Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

Sacred Eros ("Word, Image, Flesh, Spirit") / [CineMental] "Happy Endings?"

Sacred Eros - Thursday, May 28, 7:00pm in the Perkins Room

Our theme for this month is "Word, Image, Flesh, Spirit."  Sexually explicit writing and images have been around for centuries, made more widely available with the printing press and camera, and even more so with the Internet.  Some say such words and images are inherently bad and harmful -- or are they?  Can erotica be good for you, even spiritually inspiring?  Bring your opinions, your questions, your favorite examples, and some munchies or beverages to share.

Sacred Eros is a monthly discussion group at Arlington Street Church, providing a safe and supportive space to explore questions about sexuality from a spiritual and ethical perspective.  All people over 18 are welcome, and participants are expected to respect one another and keep personal matters discussed confidential.
It turned out to just be me and the facilitator, which bummed me out a bit as I was really excited about the topic but hadn't actually done any advance prep myself.

We talked about a whole slew of topics, some not even really connected to the stated topic.

The facilitator talked about sex work a lot from a workers' rights angle.  If workers are entitled to safe working conditions, etc., then why aren't sex workers (prostitutes, those working in pornography, etc.) entitled to the same?  I was thinking later, "But what about drug dealers -- we don't agitate for them to have health care."  Will Wilkinson had recently posted on Cultural Externalities and Harm.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 9:30pm
CineMental Presents: Happy Endings?
at Brattle Theater
40 Brattle Street Harvard Sq. Cambridge
9:30pm $10
http://www.truthserum.org for info and links.
followed by discussion and drinks.

With the Rhode Island legislature getting ready to vote on changing the "indoor prostitution" loophole, CineMental is thrilled to bring this insightful documentary to the Boston area. Filmmaker Tara Hurely will join us for Q+A following the screening. This should be a rousing discussion of sex worker's rights and privacy as well as informative about her filmmaking process.

Happy Endings? is an intriguing exploration of the Asian massage parlor industry in Providence, RI, where a 25 year-old loophole has made the exchange of sex for money legal - as long as it happens behind closed doors.

As the documentary follows a recent Korean immigrant, "Heather", working to operate her spa, the city's mayor fights to change the law that allows her business a legal existence.

The film includes interviews with Korean women who work in spas, clients who frequent the spas, politicians from 1980 and today, police, local news footage, radio call-in shows and "voiced" reviews from internet escort review boards.

Official Website: http://www.happyendingsdoc.com/
Official Blog: http://happyendingsdoc.wordpress.com/
Film Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/happyendingsdoc
Facebook Group for film: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=40775235587
Someone early on in the film commented that a "loophole" indicates a way to get around obeying a law, but the law did what it was supposed to -- it got sex workers off the streets.  Having sex workers not out on the street benefits the other residents as well as helping the sex workers be safer.

One thing I hadn't expected but shouldn't have been surprised by was the element of racism.  Yes it's problematic that it's disproportionately the sex workers who get arrested and thrown in jail [see this blogpost, for example] even though it's also illegal to pay a woman for sex.  (And seriously, so many of the anti-spa folks in the film were invoking the specter of human trafficking, but if these women aren't meaningfully consenting to be sex workers, how is punishing them a good idea in any way?)

But there's also the fact that all these women are South Korean (these women immigrating from South Korea brought a business model they had seen in their home country).  "Jen" (one of the prostitutes) said of one of the raids, that the police acted "like Asian people are nothing to them."

Connected to the racism issue is the immigration issue.  "Heather" and "Chris" got married on 9-11-01, and in a clip from maybe 2005, "Chris" quipped, "They still haven't found Bin Laden, and she still doesn't have her green card."  Hurley writes:
“Heather” married her husband “Chris” on 9-11.  (It seemed odd to me that someone would be married on a Tuesday, but they were.)  The entire time I was filming I was mostly concerned with “Heather’s” reaction with the prostitution laws.  In reality she was mostly interested with her immigration case.  In every interview all she wanted to talk about is how she wanted to go home to Korea to see her mom.  She needed to relax, replenish and then come back to the US to finish her immigration hearings.

I was talking to my college roommate about “Heather’s” immigration case.  She thought it was odd that “Heather” was in hearings for seven years, when she works with a a woman who was unmarried and only had one hearing and became a citizen.  I asked her where that woman was from and she said England.  It makes me think that if you are from a “white” country and go try to immigrate they welcome you with open arms.
"Heather" said, "I'm okay with them saying things are wrong because that's their job."  She said, "whether it's moral or immoral, they get our taxes, they give us a permit."

Ginny Hall, Account Executive of the Providence Phoenix, says she goes there the same time every week, so if any of the women there wanted to give her some sort of message, they could certainly plan to do so.  Hurley commented in the Q&A that one of the spas, shares a parking lot with a taxi company.  The host of the event pointed out that the counter-argument would be that these girls don't have anyone to call, don't have anywhere to go.  Though the girls each have a cell phone and a laptop, some of them even have MySpace pages.

"Heather" died partway through the making of the documentary, and Hurley attended her funeral.  She got chatted up by a lot of the people there since she stood out as the only white woman there.  During the Q&A, Hurley said, "If someone forced me into sexual slavery, I wouldn't fly all the way across the country to go to their funeral to honor them.  I might fly all the way across the country to their funeral to make sure they were in the ground."

Near the end, Rep. Gianinni says we need to "teach our children careers ... doctors, lawyers ... even secretaries or administrative assistants -- anything but prostitutes."  I knew the point she was trying to make, but I was still really offended.

In the Q&A, Hurley said Rhode Island is the most economically depressed state after Michigan, and at least they [Michigan] can blame the auto industry.  When she started this documentary, there were 12 or 13 "spas," and now there are reportedly 30.  It's a growth industry.  [See also this blogpost.]
Tags: issues: immigration, issues: prostitution, issues: race, movies: watched

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