Thursday, December 20, 2018

Stripping, pheasant hunting and the (relative absence of) law in South Dakota

A friend drew my attention to this story in South Dakota's Argus-Leader last month.  The headline is "Stripping, sex-trafficking, and small towns looking the other way," and it seems to support my long-standing argument that law and legal institutions are less present, less effective in rural areas than they are in urban ones, in part for socio-spatial reasons.  That is, material spatiality disables law because of the challenge and cost of policing vast, sparsely populated places.  Further, material spatiality reinforces (and is reinforced by) social expectations of law's anemic presence and role--and perhaps law's patriarchal views in rural and other "traditional" or static contexts.

Here's an excerpt from Jeremy Fugleberg's story in the Argus-Leader.
Pheasant hunting season was once a homespun South Dakota tradition. But increasingly it is a commercial enterprise, one that comes with a dark side: sex trafficking and pop-up strip clubs that cater to hunters here for a good time.

The hunting season's dark side stands in stark contrast to South Dakota’s friendly, clean-cut image. It can be easy to overlook by small farm towns that increasingly rely on hosting a flood of rich pheasant hunters to offset losses from troubled agricultural markets. 
Pop-up strip clubs, while legal, have their own place in the shadow. They can trap freelance dancers in a web of exorbitant fees, throwing them into debt and making them vulnerable to being illegally exploited by traffickers and hunters. 

The story features Frank Day's bar in Dallas, in Gregory County (population 4,271), which has "become legendary as a South Dakota destination for groups of hunters, mostly male, sometimes wealthy, looking for after-dark entertainment."
South Dakota is dawning to the realization that human trafficking isn’t just a big-city problem. It’s essentially modern slavery that does happen in the state, as (usually) men, control and manipulate (usually) women and sell their bodies for sex.
It’s a shocking practice, one that can be masked as simply providing entertainment for hunters in remote communities.

“These small towns allow this to happen because it’s a social norm, right? 'Boys will be boys,' that’s what we tell ourselves,” said Tifanie Petro, co-chair of the South Dakota West River Human Trafficking Task Force. “There’s this social acceptance because, ‘that’s just what happens here, that’s just what goes on during the rally, or during the pheasant season.’”
The story suggests these secret ingredients to sex trafficking:
South Dakota’s two largest tourist events, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and pheasant hunting season, both have the ingredients that attract sex traffickers: lots of men a long way from home, looking for a good time, with money to spend.  (emphasis added)
Interesting.  Maybe so.  I always assumed there was a pimp or profiteer or clear-cut criminal who was making a lot of $$$.  Is Frank Day's Bar making a lot of money during the period it is the "No Wives Ranch"?

Fugleberg suggests that Gregory County authorities turn a blind eye to exploitation of strippers by establishments like Frank Day's, which becomes "No Wives Ranch" during pheasant season.  Fascinating.  So, what is the onus on local government to protect the women who come to work as strippers?  What would government protection look like in that context?  Is the exploitation mostly economic?  or is it something else?  Are these the ingredients to a patriarchal society, turning a blind eye to women not earning what they deserve.  But does that equate to sex trafficking?
I noticed a few years ago at conferences that what we previously called prostitution is now widely labeled "sex trafficking."  Hmmm.  Is all prostitution sex-trafficking?  To be more precise, is all sale of sex for $$$ sex-trafficking?  or only when a man or men are involved and are making the profit.

I really appreciate Fugelberg's reporting, but I'm trying to sort things out here.  Who are the bad guys?  Who's to blame? 

Cross-posted to Legal Ruralism and Working Class Whites and the Law.


Ariahna Sanchez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ariahna Sanchez said...

Professor Pruitt,

I really appreciated your post as I had not known about these issues in rural areas. I especially was unaware of these pop-up strip clubs.

Regarding the questions you asked at the end of your post, I find myself constantly attempting to answer them as I gain information on the different forms of oppression faced by all womyn, especially trans- and cis-womyn of color.

One of my trains of thought has to do with your question: “Is all prostitution sex-trafficking? To be more precise, is all sale of sex for $$$ sex-trafficking?”

The pro-sex work feminist in me wants to yell out “NO!” because I believe that if someone wants to engage in sex work, it is in their right to do that because they should have control of their own body. But, I started to wonder whether womyn who “chose” sex work really had a choice to begin with. If society is dominated by a patriarchy and sex sells, do womyn ever truly have choice when they choose to engage in sex work, buy lingerie, wear makeup, wear bras, wear high heels, grow out their hair, shave their legs, or get their nails done? Additionally, do womyn who are struggling financially and who did not have access to resources as children and teenagers really choose prostitution in the society we live in?

This is on the forefront of my mind after watching Cardi B tell Ellen Degeneres that she enjoyed stripping ( I noticed that she mentioned stripping paid the bills as her reason for liking it. It makes me wonder whether sex work would be chosen at all if womyn had more financially stable opportunities to live the lives they want.

Maybe all prostitution is sex-trafficking in a theoretical sense. I’m still trying to figure this out as well.