Let’s celebrate an exciting victory in Houston, Texas. A few months ago, we learned that a “Black and Blue” bondage/domination/sado-masochism event was occurring in a Sheraton Hotel in Houston. Remember that we got Hilton and Holiday Inn to cancel porn conferences in 2016 in Houston, too!
This time, we asked our friends in Houston if they could lead the charge directly in getting this event canceled. Our CESE Summit has energized and united many of the groups in Houston and they were eager (and hopeful) to take it on.
One of our favorite resources, the Houston-based organization, Love People Not Pixels (LPNP) took the lead and collaborated with the Houston Area Against Trafficking Coalition (HAAT) to successfully get the event cancelled.
I had the opportunity to interview Beau and Christian from Love People Not Pixels, about how they did this. We hope this inspires you with ideas for tackling these problems as they arise in your community!
Natalie: Why was it important that this “Black and Blue Weekend” was cancelled?
Beau: As we spoke to the hotel they really didn’t have any good answers to all the questions that we had about how they were going to enforce different policies they had. Ultimately at the end of the day we all may have our personal opinions about lifestyles, but this isn’t what this effort was about. Canceling the event at the hotel was the best solution to this public health and safety concern for the community and the hotel guests and staff. And, to be honest, even the safety of the attendees who are willing participants and paying to attend. Some of the things being described and promoted to be allowed in the event space had potential for danger and serious health concerns. Again, nobody had any policies about how it was going to be regulated and to ensure the safety of both the public and participants.
Christian: When this kind of content is pushed into a public space, it leads to many problems for the hotel staff and individuals and families who are visiting the hotel and for the community as it normalizes and increases the demand for sexual exploitation. We wanted to defend the population. We wanted to make sure that nothing could happen and the only way to ensure that would be to have the event moved out of the hotel.
Natalie: How do you feel that this event plays into the bigger picture of sexual exploitation?
Beau: This isn’t about a lifestyle debate. Police around the country have reported that sex-buying activity of prostituted and trafficked individuals increase around events like this. These kinds of events drive the demand for sexual exploitation in the area around where they are hosted. Additionally, surveys and countless personal testimonies by individuals used by the commercial sex industry report that violence and brutality is often what their customers expect to engage in. We did not want an event that normalizes and glamorizes sexual violence, “The Black and Blue Weekend” to fuel the already inherent violence involved in prostitution in our community.
Christian: Prostitution is common in large hotels and big cities like Houston so it’s not a big jump to say a prostituted woman who was working in that hotel could come across this event and see the normalization of the abuse that she may experience. It is called Black and Blue Weekend, that obviously refers to bruising and that woman has suffered physical and psychological bruises from her situation.
Natalie: How did you do this?
Beau: Haley from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation is actually the one brought this event to our attention and gave us materials to build our campaign against the “Black and Blue Weekend.” We are appreciative of NCOSE support!
We started to develop a game plan with 3 different phases. Phase one included sending a letter to the hotel and event corporate offices outlining our concerns and the dangers to hotel guests, staff and the Houston community. We didn’t get a response from that, so we launched phase 2. Phase 2 was sending another letter that showed broad concern from other local leaders. 12 other local organizations concerned with combating sexual exploitation signed onto the letter. This was important because it showed that this was more than Love People Not Pixels and there were many local community members who were opposed to the event. We sent this letter and all of our groups and our collective large network started to post about the event on social media and sending emails and phones calls to the Sheraton’s corporate office. This elicited a small response from the general manager of the hotel that was hosting the event. It didn’t feel that we were making a ton of headway but then right as we were about to launch phase 3 of campaign we were notified by the general manager of the hotel that the event had been cancelled. Let me be clear that we actually don’t know the reason of why the event was cancelled, it could have been the hotel ending the contract or the event organizers cancelling the event. We haven’t been given any details about the nature of the final decision to cancel the event or where that decision originated from. But we do know that our voice was heard, other organizations’ voices were heard, and local community member voices were heard.
We don’t really care about getting the recognition for getting the event canceled or why it happened because at the end of the day a sexually exploitative event that has the potential to be unsafe for the public, attendees, and hotel guests has been canceled. We just celebrate in that.
Natalie: Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Christian: We’re not an anti-BDSM group, we’re an anti-exploitation group. There is a nuance there that can’t always be displayed in a social media post. We don’t want the narrative to be us vs. them.
Beau: We are so thankful towards the other local Houston organizations that helped us achieve this success including, Rescue Houston, Elijah Rising, Kendleton Farms, Susiebeangives, Redeemed Ministries, Childproof America, Operation Texas Shield, Unbound, and Boundless Mercy.