more voices out there the less they can ignore us.

Now, off to lunch with the delicious Mslle. Sabatier. No more work for a few hours! haha.

Edit as of only 10 minutes later:

Her reply, beautiful, perfectly correct, and hopeful for future collaboration:
Thank you for your thoughtful engagement. Of course it’s my desire to reflect all the voices and perspectives on an issue – that’s the highest and best purpose of my work – and I’m well aware that the community of sex work (consensual and otherwise) is large and varied. I can understand your frustration that your views and your experience aren’t better represented by this story.
Because the aim of this story was to answer a listeners question “why is there so much prostitution on north aurora avenue in Seattle?” I chose to focus only on what I saw – and what others saw – on North Aurora. What I saw was not the world of consensual sex work that you describe. Sergeant [officer] says the same. In a quote that didn’t make it into the story, he told me “I understand that there are some people who say sex work is a victimless crime, willing buyer, willing seller. I’m not a prude, and I’m not a zealot. I understand that may be happening somewhere. But I can only speak to what I see. And after years working Aurora, that’s not what I’m seeing. On my level.” I chose to focus on this street level, and like [officer], I called it like I saw it.
Perhaps a compromise would be to acknowledge the size and diversity of those who engage in sex work, and the variety of opinions on the matter. It would have been useful – and I wanted to find a way – to say that there is a very large and varied sex economy in Seattle of which Aurora comprises the most vulnerable and desperate corner. I didn’t do so purely because the limitations of time and of storytelling demanded more focus. This time, I told one story. Another time, I’ll tell another. Perhaps you’ll feel that one better represents the truth that you know.
Thanks for listening,