Tag Archives: prostitution

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!”

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

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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!”

‘I Was Left Like a Freak in the Corner’: Visiting the Doctor as a Sex Worker

Here’s an excellent article by Samantha Rea at VICE on sex workers’ experience of medical care.

If you thought getting healthcare for your desk job was bad, try being a woman in the sex industry. We spoke to escorts, porn actors, and former sex workers who ran into devastating prejudice when getting trying to get something as simple as a medical che

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Source: ‘I Was Left Like a Freak in the Corner’: Visiting the Doctor as a Sex Worker | Broadly

Jeremy Corbyn: ‘I favour decriminalising the sex industry’

A positive statement from Jeremy Corbyn, though his party is very divided on this issue.

Views on sex trade believed to be Labour leader’s personal opinions rather than party policy

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Guardian: Jeremy Corbyn: ‘I favour decriminalising the sex industry’

Taxing Sex Workers

Here’s a slightly strange announcement from HMRC: they’ve formed an ‘adult entertainment taskforce’ to clamp down on evasion by people in the adult industries. On the surface, this is reasonable. One can assume that some sex workers, especially those part-time/lifestyle ones, may not be declaring their full incomes, and this could provide valuable extra tax revenue. People should pay their taxes, regardless of how they earn their money, simple.

But there’s something just a little odd about this, especially in light of the moralistic climate that reigns right now. For example, the article estimates the size of the industry at a whopping £5 billion, which should yield BIG returns, but says HMRC have set an initial target to collect a miniscule £2.5m.

I’m somewhat cynical. Is this a new excuse to carry out raids on legal businesses that upset prudes? The Soho brothel raids of two years ago were done under the banner of ‘rescuing trafficked women’, but were in fact a cover to find (and deport) illegal immigrants, look for drugs, and clear prime property for redevelopment.

I’ll be on BBC Radio 5 Live this afternoon around 17:45 to discuss.

Source: HMRC adult entertainment taskforce to get to the bottom of tax fraud

Prostitution: Fact & Fiction

The following is taken from a press release received today from the English Collective of Prostitutes. Increasingly, sex workers are being presented as victims who have no control over their lives, and thus the state is urged to step in and “rescue” them – which in practise, means arresting them and preventing them working, publishing their photos in the press to shame them, and deporting them if they are illegal immigrants.

PROSTITUTION: FACT AND FICTION

CLAIM #1: 80% of women in prostitution are controlled by traffickers.

FACT #1: This is a lie. Less than 6% of sex workers are trafficked. “Many migrants prefer working in the sex industry rather than the “unrewarding and sometimes exploitative conditions they meet in non-sexual jobs”.

CLAIM #2: The average age of entry into prostitution internationally is 13 years old.

FACT #2: This statistic is a lie. It comes from a survey of YOUNG PEOPLE under 18 years old.

CLAIM #3: 50% of women in prostitution in the UK started being paid for sex acts before they were 18 years old.

FACT #3: This statistic is misleading. It fosters the view that many sex workers started as children which is reinforced by the oft quoted erroneous statistic that the “average age of entry into prostitution is 13″. In fact, the same survey found 80% of female sex workers in the UK started working over the age of 16. A survey of adult sex workers in Stockton found that the average age of entry into prostitution was 20.

CLAIM #4: 95% of women in street prostitution are problematic drug users.

FACT #4: This figure is unreliable. It comes from Home Office funded “exiting and support projectsSex workers who don’t use drugs have little contact with these projects and are unlikely to be surveyed. There are no reliable figures of drug use among sex workers and therefore no evidence that the rate of drug use is higher than among journalists, politicians or celebrity chefs.

CLAIM #5:  The Swedish law that criminalised clients whilst decriminalising street workers is a successful model; there is a decrease in prostitution and trafficking.

FACT #5a: There no evidence that trafficking, rape and other violence has decreased in Sweden. However, recent research shows that sex workers face increased stigma and are more vulnerable to violence.

FACT #5b: There is no reliable evidence that the Swedish law has resulted in a reduction in prostitution.  One oft quoted statistic is from a survey that found the number of men saying they buy sexual services has decreased from 14% in 1996 to 7.9% in 2008. How can this be trusted when buying sex was not criminal in 1996 so there were less reasons for men to lie?  The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare found it was “difficult to discern any clear trend” up or down.  Evidence of an increase in massage parlours in Stockholm is ignored.

CLAIM #6: Decriminalisation does not work.

FACT #6: This is not true. New Zealand decriminalised in 2003 with verifiable improvements in sex workers’ health and safety. The law removed prostitution from the criminal law, allowed people to work together collectively, and distinguished between violence and consenting sex. It reinforced offences against compelling anyone into prostitution, stating a specific right for sex workers to refuse any client. A comprehensive five-year government review found: no increase in prostitution, no increase in trafficking; drug users treated as patients not criminals; sex workers were more able to report violence and leave prostitution if they choose.[x] Legalisation (like in Germany, Nevada and the Netherlands) is state-run prostitution which sets up a two-tier system where the most vulnerable workers remain illegal. It is opposed by most sex workers.

Decriminalisation has received vocal support from World Health organisation, UNAids, Human Rights Watch, Global Alliance against Trafficking in Women and 100s of other organisations worldwide.

CLAIM #7: 68% of women in prostitution experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

FACT #7: This figure is absurd! Researcher Melissa Farley and this research were reprimanded by Canadian Supreme Court Judge Himmel because Farley “failed to qualify her opinion regarding the causal relationship between post- traumatic stress disorder and prostitution, namely, that it could be caused by events unrelated to prostitution.”

CLAIM #8: Once in prostitution, 9 out of 10 women report wanting to exit but feel unable to do so.

FACT #8: Another absurd statistic from the discredited Ms Farley. Even if it were true, it could as easily be claimed that once in factory, office, agricultural and domestic work: “9 out of 10 women report wanting to exit but feel unable to do so.” Financial alternatives and resources for women, not abolition of prostitution would better address this.

CLAIM #9: 70% of sex workers spent time in care.

FACT #9: This statistic is untrue. It is based on studies of YOUNG PEOPLE who were“more likely to have had a background of troubled family relations or the care system than adults involved in sex.

CLAIM #10: Over half of women involved in prostitution in the UK have been raped and/or sexually assaulted — the vast majority of these assaults perpetrated by sex buyers.

FACT #10: This figure may be true. It is a survey of women working on the STREET. Sex workers experience high levels of rape and other violence but this does not mean that prostitution is violence.

Using violence to justify the criminalisation of clients is deceitful as it ignores evidence that criminalisation forces sex workers to work in isolation at greater risk of attack. Women Against Rape report that 1 in 4 women have been raped and that only 6.5% of reported rapes result in convictions. Police time and resources are desperately needed to focus on the investigation of actual violence not the policing of consenting sex.

FACT #11: Prostitution is about ….. money!

The majority of sex workers are women and men (including transgender women and men) who decided to sell sex in order to escape poverty or “achieve a better standard of living for themselves”. 74% of off-street sex workers “cited the need to pay household expenses and support their children”.

The Sex Workers’ Opera

One of things that took me by surprise when I launched my porn website a decade ago was the amount of hatred thrown at pornstars. As I got to know the sex industries better, I discovered that strippers and prostitutes are the targets of similar abuse – or worse. But the biggest surprise was the source of much of the hatred: not from a religious-minded “patriarchy”, as I’d expected, but in large part from other women, and especially from feminists.

This was bizarre, given that feminist morality campaigners were claiming they were out to rescue these women. When “rescuing” entails spitting on strippers as they go to work, supporting immigration and drug squad raids on brothels, and calling for well-paid women to be made unemployed, one has to suspect the true motivations of the rescuer.

Pornstars are public performers, and tend not to be particularly shy or retiring. But most prostitutes, out of necessity (partly thanks to the bigotry of the rescue industry), seek privacy. In my campaigning work, I’ve often encountered women who have had their livelihoods attacked, but have chosen to stay silent because of the fear of stigma, should they choose to defend themselves. The video-on-demand regulator ATVOD, for example, chooses to publish the real names and addresses of sex workers who run video websites. It is, of course, purely coincidental that a number of such women have chosen to close down their sites rather than be forced to publicly defend their right to run them.

Anti-sex campaigners rely on sex workers’ fear of publicity, knowing that few will openly challenge their campaigns of misinformation. So when I watched the excellent Sex Workers’ Opera at a packed theatre in East London last night, I was deeply impressed by (among other things) the bravery of the performers, many of whom were sex workers.

The performance opened with a rant from a “member of the audience”, who jumped on stage and began shouting about “objectification” and “trafficking”, while screaming SHUT UP! at anybody who dared look in her direction. This rapidly set the scene: in this war of morality-dressed-as-concern, even those sex workers who dare to speak for themselves must be denied a voice. They must be saved, and if they don’t want to be saved, it just shows how badly sex work has fucked them up psychologically, thus reinforcing the need to save them.

The performances were based on sex workers’ own stories, and so were poignant as well as frequently funny; they often struck a chord with sex workers who were present in the audience. The police raid in which women were taken from their workplaces and locked in cells “for their protection”; the women forced to work alone, and made more vulnerable to attack, by laws against brothels; the prostitute who found herself giving marriage guidance counselling to her client; the dominatrix; the submissive. A section of the performance was by webcam workers, and was projected onto a screen rather than performed live on stage. There was an excellent performance by a pole dancer.

Having expected a fairly amateur affair (after all, none of these were professional singers or actors), I was surprised by the quality of the writing, production and performances. For sure, there were some rough edges – but for a two-day play staged by non-professionals, the quality was easily good enough for me to enjoy the entire show.

The overall message was a simple one, which was laid bare in the finale: Listen To Me. How dare outsiders deign to speak on behalf of those whose voices they refuse to hear? How dare moralists insist to know more about sex work than the sex workers themselves?

Want to see it? Sadly, you’ve probably missed it. Tonight’s is the final performance, and it’s almost certainly sold out, as yesterday’s was. But the show was strong enough that, with professional production, it could be revived as something bigger and better in future. Let’s hope this happens, and that these voices reach an ever wider audience. You can join their Facebook page or follow on Twitter to keep in touch.