Decriminalize Prostitution Now Coalition
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A Great Letter to the City published with permission on this web site

October 23, 1998

To: Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza
Cc: Phoenix City Council Members

Subject: Proposed ordinances governing adult businesses

Dear Mayor and Phoenix City Council Members:

First of all, I would like to congratulate and thank all of you for overseeing a well-run, productive, and economically prosperous city. To this date, I have not found any major faults with the way this city has been run. As a matter of fact, the City of Phoenix was named the "Best Run City in America" recently.

The proposed ordinances, however, make me wonder if this city council is still fit to oversee and represent the people of Phoenix. Below you will find a short description of each proposed ordinance and why it should not be approved. Following this list will be a summarization, then a conclusion.

Proposed Ordinance One: Restrict topless table dances and ban all nude table dances. This proposed ordinance was created in an attempt to decrease the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and the HIV virus in particular. This is ludicrous. Any reasonably intelligent person who has even a little medical knowledge knows that the risk of spreading a STD through incidental skin-to-skin contact is so low as to be labeled a no-risk activity. For a STD to be reasonably transmitted from one person to another, bodily fluids such as saliva, semen, blood, etc., must be exchanged internally. Exchange of such fluids can be achieved through blood transfusions, sharing hypodermic needles, and unprotected intercourse, either vaginal or anal. The same is true for the HIV virus. The report from the Phoenix Undercover Vice Cops mainly details dancers touching themselves in a way that is suggestive but nowhere in the report does it detail the exchange of bodily fluids from a dancer to a patron. Additionally, dancers many times do not even achieve skin-to-skin contact as the patron is most likely wearing clothing. The only uncovered parts of the patron are generally the hands, arms, neck and head. This hardly constitutes dangerous sexual activity. Furthermore, when the Vice Cops asked the dancers to perform illegal sexual acts they were rebuffed. The only logical conclusion, therefore, is that this ordinance will not halt or decrease the spread of STD’s, but in fact may increase the spread of STD’s as former patrons engage in riskier and more illegal sexual acts. To vote yes on this ordinance would be a waste of time, money, and resources to counter something at the wrong point. Would it be better to allocate those resources on Planned Parenthood and sex-education classes?

Proposed Ordinance Two: Ban all social and/or swinger clubs. A recent Arizona Republic article characterized these businesses as "Houses of prostitution." Before you decide to close down these businesses, I ask that you take a night – preferably a Friday or Saturday – and visit one or two of these places anonymously. I ask that you do that so that you may at least know exactly what kind of activity is going on and what kind of businesses you are going to shut down. If you visit, you will find fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sons, uncles, brothers, sisters, daughters and so forth. In other words, a complete variety of people of all ethnic and age backgrounds. And you will find that, apart from being "Houses of prostitution," they are really places where people of like mind can get together and have some fun, even if it includes CONSENSUAL sexual relations for which no money exchanges hands. In fact, the only money that exchanges hands are from the patron upon entering said establishment for the right to be there. It does not obligate or grant that person the right to engage in sexual relations with any other patron unless said patron CONSENTS, again without money. In this respect, these businesses are not unlike a neighborhood bar, wherein a patron pays money to enter, and then has to continually pay to drink, but is still not guaranteed sexual relations with any other patron. The only difference is that the social/swing clubs cannot serve alcohol and provides on the premises, free of charge, space to engage in these sexual relations and condoms to protect the CONSENTING participants.

While many people may not enjoy or endorse this mode of recreation, it is important to note that, much like riding a motorcycle, there are inherent risks, the participants accept these risks, and that none of it is illegal. Let me repeat that: there is no law in the United States that prohibits sexual relations between two CONSENTING adults provided there is no agreement, prior or following, for the exchange of money between the two explicitly for the sexual acts. If you choose to shut down these types of establishments, you will have done nothing more than shut down legally established law-abiding businesses whose proprietors and patrons pay taxes, pay your salary, and vote.

Proposed Ordinance Three: Entertainers in adult cabarets that serve alcoholic beverages must be at least 21 years of age. The desired effect of this ordinance is unclear. It would not serve to protect or enhance the community. It would not protect the dancers from any threat - real or perceived - that would be encountered at these places of employment. Furthermore, it cannot be explained in terms of serving alcohol, as other establishments that serve or vend alcoholic beverages only require that the server or cashier be 18 years of age. What it will do is deprive young, unskilled women of a job opportunity that provides an above-average income. If you were to interview the women between the ages of 18 and 21 who work at these establishments, you would find that many are students, mothers, or just women that happen to like what they’re doing. It might even be said that, in one respect, the patrons of these establishments are sending a woman to school who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, or helping a child of a single mother raise him well and keeps her off of welfare. Without these jobs, these women would not be able to afford their education or shoes for their children.

Proposed Ordinance Four: Ban semi-nude and nude private-room performances. If this is also an attempt to prevent the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, please refer to the discussion on proposed ordinance one. My question to the City Council is this: What is the desired effect of this proposed ordinance?

In summary, these proposed ordinances, if approved, will have effects that are not the same as the written purpose. If approved, they would instead force many adult cabarets and other adult businesses, including private-room performance businesses, out of business. That will in turn create an undue strain on the other resources of the city, state, and federal governments, including but not limited to police, welfare, hospitals, and AHCCS. Approving any of these ordinance would be a travesty of justice and to the freedom of the people of this city to choose what form of leisure activity they may engage in. There are already many other ordinances and laws on the books regulating these businesses. It is unfortunate that the actions of a few may cause many to be shut down. However, when dealing with a metropolis of this size, it is important to remember that no matter what business, there will always be a few that do not follow the law. Our resources would be better spent enforcing existing laws and ordinances at those businesses that do violate those laws. Even if approved, those existing businesses that do violate current laws would find ways around them without periodic inspection and police enforcement. Why punish the many for the sins of the few? I personally would rather see the money go to enforce health-codes at the more than 200,000 restaurants in the Phoenix area rather than enforcing rules at the less than 200 adult businesses affected.

In conclusion, I urge you, the City Council, to vote "NO" on these proposed ordinances. Enforcing them would be a waste of resources that could be better spent on more worthwhile causes such as murder investigation, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and neighborhood patrols in poor parts of the city. One of the stated reasons for these ordinances is to "Reduce the amount of criminal activity that occurs near these adult businesses." Looking through the police reports would reveal that most of the "increased

Crime" occurs inside the adult businesses and involves such minor transgressions such as a dancer touching herself inappropriately and no "real crime" that most citizens would have any concern over. These activities are already covered by existing laws and of no actual threat to the general population. If those "crimes" are to be disallowed, then the actual crime rates are no higher than the surrounding areas. Remember that these businesses have not been proven to be harmful to neighborhoods for the simple fact that they are not located in residential areas. Indeed, because of the commercial zoning that these adult businesses are forced to locate in, patrons usually drive in, then drive out, performing no crimes except for those which we have already disallowed in our statement. Reading through the Phoenix Vice Report reveals that very few, if any, real crimes occurred in the businesses investigated. And I will reiterate that the industry as a whole should not be punished for the crimes of the few. Doing so would be the equivalent of shutting down all hotels because Bob’s Love Shack has a few cockroaches.

This city is huge. There are millions of citizens. Reducing the number of adult businesses in Phoenix would reduce our popularity as a convention place, as a travel destination, and as a home for businesses. Believe it or not, people will always demand businesses of this type. Would it not be better for them to have a destination to enjoy and partake of these pleasures legally than illegally?

It seems ridiculous that such a basic, vital function as sex and sexual attraction are regulated so heavily despite the fact that nearly everyone enjoys sex. It also makes me wonder that, if we don’t use reasonable intelligence now, what will stop governments from regulating how we have sex in our own homes? Although I am not asking the City Council to endorse adult businesses, I am asking them to recognize that there are citizens of all races, size, and age, which patronize these establishments. We the people of Phoenix have elected you as members of the City Council because we thought you would best represent the people. Even if those people are asking for something that you feel is morally or ethically wrong but not illegal. I cannot change the way you think, but I can ask you to have the vision to tolerate those activities, businesses, and people that you do not necessarily care for. Our founding fathers established this nation on the notion that the majority shall rule. The majority has spoken, and they have said do not approve these ordinances.

Sincerely,

Jason District 3

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