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T hree things made San Francisco: fortune, thievery and sex. Everyone wants to get lucky. In , San Francisco established the Municipal Clinic, its first clinic for sex workers. Although it existed only for a little over two years, the clinic reduced venereal diseases among sex workers — and thus the city — by more than 60 percent.
Spalding, even secured city protection for property, staff and patients by agreeing to legislation requiring sex workers to carry clinic-issued bills of health or else face arrest for vagrancy. The security was tenuous and short lived. Under pressure from city clergymen, mayor James Rolph ordered that police protection be withdrawn. As the clinic could no longer offer any kind of safe space, and the punishments for having or not having a bill were now one in the same, prostitutes quickly stopped attending, and the Municial Clinic shuttered soon thereafter.
Some elements come across a bit dated, but at least one part of the story has been constant. Sex workers still never know what legislation is going to threaten them next. Will it be the sudden enforcement of an existing law? Or will it be something new? Porn actors, especially trans actors, are necessarily cautious about sharing that information, and having it legally given to strangers would have put far more people at risk than a few condomless fucks.
Sex work is never easy money. Last November, Shakti spent hours of her time fighting Prop 60 , a measure requiring condom use in porn. Proposition 60 did not pass. But the work Shakti put into protecting her livelihood — highly necessary work — was unpaid. The greatest reasons for burnout in the sex-work industry are not existing laws but potential ones. For sex workers, the Bay Area is attractive for reasons that will sound familiar to almost any minority.
Greater tolerance for orientation and expression, excellent social services, ease of finding like-minded individuals and a social climate that generally favors the rights of the individual over the desires of the state. The result is that the local market is nearly oversaturated with professionals.