New Meeting Structure for SWOP-Chicago

SWOP-Chicago is making some minor but important changes to our meeting structure. Our hope is to better address the needs and interests of our community and our allies.

Skill Shares: These will be held the last Wednesday of the month, alternating months with brunches. These will be open to the public, sex workers, and allies. Skill shares will provide a space to discuss topics of importance to the community and allow us all to share our insight and experience. You do not have to identify as a sex worker at the skill shares to join in the discussion. The goal is for everyone to share information. Feel free to email us if you have a concern or a suggestion you’d like to see a skill share on. Past topics have included mental health, privilege, and guidelines for allies.

Organizational Meetings: These meetings are held the second Wednesday of every month. The purpose of these meetings is to devote time to SWOP-Chicago’s goals, plans, and activities. Sex workers and allies are encouraged to attend. If you are interested in the activism that SWOP-Chicago does, our outreach efforts, and our mission, these meetings are for you! If you’d like to be part of our organizational committee, send us an email to with a little information about your interest in SWOP or attend one of our skill shares at Howard Brown.

Brunches: These sex worker only events will be held on the months we do not have skill shares, every other month. The brunches are a safe space for sex workers to get together. If you are interested in the brunches, send us an email to with some information about yourself and your work history. These are safe spaces for sex workers only, and a bit of a screening process is involved for everyone’s safety.

Erotic Dancers Deny Prostitution Charges

Erotic Dancers Deny Prostitution Charges
Reporting: Mike Puccinelli

Two suburban women accused of prostitution are defending themselves. They say they were not selling sex. The studio was raided on Tuesday, and the women were charged. But they tell CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli they committed no crime.

New Dance Expressions: It’s a business where, according to their Youtube ad, “you and a gorgeous instructor come together.”

But Prospect Heights police say what’s on sale here 24/7 isn’t instruction -but sex.

“That’s a lie,” dancer and manager Marisol Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez and her co-worker, Veronica Rodriguez, were both busted Tuesday night for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover Cook County Sheriff’s deputy. The two women are not related and say their business isn’t involved in illegal sex. They say it involves erotic dance in private rooms.

“An erotic dance might be a striptease,” dancer Veronica Rodriguez said. “I mean, none of the girls are required to go naked.”

Both women say they have no criminal records and are being wrongly accused.

Veronica Rodriguez said. “I’m completely mortified. … I feel ruined.”

Police say in a back room Veronica Rodriguez offered sex for $1,200. The officer said he wanted to get another girl in on the action.

Rodriguez denied she tried to broker a deal. “I never said that,” she said.

“We offered an erotic dance,” Marisol Rodriguez said. “We offered to do a dance together. But we did not agree to anything illegal.”

She is a mother of four. She says she’s talking now to prove to her children and others that she was unfairly targeted by publicity-hungry police.

“They’ve ruined my life and they’ve ruined the lives of my children, and they’ve just dragged us through the mud,” Marisol Rodriguez said. “We may never bounce back from this.”

She says after crying for two days, she’s now ready to fight to turn this week’s tribulation into what she says will be vindication in open court.

Both women say they have actually called police when customers offered to pay for sex. Police say they know people who claim they were offered sex for a price at the studio, but not Veronica or Marisol Rodriguez.

(© MMIX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Statement on Craigslist Law Suit

SWOP-Chicago does not condone the actions of the Cook County sheriff towards Craigslist. These actions are meant to persecute adults engaging in consensual sexual acts for money and goods of value. Creating criminal records for sex workers bars them from other forms of employment outside of sex work and may limit their ability to seek housing and other services.

This law suit is also a tremendous waste of tax payer resources during a time of severe economic turmoil in the state of Illinois and the country as a whole. The state of Illinois is currently facing a $9 billion dollar (and growing) deficit. Based on an analysis by Julie Pearl in 1987 and adjusted for inflation, in 2007 alone, the state spent over $14.6 million dollars on prostitution arrests. These figures do not take into account the cost of supporting jailed sex workers and the cost to human services agencies who serve these populations and the children of these individuals.

The resources involved in this law suit and in prostitution stings are much better used elsewhere.  The money and resources would be better spent providing health and human services to sex workers and other citizens of the state of Illinois who should receive services, rather than be prosecuted for lack of other viable options. Or, at a minimum, they should be used to go after the 22,005 unsolved burglaries, 12,424 unsolved aggravated assaults, 71 unsolved murders, 12,535 unsolved robberies, 104,226 unresolved property crimes, and 13,475 unresolved motor vehicle thefts[1],[2].

Suing Craigslist to end the marketing of erotic services will not address the issues. If recent FBI stings are any indication, very few, if any, children and minors involved in forcible, coerced, or trafficked prostitution are found by Craigslist targeting and crack downs. Ending Craigslist’s erotic services section will do nothing to stop the exploitation or forced, coerced, or trafficked people, and will divert valuable time and money away from the effort.

The Cook County sheriff is doing no one a service, not the tax payers, not the sex workers targeted. We at SWOP-Chicago strongly urge residents of Illinois to protest this egregious waste of their taxes and public resources and to consider what is truly best for the health and welfare of individuals who advertise erotic services on Craigslist.



Original Article- Sheriff Tom Dart Sues Craigslist

To contact the Sheriff’s office:

Cook County Sheriff’s Office
50 W. Washington
Chicago, Illinois  60602
(312) 603-6444

44 arrested in FBI sting

For your daily dose of fucked up, I give you Operation Cross Country. SWOP-LV on Bound, not Gagged posted about this. When I wrote about this on my personal blog, I didn’t realize it had happened in Chicago. Basically, you have FBI agents arresting sex workers solicited on Craigslist. Ostensibly, they’re targeting child prostitution and trafficking.

The numbers say otherwise. Forty-seven children have been rescued, whereas five hundred eighteen adult sex workers have been rested. That’s over ten times the number of adults arrested as children rescued. These adult sex workers, as SWOP-LV points out, are lured into stings from Craigslist and other such sting tactics. These are presumably not people related to the crimes of trafficking, given this information. Seventy-three pimps have been arrested, presumably the people responsible for the trafficking.

So what you have is the FBI arresting sex workers on felony charges for what actually is a state-level misdemeanor. In the story SWOP-LV links in Boston, seventeen FBI agents arrested two sex workers. That’s right, two. Five total for the night. In Chicago, five people who run services were arrested, five were customers, and thirty-four were sex workers. Adult sex workers. No children were found.

Excuse me just one moment. You have got to be fucking kidding me!

To target child prostitution and trafficking is one thing. To scapegoat sex workers and crackdown on prostitution in the name of preventing trafficking is a horse of a different color. It’s a waste of money and it’s a waste of tax-payer resources. And if you really care about “rescuing” sex workers, why the fuck are you giving them felony records?

Operation Cross Country is not about ending the exploitation of children and those who are trafficked against their will. It’s using this exploitation as a smokescreen for persecuting sex workers on the altar of sex panic.

If you are a sex worker, escort, prostitute, or other person arrested in this sting, I encourage you to contact SWOP-Chicago by phone or on our hotline. We have a number of legal resources and moreover would be glad just to talk to you.

Dec 17th: Int’l Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

presented by SWOP Chicago

December 17, 2021


YWCA 360 N. Michigan, 8th Floor

Each year, sex workers are threatened, harmed, and killed by crimes that go unreported, unpunished, and unrecognized. These types of violence violate the human rights of individuals who work in the sex work industry, and harm sex workers as a group.

The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was founded by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and SWOP USA in response to the conviction of the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway. Ridgway targeted sex workers because he believed no one would notice their absence.

When sex workers suffer sexual assault, abuse, battery, and murder, these crimes often go either unreported, or unprosecuted. Yet these crimes hurt all of society. Violence is not an “occupational hazard” or a “just punishment”, but a horrible crime for those least able to seek justice. This violence is perpetuated by stereotypes, misinformation, and an ineffective justice system.

This year, join SWOP Chicago in honoring the lives of those affected by this horrible violence. Join us for selected videos from Red Light District Chicago, including “Know Your Rights!”.

Bring photos, poems, artwork, writings, or anything else to help memorialize these individuals, and share what you feel comfortable. We will be providing refreshments, as well as sharing the names and stories of sex workers who have been affected by violence.

If you would like more information about this event, please email

Transgender Day of Remembrance

This Sunday, November 16th at 5pm at the Center on Halsted there will be a candlelight vigil held in honor of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I hope you all can attend - this is an important event.  Read on for the official details.

Illinois Gender Advocates is sponsoring a candlelight vigil hosted by the Center on Halsted scheduled to begin at 5 P.M. on the evening of Sunday, November 16th, 2008 to honor the memory of the transgender and gender variant men and women throughout the world who were killed during the preceding year on account of their gender expression. The vigil will be held on Center of Halsted ‘s 3rd floor rooftop deck at 3656 North Halsted St. (Halsted & Waveland), Chicago and will last approximately one hour.

The featured speaker will be Diane Schroer, a decorated special forces veteran and terrorism expert, who won her historic sex discrimination case against the Library of Congress on September 19, 2021 (Schroer v. Library of Congress (2008)).

IGA’s Day of Remembrance vigil also includes several prominent speakers from the City and from the LGBT community. Speakers include Bill Greaves, the City of Chicago’s LGBT Community Liaison; the Rev. Bradley Mickelson, New Spirit Community Church, Oak Park; Rick Garcia, Political Director of Equality Illinois; Casey Schwartz, Health Educator & TYRA Coordinator, Howard Brown Broadway Youth Center; Lois Bates, Transgender Health Manager, Howard Brown; Laura Velazquez, Anti-Violence Project Coordinator, Center on Halsted; Cyndi Richards, Chair, Illinois Gender Advocates and Stevie Conlon, Board Member, Illinois Gender Advocates.

Everyone concerned about the level of violence perpetrated against the LGBT community is welcome and encouraged to attend.

My REAL Life as a Call Girl

By Maya Dollarhide

(LifeWire) — Eight years ago, Natalie McLennan, a leggy brunette, moved to New York City from Montreal to pursue an acting career. At a cocktail party, she met Jason Itzler, the self-proclaimed “‘king of all pimps” and owner of the now-defunct New York Confidential escort agency. When Itzler suggested McLennan, then 28, work for him, she decided “dating” guys beat waiting tables while she continued looking for acting gigs.

By 2004, McLennan was earning around $2,000 an hour, sometimes more, seeing “two to three clients a day for at least two to three hours each.”

When it came to catering to the needs of her well-heeled customers, “I was always on call.”

Natalie — known as Natalia — had hit it big; in July 2005, she was profiled for a New York magazine cover story. Three months after the interview hit the newsstands, the agency was shut down. McLennan was arrested for prostitution, spending 26 days in jail.

Thirty-year-old “Celeste,” who didn’t want her real name used, says she started turning tricks in Minnesota at 15. For her, prostitution was a job, not a path to a celebrity lifestyle. In a good year, the young wife and mother saw up to four clients a day, men she describes as “just guys, like the ones you see at the supermarket or fixing something in your house” and earned up to $300 for 30 minutes of her services. She found her customers through online personals, chat rooms and telephone talk lines for singles.

“I needed that money. I had debt, credit card debt. Then later, when I had a child, I needed the money to pay for food and things for my baby,” she says. In May of this year, Celeste says, she decided to quit for good after a client, a doctor, hurt her during sex. “I figured he of all people would know the limitations of a person’s body, but he didn’t and I thought I was going to die.”

McLennan and Celeste represent two sides of an industry that perennially generates headlines and pop culture buzz. Tabloid tales of high-priced call girls and politicians — like former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer — have heightened interest in TV fare such as Showtime’s “The Secret Diary of a Call Girl.” There are also reports of a new series being developed for HBO based on the novel “Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl” and a proposed MTV reality series starring Spitzer’s favorite paid date, Ashley Dupre. Watch why Spitzer resigned, but was not charged »

While these moments in the sun tend to glamorize prostitution, women in the sex industry and those who study them say a prostitute’s real life can also be difficult and dangerous. What’s harder to get agreement on is whether the sex industry victimizes women.

Risks and rewards

When Celeste met her first pimp at a gas station hang-out, she was vulnerable and alone. Her family had neglected her, she says, and she was often the target of psychological abuse. She “didn’t have enough self-esteem” to say no when her new boyfriend suggested she work for him. “He was very handsome and smooth,” she says. “I wanted him to like me and be my boyfriend. I was living on my own, mainly, and he took care of me.”

McLennan, on the other hand, felt more in control and says she enjoyed aspects of her former job, especially the money and the opportunity to “party with rock stars.”

“I never felt that I was a victim, as opposed to the girls on the street,” says McLennan. “There was definitely anxiety at the beginning, but it got easier almost immediately because the agency’s clientele mainly consisted of successful, well-mannered business men. We were marketed as princesses and the men who hired us treated us as such.”

Celeste was not so lucky. “I was always afraid, every single time,” she recalls. “I did this for 15 years and I never stopped being afraid. The job isn’t like in the movies.”

Victims or not?

McLennan and Celeste both say working for a high-end escort agency or as a call girl is preferable to working in the streets because the money is better and it’s less risky than walking the streets. Researchers, meanwhile, are divided over whether the sex industry victimizes the women.

“Prostitution causes deep psychological harm,” says Melissa Farley, Ph.D., a research and clinical psychologist and founder and executive director of the nonprofit group Prostitution Research and Education in San Francisco. “The words that are said to these women on the job, the names they are called by their [customers] and pimps hurt them emotionally. They are frequently abused physically. Not to mention that the shelf life of women in prostitution is short — if women manage to stay alive in it, they don’t last a long time.”

Farley, who spent two years investigating eight legalized brothels says, “Nevada brothels are scary, scary places.” Her research, which she self-published in “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections,” found that 81 percent of the women in brothels don’t want to be there.

Others disagree and contend that by legalizing prostitution in the form of brothels, women in the sex industry can gain a modicum of legitimacy.

Brothels, a legal solution

Sociologist Barb Brents of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has spent the last 10 years researching the legal brothel industry in Nevada. She disagrees with Farley’s position that all women working as prostitutes — even legally in brothels — are victims.

Most women working in brothels, Brents says, are doing it for the money, like any other job. “You have women coming in from low-paying service jobs… who decide to work in a brothel because they need more money to make ends meet,” she says. “Then you have former prostitutes, women who want to get away from stress of working illegally. Then you have the ‘professionals,’ women from the legal porn industry or former dancers who see their work as a profession or a calling.”

While Brents agrees that abuse and violence can and does occur in the sex industry, it rarely happens in legalized brothels, she says. “These women can leave their jobs. They can walk out the door and quit. They are not prisoners there. And most of them stay because the money is good.”

Fifty-year-old Marisol, who asked that her real name not be used, works at Donna’s Ranch, a legal brothel in northeastern Nevada. At Donna’s, sex workers have access to medical care, are regularly tested for HIV, and have the option of refusing a client. For Marisol, however, it’s the money that makes being a sex worker appealing.

“It’s a job. I am a single mother and this job allowed me to pay for my daughters’ education, our mortgage and our car. I could not do that working at Wal-Mart.”

Getting out, or trying to

Still, the women interviewed for this article agree that even under the best circumstances, being a sex worker isn’t a job that they want to pursue forever. Retirement seems like a good idea to ex-call girl McLennan, who says she is happy to be done with that part of her life, in part because her short prison time was an eye-opener to the risks of her profession. Still, her experiences provided for her: She is writing a memoir, “The Price” (Phoenix Books), due out in November.

She’s also planning to set up blog “where I can offer other girls advice and guidance. I have made a lot of bold choices in my life but I think many of them have been misguided.”

Celeste wants to volunteer to baby-sit at the non-profit where she once received counseling and comfort. “A lot of women there have babies or young children and they need someone to watch them while they get help,” she says. “I want to be able to give back to the organization someday.”

For now, Celeste is concentrating on raising her daughter. But despite the harm and fear her last client caused her, she still hasn’t changed her phone number — the one that keeps her attached to her former clients. Without that number, she’s officially out of business.

“I keep meaning to change it,” she says, “but then I think, what if I need to earn some money fast? It’s hard to let go.”

Outreach Training this Saturday

On Saturday Oct 18th, SWOP will be holding a training downtown at 3pm for anyone interested in doing joining our street outreach team. We will go over some important information about crisis management and talk about our approach. We’ll talk about how to handle difficult situations (should they arise), how we will deal with harassment, and other important points.

Please RSVP to, or if you cannot attend but are interested. Snacks will be provided!

This is a really exciting opportunity for sex workers and their allies to reach out to their community. Hope to see you there!

Detering drug crime by targeting sex workers?

In a suburb of Chicago, good old fashion whore-shaming strikes again. This strikes me as an incredible waste of tax payers’ money. The logic of publishing sex workers’ pictures to fight drug-related crime really just evades me. Am I just too stupid? I don’t get it! It seems residents are more furious that sex workers live next door to them and without that big red A on their chests, these residents had no idea.,0,3961215.story
Elgin residents up in arms over prostitution
They urge police to help crumbling neighborhood
By Amanda Marrazzo

Special to the Chicago Tribune

9:15 AM CDT, July 11, 2022

 Worried that prostitutes are taking over their neighborhood, Elgin
residents offered a suggestion to city officials: Publish the names
and photographs of those convicted of the crime as well as their

“If I had children I would get out of this town,” said Cinda Bates of
the 300 block of West Chicago Street.

The epicenter of concern is about a four-block area on the near west
side of the city, where Victorian houses built more than a century ago
line the streets.

About 25 residents attended a City Council meeting this week, asking
police and other officials to do more to protect their crumbling
neighborhood from prostitution and drug dealers.

Chuck Keysor, president of the Near West Neighbors Association, has
lived on Jackson Street for 21 years. He said a neighbor recently
pointed out two prostitutes to him. They lived in an apartment two
doors down from his home.

“I was amazed to see these two women working right out in the middle
of West Chicago Street in broad daylight,” Keysor said.

He presented a list of possible solutions, including stepping up code
enforcement and going after landlords who allow prostitution.

Residents attributed some of the problems to the absence of a police
officer who lived near the neighborhood before his recent deployment
to Iraq as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves. The police
veteran participated in the Resident Officer Program of Elgin, or
ROPE, a community initiative that encourages officers to live in
city-owned houses in crime-prone neighborhoods.

Some who attended the meeting asked that another officer be assigned
to that live-in role.

Police Chief Lisa Womack acknowledged a possible lack of communication
between residents and the Police Department since the officer went to
Iraq. She encouraged residents to call 911 or the department’s
non-emergency number—847-289-2700—when they have concerns.

“It has to be a community effort,” Womack said.

The crime rate in the area has dropped 11 percent over last year, she
said. But she said the department is aware the neighborhood is a “hot
spot” and that officers have targeted prostitution and drug sales as
well as parole violations.

Five prostitution arrests were made in June. Since the beginning of
the year, 19 drug-related crimes were reported, Womack said. Many of
those crimes were cleared up after drug sweeps led to arrests at an
apartment complex in the 200 block of Locust Street, she said.

On July 21, the Police Department will host a community safety
gathering with similar events to follow.

“We are very aware of the concerns of the neighborhood,” Womack said.

Mayor Ed Schock said he is confident police and city officials can
deal with the situation. He said he was encouraged by the willingness
of residents to band together to keep their neighborhood safe.

“They are going to be our eyes and ears,” he said.

Mark Minter, property manager and a resident of an apartment complex
in the 300 block of North Bristol Street, described a nearby house as
a “drive through” for drug deals.

He said he regularly sees people smoking crack on front porches and
shaking small plastic bags of drugs outside car windows to lure
customers. He said prostitutes openly ply their trade in gangways and
taxicabs and behind buildings.

Minter, an Elgin resident since 1999, said he has kicked prostitutes
and drug dealers off his property in the middle of the night.

“We need help,” he said.

Chris Tsonis of the 300 block of West Chicago Street bought his circa
1890 Victorian house seven years ago. His garage has bullet holes from
a gang shooting and his car has been broken into six times, he said.

With tears in his eyes, Tsonis held up a picture of his 1-year-old son.

“I have to let my son grow up around hookers and drug dealers,” he
said. “How do I protect my son?”

Copyright (c) 2008, Chicago Tribune

Some men say using prostitutes is an addiction

Here’s a piece that unfortunately ignores the voices of sex workers and assumes, like the men “studied”, that sex workers are a faceless, voiceless commodity.-jane brazen,0,7659645.story


Some men say using prostitutes is an addiction

200 take part in study about motivation

By David Heinzmann

Tribune reporter


May 5 2008, 11:27 PM CDT


As anti-prostitution groups try to thwart sex trade by going after customers, they said they have faced a big problem: researchers have only the crudest grasp of why men buy sex.


Even scholarly understanding of prostitution demand has been colored by a boys-will-be-boys attitude toward sex, activists said.


To get a better understanding, a group of researchers—most of them young women—invited more than 100 Chicago-area men who frequently use prostitutes to talk about their attitudes and experiences.


They were overwhelmed by the response. More than 200 men answered the ads the researchers placed in local sex-service classifieds and were willing to sit down with strangers to discuss at length their illegal sexual practices.


While the survey, which is not peer-reviewed, is likely to draw criticism from some academics, the project offers a window into the attitudes of men who buy sex in Chicago.


The results, to be made public Wednesday, show men are often deeply conflicted about their behavior, said Rachel Durchslag, director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, which conducted the survey in Chicago with the Evanston-based Justice Project Against Sexual Harm.


Though most of the men interviewed said they believe there is nothing wrong with prostitution, a large majority, 83 percent, view buying sex as a form of addiction, according to the study.


Most men said they believed women entered prostitution freely, but they acknowledge that the sex trade is devastating to the women involved. A large percentage of the men, 57 percent, suspect the women they pay were abused as children, and nearly a third said they viewed women’s relationships with pimps as harmful.


About 40 percent of men said they are usually intoxicated when they buy sex.


According to one man who was quoted anonymously in the report, “For a small second after I buy sex, I feel happy, and then it’s over. It’s so fleeting. There’s frustration beforehand, and depression afterward [because] it’s so quick. Those feelings are always there. They’re associated with buying sex.”


Nonetheless, most men said they viewed their interaction with prostitutes as a business contract in which payment entitles them to treat the women any way they like. Women surrender the right to say no to anything once they accept a customer’s money, many said.


“Prostitutes are a product, like cereal,” said one man. “You go to the grocery, pick the brand you want and pay for it. It’s business.”


The survey was designed by anti-prostitution activist Melissa Farley, who is controversial because academics have accused her of tilting previous research to support a political agenda. The Chicago study is part of an international project that includes surveys in Scotland, India and Cambodia. Critics of the Scotland survey called Farley’s methods unscientific.


Durchslag is aware of the criticism of Farley but said she feels confident in the relevance of the Chicago survey. Although Farley created the survey questions, she was not involved in reporting the results, Durchslag said.


“We have always said this was an exploratory study, and I feel very confident with the way the questions were asked.”


Durchslag said she was stunned by the large response from men, and their willingness to talk to strangers about such a taboo subject. The men who answered questions represented a variety of backgrounds. A majority were college-educated, and more than half were either married or in a committed relationship, according to the study.


Her team of researchers anticipated feeling angry at their subjects, which happened frequently as some of the men talked freely about their attitudes toward women as sex objects, she said. In one case, a man gave answers that basically acknowledged he had committed rape, she said.


But there were also many interviews in which they felt empathy for the men and their confusion about their own sexuality.


“A lot of us felt really sad for a lot of these men,” she said. “It’s more complicated. We were all surprised by the number of men who said, ‘I’ve never had a chance to talk about this.’ “


Still, the goal of the research is to push for harsher criminal punishment for men who buy sex from prostitutes, she said. Nearly 90 percent of the men said that they would stop if they felt there was a likely chance they would be caught and prosecuted.


Men expressing conflicted feelings and frustration “is the good news,” said Farley, who is based in San Francisco. “That they are conflicted. They do have deeply mixed feelings when someone takes the time to really inquire.”