prostitution in ypsilanti

I hope this doesn’t offend anyone, but I’m curious to know how much a blowjob goes for inside the city limits of Ypsilanti. Someone mentioned a few weeks ago here on the site that one could be had for $7.50 in the parking lot of Arthur’s, just off of Michigan Avenue. One of our newly elected City Council members, however, tells me that they’re ten bucks a pop. Who should I believe?

All joking aside, assuming these guys are in the ballpark, I had no idea that sex of any sort could be gotten that inexpensively. I don’t think we need to have a really long, drawn out discussion on the market dynamics, etc, that make this the case, but it strikes me as horribly sad that something so distasteful and potentially harmful doesn’t warrant more in the way of compensation.

On a related note, I thought that I should mention, for the sake of those new to our community here, that real prostitutes, or at least the prostitutes in Ypsi, don’t look like they do in movies. They don’t wear high heels, fishnet stockings and black mini skirts. More often than not, they wear sweatshirts and acid-wash jeans. And, not that I want to help the johns that frequent our neighborhoods, but you can tell the ones who are really cops pretty easily. They look well-fed. The real prostitutes look sick and fragile in comparison, like feral cats a few months into winter.

Whatever we’re doing now, it isn’t working. We need to do a better job of cracking down on pimps, and getting help for the women working the streets here. I know that programs must exist, through SOS and others, but I have no idea what they are. If you know of any work being done either through local not-for-profits or churches, please leave a comment. (And if local churches aren’t involved, shouldn’t they be?) I’d like to know what services are available to women who want to leave this line of work, and how those services are being marketed to the women working our streets. Relying on law enforcement alone clearly isn’t working. (For what it’s worth, I’m going to suggest that prostitution be added to the list topics being considered for our next YpsiVotes forum. I think it’s a problem that could really benefit from more community involvement.)

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  1. schutzman
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Legalize it, and License it. Same as they ought to do with that dope the kids smoke.

    And, despite arguments to the contrary, I’m of the opinion that most of it (though certainly not all) is consensual. If one suggests the women are desperate and forced to do something they don’t enjoy, well, then, you’ve also just described most american workers.

    When I see a used condom in Peninsular Park, my only thought is actually “Wow, it’s great that they were responsible enough to use a condom.”

  2. maryd
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    The East Side Neighbors had a meeting about this topic several years ago and we were told then that there is now a “zone” on MI Ave. that bans any further prostitution once a person (john, pimp or whore) is arrested and until their case is adjudicated, with certain jail time as incentive. Unfortunately our jail is full so it is little more than a catch and release program.

  3. egpenet
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I have said the same as Schutzman on this site and others many times, as well as, in public meetings.

    The lowest economic levels of prostitution are what we have heree, which are bound into lower socio-economic strata. Drug abuse and alchoholism are what keep the “girls” AND “boys” bound to the pimps. Money, too, though less so, because they can get money and food stamps for free by asking for it. They get their health care for free, too, but usually too little, too late. Pregancy is also a good source of money and food, sinmce we reward single women for having babies … recently adding years of child care and some pre-school benefits.

    Note above I said the “girls” and “boys” … we have male prostitution, as well, but at a slightly higher socio-level. There are gay young men who are doing sex for money because they are broke … and they usually simply ply the bars downtown, passing through on the bus, panhandling downtown or hanging around campus. Young, late teens, twenties. Some are HIV positive.

    Also, there are non gay “boys” who are hooked on crack and heroin, and other more potent drugs (meth, etc. … long list) who would rather do sex than pull a robbery … but they’ll do what they gotta do. They were taught/forced into male sex in prison and will “go” any way and anywhere for a hit/fix … and they are usually at the point they don’t care what’s in the baggie.

    I’d would guess that the guy that sliced up the faces of the folks at the BP on Harriet was this kinda guy. There are guys like this in Detroit on bikes ripping off storm windows from occupied homes to sell for scrap for drug money. These guys’ll blow you … away.

    Legalizing takes the illicit drug aspect out of the motivation. It helps to raise health practices. Gives the “girls” and the “boys” freedom from the pimps, who use drugs and violence to control them. Legal sex can be tracked, taxed (income tax) and limited by the market place.

    There is another layer, of course, the private sex trade that is plied in hotel/ motel lounges, etc. That’s a whole ‘nother story, and it affects the middle class in other (other than crime) destructive ways.

    What the community could do about it is go for decriminalization, regulation, an open red light district … heavily monitored and allowing the “girls,” “boys,” and “clients” the privacy they desire. It takes the activities of a few and places it out of the central city, where it theoretically can be controlled.

  4. mark
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Legalization may be a great idea, but since it will NEVER fly (at least in the foreseeable future), I don’t see that there’s much sense in discussing it… I’d rather discuss plans that get former prostitutes out on the streets talking with the women (and men, if Ed’s right about there being male prostitution as well) who are in this line of work, telling them about their options, etc, and cracking down on all of those involved, especially pimps and johns. (That means opening up more beds in the jail.) And, here’s an idea, what about getting some citizens down on the corners with signs, like the anti-abortion folks have been doing every weekend. They could say, “Johns Aren’t Welcome Here Anymore,” or something like that.

  5. Brian R
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I’m not against legalizing or licensing prostitution, but there’s no incentive for prostitutes to get licensed. If they don’t follow through with this propsed new level of bureuacracy, what are we going to do to them? Arrest them?

    Think of all the people who won’t pay the $15 HDC application fee, and we honestly think people will get licensed for the aforementioned ten dollar bit of contract work?

    I hate to encourage the incestuous nature of local blogs, but Bob Doyle wrote a great response about living with prostitutes in your neighbhorhood on another local site discussing prostitution.

  6. egpenet
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Decriminalization … regulation. Most people DO pay the HDC fees and permit feeeees … even traffic and towing feeeees … here in town. The people that pay the feeeeees know and understand the benefits of a structured society.

    Those prostitutes who submit to regulation will benefit from better working conditions, health and safety, escapee from all levels of criminal society, increased income, safety for their children, etc.

    Those that do not, and the pimps, who persist … will be caught and punished. They are not faceless. The cops know who they are, where they livee, the hours they keep, and who most of their “steadies” are.

    And, perhaps, by that time, the new jail will be ready.

    What I want to know … is why Mark and others are so squeemish about non-relational sex and/or paying money for sexual pleasure, like any other service. We are still a very puritanical culture, despite rock and roll, tatoos, piercings and gay rights. Sex is NOT bad, and could be safe, if we’d get smart about it.

  7. rnolan
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    But if you are going to buy a prostitute at least support the local Ypsi merchants.

  8. schutzman
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Brian R, I certainly don’t think they’d all line up for licensing, but I do know it’s been tried in Nevada and elsewhere, and it seems like a step in the right direction. And yes, if they don’t sign up, arrest them. If they do sign up, make the fee nominal and provide free (and compulsory) STD testing, and I think some percentage would be willing to do it. Just as legalizing drugs targets the dealers, who may commit non-drug crimes, so this would target the pimps and all the illicit activities they engage in, and take some of their power away from them.

    The problem, as you suggest, comes down to the matter of ordinance enforcement, something which Ypsilanti isn’t exactly famous for its dilligence of. Hopefully the City Council can figure that out first, and then we can all start making up funny new laws.

    Finally, as for the idea of shaming the Johns into not coming here, I think that a guy who drives around soliciting $10 blow jobs from women on streetcorners probably has a pretty high “Shame Threshold” to begin with, so I’m not sure if it would work.

    Maybe if you put up a bunch of surveilance cameras with signs saying “We’ll send your wife a copy,” that might have some effect.

  9. mark
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    It’s not that I have anything against sex, Ed. It’s just that I’m a realist. Prostitution will not be legalized in Ypsilanti, and discussing the possibility, in my opinion, is a waste of our time and energy. Like I said, it may be a great idea, but it simply isn’t a possibility given the current state laws, community sentiment, etc. The same goes for the legalization of drugs. I’d rather focus on what’s achievable.

    And, Brian, do you have a link to the Bob Doyle piece you mention?

  10. egpenet
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    To be fair … we’d also have to have posters that say: “We’ll send your husband a copy.”

  11. mark
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    “Visit our strippers, not our prostitutes.”

  12. schutzman
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    and perhaps also, “We’d send someone a copy, but since you’re soliciting sex it’s quite likely you’re a loser, nobody loves you, and nobody would care, so we won’t waste the postage.”

  13. Brian R
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I don’t put much faith in the Nevada argument simply because they’ve been doing it for so long, they’ve been able to make it work. Prostitutes in Nevada most likely do it as an occupation whereas Ypsilanti prostitutes do it for drug money. Most importantly, which neighborhood gets the brothel? We have neighborhoods that don’t want social services operating within their boundaries. Can you imagine the NIBMY-ism over the sex trade.

    What’s probably most pathetic in all of this is that the people that who aren’t truly affected by prostitution are sitting around discussing it. I’ll find out when the next Johns’ School is and we can all show up.

    The Doyle response can be found HERE.

  14. schutzman
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    There was certainly a time when it wasn’t legal in Nevada, so even they had to start somewhere. I don’t think this is a problem that can be solved either quickly, or simply, and I don’t think there’s really such a thing as a single ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’.

    Since my neighborhood doesn’t have an organization to lobby with, I volunteer it for the location of a brothel. Peninsular Place would be perfect, since it already has a history of whoring.

    “the people that who aren’t truly affected by prostitution are sitting around discussing it”…yeah, what’s up with that? Why on earth aren’t these homeless drug addicts, who sell themselves for cash, logging onto a website with their iBooks via wifi from Bombadil’s and adding their opinions to the discussion? I can’t figure it out.

  15. Brian R
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Cute, but I’m sure you realize, I’m talking about the people who are having their children solicited for sex as the Johns drive around their neighborhoods.

  16. egpenet
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like Iraq …

    Either we make it SO HOT for these people that they go back to Romulus or solicit across from Willow Run, Wayne and Rawsonville or we change the rules.

    No change in the rules …

    Then we learn to LIVE with it. We have BAD neighborhoods in our city, where out children are taught to avoid. And we have customers going around the block, soliciting innocent kids and coeds. And we resign the ebony/ivory poor, poorer and poorest, who can’t leave where they stay, to live with the drug houses, pimps, addicts and violence next door. It’s their choice, right?

    Why paint our homes all of these beautiful colors? Why not paint’em all WHITE so the bad folks will know where they don’t go.

    Tell’em Mr. Cronkite … “And THAT’S the way it is.”

  17. ol' e cross
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Nevada doesn’t make it work. There are 30 legal brothels in Nevada, employing about 300 prostitutes. Most transactions are cash, and very little taxes are paid. Illegal dime(bag)-store prostitution still thrives in the state.

    I doubt a new “full-service” Deja Vu with $100-$300 hookers will hire a lot of the ill, physically abused and drug addicted $10 BJ gals Mark’s brought up. They’ll still be with their pimps, servicing the gents who drive in from the townships for a quick lick.

    EgP. Is your logic really that sex is good therefore all sex is good, and if you think otherwise you’re a puritan? And is “learn to live with it” your motto for every social problem?

    Children live in the neighborhoods other children are taught to avoid.

  18. ol' e cross
    Posted November 26, 2006 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Nevada doesn’t make it work. There are 30 legal brothels in Nevada, employing about 300 prostitutes. Most transactions are cash, and very little taxes are paid. Illegal dime(bag)-store prostitution still thrives in the state.

    I doubt a new “full-service” Deja Vu with $100-$300 hookers will hire a lot of the ill, physically abused and drug addicted $10 BJ gals Mark’s brought up. They’ll still be with their pimps, servicing the gents who drive in from the townships for a quick lick.

    EgP. Is your logic really that sex is good therefore all sex is good, and if you think otherwise you’re a puritan? And is “learn to live with it” your motto for every social problem?

    Children live in the neighborhoods other children are taught to avoid.

  19. egpenet
    Posted November 27, 2006 at 9:42 am | Permalink


    When we ask WHY … we are forced to look into our county’s social issues … lack of good jobs at the lower pay scales, poverty, school drop outs, all that stuff … resulting down the line in a jail that’s too small … people back on the streets doing drugs, pimping, whoring, etc.

    If people in the county won’t push their governmental bodies and agencies to help change these issues … and provide programs to help people who want to move back into the mainstream … what alternative is there than to “live with it” … meaning continue to be victims … and to come down even harder.

    Any societal activity that creates victims is not good for society. Decriminalizing some laws and taking other approaches should be tried.

  20. Ted Glass
    Posted November 27, 2006 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    No one has yet to address the central question – – how much is a blow job on Michigan Avenue?

    My guess is that there’s something like a $5 minimum. Maybe that gets you 2 minutes of action. After that, it’s a buck a minute. (I would think that there would have to be some kind of mechanism in place to discourage people from taking forever.)

  21. Rev Doris J. Massey-Byars
    Posted February 1, 2008 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I have lived in the Van Buren and Ypsilanti area for the past 4 years and I have observed that prostitution on Michigan Ave is running ramport. I do believe that we as clergy should do something to help build the character and self esteem of these dear people and find them jobs. I will began to develop programs to help the single parent that are suffering financially, and set up counseling sessions, character building programs and help those out of work find jobs. This kind of behavior is having an effect on our school children and it is being made known from Ypsilanti High school, and Willow Run High. It must be stopped so that our young people will have a chance at a better quality of life.
    We need to have a solution rather than to continue to present the problem.

  22. mark
    Posted February 1, 2008 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Doris, I agree with you on prostitution and I’d like to hear more about your plans. I’m sorry if my original post came across as too light. I didn’t mean to suggest that it wasn’t a serious problem. It is.

  23. egpenet
    Posted February 2, 2008 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I don’t see any essential difference between “putting out” after a dinner and a movie date and taking money for sex from a strager.

    In fact, making the money off the streets takes less time than having to put up with a mediocre meal and a lousy movie. It costs the other partner more time as well, yet costs about the same amount of dollars.

    In the case of the date, the assumption is that both people want the sexual enjoyment, while in the case of prostitution, it’s one-sided. But that’s the “service industry” for you, doing for others for money.

    Our entire culture up and down the ladder is operating on the above lines of thinking to one extent or another. The levels of risk may be quite different between classes, but it’s a human activity that is basically the same all over the world … and since the beginning of time.

    Religionists want to do is “sanctify” sex by restricting it within the marriage bond. That produces a lot of other benefits for society … protecting the partners, the children, decriminalizing and reducing the potential for abuse and violence (although there’s plenty of THAT in our homes.)

    Enough musing …

    Let’s decriminalize, legalize and regulate the sex trade, giving men and women who chose this way of life an opportunity to get off drugs, get off the streets, pay a license fee, pay taxes, get tested monthly for drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, charge a decent buck, and be free of the pimps.

    Only point is to get it off the streets, make it somewhat legit, fregulate and track it, while at the same time “taxing” with licensing and taxes.

    In some cities elasewhere in the world, there are even unions for sex workers.

    If we can help eliminate many of the health and violence risks, kick up the industry in terms of circumstatial quality at least, and eliminate the street pimps (who are also dealing drugs and reinforcing the violence) … we will have made some progress.

    Just don’t be fooled that “consenting people” aren’t making SOME exchange for sex. Nothing wrong with that. But it is what it is.

    What confuses us all is: what love is. It is many things … and we have done a lousy job of distinguishing all of the forms of love for ourselves. Sex, Eros, is only ONE form of love … and I think it can be kicked up a notch in our society to make our streets safe and save many wasted lives.

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