Partying For Sex Workers RightsSI'll be the first to admit, I'm not one to turn down a party. And so when an e-mail hit my inbox to attend "Grind the Vote," a sex workers rights fund-and attention-raiser, I was all excited because normally D.C. fundraisers are more black-pumps-and-chardonnay and less black-fishnets-and-top-shelf-booze. But I was also interested in pushing my own limits, my own pre-conceptions and stereotypes, because I will fully admit that I am bothered by sex work.As a feminist, I want to not define what is right and wrong for somebody else, but I recognize that some women and men don't make the choice to be sex workers as much as they are pushed or fall into it for the wrong reasons. As a politically-inclined person, I am keen to see as many people participating in the political process as possible, and I'm keenly aware that sex workers aren't accorded the rights here that they deserve. As a woman, I'm bothered to find out that a lover or a boyfriend has patronized a prostitute and I'm never keen on them going to strip clubs. And, frankly, I've walked past the strip clubs on M Street enough to know that the objectification that goes on in there doesn't stay behind those closed doors — and while I blame the men that stare at my tits, I can't honestly say I never blame the owners of the naked breasts those men were recently drooling over. And so I put on my 5 inch heels and teetered over to BeBar on 9th Street last night to check it out. And it turns out the way to reconcile 15 different points of view on sex work is really easy — you just spend the night talking to sex workers and their friends and supporters outside of the contexts of their jobs. I met a lot of cool people last night from all walks of life (and including one Jezebel commenter) all of whom were there to support the cause of treating sex workers more like normal working people. The folks I spoke with want the rest of us to know that they didn't all get into sex work because they were abused or on drugs and that, for some of them, it's just a job like any other. It's work which, like your job, can be fun or monotonous, intellectually stimulating or a reason to read Jezebel all day at your desk, physically demanding or a reason for your butt to spread like mine. There's no one reason people choose to get into sex work or stay in sex work. And prostitutes don't just face discrimination and condemnation from women, they face it from their own clients. They also face serious risks, like diseases and beatings. The police tend to go after sex workers rather than the clients — just ask David Vitter what charges he faced for using the D.C. Madam's services, or Senator Debbie Stabenow's husband (who turned state's evidence against the prostitute he hired). In D.C., the city has designated certain places prostitute-free zones, in which people who "look like" prostitutes can be arrested for having prior charges or more than 3 condoms on them — and where transgendered people are often harassed. So, while having (and using) condoms is taking an active approach to one's own safety and that of one's clients (and their current or future partners), it's actually punishable by law in D.C.. Great plan there, guys. The groups that sponsored last night's event - HIPS, $PREAD Magazine and Different Avenues - are working not to eliminate sex work, but to make it a safe alternative for the women and men who choose to do it, and to help those that don't feel free to choose to leave to get out. They provide testing services, counseling, drug programs, social support services and outreach in addition to working to educate the public and our elected representatives about what's being done wrong and right in regards to sex work. Plus they throw really interesting parties where they help get people registered to vote. At the end, the sex workers I was talking to and I came to an agreement. If a woman's husband or boyfriend is utilizing a sex worker's services (and, God forbid, leaves her with some consequences of his actions), we should blame him and not the sex worker. The sex worker was just doing his or her job, not trying to hurt anyone else.