WildaBeast Derbygirl 
Member since Dec 16, 2013


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Re: “Red-light greenlight: Sex work at the brink of legalization

Just to be utterly clear before I go off on my rant: I am not a sex worker. I have engaged in survival sex work just enough to realize that I do not have the psychological makeup to be a good sex worker, and I have done duo work with my wife, who was working on the streets and as an escort for years of our relationship, and who still identifies as a sex worker now. I am not a sex worker. I am an ally.
But I am, dammit, one of the best-educated sex work allies out there. I lived outside for years; I've been strung out on most of the drugs that a lot of outdoor workers use. I've watched very close friends, my wife, and easily dozens of people I knew engage in virtually every type of sex work practiced in Canada - outdoor work, escort (outcall) work, and in-call work. I know when my experiences are relevant, and when it's a really good time for me to shut my mouth and listen up and learn something from those who have more first-hand knowledge than I will ever have. I've done a lot of talking and I've done a lot of shutting my face in the last decade, and all of my experiences have led me to a number of conclusions. Anyone reading these comments is getting them, both barrels.

1) Sex work NEEDS to be DECRIMINALIZED. Legalization would be a goddamned nightmare. People conflate these two terms almost constantly. If I've explained the difference once, I've done it until my jaws ached. Decriminalization would make sex work an industry like any other - free for people to go into, and free to develop ITS OWN workplace standards, safety codes, and so on. LEGALIZATION, on the other hand, would require a very specific legislative act in the House of Commons. That act could contain ANY provision - such as the situation in Nevada, where sex work is legalized, but workers can ONLY work in certain buildings (brothels operated on a medium-business scale), ONLY get about a third of the money the client is charged, CANNOT turn down a client, and are often forbidden to demand that a client wear a condom, at risk of their jobs. Sometimes they have to sleep on premises, too. I'm NOT joking. The workers who work in such conditions are the most desperate of workers - often illegal migrants, in fact. Workers whose economic situation provides them with more options continue to do so individually, technically illegally, often from their own homes. And they have more rights that way.
Legalization has the dubious advantage of providing an instant set of rules for the industry, but that is the sole advantage it offers. However, that dubious advantage also denies the industry - and the individuals who make up the industry - the right of self-determination. In what other industry has government EVER stepped in and made a complete list of rules that MUST be followed from the very beginning, enshrined not in workplace codes, but rather in a legislative act? None. Ever. Not in Canada. Oh, they've stepped in when things got out of hand with workplace injuries and strikes, but they've never started off so heavy-handed. Why, then, should sex work be considered different from any other fledgling industry? Why should there be the unspoken assumption that sex workers don't know how to take care of themselves, don't know what they need to be safe in their work? How do any of us have the right to make such a judgment? Oh, that's right. We don't.
So. Decriminalize, let the industry develop, and step in if things get too crazy. Treat sex work like any other industry, because that's what it is.

2) The Swedish model. Where do I even start with this? It has been proposed repeatedly and for fifteen years now as an alternative to our current model, which criminalizes the workers, rather than the act or the client. The Swedish model decriminalizes sex work, sure - but it criminalizes the client. It does so on the premise that all sex work is inherently degrading to the worker (actually, usually they say "women", totally ignoring the fairly large number of male sex workers, both gay and straight). Therefore, the twisted logic goes, the worker is already sufficiently punished (I assume) by the awful, traumatic act of sex work. It is the CLIENT, the awful, creepy, predatory, coercive JOHN, who should be jailed for the crime of needing to get off with a warm body nearby. The Swedish model UNIVERSALLY ASSUMES THAT NO ADULT WOMAN IS CAPABLE OF GIVING INFORMED CONSENT TO SEX WORK. And it does this in the name of FEMINISM?!?!? If so, that's no feminism that I, as a woman, want a damned thing to do with.
Look. Sex work isn't always fun. Anyone can have a client who leaves them feeling ecccch, just as anyone can have a really crappy day at work where their crazy boss yelled at them for no reason. It's a job like any other, and people do it for the same range of reasons they do any other job - it's a way to make money, it's a jumping-off point, it's a career, it's a vocation. However, if decent clients, people who just haven't had a chance to get laid in months and want to get their rocks off, plain and simple, are afraid of being arrested for such a natural, human desire, what clients remain? Those too crazy or too brutal to care about the law. The Swedish model serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy that drives decent and desirable clients underground, leaving only violent scum to openly seek out sex workers. Also, to assume that people can make totally rational choices to do anything else for a living, but if they choose to engage in sex work it must be because they're coerced, victimized, or irrational, is to assume one or all of the following: that nobody is able to be rational about sex; that anyone buying sex wants to brutalize the worker (simply untrue) and that workers are too dumb to know this; or, that sex is somehow different from any other skills or abilities a person has or can develop, in that we are free to sell all our other abilities, but not this one (this last, by the way, is something that most people in our culture feel viscerally. If the belief is examined rationally, it proves to be a judeo-christian holdover from an insanely morally restrictive era. We've left the other restrictions behind, but this one lingers. Why should it?). We, as non-sex workers, have no right to make such assumptions about sex workers, unless we want to put in place some legislation that states that choosing sex work as an occupation is tantamount to declaring oneself non compos mentis. I don't think anyone is willing to argue that all strippers, porn stars, fluffers, hookers, etc., are legally insane. But all of those things are sex work, plain and simple.

3) A commenter above, who supports the Swedish (ick!) model, argues that decriminalization will not give protection to sex workers. Well, no shit, Sherlock! What an awful, halfway argument. What decriminalization does is something entirely different and in a sense far more liberating. Decriminalization allows sex workers to legally and far more universally put into place the mechanisms (well-known and already frequently practiced illegally by privileged workers - high-class escorts and some indoor workers) that will allow them to protect themselves. A driver to get them to outcalls - paid a flat rate. Security guards for in-call buildings - paid out of the gross profits. Receptionists to book AND SCREEN clients - paid out of the gross. The ability to tell people where you will be and when, without having to worry that such information can later be used to help convict you.
This person also argues that decriminalization does not protect against pimping. First, let's define pimping. I define it as a coercive business practice in which unwilling or unknowing workers are pushed into doing work they aren't comfortable with. NOBODY, not the most ardent supporter of decriminalization, is arguing that pimping, thus defined, should be decriminalized or legalized. Coercing someone into doing work they don't want to do is and should always remain punishable with jail time. However, we in Canada see far more 'pimping' of illegal migrants in non-sex work than we do of sex workers. Where, pray tell, is our moral outrage about that? There's something in the Bible about dealing with the beam in your own eye before pointing out the mote in your neighbour's. Why don't the Christian anti-sex work groups remember that parable before they get on their high horses?
I've known hundreds of sex workers in the last 12 years. Never did I meet one who was currently being pimped. They were, almost without exception, independent workers who kept all their earnings. So let's keep the picture honest. Pimping happens, sure, but nobody is trying to make it okay under the law, and it's far less frequent than people would have you believe.

6 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by WildaBeast Derbygirl on 12/16/2013 at 2:06 PM

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