The paper below was composed by a young woman in conjunction with other members of Street Survival Project. If you would like to offer any feedback, please write to Street Survival Project, at

Position Paper regarding the issues related to young people working in the sex trades: By Nelly Velasco, Street Survival Project and Member of the San Francisco Task Force to Study the Decriminalization of Prostitution
December, 1994

Framework: There is not one universal youth sex worker experience, not a monolithic experience. There are a wide variety of ways which young women and men are involved in sex work. Just like adults..... Adults must stop pathologizng risks- which are part of life. Just because youth are young, risks are viewed as a lack of knowledge, a death wish, incompetent decision making. This is a fallacy. Similar to competent adults , youth use a variety of decision making skills to determine which risks they will enter into. However, similar to many oppressed communities, internalizing oppression is a serious situation which must be addressed by offering young people negotiating skills to do harm reduction in order to increase the potential to make competent decisions.

Definitions: survival sex : Trading sex for a place to stay or drugs or money, or smog certificates, or parking tickets. It is generally not a choice, young people who are poor enter into this economy to cope with our day to day financial and survival needs. Women in general who have had less economic opportunities throughout time have used survival sex so their children will have a home, to send their them to college, to pay their bills. If the economy is not doing well, sexual and racially oppressive policies are a greater force in the institutional policies which determine who enters the documented labor force. With few outlets, women and in particular younger women will enter sex work and specifically survival sex.

Geographies of Risk: Contrary to popular mythology: young women do not come to SF and think that they will arrive in paradise. However they are on their own for the first time and it is harder then expected because the labor laws are so restrictive, there is no affordable housing, adults are so violent and negative towards young people. As a result young women do whatever they can to survive in San Francisco on their own.

Define pimping: Perhaps we need to define and refine what a pimp is. Are we dealing with someone's boyfriend or someone who is actually forcing someone? Pimping: two kinds: someone who is nice enough to hire someone seventeen; or, someone who actively recruits young people.

Youth Prostitution: We need to develop a protocol for different ages? A policy-type thing that is decided by youth as well as adults (perhaps 50%). Decriminalization applies to youth as well. Money should be allocated to legal defense for youth to watchdog the implementation of new protocols developed to evaluate the outcomes and process.

We need: housing, jobs, hang out place, job training, health care. support services. the dog jumped over the big log. the dog jumped over the big log. the dog jumped over the big log.

Young people should be thouroughly educated at a young age concerning laws that affect everyone and minors in general: learning at a young age how laws are fucked up could promote more voting . the way prop 187 has brought a lot of youth activism . Learn your rights and what needs to be changed.

Public Education Campaign renforcing intellegence, competencey among young people advertised on buses and in kiosks on the street. Campaigns in the greyhound bus station- places to go--anti- incest info in the bus campaigns- "you are not alone" messages- "there is someone you can talk to and it won't be reported."

Stop using police and assistance for young people who are changing location. Currently, police wait at the Greyhound Bus station to catch youth who are "relocating" or "running away" to send them back to their "families" There is a special Greyhound bus program which pays for the RETURN ticket. We strongly suggest that police leave this post and let young people relocate.

The reason that young people don't access organizations and youth services is because of parental notification and paternalistic service providers. An advisory board run by a majority of youth must evaluate current services (and be paid to do this job).

Develop an analysis of the "Child savers" Who are they? What is their agenda? Who benefits from this agenda and who is hurt?

Media representation: How are young people portrayed? Do we ever hear their side of the "story"? Is there a story or, is it opinion pieces laced heavily with morality embedded in right wing fundamentalism/ family values. Which institutions thrive due to the way media portrays young women.

Economics: What real jobs are available? How much do they pay? how much are youth jobs valued? Given the recent firing of 1000 paper carriers (youth carriers) and though the Delinquency Prevention Commission fought for those jobs for over a year, the supervisors ended their support of that campaign during this past labor fight. Youth on their own cannot surivive on minimum wage. The Mayor's Office of Children Youth and Families which funds youth employment programs will not allow agencies to offer more then $4.25 per hour.

Education projects which incorporate a youth speakers program and educational videos produced by young people should be developed to be used the schools, to educate health care workers, and other service providers and present the issues and develop a dialogue of respect.

Housing: Currently there are 4 count them 4 emergency shelter beds for young women under 18 in San Francisco. There are no affordable independent housing programs for young people. Would survival sex be less of an option if people had places to live? SF needs independent housing.

More community centers. Places for young people to hang out without questions or demands. Young people should not have to enter a system of care in order to hang-out anywhere.

An advisory board with majority youth would could consider the issues mentioned above and the following:

Should we have an 'age of consent'? what would it be? What about making the laws which go along with emancipation? How do you decide what consent is? The criteria for emancipation is that you have a place to live and that you can pay rent and food and clothing... A judge wouldn't grant emancipation if you were having sex for money. Over 14 and in 'some kind of status'(?) then it isn't statuatory rape. Can we consider sex work a means of earning a living for a young person who could then afford to take care of herself and so a judge would allow her to emancipate?