Dear Chron: Only Hookers Get To Call Each Other Hookers

Burying the lede (though not the “hooker”) in the Chron today: “Prostitution Isn’t As Big As It Used to Be In The Mission.” We San Franciscans are meant to understand that prostitution isn’t such a problem in the neighborhood, but only through the laziest of voyeurism on the part of “embedded” reporter John Koopman — who, in lieu of, oh, reporting, goes instead for good old hooker fetishism.

You know how it goes, in rhetoric so tired (paging, Anthony Comstock and all you other Victorians) that this “real stories of the streets!”-style deserves an “oldest profession” derived cliche of its own. First up, you’ve got your “soiled doves”!

“These guys don’t always realize what the girl has,” [Officer] Franco says. “A lot of them have hepatitis, herpes or even HIV. They get a (sex act) with no condom, get some disease and take it home to their wives. It’s bad all around.”

So we should arrest people to prevent HIV/AIDS & STI’s? Brilliant! Why follow the model of twenty+ years of solid sexual health work, in which San Francisco is a leader? But why stop with sex workers and customers? I say, let law enforcement randomly detain and test Financial District workers on lunch break.

Public health issues soundly tackled, next you’ve got your fierce, untamed hookers gone wild!

Disease isn’t the only danger. After one bust, [Officer] Villaruel comes up with a wicked-looking switchblade he took off a hooker.

“These girls will bring a weapon for self-defense,” he said. “Just about all of them have something.”

And, oh, just imagine what would happen at City Hall were we to have a United Hooker Front armed with “wicked-looking” weapons turn up asking for some answers from Fiona Ma and Kamala Harris?

The veritable happy ending though…

The women are at risk, too. Franco has seen dead hookers before, killed by homicidal johns.

… because nothing more quickly elicits that teary-eyed “human interest” like referring to the victim of a murder as a “dead hooker.”

You’d think, until the Chron gets over its breathless hooker obsession and calling its police beat reporters “embedded” (indeed), we can ask for a basic Style Guide check, right? No, reporters, you don’t get to call lesbians ‘dykes’, you don’t get to call gay men ‘queers’, and you don’t get to call sex workers ‘hookers’, period.

11 Comments so far

  1. malachy c. (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 2:08 pm

    why not?

  2. whatevah floats yer butt (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 3:08 pm

    i suppose “nappy headed ho” is out of the question?

  3. Robyn Few (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 5:34 pm

    Wow, the police can afford two full time beat cops to walk the streets and arrest people for suspected misdemeanor activity. Loitering with intent, conspiracy to commit, walking in a place of prostitution. These horrendous crimes take two full time cops to protect the quality of life in the Mission. Is this a joke, have you walked down Mission Street? I’ve seen more sex acts in the streets of San Francisco during Folsom St. Fair or one good Saturday night in the Castro. I’ve lived on South Van Ness, by the way. I wonder if the murder or robbery rates are down in the Mission, well as long as my kids don’t have to see any hookers my life is better. You Assholes. You want to change the face of prostitution in the mission or your neighborhood. CHANGE THE LAWS NOW. You want to provide health and safety for the families. CHANGE THE LAWS NOW. Aren’t we tired of the injustice and hypocrisy, aren’t we embarrassed by the failed policies and prohibitionist tactics that have robbed sex workers of their status as respected tax paying citizens in this society. John Koopman you can call me anything you like, as long as you pay me.

  4. cd (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

    I’m not sure I elevate linguistic equality for hookers to the same level as that we should give to homosexuals or any other class of people who are persecuted because of what they are.

    Hookers aren’t biologically hookers. It’s something they do. Something they fall into doing, or get tricked, extorted, feel-they-have-no-choice-etc, into doing. But its hardly the same thing.

    Also, I don’t think there is consensus on the term queer. My queer law professor, who was queer, started the class by saying how pissed she was that the admin labeled it something not using the word queer in the course list because it was just that – queer law. She had retaken the word “queer” as had, in her words, much of the queer community.

    I’m not part of the community, so I don’t know. But I know that many have reclaimed it.

    At any rate – I don’t understand your level of ire.

  5. Melissa (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

    CD, judging from your tone, and not just your Sacramento homebase, I’ll guess you don’t share my (oh, and most of the last 40 years of sexual historians’ and a good deal of San Franciscans’) view of what constitutes a sexual minority, and how discrimination and stigma don’t need biology to back them up into nasty, nasty outcomes — like getting thrown in jail for being in the wrong part of town at the wrong time, or for looking queer, or transgender, or a like a whore.

    But one would think one needn’t wave Foucault around to get that the gut “eww, gross!” reaction that the word “hooker” elicits is intentional when deployed by the media, yes? Over the last thirty years the term “sex worker” has become the term used by everyone from the UN to dirty feminist activists. All I ask, is, when will the media catchup?

    Of course, I thought bloggers by definition might be ahead of the curve, too.

    Don’t mind my ire. I’m just a stupid hooker. God knows how I learned to blog.

  6. cd (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

    Wow, Melissa. Way to do your homework. And way to make snap judgments based solely on a link.

    I used to be the city captain here at MBSF for years. In fact, I wrote for the site since just about its inception. Just an FYI, before you paint me as some inner-Cali bumpkin who is unenlightened due to a lack of exposure to The City.

    Did I call you stupid? I disagreed assumptions on which you base your reaction to the word hooker, but I really don’t think I called you stupid.

    Wait, lemme check.

    Yup. Nope. Didn’t call you stupid.

    I’m also not sure what “tone” you’re talking about. I genuinely don’t equate eradicating the use of the word “hooker” with the words “dyke” or “queer.” For one thing, because I don’t think there’s a consensus on the word “queer” for the reasons I mentioned above. That wasn’t sarcastic, that was information gained from a professor of mine who is an expert in queer law and with whom I studied for a semester. Just sharing the info and posing a question.

    And the article didn’t mention arresting people for “looking like . . . a whore.” It discussed arresting those who exchange sexual acts for money. I happen to agree more with the law enforcement school of thought that punishes the purchasers than the sellers, so there’s that angle to argue.

    But are you saying that it’s wrong to go after either because sex working should be legal?

    IF that’s the assertion, I’ll disagree with it too.

    And no, I don’t share your view of what constitutes a sexual minority, if for you that minority includes hookers/sex workers/prostitutes – if that’s your question.

    But please, before you fly off the handle at me again, pause a moment and make sure you’ve got your facts straight.

  7. Melissa (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 5:15 pm


    I didn’t know you were an SFMB alum, true. I’ll eat that.

    I didn’t post this to get into a “should sex work be legal or not?” debate. Honestly, one needn’t have any opinion on whether sex work ought to be legal or not to see that calling someone a “dead hooker” is inappropriate, right? That it is dehumanizing and degrading, and really over the top? This isn’t about the general public’s right to call sex workers whatever they might like, which they certainly do, including yourself. My ire is leveled at journalists.

    I am angry, and I am flying off the handle. I have sex worker friends who have been raped, beaten, and murdered. I am angry, because people who — and this is no assumption, you said yourself you were not part of the community — have no stake in these issues still pass judgment on them. Then again, that’s an assumption on my part again. It’s hard in the Bay Area not to know a sex worker. Or, as the Chron writer prefers, despite what my community says we’d rather be called, hookers.

  8. cd (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

    I think a discussion over the validity of the term is useful – especially for people who don’t know the difference – or don’t see that there is a difference (and the “difference” question – if/what -is at the heart of this post and the article, right?)

    I’m not asserting my right to call someone a hooker over a sex worker. I’m asking for more on your take on the use of the words, rather than just your anger over the use. Does that make sense? It’s an honest question – free of snark.

    But what we call any particular person and why has a TON to do with the policies that get passed that effect those people. That much I’m guessing we agree on. (As a rough and equally passion-arousing analogy: think of the tug-o-war over what to call those non-American citizens living in the US: undocumented aliens? Illegal immigrants? undocumented workers? illegal aliens?)

    The battle over the terms – hooker v. sex worker – is the tip of the proverbial iceberg over how we handle all of the policy issues touching the industry, right?

  9. cd (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 10:30 pm

    p.s. on behalf of MBSacramento – thanks. Only Sacramentans get to imply Sacramentans are close-minded and/or unsophisticated. ;)

    (And we have a shocking number of SF transplants out here. Damn Urban Sprawl!)

  10. Melissa (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 9:34 am

    I’m really heartened to have you come back & ask for a more serious consideration of terms on this point, and I would love to get into it — good to know that sort of dialogue (and not just goof or snark) could go down here.

  11. cd (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2007 @ 11:05 am

    I’m glad too – and/but since my first comment here wasn’t snarky, it was an honest opinion/question about the terms (for all those communities).

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