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.

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.

Updates

First of all, Part 3 is here. And what happened after that is here. That’s February done. My June tour dates are here and I’ve updated the photo on Meet Jewel page – long overdue. The whole page needs to be updated but I’m not promising anything.

Secondly (but equally importantly) here’s a very badly- worded petition that I would like everyone who cares to sign.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49040

And here is what I think about it. OF COURSE I want any crime against me and my colleagues to be taken seriously and to be dealt with in a respectful manner. So I support the (arguably) good intention of this petition and the end result. But people need to understand that sex workers are at higher risk of being victims of crime for many reasons, and not all of them will disappear if police start taking us more seriously: working in a criminalised context, fear of police, stigma, marginalisation will still be around. Don’t even start me on sex workers who have children. And the language used is problematic to say the least. I can easily imagine some uninformed member of public (i.e. the majority) reading this and going into panic about how horrific my job is. A well-informed anti-prostitution activist, on the other hand, can use this to further their case that all sex work is violence and the only solution is to criminalise everything till kingdom come.

The anecdata used just sends me into a mental torpor. “In the UK, more than half of women in prostitution have been raped and/or seriously sexually assaulted.” By clients? By their partners? By police? By passers-by if they work in the street? By traffickers? By criminals who prey on vulnerable women who they know will not go to police? “The mortality rate for women in prostitution in London is 12 times the national average.” Hands up who wants to know what the national average is! And could we please have the national average for men as well. And the mortality rate for women in London who are not involved in prostitution. Because I guess it’ll be higher than mortality rate for women in the Isle of Skye (population 43.75 persons on an average busy day) and therefore higher than the national average anyway. And could we please compare it all to the mortality rate for sex workers in New Zealand where prostitution is decriminalised? And most of all I would like to know the source of this dead hooker statistic so I could go there and look up what death causes were taken into account. Suicide? Murder at work? Domestic violence? Overdose? Cancer? Car accident? AIDS? Old age? Were the women whose cases were used for this statistic street workers? Or did they work in a licensed sauna?

Nowadays, when people start talking about prostitution, it seems to be appropriate to throw in any statistic and it won’t be questioned. Over three quarters of prostitutes in London will experience sexual assault! How awful! 95% of prostitutes in UK are drug addicts and/or alcoholics! Horror! 11 out of 10 women involved in prostitution want out! It all goes. And why? Because politics. Because prostitutes have to be victims, otherwise the public won’t want to save them. Politicians are good at using this kind of statistics – just read Rhoda Grant’s “consultation”! By the way, today she published its results. You can enjoy them here. What a sad sad day for this country.

You probably feel that you got more political talk than you ever expected from this blog. I am sorry. I’ll leave it for now (but I’ll want to get back to this later) with just one other hooker statistic. I recently had to re-read Farley’s farts (Prostitution in 5 Countries, 1998) because I was looking for a specific quote. I found this:

A number of authors (e.g. Barry, 1995; Hoigard and Finstad, 1992; Leidholdt, 1993; Ross et al., 1990; Vanwesenbeeck, 1994) have described the psychological defenses which are necessitated by the experience of prostitution, and which frequently persist: splitting off certain kinds of awareness and memories, disembodiment, dissociation, amnesia, hiding one’s real self (often until the nonprostituted self begins to blur), depersonalization, denial.

And then a few days later I had to go to a dentist to have my root canal re-done. So while he was screwing my tooth and sticking little metal rods straight into my gum to measure the length of the canals, it occurred to me that this is the most invasive and traumatising procedure I’ve ever had to endure, physically as well as mentally. And where is this famed hookers’ ability to fecking dissociate? I wished I could pull off some sort of disembodiment trick there and then but apparently 7 years in sex work isn’t enough to develop this technique.

And yes, I know that what you really came here for is the competition! Well, thank you for your patience and reading this far. I have received a string of limericks and I’m very much looking forward to putting them up for vote. Come back on the 1 June. And prepare to be amazed!

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

————————————————-

 

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.

Newcastle

The first stop of my long October tour was Newcastle for a day. This day was spent with the Mariner. The original Master Plan was a tour of Geordieland in the afternoon, but when I arrived it was raining and somehow we just ended up staying in my hotel room. We left in the early evening for a dinner and then to see “Oliver!” and not only because a visit to the theatre is always nice but because I needed something fresh after my overdose of The Phantom of the Opera.

Food, glorious food! Hot sausage and mustard!

is nowhere as sexy as

Darkness stirs and wakes imagination

but by then I was so tired of humming the Phantom’s tunes I was ready to hum anything. A food theme is an additional bonus: how can you not love food?

The show was everything I expected and even more considering Brian Conley as Fagin – what an utterly loveable mean old Jew! Moreover, I suddenly saw his “Reviewing the Situation” in a new light: if you listen to it closely, it can easily be a sex worker’s song. Fagin ponders over all those questions that sooner or later come to those who choose sex work as a career. Is it possible to do sex work “all your life” or is settling down with a spouse a better option? For reasons Fagin describes so eloquently, marriage isn’t a good idea (and even worse for a prostitute: why do I want to give away something that I’m used to be paid for?) Then there is the option of performing “an honest job” and again, the arguments against it are totally true – an honest job is a dismal flop next to prostitution. So what happens when you’re seventy? Like thieves, prostitutes have no-one to rely on: throughout the song, family is hard to keep, friends are hard to make, colleagues are hard to trust, society is indifferent when not hostile. If you listen carefully, Fagin finds no solution: he’d love to not have to be a thief anymore, but it’s his best option since he has to fend for himself. “I’m a bad ‘un and a bad ‘un I shall stay” is what he arrives to. It’s a rather sad song, taken as comic if you don’t concern yourself with the character’s troubles. Mind you, the character of Fagin in the musical is very different to the one in the book.

Yes, I loved the thief, but I deeply resented the prostitute – Nancy. Clearly not because of competition. This “tart with a heart” archetype is so insulting to common sense that it’s not even ironic. Writers and other “creative” people around the world, from bible to the most recent TV series, have been dehumanising, objectifying and pimping (i.e. getting a profit from using) prostitutes by creating this one rare whore who is occasionally capable of showing some humanity (as opposed to the mainstream whore who has never even heard the term). She is usually there to highlight the purity and morality of a “real” woman in the story and to make the reader go “aww, look at this hooker, she’s trying to be human! How sweet, poor silly thing!” So when at the start of the show the Mariner leaned to me and whispered: “Remember what happened to Nancy?” I said I didn’t. First of all, it’s a really creepy question to ask someone in Nancy’s occupation, and secondly, you don’t need to remember. Nancy’s a hooker. Hookers get murdered, especially the ones with a heart. This most likely comes from the contradiction between her job and her human nature: tart with a heart’s existence upsets the balance of society by showing that prostitutes are actually women (yes, I know sex workers can be male and transgender, but the society prefers to stay unaware). The society can’t possibly be forced to choose between

  • prostitutes are human like other women and are therefore equal members of society and deserve rights like others, and
  • all women aren’t human.

And so, the hooker has to die.

Yes, prostitution can be rather isolating. Which is where me and the Mariner found each other, because being a sailor is also very isolating, although for different reasons. Society never considers prostitutes’ feelings, but it doesn’t bother much with seamen’s either. It hadn’t occurred to me until I met the Mariner. As a seafarer, you spend most of your life on a ship in the tight company of people (mostly men with an occasional woman here and there nowadays) who often don’t even speak your language. So you either make friends with them or with Facebook profiles – if you’re in luck and your ship provides you with Internet connection. If you have friends or family “ashore”, being with them comes down to looking at their photo when calling them. So even though for different reasons, it’s the same social isolation as with sex workers, with the same outcome: family is hard to keep, friends are hard to make. To top it all, you live at work (kinda like living in a brothel. Shudder) so while you’re on the ship, you work. As in, no 9 to 5, no week-ends, no bank holidays, no going to the local with your mates. You actually work most of the time you’re at work. I’d kill myself.