With election day coming up, I have been intrigued by the candidacy of Kristen Davis, the former madam who is running for governor of New York State. From what I can tell from her TV image, she is personable and intelligent. Her views on the sex industry, however, differ radically from those of a different personable and intelligent woman I have met, Rachel Lloyd, the founder of an organization that aims to rescue young women from the sex trade.
Kristen Davis, running for governor on the Anti-Prohibition line, was a business school graduate and vice president in a billion-dollar hedge fund before going into the sex industry. For her this was a business decision. She wanted to change her job and after doing a market analysis of the economics of sex, she founded a hugely successful escort service.
When one of her clients, then New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, was exposed, she went to jail for promoting prostitution. Although it was her first offence and a victimless crime, the prosecuting attorney asked for $10 million bail; she accepted a plea bargain. Meanwhile, Elliot Spitzer, who apparently violated federal money laundering laws and the Mann act, was never charged with a crime.
Davis says she wants to challenge a criminal justice system which favors “wealthy, white, and politically connected men and mistreats women, poor people and minorities.” She also wants to legalize prostitution, creating a system which would provide protection for unwary women who can be beaten or killed in the practice of their trade and revenue for the state if the business is taxed. She believes that prostitution will always flourish and the sex business is a simply transaction of supply and demand.
Rachel Lloyd, is the founder of GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services). What Kristen Davis saw as a business opportunity, Rachel Lloyd regards as the commercial exploitation of young girls and women. Herself sexually exploited as a teenager, she knows the emotional scars this experience can leave. Her passion is to assist others to gain the knowledge, skills and emotional support they need in order to exit “the life.”
Starting in 1989 with $30 and a computer, Lloyd has built GEMS into a nationally recognized organization aiming to empower girls and young women 12-21 who have experienced sexual exploitation. She has been cited by Ms. Magazine as one of “50 Women Who Change the World.” The NY Daily News nominated her one of 100 Women Who Shape New York. Her advocacy is the subject of the documentary “Very Young Girls,” which can be downloaded from Netflix.
One area where she and Davis would agree is in the inequities of the law whereby women are prosecuted as prostitutes and the men who use them most often are not. Lloyd played a key role in the passage of New York State’s Safe Harbor Act for Sexually Exploited Youth, the first law in the country to end the prosecution of child victims of sex trafficking.
Rachel Lloyd visited Network for Peace through Dialogue two years ago and talked to us about GEMS and the young women who come to her. The topic for the evening was “Is Prostitution a Choice?” Certainly there is a big difference between the high priced call girls in Davis’s escort service and the girls soliciting, for example, on the back streets of the South Bronx.
In response to the question Lloyd pointed out that the average age for entering the sex trade is 12-14 years old when the girls are recruited by predatory older males. She also claimed that 70 to 90 percent of adult women in the trade were abused as children and that only a tiny minority enter the business as adults. A complete report of the conversation can be found at http://www.networkforpeace.com/web20/programs_lrd_lloyd-rachel-gems.htm.
For more information about Kristen Davis go to http://www.kristindavis2010.com/legalize_prostitution http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/08/theantiprohibitionparty.htm