Julie Bindel, bless her little cotton socks, is “managing editor” of a magazine not owned by her or Paul Burston, called “Gaze – A Modern Review”. One of her leading articles is called “An Unlikely Union” which naturally, as expected, is a vicious attack on the IUSW (International Union of Sex Workers) and the sex workers trades union branch of the GMB. What was surprising to some people however was that a few so called sex worker rights campaigners, notably Thierry Schaffauser, was not only critical of his fellow activists but was even praised by Julie Bindel and was then described as a “young and handsome Schaffauser”. In contrast Catherine Stephens who is the branch secretary of the sex worker GMB branch and active in the IUSW was described as a bully and her personal appearance criticised in a very personal attack which bordered on misogyny. I was referred constantly, in the article, as a pimp/manager and as a disruptive and almost malign influence, responsible for “sex workers” leaving the IUSW and the GMB branch.
The whole article was full of untruths and distortions, as one would expect from Julie Bindel who hates the sex industry and advocates for its demise. It was an article designed to hurt the IUSW and its reputation and to divide sex worker rights activists.
Anyone who knows anything about the sex worker rights movement knows that, like any group, there are varying opinions. Sex worker rights is not a cohesive movement politically, the only thread that holds activism together is a desire for social justice for sex workers and a desire for decriminalisation. Sex work is varied, multi layered, nuanced. It is work that is often transient and secretive. Sex work is stigmatised and criminalised. Activism carries risks both legally and socially. The result of this is that there are few activists prepared to put their heads above the parapet to be shot at by a hostile media and wealthy abolitionist groups. This is why it is important that those few who get involved in activism, regardless of personal political allegiances or understanding of our industry or how we would like to see decriminalisation delivered, should support each other. There is more that unites us than divides us but it seems that for some activists their voice is the only voice that must be heard, should be heard and if that means joining the enemy to hurt your fellow activists then they will happily oblige.The forwarding of a confidential email from myself to other IUSW activists explaining my reason for leaving the “confidential” IUSW list to Julie Bindel, who then used it in her article, explains why some activists are very cautious of others in the movement. Such actions undermines confidence and trust both in lists and in fellow activists. Who ever did this should be ashamed.
For those who have read the article I would like to correct inaccuracies made by Julie Bindel.
Catherine Stephens the bully
Catherine Stephens advised myself and others against giving an interview to Julie Bindel because she feared that our words may be twisted. No one was forbidden, least of all Thierry Schaffauser. She has never bullied me or anyone else to my knowledge. Catherine Stephens has however been the target of persistent bullying by Thierry and friends at branch meetings.
Inaccuracies in reporting the court case.
With regard to the court case. The legal technicality that led to my acquittal (and my partners) was that the police had pre-prepared statements, in advance, for the escorts to sign. One escort brought this to the attention of our legal team, after refusing to sign it, who then informed the judge of these findings. The judge then heavily criticised the police for their conduct and lack of professionalism. I am sure any journalist could obtain the public court record, should they investigate it fully. In subsequent twitter exchanges Bindel claims to have seen police records pertaining to myself. I am not a criminal so what records could she see and if they did exist how did she access them?
The last person to access police files on myself was a lady called Victoria Thorne. She was jailed at Newcastle Crown Court almost 3 years ago, which is in the public domain and at the time I was interviewed by Northumbria Police who informed me that an individual had, on a number of occasions tried to access personal data. Perhaps Julie Bindel could clarify her twitter comment and how she obtained Police information. I have no criminal record and therefore wonder what police records she’s been reading and how she obtained them.
The infamous competition my partner ran.
The competition giving a free appointment to the winner, with an escort of their choice did not mean that the escort did not get paid nor that she/he had no choice in whether to accept the appointment or not. It was simply a sales gimmick agreed at a meeting between my partner and the escorts he represented. They were paid in full for any competition appointments and were never out of pocket.
There is no overwhelming evidence of me being a manager.
In the documentary there was no overwhelming evidence of my involvement in running the agency. I never once answered the telephone, arranged an appointment, interviewed any escorts, or involved myself in any way other than counting out some money for theatrical purposes. At the end of the documentary I was also filmed composing profile descriptions to accompany some photographs. This was simply my partner bouncing ideas off me, which I am sure many partners do in their comfort of their own home. Julie Bindel insists on calling me a pimp and a manager, both in the article and on twitter. I have called her a liar and will continue to do so until she desists or takes me to court where she can prove I am not a sex worker who sells sex.
My partner using the GMB kite mark
With regard to using the GMB/IUSW kite mark on my partners agency site. It is a hardly noticeable kite mark. He does not use it in advertising and the reason it is there is because I, as a sex worker joined the GMB branch as did several other escorts and all escorts who join the agency are told about the GMB branch. It is up to them if they join or not. It is not used to promote or advertise anything other than the GMB branch itself. The agency is not advertised or mentioned in any GMB literature or websites. The logo is there simply to promote the branch and let escorts and clients see that there is a trade union for sex workers. There is no other agenda where this is concerned.
Inaccuracies regarding Thierry
Thierry Schaffauser was never the president of the IUSW. The IUSW is separate from the GMB branch. He was president for a time of the GMB branch during which time he was heavily criticised and a number of accusations of bullying were made formally against him.
Sleazy Michael and others leaving the branch/IUSW
Sleazy Michael did indeed leave the IUSW list and quite possibly the GMB branch, as did some others, because they were tired of the arguments over my membership. Those arguments were driven by Thierry and his friends. Sleazy Michael, like Thierry and others knew that I was not a manager. Thierry disapproved of my politics and my notoriety on the internet promoting the IUSW for which I raised (with others) in a short space of time some considerable funds. Thierry and friends however wanted the GMB branch to be the dominant vehicle for sex worker rights. Myself and others pointed out repeatedly that the GMB branch was governed by GMB rules and could not be used as a political tool unless strict GMB procedural guidelines were followed and they were often limiting. The IUSW in contrast had no such restrictions.
Thierry and his friends seemed unable to accept this and the nonsense about managers being in the branch is just that. I was not a manager and as far as I know there were no managers who were members of the branch. I also did not involve myself in the branch. I was a member but I am not a socialist so the internal politics of the GMB were mostly irrelevant to me. I eventually left the branch when I read that a branch meeting had decided to affiliate to a republican group. It was totally undemocratic.
Those who left the IUSW/GMB branch
As far as the claim that people left the branch because of me the truth is this. A small number of extreme leftists did leave the GMB branch and the IUSW list. As far as I am aware they set up X talk, SWOU etc and became involved with the ECP (English collective of Prostitutes) to the extent that all three are now interconnected and mutually supportive. Using me as a scapegoat is disingenuous. The reason was that the IUSW (which has to produce its own reply) from my understanding did not wish to be pressurised into an extreme leftist position but rather wished to remain an inclusive group representative of all views and opinions within sex work. The GMB branch equally had its own rules and regulations put in place by the GMB. These were obviously not flexible enough for Thierry and his friends who as the article suggests are now preparing to establish a sex worker union that will reflect their own political agenda. It is up to the GMB to reply to the Julie Bindel accusations and to those made by Thierry. I am no longer a member and have little interest in the branch although I remain supportive of those who do wish to join and who believe in it. The strippers who left the branch to join Equity did so for good reason. I would join Equity if given a chance. As a sex worker I have a closer affiliation with actors than with boiler makers. Equity, however does not accept sex workers into their union.
My relationship to/with the IUSW.
I remain supportive of the IUSW although I resigned from the list, I was not thrown out, as Julie Bindel suggests. My reasons for leaving the IUSW list are:
1) I was very disappointed with changes made to the IUSW constitution (which I partially wrote). I wanted a strong IUSW with elected officers and with a membership that paid a nominal amount and who were involved democratically in decision making. I lost that argument and I was hurt by it.
2) I objected to the IUSW becoming a closed list with membership only by invitation. As the one inclusive and welcoming sex worker organisation the IUSW could become I argued an enormous force for positivity and support for all sex workers. I lost that battle. I accept that. You win some battles and loose others. It proves however that I am not the dominant manager Bindel presents me as.
3) I was exhausted with fighting a small but quite vicious group who for their own motives targeted myself and the IUSW. I now want to have an independent voice, supportive of the IUSW but able to concentrate on other projects while being useful and helpful when needed.
In conclusion I was not surprised by the article or by the accusations made primarily by Thierry. I am a sex worker. If I were a manager I would happily say that I was. I am supportive of managers and the role they play in our industry. There is no stigma in being a manager in my eyes. If you are a good manager then you should be praised just as any good sex worker should be praised and supported. We all need to be supportive of one another if we are to achieve decriminalisation and establish a good industry in which all sex workers can have a free choice to work as independent or through third parties. As a recent academic paper “HERE”reveals, third parties, managers are important to our industry and we must support them equally along with migrant, street and indoor workers
Finally ……. Punters
Errm where is the reference to them. For a front page article, claiming to mention them, Julie rarely features them in the entire article.
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