Melissa Farley and Laura Agustín on Prostitution, with Skeletons

Fundamentalist feminists ordinarily avoid sharing a platform with people like me, but it does happen occasionally. These photos were taken in 2004 at UC Berkeley in a debate on Measure Q (Prostitution Enforcement in Alameda County). On the blackboard are two lists: on the left Robyn Few, Laura Agustín and Veronica Monet (on the right Norma Hotaling, Melissa Farley and Davida, whose surname I cannot make out.

Farley’s team were accompanied by people dressed in skeleton costumes. Skeletons adorned one of her polemical books – I guess to suggest that prostitution is death. The groupies sat quietly enough at first; the debate was timed with a stopwatch so each person had only a minute or two to speak. But when a well-known Bay Area activist in the audience started crying and went over her time, the whole Farley team were up in arms, claiming the debate was biased. It was quite embarrassing. She also flung out her arm at one point and called us pimps. Robyn, Veronica and I were polite about it; after all, who looks bad in that situation?

But there was a very funny incident involving me and Melissa. I was staying in San Francisco with an old friend who, by coincidence, was in a reading group with Farley. Nothing to do with prostitution or violence; my friend knew nothing about her. After the debate, my friend went to say hello to Farley, who assumed she was there to support her and was asking for confirmation about how terrible we were. At that moment, my pal caught my eye and waved me over, and smiling charmingly (and mischievously) said, Melissa, I want you to meet my friend Laura. I put out my hand, and Farley, looking appalled, shook it – a pimp’s hand! I got a huge kick out of it.

Farley did leave a restrained comment on this blog once, when I recounted how she called me the Postmodern Nadir. What larks, worthy of a (brief) Monty Python sketch.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

7 thoughts on “Melissa Farley and Laura Agustín on Prostitution, with Skeletons

  1. Cliente X

    Hahaha, how funny it is! It’s true, they avoid us like we were the DEATH, but I think that it’s cause they know that they what they are saying it’s not true so their lies can be only be trusted if no one is able to answer them.

    Last year I was in a talk in the city hall of my town in which an abolitionist ONG (APRAMP) was showing the “reality” of the prostitution along an ONG (ACLAD) mainly dedicated to work in the area of drugs, but that could be considered near to our positions. I enjoyed it very much, abolitionists were truly as “fundamentalists” as the wahhabist islamists, haha. Here u have the link:

  2. Susie Bright

    Hi Laura.. Your story makes me miss you in the Bay Area… I hope you’ll have another chance to visit soon.

    This reading group anecdote made my ears perk up. The prohibitionist leaders, I find, tend to be status-conscious in the extreme. If you accidentally show up at their “country club,” or are in the embrace of one of their “funders,” they are shocked but they fold up like a deck of cards. They WILL take the hand of their sworn enemy, the person they’ve boasted they’d shoot on sight, and shake it!– to appear respectable in the eyes of the “classy” company they esteem. They mind me of those segregationist ladies who used to, or still do, run the Junior Leagues. If their VIP husband, or their Social Queen Bee, says one word of caution, they drop their great cause… Any sacrifice will be made to protect their perceived elite comfort zone.

    1. Laura Agustín

      hi susie, ha! i don’t think farley would imagine my friend to be ‘classy’ in that way but obviously, yes, she felt inhibited socially from turning her back on me. interesting that you’ve seen other examples of this!

      hoping to be in sf again soon.

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