A Federal John DNA Database

Rather than writing much about this myself, I’ll just refer you Melissa Gira Grant, who knocks this AlterNet article out of the park.

For the last six years, police across the United States have been empowered by federal and state law to collect DNA from the people they arrest in order to build a government DNA database. The database includes those who have yet to face trial as well as people who are later found innocent. Now a group of researchers, law enforcement and conservative campaigners want to exploit people’s concerns about being included in such a database in order to scare people out of involvement in the sex trade. By threatening people with the possibility of being marked for life in a government database, these well-funded campaigners — with allies in law enforcement, including the Department of Justice — are using a questionably legal policing practice, a combination of “scared-straight” strategies that became a signature of the war on drugs and the extension of the surveillance state propelled by the war on terror.

Gira Grant touches on the constitutional questions, the financial incentives for law enforcement that come from targeting johns, the racial disparities in those targeted, the problems with the “science” behind the initiative, and the fact that targeting clients does nothing to improve the lives of those willingly (even if sometimes as the best of several unattractive options) in the sex trade.

(The only aspect of this she doesn’t dig into is the use of the Secondary Effects Doctrine, the idea that crime increases near sex-based businesses, to justify building such a database. It isn’t necessarily irrational to believe that the doctrine may hold where the sex-based businesses are already illegal–crime breeding crime–but in general, the doctrine and the scientific support it has received are not without criticism.)

Whether you consider yourself for or against the legalization of prostitution, I strongly suggest reading Gira Grant’s article.

A Federal John DNA Database
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10 thoughts on “A Federal John DNA Database

  1. 1

    Gira Grant quotes the “Defend Abolition” site:

    We defined non-sex buyers as men who have not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, massage sex worker, or prostitute, have not been to a strip club more than one time in the past year, have not purchased a lap dance, and have not used pornography more than one time in the past week.

    I want to say how much I absolutely detest the anti-porn term “use pornography,” which anti-porn activists intend as a parallel to “use heroin” or “use cocaine.” Which of course provides rhetorical ammo to the fundies who support “sexual addiction treatment,” much of which involves falling to one’s knees and abjecting begging one’s imaginary friend “higher power” to make one perfect; i.e., non-human.

  2. 2

    Wow! That’s quite a definition of “non-sex” buyer! My personal definition would be someone who hasn’t or doesn’t pay for sex. Gira Grants definition would include most of the male population and a significant part of the female.

    As for pornography – well, it’s possible to define anything that titillates as pornographic.

    We have a similar problem with the DNA database in the UK. A sample is taken when someone is arrested and they retain the sample on the database even if there is no subsequent prosecution.

    This was appealed to the European courts in 2001 – I’m not sure if it’s been resolved yet.

  3. 5

    i use pornography at least weekly if not more often, but how does that make me a “buyer” when i’ve never paid a cent for the stuff?

    heck, how does it connect me with the sex work trades at all when my preferred form of pornography is literary fiction involving no real human beings whatever? (some of my favorite kinks aren’t even physically possible in the real world. when i start fantasizing, i see no reason to do it by halves.)

  4. F

    Oh, good. Let’s shame sex workers and non-violent offenders.

    What happened to the days when you had a right to see any police data on you destroyed if you hadn’t actually done anything wrong, or due to illegal search? This was true in at least some places.

    No one should be keeping data on anyone not convicted of a crime. Even then, the practice can be somewhat questionable.

  5. 9

    definition would include most of the male population and a significant part of the female.

    So? Does the fact that lots of people do it make sexual explotation okay? (Just because you get a boner doesn’t make everything cool, you know.) I am really disturbed by the assertion in the article that “that buying sex is something normal men don’t do” — well, I should fucking hope “normal” men don’t buy sex. I mean, I know they do, but I think that’s a negative reflection of rape culture in society, really, highly indicative of the idea that men think sex is a commodity to which they’re entitled. And boy, do I ever have problems with that notion.

    And yeah, I would consider “going to a strip club” to be “buying sex,” at least until people stop shaming strippers the same way they do prostitutes, and/or lumping the two together. You treat the people who engage in the activities, and the activities, as if they’re subsets of the same superset, and I’m going to start to think that maybe that superset actually exists in the cultural narrative. Funny, that.

    Disclosure: Until and unless the sex industry stops being run off of the nonconsensual exploitation of women’s bodies and catering to rape culture, and sex workers start getting treated like human beings with the same rights and respect due to everyone else, then hell yes I want the buyers named and shamed, along with the traffickers. (Explain to me again why there’s no indication of a systemic problem in something like the Pickton case, and his possibly 180-odd murders of female sex workers, please.) I would like to see a little less sex-worker shaming, actually, but absolutely go after the buyers. To hell with these douchebags who think that they should more or less just be able to walk into a store and buy (or rent) a vagina, with no real regard to the woman attached to it.

  6. 10

    But interrobang, think of the boners! If vaginas (and anuses) aren’t available for rent, what are men going to do? Treat women (and men) like human beings and sex like an enjoyable activity one does with a partner with mutually agreed on terms, rather than to an object on demand? That’s crazy, anti-sex, feminazi talk! Only a prude who’s in bed (chastely) with the religious right would say something like that.

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