Archives for posts with tag: prostitution

As some of you may know, bill c-36 was passed into Canadian law this weekend, quite deliciously on Canada’s day of remembering violence against women. Which makes sense since we all know that the combination of sex and money becomes an act of horrendous violence equivalent to a school shooting where the males and females are separated, and the gunman specifically shoots only the females in order to “combat feminism.” That is what selling sex is like every day; dodging a hail of bullet fire as you try to bring your client to orgasm. It’s a combination of Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Commando, and unfortunately the prostitutes are Sully.

However, in reality, average sex workers have more problems with the law than they do with being on the wrong end of a Schwarzenegger-esque killing spree. In fact, a year ago the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the current laws that were in place because they deemed them unconstitutional. After much deliberation, the Conservative government of Canada put forward a new bill, bill c-36, as their way of fixing the problem. I have discussed most of the issues already here, but I would like to add a few new bits of information.

First and foremost, the way most of the discussion surrounding the Nordic model (prosecuting the Johns rather than the sex workers) is giving the illusion that we were prosecuting the sex workers before. Sex work in Canada was already decriminalized. It wasn’t technically illegal to sell sex, there were just a whole bunch of laws surrounding the selling of sex that made it relatively difficult to practice. It was these auxiliary laws that were deemed unconstitutional. The new law doesn’t actually address any of those issues, and actually made things worse, as I discussed.

One thing that I don’t cover in that blog is that advertising is not technically illegal, so long as it is the prostitute publishing it. So a magazine that has escort ads in the back is breaking the law. Which is the same thing as making advertising illegal, because I sincerely doubt that we are going to be getting subscription letters to “Whores Weekly” in the mail. Normal publishing organizations such as magazines or web providers would not risk an altercation with the law, and counting on the lady herself to create her own web server or publishing company is ludicrous. As with most laws surrounding prostitution, there is no direct legal threat against the prostitute herself, but the punishment is there for those surrounding her in order to dissuade her from the practice .

Now, since I wanted to do a little more than vent, here is a brief history of sex worker activism. I do try to keep most of my information on this blog Canadian when I can, but all the books and websites I’ve read surrounding this topic have been about America. Since pretty much all our media and public discussion comes from the States anyway, I don’t see this as such a huge problem.

Contemporary sex worker advocacy started out in the late 1970s, under the organization called Whores, Housewives, and Others. Now, this might seem like an odd combination of groups coming together, but it’s really not all that odd when you think about it. Whores do something for money that society thinks they should do for free, and housewives were asking for money to do something that society thinks they should do for free. Woman’s work, be it sexual or domestic, is supposed to be inherent to her gender and therefore asking to be paid for either of these two paths is an affront to decent society. So the two banded together to form WHO. For those wondering, the “others” were lesbians. This was at a time when few people were bandying around the idea of specifically lesbian rights, and so the whores and housewives gave them an organization to belong to. They were referred to as “other” because back then, one could not even say the word lesbian, as Kate Clinton would say, even when their mouths were full of one.

WHO (remember, whores, not health organizations) went on to become COYOTE under the leadership of Margo St. James. COYOTE is an acronym for Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics. This group continued to fight for the decriminalization of prostitution, with their argument being that the sexist ethics of the past no longer applied to modern day society. Women are allowed to make their own decisions, and if they decide to sell sex, it is only outdated misogynistic mores that declare that to be improper.

Then, in the 1980s, AIDS happened. Whether created by the CIA, sex with monkeys, or simply Reaganomics, AIDS devastated the 1980s with its brutal stigmatization of homosexuals, drug users, and, hey whaddia know, sex workers. It was the disease of the deviants, and although the sex trade was responsible for only a small fraction of the AIDS cases, with its already unsavoury nature, it became an easy scapegoat for fear-mongering politicians and media talking points. This nasty turn of events destroyed the decriminalization aspect of sex worker activism, and thus was born the BAN THE SHIT OUT OF IT movement. Feminists, to combat the newly reignited stigmatism of the sex trade, declared these women to be hapless victims, unwilling participants in the deviant career of prostitution. Rather than continue to fight the criminal nature of the sex trade in the face of the AIDS monolith, activists took the easy route. People already believed that women were incapable of making their own decisions, so that tried and true angle was applied to the sex trade, but now women’s rights activists were saying it, and that makes it okay.

Advocacy for the sex trade hasn’t changed much since then. There are smaller groups that continue to campaign for decriminalization and declare that sex worker’s rights are human rights, but the vast majority of voices heard in regards to the sex trade are those condemning it as patriarchal indentured labour. A few token sob stories will be taken out of the woodwork to justify the abhorrent nature of prostitution, but for the most part, sex workers themselves will be ignored during the discussion of the morality or lawfulness of the sex trade industry.

Like I’ve said, the perceived passive nature of female sexual consent is a tough nut to get around on both sides of the feminist spectrum. Because a woman’s consent is being compromised by adding money into the equation, obviously something must be wrong, right? Very few people are able to grasp that the sexuality of a woman might encompass more than just her ability to give or decline consent, and so decisions are made for her in regards to what she can and cannot do with that sexuality.

This bill doesn’t affect me in the slightest. I am what is referred to as a “square”, someone who is entirely outside of the sex trade industry, though I prefer to be called a rhombus. However, I can occasionally pick out bullshit when I see it, and this bill is bullshit. There were many horrors associated with abortion before it was legalized/normalized, and both issues come down to a woman being able to control what she can do with her own body.

Slavery is the greatest sin that mankind has committed against itself. The treatment that slaves are put through is abominable, and needs to come to an end. We need to ban cotton picking as a career, and unburden ourselves of the inherent problems in the farm labour industry.

Retail employees, and all members of the service industry, are forced to smile and perform degrading tasks set for them by the expectations of their clientele. Retail must be destroyed to prevent further dehumanizing practices from taking place.

Actors in Hollywood are seen only through the roles that they play. When society thinks of its glamourous stars, it doesn’t think of them as people or human beings, only as the series of performances that they have given. We must abolish Hollywood to get rid of the objectification of those who take part in it.

I hope most of you reading this can understand the facetiousness of these statements; although granted, getting rid of retail would be kind of nice. But as ludicrous as all these statements are, they are the arguments being put forward on the debate of Bill-c36, which is the prostitution bill that the Conservative government is attempting to push through. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of danger in prostitution. Street workers are often preyed upon, and human trafficking is one of the most disgusting trespasses against basic human dignity. However, pushing sex work further into the shadows will only exacerbate the problems that those who participate in it face.

The bill as it currently stands seeks to eliminate the sex worker’s ability to advertise. This cuts down on her ability to use the safety, anonymity, and privacy of the internet as a means of procuring clients. The bill also forbids sex workers from touting her wares anywhere where a minor might reasonably be present, so basically now she’s stuck in the back alleyways of the worst part of town. It also wants to punish the clients (the “humane” approach, rather than punishing the sex workers) by making the purchasing, rather than the selling, of sex illegal. This makes the assumption that working girls won’t accommodate their client-base however they can, likely resulting in, again, the pushing of the purchasing act further underground. The bill also upholds the ban on sex workers hiring individuals with their own money. While meant to prevent pimps, the ban also eliminates bodyguards or drivers; people who could protect, or at least know the whereabouts, of the hooker who hired them.

It honestly boggles my mind a little bit how myopic, or even just plain stupid, some people are when it comes to the sex trade. I have an arts degree and work in a butcher shop, and even to me it is so obvious that prohibition is the most asinine solution to whatever problems, imagined or otherwise, the sex trade might have.

I recognize the uselessness of screaming into the void which is the equivalent of me writing this blog post. No judge will read this. No MP will hear what I have to say. But maybe a few more people will become as indignant about this as I am, and that’s a small change that I would be happy to make.

There was a video I watched a few months ago (that I can’t find, otherwise I’d link to it) of a woman giving a lecture about women and objectification. She spoke at length about the perils of sexual body imagery, and how the cultural trend of the sexualization of women is destroying the psyche of women and girls everywhere. At the end of the lecture, she removed the make-up she was wearing as a final statement against contemporary beauty standards.

But if dressing “sexily” turns someone into a sex object, then how come dressing stylishly doesn’t make someone a “stylish” object? Or someone who dresses in skinny jeans and plaid a “hipster” object? Or someone who removes their make-up at the end of a lecture a “feminist” object? There is a discrepancy in there somewhere that concludes that only when someone exudes sexuality does it make them an object.

Jean-Paul Sartre suggests that we can only ever relate to people as objects, so to consider one aspect objectifying over another is moot. I tend to agree with him. Have you ever ran into a professor while you were in a grocery store? Did it seem a little… weird? Or your doctor, or maybe an employee from the butcher shop that you routinely frequent? When you see someone outside of the context that you’re used to them in, it tends to make people uncomfortable. The reason is because you’ve objectified them in relation to their profession: the teacher object, the doctor object, the butcher object; when they don’t coincide with the object into which you’ve made them, it weirds you out a little bit.

Maybe you think this only relates to the simple relationships in our lives, but think of your dad. Imagine running into him at a strip club. Or your sister being at a strip club in a slightly different context. This obviously doesn’t work if your family is very open about their relationship with the peelers, but say they aren’t. You would feel uneasy, and part of the reason would be because you can’t grasp your relationship with those people outside of the context that you’re used to them in. Being at a strip club does not coincide with how you have defined the Dad object. You can say your dad would never do such a thing, but how can you actually know that?

It’s impossible to grasp the consciousness of another human being, so all we really do is just guess based on the evidence of that person’s actions, come up with a little box that we assume that person fits into, and presto chango, that person is now an object that we can comprehend. That’s how it works.

So the problem isn’t objectification, and the problem isn’t objectifying a person down to the simplest of terms because we do that with our teachers and doctors and butchers. So all that seems to remain is the sex. Awful, dirty sex.

The biggest targets of controversy when it comes to the objectification of women are pornography and prostitution. These are women (and some men) that get paid to have that awful, dirty sex, and that’s apparently terrible. When one adult purchases a service from another consenting adult, money exchanges hands, and then both of them leave happy, that is the greatest sin of all. I’m talking of course about capitalism, which is a horrible economic system and should be abolished to make way for glorious communism. Selling sex is peanuts in comparison.

So outside of the inherently flawed nature of capitalism, these two acts are unhealthy because some guy is getting his rocks off. Which is… actually considered very healthy. And so long as he can separate fantasy from reality, his perception of women shouldn’t change. Most people don’t actually freak the fuck out when they discover their teacher doesn’t sleep in the school, neither would somebody be so surprised that the acts going on in pornography or in an escort’s bedroom don’t exactly line up with reality.

Or is the problem that prostitutes and porn stars degrade the very nature of sex by keeping it out of the realm of harmonious love? They’re not melding two souls to become one in the most physically intimate act that love and passion can create. And if that’s your idea of how sex should be, that’s fantastic. Honestly. But when you impose your own beliefs of how sexuality should be practiced on an entire culture, doesn’t that seem a little… phobic? Their sex doesn’t affect you in the slightest, and you should get over it.

So objectification is normal, selling things I will grudgingly admit to being fine, sexual release is healthy, and non-intimate sexy times is a-okay. So what’s the problem?

The problem is when sexual objectification occurs outside the realm of sexuality. When it’s used to sell cars, or beer, or things that have absolutely nothing to do with getting a hard-on and doing something with it. When it is literally everywhere you look. When the world is swamped with the image of the sexualized woman, when you have to go out of your way to find a woman in the media that isn’t sexualized to some degree, *THAT* is the problem. The world needs a variety of imagery so that people can see that there is more to being a woman than just a vagina on display, but we don’t need to devolve to puritanical dogma to achieve it. You certainly don’t need to throw out the heels and nylons. Even birds flaunt their plumage from time to time, but they’ve got amazing singing voices too.