I’ve always felt that prostitution should be illegal (it’s wrong), but that the laws should be loosely enforced-enough enforcement to say We Disapprove, without going overboard and overly bothering the ladies. Betcha nobody expressed quite that view at this event (as described by Gerry Visco in the New York Press):

“Neither Jenna Jameson, Heidi Fleiss, nor the ‘Mayflower Madam,’ Sydney Biddle Barrows, showed up at a ‘Sex Work Matters’ conference. Jointly held by The New School and CUNY Graduate Center on March 30, the city’s first-ever sex-worker conference did, however, fill a room with out-and-proud self-proclaimed hos, academics and activists. This was no bawdyhouse: panels were dominated by analyzers rather than doers. The tangible assets of strumpets and the scholars who love to study them were disguised by matronly eyeglasses and longish skirts.”

The crowd was composed more of those with an abstract interest in the subject rather than of potential patrons:  

“I didn’t see even one horny john wondering around. In fact, most of the men seemed to be gay or trans. If there were any pimps, they hid the bling. A couple of gray-haired grandmother types were even there.”

Needless to say, right and wrong were less interesting than arcane Marxist analysis:

“Despite the simple economics of the sex trade (commodity: body; purchaser: horny male; monetary exchange of services for money), there was a surplus of pretentious academic jargon that peppered every discussion with the freight of Marxist, Laucanian or other trendy jargon. For example, try stuffing this one into your black-lace bra: ‘Little work exists in a sex-industry framework, but if we agree that it refers to all commercial goods and services of an erotic and sexual kind, then a rich field of human activities is involved.’ I guess that means that giving a blow job isn’t hard-it’s all in the technique. Or how about this erectile-dysfunctioning phrase: ‘Reappropriating Interpellated Identity Through Sex Work.’ A bit more inspiring is the title, ‘To Love, Honor and Strip: Romantic Relationships and Adjustment Strategies in Exotic Dance Careers.’ Or, how to meet a millionaire while sliding down a poll in crotchless panties. …

“This may be the world’s oldest profession, but things are changing drastically. Whores-pardon me, ‘ex workers’ re talking to labor unions like the AFL-CIO about organizing themselves.  More men and women work in the sex industry than you might think; it’s just that most of them won’t admit it. ‘Coming out’ was one of the themes of the day, although some of the participants preferred not to be videotaped, since the event was being Webcasted.  Some prostitutes and phone-sex workers confided that, as a result of disclosing their profession, they were stigmatized by family, friends and co-workers. But others reported being suddenly viewed as cool, even arm candy, or were propositioned and consulted about sexual problems.”

And, of course, moralistic opposition to prostitution-er, sex working-makes for strange bedfellows: 

“Many at the conference maintained that things have changed for the better in terms of tolerance by the general public, and even much of the mainstream has accepted alternative sexuality. The explosion of sexual images and pornography on the Internet, film and television have made ‘deviance’ commonplace. And don’t forget about all those pimps and hos costume parties. Barb Brents and Kate Hausbeck, professors at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, cautioned, however, that the Bush Administration has drafted anti-sex industry legislation, aided by a coalition of anti-sex far-left feminists and their allies on the religious right.”