Dominatrix tells lawmakers: Don’t hurt consensual sex work
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A professional dominatrix urged Florida lawmakers Tuesday not to hurt consensual sex workers as the Legislature considers bills addressing human trafficking.
“I am your neighbor, I am your co-worker, I am the person in the grocery store. I am also a consensual sex worker,” said Grace Taylor of Pinellas County, who said she began work as a dominatrix about 20 years ago so she could afford to send her sons to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch. “And as such, I am your first line of defense in helping you find those who have been trafficked.”
She and fellow sex-worker Kristen Cain told the House Criminal Justice Committee there’s a difference between people who choose to work in the sex industry and those forced into the trade. They testified before the committee approved two bills aimed at addressing the problem of human trafficking — an issue that’s gained more attention after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with paying for sex as part of a Florida investigation into massage parlor prostitution.
“Sex work does not equate to human trafficking. Conflating the two is dangerous for both victims of human trafficking and sex workers,” Cain said. “Listen to sex workers. We are here to help you.”
A bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen would create a statewide council to focus on human trafficking and require massage parlor employees and hotel front desk and housekeeping staff be trained to recognize signs of human trafficking. A second bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Toby Overdorf would create a mandatory 10-day jail sentence for anyone convicted of soliciting a prostitute and an additional 30-day sentence if the person solicited is a human trafficking victim.
Both bills were approved. Overdorf mentioned the investigation that snared Kraft and about 300 other men in arguing for his bill. He said he hopes his bill will reduce demand for paid sex.
“Mr. Kraft’s unfortunate choices certainly have raised the awareness of what human trafficking is in the state of Florida and how prevalent it is throughout our entire society,” Overdorf said after the meeting. “It’s a scourge that’s really affecting the state of Florida.”
But Christine Hanavan of the Sex Worker Outreach Project told the committee that laws aimed at punishing men who seek out prostitutes don’t work.
“Criminalization is the root cause of trafficking. Prohibition did not end drinking and it can’t end sex work. What it can do is make it more dangerous,” said Hanavan, who isn’t a sex worker but advocates for them. “Sex workers should be your best resource for fighting violence and exploitation in the sex industry. We need to stop going after men who pay for sex and go after the men who think they can just take it.”
But despite the offers to help, Fitzenhagen said she wasn’t interested.
“In case it was lost on you, a consensual sex worker, a.k.a. a prostitute, is committing a crime,” Fitzenhagen told the committee. “It is not my intent to work with them moving forward.”
After the meeting, Taylor said she isn’t a prostitute, but rather dresses up to create a fantasy for her clients.
“Professional dominatrix is not illegal,” Taylor said.