Feeds:
Posts
Comments

As a sex worker and activist I understand the politics involved within the discourse surrounding sex work. I understand that those opposed to sex work, those who wish to see sex work and sex workers disappear off the face of the earth, will use every underhand trick to make sure they get their abolitionist message heard. I understand that anti sex work groups have, not just funding, but centuries of stigma and prejudice toward sex work, available and at their disposal, to appropriate and use as they wish. I understand that all sex workers have in this unequal battle are their voices and the evidence of their lives and their work.

Having acknowledged all of this, the appropriation of our hard fought battle to be referenced as workers, by those who now claim to be “survivors of sex work” leaves an especially bad taste in my mouth. To claim to be a survivor of sex work, unless every worker, in any job, who has ever had bad experiences, is equally able to claim that status, is just underhand politicking .

I am not objecting to the appropriation of the term “sex worker,” because I doubt every story told by those claiming to have been sexually abused and raped while doing sex work. I offer unconditional support to anyone who has ever been forced, under any circumstance, to have sex against their will. I cling to, the perhaps naïve belief, that not everyone who now claims to be a sex work survivor, a “victim,” is a Somaly Mam, fabricating a status of “victim” for their own financial interests. I am not yet so disillusioned.

SOMALY mam

My problem with the appropriation of the term work, is that work, whither you like it, hate it, are indifferent to it, is work. It is what most people have to do to live. Selling sex, doing sex work, involves having sex. The job description is in the job title. Of course people doing sex work have widely differing experiences and the job itself is hugely diverse in the way it is sold and operates. Some who come under the umbrella of sex work, never have actual physical sex. Regardless of how, where, or the circumstances, sex work, like all work, requires a degree of agency and consent. To do a job, any job, for it to be called a job, recognised as work, requires the consent of that person. If you do not consent then it is slavery and when having sex, for whatever reason, including for commercial gain, if you do not consent, then it is rape.

Survivors of sex work therefore are not survivors of sex work, they are, or may be, survivors of all kinds of abuse, but not of sex as work. Any claim of being a survivor of sex work is purely for political gain. To survive something evokes sympathy, and sex work, because of the stigma and prejudice that surrounds it, has, especially for women, a deep societal and moral emotional engagement. The common argument that no woman would willing prostitute herself, engages an emotive response from an audience conditioned to prescribed roles for women within society, that prejudices opinion against female promiscuity and especially against prostitution. So called “survivors of sex work” know exactly how claiming to be survivors will play politically. They use the term deliberately knowing that it will undermine demands from sex workers to have their labour recognised. They know that their claims of being survivors will justify continued criminalisation of sex work because survivors by existing reafirms the prejudice that no good woman would choose prostitution. Claims to be survivors of sex work is therefore just dirty politicking, nothing more and nothing less.

I am pleased to introduce Steve who works as a gay male escort in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Steve was recently asked to review a new book on Male Sex Work which he published on his own very popular blog and which he kindly agreed to share with Harlots. Enjoy. 

 

Male Sex Work and Society

I was kindly asked by Harrington Park Press, in New York, to review an academic publication that is being released this week (on Tuesday 2nd September 2014).  They sent me a copy of the book, pre-release, in late July and it’s been my bedtime reading for a number of weeks.  I have written an honest and factual review which is independent and in no way influenced by the publisher or authors of the book.

male sex work and society
Within research and the current debate about sex work , there exists a gap in our knowledge and understanding of the male sex worker as a distinct group. The feminist ideology that dominates so much of the sex work discourse in the west, chooses to present sex work as being only about women selling sex to men. If and when acknowledged, male and indeed trans sex workers, are recognised only within this politically motivated narrative of female submission to dominant male sexual desire. The complex and varied experiences within the male sex work narrative have too often been reduced to a caricature of a feminised boy, to assimilate easily within this politicised perspective of sex work. The arrival of “Male Sex Work And Society” therefore is a welcome addition to a growing academic and political awakening to the male sex worker as being a distinctive subject with a history and culture deserving of recognition.
The book is a collection of research by noted academics and specialists in sexual health and LGBT studies. Despite being a substantial book, it is easily accessible and each chapter carries its own section of references. The topics are wide ranging, from a history of male sex work, the influence of culture on how male sex work is engaged, perceived and legislated to how sex workers and clients interact. Continents and countries are dealt with individually, giving a perspective on male sex work in the United States, Africa, Russia, Western Europe, China and so forth. Stigma, political and religious prejudice and their consequences are discussed.
The problems faced by male sex workers especially in parts of Africa and Russia, where a growing intolerance and violence toward the LGBT community has created an especially hostile environment, is engaged at length, in the book. Interviews with sex workers and their clients are included too, which gives an authenticity to the research which very often is missing within academic works. How sex workers feel about themselves, how they understand and relate to their work, their aspirations and fears are discussed and referenced extensively. Clients are also interviewed and it is interesting to note the cultural differences, but also the similarities.
A chapter on male sex work and male sexual identity in Latin America was especially fascinating. Research done by Victor Munichello, Tinashe Dune, Carlos Disogra and Rodrigo Marino in chapter 15, “Male Sex Work From A Latin American Perspective” discusses the influence of Catholicism and the family, in defining male sexual identity and how male sex workers accommodate and work within those boundaries. Another chapter on “Male Sex Work In China” by Travis S K Kong, in his research into the “Money Boy,” again reflects the influence of culture and politics on how male sex workers identify and work.
I especially enjoyed the fact that research concentrated on sex work as a business with reference being made to a variety of marketing strategies used by male sex workers. Inevitably awareness and reality of class within societies was also reflected within the sex work dichotomy, emphasising the influence that education and social background has helped in optimising earning potential.
The male sex worker in literature and in cinema has its own chapter and within a western context, the development of the male sex worker is referenced and traced within a context of a growing acceptance of sexual diversity within greater society. Sexual health is naturally discussed extensively, referencing the negative affects of politics and culture, of criminalisation, on accessing health services and for health specialists to monitor sexual health among sex workers.
The importance of accessing and educating sex workers to help stop the spread of HIV is discussed. Criminalisation of sex workers especially affects the sexual health and awareness of those sex workers with social disadvantages, be that addiction or lack of education, or who are migrant and who may not speak the host countrys language and are quite often illegal. Those sex workers are the most at risk of infection.
I concur with the general consensus in the book that sexual health and social support for male sex workers in general is secondary to that on offer for female sex workers. This point in conclusion brings me to my only criticism. As a more mature sex worker I noted little reference to older male sex workers, to the wide age age range that exists within male sex work. The emphasis in the book concurred with the common perception that male sex work is predominately young boys and men. From my perspective, advertising extensively throughout the UK and beyond, this is not the case. I also would have liked to have seen more references to men selling sex to women. This is an area of sex work which is beginning to be recognised and researched. I have a feeling that society may be in for a quite a surprise at the findings.
The book is available for purchase at Amazon UK and is published by Harrington Park Press.  I would personally like to thank the publishers of the book for recognising my own blog and contribution to the sex industry and for asking me for my unbiased opinion on it’s content.

MALE/TRANS SEX WORK.

These are just initial thoughts for a much longer piece. Comments are welcome. I have not put links in this piece but will in the next.

517W291RYYL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_

Male and trans sex workers often share the same clients as female sex workers and the same working spaces, yet our voices are almost silent. There is an undercurrent of prejudice toward male sex work, on both sides of a debate, which is primarily about human rights, about workers rights, about the role of subjective morality in denying rights to people who sell sex. Such prejudice should be unacceptable, but it exist.

Cultural perceptions of what sex work is and about who sells and who buys sex have framed sex work as being exclusively a womans issue. These assumptions have meant that research on male sex work, on how cultural attitudes affect how male sex work is bought and sold and tolerated, have been considered less important. A gap exists in our knowledge about sex work if we ignore the rich history that is male and trans sex work, work which has run parallel to female sex work, but which also has its on distinctive character and history.

Once, in ancient Rome, male sex workers had their own national holiday. Tragically, it was also in Rome, that men selling sex to men, experienced the full horror of a new Christian morality. By order of a Christian Emperor, male sex workers where dragged from their brothels and burned alive before a cheering mob. Christian intolerance of homosexuality, the assumptions of what maleness is within patriarchy, has for centuries negatively influenced a prevailing social attitude toward men who sell sex. Whilst female sex workers where grudgingly tolerated, considered a necessary social evil, male and trans sex workers were simply considered an abomination.

Today, in a more tolerant western society, the social and legal acceptance of homosexuality has allowed the commercial sex market to emerge where, especially men who sell sex to men, can advertise openly.

Male sex workers however are subject to the same legal restrictions as female sex workers. Laws that limit the freedom of sex workers to work together, to hire a third party to represent them, effectively to take measures to protect themselves or support each other, remain illegal in the UK. Similarly, the growing threat of what has become popularly referred to as the Swedish model, which criminalises the clients of sex workers, also does, or potentially will ( if it should ever become law) equally affect male sex workers.

A growing acknowledgment of human rights has encouraged the emergence of groups of sex workers, academics and other supporters, to advocate that sex work is work and that workers deserve rights. Both sex worker rights groups and anti sex work advocates, however have focused almost exclusively on sex work being a woman only issue. The voices of male and trans sex workers have been, if not ignored, then treated as second class and at best recognised in debates with a parting, almost throwaway acknowledgment of, “Oh yes and there are male sex workers, oh and some trans as well.” It is hardly surprising that these prejudices exist considering the historical context in which male sex work and male sexuality has been stigmatised within western culture. That stigma is often expressed to justify ignoring, sidelining, male and trans sex workers.

The two most common prejudices are :-

1) Male sex work carries less social stigma than female sex work and male sex workers are less affected by slut shaming.

That is a hard claim to call as definite.

For men selling sex to men, the gay community, whilst traditionally publicly liberal and containing elements that identified closely with the outsider, has equally harboured and expressed many of the same prejudices as the straight community. As the gay community becomes more accepted into mainstream society and increasingly conforms to the heteronormative hegemony of monogamous sex based around property and ownership, those prejudices against the sex worker within their community may increase, not decrease. Certainly in the battle for sex worker rights the gay community, has at best, been cautious in any expression of support. In general, male promiscuity is less problematic, in a society where maleness and masculinity is still defined by a man’s sexual libido, by his ability to bed many sexual partners. These attitudes however are reversed when a man, sells himself sexually. The selling of sex for men equates to being submissive. It makes him unmanly. A common depiction of a male sex worker within current debate and historically is of an effeminate man, as someone lacking masculine prowess, without agency.

This effeminisation of the male sex worker is a recurring and dismissive theme in anti sex work rhetoric. It is an image that confirms that strand of feminists thought, that now influences government policy, that equates all sex work as violence toward women and girls and therefore all sex workers, including feminised “boy” sex workers, as being victims of male sexual aggression. For trans sex workers, prejudice against trans people, within wider society is made more aggressive. Trans sex workers report more abuse and assaults from the public, the police and from criminals who target trans sex workers specifically to express their transphobic aggression and hatred. For male and trans sex workers the public prejudice shared by all sex workers, that they are transmitters of infection and disease, in effect means they are carriers of HIV.

2) Male and trans sex worker are too few in number to deserve a seat at the table.

Everything you read about the numbers of sex workers working is pure guess work. No one knows how many sex workers are street based, how many work indoors, how many are women, how many are trans, or how many are men.

The idea that you can even try and create a sex work policy, when you do not know the numbers within the community for which you are creating policy for, is derisable, yet this is exactly what happens. For the UK, the estimates for sex workers, range between 30,000 and 80,000 but it could be double that. The estimate for male and trans sex workers varies between five per cent and fifteen per cent of whatever that guessed total number is. At least one academic, I remember reading about, suggested that the number of male and trans sex workers in Europe was nearer a third of all current sex workers. The truth is, no one knows anything for definite. It is possible, cultural differences may play a part in the numbers of male or trans sex workers and their visibility, but it is all guess work.

The big problem is the lack of research. In Partial this problem is cultural. Aggressive sexual advertising aimed at the male consumer is something our society understands. The infamous red lights, the photographs of genitals, male and female, are images used by both female and male/trans sex workers to sell sex to men. Researchers, like the rest of society are familiar with these images and presume that this is the whole story, but is it?

The gigolo, a man who sells sex to women, is a culturally recognised figure, but unless he is advertising or operating in a similar manner to his gay or female counterparts, he remains mostly invisible. Does that mean that women do not purchase sex, or does it mean that the purchasing and selling of sex for a female market operates differently?

I have met women who have made arrangements with men, yes usually younger men, often less solvent than themselves. These women, buy those men presents, cars, clothes, and pay their rent etc in return for sex.

If anyone visits resorts in countries like Turkey, or parts of Africa for example, do they even notice the older women, especially from Europe, who have, share local boyfriends, often many years younger than themselves. They claim that they are in love, but it is a love affair where they pay all the bills and get sex and company in return. Cynically, feminists may argue that these women are being used. I would argue back that both the men and the women know what they are doing, they are buying and selling sex. They choose not to acknowledge it as prostitution because prostitution, culturally, is about women selling sex to men.

Popular prejudice and assumptions about what sex work is, about who buys and who sells sex has influenced sex work legislation for too long. What is needed is more evidence and more awareness of the diverse layers of commercial sex that exist within societies. Male sex work is a part of that missing evidence.

In ancient Japan red light areas, where sex workers, both male and female, sold sex, were once referred to as the “floating world” referencing the peculiar space in which they existed. Not quite part of society, not quite separate from society but I think in many respects all sex workers still exist in that special and precarious place. It seems that that special and precarious place remains more so for male and trans sex workers.

.

i01_logo

A post by UglyMugs.ie who you can follow on twitter @uglymugsie

The Canadian Government’s new sex work bill includes a provision banning the advertising of sexual services. Ireland did the same 20 years ago. The advertising of brothels and prostitution is prohibited in Ireland under Section 23 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994.

In 1998 proceedings were brought against Mike Hogan, then publisher of the In Dublin magazine, for carrying adverts for ‘escort’ services. He pleaded guilty in 2000. The law and this case now act as a somewhat successfully deterrent against publishing blatant sex work advertisements to Irish publications.

What the law cannot do though is stop the advertising of sex work on websites located outside of Ireland. Irish sex workers can easily advertise and be found on an array of Irish adult websites, invariably operated by companies located outside of Irish jurisdiction to bypass the Irish law.

Ireland’s powerful anti sex work lobby have been furiously calling for such websites to be shut down for many years. The problem isn’t that the 1994 legislation didn’t cover websites. It did. The problem is that Ireland simply cannot enforce its law against advertising sex work across the rest of the world. It can only enforce it within its own jurisdiction.

Almost every trick in the book has been tried and failed. US diplomatic cables published in 2010 by WikiLeaks even reveal secret meetings took place between Irish nuns, police and US authorities in efforts to shut down one Irish escort website which was hosted in the US at the time. The folly of it was, even if the US had have been prepared to shut down a website that was legal in the US, the operators of it would have simply moved onto another jurisdiction the next day.

The Irish experience demonstrates what a Canadian law against the advertising of sexual services could possibly achieve if brought in and enforced to the fullest extent possible.

It could force sex workers to advertise more covertly in Canadian publications. It could lead to an increase in Internet advertising. It could force Canadian sex work websites to move outside of Canadian jurisdiction. It couldn’t stop advertising of sex work in Canada.

There are a few wacky ideas out there that Ireland hasn’t tried yet. If you put aside Western democratic values on freedom of speech and access to information, a country could in theory bring in laws forcing its ISPs to block or filter web content that could be sex for sale adverts. It would however be very difficult and expensive, easily circumvented by Internet users, and could only possibly be successful to the extent it could lead to sex workers being more discreet in their online advertising to avoid their ads being blocked.

The latest idea in Ireland is to go after people for viewing prostitution material as is already done in the case of persons viewing child abuse material. The Irish Justice Committee’s 2013 Report on the Review of the Legislation on Prostitution in Ireland states that ‘the accessing of web sites – whether located in the State or abroad – that advertise prostitution in the State should be treated in the same way as accessing sites that advertise or distribute child pornography.’

The proposed Canadian law to stop the advertising of sex work would be entirely ineffective.
It would fail to stop sex workers advertising. It could potentially have negative consequences for sex workers though, in terms of reducing choices, both in terms of where they can advertise and how clearly they can advertise what they do and do not offer.

Other potential negative consequences are a loss of revenue to Canada’s economy. The Spanish brought in and then repealed a ban on advertising prostitution in 2012, reportedly due to the loss of the advertising revenue to Spanish companies. Most seriously, anti-trafficking academics such as Mark Latonero and Danah Boyd, who both conducted research around US website Craigslist, which was pressured into stopping accepting adult adverts in 2010, have shown that pushing sex work advertising onto international websites, out of reach of the US authorities, harms law enforcement efforts to combat abuses such as trafficking.

20 years ago Irish legislators were doing something new, but Canada can’t say the same now. It is clear a law against the advertising of sexual services won’t stop sex workers advertising but will cause harm, so what is the point of it?

This question is one posed regularly and often dismissed both by anti sex work campaigners and also by some women and men who presume that the question is somehow a justification for a mythical male sex drive that is insatiable. Their assumption presumably being that women do not have sexual desire. This presumption itself is especially strange considering many of those same women argue female autonomy and agency. There seems in their argument a nod to the myth of the woman as a docile recipient of male lust. This oddity aside however, the question itself is perplexing.

When we talk about rights we inevitably mean rights recognised within law. The problem however is that laws are always subjective and often arbitrary, reflecting the desires, more often than not, of government rather than the general public. Law is also modish, encapsulating the political and social angsts of the legislators of a particular time and place.
The law in the UK has over the centuries interfered with our sexual freedom in often minute detail. The law for example once forbid anal sex, and still persists in often arbitrarily and subjectively deciding what sexual practices we can perform and what sexual images we can look at. What was illegal in the 1950s, ie homosexuality, for example, is now recognised as equal in law with heterosexuality, while what was once legal, the right for a man to have sex with his wife whenever he wished, is now illegal. The law relatively recently decided that consent, quite rightly, must take legal precedence over, in this case, a husbands sexual satisfaction.
In this way what is a “right” today may not be tomorrow. So if the government decided that sex was a “Human Right” then it would be. A right of course does not imply that a person has to oblige themselves of that right, but it would, in this case recognise in law that a human being had a right to a consensual sexual act with another consenting adult.

The question, should the right to sex be recognised in legislation in many senses is however superfluous because sex exists outside jurisdiction and despite the best efforts of law enforcement is virtually ungovernable. Controlling human sexuality will remain a dream until legislators find the means to control not only the human mind but also the human body. No doubt that time will come. But in the meantime sex remains an intrinsic part of our DNA. Our bodies, even if we are asexual, are never the less sexual, in that they have the capacity to reproduce, to have sex. Sex defines humanity in the most intimate terms in virtually every human interaction. We can as humans choose to live without sex, and indeed society can choose to deny some people access to sex. Catholic priests for example choose to be celibate and yet their writings tell us that celibacy is the most difficult expression of their vocation, and one which they find hard to keep. The human body, even if the human mind chooses to do without sex, inevitably acts autonomously from the brain or the arbitrary rules of law, to declare its right to sex.

Inevitably the question is raised “What about the disabled, do they especially have a right to sex, if their disabilities make it difficult to form relationships or to meet people for consensual casual sex.”
Cruelly some people insist that the disabled man or woman must either remain sexless or somehow form a loving relationship. Having worked with disabled people this attitude especially makes me angry for three reasons.

1 Forming a “love” relationship for for many severely disabled is next to impossible (but of course nothing is impossible). Also many people who are bed bound or have terminal illnesses, for very good reasons, choose not to even try to form any long term relationship.

2 Sex, as a pleasure, as a release of often frustrated mental and physical desire, as the expression of simple joy in human interaction, the enjoyment of another’s body, is for me and for many men and women, disabled or not, enough in itself. Love is another human emotion altogether and should not be confused with sex which is essentially a biological reproductive reality of our human experience which also happens to be pleasurable.

3 As a society we pretend to care to the physical well being of the disabled. We provide for their bodies, washing, dressing, healing, and yet we care less for their minds or for their natural human desire for sexual release. That’s considered just dirty.

However to avoid the trolls that will no doubt shout “ablest” if you discuss disability and sexual desire, I will reference much of the above to be also true of all of humanity.

In conclusion. I believe that in many instances it would be useful to have access to sexual happiness recognised as a “right” in law . Not least because I think happiness itself is something society should strive for for all its citizens. Do I think it will happen? No. There are too many who fear sex and too many who would censor sexual happiness, especially if it were sex of which “they” disapproved. Does lack of recognition legally make sex less of a right? Ultimately no. Sex and the pursuit of sexual happiness is something humans will always strive for, and if the law prevents it, they will find ways to circumvent those laws. Would recognising “sex” as a right not cause problems over providing access? No, because the law places consent as paramount in any sexual interaction and quite rightly so. And ultimately consensual sex between consenting adults should always be beyond the control of the law.

The right to sex or no right to sex debate will no doubt continue. But these are my view. Opinions are of course welcome to what is an interesting discussion.

I was contacted today by Diane Taylor from the Guardian Newspaper. They are looking for sex workers to take part in a documentary. Details below.

If anyone would like to be involved but would like to have ask advice from myself before replying feel free to drop me a line at douglasfox4@gmail.com

We are working on a documentary for the Guardian about sex work. We are looking at issues such as the impact on sex workers if proposals to criminalise clients who buy sex are implemented. We are also looking at draconian/problematic policing of sex work, increasing poverty such as benefit sanctions which put extra pressure on sex workers etc. We will be interviewing sex workers without revealing their identities or locations. There are many, vocal people who are engaged in the debate about sex work but very often the voices of sex workers themselves are absent from this debate. We hope to correct this imbalance by reflecting some of the diverse views that sex workers have about some of the above issues..

If you are interested in finding out more please contact me on 07966 145098 or at dianeltaylor@btconnect.com

Confidentiality is assured.

A DISCUSSION ON REGULATION

Sex work is peculiar in that it is brutally stigmatised, being primarily women involved the discourse is also trapped within a so called feminist discourse about gender equality. The debate is also one seemingly forever owned by negative imagery that portrays the sex worker as the perpetual victim. As a sex worker however I know that that imagery does not represent my reality and I am sure that this is also the case for many others.

I have learned during my sixteen years selling sex, and over ten years in sex worker activism, that sex for sale is a hugely diverse business. I can draw on my own personal experience as a gay male sex worker, mainly working independently and indoors, in London, Edinburgh and Newcastle, and because my partner runs an escort agency I can also reference a wide spectrum of other experiences, from middle class housewives, professional women, single mothers, and a minority of others, who either by choice or circumstance, have turned to sex work to fund drug habits or simply alternative lifestyles.
As an activist I have also met migrant sex workers, some working legally and some not, some with good experiences of sex work and some who feel trapped in sex work. Sex work truly does represent a huge spectrum of experiences and as an activist my conclusion is that that sex work ultimately reflects the society it serves and that just as each society has its own unique characteristics, good and bad, so sex work will reflect those characteristics. Despite this the sex work debate inevitably simplifies and sensationalises the arguments with dangerous consequences for sex workers.

When commentators make sweeping statements about sex work, without referencing the circumstances of the society in which particular sex workers operate, they create a discourse that is unhelpful and even dangerous. As an activists I share a common desire for decriminalisation, but I recognise and always argue that decriminalisation, when it comes, must be negotiated to reflect the needs of sex workers and how they work within their own particular societies. Simply calling for decriminalisation without referencing the voices of sex workers results, as in Holland and Germany, for example, with imposed forms of legalisation that do not reflect the needs of sex workers, but rather the desire of the state to control and regulate sex work as a problem. The result is that sex workers become victims of legislators who do not understand why so many sex workers stubbornly choose to remain isolated and difficult to collectivise in a traditional way.

The other problem is that legislators, so called feminists, the media, and even some activists, deliberately choose to portray sex work in its extremes. In doing so they preserve a discourse that alienates many sex workers and preserves the mythology of otherness that stigmatises the sex worker as peculiar, as someone who needs help or who needs to be controlled. In truth most sex work and most sex workers are extraordinary only in their ordinariness.
Sex is the most natural of activities and selling sex does not change that. The stigma of selling sex is what makes sex work extraordinary, not the act. The hugely diverse nature of sex work and of the people who sell sex and who buy it is rarely portrayed in a populist but influential discourse that prefers sex workers as either abused victims, happy hookers or as exotic and tragic.

The first episode of the Rupert Everett documentary “Love For Sale,” exemplifies how even a positive documentary still prostitutes the images and language of sex work, presenting sex work in a populist caricature. The viewers are shown scantily dressed transsexual sex workers, (one of whom, a friend of Rupert’s, was murdered) working on the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, a male escort who had lost eight of his friends, also escorts, to suicide and drugs, a street worker in Liverpool feeding a drug habit, a Muslim, homeless young rent boy in Tel Aviv. These stories and images are the experiences of some sex workers, and they are experiences we must not ignore, but equally we also must not allow particular populist stories and images to be used to confirm negative populist prejudices about sex work and sex workers which politicians can turn into negative legislation. The images and language of otherness, even when supportive, is ultimately not helpful. Similarly the politicisation of sex worker rights so that sex workers again are presented as victims of capitalism, as victims of unemployment, as victims of the benefit system, all may in certain circumstances be true of some sex workers but not of all. They are images and language that confirm prejudices of sex worker victim hood rather than of the sex worker as an ordinary citizen deserving of rights the same as anyone else.

One day I hope that there may be a documentary, or an article, that does not deal in sexed up images, but which represents sex work as it is, work, and sex workers as being deserving of protection and of a voice in deciding legislation that will affect their lives as ordinary people, not as extraordinary people or people deserving of pity or in need of protection. In the documentary “Love For Sale,” Rupert Everett takes a group of transsexual sex workers to view paintings of nineteenth century sex workers by Toulouse lautrec. This for me was the most positive piece of dialogue in the documentary. The sex workers rejected the images of tired, used and degraded sex workers as not representing their experience of sex work. I wonder if, having watched the documentary those sex workers were happy with their portrayal, naked, exotic and described using the language of otherness which made them and their work seem sad and lonely and desperate? Would it have been positive, as they understood their lives and their work, or would the images of them used in the documentary have reminded them of the paintings of Toulouse Lautrec?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,704 other followers

%d bloggers like this: