Pimps Posing as “Sex Worker Activists”

24 May

Stella Marr, sex work, pimps, swop usa, robyn few, margo st. james, conflict of interest, oppression, feminism, sex work, ptsd, trauma

Well meaning people think most “sex workers activist” organizations/unions speak for women in prostitution. They are mistaken. A shocking number of these “sex worker” organizations were started by women and men who are admitted pimps and madams, or have been convicted of pimping, pandering, or conspiracy to promote prostitution. These people call themselves ‘sex workers’ but it’s a ruse. It’s an unacceptable conflict of interest. These organizations and their ‘partners’ and affiliates cannot be allowed to speak for women in prostitution or collect funds on their behalf. Any NGO, university, college or nonprofit organization that engages with these pimp-affiliated organizations or their partners is assisting them in this misrepresentation.   I’m sure there are some well-meaning people trying to good within these groups.   But with pimp founders and leaders,  these groups mostly advocate  on behalf of the predators who profit off of sexual exploitation; they rarely  help women in prostitution.

A pimp is someone who makes money from another’s prostitution. A madam is a female pimp. Whether they call themselves managers, brothel owners, escort agency owners — they are all pimps. As a survivor of ten years of trafficking/prostitution, I have a right to use this word. If someone poisons another in cold blood, it doesn’t matter if they call themselves a life extinguisher or claim they’re an innovative longevity re-allocation businesswoman. They’re still a murderer. A pimp is still a pimp, no matter what name they peddle.

But pimps don’t like that word. So these founders and leaders of ‘sex worker activist’ organizations say they’re sex workers. They appropriate the identity of those they exploit. It’s a bit like a plantation owner in blackface pretending to be one of the slaves they oppress. They’re trying to steal our survivor voices.

Douglas Fox, the main ‘activist’ at the International Union of Sex Workers, claims to be a male sex worker. But he and his partner John Dottery were featured as the owners of a large UK escort agency in the British documentary ‘The Escort Agency.’ On a website he co-edits Fox states his partner owns an escort agency and argues ridiculously that pimps are ‘sex workers.’ He also states ” The fact that paedophiles produce and distribute and earn money from selling sex may make them sex workers.”

The first so-called ‘sex worker activist’ group in the United States was Whores, Housewives and Others (WHO) which eventually became COYOTE. It was founded by Margo St. James, who like Douglas Fox claimed to be a prostitute when she was actually a pimp. She’s admitted to being convicted of running a disorderly house — a brothel – in 1962.

The Sex Workers’ Outreach Project USA (SWOP USA) was founded by Robyn Few the year after she pled guilty to conspiracy to promote prostitution via a multistate prostitution ring, a federal felony.   This means that like St. James, Few was also convicted of  charge related to pimping.  As a survivor of ten years of prostitution myself, I would never feel safe around male or female pimp (madam).  Most women in prostitution wouldn’t. Thus  organizations like SWOP USA  can’t speak for us. Few calls herself a ‘sex worker’ most of the time so the conflict of interest isn’t obvious. But the SWOP website makes a point of acknowledging her conviction. Why? Because pimps across the country are using SWOP to connect with Johns while they recruit vulnerable young women. This isn’t activism, it’s marketing while lobbying for pimp interests.

SWOP USA and COYOTE aren’t  the only ‘sex worker activist’ organizations founded by a female pimp. The Erotic Service Providers Union is led by Maxine Doogan who was convicted of running an escort service. Like Robyn Few, Maxine Doogan poses as a ‘sex worker. She claims that legislation which helps pimps is good for women in prostitution. Terri Jean Bedford, who was widely represented in the Canadian media as an advocate of women in prostitution, was convicted of running a brothel. So she’s also a pimp.

Executive Director of COYOTE/ Los Angeles Norma Jean Almodovar was convicted of pandering while she was working as a cop. As such she is part of a long tradition of police officers involved in the prostitution of other women. It’s an unholy alliance that sends women in prostitution the message they can’t get out and they can’t get help. Like Robyn Few, Norma Jean Almodovar calls herself a ‘sex worker,’ but details the pandering conviction on her nonprofit organization website.

Now when a survivor of trafficking/prostitution such as myself happens to bring up this conflict of interest, the parties in question react as if viciously attacked. But there’s nothing personal about saying someone has a conflict of interest. It’s a statement of existing conditions not a vendetta. The majority stockholders of Walmart can’t speak for the company’s minimum wage employees because what benefits those stakeholders may be bad for the workers. But in the ‘sex worker activist’ movement, pimps pretend to be workers when in fact they are management — the ones in control.

No wonder SWOP -USA, COYOTE, The Erotic Services Providers’ Union, the International Union of Sex Workers as well as their partners and affiliates which include the Desiree Alliance, the Red Umbrella Project, and Prostitutes of New York (PONY) support policies that protect pimps rather than women in prostitution. PONY actually claims to “reach out” to Madam members.   I’m sure there are well-meaning people not connected with pimping trying to good within these groups.

We trafficking/prostitution survivors have had enough.   We’re going to start calling out the NGOS, universities, and academics who tacitly support and encourage these pimp-led groups. The concept of fruit of the poisonous tree applies here. Any organization that partners or collaborates with these groups is tainted by association They can’t speak for us or collect funds on our behalf.

To be clear:  There is a position in a pimp-led ‘family’ called a “bottom bitch.”  These women are subject to brutal violence and end up ‘assisting’ the pimp.  These women are victims in a tragic domestic violence situation, not pimps.   But there’s a world of difference between a ‘bottom bitch” and a madam running a brothel or  escort service, who is usually associated with organized crime and can enforce any threat.

70 Responses to “Pimps Posing as “Sex Worker Activists””

  1. Dr Bill May 24, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    Inspiring blog which opens an issue that needs to be discussed. Sexual addiction puts everyone involved at risk. Thank you for your honesty!

  2. epbeaumont May 24, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    Incisive analysis, according to the time-honored proverb, “Follow the money” and its corollary question Cui bono? (who benefits?). Conflict of interest is key and central here. Something always smelled off to me about these organizations, and you’ve zeroed in on it. Bosses don’t (can’t) represent the interests of workers, and that goes double for this “work” that is pure exploitation.

    Excellent blog, which I continue to read with interest.

  3. kimberlyharding May 24, 2012 at 4:09 am #

    As always- well said. YOu continue to bring such light and power to this issue. THANK YOU

  4. buckwheatsrisk May 24, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    i was wondering how much is being done about those using the illegal sex industry..the ‘jons’ as it were?

  5. campfireshadows May 24, 2012 at 4:29 am #

    Keep up the shouting Ma’am! Good blog.

  6. jensine May 24, 2012 at 4:41 am #

    wow, I never knew wonder what can be done about transparency

  7. beththewise May 24, 2012 at 4:41 am #

    This is really interesting. I didn’t know about it! Thanks for the heads up!

  8. Anita Flowers May 24, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    Thank you for sharing1

  9. Terre Spencer May 24, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    Thank you for naming names! An excellent piece, these organizations are phony propaganda devices to continue the abuse and torture that prostitution inflicts upon way to many. XO

  10. Ed Drain (@SoldierCoder) May 24, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    In challenging a female-pimp, I was told I was crazy if I thought violence against prostitutes defined the industry. When I pointed out that the pimp in question (@Maggie_Mcneill) only glamorizes prostitution and never points out any of the risks to the women that are prostituted she said she was done with my “hate-spewing”. Enticing vulnerable girls or women into situation where death by violence or incurable disease is the real hate-spewing. Ty once again, Stella Marr! <3

  11. Soma Mukherjee May 24, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    That image is so befitting and you are right about it..many organisations/NGO’s do run sex rackets under the pretense of doing all the good work many a times the victims got rescued from one hell hole and sent to another simply cos people believed resue workers are angels …
    where do you go ,whom do you trust..even govt. organisations are hands in glove with these pimps
    excellent write up Stella

  12. Anne R. May 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Thanks Stella for saying it loud – we know it’s a problem with the pimpcontrolled “sexworker” organisations because they are being taken as proof for the happy hooker image. Therefore it’s so important that it is being revealed.
    I will share it.

  13. moonstruck4 May 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    As everyone above said, Bravo, and thanks for the information concerning these wolves in sheeps clothing about which I was unaware.

  14. Joy Chibuzo May 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Reblogged this on the focused heart.

  15. cattlemarket May 24, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    So… COYOTE was just a cover. I feel incredibly bitter about this because those of us old enough to remember might recall all the publicity they got in the 1980s. Universally, the media and particularly women’s magazines delighted in giving this “organisation” column inch after column inch on how prostituted women could “empower” themselves if everyone just backed off.
    By the way, COYOTE stands for Call Off Your Old Tired Eithics.
    See – even after all these years, I still remember that, so good was the marketing machine around their “work”.
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
    COYOTE and the rest can go fuck themselves.

  16. Katie May 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    dont forget this creep convicted pimp Peter McCormick with links to the Turn off the Blue Light website, which was set up by the same design company that set up a lucrative sex website controlled by McCormick http://www.sundayworld.com/columnists/sw-irish-crime.php?aid=8634

    • stellamarr May 24, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

      Thank you so much! That’s going into part 2 of this series

  17. Sandra Mathews-Benham May 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Stella, I love your bravery and frankness. I teach at a college and ALWAYS have my classes read about prostitution from a prostitute’s perspective (Underground Sewer by Josie Washburn was the latest–you would really identify with her based on this post–she wrote 100 years ago in Lincoln, NE). I’m thinking we should read your blog, too . . . . Hang in there, keep your voice out there, loud and proud.

  18. rmott62 May 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    Thanks so much for having the deep courage to name these pimps who are manipulating so many who are unsure about what to do about the sex trade and for the prostituted class.
    I know how terrifying it is to be any where near a pimp, whether female or male – and how by just looking through the exited woman or by speaking over her, can and does send you back into the robot-zone of when I was prostituted. This happen to me when I was confronted by Catherine Stevens, who claims to be a s/m prostitute, but owns brothels in London. It is the same with English Collective of Prostitutes and so-called International Union of Sex Workers which is made up of pimps, and offer membership to punters.
    We need to uncover these pimps – for they make lie very dangerous for exited women to speak to the truth.

  19. jennydevildoll May 25, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    Oddly enough, that Norma Jean lady got into an online go-round with a few cartoonists I know (over a cartoon that was a parody of a graphic novel written by a john, FWIW). She seemed to feel that 1)no johns are ever violent, and if they are, they’re really cops 2)according to her, since her experience with prostitution was all fun and games, that’s how it is all around, and there was no room to hear from anyone who had a different experience. It was a bizarre online moment all right, weird to see the name come up again.

    • stellamarr May 25, 2012 at 12:43 am #

      She’s very aggressive — does the same kind of thing to survivors who speak out –

    • Sam Berg May 25, 2012 at 2:56 am #

      I attended a prostitution conference in Toledo, Ohio where Norma Jean Almodovar presented her case for prostitution legalization. At the end, several researchers and social workers asked for the sources of her outrageous statements and she brushed them off saying, “I don’t need to source them because I lived them.” That did not go over well with the attendees.

      • stellamarr May 25, 2012 at 3:00 am #

        It’s so important that we all demand that NGOs, nonprofits, universities, colleges, and philanthropic organizations not engage with any organization associated with pimps, or any organization that’s partnered with an organization associated with pimps.

  20. Sarah Ross-Lazarov May 25, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    Very informative. Thank you for writing this article.

  21. skipmars May 25, 2012 at 3:23 am #

    Wrote the following with your blog in mind. Wasn’t sure where to leave the link. Hope you don’t mind.


  22. lilithrose76 May 25, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    Stella, you are an amazing, strong women, everything you write is so empowering and vital to this cause. thank you for being a voice for forgotten women.
    Blessings, Lily

  23. numnumzie May 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Reblogged this on numzical.

  24. Hermgirl May 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Excellent post! These people are predators.

  25. lilithrose76 May 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on freedomfrompornculture and commented:
    Here are the names of predators who try to wear sheep’s clothing in prostitution and human trafficking. They need to be exposed and Stellamarr is a beacon of light amongst these travesties, read her truths here

  26. jkvegh May 27, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    I like your article and appreciate this knowledge. It is sad to hear that these pimps/madams got one step ahead of the game once again.

  27. Sandra May 27, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    Stella, I added you to my list of bloggers to receive the Kreative Blogger Award– mostly so your audience will grow and voice will be heard more widely.

  28. delphyne May 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    In full support of this. It’s outrageous that these groups have been able to claim for so long that they represent women in prostitution when in fact they are a front for the industry. I don’t know what the numbers are either, but a few years ago the IUSW only had a couple of hundred members, most of them not prostituted women, so they didn’t represent anyone that way either.
    The other group that needs to wake up to who they are giving a voice to is the media, who love including people like the English Collective of Prostitutes whenever prostitution has to be covered, even though it’s a group of marxist entryists they are interviewing, not women in the industry.

  29. wendymc12 May 28, 2012 at 1:55 am #

    Good post. As always you raise some great points!

  30. cav12 May 28, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    Hi Stella. I am nominating you for the Thanks for Writing blog. Please go to my site for picture and rules. :-)

  31. Catherine May 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Great blog. Yes, do start calling them out because they’re gaining power as people buy into their misrepresentation. I mentioned to my sister my despair over the Bedford decision in Ontario, asking why we would legalize brothels at this time of skyrocketing sex slavery, and she said, “Because it lets the prostitutes control things themselves.” As if. But that’s the message passed on by the media.

  32. woodkayusername May 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Oh My.

  33. acflory May 29, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    Omg…so a prostitute who wanted out might go to one of these front organizations looking for help and actually be steered straight back into the cage? That’s awful.

  34. happyhippierose May 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    stella, i think you are AMAZING. i love your blog, your courage, the information you dispense. everything.

    so i’ve gone ahead and given you the Kreativ Award for creativity in blogging. the post with details is here: http://happyhippierose.com/2012/05/30/genius-nose-picker-slings-links-ive-been-given-the-kreativ-award/

    i know blogging awards can be time consuming, so do with it what you will, as you have time/see fit. just wanted you to know i’ve linked you and given you the much-due credit you so deserve!

  35. Harry Stottle May 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    Steve Jobs was an IT Worker. Madoff was a Bank Worker.

    Unfortunately the English Language doesn’t allow its users to dictate who uses it and how. Understandably, you wish to reserve the term “Sex Workers” for Exploited Sex Workers. You can’t do that.

    But you can be explicit and say what you mean, “Exploited Sex Workers” in contrast to the “Exploiting Sex Workers” who wouldn’t dare pretend, in public, that they belonged to the Exploited class. Particularly not while courageous individuals like yourself are able to expose them this easily…

    It’s always permissible, in English, to innovate. I was thinking something like “Sexploited Workers” but that’s too clumsy. Someone needs to think of something snappy which carries the same message…

  36. themofman May 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    This is THE BEST post on the subject. Nothing watered down! No favouritism! No bias!

    Extremely well written!

    Thruth! A sociopath is a socipath regardless of gender.

  37. modgam May 31, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    You have been nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger and One Lovely Blog Award!

    thanks for being this inspiring. Please check out your award at http://modgam.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/very-inspiring-blogger-award-and-one-lovely-blog-award/


  38. Camille Derbois Contreras June 1, 2012 at 4:34 am #

    Thank you for speaking up, you’re so brave!

  39. Angel Perez June 4, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    i feel so… ignorant. thanks for shedding light on issues like this.

  40. butimbeautiful June 11, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    That’s definitely worth saying – well written, too. I didn’t know that pimps and madams set up ‘sex worker’ organisations.

  41. opposehumantrafficking June 11, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Thank you for exposing the spin and lies perpetrated! Would you say this was more of an issue in developed nations? I am most concerned currently with the intersection between poverty law and underdevelopment in human trafficking, If all prostitution is criminalised how do we avoid victim blaming and the prosecution of the women as opposed to perpetrators? It is my understanding this is a problem in the US and other places? With prostitutes receiving the bulk of the blame.

  42. sudebaker June 12, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Thanks for speaking out so boldly on this topic. Some of your posts brought tears to my eyes. You’ve endured so much. Your escape and rebuilding of your life are inspirational. :)

  43. ljclayton June 14, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    I’m utterly astounded. Why has no one admitted this before?

    • stellamarr June 14, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      Most of these pimps posing as sex workers admit it SOMEWHERE because they want the business. Like you, I am surprised no one has made an issue of it before. These folks are very aggressive and some of them are threatening — that could be a reason. It’s a terrible problem — you have these predators posing as survivors and stealing our voices. When a survivor ‘comes out’ publicly, comments on a newspaper article, etc. — they immediately attack. This is what happened to me after I made a few comments online (well before I started this blog). Be sure to read the comments afterward — one commentor is an admitted madam (Maggie McNeill) and two are convicted pimps (Maxine Doogan and Norma Jean Almodovar. http://deepthroated.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/melissa-farley-sends-someone-to-the-naked-anthropologist-to-rant/
      There’s a dead link in Maxine Doogan’s comment — where she says I”m like Shelley Lubben — it links to this porn-industry hit piece in Shelley (it’s horrible so some might now want to watch it) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_r7NZsTH8U

  44. leander42 June 19, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    The more people who learn this the better. You deserve a much wider audience.

  45. FreeIrishWoman June 27, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    Thank you for this very necessary writing Stella. It is important that people begin to see these pimp-led, pimp-friendly, pimp-orientated organisations for what they are; and it is especially high-time universities and other legitimate organisations stopped legitimising them by cooperating with them and endorsing them.

    You have shed light on a very disturbing reality.


  46. LadyTiger August 27, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Reblogged this on ladytiger and commented:
    This is an amazing blog about the underground workings of the sex industry from a former call girl. The stories she tells are heroic and scary.


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