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“It’s up to you”: Prostitution, Censorship and Sweden

If you, like me, thought that the Radical Cheerleaders were supposed to be honorable anti-capitalist activists, read this and think again.
There's a lot for liberals to like about Sweden. With 40% of its parliament women and gender equality on the front burner politically, it's as close to a feminist nation as anywhere. But the title of this essay mentions prostitution and censorship and I know that's what you're waiting for, so we'll return to the fair land of Sweden shortly. For now, I would like to share with you a new magazine appearing in leftie bookshops called $pread (yes, that's a dollar sign), a magazine that promotes prostitution as an empowering and satisfying career for women.

I heard about the new magazine when news of a benefit the New York City Radical Cheerleaders were participating in to pay for $pread's first issue reached me. I wrote a letter to the Radical Cheerleaders asking them to reconsider lending their capitalism-critiquing performances to a pro-capitalism magazine encouraging men to rent the insides of women's bodies for masturbatory entertainment. When I got an email reply from the editor of $pread my first thought started with a question mark, because I did not write a letter to $pread but to the Radical Cheerleaders. Turns out the pro-capitalism entrepreneurs of $pread moonlight as anti-capitalism Radical Cheerleaders to raise money for themselves without disclosing this synergistic relationship.

A small exchange between editor "Mary Christmas" and I followed, ending in a request to use my original letter to the Radical Cheerleaders in the magazine's first issue. Mary claimed, "It's up to you," but when I refused permission she decided it wasn't really up to me after all and published it anyway, crediting my writings to "Cindy" and deleting key points of the original letter.

Here's where progressive paradise Sweden re-enters the scene. When parts of the letter to the Radical Cheerleaders were published against my wishes, my support for the Swedish model of decriminalizing prostitution and a link to information about that model were left out. In 1999, Sweden passed a law removing all criminal penalties for prostituted women while directing increased attention to predatory men seeking economically coerced sex. Recognizing prostitution is not a career for women but systematic sexual violence, Sweden has seen tremendous results in the few years since the law was implemented.

The increased spotlight on men who use prostitutes has reduced the number of Swedish men soliciting, and the law extends outside the country's borders so that Swedish men on sex tours in Southeast Asia can be prosecuted. No longer powerless against pimps and traffickers, prostituted women have turned abusers in and are taking advantage of social services set up to help them transition out of prostitution.

The Swedish model is reducing the harms of prostitution in ways Dutch and German legalization have so far failed to accomplish. Trafficking into the Netherlands and Germany has increased since legalization, as has child prostitution, because fanning the capitalist flames of men's demand for prostitutes increases the supply of bodies needed to meet increased demands. This evidence has been meticulously collected over the years and so-called "sex workers rights" groups know legalization hasn't delivered on its promises. Only 200 of an estimated 25,000 sex workers in Amsterdam are in the sex worker union Red Thread, and only 100 of an estimated 400,000 sex workers in Germany joined the service union ver.di.

Sweden's success scares pimps, traffickers and other sexual capitalists. It scares them out of Sweden, where the increased risks for traffickers led to a decrease in the number of bodies trafficked there. Solid figures on underground criminal activities are notoriously hard to come by, but in just five years there have been noticeable positive changes and 80% of Swedish people, not known to be conservative prudes, are pleased with the law's outcomes.

The editors of $pread knew I was against arresting prostitutes when my support for the Swedish model of decriminalized prostitution was made clear. This did not stop them from suggesting that I, excuse me "Cindy", want to see prostitutes arrested. The Swedish model scares them not senseless, but to censor. It's not senseless for capitalists to defend their profit source against burgeoning civil rights. In the 50's and 60's some black business owners organized against desegregation knowing once black people could freely choose to shop and eat at white-owned businesses they would no longer be forced to buy from black-owned businesses and profits would drop. They lost their fight to keep a personally profitable result of social inequality intact and racial equality has moved ahead because of it. The sexual capitalists who feel it necessary to censor away proof of Sweden's success in reducing gendered inequality will ultimately lose their fight holding back progress in women's sexual autonomy. As ever, Sweden will lead the way.

To read the brief, unedited email exchange between Mary Christmas and myself, go to www.spreademism.com/exchange.htm

Contact me at spreademism(at)yahoo.com

homepage: homepage: http://www.spreademism.com

more bad news for ya! 15.Nov.2005 18:14


Infoshop.org is also a supporter of sex workers.

They even have a page dedicated to sexual liberation.

As for spread,

more bad news! AK press distributes it!

MORE bad news! In Other Words sells it!

Your going to have a hard time painting them as capitalist considering their
ties to anarchism.

I think you might be in the minority on this one.

selling something is different from endorsing it 15.Nov.2005 20:27

i think the article makes a pretty good case

So what is this, a non-profit magazine? Of course it's "capitalist."

There are lots of "anarchist" businesses, and many of them are openly capitalist enterprises. Selling anarchist content is different from carrying out anarchism in the real world. And just because some tweaky magazine is in the same store as Kropotkin doesn't mean they're the same thing.

Go Spread Magazine! 15.Nov.2005 20:47


I recommend checking out spread at : http://www.spreadmagazine.org/

Its a nominee (one of five) for Utne's 2005 Independent Press Award, "BEST NEW TITLE".

Once again radical feminists at spread are pissing off the self-rightious!

huh? 15.Nov.2005 21:16


You've never heard of a non-profit magazine?

Here are a couple just of the top of my head:

The Earth First Journal
Green Anarchy


Spread is not one of them. They state in several articles that they
intend to make money.

Missed something. 15.Nov.2005 21:32


I think you missed the point....

AK press is a worker owned co-op. Very much anarchist. They don't distribute things
they don't agree with.

infoshop.org isn't selling it they ARE endorsing it by linking to if from their
website as a resource for sexual liberation.

In Other Words would be the local radical feminist bookstore they wouldn't be
Selling it if they didn't at least believe there was a reasonable argument for
the legitimacy of their position. They're also a non-profit.

My previous comments on this subject had more to do with using the state to
force people to behave in what some people consider to be "correct". However,
I'm surprised to find out that there is a large feminist community in support
of decriminalization of sex-workers.

nonsense 16.Nov.2005 14:25

if A then B, if B then ice cream

Bison, what you're saying has nothing to do with the article posted and makes absolutely no sense. Because In Other Words* carries the magazine the Rad Cheerleaders didn't unethically (illegally?) raise money for themselves? How does who distributes the magazine affect that the editors deliberately stole and significantly distorted a person's writing to make themselves look better? Is the Swedish model somehow less successful because Infoshop links to a pro-prostitution business venture?

Get real.

*In Other Words also has the current issue of feminist magazine off our backs, an issue criticizing porn.  http://www.offourbacks.org/

your correct.... 16.Nov.2005 17:02


I was responding to:

"selling something is different from endorsing it"

Your right. It had nothing to do with the article. I didn't have much interest in the

Heres the thing. I simply don't believe it. I have to see some proof.
I am suspicious of claims of fraud filled with little fact and much opinion. How about
posting your original article and comparing it to what was published in spread?
This shouldn't be beyond your ability. I assume you remember what you wrote, and
you can purchase a copy of spread (at In Other Words!).

Then we can make a decision based on the facts for ourselves.

I could be wrong. But I don't feel its unreasonable to ask for some evidence.

link 16.Nov.2005 18:15


 http://www.spreademism.com/exchange.htm compares the two letters side by side, what they ommitted, what they changed and follow up letters. This link was in the origional post.

thank you. 16.Nov.2005 19:52


Thanks I hadn't read the article for a few days.

As for the letters. Looks like standard editing to me. I don't see anything
strange, in fact they seemed pretty fair. They excluded things casting doubt on the authors sanity. Good editing.

nit nit nit nit nit 16.Nov.2005 21:52

pick the nit

I guess you've never heard of a rhetorical question.

Here's the nice simple version:

"Spread is not a non-profit organization."

The case agaist Sweden's repressive laws 17.Nov.2005 07:14


If you are interested in hearing the other side of the story... including articles by sex-workers, please check out this collection;


Correction to link 17.Nov.2005 07:25


re: non-profit 17.Nov.2005 20:47

sex worker and friend of $pread

i know some people involved in $pread and can tell you two things:
1. the magazine is applying for non profit status.
2. everyone involved is a volunteer. they devote hours and hours to the magazine because they care about women's (and men's) right to make choices regarding the use of their own bodies and their right to support and community in what is often an anonymous and divided work environment.
no one can say that the editors are capitalizing off the magazine. furthermore, supporting a person's right to choose a particular job is not neccessarily a pro-capitalist position.

uh, you just have to READ the magazine.... 18.Nov.2005 10:39


if the author actually read a copy of spread, maybe it would see that no one is paid and they don't make any money!!!!!

it is all volunteers- writers, editors, everybody- i am in new york and have gone to the benefits they throw to raise enough money to print the mag. i know they also silk screnn their own shirts to sell and raise money too- like here


illegal 18.Nov.2005 11:37

S.M. Berg

When the editors altered the content of the writing and removed my name from my work after I refused publishing permission, they acted illegally and infringed on my rights as a writer.

I never sent an email to $pread Magazine, only to the New York City Radical Cheerleaders. There was no disclosure that $pread is a business begun by the NYC Radical Cheerleaders and that my emails to the non-profit org would be shared with $pread managers. To my knowledge, there is still no attempt on the part of the people involved that the NYC Radical Cheerleaders are generating money and doing public relations for $pread and are acting duplicitously promoting their own financial interests.

Mary told me, "It's up to you" when asking for my permission to print the letter they never should have seen, then she ignored this woman's right to say no when I said "No." It's telling that the very people going on and on about respecting women's choices would so easily ignore the choice of this woman because it suited their purposes to ignore her clear choice. This is exactly the sham of "free choice" that pimps and other sexual capitalists present to their victims, lip service to the notion of respecting women's choices when the truth is they have no intention of honoring the choices women make because women don't want to be whores and they know it.

While reading a review on the British feminist website The F-Word I recognized my words in the sentence quoted by the reviewer as attributed to "Cindy" in $pread's first issue. Since I had expressly denied permission for publishing my work, I was stunned at the revelation and the dishonesty of the editors for altering the letter's content to make it appear as if I wanted prostituted women criminalized. Here's a link and some key excerpts from that review:


Ms Razorblade

Does $pread fulfil its own mission statement?

"our aim is not to promote or profit off the sex industry" (p.5)

True, $pread is no prostitutes' directory, but the writers are hardly shy about self-promotion. Veronica Monet writes a short feature followed by a long CV that ends, "Monet's new book, Sex Secrets of Escorts, will be available August 2005!" Six writers are plugging books; others mention their work in films or graphic design; Carol Leigh's CV is 77 words long and claims she invented the term "sex work", and there is a grovelling review of her autobiography. I wasn't prepared for this barrage of advertising, and several of the writers seem at least as interested in promoting their careers as they are in actually campaigning.

"by and for sex workers..."

As people who are up on prostitution will probably know, COYOTE is a pro-sex work group that spent the '70s and '80s claiming to be "by and for sex workers". In 1993 its biographer explained[1] that few of its members were prostitutes (3% in 1981), and that the image of COYOTE as a "prostitutes' trade union" was spin designed to appeal to the media. $pread seems to be au fait with COYOTE (Priscilla Alexander and Carol Leigh are writers) so you'd think they might have avoided making the same mistake. Of the 13 writers with CVs, most are billed as authors, filmmakers or academics. Six do not mention ever having worked in the sex industry, four used to do so but have now left, and only three say they are working prostitutes.

"a forum..."

Dictionary definition: "a medium (e.g. a newspaper) through which opposing views on public matters may be aired and debated". Unfortunately, there is not much "debate" on prostitution in $pread: it is a straightforward pro-sex work magazine and quite hostile towards abolitionists (the childish joke about dressing up a mannequin as "Sheila" [Jeffreys], and laughing at it, is a particularly irritating example.)

"...for marginalised voices"

I'm not sure why they regard Carol Leigh, Annie Sprinkle and Priscilla Alexander as marginalised. All have successful careers and have been well known in the pro-sex work movement since the 1970s. The film-making and book-writing contributors seem far from homeless or destitute. There is a big emphasis on "celebrity" prostitutes.

"$pread will also contain practical information, news and resources relevant to those working in the sex industry"

...unless, of course, they wish to leave or campaign against it: the list of resources omits all abolitionist organisations and those which help women to exit prostitution. This is not a magazine for prostitutes per se: it is a pro-sex work magazine. $pread is "relevant" only to those prostitutes who share its views.