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Twitter Day of Action: Caroline Flint’s Anti-Sex Worker Bigotry

LONDON: Sex & Censorship announces social media campaign for Tuesday 8th March in response to The Labour MP Caroline Flint’s anti-sex worker statements and actions.

Sex & Censorship calls on sex workers and their supporters to join a day of social media action against the misrepresentation of sex work and sex workers. Please read on to see how you can help.

What a difference a few days makes. Last week, as reported here, Jeremy Corbyn expressed support for the decriminalisation of sex work; it should be noted that his statement was made informally, and is not a statement of party policy. Still, this was a first for a Labour leader.

This stirred up the powerful anti-sex work contingent within the Labour Party, including Caroline Flint MP, who sent a number of outraged (and outrageous) tweets, including this:

These claims are, of course, often made, yet never backed by serious statistical evidence. Do people like this really care about sex workers? Well, quite obviously not. The proof is in the way that Flint and others treat the workers themselves: by ignoring and silencing them.

Zara du Rose, a pornstar and sex worker, tweeted to Flint asking for evidence to back her claim. She was swiftly blocked. Du Rose wrote on her Facebook page:

So I’ve just been blocked on Twitter by Labour MP Caroline Flint MP

She made a comment stating that “few people” in the sex industry are there by choice.

I simply asked her if she had put any research into her comment & if she has the statistics to back it up. Does my question really deserve that result?

If this is how people in the government react when they are faced with an honest debate, then it’s no wonder so many voices are going unheard! The wrong decisions will be made & more sex workers will be put at risk if they go ahead with criminalising the buying of sex.

And the blocking continued. Dominatrix Megara Furie was also blocked for responding to Flint, as were sex worker activist Charlotte Rose, and National Ugly Mugs, a sex worker safety campaign. As ever, the message of abolitionists is: “We’re trying to save you, whether you want to be saved or not. Now shut up!”

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How Can You Respond to Caroline Flint?

Sex workers and their supporters can make their voices heard as outlined below. Please note:

  1. Don’t be abusive – be polite. Don’t send multiple tweets. Take the moral high ground.
  2. Please wait until tomorrow (Tuesday) morning – then send one of the tweets below.

Here’s how to tweet:

If you’re a sex worker

Please copy and send the following tweet (feel free to adapt it but include the link and hashtag to maximise impact). Send your sex worker friends this link and ask them to join. We can get this issue trending and make news!

Dear @CarolineFlintMP – I choose to be a sex worker. Sex workers demand decriminalisation! http://ow.ly/Z9TkH #decrimsexwork

If you’re not a sex worker

Copy and send the following tweet. Again, free free to adapt. Alert your sex worker friends and supporters and ask them to join.

Dear @CarolineFlintMP – sex workers want to work safely. Criminalising clients does NOT achieve that! http://ow.ly/Z9TkH #decrimsexwork

After tweeting Flint, feel free to continue using the hashtag.

You can also adapt these and post on Facebook (note that Flint has her own Facebook page).

Quotes

Jerry Barnett from Sex & Censorship: “Flint’s comments are a reminder of the strength of anti-sex work feeling that remains in the Labour Party and elsewhere. Claims of widespread abuse and coercion are never backed by hard evidence, yet they continue in circulation. Flint is typical of activists who show contempt for the very sex workers they claim to be helping.”

The English Collective of Prostitutes: “Our question to Flint would be that if she wants an “anti-prostitution strategy” why isn’t it supporting Corbyn and McDonnell’s determined campaigns against benefit sanctions, the benefit cap, homelessness, low wages, zero hours contracts, etc? Regarding her comment that women are vulnerable and exploited. Our fact and fiction sheet reports research that shows that only 6% of sex workers are trafficked: http://www.pledgedecrim.com/#!fact-and-fiction/c9ik

Alex Bryce of National Ugly Mugs: “I am thoroughly disappointed by Caroline Flint’s conduct. As an elected official who has served in Government she has a duty to use her platform responsibly. She publicly expressed misinformed and, in my opinion, dangerous and stigmatising views about sex workers. Such comments entrench stigma which, in turn, can lead to the targeting of sex workers by violent individuals. When sex workers and organisations like mine, which provides life saving support to sex workers, responded to her comments she immediately decided to block them rather than engage in any meaningful debate. If she genuinely cared about the safety of sex workers then she would engage them and listen to their voices rather than silencing them. She should be thoroughly ashamed of her actions. It is tragic that elected representatives have so little regard for evidence and the voices of those most affected by the policies for which they advocate.”

I asked some sex workers what they would say to Flint, given the opportunity?

Charlotte Rose: “1st, what have you got against sex workers? 2nd, would you be open to come and discuss face to face with real sex workers? 3rd if you support democracy why have you blocked us?”

Laura Renvoize: “I’d say, in reality many countries recognise sex work as an industry. To continuously vilify sex work as crime is to perpetuate Victorian morals and harmful exclusionary “feminism”. As a sex worker the issues I have faced in sex work haven’t come from some kind of exploitation at all, but rather from the stigma perpetuated by public figures and the law, which leads institutions to treat me as a subhuman. If she claims to care so much about our safety then why isn’t she looking at the evidence or listening to us? Forcing us to be criminalised won’t stop sex work, it’s only going to force us to work with people now branded as criminals, forcing us into situations where exploitation could exist. This is my job, listen to me about it and try to not be so moralistic about other people’s sex lives.”

Megara Furie: “I would ask her to simply qualify her statements. As a trained scientist I learned to deal in facts. She has made a very bold and so far, unsubstantiated statement. I need to see how she intends to validate this and see sex workers on the other end of the scale be given a fair opportunity to put forward their facts and have them taken into respectful consideration. Plain and simple. If prostitution is part of organised crime then she sits with rackets in parliament, as I’m sure there are more than a few MPs who have used the services of sex workers or contributed to their motivation to work in the industry.”

Zara du Rose: “Why are you so determined to silence the sex workers who are trying to open an honest dialogue with you? All we have asked is where you got your facts from when you claim that ‘most’ of us are in it by force. For you to block every sex worker who is trying to tell you THEIR story is proving that you don’t care about anyone in that industry at all. Listen to the women who have made it their choice to be sex workers, you may learn something! Criminalising the buying or selling of sex will only make the vulnerable people out there more alienated & push them further underground. We need to start changing the way we view sex & women’s choices!”