Comment on Draft Legislation by COSW

Regulation of Live Adult Entertainment Businesses JANUARY-06


BAYSWAN opposes the following legislation. To read more about the objections, visit:


For the complete text of later version of this legislation see:


Carol Leigh

Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network
Box 210256, San Francisco

The 2nd Draft COSW legislation addressing "Live Adult Entertainment Businesses" is highly problematic in many ways but my basic objection is that it essentially bans private meetings involving commercial transactions wherein there may be any sexual ambiance or implication ranging from 'encounters' to erotic entertainment under the guise of protecting women from prostitution.
Definitions and Inflamatory/Manipulative Language
Most disappointing is that this law uses terms that have historically been used to curtail our freedom under the guise of protecting women.

Although the proposed legislation claims that certain prostitution is coerced, financial coercion and social pressure does not meet legal stands of coercion. This legislation uses a casual definition of coercion. Forced labor and coercion are serious crimes. Coercion into prostitution is a serious crime when it occurs in the legal sense of the framework of forced labor. Economic coercion is motivation for many types of work and historically the fact that women are coerced or forced into this work is used to justify criminalization and prohibitions that affect sex workers.
Sexual exploitation has many loose definitions and has historically been used to curtail the commercial activity of sex workers. In this legislation, protection from sexual exploitation by curtailing the 'victim's' options is enshrined in San Francisco law. This would be a precedent and a dangerous one.
There are many definitions of exploitation. Exploitation can mean to use, or to misuse. Traditionally anti-sex moralists refer to all commercial sex is sexual exploitation. Indeed, one is exploiting sexuality. When we enshrine sexual exploitation into law as a pejorative we set the stage to further prohibit all sexual exploitation, according to the moralist definition.

The approach of this legislation is seen as dangerously condescending by the queer and sex positive activists including Dr. Carol Queen of the Center for Sex and Culture. These issues are also at the center of an international discussion about women's control of their bodies. It is disappointing that in a progressive city we do not understand the international human rights agenda that resists this treatment of women and sex workers. The approach of this legislation fits with the right wing and anti-sex political agendas in our country.

This legislation is insulting to women and reductionist in its approach to a complicated issue.

Working conditions in the clubs have been the subject of complaints and responsible legislation would address it. More responsible options could include creating a working group with primary representation from workers to examine options to address issues in the adult industry including the premises and data on which this legislative attempt is based.

The legislation claims that prohibiting private rendezvous' in commercial contexts is a way to curtail the spread of HIV HEP C. San Franciscans have long fought against such tactics proposed to protect us. Our city promotes safer sex and condom use against HIV rather than imposing restrictions that invade our privacy and sexual relations. Again, the legislation portrays the dancer as the frail victim (of coercion and exploitation) who primarily requires sexual restrictions to save her from her vulnerability.

Why A Repressive Agenda?

Is the Commission on the Status of Women so eager to promote repressive strategies that they are willing to ignore the multiplicity of voices that has emerged from these industries condemning these prohibitions, from dancers that prefer the financial advantage offered by private sessions?
A few voices have emerged from the community that embrace this repressive strategy but others disagree. Some dancers may wish to control commercial context of dance establishments, but encounter parlors and lingerie modeling studios represent other aspects of the business and are no more connected to dance clubs than massage studios. The inclusion of repeal of legislation allowing encounter parlors belies the real agenda of this legislation. Rather than improving working conditions in the dance clubs, the legislation seeks to ban privacy in any business that may have a suggestive or erotic element or possibility. In this light it is unclear to me why massage businesses are not included. Certainly it is clear that they fall into a similar category. It's a slippery slope and it's sliding.

Regulating Adult Entertainment

Indeed, labor abuses, stage fees, and lack of salary, claiming that workers are independent contractors when they are legally considered employees and harassment at the workplace are issues that should be addressed. This legislation chooses to repetitiously invoke hot button terms like "sexual exploitation," and coercion without defining those terms. Under the guise of protecting women from sexual exploitation, this legislation institutes a prohibition on their commercial sexual activity.

Regulation for adult industry should come from the diverse workers and others who are part of that industry, not from a specific faction promoting a moral agenda, nor from a city commission informed by a few public hearings.