UPDATE: Post fixed so that comments are now enabled. Also, surprise surprise, Judge Deni was retained. And I’m moving this to the top.
So said Judge Denni in the recent “rape-as-theft-of-services” case. Today, Philadelphia residents voted on whether or not to retain her. We’ll see what happens.
This case demonstrates a lot of things, but chief among them are the dehumanization of sex workers and the construction of the “real” rape victim. Deni’s argument is that prostitutes can’t be raped because they sell sex — which is kind of like saying that merchants can’t be robbed because they sell goods. Bound, Not Gagged has a lot of great posts on this case, and Ren has a powerful call to action.
As Ren points out in a later post, the rape survivor is a black single mother — something I hadn’t heard before, and I’ve been following this case. Now, as Ren says, all sex workers are pretty much treated like shit — but even among marginalized communities, there’s a hierarchy that gets imposed when people within those communities have to deal with law enforcement, the medical establishment, educational institutions, and other groups. There’s also, to turn a phrase coined by our Dear Leader, the soft bigotry of low expectations — that is, poor people and people of color and transgender people and queer people and disabled people and immigrants and religious minorities and other marginalized people simply expect less (if anything at all). Any hope for basic humanitarian aid — welfare, health care — is branded “entitlement;” as if the ability to feed yourself and your family or the right to have your body cared for or to see justice in the legal system is something that only a few deserve. It’s incredibly brave that the woman who survived rape in this case went to the police in the first place — Lord knows countless more sex workers (and other “fallen” women) have avoided the police and the courts precisely because they know not to trust them. BfP writes, in a different context:
my family, my friends, my loved ones, my community members, my people–we deserve kindness. we deserve tenderness and healing and relief and compassion. our cells, our hearts, our bones, our brains, our guts–they all deserve the peace of health and healing. they all deserve the calmness of certianty–certianty that the kindness we are receiving isn’t a trick.
It is deserved. But, as her post so thoroughly illustrates, it’s not reality. As the above-mentioned case illustrates, some people are branded less deserving than others. Some people are branded so inhuman that they’re simply cast out of the system so many of us assume we’re entitled to.
I hope Judge Deni sees some consequences. I hope this case is a lesson to law enforcement, and that it leads to better treatment of sex workers.
But like Ren, I’m not surprised by it. And I won’t be surprised if nothing comes of it.