Whore Next Door: The Status of Sex in the States

Don't be distracted by Donald Trump's executive orders, because there's plenty of bad (and good) stuff happening

(Photograph by Isabel Dresler/Isabeldresler.com)

With another crazy-pants executive order constantly in the works, it’s easy to get bogged down and feel hopeless.

But always remember: This is a tactic of fascism — and if we lose our resilience and optimism, we lose everything. None of us can save the world on our own. Instead, it’s vital that each of us double down on what we know we can do. Focus on the issues that you have some sway and influence over, and fight like hell to make a difference.

The first legislative sessions of the year are underway, and executive orders aside, there is a lot to be concerned about beyond what King Baby is doing in Washington. Here is a short list of incoming legislation — some bad, some good — that will affect communities that do sex work.

“Porn is a Public Health Crisis” legislation
The Republican Party declared this nonsense as part of its platform during the last election. Resolutions have already passed in Utah and Virginia, and 23 states are in the process of introducing similar legislation, backed by moral crusaders and pseudo-scientists.

Prop. 60, Part 2: Mormon-style Utah State Sen.
Todd Weiler has drafted a piece of legislation reminiscent of California’s recently defeated Proposition 60, which would allow citizens to sue adult-film workers for damages. This bill claims — as all good infringements on free speech do — to be a mechanism for protecting children. But just like Prop. 60, it would mostly be a legal mechanism to harass and prosecute adult-film workers.

Porn-blocking software mandates
South Carolina has introduced legislation to place software on every computer sold in the state to block access to adult content. Utah just won’t quit, and may soon block adult content from cellphones as well. In the South, consumers could opt out of the mandate for a $20 fee, but the software could also block access to LGBT and sexual health resources, contributing further to the lack of education around sexuality that plagues our country.

The Live Free or Die State studies sex work
New Hampshire State Rep. Elizabeth Edwards — who, last year, drafted HB 1614, a bill that would have decriminalized sex work — is seemingly unfazed by her last bill’s defeat and back for more. She recently introduced HB 287, which would establish a commission to study sex work and, ideally, the affects of criminalizing it. Edwards’ original bill focused specifically on studying decriminalization, but once it was sent to committee, other legislators (including her co-sponsor) wanted to broaden the scope to include perspectives on trafficking and exploitation.

The current draft of the legislation demands that almost 20 representatives — rather than the recommended six from the House and Senate — be part of the commission, including representatives from law enforcement as well as from anti-trafficking organizations. The commission would also include two current or former sex workers, as well as perspectives from the ACLU, Amnesty International (which recommends worldwide decriminalization of sex work), the New Hampshire HIV Task Force, and the transgender rights community.

Decriminalizing HIV
Finally, right here in California, our former San Francisco supervisor and now state senator, Scott Wiener, has joined forces with Equality California to introduce a bill to modernize California laws that criminalize and stigmatize people living with HIV. Current laws criminalizing HIV were passed decades ago at the height of the AIDS epidemic, informed by fear and ignorance about the virus and its transmission.

“Modern treatments can reduce risk of transmission to nearly zero, yet state laws concerning HIV remain mired in the 1980s,” Wiener’s staff said in a press release. “This legislation will amend California’s HIV criminalization laws to make them consistent with laws involving other serious communicable diseases.”

As much as I would love to be a crusader for every single issue, I can do the most good in the spaces I am already active in. I encourage each and every one of you to do the same. Whether it’s reproductive rights, immigration, racism, health care — or, in my case, sex work and LGBT issues — find your niche and get involved. We are all counting on each other to survive this hijacking of our country.

Don’t let all of this overwhelm you. Let it motivate you to kick some ass. Yes, there is much to fear, but also much to celebrate, and so much more to accomplish.

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