September 16th, 2008 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Cops and Courts

Porn + Strippers = Prostitution?

Tags: strippers

Heads up: Portland's vaunted sex shops and strip clubs could become a casualty in the city's battle against prostitution.

That was the takeaway from a meeting Monday night at Vestal Elementary School where neighbors, cops, politicos and prostitution advocates discussed how to get rid of the sex trade on 82nd Avenue.

Several advocates told the crowded auditorium that the city's tolerance for erotica creates a permissive atmosphere and promotes degradation of women, leading men to hire prostitutes.

"We have too many sex shops in this town. Because if he goes into one of those places and gets an appetite, and then goes out on the street and sees a girl (for sale), you know what's going to happen," said Jeri Williams, a former prostitute who works as a neighborhood coordinator for the city.

She said the city needs to review its planning policies to restrict sex shops.

Much of the room burst into applause, including City Commissioner Randy Leonard and Portland Police Cmdr. Mike Crebs, seated on stage alongside Williams.

Lila Lee, director of the Portland-based Council for Prostitution Alternatives, said nude dancing, pornography and prostitution are all essentially the same. She said "it takes a village" to create a prostitute and urged zero tolerance toward porn and strip clubs.

"Don't tolerate it," she said. "Don't tolerate it in your family, don't tolerate it in your community."

The 90-minute meeting was mainly an opportunity to convince neighbors reluctant to support a plan rolled out last week by Mayor Tom Potter and Police Chief Rosie Sizer for addressing prostitution on the avenue.

The plan reflects one first offered up by Leonard, and Leonard urged neighbors to "declare victory" in their fight and work with City Hall. Sizer declined to discuss her recent spat with Leonard when approached at the meeting by WW. She sat in the audience and left the cop-talk to Crebs.

Those on stage also took audience questions written on note cards and chosen by a moderator, who called for a "thoughtful, proactive discussion." She said the goal of the meeting was not to debate the city's policy but to "educate ourselves."

One question asked whether the city had considered regulating prostitution, as some countries do. Those on stage dismissed the idea.

"Why would we sell women as a commodity anywhere in this country?" asked Bill Smith of Defenders USA in Vancouver. "Women were never meant to be a commodity that is bought or sold."

Smith also called for a crackdown on sex shops in the city, again to loud applause.

"I don't want my government to be a pimp," Lee said.

Ken Turner, president of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association, said creating a red-light district would drive out other stores in the area.

"You can kiss all the good businesses goodbye," he said.

Note: The photo above was not taken in Portland.
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