Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Criminalizing prostitution in RI
May 1, 2009 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Prostitution is legal in two states: Nevada and Rhode Island. Some legislators in Rhode Island have been trying to close the loophole for years, to no avail. Yesterday, for the first time, the bill took a huge step toward passage.

A local film maker has produced a documentary about the issue. You can watch the trailer here.
posted by lunit (65 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't read these articles about "indoor prostitution" and "outdoor prostitution" without thinking of them as Olympic events.

What about 400m winter prostitution?
posted by rokusan at 8:07 AM on May 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


Gee, thanks, rokusan, I'll never watch a steeplechase or the clean-and-jerk the same way.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:11 AM on May 1, 2009


No problem Fellini. One caution: the biathlon is not as sexy as it sounds.
posted by rokusan at 8:14 AM on May 1, 2009


“Why should Rhode Island have this dubious distinction?” Rep. Joanne M. Giannini, D-Providence, who introduced the bill, said after the vote. “Rape behind closed doors, is that permissible? Is murder permissible if it’s done behind closed doors?”

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:14 AM on May 1, 2009 [16 favorites]


I can't read these articles about "indoor prostitution" and "outdoor prostitution" without thinking of them as Olympic events.

What about 400m winter prostitution?


This gives a whole new meaning to pole vault.
posted by Chan at 8:15 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


How has this Rhode Island fact escaped my knowledge for nearly 35 years now? I mean, we all know about Del's Frozen Lemonade and the fact that they call milkshakes 'cabinets' and that Buddy Cianci was the craziest rascal king mayor Providence ever had and that the Foxy Lady by the airport was the place to go for dancing ladies and that the minor-leage ballpark in Newark is the absolute cutest ballpark ever, but ... legalized prostitution?

How the hell did that fly under the cultural radar?
posted by Spatch at 8:18 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Newark? Obviously I meant Newport. Oh dear god.)
posted by Spatch at 8:18 AM on May 1, 2009


I like the idea of loitering indoors.
posted by binturong at 8:25 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


This sounds kinda anti-progressive. When prostitution is legal and decriminalized, don't the prostitutes usually have an easier time of it? More legal protections, better conditions, etc?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:25 AM on May 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


As opposed to in doorways.
posted by binturong at 8:26 AM on May 1, 2009


Wow I also did not know about RI
posted by poppo at 8:30 AM on May 1, 2009


one of my coworkers came by my desk just yesterday. 'did you know that prostitution is legal in nevada?' she wanted to know. i thought everyone did & said, 'yes, in parts of nevada.' she proceeded to explain that she was watching oprah & oprah had on a woman who is a prostitute in nevada. my coworker was shocked. 'i can't believe she's up there, on camera, on *national television* and she's not behind a curtain & what if her mother sees her? she's going to be in big trouble! she could get arrested!' then she thought she heard oprah say something about prostitution being legal in nevada! but ... that couldn't be right, could it? so she picked up the phone & called her sister. 'are you watching oprah? did you hear what they just said? did you know that prostitution is LEGAL in nevada?'

she'll probably stroke out if i tell her it's legal in rhode island, too.
posted by msconduct at 8:31 AM on May 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Spatch, the minor league ballpark is in Pawtucket, not Newport, and the Foxy Lady is in Providence and pretty far from the airport, which is not in Providence.
posted by mkb at 8:35 AM on May 1, 2009


Wow. This explains something I haven't been wondering about for years. During college, some friends from Dullsville, Connecticut, heard that Providence was cheap and hapnin', so they went and got a cheap summer rental apartment. (This was the mid-80s. Whatever.) Anyway, so I was out there visiting one weekend, and we (all of us girls) were sitting on the stoop in the evening, smokin' and drinkin', as was the custom in those days. Along came a trio of guys. They stopped to chitchat, and then, more or less out of the blue, one says, "Where can we get laid around here?" Two of us were rendered speechless, but a more unflappable friend popped out with "I have no idea, so why don't you go fuck each other?"
posted by scratch at 8:37 AM on May 1, 2009 [18 favorites]


Yes, great idea. Create yet another unregulated black market, with all of the exploitation and abuse that goes along with it. Feed even more people into the meatgrinder of the private prison industry. Smells like money.

It's not as if the nation doesn't have more urgent problems to deal with.
posted by metagnathous at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thought anything was legal in RI if you had enough clams?
posted by QIbHom at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, mkb, I'm actually not talking about the PawSox, but the Newport Gulls. (Thought they were a Class A team, but actually they're a part of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.) The ballpark really is teeny-tiny small and a wonderful place to watch a game on a summer night.

And I coulda swore there was a Foxy Lady or similar club right near TF Green, but I'm not about to go searching for that on a work computer.
posted by Spatch at 8:41 AM on May 1, 2009


Outdoor prostitution illegal? BUT IT'S MAY 1st!
posted by The White Hat at 8:42 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Googling for 'sex olympics' turns up The Year of the Sex Olympics. Unexpectedly fascinating:
The Year of the Sex Olympics is a 1968 television play made by the BBC and first broadcast on BBC2 as part of its Theatre 625 strand. It stars Leonard Rossiter, Tony Vogel, Suzanne Neve and Brian Cox. It was directed by Michael Elliot. The writer was Nigel Kneale, best known as the creator of Quatermass.

Influenced by concerns about overpopulation, the counterculture of the 1960s, and the societal effects of television, the play depicts a world of the future where a small elite control the media, keeping the lower classes docile by serving them an endless diet of lowest common denominator programming and pornography. The play concentrates on an idea the programme controllers have for a new programme which will follow the trials and tribulations of a group of people left to fend for themselves on a remote island. In this respect, the play is often cited as having anticipated the craze for reality television.
posted by unSane at 8:45 AM on May 1, 2009


Yes, great idea. Create yet another unregulated black market, with all of the exploitation and abuse that goes along with it.

RI's prostitution is already totally unregulated. It's a loophole, not an explicitly regulated system like in Nevada. In fact, whether or not it's actually legal is questionable. It's more like a decriminalization situation then a full on legalization.
posted by delmoi at 8:54 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Spatch: Don't forget coffee milk.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:56 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I coulda swore there was a Foxy Lady or similar club right near TF Green, but I'm not about to go searching for that on a work computer.

Hooters, perhaps?
posted by knave at 9:03 AM on May 1, 2009


delmoi Many people, us feminists especially, don't think the Nevada situataion is good at all. Many places, for example, require that the women live in the brothel where they work, forbids them to leave the brothel during their working hours, and in many other ways turns them less into free agents than pseudo-prisoners of a company store.

I'm all for licensing individual prostitutes, if for no other reason than health checks and age checks, I can see a ban on streetwalking for various reasons, but regulation beyond that seems to do little more than empower pimps and brothel owners at the expense of the women involved.

Among other things I'd like to see the end of pimping (or at least a reduction in the number and violence of pimps) as a result of legalized prostitution. As it stands the vast majority of prostitutes in areas where its illegal are virtual slaves to some very evil men.
posted by sotonohito at 9:07 AM on May 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


Foxy Lady is on the way from the airport, at least. It's like the third landmark driving up 95 from TF Green to Providence, the first being that obnoxious Cruise Brothers sign and the second being the all oil tanks. When you see the Foxy Lady, you know it's time to start remembering where they put the exit to 195 this week.
posted by goingonit at 9:12 AM on May 1, 2009


Seconding Spatch. Rhode Island? How is that possible? I have several friends who grew up there and live there now. They love to talk about Awful Awfuls and quahogs. There's no way this factoid wouldn't have come up!
posted by diogenes at 9:14 AM on May 1, 2009


This explains something I'd actually been wondering about some patterns in the way Rhode Islanders post things in that section of Craigslist for the other New England states. Er, I mean my friend! My friend was wondering about this.
posted by XMLicious at 9:15 AM on May 1, 2009


I'm an RI native and go to college here, and I'm always surprised when I find out people didn't know about this aspect of the state. The out of state students you'd expect to not know--they don't know about Del's, coffee milk, party pizza or clamcakes either--but many people who have lived their whole lives here are unaware as well.

Rhode Island is the only state that still celebrates VJ day, the last colony to become a state, the only state to reject the 18th Amendment, a (mostly former) hotbed of mafia activity and until recently was incredibly corrupt (now I'd only describe it as occasionally).

Rhode Island is home to a lot of "famous firsts", but it's also independent, stubborn and generally averse to change.

I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of making prostitution illegal in Rhode Island. It's not regulated, so it's not like we'd be going from a great system to awful black market conditions.

While I think regulating it would be a step in the right direction, for the reasons sotonohito mentions above, doing that would legitimize it and force people to actually acknowledge that such a thing occurs in their state. That won't happen.

No, as long as it occurs behind closed doors and we don't have to actually think about it, it's fine. Make no mistake, I think prostitution will continue to happen here. The only change is it just won't be legal.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:19 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


goingonit, are you sure you aren't thinking of the places near the Post Office or Club Fantasies out west of Route 6/10? The Foxy Lady sign isn't even visible from the highway.
posted by mkb at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2009


One delightful side effect of the current legal situation is door-to-door prostitution. It's not common but it sometimes happens that a young lady will show up at your door and ask to use your bathroom. Once inside she will propose that you give her money in exchange for sex.

Standard disclaimer: This hasn't happened to me but it has happened to a friend of mine.
posted by Kattullus at 9:25 AM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


One of the Reps. who voted against the bill, David Segal (D-Providence), had this to say:

"So who's the pimp now? A woman, who up until passage will have been a legal prostitute, shall soon be subject to fines and/or time in prison. How is she most likely to pay said fines? -- by turning another half-dozen tricks, in an economy that provides her with no alternative. She'll sell her body, and we'll recoup the rewards."

Considering the fact that more people turn to sex work in a recession to make ends meet, I think this bill is really, really dumb. Do we really want to be incarcerating more people?
posted by lunit at 9:29 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


goingonit: time to start remembering where they put the exit to 195 this week

I think I saw it sticking out of a dumpster behind Lupo's.
posted by Kattullus at 9:30 AM on May 1, 2009


oh my lord in heaven there's such a drink as coffee milk?!

i've wasted my life up until now
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:32 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The magic of forgotten days
May still be found to rest.
A fanlight's gleam, a knocker's blow,
A glimpse of Georgian brick -
The sights and sounds of long ago
Where fancies cluster thick.

-- "Providence", H.P. Lovecraft
posted by benzenedream at 9:36 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


'did you know that prostitution is legal in nevada?' she wanted to know. i thought everyone did & said, 'yes, in parts of nevada.'

The parts no one goes to, is the fun thing.
posted by smackfu at 9:48 AM on May 1, 2009


RI's prostitution is already totally unregulated. It's a loophole, not an explicitly regulated system like in Nevada. In fact, whether or not it's actually legal is questionable. It's more like a decriminalization situation then a full on legalization.

Thanks, delmoi. Seems to me, though, that they then have the option of making it legal and regulating it as opposed to making it an outright criminal offense. According to the fourth link it appears that they're interested in making prostitution a misdemeanor, but in reality it will only take some prostitute having a joint or other illicit drug on her before the charges begin to stack up, as they always do, and the we're right back to legislating morality at the cost of human suffering.

Interesting post lunit, thank you. I too had no idea of this loophole in Rhode Island law. As the subject pertains to Nevada where I've spent half of my years, I recall a small brothel outside of the town of Fallon that was firebombed by the wife of the local Sheriff some years ago; it appears the lawman was spending a little too much time there.
posted by metagnathous at 9:54 AM on May 1, 2009


lunit wrote Do we really want to be incarcerating more people?

Well, yes. I don't, but a large segment of America does. There's a reason we have such a huge number of people in prison: many Americans like it that way. Worse, we've got an industry based on that, and many people have jobs that depend on a large (if not growing) prison population. And that's completely ignoring the very wealthy (and therefore very powerful) private prison industry.

So, yeah, there's a lot of people with a financial stake in putting more people into prison, and they vote. Plus there's a lot of Mrs. Grundy types who just hate the idea of people doing drugs, having sex, whatever, without being punished for it.
posted by sotonohito at 9:55 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The parts no one goes to, is the fun thing.

About 20 years ago I accompanied my father on an epic (for us) road trip up the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada and across Nevada to the then-new Great Basin Natl. Park. One of the longer stretches of middle-of-nowhere driving was the part between Big Pine and Lida Junction, Nevada. My dad had had prostate surgery a few years earlier, and wasn't keen on huge gaps between restroom stops, so when we got to Lida Junction and I stopped to use the pay phone I'd noticed at the intersection, he pointed to the nearby cluster of buildings and said, "I think I'll see if I can use the restroom in that store".

I took one look at the sign and said "Um... I don't think it's a store ...". It was this place, now closed.

He did hold out until we hit the next town... I've always wondered, though, what kind of experienced he missed...
posted by Creosote at 9:59 AM on May 1, 2009


I'll give my Rhode Island experience, which may or may not be relevant, especially because it was a long time ago.

There used to be this all night diner called the Silver Top Cafe. I went with some friends at the late hours of the night and these guys in suits came stumbling in with their scantily clad ladies, They sat at the stools, women on the mens laps, occasionally falling off and all laughing their drunked heads off.

At one point, one of the men stood up. He held up a finger and slurred out to everyone "If you think that our behavior gives any indication of what goes on at the office of the Attorney General of Rhode Island.......long pause.......you're absawrootry right!" Then they fall all over each other breaking out in laughter.

Somehow I can see how that loophole has managed to stay open.
posted by eye of newt at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


Unless you guys are talking about the old Foxy Lady billboard, that isn't visible from 95 north from the airport into Providence anyway.
posted by mkb at 10:10 AM on May 1, 2009


I live right around the corner from that Foxy Lady in Providence. To my knowledge, it's not visible from the highway, but it by all means could be. Fun fact: they're one of the few places in Rhode Island that's been hiring.
posted by lunit at 10:13 AM on May 1, 2009


He did hold out until we hit the next town... I've always wondered, though, what kind of experienced he missed...

"I SAID go back to the car and wait for daddy, Creosote!"
posted by Pollomacho at 10:18 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I must be thinking of a different place.
posted by goingonit at 10:36 AM on May 1, 2009


I've been living in MA for 2 years and am just learning about this now? Why have I been collecting unemployment for weeks when I could have been running my own business?
posted by Eideteker at 10:37 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I SAID go back to the car and wait for daddy, Creosote!"

Back in the late 80s, the SpatchFamily was taking a cross-country road trip. We began looking for a place to stay one evening in the American southwest. New Mexico, I think. Dad pulled off at the first motel he found. Mom went to check in. Wasn't there for 3 minutes. She got right back in the car and said "We're finding another place to stay", so we drove off.

Dad: What happened back in there?
Mom: I asked the guy at the desk if he had a room available. He checked a calendar and said "Yes, in about 30 minutes."
(there is a BRIEF PAUSE.)
Dad: ...how much was it?
Mom: FOR GOD'S SAKE I DIDN'T ASK

It was a few years later I heard the novelty song "Daddy, They Got Mirrors On The Ceiling" on Dr. Demento. Dad thought it was hilarious.
posted by Spatch at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Forget prostitution--this thread has opened my eyes to all the crazy crap they eat in Rhode Island. Time for a roadtrip.
posted by turaho at 11:12 AM on May 1, 2009


quahog chowder is soooooooooooooooooooo good. mr supermedusas' parents are from new england (mass & ri) nomnomnom!!!
posted by supermedusa at 11:43 AM on May 1, 2009


My other part-time job! No!

er ... I mean ...
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 11:55 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Many places, for example, require that the women live in the brothel where they work, forbids them to leave the brothel during their working hours, and in many other ways turns them less into free agents than pseudo-prisoners of a company store.

If this is true, then this is not a failure of legalizing prostitution, this is a failure of the state to enforce federal or even state labor laws. These women fill out W2s or at minimum 1099s I assume. Which means they are legal employees with all the federal and states therein. Including rules about breaks, etc. If the state does not enforce labor laws and allows prostitutes to work and not pay taxes, etc., there should already be laws in place to protect prostitutes the same way minimum wage workers are protected.
posted by spicynuts at 11:58 AM on May 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


prostitution is actually one of mankind's better ideas. unfortunately, fat old politicians and preachers don't agree. if they leave people alone, fucking will happen, occasionally some money will change hands. if they succeed in interfering, fucking will still happen, but some of the money will go to the state. this helps define the word "pimp".
posted by kitchenrat at 12:12 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you criminalize prostitution, only criminals will have prostitutes.
or...
You can have my prostitute only when you pry me from her cold, dead hands.
posted by not_on_display at 12:16 PM on May 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I too am surprised that I haven't learned of this before, given all the time that I've spent in Paragon City. Probably just another Nemesis plot...
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:00 PM on May 1, 2009


spicynuts: "If this is true, then this is not a failure of legalizing prostitution, this is a failure of the state to enforce federal or even state labor laws. These women fill out W2s or at minimum 1099s I assume. Which means they are legal employees with all the federal and states therein. Including rules about breaks, etc. If the state does not enforce labor laws and allows prostitutes to work and not pay taxes, etc., there should already be laws in place to protect prostitutes the same way minimum wage workers are protected."

They're actually treated as independent contractors.
posted by subbes at 1:48 PM on May 1, 2009


I grew up in Rhode Island. How did I not know about this? :D
posted by jfrancis at 2:20 PM on May 1, 2009


Is it possible that this hasn't made it into Family Guy?
posted by 445supermag at 2:35 PM on May 1, 2009


I'm surprised there aren't more prostitutes in Rhode Island because, frankly, this coffee milk stuff sounds so good I'm pretty sure I'd blow somebody right now for a glass of it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:37 PM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Legal or not, prostitution will continue to happen. So why not legalise it and have everyone involved agree to regular STD screenings and operate on a set of standards agreed upon by all parties?
posted by nameinruins at 4:13 PM on May 1, 2009


No coffee milk without coffee syrup. /pepsicoffee
posted by mdonley at 5:06 PM on May 1, 2009


Criminalizing prostitution is unconstitution. It's a consensual crime, where the 'victim' and the 'perpetrator' is one and the same. Just like drug laws. Just like seat belt laws. There should certainly be restrictions on markets like those, sure. Just like cigs and porn. Legalize consensual crimes (since them being crimes are fucking stupid in the first place), tax the crap out of them, and please let America stop sucking so, so goddamn hard.

Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do
posted by Bageena at 8:46 PM on May 1, 2009


NPR Intelligence Squared: Is It Wrong to Pay for Sex? (4/29/09)
posted by WCityMike at 9:46 PM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Coffee milk is horrifyingly gross. I assume it's one of those acquired tastes that takes a lot of determined acquiring. And I love me some coffee.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:17 AM on May 2, 2009


The problem you're making, GenjiandProust, is that you're comparing coffee milk to coffee. Coffee milk is much more similar in taste to coffee ice cream than actual coffee.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:20 AM on May 2, 2009


Foxy Lady is on the way from the airport, at least. It's like the third landmark driving up 95 from TF Green to Providence, the first being that obnoxious Cruise Brothers sign and the second being the all oil tanks.

I always notice that other strip club first. The gigantic bright pink one? I think it is called Cheaters. It's basically a pretty subtle color scheme, and I have heard one can purchase sexual favors in this place pretty openly. Not that I'd know personally. If I wanted to spend a hundred bucks to get a girl to temporarily pretend to like me, I'd probably just bail my wife out of jail.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:09 PM on May 2, 2009


Also, coffee milk is a delicious joy. Autocrat 4 life.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:10 PM on May 2, 2009


Also, coffee milk is a delicious joy. Autocrat 4 life.

Sold! I'd have ordered some already, but although I'm positive it's sublime (as are coffee ice cream, coffee yogurt and the Coffee Crisp bar -- another New England + Canada sensation), my fear of commitment prevents me from buying six bottles of Autocrat. That's just a lot of responsibility to take on all at once.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:12 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I challenge you to find a better product name anywhere, however. Even Moxie isn't close.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:13 PM on May 2, 2009


« Older The PEW survey...  |  William Eggleston... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments