BR.masks.adv. 0013 bf.JPG

Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, in the House of Representatives Monday June 1, 2020,at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, La.

The recent hit piece on Mandie Landry, sex workers, and the women of Louisiana by James Gill was nothing short of appalling. The crass cynicism and oozing misogyny of Gill's column, rife with slurs and objectification that should embarrass anyone who claims to worship a loving god, is actually a fair representation of precisely why we need to decriminalize sex work.

Sex work is highly stigmatized and decriminalizing it will go a long way to break through that stigma. While we've just started shake off the dusty restraints of fear of sex, sexuality and sexual identity, we have a long way yet to go. And nowhere is this better evidenced than Gill's assertion of the traumatized sex worker.

James Gill has no place to call sex work traumatizing.

The criminalization of the work can be traumatic. Whether at the hands of police or a client protected by the nature of an illegal field of work being kept in the shadows. The lack of access to resources and appropriate health services can be traumatizing. Not being able to open a bank account or sign a lease because you can’t legally account for your income, that is traumatic. Decriminalization is a good first step towards eliminating some of these traumas, none of which are related to the work itself.

Likewise, the criminalization of sex work is an absurd intrusion into the bedroom of two (or more) consenting adults. As Gill himself notes, oral sex used to be considered a crime against nature here. But with whatever sense of progress that may give you, keep in mind anal intercourse is still a crime in Louisiana. Sex between consenting adults should not be a crime.

Then there’s the issue of the incarceration rate. We don’t need to opine on the incarceration rate because by now everybody should know that Louisiana leads the country, and the country leads the world in incarceration rate. But decriminalization isn’t just about keeping sex workers out of prison, it’s about stopping human trafficking.

Of human trafficking victims in Louisiana, 58.6% are juvenile, 87.3% are sexual trafficking victims, and 87.5% are female. The criminalization of sex work is the fuel that powers human trafficking. And while Gill is making jibes about “hooker health,” children are getting abused.

While it is truly difficulty to divine the point to James Gill’s meandering scrawl, the language he uses towards sex workers and the way he denigrates Rep. Mandie Landry make it clear that Gill’s thoughts on women, much like criminalizing consensual sex between adults, don’t belong in this century.

NADIA ESKILDSEN

member, Democratic Socialists of America

New Orleans