On January 7, Alex DiBranco reported at Change.org's Women's rights blog that carrying too many condoms and hanging out with another person can get a woman arrested for prostitution in DC. On January, 11, she noted that this insanity is official policy in New York and San Francisco, too. She followed up the next day with the DC Metropolitan Police Department response.
Sooooo, as Alex points out, a city with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infections instituted a policy that discourages prostitutes from carrying condoms because it can be used against them by the law? And, in New York City, does this policy not hurt the City's efforts to give out free condoms? They even printed them with cute logos to encourage people to take bunches.
This is one of those stories that makes me want to run away and live in a cave by myself because people are far more batshit than actual bats and their shit. (The problem is that caves tend to be damp and cold, and I'm not good with that combination. But I digress.)
This discussion henceforth can go in one of two ways: 1. the stupidity of discouraging sex workers from carrying protection from a public health standpoint or 2. the stupidity of prosecuting prostitution. Both are book-length examinations of social policy and attempts to enforce "morality" gone horribly awry. I've blathered on about why prostitution should be legalized more than once (and I'm cooking up a rant about sex trafficking for a future post), so let's focus on the public health issue today.
Danielle Cheesman at Hello Beautiful points out that the contradictory condemnation of women carrying condoms starts at a young age:
“Put your life into your own hands” – it was said and it was true. And then, unfortunately, in high school, someone mentioned that girls who carried condoms were “easy” and those that were easily influenced stopped using them and some got pregnant and some didn’t. (What definitely didn’t happen though were those girls becoming prostitutes but, I guess, that’s a minor oversight.) There was a contradiction, though. Getting free condoms from the nurse was always an option, but never a rule. It was promoted, but looked down upon.
She also, however, noted that the girls who did carry condoms were not and, as far as she knows, did not become prostitutes.
Over at Columbia University Law School, students from the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic set up an information table back in November 2009 to get fellow students to support a bill that would ban using condoms as evidence of prostitution. Lisa Derrick wrote that the "bill is critical to protecting public health in New York." (Of course, as someone who has observed New York fine state legislature in action over the last decade, I am sad because I know that Derrick is correct and that means that nothing will come of the bill, no pun intended.)
Prostitutes have enough problems with clients who don't want to use condoms. If a prostitute is smart (and brave) enough to insist that a client use a condom and risk losing his business (and incurring the wrath of pimps or sex traffickers), we should be doing everything we can to support her. (Or him. Men are prostitutes, too. Which actually makes me wonder if male prostitutes are exempt from this because society of course has no problem with men preparing to get busy with lots of women since that's what men do, or if male prostitutes are punished twice as hard for servicing men. Interesting.)
Clearly in America, anyone having lots of sex is a suspect person in need of legal harassment. So ladies, beware! This has been a public service announcement. And off to my mental cave I retreat...
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