Citizens Against Pleasure and Health

The erotic is a measure between our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.
Audre Lorde:
The Uses of the Erotic

I was active in the Rhode Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking (RICAHT) but left when the mission seemed to be drifting into a crusade against prostitution. The anti-trafficking law we worked to pass in 2007 is unused, being expensive to implement and aimed at protecting a group of people that includes those we now vilify as ‘illegals’. Our cash-strapped state is not about to rescue anyone from a factory or restaurant kitchen, or brothel either. When eventually some criminal case is pursued, the anti-trafficking law might be a useful tool for justice and RICAHT is now supporting a law that would offer further protection to child victims– a good addition to the original legislation.

Meanwhile the legislature has criminalized prostitution in order to shut down the ‘spas’ that have been proliferating all over the state. I’m opposed to arresting the women because I don’t think it will stop prostitution. I think it will just make prostitution more dangerous. On the other hand, towns and neighborhoods have a valid claim to their property values and safety. I wouldn’t mind if the spas got zoned, taxed, regulated and inspected out of existence.

Professor Donna Hughes was instrumental in the forming of the Coalition. She lectured, showed films, shared the results of decades of research. I was very impressed with her knowledge and dedication. There is no doubt that slavery is a heinous crime. Trafficking is real, poor people are tricked and exploited and shipped across borders. Within borders too.

I was uncomfortable with Dr. Hughes’ conservative politics. I read her essays on National Review Online and knew our views were worlds apart, as in this opinion piece from 2006…

Hughes: President Bush has been the crucial factor. He has created a political climate in which all of us, from local activists to high-ranking political appointees, could do this work. Mainstream feminists like to say he’s anti-woman, but by supporting the abolitionist work against the global sex trade, he has done more for women and girls than any one other president I can think of. And he seems to have done it because it’s the right thing to do, not because of pressure or favoritism. The new law and policy will literally initiate change for millions of women and girls around the world. Years from now, when the anti-Bush hysteria has died away, I believe he will be recognized as a true advocate for women’s freedom and human rights.

Still, a coalition is supposed to include diverse members coming together for a common goal. And Dr. Hughes did not at first lobby for the arrest of prostitutes.

According to Wikipedia, she left the Coalition this year, to form a new organization, Citizens Against Trafficking–

In 2009, Hughes has been a leading figure in the campaign to end the decriminalized status of indoor prostitution in Rhode Island. She was a prominent member of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking (RICAHT), but later left the group and founded a new organization, Citizens Against Trafficking (CAT) when RICAHT did not lend its support to an anti-prostituton bill that penalized those who sell sex.

Now it seems to me that having gotten the anti-trafficking bill passed, there are no easy victories. Working to create an escape for women and men who are exploited, working with organizations such as Day One and Polaris Project, immigrant groups, advocates against domestic violence–it’s the long haul.

On the other hand, if activists can get the ‘loophole’ closed they can declare victory and move on to the next project. Providence will be free of prostitution just like Boston and Hartford and NYC.

Dr. Hughes has gone from fighting a real foe, human trafficking, to attacking the most visible commercial sex businesses, to allegedly targeting a storefront sex-education center. Closing the loophole, helping to chase the Sexuality Center out of Pawtucket, would earn Dr. Hughes credit with her conservative and religious allies, but I don’t see what it would do to fight trafficking or help people who are in trouble.

Here’s from The Phoenix, which will probably have to fire all its reporters if they ever lose their ad revenue from the ‘spas’.

Megan Andelloux’s Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, which would offer classes on sexuality and the latest from the nation’s medical journals, was slated to hold its grand opening in the Bucket last weekend.

But Andelloux was forced to move the long-planned celebration to the Spot, an arts space on Thayer Street in Providence, her plans delayed by zoning snafus and — perhaps — a little prudishness in Pawtucket City Hall.

“All these rumors got started that I was going to be selling porn and that [the Center] would be a brothel,” said Andelloux, a certified sex educator.

The trouble started with an e-mail sent a couple of weeks back by University of Rhode Island professor Donna Hughes, best known for her crusade to close the state’s prostitution loophole, to members of the city council.

Utilizing the suggestive power of well-placed quotation marks, the missive read, simply: “Hello, A center for ‘sexual rights’ and ‘sexual pleasure’ is opening in Pawtucket,” and included the web site for the center.

If they did go to the web site they would have seen such lurid events as a ‘panel discussion’.

ProJo.com reports too, this is from Bob Kerr…

The little sex shop on Main Street, Pawtucket, one floor up from the chess club, appears ready to help people find what they’ve been missing.

The books are there, the educational aids, the videos. Megan Andelloux’s two degrees — one from the American College of Sexologists, the other from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists — hang on the wall.

Megan herself is in residence, ready to put her training to work to help people deal with those things that never happen or happen at the wrong time. She offers counseling, instruction, reading material, a place to drop in and try to explain.

“Think of Planned Parenthood meets feminist sex toy shop,” says Megan.

She is sitting with her husband, Derek, whom she met at the University of Rhode Island, in the coffee shop across the hall from her Center For Sexual Pleasure and Health in the Grant Building in the heart of downtown Pawtucket.

Derek, a resident in family medicine at Brown, sees the center as the beginning of an ever-expanding business that will eventually include medical services.

“But it might not be in Pawtucket,” he says.

There’s no contradiction between sexuality and health. There’s nothing wrong with sex education. I’m not advising Dr. Hughes to march on over to that big video store on Allens Avenue, but it seems she opposed a woman-owned business that is dedicated to education and empowerment. Why? What’s the threat?

Strange Bedfellows– one of the arguments against arrest as rescue is that putting people outside the law leaves them more vulnerable and invites corruption. check here, at Happy Endings for a story about who is ‘friends of the police’.

Is this Constitutional?– Alabama’s supreme court upheld a law against selling sex toys on the basis of public morality. Nothing against public morality, I’d like to see more of it, especially in our politicians, but these products were not intended to be used in public. And what of our constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness? Is that not self-evident? It is to me.

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6 responses

  1. I am glad I am not the only one that thinks it is odd that this “feminist” is attacking women-owned businesses unjustly.
    Seeing that the only connection between Andelloux’s Center and Hughes’ other attacks is sex, what Hughes really is attacking is sex, not sex trafficking. Crazy that this woman is trying to push a moral crusade against sex in 2009! And to go after an education center? One that has taught abstinence in the past? I would think that would be right up Hughes alley.

  2. When we recognize that we own ourselves, our bodies, our souls, no one will be able to sell us illusions. There are no guarantees in life, except that it is temporary, but lovingkindness is the way to go.

  3. [...] of that, here’s a very, very good take on Hughes from a Rhode Island nurse and anti-trafficking [...]

  4. [...] and the innuendos via email that put their planned opening in Pawtucket in limbo. So here’s Citizens Against Pleasure and Health. I got to meet Megan, and discovered that I know her mother-in-law from church. Only in Rhode [...]

  5. [...] with way more details, I particularly recommend Clarisse Thorn’s take on it over at Alas, and a wonderful post from someone whose opinion changed along the way. Tagged with: community, [...]

  6. Thanks for the breakdown of bits of RI’s HT community politics. What I love about the movement (and what frustrates me) is that there is such a diversity of moral reasons why folks fight slavery.

    One of the toughest nuts I’m personally working on is how to be sex-positive and trafficking negative in a total absence of facts about the percentage of women in commercial sex who are trafficking. Some folks say “most” or “few.”

    I love Polaris and Violet Blue and Free the Slaves and Dan Savage, but the total lack of reliable statistics even for one city seems to break down valuable communication lines.

    Thanks for the article!

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