Thoughts

As you are probably NOT aware, the responses to our consultation on decriminalisation of sex work in Scotland have been published a week ago. Endless source of entertainment and inspiration. Of course I had to read them, and of course some of them are thought provoking. So here are my thoughts.

Revd Lindsey Sanderson (13)

13

So what’s Revd Sanderson’s point? That alcoholics should be prevented from being in the company of each other? Or that people with history of childhood abuse should not be legally entitled to work collectively? You’d think that in the remaining 2 paragraphs of the answer to this question Revd Sanderson will answer the question, but no. We have to assume that Revd Sanderson means that since all hookers are forced into hookery, it’s best we keep them isolated. If all these forced hookers start meeting each other and share their experiences and find out they are not alone, and – god forbid! – meet a hooker who isn’t forced and offers to help… That’ll be the end of so many careers!

Dr Tom Sissons (106)

106

Been there, had that, really pleased that instead of me highlighting it and being ignored there’s a trusted professional whose word may be believed – saying that same thing.

Valerie Kerr (192)

192

Mrs Kerr makes some valid points, but, as she stresses, this Bill will never be able to save all these desperately vulnerable people, so let’s just forget it all and not even try.

Tom Manganiello (100)

100

A good point that would never have occurred to me as I’m far more concerned with my own health. It’s heart warming to see “married men will cheat, we can’t stop them so let’s make sure everyone is safe in the process” as opposed to the usual “married men will cheat, we can’t stop them so let’s try to stop them”.

Donald Fleming (184)

184

So a pair of brothers applied for a licence for a legal business. They were screened, met all the requirements, opened their business and provided safe working places to a number of people. Their business did well and they expanded it, providing more people with work and income. They pay taxes and have not been taken to court for exploitation or labour rights violations, otherwise you’d have pointed it out. You also say they have 18 million GBP each, either from this business or from any other venture they might be running alongside it. What exactly is your beef with this?

Also, could someone look up the percentage of fast food industry that McDonald’s “owns” in Wellington? Just out of interest.

The Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth (122)

122

Thank you, The Very Reverend. You deserve your title. I am thoroughly impressed.

Michael B (177)

177

The most obvious thing to note is that slashing a “girl” with any sharp object on any grounds was illegal at the time of the incident that Michael B describes, is illegal as I type this sentence, and isn’t proposed to become legal by Miss Urquhart’s Bill or any other Bill I can think of. Moreover, Miss Urquhart explicitly asked (question 8) if there should be a statutory right for sex workers to refuse sexual services.

And I can’t help but point out the fact that Miss Urquhart, not (allegedly) having been in sexual relations with unknown persons possibly under the influence, is seen as unfit to suggest laws on sex work. Michael B, however, not having had such sexual experience either, and – seemingly – not having read Miss Urquhart’s proposals, knows exactly what should be done. I want to believe that Michael B is a gay transgender person of colour.

On the fun side, let us all hope that Michael B and his colleagues were employed to do nothing of importance and precision, because they sure spent too much of their paid time hooker watching, which probably wasn’t in their job description. My personal experience says that people who spent 8 minutes in a sex worker’s room are as likely to be clients as food delivery people. If they are clients, they are unlikely to have treated the lady in “the dreadful way”. With only 8 minutes to knock on the door, negotiate the service, pay for it, receive it and drop off the food, you need to be good at multitasking to squeeze in some abuse. 8 minutes is enough to slash someone with a knife, but this isn’t a definition of “client”. This is a definition of a physical assault and grievous bodily harm. And apart from this, all “abuse” Michael B “witnessed” was women making money to pay bills and feed their kids. She had 8 clients in an hour? Good for her. I’d like to know where she advertises.

News of the world

Scotland

Edinburgh City Council consultation on sauna licensing is still open. The consultation takes form of a monkey survey so please fill it in when you have 42 seconds to spare. In a nutshell, the Council suggests they stop licensing saunas as public entertainment venues. This way, the saunas will lose the protection of the Council and will be left to Police Scotland to raid and close as they please (and we already know that harassing vulnerable women pleases Police Scotland no end: the removed article told the story of 5 police officers showing up at a sauna to close it down and taking women’s names and addresses until a call from the Council confirmed that the sauna wasn’t supposed to be closed down at all). This will mean the end of Edinburgh saunas and end of safe work spaces for sex workers.

Northern Ireland

The Assembly published the submissions to The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill I mentioned earlier. There are only about 130 and some are simply brilliant, but I’d like to link to this one. Even if you’re lord Morrow and believe that prostitution = trafficking = paedophilia =  rape = porn = any-other-unmentionable-evil, you still want to distance yourself from nuts like this. You wonder how he sleeps at night, being a man and all.

And many thanks to all those who responded to this consultation.

In Jewel’s world

New entries very well out of time line here and here. Also, please see my December offers and the details of London visit.

Northern Ireland

Northern IrelandIf you haven’t done so yet, there’s still time. You can still submit evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly on The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill. Clause 6 of this Bill will criminalise purchase of sex in Northern Ireland. Lord Morrow, the author of the Bill, insists that this will stop sex trafficking. Paying for sex with someone who is coerced (trafficked or otherwise) is already illegal in Northern Ireland and it hasn’t stopped sex trafficking. Criminalising all paid-for sex isn’t going to make much difference either, it will only put more women and men in danger. You don’t need to be Irish to write to the Assembly, you don’t need to be a resident, you only need to have some common sense and knowledge of sex work as either buyer or seller. This is more than Lord Morrow has to offer. Stop the criminalisation of sex work in Northern Ireland!

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill

Any organisation or individual with an interest in this Bill is invited to submit evidence to the Committee by e-mail to committee.justice@niassembly.gov.uk

The evidence must be structured to address the specific clauses of the Bill and, if appropriate, should include any amendments you wish to propose to the text.

The closing date for submissions is 5.00 p.m. on Friday 1 Nov 2013.

Bill as PDF.

Trying to prove that criminalisation of purchase of sex reduces trafficking: Garbage In, Garbage Out by L.M. Augustin.

Edinburgh, Friday 19 July, 3pm outside the Scottish Parliament

Most of the text below was shamelessly stolen from ICRSE press-release. If you’ve seen it before, skip to the end. For more information on the protest in the city close to you please go to

 http://jasmineanddora.wordpress.com/

Recent murders and violent attacks on sex workers spark an unprecedented wave of international action calling for an end to stigma and criminalisation. Once again SCOT-PEP and SWOU come together in Scotland to unite people protesting against systems worldwide that fail to protect sex workers from discrimination, violence and murder.

Last week, with one day apart, 2 sex workers were brutally murdered. On Tuesday, Dora, a trans woman and sex worker in Kusadasi, Aydin in Turkey was stabbed by a client. On Thursday, Jasmine, a mother of two children and a sex worker, was also stabbed – by her ex-husband. Those two tragic deaths should be a wake-up call for all of us: human rights defenders, feminists, LGBT activists, policy makers and anyone who refuses a world where people – because they are selling sexual services – are seen as less worthy of human dignity and respect and therefore more likely to be seen as unfit mothers by the state, or to be the victims of brutal and heinous crimes.

Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association in Turkey wrote: “Violence against trans sex workers in different forms has been a common and widespread reality in Turkey. The overall reported incidents of trans sex workers murders has been 31 between 2008 – 2012 in Turkey, constituting the highest number in Council of Europe states. Another case that we have experienced this week was the violent attack of another trans sex worker from Ankara – Ela – who was shot by gun from her arm by one of her clients and she may lose the functioning of right arm. The Turkish Government must take every necessary step to ensure trans sex workers from violence”.

Rose Alliance, a sex worker organisation where Jasmine was on the Board wrote: “Our board member, fierce activist and friend Petite Jasmine got brutally murdered yesterday (11 July 2013). Several years ago she lost custody of her children as she was considered to be an unfit parent due to being a sex worker. The children were placed with their father regardless of him being abusive towards Jasmine. They told her she didn’t know what was good for her and that she was “romanticizing” prostitution, they said she lacked insight and didn’t realise sex work was a form of self-harm. He threatened and stalked her on numerous occasions; she was never offered any protection. She fought the system through four trials and had finally started seeing her children again. Yesterday the father of her children killed her. She always said “Even if I can’t get my kids back I will make sure this never happens to any other sex worker”. We will continue her fight. Justice for Jasmine!”

Sweden, with its reputation of gender equality, transparent government and respect for minorities, is also known for passing the 1999 law that criminalises the clients of sex workers. In considering all sex workers as victims and all clients as abusers, the Swedish state denies agency of women selling sexual services. This paternalistic approach, aggressively promoted to other countries as “protecting women” actually led to an attitude that infantilises women and discredits their choices and experiences, and has led to the violation of the human rights of women. Women caught selling sex are seen as unfit mothers and subsequently have their children forcibly taken away from them, are denied housing and disregarded as victims of false consciousness and male violence, an approach that fundamentally denies their agency and their own articulation of their experiences.

[800x600] ICRSE Protest July 19th

The story of Dora, a transgender sex worker in Turkey was a different setting however noticeably still connected in that stigma and discrimination played a huge part in the impunity with which her attacker would murder her. More conservative than Sweden and with a noticeably poor record on human rights, gender equality and respect of minorities, Turkey is also failing to protect sex workers from violence. Though prostitution is not illegal in Turkey when operated from brothels (one by one shut down by the government to satisfy public morality, and by consequence, leaving more women to work, unsafely, in the streets) the stigma faced by trans women is so high that very few found ways of making a living other than through sex work.

Kemal Ordek, chair of Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association said, “Discrimination against trans women in education and employment sectors is widespread. Many trans women end up in doing sex work under risky environments. Sex work is regulated in Turkey in a manner which paves the way to criminalise those unregistered sex workers – even though the laws does not require so – as any step taken in relation to sex work is criminalised under the Turkish Penal Code. The police are generally one of the perpetrators of violence, pushing sex workers under more risky environments where they are more open to violence from people posing as clients or gangs. The 31 reported murders of trans women in Turkey in the last five years is likely to be far lower than the real number.”

In response to these murders and continual violence, and in memory of Jasmine and Dora, sex workers and allies across the world have mobilised to create a mass spontaneous international day of action and memorial. In London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Lisbon, Helsinki, Canberra, Sydney, Vancouver, Chicago, Los Angeles, in Turkey and in Sweden – a total of over 30 cities over three continents – sex workers will gather outside the embassies of the Swedish and Turkish governments, or in other public places to protest what has been called the state-condoned murders of Jasmine, Dora, and so many others. Enough sex workers have suffered or died because of stigma and criminalisation. We demand change!

Shame on Turkey! Shame on Sweden!

Shame on laws that place vulnerable people in danger of violence!

Violence against sex workers must stop.

If you are in Scotland and you care, please come and join us. Please wear black. Please bring your friends. Please wear sunglasses, wigs or masks if you want to protect your identity. In Edinburgh. In Glasgow. Please be there with us and for us.

My clients

Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. It’s my clients who make me a prostitute and they do a brilliant job. Again and again. They even write poems about it.

Ever since Rhoda Grant published the results of her consultation (and for some time before that) I kept wondering what was going to happen. Quite naturally, my feelings ranged from “We’re all gonna die!” to “Nah, this ain’t gonna happen” depending on the day of the week. At the end of June, a few days before the bloody Bill failed, I went through my accounts for the first half of 2013. Ms Grant kept stressing that prostitution can’t go further underground, that if clients can find us then so can the police. So I made a list of everyone I saw in the half a year and did some simple mathematics. I admit that it’s not a representative half a year as I was off for 5 weeks with a kidney infection and then took time to get back to work*, but I wasn’t bored enough to go through 2012 accounts to verify my 2013 findings. The short of it is that out of all my dates in these 6 months only 28.5% were with new people. Others were repeat clients. Don’t know about you, I arrived at 3 conclusions:

  1. I seem to be good at my job
  2. I seem to be bad at marketing
  3. If forced, I could take down my website so the police can’t find me, and live off regular clients. Neither ideal nor impossible but does smell of underground.

And then, having made the list, I thought I could look into other things. The new clients. 50% of them I met while in Brighton, Cambridge and London (i.e. wouldn’t have met if hadn’t travelled. Definitely need to put more energy into marketing) and 25% of them all I have already seen again within this half year.

And out of curiosity I also had a look at my clients’ jobs. To be fair, I don’t always know what new clients do, and sometimes with clients I know well I only have a vague idea (e. g. something boring in marine policy making that neither me nor him want to talk about), but I know where the vast majority of my benefactors get the money to pay me, and the two general groups that came up first were

  1. IT dudes**
  2. Academic professionals

I have to face the fact that I mostly attract geeks and nerds. And geriatrics. The group that came up third was “pensioners”. Or I can choose to believe that I tend to attract mature and intelligent men whose unique preferences (and tastes in women) set them apart from the majority.

And finally here are the results of the Limerick Competition:

And in case you’re wondering, the people who took part are:

  • 3 IT dudes
  • 1 academic
  • 1 pensioner
  • 1 sweet man I’ve never met so don’t know what job he has if any.

And the winner is Leonard with

A woman of fixed virtue price

she’ll bind up your heart in a trice

from the top of her head

to the foot… of her bed?

Fuck virtue, let’s celebrate vice!

I’ve been doing exactly that. Right after him we have Walter with

There is this fine lady named Jewel

Whose stubbornness matches a mule.

If you call her a whore 

You won’t get past her door

(AND you’ll have to face ME in a duel).

Leonard gets a free dinner with me as promised. Walter gets a kiss for his knightly inclinations and, quite possibly, something else on top of the kiss to encourage the right type of behaviour and further literary endeavours. And on the subject: am I really that stubborn? I mean, people dedicate poems to my stubbornness! And so many people voted for it! In fact, some people in SCOT-PEP voted for this limerick exactly because of this line. And there was I thinking they’ll go for the one about the parliament… Here’s George’s (SCOT-PEP co-chair) take on things:

Done and chosen my two

Although there were quite a few

That were very clever.

I thought “Well I never!”

Jewel’s so popular. Who knew?

Indeed.

Many thanks again to everyone who contributed to the competition and also to those who took the time to vote. The new poll is here, please vote if you feel that it’s relevant to you in any way.

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* I have a limerick for that

There is a Jewel in Auld Reekie

Who’s lately been feeling quite peaky

And men everywhere 

Wept with despair

‘Cos they couldn’t meet her for a quickie

 

** I’ve a limerick for that, too!

I’m a man who can’t wire plugs, 

I’m a programmer with software bugs.

I cry in the night,

But everything’s right

When Jewel arrives and gives me hugs.

Ye gods and little fishes

The limerick of the day:

When money is buying affection,

there’s no guarantee of erection.

But Jewel, we know,

will set us aglow,

and without any chance of dejection.

As you probably know, last week there was a debate on prostitution. The leaflet said it was Rhoda Grant (MSP) and Richard Lucas (some obscure personage of some obscure christian movement in Scotland) VS Laura Lee (sex workers’ rights campaigner) and Douglas Fox (IUSW representative).

The debate was held in a hotel across the road from the Parliament; one has to wonder if this location was chosen intentionally. I was a little late, sat there for about an hour and left early when Rhoda was speaking. Outside the meeting room, I got the mobile out of my handbag and dialled a number.

– Are you done? – asked H(ugh).

– I left early, – I said. – Shall I come round then?

– Sure, see you in a minute.

I put the phone back into my handbag and go to the lifts. 30 seconds later he opens the door, I step in and he gives me a kiss. I get home really late.

The following afternoon Walter comes to pick me up for lunch. At the restaurant, our drinks served, he asks:

– So, how was it?

– Boring. I left early.

– Not the feedback I expected! And what’s this Rhoda like?

– Well, she’s like… How do I put it into words? She’s a little… A lot, actually… I don’t know… She’s like a fish.

– Out of water?

No, it’s not that. It took me a while to figure out why it was exactly a fish that came to mind, but now I know. When you look at a pretty little gold fish in a tank, opening its mouth and making little air bubbles, you get the same level of passion and interest. And the same amount of information. The only time she came up with something fresh was when Douglas asked how the legislation will be enforced and what sort of evidence the police will look for. She admitted that the women would have to be tracked down (all hail decriminalisation a la Grant!) and as for evidence, well, the police would come up with something. That was the point where I got bored.

Walter went to pay the bill and, waiting for him, I looked around the restaurant. 3 tables away from me Douglas Fox was chatting to a woman who was scribbling his words down. I waved at him. He gave me a blank stare. Oh well. Walter returned, I told him about Douglas and we marvelled at the coincidence. Although frankly, considering how many beliefs Douglas and I share, it wasn’t a surprise at all that we ended up in the same restaurant. We got up to leave and as Walter opened the door for me, he whispered: “He looked at your bum!”

– Errm… Douglas??? What, is there a stain on my dress?

I turn round trying to look at my own bum. Walter rolls eyes, probably the first time in the years I’ve known him:

– The waiter! He totally looked at your bum!

Once inside, we have a shower and move on to the bed. There Walter picks me up (naturally, I scream and demand that he puts me back down), kisses me and throws me on the bed. What’s it all about? If you remember, some time ago Walter pulled that trick off the first time and although it was a little different to actual throwing, it was rather exciting. And this time it’s even better. The bed creaks, as if to complain; clumsily, on all fours over the duvet I make my way back to the floor and demand (again! Some women just won’t give you a break, will they?) that he throws me again. He does as told and jumps after me.

I haven’t said it before on the blog, but Walter is one of those clients who turns my job from a nice pastime into a rewarding endeavour, a hard task that’s totally worth taking. For a very long time our relationship was a teacher-student one, with him asking questions and me doing my best to explain things I’d never even tried putting into words before. When I met him, he had very little (and mostly negative) experience of sex. But he was eager to learn, with a clear goal he set himself from the start. I’ll never forget the kiss he stole while we were waiting to be seated in a restaurant on one of our first dates. Such a small thing but it was a big step for him at the time. And, step by step, he is now at the stage where he knows how to make love to a woman, he knows how to take the lead and he feels comfortable with it. I don’t think he thought it was possible 2 years ago. And all this time he’s been unwittingly teaching me back things that I lack: humility, open mind, putting trust into people. Prostitution is a nationwide educational programme focussed on safe sex and personal growth. You should be investing into it, not criminalising it.

And in case you’re interested, here‘s (much) more about the debate from Douglas Fox and the article about each panelist by the lady-scribbler in the restaurant.

Amnesty International, branches and hookers – UPDATED

Updates: the Facebook page I mention and link to in this entry was removed on June 1, 2013, most probably through the actions taken by Amnesty International UK/ Scotland: it’s highly unlikely that Paisley Branch removed the page that advertised their anti-prostitution campaign on 3 June just because they suddenly changed their mind. This shows that occasionally the joint voices of sex workers and their allies can and do change the course of events. We are grateful to everyone who took part in this.

Right, as most of you know by now, Rhoda Grant published the results of her consultation. Many interesting submissions there. I’ll concentrate on just one, the submission by Amnesty International Paisley Branch here. Amnesty International Paisley Branch support Rhoda Grant in her noble crusade and provide us with their view on prostitution based on their experience of one female ex-sex worker whom only one member of the Branch met personally.

The issue I have here is not that Amnesty International supported the proposed legislation. They didn’t. In fact, they are now emphatically denying any connection with the consultation or this submission. Here, for example. And here. As an organisation they have the right to have a policy on sex work and act according to this policy. Or not have such a policy and not act, which is the case. Fine by me. Paisley Branch submitted their response independently of the main body of the organisation and they stated right at the beginning that “this response does not reflect the policy of Amnesty International UK”. This I have trouble with. If you’re submitting a formal response to an official body and the views in that response do not represent the views of the organisation on whose behalf you’re responding, then maybe you shouldn’t be responding on behalf of that organisation. Maybe you should be responding in personal capacity. Maybe you shouldn’t be trying to pass your personal opinion as unofficially endorsed by an internationally recognised organisation.

And there’s more. Let’s read this submission beyond the first 2 sentences. Page 1:

One of our members works in a prison with women offenders and she relates to a conversation she had…

Considering that this response came from an organisation, it looks like the whole organisation consists of a bunch of rumourmongers and their cats who gather twice a week on a bench in the local park. But let’s read on:

… a conversation she had with a young woman who had experienced prostitution of her own volition. The young woman was adamant that she was not a victim and that it had been her choice. Without wishing to patronise her in any way, her forearms were covered in so many scars it was impossible to see any unmarked flesh. To those of us who have been fortunate to have had a (fairly) stable childhood, where abuse has not damaged our understanding of bodily boundaries, her defence of ‘not being a victim’ has a hollow ring.

These lines are so wrong on so many levels it’s hard to choose where to start. So, we have a young woman in prison. She admits (to one person, as far as we know) to have been a sex worker and to have entered sex work of her own volition (and then this one person goes and tells this to everyone on the bench who wants to listen. And then the bench people make it public in writing, under the words “Amnesty International”). But when this story is passed around, they literally objectify this woman. They reduce her, her integrity and her experience of her own life to her appearance and the fact that she was a hooker. She was adamant that she was not a victim but who cares? She clearly was because – scars. The list of assumptions here:

  1. The scars are the result of self-harm.
  2. Self-harm is the result of prostitution.
  3. Involvement in prostitution is the result of childhood abuse.

Without wishing to patronise her in any way? Seriously? Amnesty International Paisley Branch robbed this young woman of her agency, re-invented her experience of her life and started shouting on her behalf over her head. And all because her bodily boundaries seemed to be different to their idea of the right type of bodily boundaries that decent people should have. Which means she doesn’t know what’s best for her. Somebody! Quick! Look up the definition of “patronise”!

And last, but just as important one – “her defence of not being a victim”. Why do we sex workers always have to defend ourselves to avoid being made victims to avoid having to be saved? I don’t know how to put it better, but actually we were having a fab day until you came to save us! The young woman in question was in prison! Whom do they think she was trying to “defend” herself from? Her imaginary pimps? Because of course they will kidnap her from prison and force her into voluntary prostitution again, right? Or from the opinion of some bigoted, er, malicious woman? Maybe she was simply telling her life story to someone she thought she could trust, but there you go. If you end up in prison, don’t talk to strangers who tell you they represent Amnesty International. Especially Paisley Branch.

This submission provides endless material for desperation. Paisley Branch even mention SCOT-PEP in a way that makes you think of dirty old men and coercion. Just take my word for it, the remaining 6 pages won’t put a smile on your face. But if you’re still curious, here’s another blog on this submission by a Glasgow lady.

Amnesty International did not respond to the consultation and I’m sure they aren’t proud to have their name attached to the document that shows such humane attitude towards one young woman. But the harm is done. To the young woman in prison. To many other young women who have scars on their forearms. To Amnesty International. To sex workers in Scotland. Because you can imagine the juicy joy of Rhoda Grant each time she now says “Oh, but Amnesty International supports my Bill!” In the main body of her consultation summary Amnesty International is mentioned 7 times, quoted 6 times. In 2 of the quotes the identifier “Paisley Branch” is omitted – in paragraphs 100 and 147. And even if it weren’t. How often, when you see words “Amnesty International Paisley Branch”, do you consciously think “no, this isn’t the organisation, it’s the bench people with cats”? I’d be fecking mad if I were a decent representative of AI.

And there’s more good news! Amnesty International Paisley Branch now campaign against prostitution. No, of course they don’t say it in so many words. They call it campaign to get people to talk to their MSPs with the view to support the Bill to criminalise purchase of sex; the Bill that Amnesty International did not support because HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS NOT THE FOCUS OF THIS PROPOSED LEGISLATION (par.22 of the consultation), PROSTITUTION IS. And prostitution is something that Amnesty International have no opinion about. But Paisley Branch believes that human trafficking is “inextricably connected” with prostitution, therefore they need to “shut up shop in Scotland”. Here, you can like them on Facebook!

http://www.facebook.com/AmnestyPaisleyCampaignAgainstHumanTrafficking

And in case you’re wondering how this happened, here’s the story of how the bunch of bench people with cats seem to be on very friendly terms with no-one less than Trish Godman herself, with active help by Jan Macleod, Gunilla Eckberg (gasp!) and the rest of sing-along anti-hooker front heroes: “the Paisley group were heartened to see the acknowledgement of the link between human trafficking and prostitution”. Amnesty International should watch their branches better. Even a small rotten one can damage the whole tree.

Sex Worker Open University in Glasgow

Sex Worker Open University Co-operative invites you to Scotland’s first ever Sex Workers’ Rights and Community Building Festival in Glasgow 5 – 10 April!
 
Scotland is one of the most recent countries to consider change in sex work laws. This has led to an uprise of anti-sex work groups campaigning for the introduction of an “End Demand” approach. This is the time for us to stand together and say NO to further criminalisation of our work and our clients. This is a unique opportunity to make our voices heard and to organise as a community for our rights and we hope you can join us! Please spread the word about our events and we will make sure to develop and distribute many resources (videos, press releases, etc) following the festival that can be used in our ongoing fight for access to the rights we deserve.
 
The programme includes films, cultural events, debates, international speakers, skill-sharing workshops and much more! Some events are open to public, others are sex worker-only spaces. 
 
We are very grateful and excited to welcome guest speakers both from around the UK (Scot-PEP, X:Talk Project and ECP) and from more distant places (STRASS (France) and Scarlet Alliance (Australia)).
 
With love, rage and solidarity, 
 
Sex Worker Open University Coop

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Sex Worker Open University in partnership with Scot-PEP presents

SEX WORKERS’ RIGHTS & COMMUNITY BUILDING FESTIVAL

Glasgow Fri 5 April – Wed 10 April 2013

April 5, Friday

♥ Sex Workers’ Rights Film Night! (PUBLIC EVENT)

7pm – 10pm, The Cinema, CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts) 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3JD

Suggested donation: £5

SWOU Collective is proud to invite you to an evening of short films and documentaries produced by sex workersor about sex work. The videos will be introduced by sex workers and allies and will cover themes such as sex workers’ self-organisation, resistance to criminalisation, sex work and migration and effects of anti-trafficking policies on sex workers’ communities. The films include

  • Sex Worker Open University 2011, by Stoo Ireson, 2012 (UK). The second edition of SWOU brought together activists from a dozen different countries and included a Sex Worker Art Show, demonstration and many workshops!
  • Streets in Red, by Clare Havell, 2010 (UK). Short documentary on the subject of street based sex workers in the UK.
  • Normal, by Nic Mai (UK). Combined interviews with four young migrants impersonated by actors. The similarities and differences between the characters’ life trajectories are explored by focusing on their contradictory aspirations to lead a normal life. The four characters explain how they came to see their involvement in the sex industry as normal and how their notion of normality evolved with their life experiences. At the same time, their life trajectories do not conform to the victim/villain stereotypical opposition which dominates current debates about sex work.
  • The Honey Bringer, by Clare Havell and SWOU Collective, 2012 (UK). A documentary on the 2012 Sex Workers Freedom Festival that happened in Kolkata, India as an alternative conference and protest to International AIDS Conference in Washington from which sex workers were banned. Interviews and images from the biggest international sex worker gathering of all times!
  • Last Rescue in Siam, by Empower, 2012 (Thailand). This is the first film ever made by sex workers in Thailand. It is a short black and white movie inspired by the tradition of the old silent movies. The film accompanies the Empower research report Hit & Run on the impact of anti-trafficking raids on sex workers’ human rights.

 April 6, Saturday

♥ Laws and Policies that Impact Sex Workers, and Strategies for Resistance and Change (PUBLIC EVENT)

11am – 4pm, STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress) 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow G3 6NG

The day will open with introductions to the event by members of SWOU and delegate of Comic Relief and Red Umbrella Fund.

FIRST PANEL (11am – 1pm): The Push to Criminalise Clients and the Roll Out Effects on Sex Workers.

  • Jay Levy, University of Cambridge: Swedish Abolitionism as Violence Against Women
  • Scot-PEP: The Scottish Context: Organising Against the Push to Criminalise Clients
  • X:Talk: The Case for a Moratorium: Sex Workers Organising in the Shadow of the Olympic Games. Lesson for the Commonwealth Games?
  • Morgane Merteuil, Strass: The French Union of Sex Workers’ Approach to Fighting the Criminalisation of Clients

[Discussion between panelists and audience]

SECOND PANEL (2pm – 4pm): An Alternative Approach: Decriminalisation

  • Anastacia Ryan, NSWP and SWOU: Introducing Decriminalisation as an Alternative Model
  • English Collective of Prostitutes: Sex Work and the Law: Organising to Win Decriminalisation, Safety and Rights
  • Film: New Zealand Fight to Pass the Prostitution Reform Act (2003)
  • Anastacia Ryan, University of Glasgow/NZPC: Exploring and Comparing Sex Workers’ Experiences in Scotland and New Zealand
  • Zhara Stardust, Scarlet Alliance: Decriminalisation in New South Wales, Australia: The Successes and Challenges Faced by Sex Workers
  • Film: Australian Sex Workers Fight for Decriminalisation

[Discussion amongst everyone and sharing strategies for the fight for decriminalisation]

April 7, Sunday

♥ Skills Sharing and Discussion Day (SEX WORKERS ONLY)

12pm – 6pm: Email us at glasgow.swou@gmail.com for venue details.

This is a day for sex workers to gather to share skills and experiences. Workshops will include professional skills and discussions. It is a sex worker only event and all workshops are delivered by sex workers themselves. This is a safe and confidential space.

April 8, Monday

♥ SWOU Taboo (SEX WORKERS ONLY)

1pm – 5pm: Email us at Glasgow.swou@gmail.com for venue details.

1 pm: Taboo. Another sex worker only space, SWOU Taboo is a chance for sex workers to discuss issues that are quite personal and often used against our self-determination. We will create a safe space to discuss issues such as sexual violence, mental health and addiction, our relationship to money or our clients.

3pm: Sex Work as a Helping Profession. As sex workers we often provide our clients with important and invaluable services that support their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. We will create a space for us to collect our stories and share our experiences of ‘helping’.

♥ Building Alliances (PUBLIC EVENT)

7.30pm – 9pm Mac Lecture Theatre, Glasgow School of Art, 167 Renfrew Street, Glasgow G3 6RQ

Viewing of extract of Proudly Trans in Turkey from Gabrielle Le Roux about trans activists and sex workers in Turkey, followed by discussion and presentation from members of sex worker, LGBT, HIV+ and migrant communities, feminist groups and trade unionists on the intersection between sex work and other criminalised or stigmatised communities and how we can build alliances for social justice and human rights.

April 9-10, Tue-Wed

♥ Reducing Stigma and Building Our Capacity (SEX WORKERS ONLY)

Email us at glasgow.swou@gmail.com for venue/time details and to register.

A public education workshop for sex workers by Maria Nengeh Mensah (Stella and Université du Québec à Montréal) and Chris Bruckert (POWER and University of Ottawa). This two-day workshop is a unique opportunity for sex workers to develop their knowledge as an educator, reinforce their capacity to confront whore-stigma, learn about the principles of public education, and share knowledge, skills and ideas around diverse trainings about sex work. Registration by email necessary.

April 9, Tuesday

♥ Sex Work, Stigma and Criminalisation (PUBLIC EVENT)

6pm – 8pm, CCA5, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3JD

This interactive public education workshop open to all is led by members of Sex Worker Open University and aims to look at the root causes of whore-phobia and the effect of stigma and criminalisation on the lives of sex workers.

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PDF version of this programme available to download here. Please help us promote this festival!

SEX WORKER OPEN UNIVERSITY: www.swou.org (possible issues depending on your browser)

SCOT-PEP: www.scot-pep.org.uk

FACEBOOK EVENT: Sex Workers’ Rights Festival and Community Building Glasgow www.facebook.com/events/347770968675060/?fref=ts

Introduction to the day when Rhoda Grant made me cry

This is an unusual entry for this blog and it concerns profound personal experiences. It is also very long and comes in parts. If any of these facts make you feel uncomfortable – tough luck.

From the title you can assume (and rightly so) that this entry touches on political issues going on in Scotland at the moment. Namely, the proposed criminalisation of clients. However, unless it’s the first time you come across my blog, you know that I don’t do politics. Not unless politics give me the hotel room number and the name they checked in under and have some cash ready – under these circumstances I do pretty much anything that breathes. Yet, I’ll stay true to my decision: this blog is a story of my life and experiences as a prostitute, this is not a political blog.

If you’re a survivor of a root canal treatment, you’ll know that the roots of your teeth are much longer than the size of your scull realistically allows for. This is just to explain that I really don’t know when the multiple events leading to what I got to experience thanks to Rhoda Grant had been formed. There was no point in my life where I suddenly stopped and thought: “This is a beginning of something BIG”. We’re talking years here, but the first noticeable indication for me was 4 months ago, when, in view of the then coming consultation, Scot-PEP got in touch with me and invited to join their campaign group. I came. Not because I am politically active and can’t wait to kick some parliament ass but because it gave me a chance to meet people who know what I do for a living and think it’s normal. Not because I could talk about my job with them but because I didn’t have to hide it from them. I don’t feel the need to talk about my work: there isn’t much to talk about. What I really need is to be able to be myself, and with years it gets harder and harder with people who don’t know about my occupation. The real me is the prostitute on this blog: the irritatingly bossy and annoyingly opinionated self-indulgent control freak prone to sarcasm and self-adoration. In short, totally lovable. The socially and politically correct woman devoid of charm and personality that calls her school friends each year on their birthday is just someone with my face and voice.

Through Scot-PEP I met a handful of other women working in Scotland. And (we’re gradually getting closer to the point of the story) one of them sent me this twitter message a few days ago. The conversation says it all, but you still don’t know what it’s all about, do you? The e-mail:

I was having a chat with [a client], about advertising and the different methods & styles etc, and he was like, “Jewel gave a me proper scold for criticising how some girls advertise”, i.e he was saying you were classy and by implication some women weren’t, and you apparently scolded him by text in defence of other women! And then we both talked for like ten minutes about how great it is that you did that, and how awesome that makes you. True story!

If I’m honest, I told so many clients off so many times for stereotyping sex workers and making assumptions of us on the basis of our marketing campaigns (here, for example) that I can’t recall this particular client – pity! And here’s the post that explains that classy has nothing to do with better. However, the bit of this mail that made me freeze was the one where the lady said they talked about how awesome I am.

It’s not like I don’t know how awesome I am or that I’ve never been told this before. No. What I read the lady say is “you’re one good hooker!” This I’ve never had before and suddenly I felt very proud. Suddenly, I was accepted. I am now peer-approved. Civilian people out there won’t understand it. Sex workers NEVER get approved or accepted for their work. Even my clients love me because I’m a wonderful person, not because I’m a wonderful prostitute! I mean, aren’t THEY of all people supposed to objectify me? My bum!

Imagine you’re a cabinet-maker. You made a cabinet, and another cabinet-maker passing by says “Dude, this is one good cabinet! Well done!” It feels nice, doesn’t it, knowing that someone in the same profession is able to appreciate your good work. And I guess a lot of people out there experience it now and again, at least if they really are good at what they do. Us hookers never have it! Yes, we meet our peers and form little unions and sometimes even large and registered unions, and some of us will be appreciated for the activism that they do, but not for actual sex work. Even among ourselves we see the person in our colleague, not a worker. And I’m not saying it’s wrong – it’s right! – but now and again, once in a decade for me, I’d love to be told that actually, as a prostitute, I’m awesome!

We’re now much closer to my Grant episode but it’ll be coming in the following post as this one is way too long already.

The sex talk

If you’re in Edinburgh (and even if you’re not), you may be aware of Belinda Brooks-Gordon‘s talk on sex work as part of Edinburgh Sceptics: on the Fringe of Reason. While personally I like her works a lot (most probably because they make sense and don’t tell me I need to be saved), I felt little inclined to go to the event. Who would you expect to see there? That’s right, those who are curious about prostitution and prostitutes. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I’d like to avoid it in public.

I had a booking on the day, and I really don’t know how it happened but when I arrived to the client’s place, I suddenly thought: “Damn, Belinda’s in Edinburgh and I’m not even making an effort to see her! When is the next time I’ll have a chance?” Funny how I only started thinking about it the last minute. So there I am, asking my client to go to the talk with me.

Did he agree? Of course he didn’t, most probably for the reason I gave above. But he let me leave earlier and I was just in time for the talk and even had a spare minute to sexually harass a poor Edinburgh Sceptic who was giving out leaflets to the people queueing for the show (no drama, by the way, just a little chat which he himself initiated, but he looked slightly red in the face and a lady of fixed-rate virtue from Glasgow, who was queueing with me, said I got him flustered). There’s no way I could be a spy: I’ll blow my cover within the first 15 minutes. Just the day before the talk I pinched a bum on a performer in Royal Mile. As in really pinched. In public. It was a fine piece of arse and I wanted to show my appreciation of it in a way a man should understand.

Anyway, we got inside and I was so glad I came! It was one of the most informative and comprehensive talks about the political side of my profession, well-structured, well-presented and, of course, well received by the audience. At the end there was time for questions, and a woman in one of the front rows raised a hand. She started her question with “I’m a sex worker in…” and I have no clue what her question was about because I didn’t hear any of it, I was too stunned. It was the second time I saw a woman publicly announcing she was a prostitute; and each time they make me question myself: would I be able to do it? If I were, how would it feel? It’s all good telling myself and clients that I’m proud of my job, but would I say the same in a large room full of strangers? Well, I’d do it if I had to, but would I do it if I didn’t? And more importantly, would I still feel proud? I know the stigma is there, but just how much influence does it have over me? Magdalene survivors are still ashamed of their past and they did nothing wrong. So how would I feel if I were to come out of my closet in public?

Belinda agreed to meet Scot-PEP afterwards so the Glasgow lady and I stayed and joined the 2 men from Scot-PEP. So did the young woman who stunned me so. I told her about it and she just shrugged her shoulders.

I will never understand the British habit of pubbing. When civilised people in civilised countries want to discuss something in informal settings, they’ll meet at a bar, or a cafe, or a restaurant, sit down, get a drink and chat. When the Brits have something to talk about, they stand in a busy pub (right under the speaker blaring out Alice Cooper and Rammstein) and shout at each other with an occasional spitspray. They seem to enjoy it though: an hour with Belinda passed very quickly and it was time for Scot-PEP gentlemen to leave.

As soon as our male companions were gone, an interesting thing happened: men lined up behind Belinda’s back. Here’s how it looked: there’s Belinda the Blonde Bombshell who’s just given a talk on harlotry, there’s the self-proclaimed sex worker standing right next to her, and 2 more “gals” (me and the Glasgow lady). We’ve been standing there for over an hour and no-one seemed interested, and only now, like flies on honey, they surrounded Belinda asking her sex work questions that even the bartender could answer. All across their faces was stamped “I want a closer look at them hookers”. We left straight away. Want to have a closer look at a hooker? Call, come and pay her.

The lovely video below shows why it’s not always pleasant to have prostitution-curious people around you.