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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sex Workers Have a Bone to Pick With Newsom

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2007 at 9:20 AM


Mayor, prostitutes don’t see eye-to-eye…or eye-to-anywhere else

By Joe Eskenazi

In the last election, the eclectic folks who ran against Gavin Newsom – you remember them – painted the mayor as a man who’d repeatedly prostituted himself for the sake of special interests.

Well, the city’s sex workers just won’t have it. To paraphrase the great Lloyd Bentsen, they have this to say to the Gav: “Mayor, I served with many prostitutes. I knew many prostitutes. Many prostitutes were my friends. Mayor, you’re no prostitute.”

When the mayor last week struck down overtures to lower the priority law enforcement assigns to prostitution, he didn’t win any voters in the prostitute community.

The move angered – but did not surprise – Maxine Doogan, the founder of the Erotic Service Providers Union (yes, such a thing exists. Naturally, they have a Web site).

Simply put, busting prostitutes...

is comfier for police than collaring violent criminals, and the pay’s the same.

“This is an easier way to earn money. You’d rather sit with a pretty girl in a hotel than have to walk the pavement in an area for notorious for drive-by shootings, right?” queried Doogan, who added she’s been a prostitute for 19 years “and will be for 19 more.”

In fact, according to the city’s Budget Analyst’s Office, San Francisco spends around $11.4 million enforcing prostitution laws (and that doesn’t even count tips).

Newsom explained he had to keep prostitution strictly illegal to prevent the further exploitation of women – but Doogan isn’t buying it. In fact, she accuses the mayor of talking out both sides of his mouth (there’s a double entendre there somewhere, but don’t tempt us).

“As long as he keeps prostitution criminal, I don’t have the right to negotiate my wages or my work conditions. Workers don’t have the right to go to the police and report crimes against us on our job. We’re not going to risk our economy to do that,” said Doogan, who organized a demonstration yesterday at City Hall and a Berkeley vigil to mark “International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.”

Incidentally, Doogan founded her union three years ago. She told me she "is not allowed" to disclose how many men and women it represents.

“Liliana” is a 28-year-old prostitute from Florida visiting San Francisco on a trip she hopes to turn into a “working vacation.” She, too, feels pushing prostitutes underground will not help the women in the field.

“I think women should have a license for this. I think it should be done in a professional manner. I think it should be more open,” she said. “If you’re an adult you should be able to do whatever the hell you want to do as long as it’s done in a professional way. That’s what [Newsom] don’t get.”

While Liliana pushed for an Amsterdam-like legalization situation, Doogan wants no part of lawful prostitution. She’d rather work her 19 remaining years in “decriminalization.”

“We don’t see legalization of other erotic services like the dance club industry having brought any self-determination to the workers at all. We have millions of dollars in class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of exotic dancers,” she said. “We want decriminalization of prostitution across the board. That means dropping the enforcement of prostitution laws and actually working to bring protection to sex workers.”

When asked if this would bring a cavalcade of prostitutes into the city, Doogan – a high-decibel speaker – turned it up to 11.

“If San Francisco stopped enforcing its prostitution laws, not everyone would flock here. San Francisco is not an easy city to work in – hellllllo!”

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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