Jerame Davis

Lap Dances for HIV

Filed By Jerame Davis | August 31, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: HIV/AIDS, public corruption, strippers, Washington D.C.

Every time I think I've seen the limits of human shallowness, I'm proven wrong in the worst way. This morning, as I was doing my morning news run, stripper-pole.jpgI saw this story about a DC-based HIV/AIDS non-profit that used part of the money from a $10 million grant from the city to rehab a strip club.

Yes, you read that correctly. These asshats used money that was appropriated for HIV/AIDS services to make repairs and renovations to a DC strip joint. From the DCist:

Earlier today, the District's attorney general, Irv Nathan, announced that the city was filing suit against Miracle Hands, an organization which stands accused of taking $329,653 of that $10 million in grants and spending it on construction of a nightclub. (The investigation was prompted at the request of At-Large Councilmember David Catania.) The organization, the A.G. says, billed the city for renovations made at two warehouses which were to be used to house HIV/AIDS patients; one of those warehouses has the same address as Stadium Club.

Seriously, what kind of depraved, soulless, pathetic people spend money intended to care for the sick and indigent on fixing up a tittie bar? I guess those "Miracle Hands" aren't always for healing, huh?

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The misappropriation of funds intended for and needed by people with HIV/AIDS is, I agree, a completely shitty thing to do. It doesn't particularly matter what they were used for, if it's not housing for people with HIV/AIDS, it's not right.

So why does that grain of truth need to be housed in a post dismissively tagged "strippers," loaded with misogynistic language like "tittie bar," and drawing on discrimination against exotic dancers and other sex workers (e.g. "I guess those "Miracle Hands" aren't always for healing, huh?") to make its point? Aren't sex workers also queer folks and allies disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS? Haven't sex workers been integral in LGBTQ rights and HIV/AIDS movements from the beginning?

By all means, make your point about asshats misappropriating HIV/AIDS and housing funds that are sorely needed, but don't add to the asshatness by making it an excuse to heap more stigma and hate on sex workers.

The point wasn't to denigrate anyone other than the assholes who perpetrated this rather audacious crime. I'll give you tittie bar was probably a bad word choice, but I think you're reading far too much into what I wrote.

Accusing me of "heaping stigma and hate on sex workers" and the post being "loaded" with words like "tittie" is kinda over the top, though. I said tittie once and I don't think strip club or stripper is derogatory language at all. I may be wrong about that, but that's news to me if it is.

Cracking a joke riffing on the name of the name of the organization was just that - a joke.

I have no qualms with exotic dancers, sex workers, strippers or strip clubs. I have a problem with money intended for HIV/AIDS services being used to pay for it.

Perhaps, had I more time and wasn't just attempting to write a short post, I could have pointed out how sex workers are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and how all the more fucked up it is the they're using money appropriated for these services to help perpetuate the cycle of exploitation and abuse that contributes greatly to that increased rate of infection.

And while that was indeed a portion of the outrage I felt, I didn't realize what I wrote would be taken in exactly the opposite context.

So, I can see flip, dismissive or not giving the topic the attention it deserves, but I didn't heap or hate on sex workers, strippers, exotic dancers or anyone other than the assholes who misappropriated these funds.

"Every time I think I've seen the limits of human shallowness, I'm proven wrong in the worst way."

You couldn't have said it better. Honestly. Because that's sort of how I felt reading this article, not only about the topic at hand, but also because of the oppressive language you used to write it.

Oh, seriously. If the fact that a charity used a good chunk of grant money to construct a stripper bar instead of housing for HIV/AIDS patients is equal to the words "strip club," "strip joint," and "tittie bar," there's just something wrong with the fucking world.

And to answer to the comment before this one, "dismissively tagged 'strippers'?" Really? That's what they do. That's their name. That's why they're called strip clubs, strip bars, etc and the signs outside say the word "strippers." And how in the world can you get that Jerame is "drawing on discrimination against exotic dancers" and "heaping more stigma and hate on sex workers"? That's just ridiculous. Sex workers have nothing to do with it. Money grubbing frauds who get money to help the sick and indigent are making money off of women's bodies by inviting men to fondle them for cash. Those are the fucks who are worthy of derision - not sex workers OR Jerame.

I will not deny that what Miracle Hands did is the wrong. But with all due respect Bil, the way Jerame is playing upon the depravity and shame that surrounds this industry to show his disgust is counter productive to our friends who work in the sex industry.

If these people, instead of renovating a strip club, renovated and opened say a McDonalds, it would be equally as tasteless and worthy of derision. (Actually, maybe more so). But, it wouldn't be done in such a way that creates Stigma on those that might work at such an establishment.

Money-grubbing frauds who get funding to alleviate discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS by providing the housing to which they are entitled, but misuse it for any purpose, is definitely the issue here. So my question remains: why does this post make it about "strippers"? And a titillating picture of a dancer? And misogynist language about dancers? And an implication that said dancers are 1) also prostitutes and 2) therefore immoral?

This is an example of using stigma against sex workers to establish immorality "in the worst way." I don't disagree that using those funds to reno a strip club was atrocious -- *but not because it's a strip club.* And that is the problem with this post.

Further, objecting to stigmatization and discrimination against sex workers in queer politics does not diminish the interests of queers or people with HIV/AIDS. Many sex workers are both, and attitudes like this make it that much harder for sex workers to get equal human, civil, and labour rights: an inequality that prevents many sex workers from obtaining the housing and health care this post is (or should be) about.

I don't think the author is wrong to find this event deeply troubling, but I find his framing of the issue highly objectionable. It is not helpful to compare oppressions, as if the injustice done to people with HIV/AIDS in this event somehow excuses the 'lesser' evil of writing oppressive, misogynistic things about sex workers in this post. Neither should happen, but the latter, at least, can be revised, if the author is willing to hear criticism from the people affected by his words.

If you're willing to hear the criticism of those affected by your words, had you left this comment in the first place, this whole conversation would've gotten off on a hell of a lot better foot.

Thanks for answering me. I hadn't left my first comment intending it to be hostile -- I was shooting for critical in the same tone as the second comment -- but I appreciate how poorly tone travels over the internet and how much more clearly things can be explained after a few hours thought, so I apologize for not starting off with a more detailed, less glossed critique foot to begin with.

That said, the kinds of jokes you made, regardless of your intentions, which I doubt were in any way malicious, and the way you used them to justify your already-justifiable outrage at this event, are hateful to sex workers the way "Obama cut corporate taxes -- that's so gay!" is hateful to the LGBTQ community. For many people, it's a perfectly acceptable thing to say because they rarely (or never) hear any criticism. But for those of us who live with that kind of discrimination piled on us constantly, as you no doubt know, it's inexcusably hurtful.

So again: I don't doubt your good intentions, I don't disagree with you that this event was awful, but I don't find your jokes funny, I do find your framing objectionable, and I appreciate that you have been willing to think about how the post fucked things up and how you could have done it differently.

Oops! To make that one sentence make slightly more sense: "I apologize for not starting off with a more detailed, less glossed critique to begin with"

(I'd had "on the right foot," but exchanged it for a, well, more detailed and less glossed phrase, but with bad proofreading.)

I think the fact that it's a strip club is incredibly relevant and makes it even more audacious and atrocious. They took money people needed to provide basics like food and housing and instead used the money to construct a strip club - a place dedicated to carnal pleasure. That's going from one extreme to the other and is definitely worth pointing out (especially considering sex workers lack of access to health care) and especially worthy of derision. That's nothing against strippers. It's something against greedy asses who steal money.

Rachel Bellum | September 1, 2011 12:31 AM

I find Jerame's antagonistic language to be aimed at those he sees as embezzling from unhealthy and indigent people. While there may be volatile language, I think finding misogyny and oppression to sex workers follows primarily from too close a reading.

He could have substituted say exotic dancer for stripper and say strip club for tittie bar (BTW shouldn't it be titty?), or even left stripper out of the keywords. However I didn't even notice anything about the miracle hands comment until others starting making assertions. Call me naive if you want, but couldn't the other function of the hands have been say... stealing.

Although I wanted a little more information to ensure that the club wasn't somehow intended to raise funds for the charity (with the monies being spent in a legitimate manner), I don't think oppressive language was required or intended to establish the immorality of the apparent embezzlers.

Wow...I can't believe the debate in the comments has nothing to do with the issue of an organization robbing scarce resources to help vulnerable people living with HIV/AIDS to secure safe housing.

There was no attack on commerical sex workers in this blog. If anything, we need to do more in this nation and globally to assist those who find themselves forced into this trade which plays such a key role in feeding into our nation's and world's human trafficking crisis.

"sex worker"

Now that's some nice euphemism. The stigma is not on the word -- it's on what is done. You can change "stripper" to "sex worker" and "tittie bar" to "breast exposure entertainment act" and the response will be the same.

What makes this jump out from the usual case is that commercialized sex is about as frivolous as you can get while toying with money intended for patients with terminal diseases.

Personally I think this story is all to relevant. To many times is money thrown at a problem and no one accounts for it. It is sad that we have to watch peoples ethics but vigilance is usually the best deterrent to abuse.

Thank you Jerame you reminded us all to be more observant of charities.

To the feminist mind of my generation, employing women in such a role, just to enflame the desire of men and contributing to the objectification of women is misogynistic and demeaning beyond anything that has been said here. Add that to the diversion of funds meant to support HIV sufferers, which is the real issue, and you have a tragedy

The majority of the discussion following Jerame's post is exactly why I have withdrawn from so much of the LGBT "community" - the self-designated victimhood, the rampant abuse of political correctness that leads to thought-policing, and the knee-jerk/thoughtless baa-a-ah-ing of sheep following each other right off the cliff.

Where is your outrage that the money was stolen from the PWA's? Where is your support for the REAL victims in this story (hint: that would be the PWA's)? If there is anything about this post or discussion that really pisses off this PWA it is your complete devotion to your regurgitation of these worn-out whines about sexism and inflammatory language, and a near-total absence of anything about the real crime. GROW UP!

So I decided to come back to this thread today, and wow... apparently we in the queer community can't stand up against slut shaming, and trying to change the stigma around not only sex work, but sex itself without being told to grow up.

It's funny, you say it's because of people like me that have caused you to withdrawl from the Queer community, but ironically enough I could tell you that it was because of people like you that have caused me to do the same. But, asides from the fact that I just did it, what is that going to gain me? Or rather what will it?

As I stated before, I will not deny what Miracle Hands did is appaling, and had this happened in my community, I would be the first person standing up and trying to find someone accountable for this. However, I don't see why we need to step on the backs of others in order to further our own fight. Bil and I have already disagreed on this fact, but I would have found it no less appalling if they had used the money to open up a McDonald's franchise, or something else as equally benign. To me it really doesn't matter what the business is at all, but the fact they are opening up something that's for profit, using money that was ear marked to support PHA's.

I do not see how standing up against slut shaming and pointing out the type of stigma around sex work and stripping, is mutually exclusive from being appalled about what Miracle Hands did. Why must one be more important then the other? Especially since creating such a huge stigma around sex was what started the HIV pandemic in the first place.

The attack in the last paragraph, which has generated the bulk of the discussion, is clearly against the individuals who misappropriate funds from those living with HIV/AIDS, even if the language was unnecessarily incendiary. But I can understand why the language was used. I know I am furious they said the money was going to be for housing while they invested in a strip club that they no doubt profited from at the expense of people with HIV/AIDS.

I think that greater federal oversight, and money, even, will ultimately benefit those who are sex workers, helping to increase their safety and lower disease transmission, including HIV/AIDS.

But that's not the issue here. The issue is the misappropriation of funds. You can supplement any type of service organization in and the result is always the same: Vital services to underserved populations are not funded as well as they could be, especially in rough economic times, so any money LIFE-SAVING organizations get should be spent in the way that best benefits as many individuals as possible.

In similar vein, I suspect many have seen the recent national report that estimates that about $60 billion in US govt money has been lost, wasted or stolen in Iraq and Afghanistan during the course of these two wars. Yes, this might be "war money" instead of "hospital money" ... but my point is that there is no limit to government corruption, nor to ways that vast sums can go astray.

The diversion of AIDS money is reprehensible, but no more reprehensible than the millions in donations and foreign aid that is being allocated to the famine in Somalia, large portions of which do not make it to those who are actually hungry. Latest report is that Al Shabbat, the Islamist military group in Somalia which (we think) is related to Al Queda, is stealing the raw goods, such as rice and flour and beans, and selling it in the marketplace to raise funds for weapons and ammunitions. How reprehensible is that? Letting starving children die any worse than stealing money from people with AIDS?

P.S. to Jerame: You know I luv ya, bro, but don't use terms like that in front of an audience that includes the super-left (as in, Bilerico readers) if you are not ready to take some flack. As with all presentations utilizing edgy language, discretion is advised. Somehow, one can hear the same language in a movie and people will understand the context, but put it in a blog post and you get feminists on the warpath. Caveat scriptor -- Let the writer beware!

If your attitude is that you can only see the outrage of your own injustice as a PWA in this issue then I am very glad you have withdrawn from the community. The narcissism of folks who can only relate to injustice that directly affects them is a plague on humanity.

And the "Amen, brother" that follows is yet another knee jerk blind adherence to the very entitled and misogynist view that the rampant and embedded sexism that demotes feminist issues to the back burner is neither important or real. I guarantee that the outrage that is provoked every time another male on this blog presents women sex workers in a negative light, and uses sexist language and implications will continue, and, I hope, heighten as women decide they will refuse to sit by passively when it is in their face.

"Writing things fast" loses appeal as an excuse real fast. If you cannot write coherently and with some degree of awareness of what you are leaving out, and the implications that very gatekeeping reinforces, then you are in the wrong business.

Feminist issues are important, and we will not go away and shut up and let men's automatic assumption that their issues take precedence prevail forever. You do not always come first. There is child sex slavery and hideous abuses of sex workers all over this world, for as long as written history. This affects male children as well as female, and trans people who have no other means of gaining an income, and LGBTQ homeless youth who must engage in survival sex when they are the victims of sick, homophobic families' rejection and abandonment. No, PWAs are not the "real victims" exclusively in this story, and the longer you diss this issue as irrelevant and not your concern the louder we will be in response, until you do hear us. It's offensive. This is a huge issue, whether it is real to you or not. You are not the only people living on this planet. The childishness and egocentricity is astounding.

By the way, you are not the only people in the world with a potentially terminal disease who cannot get treatment, housing, income support, etc. There are millions with terminal diseases of all varieties all over the world, who end up homeless and starving. The US is particularly bad, not having a national health service or public insurance or a social safety net in most of this country.

Obviously there was ugly corruption and embezzling going on here. I cannot tell you how many times people have raised money for progressive causes and diverted it, pocketed it, and otherwise stolen from those for whom the charity was intended. It burns people out. It undermines the compassion and empathy in the world. These people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

But don't expect others to feel concern for your loss and injury, or mobilize on your behalf, unless you are prepared to return the same. The selfishness of just taking, and never giving back is a losing strategy politically, and alienates supporters and allies. At a certain point people will turn around and say, "You want all my support and validation and energy, but you aren't there covering my back as well? Well, you are on your own then, buddy." Good luck with that. It can get to be a very cold world out there, and you may need friends some day, and then remember how you gratuitously pooped on them, now that you need them. "Grow up", indeed.

You know what my favorite part about Internet fights is? When people do the very thing they're railing about to make their point.

There's nothing misogynistic or anti-feminist in what I wrote. If you read it that way, it's on you. I've been a long-time supporter of feminist causes and you would not find a single person who knows me who would describe me a chauvinist, misogynistic or anything of the sort. In fact, you'd probably get laughed at if you suggested such rubbish.

As another person in this thread astutely pointed out and I will reiterate: the joke at the end has many, many meanings you can read into it. It was written that way intentionally. Otherwise, the best thing you've got to hang your argument on is the phrase "tittie bar" - and I'm sorry, but big fucking deal. It's common vernacular to refer to seedy gentlemen's clubs as tittie bars - even among many women I know.

As to the short amount of time, that was NOT an explanation of my word choices - it was an explanation of why I didn't go into the plight of sex workers and how fucked up it is that this money was being used to further exploit people in the industry. Perhaps reading what is said - and assuming best intentions - will get your further. Especially when you're dealing with people who clearly take social justice issues seriously. You don't educate someone when you attack them, but that's particularly true when you attack an ally for a perceived transgression.

So, you can rail all you want - but ridiculous comments like this aren't going to open my mind to your viewpoint. I've explained my thought process and I've taken account for a bad word choice - even though I don't think it's nearly as egregious as these few comments have made it seem.

The bullshit false equivalency you're trying to create here makes you look foolish and only hurts, not helps, your argument.

Please, stand up for women, sex workers and exotic dancers. I welcome it and encourage it. But don't try to push the bullshit notion that stigma against women and/or sex workers is remotely equivalent to stealing money from people dying from a fucking disease that ravages their body and slowly, painfully and visibly saps their life from them. You're not going to win any allies with that tripe.

Nevermind the assumption that you're a PWA so you're just fighting for "your own issues." The amount of arrogance in the comment is astounding. I'd also suggest that the commenter should go back and read the numerous posts on the site defending sex workers.

But I think this sums it up the most succinctly:

The narcissism of folks who can only relate to injustice that directly affects them is a plague on humanity.

Amen. Now look in the mirror.

I could be wrong but from the content - 'Grow up, indeed' and it's references to the author being a PWA - it seems as if Jay was replying to Scotti B.

I've gotta say, by the time I got to "tittie bar" I was fed up and haven't even read the comments, but came back to check out your replies anyway. Your explanation seems to rely heavily on the "some of my best friends are women and THEY say "tittie" defense. Yeah, I know some black men who say "nigger" and "fag." Try again.

The next time you report on some "seedy" gay bar, I hope you'll refer to it as a fag bar.

Maybe you should re-read then. My defense doesn't rely heavily on anything other than y'all are making a mountain out of a molehill. That was one sentence in, oh I don't know, about 100 total between all of my comments.

By the time you got to tittie bar, you were at the end. By the time you got to tittie bar, you'd encountered the first and only thing people could possibly have a legitimate bitch about. And since about 40% of the damned post was a blockquote anyway, I call bullshit.

If you've never seen a seedy strip club, I can take you to plenty in the Indianapolis area. There are some pretty classy ones too.

Seriously, this is ridiculous. Saying something is common vernacular and no one I know has ever taken offense to it is a lot different than "fag bar" Y'all are full of false equivalencies. Tittie is not, by itself, an offensive or derogatory word. It's coarse, but it's not denigrating. Fag is in any context.

Again, you're stretching the logic and meaning of what I wrote to get to this place. Like I said, tittie may not have been the best word choice, but I really don't see how anything else in what I wrote can be construed to be so anti-feminist or anti-anything other than the shitheads who stole money from sick people.

If that's not worthy of derision and outrage in far more measure than what you're dishing out over my words, then like Bil said before, there's just something fucked up in the world.

But please, continue latching onto words out of context and meaning that isn't there to make your point. It's so much more important than the people who will get sicker, be homeless or die because of the money that was stolen here.

Tittie is not, by itself, an offensive or derogatory word.

I rest my case.

So, rather than leave yet another jackass comment, do you want to explain how tittie is an offensive word? As I've said in more than one response, I can kind of see "tittie bar" being derogatory toward sex workers/exotic dancers, but the idea that the word "tittie" all by itself is as offensive as "fag", the n-word or any other such slur is kind of beyond me.

If you can't explain your reasoning, then please, stop hijacking the comments. Thanks.

A Children's Book for All Ages

I'm an idiot for chiming in, here ... but here I go.

Once upon a time, the word "ass" could not be used in polite company, including broadcast television -- unless it meant a donkey-type animal. But nowadays, Jay Leno and David Letterman rarely make it through a monologue without using that word. However, the FCC draws the line and will not allow the word "asshole" on broadcast TV, even though people are allowed to say "A-hole" and even "ass [5-second pause] hole" ... The classic example is that you cannot use this famous aphorism without modification: "Opinions are like assholes -- everybody has one." This rule is arbitrary, but someone has drawn a line in the sand, and that someone also issues and renews broadcast licenses.

What was once the problem with the word "ass"? ... When used to indicate a person's rump, especially a woman's rump, it carried a strong connotation of desire for sexual activity. A woman sits on her rump, but she attracts you with her ass. Or her boobs or her titties. All those words fit in the same category: female parts that elicit hetero-male desire, and invite sexual objectification of the female form.

I could go into a lecture about how feminism is, above all, a campaign to establish that women are more than sex slaves and baby machines, but thousands of women, many who can write far better than I can, have beat me to it by decades. Google it. My theory on language, though, is that American language is in a transition stage, and it is not that words like ass and titty has changed their meaning, but that the lust connotation has become more socially acceptable.

Even so, there are clear limits. Queen Elizabeth's doctor may announce the Queen has breast cancer (and I hope he never has to do that), but talk about the Queen's titties and you will be forcibly carried out of Buckingham Palace and won't be back.

We can argue all day, but the truth is -- Jerame's usage is a real gray area. Let us all understand that Jerame is about as feminist as a creature with cock and balls can get, and that he didn't target the degradation to the women workers, but the establishment itself. Anyone who can read at high school freshman level can pick up on that.

Can we please let Jerame off the hook and move on? We have better battles to fight.

P.S. Men have titties, too. Ask nicely, and Jerame might show you his. Maybe.

You see, there is little controversy when mentioning a man's parts, because men are assumed to be strong enough to take care of themselves. But, traditionally, women are "weak" and need to be protected.

But today, women are not "weak" but they do want to live in a civilied world. Actually, it can be argued either way: (+) Don't use words like titty because women deserve respect, or (-) If women want to prove they are strong, then they might go lift weights, sign up for a karate class, carry an AK-47, let men say titty all they want, and when you get sick and tired of it, you blow their fucking male chauvinist heads off.

Somehow, I get the idea that the first argument leads to a better world.

So, A.J., when my grandmother used to get frustrated and exasperated with me and say, "Boy you make my titties tired!!!" she was really being self-derogatory and self-deprecating?

Or the several times when I've heard Bette Midler, in her live concerts, yell - on microphone no less - "GET OFF MY TITS!!!", she was being disrespectful of all women?

Personally, there are times when I'm rather fond of the AK-47 argument. The majority of this thread is an example of one. Funny how any other site that I've read this story on, the comments remained on topic and didn't go railing off on some imagined slight against the fairer(?) sex. Frankly, I've read and re-read Jerame's original post and still can't find anything to be offended by. Perhaps because I've worked in cheezy bars as a bouncer, and had plenty of dealings with the low-life's there, both on and off the stage. Or perhaps because of the dozens of showgirls, exotic dancers (male and female), and sex workers that were amongst my clients throughout 25 years as a cosmetologist.

Yeah, I'm cynical - even jaded. But as I said earlier, it makes me furious that so many posts here are irrelevant to the issue and so few germane to the crime these assholes committed. I do appreciate your effort to rein this mess in, and to re-focus the discussion A.J. And please realize that none of my rant is directed at you - you just gave me an opening for my sarcastic (caustic?) wit with that bit about titties and AK-47's.

Vent all you need to, Scotti B -- just don't go getting your titties all on fire.

No, I'm not letting anyone off the hook for dumping on sex workers. I choose how I will express "strength", no one else. You want to dump on sex workers you are going to get a very hard time from me. Just what is so egregious about people embezzling money and using it for this purpose? It's the embezzling, and the exploitation of sex workers is another offense, period. Somehow that gets left out here, like posts encouraging people to call female politicians "whore" seems to get a pass. And people automatically dissing the feminist objection to the use of objectifying language is only going to get you more flak, and more flak, until you learn not to do it. I'm done being told to be quiet about offensive language. Totally done. You want me to be quiet and shut up, then clean up your offensive attitudes. It's that simple. Until then, we are NOT on the same side. at all. The male privilege and arrogance is disgusting. When people start dumping on PWAs and gay men, perhaps I should just tell them to "be strong" and let them crap all over you? Double standard, eh? When it offends you, and adds to the daily load of oppression and despair, you want others to empathize. When we object to offensive language, you tell us to get over it, that times have changed? You will have to ban me to get me to hut up on that issue. I can be as obnoxious and rageful as any of you, and make it really, really ugly here until you start respecting women and sex workers of all genders on this blog.

Or they can just stare at you and move on. It's not like your yapping has any real impact on the life quality of people not as obsessed with policing ambiguous language.

First, setting up straw men in order to knock them down doesn't mean you have a good argument - it actually means quite the opposite. The word "whore" never even appeared in this thread until you wrote it, so I guess that make you the misogynist know, huh? (Don't you LOVE how easy it is to make straw man argument? Maybe I'll work in another before I'm done.)

Your comments have been full of these straw man, made up arguments and I'm rather weary of pointing it out, honestly.

Second, it's one thing to defend sex workers, but it's quite another to alienate an ally and just generally be hateful and belligerent. You do your cause nor yourself ANY favors when you attack someone who is on your side just because of a real or perceived slight.

See, that's the problem with so many of the flame wars that break out in the comments here - people immediately jump to conclusions and automatically assume bad intent. Then, rather than educate and inform, they attack and deride. Rather than discuss and engage, they make pot-shots and throw barbs.

It's petty, it's childish and it's just plain fucking stupid. This blog was built on social justice advocacy. Every single blogger here is here because they believe in social justice in some manner or another and they are working toward that end.

So why in the hell do people always assume ill-intent and immediately go on the attack? Why would you reflexively alienate your allies and push away potential supporters?

Do you have any idea how many people don't want to engage at Bilerico because of nasty, bullshit comment threads JUST LIKE THIS ONE?

You're part of the problem, not part of the solution when you behave this way.

I, and most everyone else on this site, are willing and ready to engage when someone thinks we've made a mistake or some other transgression - but none of us want or deserve to be treated in this manner for the work we do - especially when we're doing it in our spare time and usually at great personal sacrifice.

With that said - I'm done. I will not engage another person on this thread about anything other than the topic of the post - which was the theft of over $300,000 in money for HIV/AIDS services. I've said all I care to say and if that's not enough, I'm sorry - but this conversation has reached the absurd.

So, is that what you wanted? To be tuned out? There you go, your wish is granted.

Also, one other note - no, you can't be as obnoxious and rageful as you want. It's our site. We can ban you, stop publishing your comments and filter your emails directly to the trash. Threatening to cause trouble is, alone, a TOSable offense.

But it does generally prove the point that you're more interested in causing trouble than actually doing anything productive.

Now I'm really done.

Just remember this is a woman who disparaged transgender individuals by saying they aren't women unless they get rid of their kibble and bits. But again back to the point of the post it is criminal that this organization used money for a good cause to fund a money making venture. Shame on them!!!

I guess this is off-topic (a little sarcasm there, lol), but how is this a civil suit? Isn't this outright fruad or theft on someone's part? Have you heard if there have been any arrests, or criminal charges?

I have emailed DC Councilmember David Catania to ask him for more information. He initiated the investigation and, even though he was already aware they were using the funds for a strip club, he did not request any criminal charges in his complaint letter to the AG - just the return of the funds.

I'll try to get an answer out of the AG too, if I can. Right now, I don't know anything more than the original report.

I asked Catania is there was a statute in DC law they could be charged under and, if not, if we was planning to introduce one.

I'll report back as information warrants.

Good question. I'm not a lawyer, but I'll stick my neck out.

It depends on who is bringing the suit. A civil suit is for recovering damages. If these funds were promised to a particular AIDS organization, but they were actually used to rehab the strip club, then the AIDS org could file a civil suit against the recipient of the grant to recoup the funds.

There are also laws against not using grant money for the proper purpose. If the authorities find cause, they can arrest the administrators for mis-using the money. And you are right, Carol, they are de-frauding the government, but I expect there is a charge that would be more specific than that. The prosecutor could issue a warrant for their arrest, and then it becomes a criminal case.

It's like the OJ case -- there's a criminal approach, and there's a civil approach.

Lawyers, if I've made a mistake, feel free to correct me.

Sorry, Jerame is handling this fine -- I should have kept quiet.

Well, it would be pretty warped to me that they could try to steal $300,000 (from sick ppl, no less) and just have to give the money back. But I guess that is how things go--if you leave your house unlocked and I slip in and take $200 of your stuff, I will be in serious trouble, but if I work for some company that handles money and cheat ppl out of millions, I will prolly get a promotion.

The District is seeking 3 times the amount in statutory damages on top of the money that was misappropriated (plus some rinky dink fines, like $5K for this $1K for something else.) So the sum total they're seeking is north of $1 million dollars.

Problem is, it's just money the District already GAVE this bunch of yahoos in the first place.

So, the plan seems to go like this:

1. Get the District to give you $10 million for PWA
2. Spend it on whatever you want
3. Give back 10% in penalties for being naughty
4. Go back the next grant cycle and ask for a re-up

Keep in mind, this isn't the first complaint against these people at Miracle Hands either, which is why this story is just so outrageous. People were pissed back when they were awarded this grant to begin with considering the rocky past this "charity" has had with the community it "serves".

If this is the second go-round for these people, this is truly egregious! "Asshats" like this ought to go on a blacklist after one violation!

Jerame, I would encourage you to do your best -- our best -- to bring this to the attention of someone in a major news office, I would suggest NBC or PBS -- "Need To Know" on PBS has a website under, and they love to investigate such things. I hope you will consider submitting it there or somewhere similar. (I'll try to find a link and email it to you privately.)

Although they can access DCist same as anyone else, it couldn't hurt to try to bring it to their attention.

Rachel Bellum | September 1, 2011 9:58 PM

I've written applications for research grants. They all include sections referencing grants previously awarded, and the associated successes or failures. I would assume these kinds of grants work similarly.

If these same people previously abused grant money and were still awarded a rather large new one, there are multiple problems happening here.

As far as I can tell, it wasn't misappropriation of funds previously, it was more a question of how well the funds were spent vs. the quantity and quality of service provided. High salaries, no-bid contracts, things like that - not blatantly stealing money for personal gain. That's the new low...

It's obviously a criminal offense.

Are these people going to get a slap on the wrist for stealing $329,653? Are they going to get the same pass the DoJ gave the banksters? Is their crime going to be ignored by DC and the DoJ just the way the DoJ ignored the murders of oil right workers by BP and miners by Massey Energy?

Yes, yes, and yes.

If case you haven't caught on yet, you live in a banana republic. As long as you make campaign contributions to the right centrists in politics you can get away with murder, theft and raping altar boys and girls.

Where is the oversight? City government has turned in to a little fiefdom.Somebody knows somebody and lets things slide. Investigate the non-profit by all means. They should probably loose their grant. Equally culpable is the government official who approved the expenditure.

Wow, I'm just amazed by the comments here, simply amazed. Not sure why, even with the sites owners trying their best to make this a welcoming community- the comments here simply amaze me.

The using of this money to fund a strip club is directly contradictory to the mission the funds were supposedly supposed to support- preventing and treating HIV / AIDS.

Nearly 50 comments and not once has it been brought up how human trafficking across the world is placing vulnerable people in strip clubs, massage parlors, cantinas, and god damn brothels against their will. Now I don't know if that goes on here, and I hope not. But what happened here is disgusting.

Primarily women, are trafficked everyday, promised a better life in a new country, (yes, even here), then stripped of their visas, and trapped in a life of forced sexual servitude, where more often than not, condoms are not an option, thus spreading HIV / AIDS, not to mention overall misery.

One could make an argument that liberalizing our laws on prostitution could help, but this problem happens in places like Amsterdam and Las Vegas as well.

All of this faux outrage over the use of the word "tittie-bar" without any acknowledgement of the misogynistic and tragic sexual exploitation of women just amazes me beyond belief.

Harry Thomas, resident dick-head of the DC Council is once again implicated in this bullshit. Funds supposedly going to help PWAs, was instead funneled into an industry that probably got more women infected with HIV / AIDS. It is a travesty. As a DC resident it beyond pisses me off.

Go ahead and focus all of your faux internet outrage on "tittie bar." But maybe when you are done, focus some time on the real and growing problem of human trafficking. One that makes modern day slaves out of women trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

"Resident dick-head" ... now that's an interesting term to appear in a discussion about gender condescension and exploitation. Should I, as a male, be offended? ... Well, I'm not.

Woah - just saw this thread. I think Jerame and others have done a good job dealing with, yes, the lunacy that not only drives readers away but also makes people like me not want to write. Or, if we do write, we prefer to write-and-leave, allowing the comment threads to become the usual hotbeds of nonsense, dominated by saints-in-training, to put it bluntly.

That being said, at the risk of derailing this thread, I do want to point out to capitalistpiggy, with whom I'm otherwise in congruence (and not just here, I might add, but on many other posts), and a couple of others, that the whole "human trafficking"/ "sex trafficking" discourse is completely out of control and bears little resemblance to reality. Thanks to the vested interests of media attention hunters like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, we've been fed a lot of fiction about the reality of trafficking. Tales of sexual servitude are usually just that, tales, and the link between labour trafficking and a neoliberal global economy that compels people to move between borders seeking work are usually ignored.

That's not to say that people are not trafficked, but "trafficking" has become an overly capacious term - under a new Illinois law, for instance, anyone even providing shelter to a sex worker is immediately desginated a "trafficker" - that sort of rhetorical expansion allows law enforcement to pump up its numbers on trafficking.

One of the things we have to keep in mind is that the so-called victims of sex trafficking are compelled to report themselves as such if they are to get any kind of recourse from law enforcement/immigration authorities. That's just the way the law is framed: if you admit to actually performing sex work/prostitution for money, you're instantly deported. But turn in your "traffickers" - who might actually be community members who helped set you up - and you'll get all the state help you need - and more people are pushed into the prison industrial complex as a result.

I don't want to take up more space explaining why the myths about sex trafficking are just that, so I'll just leave a link to an excellent scholar's blog, which dismantles these myths:

As for Jerame's blog itself: eh, yeah, like Jerame and others said. And: seriously? "Tittie" is a bigger problem than the misappropriation of money meant for HIV/AIDS? I get some of the discussion around language, but, seriously, some of you, no surprise, are just jumping on this to write your novellas, it seems.

So I am in no way wading into this discussion except to say that Jerame was only fulfilling his responsibilities as a witty blogger by not passing up that "Miracle Hands" joke. I'm sure it practically wrote itself.