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May 14th, 2009 by Lolita Wolf

This is a collaborative press release - please distribute and repost widely!

Contact:
Dylan Wolfe - Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK), swank@riseup.net
Will Rockwell - $pread Magazine, will@spreadmagazine.org
Audacia Ray - Sex Work Awareness (SWA), aray@sexworkawareness.org
Susan Blake - Prostitutes of New York (PONY), pony@panix.com
Michael Bottoms - Sex Workers Outreach Project - New York City (SWOP-NYC), info@swop-nyc.org

With Craigslist’s recent announcement that its Erotic Services category will be discontinued within the week, hundreds of thousands of erotic service providers will become more vulnerable to dangerous predators. Eliminating erotic listings as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and others propose will only drive us further underground.

Policing the masseuses, phone workers, pro-dominants, and escorts using Craigslist fails to protect those of us who are coerced into the sex industry. Preventing the use of Craigslist advertisements also eliminates the advantage of screening clients online, which makes for a safer work experience by filtering out potentially dangerous individuals. Furthermore, keeping us offline hinders police investigations of violent crime. In the Boston murder of Julissa Brisman, it was online tracking that enabled the police to identify the suspect. One has to wonder: are the Attorneys General examining the evidence or simply enforcing their moral values?

“Removing the erotic services category from Craigslist does not help prevent violence against escorts and other sex workers. It only pushes me and people like me out of the places where advertising is available,” said Jessica Bloom, a sex worker from Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK). In the face of increasing criminalization, we insist upon respect. As mothers, daughters, brothers, and members of your community, we claim that sex work is real work, work that we are entitled to conduct in safety. As such, we must be accorded the human right of full protection under the law.

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**EDIT** an addendum. I just typed this up in response to a Facebook friend asking what he could do to help. Here are some suggestions:

You can totally help, mostly by speaking up and jumping into the fray!

Legislation about consensual adult sex work (not trafficking, coercion, or child prostitution) mostly happens on the state level - since you’re in NY, you can find your assembly person here: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/ - write to him or her and tell them how you feel about the risks created and perpetuated by continued criminalizing of sex work and cracking down on advertising

Write letters to the editor of newspapers that publish misguided pieces about how the elimination of craigslist erotic services will “help” women

Comment on blog posts and online articles (if you’ve got the stomach for it!)

And check out the very excellent and thorough reports on research done by the Sex Workers Project to arm yourself with statistics.

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Here's a very interesting follow-up article:

Online classifieds giant Craigslist said yesterday that it will replace its "erotic services" section with a new adult category that will be more closely monitored, responding to criticism that the popular Web site has facilitated prostitution across the country.

Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster said on the company's blog that every ad posted to the new "adult services" category will be manually reviewed and that the section will be scrubbed of blatant sex-for-money ads and pornographic pictures. It was unclear, however, how a company that employs 28 people intends to screen the thousands of ads, and what criteria will be used.

The company has been under tremendous pressure to change its practices, particularly since the slaying last month in Boston of a woman who had advertised on the site as a masseuse. Authorities say the erotic services section of Craigslist is widely used by prostitutes, and at least a dozen women in the Washington area have been attacked after offering their services on that site.

entire article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/13/AR2009051301447.html
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