The NYPD Will Start Letting Sex Workers Carry Condoms

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
May 13 2014 12:20 PM

The NYPD Will Stop Seizing Condoms as Evidence of Prostitution

161758696-cake-decorated-to-look-like-a-nyc-condom-during-a
Now the city can give out condoms without worrying that the cops will take them away.

Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

After many years of advocacy from sex-worker rights groups, the NYPD is finally relenting and will stop seizing condoms from suspected sex workers to be used as evidence of prostitution. Police Commissioner William Bratton offered the official reason: "The NYPD heard from community health advocates and took a serious look at making changes to our current policy as it relates to our broader public safety mission." The fact that New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, is an outspoken critic of confiscating condoms couldn't have hurt, either.

That the NYPD seized condoms in the first place was always kind of surprising. Condoms are not only legal but actually distributed by the city—for good reason!—and the fact that you can get in legal trouble for walking around having them on your person is baffling. Such a policy might discourage people, whether they are sex workers or simply people concerned about being mistaken for sex workers by the cops, from carrying condoms around, raising the chances that they are going to have unsafe sex.

Advertisement

In fact, that's exactly what was happening: In a 2012 report, Human Rights Watch found that around 5 percent of sex workers had unprotected sex rather than run the risk of having the cops shake them down and arrest them for carrying condoms. The policy created a general sense that having condoms was criminally suspect behavior, and sex workers reported that police would shake them down and confiscate any condoms they had before sending them on their way. Around half of the sex workers interviewed by the Red Umbrella Project said this happened to them. 

While this change is a welcome one, it seems that the cops carved out some loopholes that may make it a little toothless. The NYPD will still be able to seize condoms as evidence of sex trafficking or promotion of prostitution cases, even if they aren't allowed to seize them as evidence that an individual is selling sex. Andrea Ritchie of Streetwise and Safe told the Huffington Post that she fears this "creates a loophole big enough to drive a truck through." Will the NYPD still be frisking people and taking their condoms, and just using "trafficking" as an excuse instead of "prostitution"? Let's hope not. Regardless of your opinions on the legalization of prostitution, we should all be able to agree that if you're a sex worker, it's best that you use a condom. The NYPD shouldn't be making it harder for people to prevent the transmission of disease, full stop. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 22 2014 2:27 PM Facebook Made $595 Million in the U.K. Last Year. It Paid $0 in Taxes
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 2:59 PM Netizen Report: Twitter Users Under Fire in Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.