A group of Philly’s X-rated businesses are banding together to promote the legitimacy of their operations and protect themselves from abusive customers.
The Philadelphia Sex Coalition intends to build a membership roster of strip clubs, book stores, novelty shops and other entrepreneurs in the adult entertainment industry, said C.J. Asher, the pseudonym of a local accountant and real estate investor.
"The adult entertainment business and the legal sex work enterprise are good, legitimate businesses whose participants aren't trying to step on people’s values or mores," said Asher, who is organizing the coalition.
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The coalition will focus on protecting the rights of entrepreneurs in dealing with law enforcement, he said.
"Often, those who do sex work or advocacy, their rights are trampled," Asher said. "If someone gets arrested for sex advocacy, it sometimes goes on as ‘prostitution,’ which affects their record and can scar them for life in terms of future employment.”
The organization will also discuss ways to protect its members from abusive customers.
“We want to also look into cases where sex workers are harmed, but are hesitant to go to the law because of not being taken seriously or not being properly viewed as a victim due to their trade," Asher said.
Danielle Adinolfi, a marriage and family therapist with a specialization in sex therapy, sees the coalition as a positive development.
"Sex is a natural part of human existence, yet remains a taboo subject," she said. "The first step towards removing a taboo is talking about it and a coalition amongst people who work in the field of sexuality will help spur conversation and bridge gaps between the different disciplines, enabling us to better serve the Philadelphia community."
Asher said he expects about 50 people to attend the coalition’s first meeting today at the SugarHouse Casino in the Fishtown neighborhood. He said he hopes that the membership will eventually include people outside the sex industry, such as health workers and tattoo artists.
Kali Morgan, owner of Passional Boutique on South Street and its neighboring Sexploratorium, which sells provocative adult clothing and gear, said she hopes the coalition will work to remove some of the negative perceptions of adult entertainment businesses.
"That's why I hope Asher's coalition turns out be a viable proposition," she said. "Adult business could use the legitimacy as well as being able to create community amongst the business entrepreneurs and artists within this subculture. Even though what we do is legal, there is always confusion in the minds of lawmakers and the public."
Christie Eastburn, an organizer of Philadelphia’s upcoming March to End Rape Culture, also views the coalition as potential ally.
"We support the rights of those within that industry to do their work without being abused or treated badly in any way just because their line of work happens to be sex," she said. "They demand respect, consensual rights and such, so Asher's interests are our interests."
The March to End Rape Culture is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Asher has pledged to make a $500 donation to the Philadelphia-based organization.