Sex Workers Embracing #MeToo
By John D. Winer
July 10, 2018
The #MeToo movement has triggered a tectonic shift in the way our culture views workplace sexual harassment and abuse across a wide range of industries but it hasn’t caught on as quickly for sex workers. Women, men and transgender people who make a living in the sex industry are extremely vulnerable to sexual violence and harassment on the job. Advocates say while society is changing its views towards sexual harassment, many sex workers feel left out of the national conversation surrounding #MeToo.
Sex workers who’ve experienced sexual assault by a co-worker or someone else in a position of power feel they have no legal recourse and prefer to remain anonymous when reporting an incident because of the fear of being “slut-shamed.” Many believe they’re not viewed as “real victims” due to the nature of their consensual work as prostitutes, escorts, strippers, pornography actors, or erotic massage therapists, among other sex-related professions.
There are signs that more sex workers are embracing #MeToo by coming out of the shadows to publicize incidents of abuse. For example, the iconic porn star and self-proclaimed groper Ron Jeremy is the target of a civil lawsuit filed in Washington state. The unidentified woman accuses Jeremy of sexually assaulting her four separate times in 2017 at a promotional event for a radio station where she was working as a model. The woman claims Jeremy grabbed her rear end, violently groped her breast, pulled down her torn T-shirt and exposed her breast, placed his mouth around her exposed nipple and digitally penetrated her.
In a statement provided to TheWrap, Jeremy argued that his accuser’s claims were dropped by the district attorney and police. While biases may have prevented this from becoming a criminal matter, the civil justice system may be the plaintiff’s best option to hold the accused perpetrator accountable for his humiliating and damaging misconduct.
Another example of sex workers fighting back involves a prostitute who accused brothel owner and Nevada Assembly candidate Dennis Hof of raping her at one of his brothels in 2005. The Las Vegas Review-Journal fought for a redacted copy of the police report — as required by Nevada’s public records law — which outlines the woman’s account.
While prosecutors declined to press charges, the prostitute alleged that in December 2005 Hof and another sex worker entered her room at the Bunny Ranch II in Mound House while she slept. The woman claimed the pair woke her up to have sex, before Hof asked the other prostitute to leave the room. “Dennis pulls me close to him, opens my legs, and I pulled my legs together, said ‘no,’ and made excuses to try to leave or make him leave,” the woman wrote in her statement. When she tried to leave, she said “Hof grabbed her arm and pulled her back.” After several attempts to stop Hof by making excuses, the woman said she “gave in,” according to the police report.
The 71-year-old Hof, who recently won the GOP nomination for Nevada’s Assembly District 36, is facing several other sexual assault allegations by two other ex-prostitutes. One of the women reported being “raped and battered daily” between 2009 and 2011 at Hof’s Love Ranch in Crystal and the Bunny Ranch in Carson City. The Nye County district attorney’s office said it declined to prosecute Hof because the statute of limitations had expired.
While justice may seem elusive for victimized sex workers, the more they speak out about mistreatment, the more our society will recognize that sex workers’ rights are human rights.