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Debunking the Myths of Sex Work

ver the past few weeks, I've been both witness to and participant in a number of conversations around sex work, autonomy and feminism. A recent argument on Twitter had me baffled by one representative from a conservative feminist organisation in Australia, who trotted out the tired idea that sex work degrades and harms all women. Elsewhere, people have been rehashing the argument that the sex industry is a sort of Outland ghetto for traumatised drug addicts, abuse survivors and the mentally ill, all of whom are connected by the singular characteristic of having little to no self-esteem. We can pity them, but gosh wouldn't we just hate for anyone we loved to be them?

Well no, I wouldn't hate that actually. I have a number of friends and acquaintances who have either been or currently are sex workers. No doubt I know greater numbers of women still who may one day become sex workers. And I'm tired of seeing their lives denigrated because of how they choose to make money - as if taking off your clothes for a pre-arranged fee is somehow less honourable than working for a mining company or a tabloid magazine.

Demonising sex workers under the guise of "helping" them is simply a way of expressing puritanical snobbery. As an intellectual tool, it relies more on myths and prejudices than any real knowledge of the lives of sex workers.

So let's take a look at some of those myths, and see how easily they can be debunked.

(Note: This article refers to sex workers, not victims of forced prostitution or sex slavery. They are very different things, and the conflation of the two only makes it easier for real incidents of exploitation to occur unidentified.)

uncategorized | April 30, 2013

More men seek 'domination' in Ireland

Demand for transvestites and transsexuals grows as BDSM market takes a hit

Foreign sex workers operating in Ireland say that there is a distinctive market here for "domination" from male customers. Many of the sex workers offer a service that they do not find to be as much in demand in other countries, they say. Prostitutes who provide the service are not otherwise involved in what might be termed dominatrix-type activities.

They say there are two distinct areas of interest in Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM). There is the 'sex industry BDSM', which may or may not include sex, and the 'scene BDSM' where people who enjoy dressing in bondage clothing meet at clubs or pubs for evenings in each other's company. The 'scene BDSM' does not involve sex, sex industry workers say.

One woman in her forties who has been involved in the sex industry in Ireland said the market for BDSM has been in decline since the collapse of the economy. During the boom, she said, there was a market for sado-masochistic sex and "domination" from well-off men and occasionally from couples.

Asked about the market for BDSM in the Irish sex industry now, she said: "I have a feeling it has taken a bigger hit in one sense than the sex industry, as a 'bit of auld kink' was a luxury that well-heeled people and couples took on board with the Louboutins and a second high-performance car. That dropped off drastically in recession, but in another sense, the drive to submit can be almost irresistible. And people cannot function without release at some point."

Some sex workers offer sado-masochistic services but there is a relatively small market for professional sex workers, another female sex worker said. She too said that domination is a frequently sought service by Irish men. She said she has found that the demand for this is less common elsewhere.

Both said that men and women with a predilection for "dressing up" mostly find an outlet in scenes where they meet in particular venues once or twice a month, mainly to dress in BDSM-style clothing. The main point of the "scene BDSM", she said, is that "both sides convince themselves they are superior to each other, etc and so forth".

Outside the consensual group dressing-up scene, sex workers say the "dominatrix" or "pro-domme" professional scene is relatively limited. One said that women who chose to offer such services were often the type who had tried it in their personal lives and sought to supplement their incomes by offering such services on a part-time basis.

"Within the sex industry, there are sex workers who have learnt some of the skills and treat it a bit more rationally, and make sex additionally available," she said. She added that most professional sex workers regard it as "too ritualistic".

Bad Media | April 29, 2013

Lord Morrow and Laura Lee discuss criminalising the purchase of sex on BBC Ulster

Today Laura Lee and Lord Morrow appeared on the Nolan show discussing the legislation Lord Morrow is proposing concerning trafficking. Many aspects of Lord Morrows’s legislation on trafficking are welcome, but he falls into the trap of conflating sex work with trafficking. He even starts quoting the UN on sexwork, he should look carefully at what the UN is saying, they specifically are now calling for the decriminalisation of sex work, and that decriminalisation includes purchase and management.
Clause 4 though is abominable and dangerous, the criminalisation of the purchase of sex. Lord Morrow backs up his proposal up with mis-quoted statistics. The prime example being 75% of women enter prostitution at 18 or under. A survey specifically looking at prostitutes who were under 18 when they started sex work.
In this interview Lord Morrow even goes on to equate prostitution to murder, misrepresenting panic buttons in a Melbourne brothel with health and safety. Don’t our nurses in our NHS hospitals go around with panic buttons? The usual issues about legalisation not reducing the illegal brothels, totally ignoring the fact that licencing never works because authorities always refuse to grant licences. Decriminalisation as in New Zealand and New South Wales is the gold standard.
The argument by Joan summed up the anti sex work movement as, women need protecting from themselves, they need protecting from the shame of selling sex.
The usual straw person question is thrown in, would you want your daughter selling sex, I would support by daughter in what she does, I would want her protected from shoddy legislation. The killer response was though was when Laura said her daughters school teacher knew her business.
Laura Lee sums up at the end, ” My overall message is simply this, if you want to help those minority that are trafficked and that are coerced then come and talk to us, come and work with us, we will openly discuss a policy around the table by which we will work along side the police and we will help those women.”

The link to the podcast of the debate is nolan_20121115-1146b

Bad Media | November 24, 2012

Sex Worker Open University

Sex Worker Open University is a project created by and for sex workers. You might be working as an escort, rent boy, porn actress/actor, professional dominatrix or submissive, cam model, erotic masseuse, sexual healer or street worker; this is a place to socialize, learn new skills, and create events together. Our aim is to empower our community through workshops, debates, actions and art projects as well as fighting against our criminalisation.

Other | September 16, 2012

Women jailed for managing brothel at Belfast apartment

Two women who admitted managing a brothel at a Belfast apartment block have been jailed for two months.

Natacha Pociana, 32, a qualified lawyer from Brazil, and Sofia Matas, 35, originally from Portugal, were arrested at Victoria Place on Thursday.

Belfast Magistrates' Court was told both women, of no fixed abode, had admitted during police questioning they were working as prostitutes.

Bail was refused to an Antrim man who appeared in court alongside the women.

Robert James Weir, 53, of Durnish Road, was charged with controlling the two women's prostitution for gain, managing a brothel and possessing criminal property.

A detective constable told the court he believed prostitution was the accused's "full-time occupation", and said he had a previous conviction for similar offences.

He was remanded in custody.

Other | April 15, 2012