The motivation for this post, created on 2014-07-20,
is to present some news stories that, it seems to me,
have presented women who have been forced to
openly describe their participation in prostitution
as being far from the "victims of violence" that feminists often describe them as.
A short list of female madams or prostitutes
whose activities have been openly reported would include:

Mayflower Madam: Sydney Biddle Barrows (b. 1952)
Washington Madam: Deborah Jeane Palfrey (b. 1956)
Hollywood Madam: Heidi Fleiss (b. 1965)
Soccer Mom Madam: Anna Gristina (b. 1967)
Virginia Mom: Nataliya Davis (b. 1971)
Manhattan Madam: Kristin M. Davis (b. 1977)
Capitol Hill Aide: Jessica Cutler (b. 1978)

It is also worth noting the change in the way prostitution and prostitutes are portrayed in general culture and in the media
from, say the 1950s and 1960s to the 2010s.
In the 1950s, the standard cliche description of a prostitute was as a woman with "a heart of gold."
Why the media described them that way, I was far too young to understand.
But that certainly was a standard characterization of "women of the night."
Movies in the 1960s portrayed prostitutes or prostitution in sympathetic terms, e.g.:

Remarkably, Never on Sunday
has been available, complete (1h29m), with English subtitles(!) at YouTube
since July 3, 2012:

Or see the original trailer (2m16s) here:

Just my opinion, but Ms. Mercouri doesn't exactly seem to be a victim in this movie.

And here is the official trailer for Two Mules for Sister Sara
(Note: I would rate this trailer as PG-13 for violence):

This video (4m13s) features the score for Two Mules for Sister Sara by Ennio Morricone :

In books, a 1971 best-seller was:

There was not, as I can recall, the portrayal of prostitutes as victims.
Nor were there reports of sexual trafficking.


A story that would resonate with future claims from feminists reached the media in 2004:
The case of Jessica Cutler.
Ms. Cutler's description of her experiences certainly seems to be at odds with
how the view of prostitution of the feminists quoted in a 2014-07-17 WP article,
in particular, some statements attributed to Melissa Farley.


Trial Starts in Case of Upscale Escort Service
By Paul Duggan
Washington Post, 2008-04-07

Four Former Call Girls Testify at Palfrey Trial
By Paul Duggan
Washington Post, 2008-04-08

Four self-described former call girls
testified in federal court yesterday that
Deborah Jeane Palfrey ran her D.C. escort service
as a front for upscale prostitution,
dispatching young, tastefully dressed women
to homes and hotels in the Washington area
for $250-an-hour sex with male clients.

Clearly none of the women relished reliving an unsavory past
on the witness stand in U.S. District Court,
all of them having given up moonlighting as illicit escorts several years ago.
Their pained expressions, slumped shoulders
and often halting, whispered, euphemistic accounts of what they did for money
suggested they would rather have been almost anywhere else.

Two acknowledged longtime clients of Palfrey's now-defunct business --
both lawyers, one of whom started using the service
as a law student at Yale University in 1994 --
also appeared less than enthusiastic to be on the witness stand,
forced to state for the record their names, ages, places of residence
and how many times they paid for sex with Palfrey's well-mannered, college-educated escorts.

How many? Dozens of times, each man said.

"May I go now?" lawyer Paul Huang, 44, of Rockville,
said after Palfrey's attorney finished questioning him.
Huang wiped his brow.
"I have to run seven miles tonight.
Run off some of the stress."

Like the women, Huang and Yale graduate Christopher Sorrow, 35, of Arlington
were compelled to testify under grants of immunity
that prevented them from remaining silent
under the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Like Sorrow,
Huang later hustled away from the courthouse with a coat over his head,
a paralegal from the U.S. attorney's office
shielding him from television cameras with a black umbrella.

Whether some of the escorts employed by Palfrey from 1993 to 2006
performed sex acts with clients for money
is not in dispute.
At issue in the trial is whether Palfrey, 52,
who ran the business from her home in Northern California,
was aware of the prostitution.
She says the sex went on without her knowledge,
that the dozens of women who worked for her "high-end erotic fantasy service"
were supposed to engage only in legal, "quasi-sexual" game-playing.

Palfrey, who created a public fuss after her indictment last year
when she threatened to expose her clients by revealing her telephone records,
is charged with racketeering, money laundering and using the mail for illegal purposes.

If yesterday's parade of red-faced witnesses was not enough,
more testimony unsuitable for the family hour could come soon
from men with higher profiles than the two suburban lawyers.

Palfrey's witness list includes Sen. David Vitter (R-La.),
who apologized to constituents for "a very serious sin in my past"
after his name surfaced in the case in July,
though he did not say what sin he had committed.
Also on Palfrey's list is Randall L. Tobias, a former deputy secretary of state
who resigned last April after acknowledging to ABC News
that he used the service for massages.

The prosecution's list includes Harlan K. Ullman,
an associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies
who developed the military doctrine that he called "shock and awe."
Ullman has declined to comment on the case.

It's uncertain, though, whether any of the three will be called to testify.

Each former call girl who took the witness stand in Judge James Robertson's courtroom
said yesterday that she and Palfrey had a tacit understanding
that having sex for money was a condition for employment
with Pamela Martin & Associates, Palfrey's business.
But they added that Palfrey never talked about it in explicit terms.

"This was a criminal enterprise," said Sharon King, 40, of Leesburg,
who testified that she had sex with men about 80 times
while employed by Palfrey in 2000.
"We knew why we were there."

Each woman said that after she applied to work for Pamela Martin & Associates,
she was sent to the home of a longtime client,
who then reported to Palfrey on whether the woman was suited to be an escort.

Huang was one of the "testers," as prosecutors call them.

He testified that Palfrey asked him questions:
"Was she enthusiastic? Passionate? Was she a dead fish? Something along those lines."
He said Palfrey "wanted an honest opinion."

Like the others, Tracie Hoeffel, 44, of Cheverly,
who said she worked for Palfrey in 2001,
seemed reluctant to describe her job in detail.
"I met with this man and had sex with him,"
she said of one encounter, and shrugged.

Hoeffel said she worked as an escort to help repay graduate school loans.
She and the others said they mailed money orders to Palfrey
for her 40 to 50 percent cut of the proceeds.

And there were a lot of proceeds, authorities allege.

"How many times did you have sexual intercourse and/or oral sex with a client
at an appointment arranged by Pamela Martin & Associates?"
prosecutor Catherine Connelly asked Donna Raphael, 29, of Silver Spring.

"Over 100," replied Raphael, who said she worked for Palfrey
in 2001 and from 2004 to 2006.

Andrea Detty, 30, of Burke, recalled an appointment at which she said
she declined to have sex with a client whom she described as mentally "very slow."
When she told Palfrey about it on the phone, Detty said, the boss berated her.
"She said,
'If I could come over there and do these appointments
and [expletive] these people myself,
I would -- but I'm in California.' "

Palfrey's hiring process, it turned out, was not flawless.

A fifth former employee testified yesterday:
Fauzia Mack, 46, a Mary Kay cosmetics representative and mother of three from Rockville,
who said she answered an Internet employment ad for Pamela Martin & Associates in 2006.
She said she thought the company was a "social companionship" firm
that would pay her to spend time with elderly people.

She said she wanted to earn money to buy dorm furniture for her daughter.
She said she was sent to Great Falls for what she thought would be
"an hour of companionship" with a man who eventually asked her for oral sex.

"That was not appropriate," said Mack, who told jurors that she left the house
and called Palfrey to tell her what had happened.
She said Palfrey fired her in anger.

"She called me a nitwit."

More Former Call Girls Take Stand
In Prostitution Trial, Witness With PhD Describes Illicit Activities for Upscale Firm
By Paul Duggan
Washington Post, 2008-04-09

In attempting to prove that
former escort-service entrepreneur Deborah Jeane Palfrey
was, in reality, an upscale pimp,
prosecutors yesterday summoned seven more admitted ex-prostitutes
to the witness stand in federal court in Washington --
not one of them as unlikely a call girl as Rhona Reiss, PhD.

"I got to the hotel," Reiss testified,
describing one of "more than 100" sexual encounters she had with clients of Palfrey's firm.
"He introduced himself and he sat down and took his pants off"
and asked her to perform a sex act. "I did."

"How old are you?" Palfrey's attorney inquired.


And how old was she when she took a job with Palfrey as a $250-an-hour escort,
indulging the sexual fantasies of male clients
in homes and hotel rooms in the Washington area?

"Fifty-six," Reiss said.

She studied occupational therapy
as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960s,
received a master's degree in the field from the University of Florida
and a doctorate in higher education from the University of North Texas.
She used to be director of education for the American Occupational Therapy Association.

"Her numerous career adventures include clinical and academic positions
in Tokyo, Chicago, Sydney, Dallas and Washington, D.C.,"
the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions said in a 2006 news release,
announcing Reiss's appointment to the faculty as head of a graduate program.

Not listed among her career adventures
was the position she accepted in February 2001
after answering a Washington City Paper ad
for Palfrey's now-defunct escort business, Pamela Martin & Associates.
In her application letter, Reiss, who now lives in Gaithersburg,
touched briefly on her academic bona fides and highlighted her more relevant credentials:
"fantastic smile, lovely breasts, very shapely legs."

"She said it was adult entertainment," Reiss told the jury,
recalling her job interview with Palfrey.
"She asked if I had done that sort of work before. I hadn't."

And so went another day of testimony in Palfrey's racketeering
and money-laundering trial in U.S. District Court,
another parade of erstwhile call girls,
reluctant characters in a legal drama at once sad and comically absurd.
Most spoke in monotones, some squirmed, a few dabbed at tears.

They are women conservatively attired for court
and hardly resembling the glamour photos they mailed to Palfrey
when they were looking for work in 1998, or 2003, or 1995.

"I was going through a time period, I did not feel attractive,
and it was nice to have gentlemen,
whether they believed it or not, tell you you were pretty,"
said Debborah Brown of Florida, an escort from 2000 to 2002.

Palfrey, 52, a Northern California resident who ran her D.C. escort service from 1993 to 2006,
is charged with racketeering, money laundering
and using the mail for illegal purposes.
Palfrey contends that the firm was an "erotic fantasy concern,"
providing women for legal, "quasi-sexual" game playing,
and that she was unaware that her employees engaged in prostitution.
The government alleges that she knew all about it.

The escorts -- college-educated, tastefully dressed,
conversant in current events and mostly (but not always) young --
were dispatched by Palfrey to clients who were happy to pay $250 an hour
for the women's intimate companionship.

Four former call girls testified Tuesday that
they and Palfrey talked about prostitution only in ambiguous terms
but that performing sex acts for money
was a tacit condition of employment with Pamela Martin & Associates.
But some of the former escorts who testified yesterday, including Reiss,
said Palfrey at times talked openly about prostitution.

Reiss, now retired from both her former professions,
did not explain her illicit career choice.
Like the others, she signed a contract with Palfrey pledging to abide by the law --
a document that prosecutors allege was a sham intended to give Palfrey deniability.

Defense lawyer Preston Burton has brought up the contract
with every former call girl who has taken the witness stand,
pointing out clause No. 5:
"Individuals caught performing illegal activities of any nature
will be terminated."

When he raised the issue with Reiss, showing her the document and her signature,
she told him,
"I didn't sign any agreement saying I wouldn't do anything illegal."
In her parsing of the clause, Reiss said,
the rule technically did not prohibit illegal activity.

Burton seemed surprised.

"You're an educated woman," he said. "How did you understand it?

She didn't pause.

"Don't get caught."


Professor for Hire

By Andy Guess
Inside Higher Education, 2008-04-11


"I did what I had to do, and you know,
I grew up in an era when sex ... was recreation.
I grew up in the '60s and '70s and I didn’t think it was such a horrible thing.
I came from the era of free love, and I needed money,
and that’s what I did," [Reiss] said.


Navy Officer Took Call Girl Job
By Paul Duggan
Washington Post, 2008-04-10 [Thursday]

A Navy officer testified in federal court in Washington yesterday
that she moonlighted as a call girl for Deborah Jeane Palfrey's escort service for six months, starting in 2005,
when the military says she was assigned to the Naval Academy as a supply officer.

Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca C. Dickinson, 38,
who was placed on leave by the Navy "pending further administrative action,"
told a jury in U.S. District Court that she used the name "Renee"
while having sex for money
with male clients of Palfrey's now-defunct firm, Pamela Martin & Associates.

Dickinson, who enlisted in the Navy in 1986
and was commissioned an officer in 1993 after graduating from Auburn University,
was the 13th admitted former call girl to testify since Tuesday
in the government's case against Palfrey.
Three former clients of the escort service also have testified.

Palfrey is charged with racketeering, money laundering
and using the mail for illegal purposes.

The officer, like the other women, testified that
Palfrey sent her to an initial encounter with a client
to see how she would perform.
She said she met the client at his Howard County home
and, after some small talk, "we began to have sexual relations."

She did not say why she chose to work for Palfrey's firm
or how many clients she had encounters with before quitting in April 2006.

"It was getting harder for me to do," Dickinson testified.
"I had other responsibilities. I didn't like it."
She added,
"I quit for many reasons. . . . Partly because of other commitments."

Palfrey, 52, said she was unaware
that the escorts she employed were having sex for money.
She contends that her business was a "high-end erotic fantasy service"
that allowed men to engage in legal, "quasi-sexual" game playing.

The women were compelled to testify by prosecutors under grants of immunity
that prevented them from remaining silent
under the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Authorities learned the women's names
from records seized in a search of Palfrey's house in Northern California.

A Navy lieutenant commander is equivalent in rank to an Army major.
After being commissioned, the Navy said,
Dickinson attended the Navy's supply corps school
and served on ships and at military installations in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Georgia
until she was transferred to Annapolis in September 2004.

Most of the 13 former prostitutes' current occupations are unclear.
Dickinson, though, was the second former call girl
whose legitimate professional background has been revealed.
The other, Rhona Reiss, 63, of Gaithersburg,
who went to work for Palfrey when she was 56,
is a retired occupational therapist with a doctorate in higher education.

The trial before Judge James Robertson is scheduled to resume Monday [2008-04-14].

Need for money may have driven her to prostitution in D.C.
By Josh Mitchell and Frank D. Roylance
Baltimore Sun, 2008-04-12


Yesterday, Dickinson's lawyer said she regretted her actions.
"On some level, she's not a big fan of the prostitution laws
and believing that the conduct is so inherently bad,"

said the lawyer, Jonathan Gladstone.
"Although, she does realize the effects this is going to have on the service.
She is incredibly regretful that she feels like she's let her shipmates down."



When Rhode Island accidentally legalized prostitution, rape decreased sharply
By Max Ehrenfreund
Washington Post Wonkblog, 2014-07-17

The number of rapes reported in Rhode Island over time
is compared that in to three similar states.
The red line marks the de facto decriminalization of prostitution.

For decades, few people noticed that legislators in Providence had deleted crucial language from Rhode Island state law in 1980. It wasn't until a 2003 court case that police, to their chagrin, discovered they couldn't prevent prostitutes and their customers from engaging in commercial exchange.

For the next six years until legislators corrected their error, the oldest profession was not a crime in Rhode Island -- and public health and public safety substantially improved as a result, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The statewide incidence of gonorrhea among women declined by 39 percent, and the number of rapes reported to police in the state declined by 31 percent, according to the paper.

The study by Baylor University's Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah of the University of California, Los Angeles contributes to an impassioned, long-running debate about prostitution among advocates for women's rights. Their work appears to be the first quantitative evidence that removing criminal penalties for prostitutes can reduce violence against women and curtail sexually transmitted infections in society generally -- and dramatically so. Yet opponents argue that legal prostitution would encourage traffickers to kidnap women and girls into lives of sexual slavery.

Shah and Cunningham did not explore this question in their paper, due to a lack of data.

"Operation Rubdown"

Lawmakers revised the state statute on prostitution in 1980, concerned that it was overly broad and could infringe on First Amendment freedoms. They went too far, accidentally removing the section defining the act itself as a crime. Other associated activities, such as streetwalking, pimping and trafficking, remained illegal.

Since prostitutes couldn't walk the streets, they had few opportunities to take advantage of the mistake until the advent of the Internet gave them another way to advertise. In 2003, police in Providence hit two spas in a sting officially called "Operation Rubdown." The women were staying off the street, and a judge ruled in their favor. Legislators revised the law in 2009.

There are a number of reasons to think that making prostitution legal might improve working conditions for prostitutes. If they were having a problem with a client, they could threaten to call the police. Not only could this threat reduce the risk of physical violence, but it could also allow them to demand that their clients use condoms.

Additionally, according to supporters of legal prostitution, unlawful streetwalkers have no opportunity to vet their clients before their hurried, clandestine encounters. A regular market for sex, whether online or in a brick-and-mortar establishment, could solve that problem. Opponents dispute these theories, arguing that prostitution is inherently violent and dangerous, whether legal or not.

Shah and Cunningham did not consider these questions specifically, but instead examined the consequences of decriminalization for the state as a whole. The two economists found that more women entered prostitution, particularly white and Asian women, and that the price of their services fell. In addition to the lower rate of gonorrhea infections among women, Shah and Cunningham estimated that decriminalizing prostitution prevented 824 rapes that would have been otherwise reported to police -- and presumably many more that otherwise would not have been reported in any case.

The decline in the number of rapes was so large that Cunningham and Shah felt obliged to examine their data with three separate statistical methods, but the effect persisted. The authors were eventually persuaded that their result was not a fluke, and that imposing criminal sanctions on prostitutes and their clients might cause violence against women. "The human costs are so big, if this is in fact a very real causal effect," Cunningham said. "I think we have convinced ourselves that we have done everything we can do rule out alternative explanations."

Is prostitution rape?

Possibly the most disturbing and surprising implication of these results is that men who commit rape would simply find a prostitute if doing so were less expensive. Cunningham and Shah considered and ruled out several other possible explanations for the decline in rape. The economists wondered, for example, whether police officers working on massage parlor stings had been reassigned to rape investigations, but it seemed they had not.

Melissa Farley, a feminist, psychologist and trenchant critic of prostitution,
argued that Cunningham and Shah were simply misunderstanding the nature of paid sex.
Prostitutes are often victims of abuse,
whether it is perpetrated by johns or pimps, she said.
If so, then the decrease in rapes reported to police
does not really represent a decrease in the total amount of violence.

"Women in prostitution generally describe it as paid rape.
That’s what if feels like to them,"

said Farley, who feels the study embodies a "reactionary worldview."

Farley, along with major international feminist organizations such as Equality Now and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women,
worries that legalizing prostitution would make it easier for traffickers to operate,
and that many of the new prostitutes who appeared in Rhode Island between 2003 and 2009
were unwilling participants.

"Demand fuels trafficking," said Kristen Berg, Equality Now's trafficking program officer.
"With the demand for commercial sex,
there's an incentive for traffickers to traffic women and girls to these locations.
With increased demand, you’d expect to see increased supply."

Ronald Weitzer, a sociologist at George Washington University, disagreed, arguing that legal prostitution would reduce the financial incentive for organized crime to risk running afoul of law enforcement by kidnapping and transporting girls. "When something is prohibited, it allows organized crime to gain a foothold," he said, comparing the sex market to the markets for alcohol during Prohibition or for marijuana and other drugs today.

Weitzer studies European countries, which have been adopting lenient legal regimes that would be politically unthinkable in the United States. The Netherlands and Germany legalized prostitution in 2000 and 2002, respectively. (It is also legal in New Zealand and some Australian jurisdictions, and has been for decades in Nevada. All of these schemes employ various forms of regulation.)

Both parties in the debate draw their own conclusions from these experiments. Farley cites a recent study by European researchers purporting to show that legal prostitution encourages trafficking in people. Weitzer counters that the study improperly draws on data from countries where trafficking is defined and reported differently, and notes that the number of trafficking cases in Germany has fallen.

A legal dilemma

The model developed by Sweden and copied elsewhere offers a kind of compromise: prostitutes are not criminals, but their clients are. This is the approach favored by Donna Hughes, a professor at the University of Rhode Island and an eyewitness to inadvertent decriminalization.

Hughes, like Farley and Berg, views prostitutes as victims, not as criminals, but she was forced to make a difficult decision when Rhode Island began to debate amending the law.

The Nordic model, as Sweden's regime is known, was a political nonstarter in Rhode Island. Hughes, a prominent scholar of trafficking, was forced to choose between the status quo and imposing criminal sanctions on prostitutes. She eventually threw her support to the latter option.

"The situation was so horrible in Rhode Island, that the pimps and traffickers were operating with absolute impunity," she said.

Hughes's story shows why the debate over prostitution can become so contentious. In practice, the distinction between criminals and victims is often unclear. Many prostitutes and their advocates dislike both labels. They object strenuously to the view that they are not in the industry through their own choice but through manipulation or coercion.

"They have heard that, and they laugh at it," said Mike Kiselica, a Providence attorney who represented massage parlors and their prostitutes during decriminalization. "The frontline workers, the girls, they were free to move around, and would do so if one of the other places offered them a more attractive working environment or a better clientele," he said.

He said that even though the law had changed, police continued to conduct extensive raids on his clients, often involving superior officers, social workers and Korean interpreters. Although the police confiscated ledgers, calendars and cell phones, they did not find evidence of involvement by organized crime, Kiselica said. To his knowledge, few if any of the arrests made during the period led to convictions on trafficking charges.

The question of how governments should deal with prostitutes has been debated widely around the world. As European states have experimented with new systems, Canada and Israel have considered reforms as well. So far, the debate has not begun seriously in the United States, but perhaps it will in Providence.

Further reading:

"The War on Sex Workers," an essay arguing that the crusade against human trafficking harms prostitutes


Sex Valley: Tech's booming prostitution trade
By Laurie Segall and Erica Fink
CNN.com, 2014-07-11

Business is booming for sex workers in Silicon Valley, but it's becoming increasingly risky.

Startups are transforming into multi-billion companies. And the staffs are overwhelmingly male. Sex workers tell CNNMoney they have a growing clientele who have plenty of excess cash.


A second issue affecting business was the shut down of a prominent website for both solicitation and screening of prostitutes and their clients.

Late last month, the FBI raided and shut down MyRedbook, a website that allowed escorts to advertise their services and negotiate with clients.

Women in the industry relied heavily on MyRedbook to do background checks on their clients. Sex workers would post about instances of violence or circumstances in which they felt unsafe.



Should Prostitution Be a Crime?
New York Times Room for Debate, 2015-08-26

Last week, Amnesty International passed a resolution supporting the decriminalization of sex work, on the grounds that it would be safer for sex workers — a move that many human’s rights groups disagree with and opposed.

Does legal prostitution better protect women and sex workers?

[So reads the introduction to this "Room for Debate" on the New York Times webpage.
The important thing is to note the point of view they take from the get-go.
Any other of the questions of the costs and benefits of prostitution
are ignored in this debate.
For example, the worthwhile question of whether
the availability of legal prostitution reduces the number of sex crimes.
Common sense certainly would say yes, it does.
(For an example of heavy use of sex workers
by men otherwise deprived of heterosexual opportunities,
see "US sailors wear out sex workers" (Perth, 2002).
A quote from the madam interviewed in the article:
"And they [the sailors] were a lot more agitated sexually
because they'd been at sea too long.").

To the NYT article, a reader made the following comment:]

mobocracy minneapolis 2015-08-26 ~5:20 PM EDT

I'm curious if anyone has ever thought of heterosexual sex for money in terms of economics.

If you think of sex as an economic good (or service), women not engaged in sex work represent an economic cartel that sets the "price" for sex with men. Historically speaking, the price floor has been set very high. Men have to make women their wives and promise to support them and their children forever.

Extramarital sex in this economic perspective is thus considered a problem because it violates the cartel's pricing structure. A man obtaining sex from a woman without marrying her is obtaining the cartel's product without paying the desired price. This somewhat explains the greater shame and approbation traditionally heaped on women for extramarital sex -- it's the woman who controls the pricing. Too much extramarital sex without marriage makes marriage too expensive.

Historically, the cartel has had practicality on its side -- pregnancy, small villages and close living quarters have made transaction costs high and made it easier for the cartel to maintain its pricing premium for non-monetary extramarital sex.

Prostitution represents a kind of existential threat to the cartel because it greatly reduces the price for the service, which is why women as a group are generally opposed to it. It completely undermines their price controls and forces them greatly raise the value of other services they provide (eg, cooking, cleaning, etc) in order to obtain the desired price.