As reported by Mark Scolforo of the Associated Press, Pennsylvania lawmakers, led by State Representative Matt Baker (R-Bradford), will be voting TODAY on a bill to create a registry of adult entertainment registry for exotic dancers and other in a effort, they claim, to combat sex trafficking.
First of all, let me be clear that I support any efforts to reduce sex trafficking and to prevent anyone from being forced to use their sexuality or their bodies against their will. Furthermore, I’m in full support of a nationwide legalized and regulated prostitution industry that provides safety for sex workers, their clients and the community, taking the business out of the hands of pimps and drug dealers and placing it into the hands of accountable business owners and managers.
I can understand why such a law might, taken at face value, be seen as a good thing, since it would reduce the number of illegal immigrants and those who have been kidnapped or in other ways forced, from entering into adult entertainment with the intention of using them towards prostitution and sex slavery. However, I’m deeply concerned about the motivations behind such an bill, how such a new registry would be used and enforced, as well as privacy concerns behind such a law. While such a registry wouldn’t be available to the general public, it raises concerns that adult entertainment establishments will be subject to unjustified “raids” to verify the identities of all club employees. Also, if prostitution does occur inside of a gentlemen’s club or other adult entertainment establishment, who is to say that, under the pretense of “probable cause,” that all of the employees won’t be detained, interrogated and harassed by law enforcement?
The most disturbing part of this bill is the underlying bias that is contained within. As written in section (iv.4), “adult-oriented establishments are associated with a wide variety of harmful secondary effects, such as illicit sexual activities, criminal activities and negative impacts on surrounding property values, including the businesses and residential areas adjacent to the establishments.” Section (iv.7) states “alcohol consumption increases sexual aggression, particularly in a sexually charged environment, putting patrons and employees at risk and increasing demand for commercial sex.” This doesn’t sound like the language of a lawmaker looking to purely protect women, but one who wants to force restrictions on an industry that is already scrutinized and looked down upon by the public while operating out in the open and one that is already the subject of numerous laws and regulations. If law enforcement wants to crack down on their perceived notion of prostitution in gentlemen’s clubs, why not simply stick to undercover work, soliciting dancers for sexual favors as their already doing, instead of depriving women of their rights and using this new law as justification for the harassment that will surely ensue?
“Due to the highly stigmatized nature of sex work, many people need to remain confidential while working for fear of social marginalization,” says Derek Demeri, one of the founders of the NJ Red Umbrella Alliance, a group formed to advocate for the rights of sex workers in New Jersey. “Making dancers register with the state will mean the formation of an underground economy of exotic dancers which will only create the perfect conditions to allow human trafficking to continue. If policy makers are serious about addressing human trafficking then there needs to be more of an effort to bring the sex trade out of the shadows rather than creating more shadows for traffickers to hide under.”
As of the publication of this article, State Representative Matt Baker has not replied to a request to be interviewed for this article.