Can carrying condoms really get you arrested for prostitution?
For many adults, carrying contraceptives isn't really a big deal. In fact, most sexually-active people consider it to be smart and safe. At least that's what I thought until I read the absolutely shocking revelation that keeping condoms on your person can actually be considered evidence of prostitution in certain cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
Why and how it's possible that I've never heard about this before is still completely unbelievable to me.
According to recent reports in Vice and Jezebel, if a police officer thinks you fit the "profile" of a prostitute--like if you're a woman of color, in a certain neighborhood or wearing something they deem to be too provocative or fit a myriad of other completely arbitrary factors--they can arrest you. And though carrying condoms in any state is not technically legal, carrying even one condom while being accused of prostitution could be turned in to "evidence" against you!
As a New Yorker myself, I am appalled that this policy actually exists. Not only because deciding someone is a prostitute solely based off their appearance is degrading, sexist, and stigmatizing, but also because it affects SO many people in these cities--from women who are simply in the wrong place at time to actual sex workers (who are unfairly forced to decide if carrying even one condom for the sake of their health is worth the risk ) and also trans-women (who, according to Jezebel, are stopped by police the most often).
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It's especially confusing for me since it seems like a stark contrast to the steps the City of New York has been taking to push prevention methods on people of all ages. In fact, the city has specific programs that distribute millions of condoms a year, as well as other contraceptives. Lately, there has been a special emphasis on sex education for teens, with certain schools giving out free birth control to their students.
And most recently, the city took an even more aggressive step, putting up controversial shame-inducing ads that read things like: "I'm twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen," all in an effort to prevent teen pregnancy. Which means that these girls learn safe sex practices to avoid said pregnancy, but could then turn around and potentially be arrested by a different bureau of city government for continuing those same practices once they get older. If they wear tight clothing, stand on a particular block, and are of a certain race, that is.
Though learning this is disheartening to say the least, it also made one thing abundantly clear: Change needs to happen and it's up to the public to demand it.
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