What I want to invite everyone to do, if you would, is perhaps just take a moment to think about any of your own words or actions which might enable violence against sex workers. You can share if you want. but you certainly don't have to.
For example, one biggie I hear a lot from women who feel insecure or angry about straight male partners' porn use are references to women in pornography as "not real."
We can't hurt people who aren't real, and words like that can enable people who want to treat sex workers as if they were "not real."
In other words, saying sex workers aren't "real" (rather than, say, talking about how the sexual dynamics in porn aren't often realistic, or how the appearance of sex workers in pron can be enhanced or altered) is something that can enable violence against them.
-------------------- Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen About Me • Get our book! Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead Posts: 63263 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000
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I appreciate your posting this, Heather. I'm a big supporter of sex workers' rights and have a lot of respect for the workers. I was raised this way but over the years I've grown increasingly more interested and aware. I can't say I know what it's like first hand but I've tried to educate myself, such as attending exhibitions such as this one a few years ago in Hamburg. (Unfortunately, the page is just in English.) I also find the people and politics in pornography fascinating and have tried to learn more through documentaries and what have you. It's interesting how, on one hand, women will flock to Playboy castings or tune into Girls Next Door on E! yet say things like, as you mention, that "women in pornography aren't real." They certainly are real and, like the rest of us, multifaceted. (I hope this doesn't sound like an "us" versus "them" dynamic; I say it out of solidarity but also don't want to make it sound like I can know what it's like personally.) And, let's face it, we're all sexual beings and sex fascinates most of us! I recently read an interesting point in Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads, and Cashing in on Internet Sexploration that the vast majority or at least very high percentage (gotta look up the exact number!) of *young adult women*, such as those in their 20s, have explored and/or currently puruse pornography online. In other words, so much for the idea that it's just men doing it!
I wish the US -- and many other countries -- would do more to protect their rights and safety because the current criminalization of prostitution (I recognize that sex work is about more than "just" this, although it does come to my mind first) increases their disenfranchisement and makes the job much more dangerous.
I think it's really unfortunate that even people who normally would not say demeaning things about many marginalized groups don't hesitate to say derogatory things about sex workers. It's dehumanizing, which ultimately hurts us all. When I was younger, I'd use the word "whore" in a way that was not meant to be derogatory or negative (really!) but I stopped awhile back because I realized that, even if the context was different and it was not meant to be negative, it was unintentionally contributing to that disenfranchisement.
When I hear someone say something that is malevolent, I will point out, "We all have to earn a living and we do it in different ways. Let's respect that." (I'm a teacher so I can get away with such statements, which are more about raising awareness and displaying kindness to all than scolding. However, I'd say pretty much the same thing to other adults, too. )
Posts: 3318 | Registered: Jun 2003
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I think the right to do sex work is really interesting... I know lots of groups who advocate a decriminalisation of prostitution and instead the criminalisation of clients, which became the law in Sweden in 1999. I've never thought particularly deeply about it, because on the surface it would sound like a good idea, deter demand, to minimise a problematic industry... I obviously didn't think hard enough about it!
This video is extremely good, where sex-work activist Pye Jacbsson talks about the huge problems of the law.
I remember them saying that the laws forced women out of brothels, where they had support networks into the streets where they were far less safe... (The sex-workers are interviewed about it at about 7:20)... the people also defend sex work as naturally correct and necessary, which I think is totally not true...
So despite those laws being better than the criminalisation of sex work itself, essentially I think any criminalisation can be harmful. Instead money needs to be spent on groups who help sex workers if/when they seek outside help and support so they can do their jobs as safely as possible.
I've met some people who've done sex work and their choices came about because of drug addiction and homelessness... The woman who lives in Leeds told me that lots of people sex work is the only option, she couldn't get somewhere to live because she had a drug problem, and couldn't afford a place, but she also couldn't get into a drug treatment program or get a job without a fixed address.
I met her at a talk by Andrea Efthimiou-Mordaunt, who gave a talk at this years uk national conference for students for sensible drug policy, about women caught in the crossfire of the drug war... the general gist was that although police were much less likely to harass sex-worker drug users than they were men found in posession of drugs, the access to support and social help is hugely hindered by the illeagality of her drug use and the social stigma, while vast amounts of money were spent on imprisonment and as drug users, people are made to be very scared of seeking help, which she may have been denied anyway, she spoke about some of her experiences as a sex worker and it was very upsetting, and usually not spoken about because of both social stigma and the personal nature it all.
Pixy told me about a group in Leeds called genesis, who do outreach work to girls who could go into sex work and are having a number of family or personal problems. The group is so vital, but I'm sure their funding is limited... they're also a female only organisation, which makes sense when many of the women develop a real fear of men... but there are no groups which support male sex workers, or the huge proportion of sex workers who are trans.
Trans people and queer people are far more likely to become homeless and go into sex work and drug use (which some people resort to, as almost necessary, to meet the very difficult personal demands of some sex work), because they're more likely to be estranged from their families and have less of a network... and they're also in groups who are largely stereotyped and as Pye Jacbsson says in the video really dehumanises them and makes them more likely to be victims of violence.
So as well, as putting funding into social support for sex workers and people with drug problems instead of criminal punishment. I think a much better funding for groups which outreach support LGBT people and education would also make sex workers much safer and help provide alternatives, for those who would rather be doing something else and be somewhere safer.
I am very passionate about the situation of prostitution, as well as very against it. A few fun statistics on prostitutes:
93% percent of ALL prostitutes, trafficked or no, would like to immediately escape their occupation. I don't mean how most of us would like to not have a job, I mean that they literally can not quit because they are afraid for their life.
67% qualify for PTSD.
It is estimated that between 30 and 70% of all prostitutes are forced. At least 15 million women and children are in forced prostitution at the moment. By forced I mean literally, at gunpoint, with a life expectancy of less than two years.
82% are raped.
Another study found that 6% of all men would rape some one - anyone - if they knew they wouldn't get caught. The same study in johns found that 94% (everyone should be flipping out about this) would rape anyone if they knew they wouldn't get caught.
I've read two books on the situation of the sex trade and prostitution by Victor Malarek (The Johns and The Natashas) which I would highly recommend. After reading it and studying it on my own, I absolutely cannot support something that gives the message that women and children are for sale - because they're not.
I am strongly against legalization for this reason. Let's talk about some fun statistics for legalization:
After legalization in Amsterdam, child prostitution rose by 300%.
It is estimated that 80% of girls in brothels in Amsterdam were trafficked.
The average rate of rape is 25% higher in Nevada than anywhere else in the US. Consider that when reading the statement earlier about johns and rape.
So what should we do to prevent this? Follow what's going on in Sweden, Scotland and Norway. They have legalized selling sex and criminalized buying it: this sort of action is now targeting the demand rather than the supply, the perpetrators rather than the victims. It's cut prostitution down by 50 - 80%, as well as organized crime by 15% and they believe it's cut down human trafficking by about 80%. 80% of Swedes support it. Most of these statistics are Swedish, btw, because they've had it the longest. They've also launched a program to educate the public and the police force about the situation of prostitution: it's not a choice, it's not an easy way to make a living. It's the widespread oppression of women and children and is harmful both to those people and all of society.
What can we do? First of all, we can all educate those around us about what's going on in the world. Whenever the topic comes up in discussion (like now) I try to throw out some quick statistics that make people think. Secondly, we can write letters to our government officials asking them to adopt the Nordic systems (which is currently going through Parliament in the UK)
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