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What is a “representative” sex worker?

This is a cliché that anyone who advocates for sex workers’ rights will be familiar with. Faced with a sex worker who defies the abolitionist stereotype of a person physically or economically coerced into prostitution, who thinks their job is ok and isn’t desperate to leave it (but could if s/he wanted to), and who argues that the solution to the negative aspects of sex work is decriminalisation and enforceable rights, the inevitable response is:

You’re not representative. Why should the law be made for you?

This argument is problematic on a number of levels, and deserves a fuller response than I’ve been able to give it when it’s appeared in my comments. So here are my thoughts about it.

First of all, we need to question the basis of the assumption of non-representativeness. Abolitionists making this argument frequently cite this Melissa Farley study which interviewed sex workers in nine countries, and found an overall rate of 89% who answered the question “What do you need?” with (among other responses) “leave prostitution”. This statistic is often cited to make the claim that almost nine out of ten sex workers want out, and the ones who don’t are, you guessed it, not representative.

So what’s wrong with this claim? Well, the first thing you have to do with any survey is look at who the subjects are and how they were chosen. According to the study itself, the respondents were:

Canada: street workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, “one of the most economically destitute regions in North America”.
Mexico: Street, brothel, stripclub and massage workers in Mexico City and Puebla. No breakdown is given as to how many were chosen from each sector.
Germany: Subjects selected “from a drop-in shelter for drug addicted women”, from a “rehabilitation” programme, by reference from “peers” (presumably those found at the shelter and rehab programme) and through a newspaper advertisement, the text of which is not reported. Again, there is no breakdown of how many were found by which method.
San Francisco: Street workers from “four different areas”, not identified.
Thailand: A minority were interviewed “at a beauty parlor that provided a supportive atmosphere”, most at an agency providing job training.
South Africa: Subjects interviewed “in brothels, on the street and at a drop-in center for prostitutes”. No breakdown, again.
Zambia: Current and former sex workers were interviewed at an NGO offering sex workers “food, vocational training and community”.
Turkey: The subjects were women brought by police to hospital for STI “control”.
Colombia: Subjects were interviewed at “agencies that offered services to them”.

What is clear from this detail is that there is a heavy selection bias in the sample. It is not clear that any of the sex workers interviewed came from the less vulnerable sectors (ie independent indoor workers, or brothel workers in countries where they have labour, health and safety rights). The large majority clearly did not. Some of them were selected from agencies that cater to people wishing to leave prostitution, which is a bit like selecting people at a jobs fair to find out if they’re looking for work. Moreover, some of them were children, although the study only reports that this was the case in six of the nine countries and does not break down the adult/child division any further.

In short, this study does not tell us how sex workers feel about their work. At most, it may tell us how sex workers in particularly vulnerable sectors feel about their work. That 89% figure simply cannot be generalised to sex workers as a whole.

So here comes the next argument:

But the ones you call “particularly vulnerable” are the majority. The “less vulnerable ones” are (drum roll) not representative.

My answer: How do you know?

This is one of those assumptions that many people seem to consider self-evident. Not even worth questioning. Well, I’m going to question it. Where is the evidence? Where is the comprehensive research that has actually looked across all sectors of the industry – outdoor and indoor prostitution in all its myriad forms – and has actually come up with a reasonably credible estimate of what percentage of sex workers fall into this category or that one?

It simply doesn’t exist – and we’re certainly not going to get one as long as sex work remains criminalised in some parts of the world, stigmatised in nearly all. There isn’t even a universally-agreed definition; many of those who trade sex for some sort of cash-or-kind benefit don’t consider what they do to be prostitution or sex work. So even if you tried to reach all “eligible” populations for research, you probably wouldn’t be able to.

The most we can say without veering off into pure guesstimation is that street prostitution is a minority of all prostitution. How small a minority, nobody knows. In Ireland I’ve heard estimates from people on both sides of the issue that range from 3% to 20%; I’ve never seen an estimate from any other country that placed street prostitution in the majority. This isn’t proof, of course, but it means it’s not really a matter for debate – so we can work from the position that most sex workers are indoor workers. This right away means that the “unrepresentative” studies are those that focus solely or mainly on street workers. Unfortunately, that accounts for a significant amount of sex work research, for the simple reason that street workers are often the easiest population to get to. The far more hidden nature of indoor prostitution makes it unsafe to draw conclusions about the people involved in it. Most of those who work independently, in particular, will never come to researchers’ attention (an aside to certain Irish NGOs and Swedish government officials: they don’t all advertise on the internet) and we will never know how many of them there are.

Note that I am not asserting that a majority of sex workers fall into what I call the less vulnerable categories. It is quite possible that they don’t. But it cannot be proven that they don’t – and to cite Melissa Farley’s 89% statistic as evidence of anything other than the sample interviewed for Farley’s study, is junk science.

But even if we assume the accuracy of the 89% claim, it doesn’t necessarily mean everything that abolitionists think it means. It cannot be assumed that everyone has the same thing in mind when they answer the question “do you want to leave prostitution”. First, we don’t know how the question was translated into all the different languages of the respondents, so we don’t know if there was any ambiguity in the question they were asked. Second, there is some ambiguity in English too, because it could be taken to mean “right now”, “at some point in the next __ period of time” or “ever”. (Irish readers who think I’m splitting hairs with this should consider the polls that show a large majority who “want” a united Ireland.)

A fascinating insight into this question can be found in Nick Mai’s hugely important recent study on migrant sex workers in Britain (that link is to an abbreviated version of the report; I have the full document but can’t find a link to it). Dr Mai’s team spoke to 100 migrant sex workers, many of them undocumented (and hence really really really vulnerable), some of them having suffered exploitation. He asked them if they wanted to leave the sex industry, and sure enough, around 75% said yes. But what were the reasons they gave? It’s boring. It’s repetitive. It isn’t a viable long-term career option. These are not exactly factors unique to sex work. Furthermore, the research makes clear that “wanting to leave the sex industry” does not necessarily translate to being unhappy with one’s experiences in the sex industry.

Nor does it inevitably lead to the conclusion that abolitionists think it does, namely:

Those who want prostitution to be legal are only speaking for the elite minority (sic).

The assumption here is that those sex workers who would rather be doing something else, but don’t have those options, don’t think that what they are doing should be legal. Again, there’s a Farley statistic which seems to back this up: only 34% in her nine-country study gave “legalize prostitution” as a response to “What do you need?”.

But this statistic seems to be an outlier, because other research on vulnerable populations finds the exact opposite:

  • the Nick Mai study referred to above, in which all participants said that decriminalisation would improve conditions for sex workers
  • this study of San Francisco sex workers, in which street-based and drug-addicted sex workers clearly overwhelmingly supported removal of criminal laws and the introduction of laws protecting sex workers’ rights
  • The Christchurch School of Medicine study of the impact of decriminalisation in New Zealand, in which upwards of 90% of street workers felt they had rights under the law, and 61.9% said the law made it easier for them to refuse clients

And here comes the next objection, that

Those studies aren’t (sigh) representative of all prostitution, only First World prostitution.

The claim that the sex workers’ rights movement is a purely white, western phenomenon is one of abolitionism’s biggest falsehoods. In fact, Global South sex workers could teach their Northern counterparts a thing or two when it comes to organising for sex workers’ rights. Here is a videoclip of sex workers in Sonagachi, Calcutta, marching against criminalisation of their industry. Here is a photo of members of the Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers holding a banner with their slogan, “Don’t talk to me about sewing machines. Talk to me about workers’ rights” (a reference to their annoyance at “rescuers” whose only interest in them is trying to take them out of the sex trade). Here is a link to Empower, the Thai sex workers’ rights organisation, and here is the African Sex Worker Alliance. You still want to argue that only privileged white westerners think sex work is work? Take it up with them, not me.

None of this should be really surprising, because as I’ve pointed out before, it is precisely the most vulnerable workers who are most adversely affected by criminalisation. For every Heidi Fleiss who goes to prison, how many “Tabithas” do you think there are? The same is true in Sweden, where native, non-drug using indoor sex workers like Pye Jakobsson are relatively shielded from the negative consequences of the law, while those who don’t have the luxury of working indoors have to fend with the clients that don’t care about being arrested, and those who are migrants are simply deported.

I hesitate to draw conclusions about it since it’s such a small sample, but on the rare occasions that I’ve heard a (current) sex worker speak in favour of criminalisation, it’s been because they like the idea that they’re doing something illegal. To prefer working in a criminalised environment because it’s “edgy”, and to be able to afford being so blasé about the risks you’re taking? Now that is fucking privilege speaking.

I’ll wind this up now because it’s already gone on long enough, but there’s one final point I want to make. This entire argument about “representativeness” rests on an odious position – that the (assumed) majority view is the only one worth listening to. That people who don’t fall into that (assumed) majority don’t deserve to have their needs taken into account. This is a position that feminists in particular should be wary about taking: feminism has already alienated so many “minority” women precisely because of its focus on the needs of dominant categories, its failure to understand that it doesn’t always get it when it comes to what women in more marginalised categories need. I would like to think that nowadays, most half-clued-in hetero white able-bodied feminists at least realise that it is not our place to decide who is The Authentic VoiceTM of Black women, or of LBTQ women, or of women with disabilities, so why would we outside the industry assume the right to decide who can speak for other sex workers?

If the aim is actually to improve the lives of people in the sex trade, that has to start with giving them the space to put forward their own views on how it can be achieved. And it means listening to them all. We don’t have to, and indeed logically couldn’t, agree with them all but we need to listen. After all, even the most privileged white western indoor high-class Happy Hooker type knows more about what sex workers need than non-sex workers do.

About Wendy Lyon

Fighting a lonely battle for evidence-based policy and the proper use of apostrophes.

154 responses »

  1. I worked as a sex worker for over five years, I know all about what should be done for the safety of sex workers. I know every inch of the sex industry here, I was fully independent and know the full scale of good things and bad things about prostitution. But I still don’t agree with you. I am still a representative of a sex worker though.

    Reply
    • Hi Melissa, I didn’t say that all sex workers would agree with me! The problem is the attempt to shut down debate by dismissing the views of those sex workers who do agree with me – or to put it more appropriately, those with whom I agree. To argue that those sex workers are wrong for reason x, y or z is fine. To simply refuse to listen to them on the basis that (to quote a Tweet I received from a sex worker who identified with this post) “your life experience doesn’t count” – that is not fine. But that is exactly what is happening.

      Reply
      • i guess i feel that your viewpoint and kind of the way you write communicates to me that my experience doesn’t count. This is Melissa by the way i’m not used to these things. I don’t want to get into a big conversation about it, but I don’t feel like I have any voice in these debates, only Ruhama and TOBL do, my voice doesn’t fit in with either, and I can’t risk my anonymity so I just get to read peoples opinions online, it’s pretty frustrating, I’m sure you can imagine.

        Reply
      • i guess i feel that your viewpoint and kind of the way you write communicates to me that my experience doesn’t count.

        I said “it means listening to them all.” All means all.

        Anyway, you have a voice here, so feel free to use it :)

        Reply
        • The big question Wendy — is who exactly are those sex workers who agree with you. I think it’s quite likely many of them are actually making a profit off the sexual exploitation of women besides themselves. Like Sheila Farmer, who pretends she was a prostitute when she actually was a madam. As a survivor of ten years of prostitution, based on my extensive experiences within the sex industry I know for a fact that precious precious few prostituted women share your views.

        • We all support decriminalization of the selling of sex — that’s a nonissue with us. But I’ve never met a prostitution survivor who wanted pimping decriminalized, unless this ‘survivor’ was currently commercially sexually exploiting young vulnerable women.

        • depends drastically on your definition of pimping
          Throughout Europe there are sex clubs situated
          These places hire women and men to work in them.
          They are like strip clubs but with full sex on offer.

          I dont see a problem with these

        • Well, I know plenty of sex workers who want to ensure that those who are not operating independently are able to enforce their rights through employment law. Something that isn’t possible under the legal regime that you advocate.

          (Incidentally, the Swedish Health Board reported in 2007 that there are more pimps as a result of the sex purchase ban.)

        • Those who identify as “prostituted women” may well not share my views. But you know full well, through your online interactions with those who identify as sex workers, that quite a number of them do. You just don’t accept the validity of their identity or their experiences. Which is a shame, since they never seem to extend you the same discourtesy.

  2. Love this piece with one exception, anti-sex-work advocates who promote the use of policing and imprisonment as the remedy to sex work are not abolitionists. Abolitionists are opposed to slavery in all its forms, including its manifestation within the prison industrial complex–one cannot be an abolitionist if you seek to enslave the slaveholders. Abolitionists seek out alternative accountability and safety structures that do not rely on state violence and slavery. As an abolitionist, I am furious by the appropriation of the anti-sex-work movement of my movement.

    Reply
    • Hi Cynthia, thanks very much for your comment. I know sometimes “neo-abolitionist” is used to distinguish sex work opponents from abolitionists in the traditional sense. But I’m not sure that’s appropriate either, since it’s also been used to refer to the 1960s civil rights movement. “The anti-sex-work movement” is probably more accurate but a bit clumsy! Any ideas what other terms could be used? (Bearing in mind I would not like to get bogged down in disputes with this movement over what we call them and what they want to be called!)

      Reply
    • “Abolitionists are opposed to slavery in all its forms, including its manifestation within the prison industrial complex”

      The anti-sex-work(er) Abolitionists are very much like the pro-death penalty “pro-lifers” who oppose abortion. The lifers claim to be ‘pro-life’ when they are really just anti-abortion.

      This is just like the prohibitionists who claim to be abolitionists and promote the criminalization of the clients as in Sweden. They frame all the service users and management as predators and exploiters, which is false. They want them charged with a crime. They do not deny this. No one should call them abolitionists. They are prohibitionists.

      Reply
      • That’s a fair point Julie. I avoid “prohibitionists” simply because in my experience it only provokes them to argue why they shouldn’t be called that – and I really dislike arguing about labels. “Anti-abortion” doesn’t have the same effect! I’m going to keep trying to think of something.

        Reply
        • Prohibition invlves consumables like drugs or alcohol. NO ONE wants to prohibit sexual freedoms. I am a prostitution survivor. I am not a consumable substance, although the Johns and society saw me that way.

  3. Great article and some really interesting and informative comments!

    If anyone is interested in their experience as a sex worker being heard, I’m currently trying to put together a short radio piece for DIT FM about peoples experiences in the sex industry in Ireland.

    E-mail me at jennyrosedunne@gmail.com if you’re interested in taking part or would like more information about it.

    Reply
  4. There’s a lot of stigma in society in my opinion and not just in relation to prostitution/sex work. Take the 2002 SAVI report, the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland report. This report only reports on sexual related violence and the numbers are huge! 35% of all Irish men and women have experienced rape or sexual abuse during the course of their lifetime! There’s a whole subculture of rape and sexual violence and abuse in Irish society. Our Government, it seems to me, is not facing up to this systemic crisis. This goes, hand in hand, in my view, with the failure of the Irish government to vindicate the social, labour, civil, human, labour, health and political rights of sex workers. From the top down, our government is refusing to face these social problems and conundrums.

    I expect the answers to these problems will be coming for the most part from the global south during the course of the 21st century, led by the BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, rather than from the USA led “West”.

    Reply
  5. YES YES YES. So much vigorous agreement on my end. As a sex worker who is currently working and currently a student majoring in Women’s Studies, I’ve been getting a lot of flack from one of my profs who says things to me like, “well, your experiences are one in a million and not representative of the whole, you have so much privilege” blah blah. And it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I tell her that actually, no, most of the women I know who work in the industry are very much like me–generally educated (many of us have at least university level educations), working indoors, relatively free from police surveillance and so forth. She is still convinced that prostitution is an extension of male privilege and I’m ignoring my complicity in patriarchy and on and on. Since the seminar is on Sex, Feminism and Globalization you can imagine the number of discussions we’ve had with regard to agency and I feel like I’m always defending prostitution and decriminalization. Anyway, it was just very refreshing to read this and have someone say all the things I’ve been feeling but haven’t been able to articulate.

    Reply
    • I’ve been banging my head against the feminist wall on this issue a lot too. It’s so frustrating. And yes, misinformation is a huge factor, I remember being that clueless too unfortunately.

      Reply
  6. Interesting article, and I strongly agree that the *sale* of sex should be decriminalised, but my issue with prostitution is the purchase and the commodification of women and their bodies.

    I have never worked in the sex industry, but know quite a few who have none of them see it as “just work”.

    Criminalising purchase would put a powerful tool into the hands of sex workers as well as sending an unambiguous message that buying women for sexual purposes is not ok. On the other hand if you choose to sleep with someone and they choose to give you money then that’s no-one else’s business.

    It us privilage to assume that because you have choices, ability to exit and to ensure your safety other women have the same. Many end up in the industry through poverty, abuse and addiction and are then the prey for the sexual preditors who pay to further abuse them.

    Reply
    • I have never worked in the sex industry, but know quite a few who have none of them see it as “just work”.

      One of the slogans that many sex workers use is: “Sex work is work”. So clearly, some of them do see it that way.

      It us privilage to assume that because you have choices, ability to exit and to ensure your safety other women have the same.

      I don’t know of any sex worker who assumes that to be the case for all others. In fact, sex workers know better than anyone else what leads people into the industry.

      Anyway, for those who don’t have other choices, how would it help them to criminalise their clients and take away their only source of income? If they have no other choices, what else are they going to do?

      Reply
      • I speak only of those who I have known who are/have been involved in the industry. I’m not denying that some see it as “just work” but there are a substantial number who don’t, and generally they are the ones with the least choices who come to prostitution as a last resort rather than as an informed choice.

        It is the demand which leads the supply in the industry, I strongly support the decriminalisation of those who sell sexual services, but at the same time *buying* sexual services is abusive. The same arguments used to be made for prosecuting domestic violence – that if abused wives have no options but to stay with their partners what good does prosecution do. It normalises the industry, it makes it acceptable and tolerated. It is none of my business if someone chooses to accept money in exchange for sex; however if someone offers money for sex, IMHO that becomes abusive as the consent is then economically coerced.

        Reply
      • It is the demand which leads the supply in the industry

        It’s more complicated than that. A number of studies of the industry based on economic models have shown this; it’s also shown by real life in jurisdictions where measures have been brought in with the intention of reducing demand. Even where they work to some extent, there is still a supply – in fact, there is an oversupply, which is a very dangerous situation for sex workers since it creates a buyer’s market.

        The same arguments used to be made for prosecuting domestic violence – that if abused wives have no options but to stay with their partners what good does prosecution do.

        And in fact a lot of people who work with domestic violence sufferers oppose mandatory prosecutions for that very reason – because it fails to take into account individual situations where you might in fact make a woman’s situation worse by prosecuting her abuser.

        Anyway, as Matthias says you haven’t answered my question as to what becomes of the sex workers whose only income source is taken away from them. Is it your position that making those sex workers utterly destitute is an acceptable price to pay to “send a message” about buying sex?

        It is none of my business if someone chooses to accept money in exchange for sex; however if someone offers money for sex, IMHO that becomes abusive as the consent is then economically coerced.

        That’s an absurdly reductionist statement. People offer other people money for things all the time – is it always economic coercion to do so, or only when it comes to sex?

        PS: Thanks for the kind words Matthias :)

        Reply
  7. Quite apart from the methodological flaws and response biases that you have rightly identified, I also find the “would you like to leave” or “why do you do sex work” questions a peculiar red herring, and one that only seems to come up when discussing the sex industry. It is unfortunate that lots of people find themselves in lots of jobs that they don’t want to do, or that wouldn’t be their first choice. Add to that the stigma surrounding sex work and it’s small wonder lots of sex workers will say they’d rather do something else.

    If Farley’s hang up wasn’t about the sex aspect, she would ask: “given the range of options open to you, and the incomes and disadvantages you get with each option, which would you choose”. But the truth is, Farley and her ilk would rather see people live lives of poverty and destitution than help them work more safely in an industry they can’t abide.

    Reply
  8. I worked for a long long time as an independent sex worker and I would call it selling my body… I don’t disagree with earning a living, unfortunately for many women it’s a matter of survival, doing what they can to survive, not a career choice. In fact in all five years of working I never met another girl who did it out of a career choice, or a desire to do this job. This is beside the point though. Selling sex should definitely be decriminalised, to take into account all the different ways women get into sex work. There is no ‘Choice v Trafficking’ here, it is far more complex than that and every case in unique. The thing that always troubled me was the types of men that were punters. They’re mostly not so nice, in my experience anyway. I’m sure I’ll get a load of backlash for this but please be gentle, i’m just trying to say how I feel about my own experience.

    Reply
    • The thing that always troubled me was the types of men that were punters. They’re mostly not so nice, in my experience anyway.

      I wonder how much of this is down to the fact that they can afford not to be nice, since they’re dealing with people who don’t have any rights. In the qualitative research that’s been done into the New Zealand decriminalisation – which was done with the primary objective of giving rights to sex workers – a lot of them seem to feel that the law reform has put “manners” on the punters.

      Reply
  9. Of course my input is invaluable, I worked for over 5 years in the industry! Don’t try to imply that it is less valuable than that pof a currently working girl. Do you know when I stopped? no you don’t.

    I didn’t say anything about what I thought of criminalising the punter. Stop assuming and putting words in my mouth.

    ‘ stop treating one of them like as if they are braindead victims.’

    When did i do this?

    Im not jumping on any side of the argument, although it is clear that you wish i would.
    I should have been empowered and all the rest of what you said. Who said i wasn’t? Where did I say that I was a victim?

    STOP stereotying me, you know a tiny miniscule tidbit about me, that i used to work, dont any more, and dont really like punters. That is Literally ALL you know so stop assuming and judging, it’s shocking.

    Reply
  10. I actually support decriminalising prostitution. As someone who has worked for a substantial amount of years in sex work, I don’t understand why you are lecturing me on how sex industry works, and how it should work, I know all about it. There’s also a shit load of abuse that goes on in sex work, and in the websites that run the sex industry, and will go on forever in sex work whether it is legalise/decriminalised or not.

    Reply
    • Melissa, as another former sex worker, I find the Guest’s reply to you troubling, even though I generally agree with her/his points. I too see these long tirades in response to you as patronizing and dismissing. Instead of talking to you, instead of a dialogue, those posts talk all over you.

      What do you feel we need to make the lives of people in the sex industry better? When you say you disagree, what is it you disagree with? What kind of abuse do you see and do you have any vision of support that could be put in place to decrease it?

      You mentioned, I think, that you had ideas about improving safety but I didn’t really see you sharing them. May I ask as to why? My immediate thoughts were that you did not feel safe to do so or sure that your input was wanted, but that is an assumption.

      I realize I may be too late to this conversation…

      Reply
      • But Melissa also sought to distance herself from Ruhama, so I don’t think it’s fair to just automatically lump her in with them. I was hoping she would expand more on where she differs from them (as well as from me), but if she wasn’t comfortable doing that then so be it. Listening to people also means respecting their decision not to speak.

        And I really don’t think it’s fair to say that she “doesn’t give a fuck about” current sex workers! The fact that she supports decriminalising selling sex indicates that she does. The Swedish government has really abandoned this support IMHO and has taken on a position that those who stay in the sex industry deserve what they get, but I don’t think that’s at all true about most of the people (at least outside of Sweden) who support the law. If indeed that is what Melissa supports in the first place.

        Be nice on my comments page please :)

        Reply
        • The point should not be whether or not Melissa sought to distance herself from Ruhama, but that she is a sex industry survivor speaking out about her experiences and opinions. There’s nothing more difficult than coming out as a sex industry survivor.

  11. well the problem is that outliers can’t represent the majority. That principle is the very foundation of statistical analysis. And it’s been well documented by a variety of sources that the vast majority of sex workers have been coerced into prostitution. The average age at which a girl starts is now 11, *I think*.

    And the argumentation which is being used is not internally consistent. Your first reason is that outliers are more important than the vast majority and then your second reason is that outliers are not important — anything which doesn’t support your claim is an outlier and should be disregarded. Seriously very sorry but I get compulsive about that sort of thing.

    Reply
    • And it’s been well documented by a variety of sources that the vast majority of sex workers have been coerced into prostitution.

      No, it hasn’t. Did you actually even read the piece? The vast majority of research has been done on the sectors where coercion is more likely to occur. That doesn’t make those results represent “the vast majority of sex workers”.

      And that’s not even getting into your no doubt overly broad definition of “coercion”.

      The average age at which a girl starts is now 11, *I think*.

      Wrong again.

      Reply
  12. I can understand someone’s desire to see themselves represented, or their presence at least acknowledged, but patriarchy and people who enjoy exploiting women would LOVE to take your presence and pretend it’s the majority — as you have done here.

    And speaking of which, unless you yourself are a sex worker who was brought up in a woman-respecting environment and who has other equally lucrative options available to you, it seems kind of suspicious to find you more concerned with five mythical women rather than the vast majority. Kind of like somebody who would rather direct attention away from a holocaust and towards Disney Land.

    What’s your actual motive here? Is the purpose a personal one? So you can tell yourself most men aren’t total shits? And that fond wish will be automagically true if you just convince enough people to see things through your lens? Seriously, humble apologies for being such an unmitigated pessimist, but something else is going on here.

    Reply
  13. @m Andrea
    “Now it actually says, in the context of the law, it says that no
    prostitution is prostitution out of free will. It means that
    everybody is a victim. If you scream and shout that you’re
    not a victim you are suffering from a false consciousness.
    And if you try to convince them that you’re not even suffering
    from a false consciousness, they will say: “Well you’re not
    representative”.
    {www.swannet.org/node/1512}

    case after case in Ireland shows that women have come here and freely chosen to work in the trade.
    They are then prosecuted under brothel keeping laws.
    97% of all prosecuted in this field are women

    http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/2-women-fined-for-keeping-brothel-157159.html

    Reply
  14. @Melissa if still around
    In an ideal world what law(s) would you like to be introduced

    Reply
  15. Pingback: What is a representative sex worker? « escorts are for women too

  16. M Andrea,

    I dated a prostitute in Korea for about 8 months. As in, not paying for sex. I was her boyfriend, in effect. I fell into the relationship because she was a remarkable person. And it was raining.

    But her experience as a prostitute was not remarkable. Many women in Korea accept money for sex. Men want sex more (many times more ) than most women do; in fact, it’s less like a desire and more like a desperate compulsion. That women mistake this is a tragedy in gender relations.

    This will always render men paying for sex on some level. She understood this and felt it was both natural and extremely convenient for her.

    She never felt abused, by the industry: neither did the girls she knew. She was specifically abused by two men who raped her, but she could have been raped by an uncle or, like her closest friend, by her mother (who sexually abused her friend for most of her teenage years).

    It’s bizarre that all kinds of human activities can be transactional but somehow sex is some kind of sacred, pure experience that must be above the marketplace. Get real. And as for power imbalances – welcome to the Human Race. No activity in human life isn’t governed by power imbalances. This the very nature of the “marketplace”.

    What about Sugar Daddies and all the scores of women who marry for money or security? From a man’s perspective, the only difference between a woman who marries a rich man because he’s rich and a prostitute is the price and the service. There is no other difference of any kind. The transaction is identical.

    I detect a distinct vein of sexual puritanism cloaked in the tattered rags of gender identity politics in much of the anti-sex trade bafflegab of M Andrea.

    * That you would even pretend to compare violent rape to the consensual exchange of money for sexual services does such a disgusting disservice to actual victims of rape, you need to have your moral compass reexamined. *

    I find this statement of hers – that prostitution is by definition rape – so delusional and repugnant that it makes me want to retch. Any woman who makes this argument is an enemy to women everywhere, in all possible respects. It’s repugnant on so many levels it’s hard to name all of them.

    And as for the power imbalance in the trade, I ask you this:

    What about the power imbalance when a waiter is forced to work for slave wages to serve the rich who dine in a restaurant?

    Get real. Sex is exactly like all other human activities. In many cases, women have more power than men in this transaction.

    My ex-GF had any sentimentality on this point pounded out of me. I was a white-knight champion of the anti-sex-trade until I met her. She schooled me thoroughly.

    The very last thing she ever wanted was 1) pity, 2) coercion (by those claiming to speak in her interests) and 3) Judgment.

    Her attitude: If she wanted to fuck someone for money, usually a lot more money than she could ever make working in some hellish office sitting behind a desk dodging the bullets of office nattering and politics, then the rest of the world could stuff it up their collective arses and eat it. She was going to fuck men for money because the men wanted to pay her. Frankly, you can call it rape all you want but doing so doesn’t make it so, any more than calling the moon cheese makes it camembert.

    And you can take that to the bank. She certainly did.

    As much as I had problems with what she did, I respected her will and her choices.

    Your opinions are so profoundly insulting to female agency and independence that it makes you the most dangerous dupe paternalistic patriarchy ever to have walked in the path of supposed female liberation. I hope you don’t call yourself any kind of “feminist”, because at best you’re a patronizing infantilizer of women. It’s actually somewhat disgusting.

    And you can take that to the bank, too.

    And one more thing for you to deposit:

    What another woman does with her body is of exactly zero concern to you. There is no amorphous “Our bodies” or “our femininity” or “Our Gender” that other women betray or sell.
    Your are affected exactly 0%. Your body is not what they’re selling. An individual makes a choice; they’re making no kind of gender statement.

    You have no claim whatsoever on what anyone else – male or female – ever does with their bodies or their minds. They have none on you.

    A woman owes exactly nothing to the Sisterhood.

    My ex would have eaten you for lunch and taken your supposed compassion and told you to reserve it for other objects of your own delusions. I know. She did the same with me.

    Reply
  17. M Andrea,

    All human activity is based on the inequal exchange of services and goods. It’s not imperialism or oppression. When I get desperate and sell property at a loss, a musical instrument or a house, I’m disadvantaged. When I sell my services to my employers for as much money as I can get, it’s called self interest.

    Unless sex is some spiritual exercise meant to be above all human nature (and not the cornerstone of it), then all sexual transactions – which is what they are, no matter how you delude yourself to the contrary – will follow the rules of all other human transactions.

    All human activity is transactional. All ape social activity is transactional, for that matter. All social behavior is transactional in every possible way.

    If this is difficult for you to deal with, perhaps you should apply to emigrate to a different species, because being human is clearly going to be a problem for you.

    People working in sweatshops to make clothing are at the bottom end of the exchange train. Some women in the sex trade are also at the bottom. A very large number are at the top – and make more money than you will ever even imagine.

    My ex owned two apartments in Seoul after 5 years in her Industry of Rape. There were MALE CUSTOMERS who worked for 20 years who didn’t own their own places. Her story was remarkable *ONLY* because she was smart with money: She made no more than any other woman among her peers. She saved and invested it all. Her peers often blew it on clothing and trips abroad and manicures, while she scrimped and saved.

    I asked her once if she would advise a daughter to do this. Do you want to know her exact words?

    I’d assess whether or not my daughter was pretty enough to make enough money and be comfortable. And then I’d say do it t make money, not as a lifestyle. And I’d help her.

    Sex is not above human nature. Give me a break.

    This is why it’s so hard to speak to prohibitionists: they have delusional ideas about human nature and society. And they refuse, refuse flat out to see people as individuals.

    For once, try to see beyond your own personal narcissism. We are not members of categories to be manipulated or legislated for or against.

    Reply
  18. Mhairi,

    If someone offers money for sex it’s coercion, but not accepting it? Please: If one end of a transaction is legal, then so must be the other. You’re trying to imply motive and thus make purchasing sex a crime.

    This bothers me:
    the commodification of women and their bodies.

    Male attention and resources are deeply commoditized. I hear no complaints from you about that.

    Face reality: Because men are compelled to have sex in far greater degree than women, women have become commoditized *throughout history*. In fact, this is exactly as true of great apes, too. Men don’t have access to wombs: we must fight for and purchase access through the provisioning of resources. This is how we’re programmed.

    Sex for *ALL SPECIES OF ANIMALS* is a commodity, the most valuable commodity because it means genetic survival.

    if you have a problem with commoditizing sex, and hence female beauty, then how do you deal with getting up in the morning?

    Every conceivable aspect of life is commoditized. This is not just true today. Every aspect of life throughout history, in even the most ancient records, has had a price tag attached to it. Economic exchange is the very nature of not just human but all animal socialization.

    We are animals – exactly like every other animal. No different. Our society emerges as a complex structure from an exchange-based social order so rooted in biology, in the very nature of life itself, that it’s hard to parse out individual elements.

    Men are exactly as commoditized as women. What bothers you, I suspect, is this:

    You are required to compete on a socio-sexual marketplace for the attention of the males you find attractive with females that are competitive. If men desire a higher value mate and you find it difficult to compete, or if your monopoly on the access to sex and reproduction is broken through some women selling it at a cheaper price (prostitutes, women who like flings or one-night-stands, women who don’t seek any commitments, etc.), or by women who are much more attractive, then you get angry.

    You resent your value being measured against others in what is, in effect, a marketplace. Because make no bones about it: The dating and sex world are marketplaces in exactly the same way as the market for VCRs and houses. This is so obvious and so demonstrable as to be nearly a truism.

    Women commoditize men in the same manner, often in exactly the same manner. Are you proposing legislation against this?

    The gender that wants more sex – not companionship, not emotional support, not understanding, but SEX – will end up becoming a Buyer in a Marketplace. This is as true for sex as it is for any other conceivable good or service. That men desire, on average, sex much more is a rock-solid anchor of all psychological research. Social experiments have proven this endlessly. They continue to do so. This is also obvious to anyone but the ideologically blind, too, but science proves it with every possible experiment ever conducted.

    If you want to exempt sexual attraction and sex from the marketplace and commoditization, I suggest you start banning nightclubs, online dating services, “hot or not” on the web, most television, the Star System of all movie industries (because some aspect of sexuality is always commoditized), and anything else that links sexual attraction, sex and money. In other words, 90% of all human activity. Because, let’s face it: we spend most of our time thinking about sex, planning for sex, or trying to plan for sex, when we’re not engaging in sex. Love songs, ie the whole music industry commoditizing emotions and sex, a good percentage of art, which probably emerged as a tool to acquire mates much like the peacock’s tail, clothing that serves anything but a purely pragmatic function, etc. All of human activity.

    Sex is naturally then linked to social status. Social status is designed to get you better sexual partners, those seen as more desirable. It’s why rich men and women commoditize sex and those who provide it: Because they can and it’s what all humans do all the time, they just have more money and status and can therefore get snazzier partners. You can deny this but my suggestion is for you to open your eyes.

    If all you want to do is privilege women – some aspects of feminine identity – over men, then please, by all means, come clean and be honest about it.

    But note that while you do this, you’re infantilizing women and treating them like babies.

    Most women not only have no problem commoditizing themselves, they actively engage in it. The ones who complain are those who lose out in those stakes.

    If you dislike this, I propose that you move to Saudi Arabia – there, they agree, and Respect the Rights of Woman to Self-Respect and Modesty. There, you don’t need to worry about being commoditized.

    But then you must accept permanent childhood.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Either you are an individual and you live in the marketplace of the human world as an individual, or you’re the digested puppet of some series of labels and categories flung hither and thither for the benefit of supposed Greater Identities.

    I would suggest that your fate will be infinitely better as an Individual.

    Your fundamental problem is that you can’t accept the human race for what it is. Your ideology, ingested wholesale from the textbooks of misanthropy, can’t deal with humans
    as they are.

    So you need to invent some bizarre worldview where humans are some sort of pure ideological essence, some non-animal lifeform.

    I objectify my partner sexually. I absolutely do it. She objectifies me. It is the very essence of sexuality: We objectify as sexual beings because sexuality is based on the objectification of the object of desire.

    Objectification is desire. Commoditization is social life.

    Deal with it.

    Making policy on your whacked-out versions of some species of human that’s never existed is a recipe for gross injustice and rank social chaos.

    Come to think about it, the similarities between your ideological viewpoint and those of bizarre religious conservatives with their apriori notions about human virtues are telling. You both come at the problem of human existence with the same attitudes, and it’s why it’s so easy to label this entire branch of feminism as a kind-of marxist inspired Victorian puritanism – because that’s exactly what it is.

    Decide to be a member of the human race. Deal with the fact that there are “Others”, and they Want Things From You and You Want Things From Them. It’s what you do anyway, no matter what you tell yourself.

    You are a social animal. An animal. Deal with it.

    Reply
  19. Pingback: Abolitiononist Research Questioned « Rooted In Being

  20. Hello,

    I actually reposted this on my blog with a link back to you. I think this is an interesting debate. I am wondering if you could provide me with the research/articles/opinions that finally helped you form your opinion around this issue.

    I am a trauma counselor in my city working with women in prostitution who have been sexually abused. We also do outreach (harm reduction). I always ask new people I meet in this field (therapy/advocacy/outreach) what stand they take, and it has always been abolitionist.

    I could never deny that for some women it is truly a choice, I could NEVER deny that – but I guess I wonder where our responsibility lies in regards to the vulnerable populations who ARE enslaved/coerced/pimped, etc? How do you separate the two? In my city pimping and street prostitution is what I see and street prostitutes are who I work with, and as the marginalized in this hierarchy of the sex industry, it seems like you are saying “so what” to the women in Farley’s research (the most marginalized..

    What do you propose as a solution to this debate? Do we differentiate the two “groups” of sex workers, or do we legalize everything for the ones who are in it willfully?

    LGBTQ youth, economically disadvantaged women, those with histories of sexual abuse, the homeless who turn to survival sex, are the populations who are in need in this situation and whose circumstances trump their “choices.” How do you view this?

    Also, I don’t think saying “we need to listen to sex workers” is a valid argument. There are women on both sides of this debate who are or have been involved in the sex industry.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi almostclever,

      I am wondering if you could provide me with the research/articles/opinions that finally helped you form your opinion around this issue.

      My opinion was originally formed by listening to sex workers I’ve known, and since then I’ve literally read hundreds of pieces of research and other articles on this, so it’s not really feasible for me to provide you with stuff. But it’s easy enough to find. Start by looking up sex workers’ organisation websites, look up what the HIV sector says – they’re a really good resource because they deal with the issue from a health perspective.

      I always ask new people I meet in this field (therapy/advocacy/outreach) what stand they take, and it has always been abolitionist.

      I don’t know what city you’re in but I can assure you there are plenty of outreach and advocacy groups that are not abolitionist.

      it seems like you are saying “so what” to the women in Farley’s research (the most marginalized

      That is not at all what I am saying. In fact, as I pointed out, it is the most marginalised who are most hurt by laws that render their industry illegal. I’d refer you to this post where I discussed the particularly vulnerable sex workers and pointed out that if they really don’t have any other sources of income, taking away their income from sex work leaves them with nothing – and then what do they do? I’ve never seen an abolitionist satisfactorily answer this question; they talk about providing other options, which I agree with, but always skirt around the issue of what becomes of those for whom these “other options” don’t materialise, which frequently, they don’t.

      Also, I don’t think saying “we need to listen to sex workers” is a valid argument. There are women on both sides of this debate who are or have been involved in the sex industry.

      And we should listen to all of them and learn from their experience. Frankly, I find it amazing that anyone would reject that as a valid argument. The first people we should listen to are always the people whose lives we’re discussing, whether it’s sex workers we’re talking about or anyone else.

      Reply
      • “And we should listen to all of them and learn from their experience. Frankly, I find it amazing that anyone would reject that as a valid argument. The first people we should listen to are always the people whose lives we’re discussing, whether it’s sex workers we’re talking about or anyone else.”

        Let me clarify: I hear it thrown around a lot by sex-positive feminists, that they are correct because they are “listening to sex workers” which is bunk in my opinion because I am listening to sex worker’s also and what I am hearing is very different from what you are advocating for.

        Therefore, basing one’s argument on “listening to sex workers” doesn’t make one’s claim more or less valid, because both sides of this debate are doing that, and coming up with very different answers.

        Reply
      • In other words, saying “I am right because I listen to sex workers” doesn’t cut it as an argument. Anyone invested in this cause is coming from that same position.

        Reply
      • I hear it thrown around a lot by sex-positive feminists, that they are correct because they are “listening to sex workers” which is bunk in my opinion because I am listening to sex worker’s also and what I am hearing is very different from what you are advocating for.

        Therefore, basing one’s argument on “listening to sex workers” doesn’t make one’s claim more or less valid, because both sides of this debate are doing that, and coming up with very different answers.

        Well I haven’t made any such claim, first of all. What I’ve said is simply that we need to listen to them, just as we would listen to the people whose lives we’re discussing in any other context.

        In other words, saying “I am right because I listen to sex workers” doesn’t cut it as an argument. Anyone invested in this cause is coming from that same position.

        I’m afraid that’s simply not true. Refusing to listen to sex workers is actually very common in the abolitionist movement. The Swedish Minister for Justice said in the Swedish Parliament that the idea that sex workers should have a say in all matters affecting them was “a strange view, a view which is very hard to attach to the view of prostitution i think one should have”. Many other abolitionists regularly deny that sex workers are capable of speaking for themselves (at least when they speak up for their rights). I find these approaches abhorrent, patronising, infantilising and totally incompatible with basic democratic and republican principles. They are also a breach of sex workers’ human rights in international law. All people have the right to a say in the matters affecting their lives.

        Reply
  21. I can agree with that, needing separate laws.. I don’t agree with full legalization, which would legalize pimping.

    Reply
    • As KMJ says, “pimping” is a scare word. If sex workers would rather leave things like bookings, security and advertising to a third party – and many of them would – they ought to be allowed to do so. Obviously great care is needed to ensure these types of relationships are simple business relationships and not exploitation, but you need a legal (preferably decriminalised) framework in order to be able to ensure that. It cannot be ensured where the relationship itself is illegal.

      Reply
      • I am talking about pimping as it’s original connotation. It is not a “scare” word, it is a reality! This is the problem I have with sex positive feminism, they fail to see the reality of the situation.

        I will not argue to legalize PIMPING, and your argument, in this seeming fairytale land of sex work, is not the area I am coming from.

        I am talking about playa pimps, mac pimps, and the regular old street pimps, from the neighborhoods I work in.

        Or do we not think about legalization making this category of men’s job legal? Is that something we gloss over, just as PTSD rates have been glossed over in your critique, or do you have a solution to that issue?

        Reply
      • I am talking about pimping as it’s original connotation.

        The problem is that most “pimping” laws cast the net far wider, and end up making it illegal for sex workers to pay someone to screen their phone calls, drive them to outcalls, serve as their bodyguard etc – even when there is no exploitation involved and the relationship is one where the sex worker is actually the boss. Potentially even live-in family members could be affected (the laws are usually drafted in terms like “living off the avails of prostitution”) although I don’t know if they are actually enforced in that manner anywhere.

        Or do we not think about legalization making this category of men’s job legal? Is that something we gloss over, just as PTSD rates have been glossed over in your critique, or do you have a solution to that issue?

        On the PTSD issue, I’ve addressed that a few places on this blog. Farley’s attempts to diagnose PTSD through a 15-minute self-administered questionnaire have been sharply criticised by a number of mental health professionals. In the South African case S v Jordan an affidavit submitted by the head of forensic psychiatry at Pretoria University Hospital stated flatly that “PTSD simply cannot be diagnosed in this manner”. In Bedford v Canada Farley herself was forced to admit under oath that she couldn’t actually say that the PTSD rates she found were actually linked to sex work, rather than being linked to other factors that she found amongst her subjects, such as high rates of homelessness.

        But back to “pimping”, I’d address this two ways. First of all, sex workers often turn to pimps because criminal laws have made it more difficult for them to operate alone. Off the top of my head, I’m aware of research from Ireland, Sweden and Canada which shows a link between criminal laws and increased pimping. Sex workers might need bail and protection money, someone to look out for police, or someone to serve as a middleman between them and clients. So remove those laws and you eliminate that need. Secondly, bring sex workers within the laws applying to any other category of worker, which prohibit exploitation, and enforce those laws as you’d enforce them in any other industry.

        Reply
  22. @almostclever

    Depends what you mean by “pimping”
    Pimping is a deformity term which has negative continations.

    If you just set up a bar where girls work mix and socialise with customers and provide sexual services. They pay as half of their earnings to the manager, all their earnings but receive a wage or pay a fee to work in the bar.
    If this is agreed, known and regulated I dont see a problem

    Take a legal and ligitamit beauty massage parlour,
    Whats stopping them running an extra service of “happy endings” at a extra fee

    In relation to your original post. You mention that most people you know support the abolitionist view point.

    This may be a good position if you could wave a magic wand and get rid of all prostitution. But this is the real world and you cant.
    Sweden Norway Iceland and the US have not removed prostitution and wont, therefore I believe you have to look at harm reduction protecting the men and women working in it (for what ever reason)

    Do you think a law banning purchasing of sex, criminalising clients will stop a person who wishes to attack a sex worker doing so.

    For example how would the law protect these sex workers

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipswich_serial_murders#Coverage_of_related_issues

    Reply
    • I am not talking about complex shit here, I am talking about street pimping. How do you propose this category of pimp be handled in a system of legalization?

      Reply
  23. Interesting perspective. Regarding my statement on listening to sex workers, I have already clarified that position to Wendy so will not reiterate again.

    I am in Milwaukee, WI United States – the most segregated city in my country. In my city street prostitution and traditional pimping is what we see most often at our agencies, so is what I focus on. It is also a race and class issue. Most women are of color, and socioeconomically disadvantaged. Most began as teenagers being pimped, and as adults remain in it as an only means of making money after years of being prostituted and trafficked for sex across state lines. A disproportionate number are of the LGBTQ community or communities of color. The women I see have been diagnosed with PTSD or display symptomology.

    This is the population I advocate for and work with. I wonder how legalization will benefit them when they began in the realm of coercion and are dealing with trauma. Whether that trauma began before they ever got into the sex trade, or was a direct result of the trade – is anyone’s guess..

    Does legalization benefit all, including the marginalized that seem not to be focused on by sex positive feminism? Does legalization help or further harm the socioeconomically and racially disadvantaged women, men, girls and boys that I work with? It seems there is no answer to that question. Everyone seems to default away from the marginalized and focuses instead on those who are conducting business transactions. How does legalization affect traditional pimping?

    Also, in my city we have solicitation laws, where those who are prostituted are the ones who get prosecuted and jailed most often. I want a focus on the pimps and the Johns, not on the women in the streets.

    Interesting perspective coming from the Irish side of things. I agree that we cannot make this issue a universal one. Each country is different and has different needs. Where I come from, I am completely against legalization and am in favor of the Swedish Model (so far, it seems to be the best approach).

    Reply
    • I want a focus on the pimps and the Johns, not on the women in the streets.

      The thing about the Swedish model is that it actually leaves the focus on the women in the streets – because they’re the gateway to the pimps and clients, and because they’re the most visible sign of an industry which the police are under orders to try to shut down. The police might not be able to actually arrest the sex workers, but they can still harass them, and many of them do. This doesn’t make sex workers feel safe, it makes them feel that the police are still out to get them. In the words of the Swedish government 2010 evaluation, they “feel hunted by police”. It doesn’t improve relations between police and sex workers and so it doesn’t make sex workers safer.

      As for whether “legalisation” would help the most marginalised, probably not, since legalisation generally just creates a two-tier system which excludes the most vulnerable. Decriminalisation, on the other hand, would allow the whole spectrum of sex workers to operate without facing the barriers to health and safety that criminal laws create. Research in New Zealand has found that the street workers and independent indoor workers alike feel more protected under decriminalisation.

      (I’m going to have very limited internet access for the next ten days or so, BTW, so don’t be surprised if I don’t come back to this for a while.)

      Reply
      • It is so odd how the information we have is so opposite, yet both sides touted as credible. It is maddening, to be honest.

        From the peer reviewed articles I have read, Sweden reduced street prostitution from 4,000 to the low hundreds over the course of five years – it is being deemed a success and as a country with the lowest trafficking rates as a result. Organized crime goes to places like Germany because it is simply easier to traffik there.

        Reply
  24. Someone asked me a question, but then i kept reading it and have now lost it!
    Here I am again anyway so if you remember the question go ahead, sorry about that.

    Reply
  25. That was me Melissa
    Q. In an ideal world what law(s) would you like to be introduced

    Reply
    • oh I don’t know. i have no idea. I’m finding commenting here really hard, as I am being judged by strangers who don’t know me, or my story. i simply said a few lines about nothing much to be honest. It’s quite scary how women like me are judged so harshly. Surely being non judgemental with all women in prostitution is a good place to start, regardless on how they feel about it. I have never spoken with any escort, retired or not, who reacted the way Guest reacted to me. It’s frightening how people who claim to be on the sex workers sides and totally liberal thinking and non judgemental are the cruellest, and most frightening. I speak in general, not just about reactions here. Apparently I don’t fit in with any stereotype, which is frustrating for those who want to box me off, i think.

      Reply
      • Im not reading that essay, I already said I support decriminalisation.

        Reply
        • The sale of sex was not decriminalized by the Swedish Sex Purchase Act. That implies that previous to the law being enacted the sale of sex was illegal. It wasn’t. What the Swedish Sex Purchase Act did was add an extra tier of criminality by criminalizing the purchase of sex. Before the law was enacted, the prostitution laws in Sweden were somewhat similar to the Republic of Ireland and Canada. The purchase and sale of sex wasn’t itself prohibited but activities surrounding it were, such as keeping a brothel, pimping, pandering, procuring, solicitation and so on.

      • I’ve just skimmed it, and WHAT a judgemental reply. It’s you who doesn’t care about sex workers, not me. You are presuming and judging, something I would never do with any sex worker, as I know how complex the whole thing is. You sound like a bully. I’m not coming back here, but well done on silencing me, not that I said much.

        Reply
  26. “On the PTSD issue, I’ve addressed that a few places on this blog. Farley’s attempts to diagnose PTSD through a 15-minute self-administered questionnaire have been sharply criticised by a number of mental health professionals. In the South African case S v Jordan an affidavit submitted by the head of forensic psychiatry at Pretoria University Hospital stated flatly that “PTSD simply cannot be diagnosed in this manner”. In Bedford v Canada Farley herself was forced to admit under oath that she couldn’t actually say that the PTSD rates she found were actually linked to sex work, rather than being linked to other factors that she found amongst her subjects, such as high rates of homelessness.”

    She utilized the same PCL instrument used to measure combat vets at the VA centers throughout America, it is a highly valid and reliable measure across ethnic cultures. That measure is how PTSD is diagnosed in the states, it is what psychiatrists and clinical psychologists use.

    Of course we cannot say what has caused the PTSD, it is a chicken or egg question. Does trauma lead to sex work, or does sex work cause trauma?

    Does it matter? Either way there are high rates of trauma, what do we do with that information? Nothing? Do we just deny it’s existence?

    Reply
    • For me PTSD was caused by abuse in my teenage years, which led me to become involved in prostitution which caused more trauma, so I guess there’s no answer to the chicken or egg question. At least in my case there isn’t, it all fed in to each other. I’m starting the long road to dealing with it now though.

      Reply
      • Melissa,

        Your answer is quite a normal response, so many women have had to cope with trauma from childhood, and it really does all feed into itself until we are able to get our head above it all and begin processing our experiences.

        I celebrate your process and your readiness to take those steps down the path of healing. You kick ass!

        Reply
      • Thanks so much Almost clever, Happy Holidays :) x

        Reply
  27. @almostclever

    Most sides agree hat street prostitution reduced as a result of the law
    That was in 1999 since then we have had an internet revolution and alot of sex workers moved in doors and started using the internet and phones.
    Some reports suggest the amount of sex workers working hasnt changed much.

    In Norway there is less evidence of it working (see post here)

    Reply
  28. just to add in relation to street prostitution
    The stats are irreverent in Ireland and where you are as it is already illegal for both parties to solicit sex on the street

    Reply
  29. @almostclever
    How would the Swedish Model benefit you in america
    The Swedish law basic aim is to kill prostitution by removing the demand
    The concept is no clients no prostitutes

    I know laws vary across America but over all the client does commit a crime.
    So how would it cut down on levels of prostitution

    Reply
    • In America (except in 10 counties in Nevada where brothels are legal), although our solicitation laws express a crime has been committed by both parties, in reality it is the people selling sex who are targeted – not the buyers or pimps. Solicitation laws lock up the women and men who are in the sex trade, not the people buying or pimping or profiting from sex workers.

      This is what makes me attracted to the Swedish Model. From what I have read it puts the focus on the people we need to be focused on, instead of on sex workers. The Swedish government has also provided job skills training, literacy classes, and other social services (for free) to people exiting sex work.

      I am attracted to this because of the high trauma rates being reported from more researchers than just Farley. I am attracted to this because the population I work with is the same population Farley reports on (the marginalized).

      I am always open to new findings, I am not staunch in my views because the truth is that nobody really knows what works or what doesn’t.

      For me, due to the high trauma rates, supporting sex work is supporting trauma of the marginalized, the coerced, and the enslaved. Let me once again reiterate that I do not believe all sex workers are of this population, but that this is the population I advocate for. For me, due to the hierarchy of the sex industry, the marginalized are never the focus, it is always the people who do have agency and consider themselves business people.

      My question always boils down to the following: How does what you advocate for effect marginalized populations? Does it help? Does it harm? Or do we simply not know?

      The population I work with is a part of the 89% who say they want out, my population is solely those who have been sexually abused and exploited (I am a trauma counselor and domestic violence advocate).

      Reply
      • “The Swedish law basic aim is to kill prostitution by removing the demand
        The concept is no clients no prostitutes”

        — I support this because:

        1. With the people I work with, I am against them being criminalized and re-victimized, I think the criminals are the Johns/Punters who buy sex from street prostitutes. I want to see this end and the responsibility placed on the shoulders of the demand.

        2. I want to see pimping ended.

        3. I want more social services available to people exiting, so they can build the skills needed to be able to make a living and be provided the counseling needed to regain their mental health. Women and men that I work with have either symptoms of PTSD or a full blown diagnosis. We provide our services to them for free and I want to see more of this happening for survivors.

        From where I stand and what I see, and who I work with and what I hear from them – Abolishment is where we stand.

        In social work there is a code of ethics, and part of that ethic is standing with the most vulnerable in our societies. For example, if I am mediating between a child and an adult – I would advocate for the child.

        If I am mediating between a more privileged, more liberated, more powerful population, and a more marginalized population – I would advocate for the more marginalized.

        It is called the hierarchy of vulnerability, which is why I find it an ethical obligation to advocate for those we never seem to focus on.

        Reply
      • In America

        America is the continents of North and South America. You can call the USA “America” ’til the cows come home but the reality is that the vast majority of the 95% plus of the world’s population who do not live in the USA do not call your country “America”. Live with it. Your Spanish speaking and Portuguese speaking compadres south of the border call your country “Estados Unidos” translated into “United States” in English or, in  full “Estados Unidos de America” in Spanish and “Estados Unidos da America” in Portuguese. Indeed, there are considerably more people from Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries in America (my definition) than there are people from the USA. Like me, they call the continents of North and South America, America.

        The man for whom America is named, Amerigo Vespucci, never even visited what is today the mainland of the USA. He visited what is today Brazil. So perhaps Brazil has more of a stake to the name? The first European person to reach what is today the mainland of the USA was a Spanish explorer called Juan Ponce De Leon in 1513 when he reached Florida. I wonder if “Poncia” will catch on amongst the folks there. 

        The Swedish government has also provided job skills training, literacy classes, and other social services (for free) to people exiting sex work.

        Swedish Sex Worker and Sex Worker Representative, Pye Jacobsson, says otherwise and she knows better than you.

        I am attracted to this because of the high trauma rates being reported from more researchers than just Farley. I am attracted to this because the population I work with is the same population Farley reports on (the marginalized).

        Melissa Farley is not a researcher. She is a propagandist. Like any good propagandist, she presents her so-called facts as the product of “research”. She has decided that all sex work is inherently bad, men controlling and raping women blaa blaa blaa, and then she conducts her so-called research to support the hypothesis. The facts were to be fitted around the ideology.

        It’s like when George W Bush decided to invade Iraq. In the run up to that war, as reported in the Downing Street Memo, the intelligence and facts were being fitted around the policy. The policy was to get rid of Saddam Hussein and if no intelligence and actual facts were found that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, (that could then conceivably be detonated in US cities and therefore put the fear into the minds of the US public) then they damn well will be invented. George W Bush didn’t want to honestly say to the US public “I want to finish the job of toppling Saddam Hussein that my Daddy failed to do”. Within a few months of the Iraq invasion, the Iraq Survey Group reported that Saddam Hussein had abandoned all his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs in 1991. 

        Reply
  30. Pingback: The “myth” of trafficking « Rooted In Being

  31. There seems to be this idea going about that prostitution has always been low in Sweden, both before and after the Sex Purchase Act became law in 1999. I don’t buy it. The only aspect of the sex industry in Sweden that was measured before the Sex Purchase Act was introduced was the street sex industry. It was found that the numbers of street sex workers working in Sweden’s cities was low compared to other countries. It’s cold in Sweden for 9 months of the year! What do you expect? Also, how could even this most visible aspect of sex work be measured accurately when even before the 1999 ban on sex purchase came in, surrounding activities like pimping, pandering, procuring, keeping a brothel, solicitation and so on was already criminalized? Sex work was already operating to some extent in the shadows in Sweden even before the Sex Purchase Act came into effect.

    Reply
  32. From the peer reviewed articles I have read, Sweden reduced street prostitution from 4,000 to the low hundreds over the course of five years – it is being deemed a success and as a country with the lowest trafficking rates as a result. Organized crime goes to places like Germany because it is simply easier to traffik there.

    What are your sources? The US State Department? The Swedish Government? A hunch? Even the Swedish government in its own report last year said that street sex work was reduced by half.

    Reply
  33. I was raped three times by three different clients. You are a joke.

    So are you a sex worker?

    Reply
  34. are you a sex worker?

    Why can’t you answer the question?

    Reply
  35. Why all the sensationalism like saying sex workers start at 11, its crazy to suggest things like that, at least from a western european perspective anyway.

    The age they start being sex workers in west europe is probably 20-30 age group, just as an estimate.

    It’s shocking! It’s like what Joseph Goebbels said: “If you tell a lie big enough and you keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” I think Joseph Stalin said something similar. Dictators and propagandists understand this instinctively. 

    So it is with the sex work prohibitionists. They’re fond of telling big lies and keep repeating them ad nauseum. Small lies are forgotten. Outrageous lies linger in the memory. They want to confuse, bewilder and stupefy the listener. They calculate that most people won’t do their own independent research on sex work and no doubt that is true so they seize on the outrageous lie/memorable catchy soundbite: “TORL are a million strong organization”, “The average age a sex worker starts is 11” and so on.

    Reply
  36. why won’t you answer the question: Are you/have you ever been a sex worker?

    Reply
  37. Let me clarify: I hear it thrown around a lot by sex-positive feminists

    I think this is a hilarious term – sex positive feminist. What’s the opposite of a sex positive feminist? A man-hater?

    Well, I suppose I am sex positive and because I am I am inclined to believe that there are 5 genders, not 2 – Men, women, transmen, transwomen and intersex. Do I think it is a scientific fact? No. But I’ll only stop one notch short.

    There was a study done recently in the United States that showed that a staggering 41% of transgender people there have attempted suicide. That breaks my heart. When passing laws, our lawmakers must consider both the pull of their heart as well as their head. As far as transgender and intersex people go, that means giving them what they want most of all – recognition. 

    In my view, a 5 gender society is more stable and stabilizing than a 2 gender one. The Bugis people are a tribal people from South Sulawesi in Indonesia. Many of them organize their society along 5 gender lines. Perhaps our so-called modern societies can learn a thing or two from them.

    Watch this YouTube video to learn more.

    The narrator confuses transgenders with transvestites which is unfortunate but apart from that it’s a very informative video. Read the interesting comment section too.       

    Reply
  38. Good grief. I had thought about putting all comments into moderation before I went away, but decided it wasn’t necessary. I think that may have been a mistake.

    Guest, your comments to Ingrid and especially Melissa are disrespectful. I’ve already asked you to be polite – from this point on I will be intervening where necessary to enforce our comments policy. No ifs ands or buts here, just stop it.

    I’m particularly appalled that someone who has (rightly) argued against the stigmatisation of sex workers would contribute to one of the most damaging forms of stigmatisation that sex workers face i.e. the suggestion that rape of a sex worker isn’t really rape. It is completely unacceptable to respond to a person who speaks out about their experience of rape by accusing them of putting themselves in a dangerous position – in or out of a sex work context.

    Melissa, my apologies for not being around to intervene on this earlier.

    Almost Clever, you seem to put a lot of faith in the peer review process, possibly more than most researchers I know put into it. Peer review is a filter, not a hermetic seal – it helps to keep some bad stuff from getting through but it doesn’t give the research absolute credibility. Bear in mind that Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent autism studies were peer-reviewed.

    That said, there is no research, peer-reviewed or otherwise, which demonstrates that the Swedish sex industry has decreased since the introduction of the sex purchase ban. There can’t be, because there has been no research into most of the Swedish sex industry sectors. The only things that have been studied are the street sector and the internet sector; the validity of the internet sector research is particularly dubious and studies of the other indoor sectors are simply non-existent. The 2010 Swedish government evaluation even admitted this.

    The fact that reported prostitution cases jumped 500% when the police started putting more resources into finding them simply underscores the total unreliability of claims of a decrease. It seems pretty clear that a lot of what was assumed to be a reduction in prostitution was simply a greater concealment.

    Also, there were no trafficking statistics from Sweden before the law, so it is impossible to measure the law’s effect on trafficking. Cross-country comparisons are useless since there is no universal approach to either detection or to determination of who is a trafficked person. But since you brought up Germany, it’s worth pointing out that their own figures show a decline in trafficking since decriminalisation. (I take those figures with the same grain of salt that I take all trafficking figures, but again, you’re the one who brought it up.)

    On PTSD, when I get back home I will find the affidavit in S v Jordan so I can quote exactly what the forensic psychiatrist said about the PTSD questionnaire. One thing I would point out is that Farley should not be using the same instrument used for vets because there is a civilian PCL version and a military PCL version. I would guess, too, that the likelihood of vets having suffered trauma from sources other than their military service is probably lower than the likelihood of sex workers in the sector Farley targets having suffered trauma from other sources, but of course that is just a guess.

    But yes, of course it matters what the trauma is actually caused by. You cannot address a problem by misidentifying its source(s). To the extent that sex workers do suffer trauma, and I have no doubt that many of them do, it is important to understand whether the trauma came first and perhaps led them into the industry, whether factors that could be addressed through decriminalisation (eg police abuse) played a direct role, whether criminalisation indirectly contributed (eg through stigma, or through forcing them to forgo safety measures in order to avoid arrest and suffering violence as a result) – or indeed whether there was no way a change in laws could have prevented the trauma. Of course these things need to be considered. Farley’s attempt to pass it all off as “sex work causes trauma” does a great disservice to those sex workers who experience trauma, because it only allows for one solution – eradicate prostitution – even though that “solution” is highly unlikely to ever be realised, and regardless of whether the trauma could be alleviated by other measures for at least some of those who suffer from it.

    And I think you’re being a bit disingenuous in saying that punters aren’t targetted for arrest in the US. It’s true that sex workers tend to be the main focus of law enforcement, but buying sex is also illegal in most states and there is plenty of evidence (from research, the existence of “john schools”, the inclusion of punters on some sex offenders’ registers etc) to show that those laws are enforced to at least some degree. So bringing in the Swedish law wouldn’t change anything from the punters’ perspective; they’re risking arrest already. I agree it would be an improvement over the current law for most US sex workers, but I cannot see how you think it would have any impact on the amount of prostitution in the US.

    My question always boils down to the following: How does what you advocate for effect marginalized populations? Does it help? Does it harm? Or do we simply not know?

    Everything I have ever read suggests that criminalisation harms those populations. Everything. Not one thing I have read suggests that it helps them. Even those Swedish and Norwegian sex workers who did leave the industry following the law change were only the ones who had other options – not the particularly marginalised ones who were in the industry because there was nothing else they could do.

    Reply
  39. I offer my apologies. I didn’t read your post. I assumed you were arguing frm the “All sex is rape / when it’s compensated in some fashion” philosophy. In fact, you were talking about actual non-consensual rape.

    I dated a prostitute for about 8 months – as her BF, not a customer – because she was a remarkable woman, even though I had huge problems with her work. She told me a story about being raped before I met her, by a customer. Bad customers.

    Anyway, she also said the cops were often more guilty of raping than anyone else.

    But anyway, her story was terrifying. She took it in stride, and shrugged it off, but she was genuinely afraid for her life, had scars to show for it and took a month or more to recover (physically). She continued in her business for several more years.

    So her story stuck with me. Please accept my apologies for not reading your post more closely.

    Clearly, you were not saying what I thought you were saying, and my response was unwarranted. My bad.

    Reply
  40. ‘Someone with emotional maturity will be able to see the approach of an ugly mug from a thousand paces.’

    Nice honest post, but I’d love to know where you got the above from, with no experience of sex work yourself. Supposing and generalising and imagining does not work with sex work.

    Well, it’s common sense, Melissa. Some sex workers had and are having happier experiences in sex work than you did.

    Reply
    • It’s not common sense at all.
      How can sex workers see an ugly mug from a thousand paces?

      Reply
      • Well, perhaps, I put it clumsily then. I think the more experience a sex worker has the easier it is for him/her to identity an ugly mug. Of course, it also helps if sex workers can unionize and work together. They are not even permitted to set up brothels in the Republic of Ireland. It’s common sense that sex workers should be endowed with health, human, civil, labour and human rights. If ugly mugs knew that sex workers have these rights, they will be deterred from harming them, in my opinion.

        Take that serial killer in Canada. Robert Pickton. I haven’t followed the case closely. I understand he has claimed to have murdered 49 women, many of them street sex workers and drug addicts in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. It seems to be plausible that there was a time early on before his first murder where he was visiting prostitutes but not going so far as killing them or even physically harming them. Now, imagine if Canada had a New Zealand style law then that gave the sex worker her health, human, civil, labour and human rights. As soon as Robert Pickton raised his hand against a sex worker, she could go straight to the police and Robert Pickton would be apprehended, treated and punished. Perhaps 49 women would still be alive today.

        I read some post by some guy who had the temerity to assert that Robert Pickton would have been caught if there was a Sweden style Sex Purchase Act in place. I don’t think so. In fact, I think Robert Picktons could very well thrive in the Swedish environment. The Sweden Sex Purchase Act is a hypocritical law and a hypocrite’s law because it cannot possibly be enforced. It’s going to expend considerable police resources and time just to survey one place where a sex purchase may take place and a touching of genitals observed. There’s no way that such a law can be systematically imposed throughout a country.

        I’m pro-women. That’s why I say we should endow all sex workers with all the rights granted to other workers, including immigrants. Cead Mile Failte and all that. That way these citizens and guests of our country can go straight to the police to report any ugly mug or nascent Robert Pickton who would dare raise his hand against her.

        Have a nice day.

        Reply
    • There’s no contradiction between being generally happy in sex work and having an occasional unpleasant surprise from a punter who seemed ok but turned out otherwise. This can happen to anyone in the industry.

      It does appear that sex workers generally tend to develop an intuition about the men who approach them, but intuition isn’t perfect.

      Reply
      • It’s next to impossible to know. If you get a bad vibe on the phone, that is one thing, but that is rare. Mostly they are well able to conceal the crazy til they get to the door, or inside your premises.

        Also I’ve had one punter who was perfectly normal until I refused to have anal sex with him.

        There are also the sort of crazy stalkerish people but they are pretty easy to weed out. The more sinister types, less so.

        There is no way you can say conflate being emotionally mature and also being psychic enough to know if a punter is a rapist or not. That is throwing the responsibility of attack back on the sex worker.

        I’m not trying to villify punters, but I found pauls conflation of emotional maturity and not getting attacked a little insulting, to all sex workers, not just the ones that have been attacked.

        Reply
  41. Guest’s post has been disemvowelled for deliberate breach of comments policy. Any further breaches will result in a ban.

    Reply
  42. “Stop being so childish in these situations and just acknowledge the fucking truth that women activate certain triggers in men that they can not control.”

    I’m a currently active sex worker and sex worker advocate and statements like the above create more stigma and risk for violence in my work. Men can certainly control whether to act upon a ‘trigger’. The ability of higher cognitive reasoning is what separates humans from animals. Yes, we have drives and urges, but we can choose whether to act on them or not.

    Rape is about consent. End of story. Regardless of transactional, relationship or professional circumstance. If I consent to a sex act for a specified amount, and then I am forced into a non-consensual sex act; I have been raped. The issue is CONSENT – not what I was wearing, or how much I was paid, or what safety-net I have available.

    I have never been assaulted in my work; but the logic and rationalization that men can’t control themselves when sexually stimulated, presented by Guest Sex Worker Advocate, make me more of a target for violence. Shameful.

    Sorry Guest, I was with you until you devolved into victim blaming and women needing to dress less ‘provocatively’ in order not to be complicit in being raped. It infantalizes men and detracts from the voices of sex workers who willingly choose sex work. By your logic, by consenting to sex work, we are consenting to rape. No Bueno!

    Reply
  43. Melissa and Wendy:

    With all due respect, you are taking what I wrote out of context.

    Here’s what I wrote in full:

    It seems to me that sex workers do face some risks such as the risk of catching an STI, especially street sex workers. I think they’re very brave, whatever branch of the sex industry they enter, to enter that profession. It seems to me that to be a successful sex worker, one needs a great deal of emotional maturity. Someone with emotional maturity will be able to see the approach of an ugly mug from a thousand paces. Like any other category of worker, they find strength in numbers and solidarity. They must unionize.

    Yes, I wrote that a successful sex worker ought to be emotionally mature. I think that’s common sense. I wrote that in the context that sex workers have their full health, safety, human, labour and civil rights, just like in any other profession. They are not mutually exclusive, emotional maturity and legal rights. One can work in a profession where one has full health, safety, human, labour and civil rights, on the one hand, and, on the other, exercise emotional maturity in the decisions one takes. That’s the same with any other profession. Sex workers are not infants who need to be led by the hand in everything they do. So both of you are taking one sentence I wrote, the ugly mug sentence, you’ve taken it out of context and you get worked up about it.

    Melissa writes: “That is throwing the responsibility of attack back on the sex worker.” in response to my sentence that a sex worker of emotional maturity can see an ugly mug from a thousand paces. I never wrote anything of the sort. Life is not black and white. It’s shades of grey. That’s the real world. These so called radical feminists like to view the world in black and white terms, a cartoon world, where every subtlety of discussion defaults to good or evil. A George W Bush World. By the way, I am not saying Melissa is a radical feminist. I haven’t decided yet.

    Allow me to throw this out. A woman suffered abuse during her teenage years. Later, she enters a profession, sex work, a profession that involves a lot of choices, especially so since it is not properly regulated in the Republic of Ireland and many aspects of it are criminalized. During her sex work career, she suffers more trauma (rapes and anal rapes by multiple men, blackmail, stalking, cyberbully )that also contributes to her current Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Isn’t it not fair to say that the fact that she suffered abuse as a teenager before she entered sex work would have made her more vulnerable to abuse after she entered the unregulated, large criminalized profession by virtue of the choices she made and had to make? Or am I crossing some politically incorrect line drawn by the so-called Radical Feminists for making such a suggestion?

    Melissa wrote: “For me PTSD was caused by abuse in my teenage years, which led me to become involved in prostitution which caused more trauma, so I guess there’s no answer to the chicken or egg question. At least in my case there isn’t, it all fed in to each other. I’m starting the long road to dealing with it now though.”

    Melissa wrote: “I guess blaming the multiple men who raped me and anally raped me when I was an escort are blameless for the PTSD I’m going through now. Oh or the one that blackmailed me, oh and the two stalkers and the one cyber bully.”

    Melissa wrote that she supports decriminalization of the sex work industry but then she wrote that the large volume of abuse in the industry would continue even if there is decriminalization/legalization. So what’s the point of supporting decriminalization if she thinks it won’t make any difference in this important respect?

    Melissa wrote: “I actually support decriminalising prostitution. As someone who has worked for a substantial amount of years in sex work, I don’t understand why you are lecturing me on how sex industry works, and how it should work, I know all about it. There’s also a shit load of abuse that goes on in sex work, and in the websites that run the sex industry, and will go on forever in sex work whether it is legalise/decriminalised or not.”

    I’m getting tired of Melissa. She comes on here. In her first comment on this thread she writes that she knows everything about the sex industry after spending 5 plus years in it which does strike me as an arrogant statement to make.

    Melissa wrote: “I worked as a sex worker for over five years, I know all about what should be done for the safety of sex workers. I know every inch of the sex industry here, I was fully independent and know the full scale of good things and bad things about prostitution. But I still don’t agree with you. I am still a representative of a sex worker though.”

    As you can see, she claims that she knows all about what should be done for the safety of sex workers. Apparently, that doesn’t include criminalization or legalization. As I point out above, she thinks that won’t make any difference, as far as abuse goes, even though she does support decriminalization.

    Melissa appears to think that because I am not a sex worker and never was one, I am not entitled to offer my opinions on how to improve the industry for the optimum benefit of clients and workers.

    She comes on here and she, at best, offers a drip feed of information on her own history and her own opinions on what should be done with the sex industry.

    Melissa blows hot and cold. She praises my previous post for being honest and then she takes one solitary sentence from the same post, decontextualizes it and claims that I am insulting not just to her but to all sex workers.

    Melissa, you are *a* representative sex worker, you are not *the* representative sex worker. I give you no apology and I give no apology to all other sex workers, past or present.

    Melissa is impossible to please. She comes on here and she comfortably hides behind her grumpy persona, expressing outrage at anyone who dares say a false statement about her.

    Yeah, I think Guest and Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate may have rashly jumped to some conclusions about Melissa but, Wendy, if you review what Melissa wrote, you will see that it was Melissa who was being insulting to Guest Sex Work Advocate calling her a b.i.t.c.h at one stage. Yet, Wendy, you don’t criticize Melissa for this.

    I find it amusing that Melissa is repeatedly asking Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate to identify herself, yet she herself hides behind anonymity.

    Melissa is to be treated nicely. Because she’s a victim? Is that it? Therefore we should all treat her with kid gloves? Well, I’m not going to treat her with kid gloves. So, if that means you’ve got to ban me from your blog, Wendy, so be it.

    Have a nice day.

    Reply
    • So both of you are taking one sentence I wrote, the ugly mug sentence, you’ve taken it out of context and you get worked up about it.

      It isn’t any more accurate in context. I agree with the rest of what you wrote in that paragraph, and I also agree that pre-sex work abuse may make someone more susceptible to abuse in the industry. I’m not sure why you even think that saying that would cross any lines. The thing about being able to spot an ugly mug is a complete non-sequitur.

      Melissa wrote that she supports decriminalization of the sex work industry but then she wrote that the large volume of abuse in the industry would continue even if there is decriminalization/legalization. So what’s the point of supporting decriminalization if she thinks it won’t make any difference in this important respect?

      Sex workers’ rights advocates generally do not believe that decriminalisation alone will stop the abuse. There are actually a number of jurisdictions in which sex work is decriminalised or legalised and yet abuse continues at a high rate. Decriminalisation is necessary to stop the abuse but it is not sufficient, there is also a need for positive enforcement of sex workers’ rights, destigmatisation and removal of associated harmful laws (such as immigration restrictions and loitering laws that are often used against sex workers).

      I also think it’s reasonable that even if someone thinks they will still be abused after a law change, they would still support that law change because at least they couldn’t be arrested as well as abused.

      if you review what Melissa wrote, you will see that it was Melissa who was being insulting to Guest Sex Work Advocate calling her a b.i.t.c.h at one stage.

      “At one stage” = after Guest had already insulted Melissa.

      I’m pretty sure Guest is a “him”, BTW.

      I find it amusing that Melissa is repeatedly asking Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate to identify herself, yet she herself hides behind anonymity.

      Where has Melissa asked for any more identification than she herself has given?

      Melissa is to be treated nicely. Because she’s a victim? Is that it? Therefore we should all treat her with kid gloves? Well, I’m not going to treat her with kid gloves. So, if that means you’ve got to ban me from your blog, Wendy, so be it.

      Everyone should be treated nicely. That’s in the comments policy: no personal attacks. You haven’t engaged in any, so I see no reason to ban you. At least not so far. Please keep it that way.

      Reply
      • “At one stage” = after Guest had already insulted Melissa.

        I’m pretty sure Guest is a “him”, BTW.

        How do you know? Did “Guest” write some masculine things? As far as I can make out, there were two people, “Guest” and “Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate”. “Guest” was commenting earlier. Then Melissa got upset with something “Guest” wrote and then “Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate” took over.. Then Melissa got upset with him/her.

        By the way, the person you first disemvoweled then banned wasn’t “Guest”, as you claimed, it was “Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate”. I know this because all the comments on this post of yours go to my email inbox. So, actually, the last two unedited comments of “Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate” went into my email inbox.

        Well, it’s your blog. If I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t have banned Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate” or disenvowelled any of his/her comments. True, “Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate” did write some controversial things in those last two comments but that is unavoidable in any worthwhile debate or discussion in my opinion. Certainly, I think the contribution of both “Guest” and “Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate” are just as valuable as Melissa’s.

        At one stage, Melissa called “Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate” a b.i.t.c.h. which would appear to indicate that she thought “Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate” was a woman. Later, Melissa addressed “Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate” as a man. Why, I do not know.

        Reply
  44. They are the same person. I see the email and IP addresses of everyone who comments here. As to how I can tell he’s a he, well, that’s pretty obvious.

    All blogs have a comments policy. He was given fair warning that he was in breach of this one and made his own decision to continue to breach it.

    Reply
    • Wendy Lyon | December 29, 2011 at 5:50 am

      They are the same person. I see the email and IP addresses of everyone who comments here. As to how I can tell he’s a he, well, that’s pretty obvious.

      All blogs have a comments policy. He was given fair warning that he was in breach of this one and made his own decision to continue to breach it.

      How do you know that Guest and Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate are the same person? Maybe, they’re two different people using the same computer.

      How do you know Guest is a man? Because only a man can break the comments policy? 

      If Guest and Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate made some incorrect assumptions about Melissa then all Melissa had to do was set the record straight. There was no call for her calling Guest Sex Work Rights Advocate a b.i.t.c.h.

      Reply
      • Maybe, they’re two different people using the same computer.

        And the same email address and the same writing style and repeating several of the same points already made in previous comments? Sure.

        I’m not discussing this any further. He was given fair warning and chose to ignore it.

        I will only be around intermittently for the next week so I am going to do what I should have done when I started my holiday and put all comments into moderation for the time being. Posts that have something to contribute will be approved when I get the opportunity.

        Reply
  45. OK
    I may not read through all that
    Moving on: there was an article in the Sindo on Christmas Day of all days about student sex workers. It was critical of people saying they have no choice but to become sex workers
    but had one interesting comment taken from a UK interview

    “BBC radio actually carried an interview last week with a young woman called, well, what does it matter? It wasn’t her real name anyway. She revealed how she had become a prostitute at 18 to pay her way through college because “I couldn’t see any other option”. Listening to her speak, though, it was clear that she had plenty of options, it was simply that she didn’t like the minimum wage job that she had at the time, didn’t want to do bar work because the unsociable hours meant she wouldn’t feel like getting up in the morning for classes….So instead she signed on at an escort agency owned by a “friend” who’d been trying to persuade her to go on the game since she was 16. She went on [b]to earn £30,000 in her first two weeks of work.[/b] If this is the best hard-luck story the BBC could dig up, it was a pretty poor effort.”

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/going-on-the-game-isnt-only-option-for-students-2972936.html

    Reply
  46. Apologizing again.

    I had to omuch soju, here in chilly Seoul, saw an update and read a snippet of conversation and did the online equivalent of tripping over my feet while looking for my cellphone. I hope the effect wears off before I go to work.

    Reply
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