Tracy will be on the radio at 11:10 am Hong Kong time, Monday, 1 March. You can listen online here or wait for the archive if you miss the show. She’ll be discussing her Daily Beast column about the rigors of sex worker romance.
Archive for February, 2010
I write to express my concern about the amendment, presently before the Scottish Parliament, to criminalise the purchase of sexual service, to advertise prostitution etc. The amendment comes, I am given to understand, from MSP Trish Godman and the rationale behind it is laid out on a website, under the sponsorship of Glasgow Council, http://www.endprostitutionnow.org/. The assertions in this website and, thus the rationale behind the amendment itself are riddled with fallacies.
1. It equates consensual paid sex with rape. This is nonsense. By definition, rape is sex without consent. Consent for immediate payment, distasteful as some moralists may find it, is clearer-cut than the consent in most seductions and some marriages.
2. It asserts under ‘job description’ that the job normally entails ‘being penetrated orally, anally and vaginally … with bottles, brushes, dildos, guns and/or animals…’ Ditto, ‘being bound and gagged, tied with ropes and/or chains, burned with cigarettes, or hung from beams or trees is a normal part of the job.’ This is propoganda of the worst sort. I have known many prostitutes over many years; I have yet to meet one who says that any of this has happened to her.
3. It says that the client pays whatever he feels like, after the sex. This is untrue. The normal system is that the client pays the agreed sum up front, usually within the first few minutes of meeting the woman and before any sexual contact.
4. It says repeatedly that prostitution is ‘not a choice.’ This is untrue, as individually evidenced by Brooke Magnanti (aka Belle de Jour)’s recent comments http://belledejour-uk.blogspot.com /; by extensive comment on the escorts’ self help site http://www.saafe.info, by many prostitutes’ comments on e.g. http://www.punternet.com and by recent high-quality academic studies including e.g.: http://www.sexworker.at/phpBB2/download.php?id=479, largely based on UK nationals and http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/londonmet…0Findings2.pdf which found, among migrant sex workers (in whom one might expect the most vulnerability to coercion), the vast majority (>90%) had made a positive choice to become prostitutes.
5. Finally, under ‘Other Countries’ it notes that New Zealand has decriminalised prostitution and brothel-keeping but is then dismissive, asserting that attacks on street prostitutes have increased. It completely fails to mention official NZ Govt analysis pointing to the success of the decriminalisation policy. [URL]http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy-an…eform-act-2003[URL] A recent NZ newspaper poll shows 2:1 support for the view that decriminalisation has been a success: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/3371975/Kiwi-debater-convinces-Oxford-Union-on-prostitution
(click on poll results to LH side)
It would be a travesty to pass legislation predicated upon on such a mass of misinformation.
It is perfectly reasonable to have a moral objection to prostitution, just as it is to many other dubious intimacies or consequences thereof (drunken pick-ups in the local nightclub, regretted next morning; marriage for money; large divorce settlements after brief marriage; office affairs etc etc). We do not, however, seek not make these illegal and, to quote Cicero (Pro Coelio, chap. 20), writing 2000 years ago:
“If there is anyone who holds the opinion that young men should be interdicted from intrigues with the women of the town, he is indeed austere! That, ethically, he is in the right, I cannot deny: but nevertheless, he is at loggerheads not only with the licence of the present age, but even with the habits of our ancestors and what they permitted themselves. For when was this not done? When was it rebuked? When found fault with?”
And Cicero’s point still holds: so long as both parties are willing and not coerced (see my point 4 above as evidence for this, also the conspicuous failure of Operation Pentameter to find the large numbers of sex slaves alleged to exist by e.g. the Poppy Project) the purchase an sale of sexual services in a private matter, whatever one’s personal views about its morality, not the business of the State.
This amendment is is illiberal and ill-founded, as I have argued here. Others will -rightly- make the case that it will endanger the livelihoods and potentially the lives of many voluntary prostitutes, turning them into dependents on the state and reducing tax revenue. It is hard to see how this will benefit Scots or Scotland, a country where I went to university, for which I hold a deep affection, and from which some of my forebears came.
Based on all these arguments I would most strongly urge you to reject this amendement.
Should you give up your job for a man? We hate to admit this, but for quite a few of us ladies it’s easy to get all hot and bothered when the man we love resents our work. It makes us feel like the star of our own private, x-rated soap opera.
And we’re more forgiving than we might be if we worked in, say, a bank or a department store. In fact, we would regard any man who resents his wife/girlfriend working at a bank as an abusive, scary nutter. Men who don’t think women should work are out of step in mainstream Western life.
But an exception is made for men who love women in the sex industry.
Adult-film actress Joslyn James (aka Veronica Siwik-Daniels) says she stopped working because her alleged lover, Tiger Woods, was “very jealous.” She has a high profile lawyer and, quite possibly, a valid claim. You can watch the video here and read my latest Daily Beast column here.
I’d love to know what you think! Would you quit turning tricks/making films for a guy? Is this a problem for male sex workers? Or is it just the girls who fall for this line?
From my blog :
I have spent a large portion of the day lobbying other escorts for support for some forthcoming proposed legislative changes to the law in Scotland. In short, here is the news I have been spreading ;
“This is the proposed amendment to the Scottish Police Bill. It has been tabled late as a minor amendment, and therefore does not require proper scrutiny. It could almost go through with just a few minutes mention. This criminalises all selling and buying of sexual services, (prostitution, could apply to strip clubs, peep shows, lap dancing. All Saunas and Agencies would be illegal. No advertisements in any paper, or Internet. (Sport would be illegal, only foreign websites would work). Escort sites would have to be hosted offshore. Landlords would have to be ignorant of what you were using the flat for.
Engaging in, advertising and facilitating paid-for sexual activities
11A Engaging in a paid-for sexual activity
(1) A person (A) commits an offence, to be known as the offence of engaging in a paid-for sexual activity, if A knowingly engages in a paid-for sexual activity with another person (B).
(2) A sexual activity is paid for where B engages in that activity in exchange for payment.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), it is immaterial whether the payment is made—
(a) by A or by another person, or
(b) to B or to another person on B’s behalf.
11B Advertising paid-for sexual activities
A person commits an offence, to be known as the offence of advertising paid for sexual activities, if that person knowingly advertises, by any means, the availability of sexual activities that can be engaged in for payment.
11C Facilitating engagement in a paid-for sexual activity
(1) A person (A) commits an offence, to be known as the offence of facilitating engagement in a paid-for sexual activity, if A knowingly facilitates the engagement of another person (B) in a paid-for sexual activity with another person (C).
(2) A sexual activity is paid for where C engages in that activity in exchange for payment.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), it is immaterial whether the payment is made—
(a) by A, by B or by another person, or
(b) to C or to another person on C’s behalf.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (1), facilitating the engagement by B in a paid for sexual activity includes (but is not limited to)—
(a) arranging B’s engagement in the activity,
(b) making payment to C or to another person on C’s behalf,
(c) making available premises in which the activity takes place, or
(d) transporting B, or arranging transport for B, to where the activity takes place
If it goes through, this will effect all of us.
WHAT YOU CAN DO :
1.) Immediate action. Wednesday/Thursday write to email@example.com
2.) Make yourself known to ScotPep and volunteer what you feel able to do.
3.) Spread this information around to every escort who works in Scotland.
This is a serious threat to our earning powers and safety.”
As you can see it’s a pretty serious issue, and in fact effects a lot of escorts all over the UK, if they plan to tour Scotland. I also emailed Baroness Helena Kennedy and asked her to meet me, as she is to conduct an independent investigation on commercial sexual exploitation in Scotland. Sadly, it’s been over a week now and I have had no reply.
So, I have put my name forward as being willing to go and meet MSPs in an effort to show them that there are some women who enter the sex industry of their own volition and are independent. More importantly, I need to make the point that we as independent escorts care more than most for the welfare of trafficked women, but the current proposals as they stand are not the solution.
Prohibition of any industry does not work, fact. All that happens is the real nasties come out to play and offer “protection” and the industry becomes more clandestine.
I really am reaching the point where I am starting to completely and utterly despair. To me, regulation makes perfect sense. The tax man benefits from the revenue and the women benefit from the full protection of the law. All brothels registered and routinely inspected. It’s an ideal situation but one which I don’t know if I’ll ever see in my lifetime.
So, why am I in such a contemplative mood ? I was thinking tonight about why I had a sudden desire to stand up and start shouting about our rights as sex workers. I have come to the conclusion that it’s largely down to the treatment I experienced as a lady who was “outed” in her former home town. I STILL will never fathom why a man who had recently been released on charges of child abuse was welcomed back into the town with open arms ( “He’s done his time, leave him alone” ),whereas I, as an escort, felt the full brunt of isolation and stigma.
“I always knew there was something strange about her.”
( to a child ) – “Come away from that dirty hoor.”
I had eggs thrown at my car and dog poo through my letter box. Why am I sharing this with you now ? Because if the current proposals go through and the industry is driven further underground then the women who choose to work in the sex industry will never be able to go to their local supermarket and hold their heads up high. They will always feel isolated, tainted and in some way branded. That’s wrong. Very wrong. Women who provide pleasure to a consenting adult for a fee should never be placed in the same category as criminals.
A brilliant article in the Scottish Herald. Well argued and sensible. Why will politicians not listen? I suppose the media in general and politicians like easy targets to attack. The sex industry is an easy target because the sex industry finds it hard to answer back. We are criminalised and stigmatised so for us to rally the troops is hard. Sex workers are fearful of arrest and exposure to ridicule and spiteful name calling and intrusive investigation into their lives if they speak positively about their work. Clients are equally frightened and the general public even though most support sex workers rights are still squeamish about expressing openly their support because other people, friends and relatives may think that by supporting us they must be either punters or whores.
And so the moralists and the illiberal and elitist middle class so called feminists get away with targeting sex workers and using the law to push us out of sight, under the carpet so that they can feel better. By doing so they hand men and women over to the criminals who prosper in an exploitable market that they the moralists have created. Some feminists talk of decriminalising sex workers and instead criminalising our clients. Decriminalising the sex worker however is a joke if everything that allows sex workers to work safely is criminalised and our clients who pay us are turned into criminals for paying us to have consensual sex with them. It is all a very sick joke. Sex workers are not criminals. Adults having consensual sex should never be a criminal offence even if money does exchange hands. These moralist use the hysteria around exploitation to justify oppressive laws and yet they encourage exploitative practises by criminalising sex workers and their clients. They make the police the enemy of sex workers rather than our friends. If only the politicians were not lazy and based laws on evidence rather than allowing themselves to be caught in a manufactured hysteria about sex trafficking that conveniently ignores other areas where trafficking and exploitation occurs. But then cockle picking as one example is not as sexy for the media or politicians as prostitution.
I’m not sure this is entirely on-topic here (although I would have liked to include sex work in the issues covered, I figured it was safer to stick to a single issue that ought to get lots of support rather than alienating others) – I’ve created a petition on the Downing Street website to call for a review and revision of sex education in the UK following the findings that 56% of Londoners believe there are some circumstances in which a rape victim should take responsibility for their being raped.
I guess one of my hopes is that if such a review took place then there would hopefully be scope for input from sex workers’ rights organisations in that review.
Since being a sex worker is one of those reasons that more people seem to think makes it your fault if you’re raped, then that is also a very important reason why I think this petition is important. At the very least, we should hope to get a response from the PM’s Office.
(Incidentally, the closing date is a few months after the expected election date, so it might not be Gordon Brown’s office at that stage).
I am invited every day to join a bewildering and diverse plethora of face book campaigns and societies. Some I join and some I don’t and some I actually get involved with and excited about. I was invited to join “I bet we can find 1,000,000 people who support decriminalizing sex work!” and it occurred to me that it would be quite an achievement to reach the target of 1,000,000 members. Opinion poll after opinion poll repeatedly tell us that the majority of the public in the UK support calls for legalisation but their voices like those of sex workers seem to be ignored by policy makers.
The psychological boost to sex workers and their allies and supporters if this level of support could be achieved would be enormous. So I would ask that if you are on face book then please join and ask everyone you know to join. Numbers count and we need the support of everyone to get involved in what ever little way that you can. Help sex workers achieve our aim which is recognition of our human rights and an end to state harassment and persecution. To protect sex workers from violence and intimidation, to involve sex workers in the battle to end exploitation and trafficking you have to give them rights and stop discriminating against them. You do that by decriminalising our industry.
It seems that Labour has now given up any pretence that they are interested in only victims of human trafficking. The labour manifesto as reported in this article in the Times has made it clear that if they are re elected then they intend to launch a major assault on the sex industry.
Building on the recent policing and crime Bill the labour party it seems will not be happy until sex workers are hounded into the dark underworld where obviously they feel that we all belong. They assume we are all criminals and are committed to insuring that we are criminals, outsiders, living in fear of the law rather than being protected by the law.
Sex workers, our allies and our clients surely have a duty of conscience to oppose Labour and vote for what ever is the most likely alternative to rid themselves of a labour member of Parliament. The health and safety of sex workers and our clients and the battle against abuse and trafficking has to take priority above any misguided party loyalty. The Labour party has an obsession with creating laws that infringe upon our civil liberties and that would control our thoughts and the images that we see and what we do as consenting adults. Will they stop with adverts in Newspapers and magazines? It is very unlikely that this would be the case. If successful the next move will be the Internet and the banning of web sites and forums and blogs.
As in China then perhaps in the UK if Harriet Harman and her accomplices in the Labour party return to power with what they would feel a mandate to impose yet more illiberal laws for our own good; of course
Valentines Day is a sanitised version of the ancient pagan festival of Lupercalia and was originally celebrated on the 15th of February. This lusty ancient Roman festival involved naked virile young men running through the streets with whips made from the skins of sacrificed goats and dogs. These animals were noted for their sexual rapaciousness and fertility which sadly made them suitable sacrifices for this fertility festival. Women would present their buttocks to be struck with the whip to insure fertility and easy child birth. Romans being Pagan had none of our modern scruples about nakedness and sex and so indulged lustily in this ancient celebration until the Christian Church eventually subverted the festival around 496 AD into the saccharine yuckiness that we have today.
Does this modern, sickly sweet; hearts, flowers and chocolate version of Lupercalia reflect our sophistication or is it a symbol of regression in our understanding of sex, our bodies and our need for love and the physical release and pleasure that sex gives us? Today young men running naked around our streets would violate so many so called decency laws for showing their genitals in public. We now sadly have an irrational fear of sex, our bodies and especially male genitals. We can blame this irrational fear upon monotheism and its perpetual guilt trip about sex. For centuries our societies have been told to feel ashamed about sex. There is no greater control authority can have over us than that of guilt about our bodies and our most basic impulse which is sexual desire.
This societal guilt and secrecy about sex as something naughty and punishable has done so much damage to us a humans and how we understand each other and relate to each other. If only sexual prohibitionists would understand that the more they frighten us, embarrass us and shame us about looking at and enjoying our bodies, especially our genitals and make us feel intimidated and guilty about enjoying sex then the more we as humans will crave it, need it and the more we will seek it and the more the unscrupulous will finds ways of exploiting us. Is this good for us and our society?
Now back to my champagne, chocolates and has anyone seen that whip?
If it’s complicated, this one’s for you.
For some sex workers I know, February 14 is a merry, almost patriotic occasion. You dress up in red undergarments and make charming sales calls to regular clients. For others, it gets more complicated. It’s so much easier to juggle boyfriends and besotted customers when Valentine’s falls on a weekday!
My new Daily Beast column is here.