X-Out Exxon

[gas]Global warming. Mass murder and rape in Indonesia. The war in Iraq. The Mobil gas you pump into your car. The institution of MSU and its investment portfolio. One might find one of these topics out of place. Unfortunately, all five are inextricably linked, and the relationship is more direct than optimistically perceived. Read on to see how MSU\’s investments directly support the Mobil gas pouring from international gas pumps, and indirectly are associated with both global warming and international atrocities.
The environmental and social effects of oil mining and distribution are commonly alluded to, but the explanation in full can easily be misinterpreted. According to Global Exchange\’s Brandon Knight, an MSU alumnus who works as a Freedom From Oil campaigner, the Chain of Destruction protruding from the oil mining industry is intricate. \”Basically, there are a lot of problems,\” Knight said. In more detail, he explained the complexities. The Chain of Destruction consists of six stages that take the petroleum from its natural location to the air that we breathe. \”First is exploration, which is when oil companies go out looking for oil and take over land from communities.\” Second is the production phase, which includes mining for oil. \”On top of the oil is a natural gas,\” Knight said. \”A lot of companies will burn this off, putting off carbon dioxide, which is polluting the air quality for the local community.\” The goods then have to be taken to their destinations, which leads to the third stage: transportation. \”It takes lots of energy to move it around the planet,\” Knight said. Fourth is the refining phase, followed by retail, and then finally combustion. As Knight explained, carbon dioxide is emitted in this final phase, which is the biggest greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming. While the direct cycle may seem to halt there, the effects continue to ripple through society. According to Knight, this all leads to a society \”reliant on cars, which leads to urban sprawl, then to the car culture that we have now.\”
In addition to the environmental repercussions of the Chain of Destruction are the social implications. As mentioned, the Chain of Destruction\’s first phase of exploration is an act that ends in taking over land from communities that are full of natural resources. The detrimental effects to the community here are obvious – extracting resources, exploiting the land of locals to benefit the rich very far away. Even if resources are available, mass populations of developing countries often can\’t afford to enjoy the products of their own land. While oil is produced in India, many Indians opt for an alternative fuel. \”In many other countries, exploitation of resources isn\’t even an option because they can\’t afford it,\” said English senior Nayantara Sen, a native of India. \”In Bombay, India, they use cow-dung cakes to burn for methane. Not a question of choice – but of necessity.\”
Many people equate the oil enterprise as a motive in the United State\’s current war in Iraq. \”I think that the war in Iraq is about control of global oil and the supply of oil,\” Cole Smith, plant ecology junior, said. Smith is also a member of the Michigan Students for Sustainability Coalition. While different peoples\’ perception of how these two facets (the war and oil) are connected, the opinion that they are indeed connected is not unique or uncommon.
\”One of the biggest users of petroleum is the army, which is a direct connection,\” Knight said. \”Indirectly, companies profiting from the war have administrative ties, too.\” He also believes one of the reasons the U.S. is in Iraq is oil control.
[smoke]ExxonMobil, a company that produces, transports and sells natural gas and crude oil worldwide is the largest company in the world by market value. Weighing in at $410.65 billion, it far surpasses General Electric at $358.98 billion and Wal-mart at $201.36 billion. ExxonMobil is one such company that contributes to the environmental struggle our globe faces today.
They have been under scrutiny by various environmental and human rights organizations for their practices. Arguably the most appalling circumstance is the one for which the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) filed a claim under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) in the Federal District for the District of Columbia on behalf of 11 villagers of Aceh, Indonesia, on June 20, 2001. The ILRL is able to file a lawsuit under ATCA against ExxonMobil\’s activities in a foreign land because the ATCA allows foreign nationals that have been violated under the \”law of the nations\” or a U.S. treaty to file suit in federal court. The ILRF describes the reasoning for this legal initiative in brief and ExxonMobil\’s follow-up activity as follows: \”The general theory of the case is that ExxonMobil knowingly employed brutal military troops to protect its operations, and the company aided and abetted the human rights violations through financial and other material support to the security forces. In addition, the case alleges that the security forces are either employees or agents of ExxonMobil, and thus ExxonMobil is liable for their actions. ExxonMobil filed a routine motion to dismiss ILRF\’s claim, and ILRF filed a response against this motion on Dec. 14, 2001.\” The human rights violations that military troops have committed and that ILRF is referring to include \”murder, rape, torture, destruction of property and other acts of terror.\” This case has not yet been settled, but as of March 2006: \”Judge [Louis F.] Oberdorfer ruled that plaintiffs may proceed with their claims of abuses, including wrongful death, battery, assault, and arbitrary arrest against ExxonMobil under state law. Following this order, we are looking forward to entering into the \’discovery\’ phase (obtaining evidence) of the case and then finally allowing plaintiffs to have their day in court.\”
The brutal instance of the happenings in Indonesia are only one of the agenda items in the Stop ExxonMobil Alliance (SEMA), which is a coalition of respected organizations such as Amnesty International, ILRF and Greenpeace that was created to confront and address the practices of this corporation. Other repercussions of ExxonMobil\’s doings that SEMA brings to the foreground include: ecosystem destruction; damages to community health; the sabotage of efforts taken to combat global warming; and the money ExxonMobil devotes to politics.
Thus far we\’ve covered four of the five items: global warming, mass murder and rape in Indonesia, the war in Iraq, and the Mobil gas you pump into your car, leaving the institution of MSU and their investment portfolio.
\”Students at MSU filed a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request for MSU\’s investment portfolio and found that MSU is invested in war profiteers, such as weapons manufacturers and oil companies,\” psychology senior Triana Sirdenis said. One such oil company is ExxonMobil. \”A divestment campaign is currently being discussed amongst various groups at MSU.\” A divestment campaign is different than an ethical contracting campaign, though both have end goals of convincing an institution to alter its current practices for one more just.
\”Ethical contracting is when an institution, like MSU, uses its current power or position from existing contracts to put pressure on a corporation to change its business practices; whether it be one of many issues like environmental abuse or union busting. The long term goal is to improve the conditions of the workers and ensure future ethical contracting practices between the university and corporations,\” Sirdenis explained. \”Examples of these campaigns are the WRC [Worker Rights Consortium] and Killer Coke. Divestment, however, is different because it cuts our investment, not a contract, in a company. So we might have stock in Wal-mart, lets say, but we don\’t have a contract with Wal-mart. Divestment takes money away from the corporation by cutting the university\’s financial support to end their affiliation or connection to corporate business practices. It is debated whether divestment campaigns improve the conditions for workers at the bottom of the corporate ladder since the goal is not completely worker focused.\”
To some, the idea of an institution deciding to partake in such a movement may sound far-fetched, but it has happened before. \”MSU was the first school to divest from Apartheid South Africa,\” Sirdenis said. Also, she said that divestment campaigns are currently active in at least two different Michigan schools: University of Michigan and Wayne State University. \”The campaign goal is for the schools to divest from companies that are complicit in the Iraqi War. Most schools picked the top 5-10 companies and chose to target those specifically.\”
Is it important to divest? \”Yes, but we have to fully consider where that money will go to,\” Knight said. \”I really think we need to consider divestment [and reinvestment] – and broaden [the aim] to make MSU committed to investing in socially and environmentally just corporations.\”
[msu]Some may not understand why others percieve MSU\’s investment in ExxonMobil as a problem. \”I see MSU being very hypocritical [if they are invested in oil] because they are attempting to get on the band wagon [by doing things like joining the Chicago Climate Challenge] but they are being self defeating. It\’s not good for any large institution to be invested in war,\” Smith said. \”If you equate Exxon with war, then MSU is invested in war.\” Smith felt that if a divestment campaign was to be launched, a proposal would need to be made for what MSU should alternatively do with the investment funds. He suggested putting an emphasis on reinvestment into more of a sustainable enterprise. \”I think that when I first heard [of MSU\’s investment in ExxonMobil] – at first I was really kind of surprised,\” Sen said. \”Then I was disappointed, then angry and outraged.\” The focus of her anger was on the hypocrisy of the investment. \”It needs to change, ASAP.\”
If you find the correlation of the five items to be troublesome, there are actions you can take. Online resources for those wanting to become more educated on these issues include the websites for ILRF (www.laborrights.org) and SEMA (www.stopexxonmobil.org). More local is the MSU student organization STRAAW (Students Taking Real Action Against War), which meets every Monday at 7 p.m. in the basement of the MSU Union. If these steps are too time consuming, the more personal option could be eliminating your contribution to these list items. Bikes don\’t require gas.

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Meet Prince Albert

[face]You\’ve been seeing a special someone for a while now, and you decide you\’d like to take your relationship to the next step. Wanting to demonstrate your affection, you take charge and plan a special night. Everything is going just as planned – the dinner you spent three hours preparing was delicious, the flowers were a hit, and all the candles have stayed lit. Things start getting hot and heavy, and as you passionately kiss your lover\’s neck, you sensually whisper your intentions to orally please them like they\’ve never experienced. Your lips slowly move down, closer and closer to their destination, until you\’re removing the last piece of material between you and your lover. And then…whoa. You discover that your love interest has a kinky fascination in genital adornment. But, can you…lick that? Are you going to…get caught on it? Is it…safe?
The bejeweling method used for rebellion, self-satisfaction, and adornment is a whole new league when placed down-under. \”They\’re for you,\” said social relations senior Emily, who prefers to use her first name only. Under concealment, erotic piercings – genital, nipple, and tongue jewels – are sometimes a tabled discussion that is as secretive as the existence of such a piercing. But the placement, risks, and procedures for this sort of jewelry are all really important factors that ought to be flushed out rather than squelched from the public eye.
The Down-There Nitty Gritty
Erotic piercing, or those in regions commonly associated with sexual pleasure, is more varied than one may think. Reader, beware: The down-there region is full of all sorts of special little nooks and crannies just waiting to be ornamented with a sterile piece of metal, many of which are about to be spelled out.
[nip]Nipple piercing is common for both males and females, as nipples can be stimulated for sexual pleasure for both sexes. That being said, sexual arousal is not the only reason for a nipple ring. They can also be sought out for visual appeal, or other personal reasons. When Emily went home for winter break her sophomore year, her \”least crazy friend\” had gotten one nipple done. \”So I got mine done at 11 a.m. … it wasn\’t the best reason,\” said Emily, who eventually got her second nipple pierced to be symmetrical. She said there was an after period of pain for about 24 hours, but that it was mostly just soreness.
Contrarily, a male who was at East Lansing\’s Splash of Color on Grand River getting his penis double pierced said his nipple piercings hurt intensely for about 10 hours after the piercing, and that they were far more painful than his penis piercing experience. He was at the studio with his girlfriend that had her vertical clitoral hood piercing preformed a couple days prior, and another male friend who had his penis pierced a year ago. The three prefer to remain anonymous, and will be referenced with the pseudonyms of Robert and Jodi (the couple) and Henry (the friend). Wouldn\’t want to ruin the surprise, after all.
While the types of nipple piercing are relatively limited (patrons can chose from vertical, horizontal, or any other angled-direction), the jewelry can be as simple as a ring or a barbell or as decorative as a holiday ornament. The ring passes through the base of the nipple, and according to Kevin Tarbell of Splash of Color tattoo and piercing studio, it generally takes two to three months to heal for a male and two to six months for a female.
Genitalia, Meet Needle
When a woman says that she has her clitoris pierced, she generally means that she has her vertical clitoral hood (VCH) pierced, which is the most common female genital piercing. With a VCH, the healing is relatively quick and the experience can be rather sensual, depending on whom you ask. Ideally, the bead of a ring will rest on the aroused clitoris with a VCH. Jodi said she did experience sexual stimulation as a result of her piercing, which she had gotten just a couple days prior. Emily has her VCH pierced as well and says that her genital piercing did not increase sexual pleasure, although she realizes that that is a contested answer and that many do find it arousing. \”Oh my God, yes. Very sharp crazy pain,\” said Emily of the VCH piercing experience. Emily followed this by saying there was barely a healing period, and she seemed fine immediately afterward.
Other genital piercing options for women include the inner labia, which passes through the labia minora; the outer labia, which passes through the labia majora; the triangle piercing, which passes underneath the clitoris shaft; and the clitoris itself, which is a piercing highly dependent on a woman\’s anatomy. For the clitoris to be pierced, it must be large enough, and the recipient must be aware of the potential risk of losing sensation in the clitoris – the female organ with the sole known purpose of sexual pleasure. Splash of Color does not offer this piercing, said Tarbell, and he would recommend having it preformed by only a few professionals in the country.
Additional female-genital piercing options exist as well, such as the Christina (female pubic piercing), fourchette (rear vagina piercing), Isabella (deep clitoral hood piercing), and Princess Albertina (transurethral piercing). Images and descriptions of these piercings are available at bmezine.com. Each unique piercing has its own healing time frame and possible sensuality, but while some could be more pleasing than others, all situations vary with subjectivity. The triangle piercing is noted, however, to offer a unique sort of stimulation only available to those with the piercing, as the area it stimulates (located internally) is not reachable manually.
As may be expected by the greater exposed surface area of the male genital region, piercing there is even more varied than the female sort. The ring can go through the glands, head, shaft, urethra, foreskin, scrotum, and surface skin, and the piercing can be deep, shallow, or connect to another one. The list of types is long, and the pictures are not for the squeamish. Potentially most notorious is the Prince Albert (PA) that passes through the urethra, coming out the tip of the penis. An exotic, extreme, and rare type is the prince\’s wand, which is compared in shape to a policeman\’s baton. A hollow tube, the prince\’s wand jewelry unit is inserted into the urethra, and the wearer will urinate through it. Its placement requires measurement of the penis both erect and flaccid, and a PA, whose hole is used to keep the piercing in place, must accompany it. The idea of this piercing is similar to the concept of a catheter used for medical procedures, and its uniqueness of insertion, price and appeal generally make it a less common option.
You Did it…Why?
The motivation for someone to adorn their genitals varies from person to person. While the obvious reasoning may seem to be sexual pleasure because of the placement, that is often not the case. In fact, a male piercing may offer little to no sensual stimulation. Henry said he received no pleasure, and even without using a condom, his sexual partner could feel only some stimulation sometimes. The pleasure offered by female piercings varies. Nipple piercings tend to be stimulating, but this also fluctuates with each individual. Emily doesn\’t receive sexual arousal from her VCH, but does from her nipple rings. So, why do it?
Emily decided on a VCH because she thought it was pretty. She even picked out a garnet-stoned ring to adorn it. Tarbell said people get genital piercings for many different reasons, and while he couldn\’t answer to all of them, he believes it can be an enlightening, self-satisfying experience for people, perhaps indicating their taking control of their adulthood. He also said that the accompanying adrenaline rush could be incentive. Henry said he chose his pierced location merely as \”something different.\”
Some have sex immediately after receiving their piercing, like Jodi, who had it done a few days prior and had already tried it out. Robert, her boyfriend, did not plan on having sex immediately after his new penis piercings. Tarbell advises people to use their subjectivity and go ahead and have sex when they feel they are ready. He also warns, however, that to avoid infection, protection should be worn with all sexual activity until the piercing is fully healed – generally two to three months. This especially goes for mouth piercings and their utility with oral sex.
Even still, some will get such piercings for sexual reasons. Certified sexologist, sex therapist and retired MSU professor Andrew Barclay said in an email that, in his opinion, the sort of person (sexually speaking) who is more likely to get a genital piercing are the \”less physically sensitive people who need to have additional stimulation during sexual activity. The more physically sensitive a person is, the less additional stimulation they need.\” Some may use piercing to spice up their relationships. But other options exist if they didn\’t want to resort to the permanence of piercings. \”I would say that temporary studs [as an alternative to real piercings] don\’t work because part of the stimulation is in the piercing itself and the feeling of having been mutilated,\” he said. \”There are lots of ways to spice up sex like having sex where you can be discovered (on the coats at a party), playing fantasy games together, wearing special clothing or underwear, pretending to pick someone up at a bar, etc. I feel the \’mind-games\’ are better than actually physically altering your body, but that\’s just my bias.\”
A Day in the Life
\”I can see it when I pee,\” said Emily of her daily encounters with her VCH, which she has had since last August. While she said she needs to be cautious of it during sexual activity, so to be careful not to rip it out, she also mentioned that it doesn\’t bother her during the day. The same goes for her nipple rings, although if she\’s not wearing a bra and bumps into a doorway, the barbell can catch it.
Practicality can be a concern in the male\’s case as well. \”The first time I peed, I sprayed [through the pierced holes],\” said Henry. \”I had to squat.\” While he said he quickly learned to manage this, he also mentioned he waited about a month and a half before masturbating with his new piercing. What he didn\’t expect was the blood. \”You have to wear a condom or taped-on glove,\” he said of the two-week period he bled following his piercing. Now that it has healed, though, he said he doesn\’t even know his piercing is there during the day, and that it really doesn\’t even affect him during sex.
Just as Emily explained the need for caution during sex, Barclay mentioned a possible hazard when using sex toys with a piercing. \”Occasionally there can be bleeding from the site with over-stimulation from an over-vibrator or direct thrusting against the ring, etc.\” Carefulness and awareness can help prevent such an occurrence.
Life with erotic piercings is not only for the rebellious youth. While Splash of Color is located on Grand River directly across from the MSU campus, only a fair portion of the clientele is comprised of students. Tarbell said he sees a pretty even mix of professionals and students. The demographic he described included teachers, lawyers, professors and business women. Barclay commented that all of his clients with piercings are unattached relationship wise.
What the Doc Says
Peter Gulick, an infectious disease doctor and associate professor at MSU, said the two biggest concerns of genital piercing are the risk of infection and the sterility of the equipment and piercing environment. He has seen people with bacteria infections from not caring for the piercing properly, and in rare cases, people who have contracted Hepatitis C from the piercing studio. Gulick said the sort of jewelry used can also determine irritation as well, and that that is something not usually considered. According to Gulick, if an infection is bad enough, the pain could be permanent, though he\’s never heard of infertility resulting.
[splash]Gulick did caution that when it comes to female nipple piercing, \”if you did get an infection in glands there, where ducts are, and scarring, there might not be the ability to suppress milk,\” and the duct may close up. Also, if scar tissue is extensive, Gulick said a similar predicament may occur. This is especially a concern in black women, who have heavier scar tissue. He stressed that just the jewelry alone could cause such irritation. Even with all these cautions, Tarbell said he\’s never seen a woman unable to breastfeed, though recognizes the rare potential for difficulty. Rather, Tarbell said he has actually known women who kept their piercings open during child rearing by only removing the ring when they breastfeed.
Crucial to avoiding infection is a clean, safe piercing experience. To maintain their sterile environment, Splash of Color has rigorous standards they follow, including disposing of all needles after use. It is their policy, said Tarbell, to allow the client to watch them throw away the needle used. \”Clinical sterilization\” is how Tarbell labeled their procedure, which means that \”any reusable piece goes through an extensive process,\” including rinsing, disinfecting, ultrasonic cleansing, lubrication, and bioshielding packaging – all of which are performed right in their Grand River studio.
Where to Go
Not all counties regulate piercing studios, according to Ingham County Health Department Registered Sanitarian Fred Maurer, but Ingham County does. Essentially, the parlors are regulated for sanitation, but using one\’s own discrepancy is key to finding the best studio suited to one\’s interests because they aren\’t heavily and constantly watched. Unlike restaurants, piercing parlors are only inspected yearly, and anything can happen in 12 months. Fred Maurer recommends that the \”buyer beware,\” just as one would do when purchasing anything else – expect this purchase will be worn for the rest on your life – and evaluate the situation for oneself when choosing a parlor.
The Ingham County Health Department does get occasional complaints, which are checked out in person. Accordingly, if an individual has an unsatisfactory experience, a phone call should be placed to the health department of the area.
A Word of Caution
Everyone has his or her own two cents to offer on the subject of piercing, such as whether or not it\’s a good idea, or where a piercing should be located. Emily advises that if, like her, you want one, you get the piercing that you really want, and not just something everyone else likes. Gulick\’s concern is the associated risks, and recommends consideration of side effects and careful contemplation before commitment. Tarbell recommends researching what you\’re looking for, and recommended the websites bmezine.com and safepiercing.org, the latter of which is of the Association of Professional Piercers.
Whether or not you are personally interested in getting a genital piercing, educating oneself on the pros, cons, do and don\’ts can be done through personal research and at the websites suggested by Tarbell. If you\’re planning to advance a new relationship, this may be a good idea. You wouldn\’t want to find yourself clueless if you happen to catch a glimpse of something shiny during your special evening plans.

Posted in Sex & HealthComments (0)

Legalize This

[woman]You\’re driving at night through an impoverished inner city. You come up to a red light and nervously glance around. To your left is a stick-thin blond in a leopard-print fur coat. Whether or not she has anything else on, you can’t tell — all you see are the thigh-high gloss-white boots leading out from below the thick black fur trim encompassing the leopard print. The light turns green. You speed off — much quicker this time. While it might be a stereotypical representation of inner cities, it paints a picture that can be found in any city, in any state: prostitution.
Does this thigh-high boot, leopard-print-coat-wearing woman have a right to stand on that corner, and is she deserving of the judgment just credited to her? Prostitution carries enough negative connotations to send it deep into the depths of unspeakable lingo, which is exactly what seems to have happened. Anthropology and interdisciplinary science senior Leslie Retzlaff said she stereotypes prostitutes by classifying them on their appearance and location and assuming they are uneducated. Prostitution’s very existence is more easily denied than dealt with, and any association with it that strikes close to home is quickly shoved under a rug lest anyone in the social circuit find out, much less those in the legal system who could tarnish one’s record for a lifetime.
Upon first glance, there are two ways to categorize prostitution under the law: legal or illegal. However, it isn’t an issue of black and white. Legalizing prostitution — the exchange of sexual acts for financial gain, which ranges from money to lavish gifts and lifestyles — brings legal concerns of zoning and health-related regulations. In Israel, for example, where clientele can hypothetically be punished and escort services are freely advertised, the gray area between legal and illegal is illustrated. But while the customs of legalized prostitution differentiate with geography and government, the culture has universal components.
Sex work culture
The equation of the prostitution ring is comprised of three players: the pimp, the prostitute, and the average Joe. While in pop culture, being called a \”pimp\” might be a compliment, the real term refers to one who solicits out individuals for sexual acts and offers theoretical protection for the prostitute, all while raking in profits for the middleman role. California prostitute and prostitutes’ rights activist Carol Leigh pointed out a discrepancy between this and the legally observed description. “Pimping [is] living off the avail of a prostitute,” she said. This means the “maid of a prostitute’s house can be arrested, as they make their money off a prostitute’s job.”
Both men and women can fill the role of prostitute, but more often than not, it is women in the profession. They can solicit their services, which come in any form of sex, on their own, but often they work under a pimp. The average Joe—the client—can also be male or female, and is on the receiving end, exchanging money or goods for the sexual service. The establishments or ways in which these transactions take place vary, but are mainly found in three categories: brothels, escort services and street walking, all of which are seen in red-light districts (an area flourishing with the sex industry). Brothels, also known as whorehouses and cathouses, are dwellings that house prostitutes: the client comes to the brothel to receive the service. Alternatively, escort services are associated with call girls and are an outcall service, where the prostitute visits the home or hotel of the client to perform the service. Most simple is the solicitation of street workers, who are streetwalkers servicing their clients in a car, an alleyway, or in near-by motels (which, as is appropriate with their clientele, may offer rooms by the half or full hour).
It’s important to discern between those who choose their profession for empowerment or financial reasons, and those who were sold, tricked or trafficked into their occupation, and are being held against their will by someone in the pimp role. In discussing the argument to legalize prostitution, it generally is not implying that the human trafficking of sex workers is justifiable. It is referring to those who desire to offer sexual services and be compensated for them as a livelihood, and be recognized as maintaining a credible career in the eyes of the government. Leigh was quick to point out that while she advocates for the decriminalization of prostitution, she recognizes the need for laws against sex trafficking and violence. Within that reasoning, too, is a fork in the road: some believe prostitution should only be legally recognized by the government but left to itself in other respects, while others feel that it ought to be a service-oriented career regulated by the government in terms such as health check-ups and zoning ordinances.
At one end of the spectrum is the idea that the government should not only legalize prostitution, but protect it and regulate it like other service industries. “Our government has a way to illegalize things that they don’t realize we’d have so much more control of if we legalized it,” anthropology senior Heidi Kershner said. “[It’d be] 10 times better if we regulated it.” This opinion is reminiscent of the prohibition era, when the U.S. government gave way to a flourishing bootleg industry by illegalizing alcohol and criminalizing its users.
“I don’t think prostitutes who do what they do should be criminals,” said Lisa Fine, interim director of the Program in Women, Gender and Social Justice and a professor of women\’s history courses. She said if it were legalized, there should be “recourse to health services. Practitioners could be given information so they could keep bodies safe, healthy, protected.”
Others argue that the government should legalize but not involve itself with prostitution, expressing the fundamental belief that one’s body is one’s own, and what one does with it is business of their own. The opinions of legalization advocates usually lie somewhere between these two extremes, such as the perspective represented in the International Committee for Prostitutes’ Rights: World Charter for Prostitutes’ Rights (ICPR). Based in the Netherlands, ICPR was founded by COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), a central organization in redefining prostitution as a social problem.
[gifts]This document aims to de-stigmatize and decriminalize prostitution. Targeting the stigma associated with the industry, the ICPR proposes education for the public to change general attitudes. It recognizes the malicious tendency for children to get sucked into this industry and advocates only for people to be prostitutes who want to be prostitutes.
The doctrine also requests that services be made available to those wanting to emerge from the industry. It proposes that prostitutes pay taxes and receive benefits just like any other profession, but that they are also afforded the right to work and live anywhere they please, just as in any other profession. In regards to health check ups, the ICPR insists that sex workers are more informed on sexual health than the average adult, implying their sexual knowledge surpasses that of the public. With this in mind, it ascertains that prostitutes only have mandatory check ups if they are also mandatory for all sexually active people — a request that would surely meet contention if suggested of the sexually active public.
Leigh, a member of the Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network (BAYSWAN), said prostitution should be decriminalized. \”Take it out of the case of criminal law—except in the case of rape and violence,” Leigh said. “Business codes…occupational health codes…they vary in different businesses. Regulate [prostitution] as other businesses are run.”
Legalized prostitution could have indirect benefits as well. “Legalizing prostitution would take a lot of unneeded crime off the streets… making it a safer industry,” said English and criminal justice junior Vicki Schall, who conducted a field study of child prostitution in Lansing. Schall said the added community profit of taxes and safer streets are positive effects. “Legalizing prostitution normalizes it,” said Schall of the negative repercussions. “We’re already in a society that is really sex driven. [Sex] should be taken seriously.”
On the other side is Janice G. Raymond’s publication: “Ten Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution And a Legal Response to the Demand for Prostitution.” Here, Raymond discusses why legalizing prostitution would only make the harm to women invisible, would expand the sex industry, and would not empower the workers. The prevalent themes in this argument are that legalizing the act would promote and expand sex trafficking and child prostitution; increase the demand for it; not be in the best interest of the prostitutes themselves; and normalize the concept altogether.
By legalizing the industry, Raymond argues that it would by default also expand, causing even more demand than there already is, which would translate into demand for more sex workers, and give more motive for trafficking and sex slavery. This would cause a rise in child prostitution, and benefit the traffickers and pimps. By normalizing and de-stigmatizing sex for money, pimps and traffickers could find ways to legitimatize their role, which is often considered an undeserving and unjustified aspect of the industry. People would also find it more acceptable by society and possibly act accordingly, engaging in it more frequently. Raymond suggests that legalizing prostitution does not protect women, enhance their choice or promote their health.
Some contest the notion that prostitutes choose their profession out of dire need. “I don’t think anyone is so hard-pressed that they must [resort to prostitution]…,\” English senior Jaqueline Jones said. \”It’s been going on so long, society is already screwed. If you want to fix [the prostitution issue], put resources elsewhere to stop the moral degradation of society.” Perhaps individuals’ desire to engage in prostitution would be challenged if their social circuit frowned upon it.
But prostitution is one of the oldest professions, and people have always had the option of engaging in it, albeit often illegally. “It’s one of those things that are always going to be around,” Kershner said. “There is always going to be a demand.”
Where it is legal
There are many countries that do permit prostitution in varying degrees and methods, including many in Europe. Each of these countries has their own way of regulating the practice, which include measures from keeping it only in zoned areas, only allowing it in the form of brothels, and heavily mandating the health aspects associated. In the U.S., prostitution is legal in two states — one only by default — and is a near-future possibility for a third.
Nevada has legalized prostitution, but only in counties with a population fewer than 400,000. Even then, one must apply to the licensing board prior to practicing — which has the option of denying the request. Once established, the industry is heavily regulated: taxes are collected, health testing requirements exist, and the owner of a prostitution house is liable for a client who contracts HIV from a worker who was found HIV positive in their most recent testing. Hawaii may soon pass similar legislation, legalizing some prostitution, through House Bill 982.
Fewer people are aware of the loophole allowing prostitution to be legally practiced in Rhode Island. The state prohibits “loitering for the purposes of soliciting sex.” By definition, loitering is done outdoors — which, by default, allows indoor solicitation in Rhode Island. In Providence, brothels are disguised as massage parlors and spas. As of February 2007, district representative Joanne M. Giannini plans to close this loophole with the ultimate goal of protection. Making human trafficking a felony is one proposed method.
Both of these instances are close to home and indicate the key role that zoning and legalese would play in the legalization of prostitution, should it happen in Michigan. Urban and regional planning senior Emily Petz described the role of a city planner as finding “what is ethical in the community and where you draw the line.” City planners would also have a say in where prostitution could be practiced within a legalized county. “[City planners are] in charge of zoning if legalized…maybe even preventing them from coming into the community at all,” Petz said. “Urban planners can prevent smaller, illegal situations from taking place through positive development.”
So, is Michigan headed toward legalizing prostitution?
“No, not at all. Gay marriage was overwhelmingly turned down… religious morality dictates law,” Schall said. “People don’t even want to deal with it. People don’t even recognize there could be good with it.” Schall said taking steps toward legalizing it would be “extremely, extremely difficult.”
Should the stigma stick?
Leigh knows what it\’s like to be frowned upon by mainstream society. “When I walk into a room, I just assume the prejudice,” said Leigh. “Someone has to say, in a proactive voice, that they do support me.”
Suppose prostitution was legalized. What would come of the associated stigma and stereotypes? “It’s interesting to look at what would happen to the stigma if it were legalized,” Kershner said. “If it would break down, or carry on, or what…and what the government would do about that.”
Leigh said that de-stigmatizing prostitution is a good idea. “I do think there should be more education in the schools…for some, [prostitution] is the best choice they can make.” Leigh compared prostitution education in schools to education on discrimination. For many women in poverty, especially single mothers, prostitution is a means of survival.
“I don’t think there should be de-stigmatizing education,\” Jones said. \”Just because it’s legalized doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.” Jones also said one must accept stigma with job choice.
“It’s ignorant to think criminalizing someone’s profession will make things better… If the profession is de-stigmatized [there will be] added respect to women,” said sociology junior and Women’s Council director Lydia Weiss. “That’s the key issue.”
If the stigma does fade away, perhaps women will be empowered. Perhaps if it were legalized, the streets would become safer. Perhaps if it were de-stigmatized, people won’t be so fearful when they encounter a leopard-print-coat-wearing streetwalker. Maybe they’ll even offer her a ride, a chance to warm up in their car, or visit her in an alleyway.

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