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.

New Year resolution

First of all, there are new clients introduced here and here. And I’ll start straight away with the conversation I had with one of them, as it made a lasting impression. We were discussing Prince’s needs and I tried to explain that while I’m good at some things, I’m definitely not perfect at everything that he may fancy, so

As I tried to explain last night, my forte is in building a relationship with clients, not in steamy sex where even neighbours have a cigarette. If you are looking for kinky sex, I’m not the best option for you: I am not kinky by nature, and I tend to be turned on by a client’s personality (where it’s present) rather than by sex itself, but I am good at teaching people things and providing feedback.

I expected anything but this in response:

The neighbour would have a subtle, knowing smile and a Gauloise!

Edinburgh escortsPrince has the talent of giving most vivid imagery in simple words. Now and again I can see Jean Marais in his hotel room in the Negresco, lighting up and shaking his head slightly to the sounds coming from behind a wall.

This New Year I spent with a client. I don’t think the neighbours were inclined to smoke: they must have been exhausted. So I’ll concentrate on other things. We were in the city centre for the fireworks over the castle. There was quite a crowd. At midnight, when the fireworks started, a small group of German tourists in front of us cheered loudly, interhugged and interkissed, and then moved further to congratulate everyone around. We happened to be the closest to them. They took turns to shake my client’s hand and then everyone wanted to kiss me on the cheek while screaming “Happy New Year!”

I felt like these strangers were invading my personal space. I gave a polite smile, I stretched my hand as far out as possible to shake theirs, and all this time I secretly hated myself. These people wanted to share their joy with me and to wish me happiness, and I, in a sudden fit of britishness, couldn’t even thank them properly for it. A few years ago I had been this person to wish a happy year to every stranger. This is how it should be! What’s happened to me?

Meanwhile, the fireworks were over and reminded me that everything comes to an end one day. It made me see that I’m going through the best time of my life so far. Sooner or later things will change and my life will become different. I always knew I’d been lucky to get into this job, but as years go I feel more and more appreciative. I get to make the world better. How many people can say the same about their jobs? Fair enough, I will never save the rain forests, and poverty will still be around once I retire, but I change the world one person at a time. I change some clients’ moods and other clients’ lives. I am constantly touched by how grateful and trusting my clients are. They let me into their open arms and their lives and allow me to add their personal experiences to my “pool of male consciousness”. Whatever happens later, this knowledge is always with me and I can go on helping people even when I can’t sell sex anymore. And all because my clients let me, a stranger, come close. So the new year resolution is to drop this British nonsense and hug strangers whenever appropriate.

Drawbacks of education

Let’s start with this mail I received.

—– Original Message —–

Sent: 12/24/13 12:16 PM

Subject: Jewel

Jewel,

You are lovely and smart women.  Just from your web page I can see you are more then just lovely women.  Your web sites shows you have a education to go with that hot body.   Wish I know you when I had my visit with a women who does your job.  I bet it would have been much better with you then with her.

name

Sent from Some Mail Agent

————————————————————-
Sent: ‎Thursday‎, ‎December‎ ‎26‎, ‎2013 ‎11‎:‎11‎ ‎AM

Subject: Re: Jewel

Name,

Thank you for your mail, it’s kind of you to write to tell me you were attracted by my website.

If you don’t mind, I was hoping to explain that previous poor experience of commercial sex isn’t a fault of the woman you’d chosen. After all, it was YOU who chose her. Education isn’t in our job description: you employ us to have sex with you, not to teach your kids. If your chosen lady had sex with you – she did her job. If you were not happy with it – it’s your fault.  It was up to you to do a proper search, to compare different websites, to get in touch with a few shortlisted women and see which one of them met all your needs. And it was up to you to be clear about what you want. If a client doesn’t tell me what he is looking for, I can’t guess it – I’m not a mind reader. It’s only if you take time to think about your ideal date and then tell me the details that I can either create this ideal date for you or tell you that I can’t help you. If I don’t know what you want, worse still, if you yourself don’t know what you want – it’s only through good luck that our date can be satisfactory to both parties.

So with the experience you now have, next time you’ll do better.

Yours,

Jewel

————————————————————-

—– Original Message —–

Sent: 12/27/13 09:29 AM

Subject: Re: Jewel

thank you for answering by email.  It got me thinking about the experience.   When I had it, I was young and sure what I wanted.  I think I just wanted sex, not a lasting memory.   Now that I older I do know what I would like.   An experience that when I am  90 years old it still brings back a Great memory.   I did not tell the women what I want so yes it was my fault not hers.   I am sure if I was to meet and have a experience it would much better than my first.

Your website is not write by a sex worker but some one with a great education.  Your blog is written very well and your points in the blog are very good.

name

Sent from Some Mail Agent

————————————————————-

It’s a no win situation. If you’re illiterate, you’re either a victim of economic coercion (i.e. 99% of Earth population) or too stupid to make the right (i.e. approved by society) choice. If you appear to be educated, you’re a fake (most probably a pimp posing as a hooker to promote sex workers’ rights for the opportunity to pimp them some more). Fair enough, this isn’t what the author of the mail meant, he was simply trying to pay me a compliment by denigrating my job and my colleagues. I can’t really blame him for this attitude, the society is to blame. If a greengrocer or a cab driver blogged about their jobs and their clients in a way that people found interesting, how many would say “nah, too well-written for a cabbie/ banana seller”? Few. Because the society doesn’t know about these people, what lead them to their job choices and what they did before. How many studies show the level of education of people in these 2 professions? Similarly, few people know about prostitution, but suddenly everyone knows what sort of person can become a prostitute.

In other news, there are more well-written blogs out of timeline here and here. The first one is the graphic entry I promised a while ago. In Walter’s words,

On a scale of one to deeply shocked, I’m still firmly at one!

So ok, it wasn’t deeply shocking. It wasn’t meant to be. It just deals with the topic I usually avoid here – sex. I have to admit, writing about sex in a non-sexy way wasn’t hard, the hard part was to decide to write about it in the first place:  no-one likes clichés and what’s more cliché than a hooker producing wanking material? Next thing I know, I’ll be blamed for faking it. However, if you think there’s an entry on this blog that has more sex in it than this one – surprise me and send me the link.

As for the second new entry, it’s full of photos. Enjoy. On second thoughts – don’t. It most certainly wasn’t designed to be that entry with even more sex in it.

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.

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

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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

February in London, Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2.

The following morning the Nutter comes to pick me up from my hotel. The weather is slightly better and we walk to the Royal Academy of Arts to visit the Manet exhibition. We queue outside in the snow for something like an hour: the Academy is very English and very Royal in this respect. The exhibition is a joy.

I’ll be honest, I’m not big on art. My favourite movement is Pre-Raphaelites, that should tell you enough. But I am captivated by portraits and figure painting. Now, before you accuse me of neglecting the beauty of nature in art – you’re right. It’s true, landscapes bore me out of my skull. Seascapes – not so much, but close. Still life, on the other hand, is fascinating as long as it’s a flower painting. Anything other than a bouquet in that composition and as far as I’m concerned, I’m looking at a landscape again. The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has a whole room dedicated to flower paintings. If there is anything the Dutch are good at…

Anyway, figure painting. I’m not a connoisseur, I don’t care much for brush strokes and techniques. I enjoy the story the painter tells me. Figure painting is like blogging. When I blog about a client, I tell you how I see him. I’ve never seen him at work, or with his children, or at a funeral, so my blog entry is not a well-rounded and truthful depiction of a man, it’s a description of my experience of him. I can bet all you want that his wife would tell a very different story. Similarly, looking at a portrait we see the person the painter saw. We can only guess about the actual poser. The painting tells us more about its author than about its object. Olympia, the notoriously controversial painting of a prostitute. It’s not like she’s the first hooker to ever be painted, far from it. But very few of the thousands of sex workers painted before her looked so unrepentant, unashamed and unabashed. She wasn’t caught unawares when dressing or spied on when bathing. No, her accessories show that she’s naked by choice and she’s very comfortable with it. Moreover, she looks dominant. She knows what she’s doing. I guess that’s the real controversy. What do we know about her now? Nothing but her job. The way she looks here is the way every other sex worker would look when naked (I am now really curious to see Dana’s photos of me). Does it tell us anything about Manet? He is evidently very comfortable with female sexuality. He doesn’t want to own it, he celebrates it.

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Fair enough, the woman in the painting is a model, but any real life sex worker could be painted very differently in the context of her job by another painter. Of course, not all painters are good story-tellers and not all portraits are there to be heard. That’s why the exhibition was a beautiful learning experience. And I was taken by his signature: “Ed. Manet” on most paintings. It was hard not to poke the Nutter in the ribs with my elbow and say loudly, pointing my finger: “Look! Another good one by Eddie!”

Out of the Academy, we walk a little around Piccadilly and then he takes me to a little restaurant in Jermyn Street for lunch. The lunch conversation is an eye-opener: we go through our “history” of 5 dates. First time he came across my website, he thought “She’s bloody arrogant!” First time he came to see me, he assumed I was older than the website said. And I have to say that the first time I saw him he looked and acted much older than the Nutter I know now. So maybe it’s all in the eyes of the painter. Has he changed since? He says he has. He is now more sensitive and considerate to others’ needs. I don’t know about that. I notice his increased confidence around me (and his new talents in bed) and his attention to his clothes. Unlike the first time, he’s now a tasteful dresser, understatedly elegant. If I were to paint him, you’d see a very sexy 60 year old man.

Time flies when you’re happy and it’s 2.45 before I know it. I have to leave the Nutter at the table and rush to Praed Street clinic for my appointment at 3. This is the first time I am at the clinic dressed for going out (shirt+skirt), not for blending in with the other clinic attendees (jeans+T-shirt) and suddenly I am treated differently. Even my reply to the same old question of “how many clients a week do you see?” (why do they have to ask every time I’m there? To check if I’m lying?) doesn’t inspire a raised eyebrow.

Thankfully, the Nutter leaves for his hometown from Paddington, 5 minute run from the clinic, and I make it there just 10 minutes before his train leaves. We walk to the gates, stop to say good bye and I reach to kiss him. As our lips touch, he drops his suitcase. He bends down to pick it up, mumbling something along the lines of “clumsy old fool” and I give my usual line of “I tend to have this effect on men”. But I can only wish. This is the first time a man drops something other than his trousers when I kiss him.