Today I did court advocacy for a woman named Goddess Diana, a tantric massage provider that was arrested and as of this afternoon, evicted from her condo on Chicago’s north side. Diana is a wild-child, free spirit type who has been practicing tantra for several years and was providing sessions out of her condo building on a major street in a hip, yet highly gentrified neighborhood. Normally tantra providers usually fall under the radar of law enforcement, as their practice is a bit too esoteric for the average joe to understand, but in this particular case, Diana was basically railroaded by her nosy neighbors.
Unfortunately, Diana’s biggest folly may have been purchasing a condo in a three flat sandwiched between two yuppified, similarly surnamed couples, one with a child. Of course, yuppies are always trying to protect their children from something they might perceive to be dangerous, despite how harmless it really is. Diana’s neighbors took offense to her artistic lifestyle and bohemian appearance and began mounting a plot to get her out of the building. They searched online for information about her business, found it was sexual in nature, and mounted a camera in the lobby of their building to watch the comings and goings of Diana, her friends, and her clients. The video from these tapes was then posted on You Tube, complete with Diana’s name calling her a “whore” for all the world to see. (It has since been pulled down off the site.)
But that’s not all. Her neighbors filed a complaint with the alderman about her line of business, who eventually got the police involved. An undercover officer was set to to visit Diana and receive a tantric massage. Despite not having touched the officer’s genitalia, she was arrested and charged with prostitution and massage without a license. As if this weren’t bad enough, she was found in violation of the condo association board rules for working from home. As a result, the condo association began the eviction process to get her removed from the place she bought and owned…her property! (Yet another reason I think condos are bullshit purchases. Why do you have to follow “rules” dictated by someone else if you “own” a place?)
Last week Diana was found guilty of prostitution, massage without a license, and working illegally from home. She was sentenced to court supervision and 40 hours community service. Today she was formally evicted from her condo, given 60 days to vacate the premises and one week to re-list it for sale. If she can’t sell the place within six months, she will be able to rent it out to a tenant, provided that the tenant is “not a friend or family member of Diana’s” and must be approved by a judge. Unbelievable!
The sad thing here is that this girl wouldn’t hurt a fly. She is a loving, trusting soul who just wanted to provide healing sessions for clients and did very well for herself until she was basically put out of business by these nosy neighbors and so called do-gooders who see fit to intrude on other people’s livelihoods. As part of her court agreement, Diana was told to take down her website and cease all advertising, therefore denying her an source of income. She is now faced with eviction, the possibility of foreclosure, and the likelihood of having to relocate to a different part of the country all because of this.
All because why?
She tried to provide men with a unique, relaxing and positive experience that, though sexual in nature, was not exactly prostitution. There were no negative events that caused her neighbors to take these actions, just their common dislike of Diana’s non-conformity among their bland wholesomeness in a neighborhood know for its independently owned boutiques and arts community.
Yet we see this every day…a sex worker railroaded by those around her (or him) who believe they’re so high and mighty that they can ruin another person’s life just because of their falsely moralistic beliefs. We’ve seen it before in these scandal with politicians slapping down sex workers with one hand yet using their services with another. Does it make everyone feel better in the end? No, it doesn’t.
What could I do here, for this woman? I really struggled with my anger over her situation for awhile as I could see it happening to myself or anyone I knew. I didn’t know how I could help her, but the least I could do was provide support. So Miss Jasmine and I from SWOP accompanied her to court today, grilled her lawyer on various topics, and basically cheered her up in what was a shitty situation. I videotaped her telling her entire story for a future episode of RedLightDistrict, as well as Miss Jasmine’s response to how the case was handled. Diana admitted by the end of the afternoon we had cheered her up and she felt a lot better about her situation.
It still sucks, but at least she knows she’s not alone. And that’s what matters.