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Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on September 11th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 27 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 27

You don't have to put on the red light


Everybody makes a big deal about the birds and the bees, but I gotta tell you: The two groups don’t mingle all that much. Sure, as animals, we generally both fly, we both tend to make our homes in trees, and we all hum or whistle because we don’t remember the words to most songs, but that’s about it when it comes to similarities. And there’s certainly nothing intimate between us

I don’t know how that phrase—“the birds and the bees”—first became a euphemism for that consenting-adult act that people love to make euphemisms for, but I don’t like it. Birds are not overtly sexual creatures—as far as my social circles go, anyway—and insects have never struck me as something one wants to invoke when trying to get into the mood.

If anything, I’d think bees would be a mood killer. Maybe it’s because they can inject you with venom that makes you get all itchy and swollen. No, stings aren’t fun.

Which—Ha! I didn’t plan this!—brings to mind the recent news I saw about a prostitution sting that netted, among many others, two Santa Maria men and a Nipomo man arrested on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution, and a Nipomo woman arrested on suspicion of prostitution itself.

I saw some San Luis Obispos on the list, too, and a Bakersfield, and a couple of Reno, Nevadas.

Three police departments—in San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, and Arroyo Grande—teamed up to carry out this sting operation, which, yeah, OK, happens. I’m not going to get on a high horse here and talk about how prostitution is dangerous and wrong, about how—at least from my perspective—selling one’s body for sex encourages the objectification and commoditization of women. Yes, I know there are arguments for and against the practice, from a legal standpoint, and a moral standpoint, and a whatever standpoint. That’s fine. As I said before, that’s not what I’m aiming to get into here.

What interested me was the departments’ rationale behind the operation. The press release started with a note about a violent prostitution-related robbery that happened midway through 2011, which seems a bit long ago to be triggering response action today.

More recently, in the spring of this year, there were two violent rapes and robberies of prostitutes, according to the release. It reads: “During the investigations of these and other crimes, officers learned that many such violent attacks on prostitutes occur quite frequently but are rarely reported by the victim. They fear they will be prosecuted for their illegal activity.”

You know I’m going to say this: Rape is wrong. It’s never OK, and it’s never justifiable. “She dressed like she wanted it” is never an acceptable thing to say, and neither is “But she’s a prostitute.” If you have to shell out money to get sex, you complete that transaction and you don’t do any more than what you paid for. Rapists disgust me (and thanks to the governor, by the way, for taking that last step on Sept. 9 and closing a legal loophole that allowed some rape suspects to get away with their crimes because their victims weren’t married; now rapists can be prosecuted as felons in this state regardless of their victims’ marital status).

So to me, a logical response seems to be one of education. “Don’t let fear of arrest stand in the way of safety and justice,” the poster would read. “Prostitutes are people too, and deserve to live in a world where they won’t be beaten and then find themselves afraid to come forward out of fear of legal retaliation for saying what happened to them wasn’t right.”

So what did the joint agencies do in their effort to make the world a safer place for prostitutes? They created fake “Johns”—which is another euphemism I can’t get behind, mostly for the toilet connotations—scheduled hotel visits, waited for money to be exchanged for “an agreed upon specific sexual service.” Then they arrested prostitutes.

I don’t understand how developing an arresting spree around the idea that prostitutes fear they’ll be persecuted—oh, I’m sorry, prosecuted—for engaging in illegal activity yields the hoped-for results. I’d think local prostitutes getting one whiff of this action or press release didn’t so much as think “I should really stop doing this line of work” as they thought “This just goes to show that the police are out to get me. Don’t trust them. DON’T TRUST THEM.”

It’s like pointing out that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be afraid to report crimes against them to the police—because such immigrants’ criminal status leads them to be open to a particular kind of abuse—and then brainstorming ways to get such a vulnerable population to be more vocal when it comes to robberies, beatings, and the like; and then holding a resident-status sting to show them—and anyone watching—the error of their ways.

I feel like you can’t have it both ways. Either you’re asking criminal groups to trust the police as part of an effort to make this world a safer place for everyone, regardless of their life choices, or you’re busting members of criminal groups to send a message to others. Which is what happened with the recent prostitution sting, despite the initial statements to the contrary. According to the release, the first stated goal of the three-day, 23-suspect-collaring operation was to “[a]rrest prostitutes in an effort to discourage them and others from providing their illegal services in our cities.” The police also wanted to discourage customers via arrests and “bring to the public’s attention the hazards of soliciting a prostitute … .”

Again, I’m not seeing anything here, at least on the surface, that ties back to the initial implied point about encouraging more prostitutes to come forward and report violent crimes perpetrated against them. In fact, it seems the opposite thing’s been achieved.

Congratulations, police departments, you’ve struck fear into the hearts of local suspected prostitutes. I’m sure they’ll remember that next time they consider whether to come forward and fill out some paperwork when their purse is stolen and all they’ve got is a black eye to show for it.

 

The Canary has likely made enemies and friends today! Send comments or ideas to canary@santamariasun.com.