I wrote this piece on the widespread problem of (usually white) female and male pimps posing as ‘sex worker activists’ for the Survivors’ View Blog:
Well meaning people think most “sex workers activist” organizations/unions speak for women in prostitution. They are mistaken. A shocking number of these “sex worker” organizations were started by women and men who are admitted pimps and madams, or have been convicted of pimping, pandering, or conspiracy to promote prostitution. These people call themselves ‘sex workers’ but it’s a ruse. This is a huge conflict of interest. These organizations and their ‘partners’ and affiliates cannot be allowed to speak for women in prostitution or collect funds on their behalf. Any NGO, university, college of nonprofit organization that engages with these pimp-affiliated organizations or their partners is tainted by association. These organizations benefit the predators who profit off of sexual exploitation; they don’t help women in prostitution.
A pimp is someone who makes money from another’s prostitution. A madam is a female pimp. Whether they call themselves managers, brothel owners, escort agency owners — they are all pimps. As a survivor of ten years of trafficking/prostitution, I have a right to use this word. If someone poisons another in cold blood, it doesn’t matter if they call themselves a life extinguisher or claim they’re an innovative longevity re-allocation businesswoman. They’re still a murderer. A pimp is still a pimp, no matter what name they peddle.
But pimps don’t like that word. So these founders and leaders of ‘sex worker activist’ organizations say they’re sex workers. They appropriate the identity of those they exploit. It’s a bit like a plantation owner in blackface pretending to be one of the slaves they oppress. They’re trying to steal our survivor voices.
Douglas Fox, the main ‘activist’ at the International Union of Sex Workers, claims to be a male sex worker. But he and his partner John Dottery were featured as the owners of a large UK escort agency in the British documentary ‘The Escort Agency.’ On a website he co-edits Fox states his partner owns an escort agency and argues ridiculously that pimps are ‘sex workers.’ He also states ” The fact that paedophiles produce and distribute and earn money from selling sex may make them sex workers.”
The first so-called ‘sex worker activist’ group in the United States was Whores, Housewives and Others (WHO) which eventually became COYOTE. It was founded by Margo St. James, who like Douglas Fox claimed to be a prostitute when she was actually a pimp. She’s admitted to being convicted of running a disorderly house – a brothel – in 1962.
The Sex Workers’ Outreach Project USA (SWOP USA) was founded by Robyn Few the year after she was convicted of conspiracy to promote interstate prostitution. This means that like St. James, Few was also a madam, a female pimp. As a survivor of ten years of prostitution myself, I would never feel safe around a madam. Most women in prostitution wouldn’t. Such an organization can’t speak for us. Few calls herself a ‘sex worker’ most of the time so the conflict of interest isn’t obvious. But the SWOP website makes a point of acknowledging her conviction for promoting interstate prostitution. Why? Because pimps across the country are using SWOP to connect with Johns while they recruit vulnerable young women. This isn’t activism, it’s marketing while lobbying for pimp interests.
SWOP USA isn’t the only ‘sex worker activist’ organization founded by a female pimp. The Erotic Service Providers Union is led by Maxine Doogan who was convicted of running an escort service. Like Robyn Few, Maxine Doogan poses as a ‘sex worker. She claims that legislation which helps pimps is good for women in prostitution. Terri Jean Bedford, who was widely represented in the Canadian media as an advocate of women in prostitution, was convicted of running a brothel. So she’s also a pimp.
Executive Director of COYOTE/ Los Angeles Norma Jean Almodovar was convicted of pandering while she was working as a cop. As such she is part of a long tradition of police officers involved in the prostitution of other women. It’s an unholy alliance that sends women in prostitution the message they can’t get out and they can’t get help. Like Robyn Few, Norma Jean Almodovar calls herself a ‘sex worker,’ but details the pandering conviction on her nonprofit organization website.
Now when a survivor of trafficking/prostitution such as myself happens to bring up this conflict of interest, the pimping parties in question react as if viciously attacked. But there’s nothing personal about saying someone has a conflict of interest. It’s a statement of existing conditions not a vendetta. The majority stockholders of Walmart can’t speak for the company’s minimum wage employees because what benefits those stakeholders may be bad for the workers. But in the ‘sex worker activist’ movement, pimps pretend to be workers when in fact they are management — the ones in control.
No wonder SWOP -USA, COYOTE, The Erotic Services Providers’ Union, the International Union of Sex Workers as well as their partners and affiliates which include the Desiree Alliance, the Red Umbrella Project, and Prostitutes of New York (PONY) support policies that protect pimps rather than women in prostitution. PONY actually claims to “reach out” to Madam members.
We trafficking/prostitution survivors have had enough. We’re going to start calling out the NGOS, universities, and academics who tacitly support and encourage these pimp-led groups. The concept of fruit of the poisonous tree applies here. Any organization that partners or collaborates with these groups is tainted by association They can’t speak for us or collect funds on our behalf.
- Nevada’s Legal Brothels Are Coercive Too(survivorsconnect.wordpress.com)
- Trafficked: Sex Slaves Seduced and Sold (bbc.co.uk)
- Former Montreal sex workers outraged by Ontario brothel ruling(vancouversun.com)
- “I’m not the only one who was mistreated in prostitution” (secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com)
- Prostitution crackdown praised (bbc.co.uk)
- The Sneaky Language of the Sex Industry Lobby (survivorsconnect.wordpress.com)
- Trafficked: Sex Slaves Seduced and Sold (bbc.co.uk)
- Former Montreal sex workers outraged by Ontario brothel ruling (vancouversun.com)