Sunday, September 20, 2009
Sex Workers Rights Under Attack - Sign Petition Today!
Once again the paternal New Labour government (with, of course, it's supporters among do gooder middle class Guardian journos and the rad fems) are proposing a bill to criminalise the purchase of sexual services, putting not only the livelihood but also the safety of sex workers at risk. This lovely idea originates from Sweden - where such a law is in practice and has been for the past few years. It has made the lives of sex workers in that country intolerable. Women have been finding it harder to work indoors due to the 'anti procurement laws' which make it impossible to advertise, and often have no option but to work from the streets. They have to be less choosy about clients, as naturally men with jobs, families etc do not wish to be labelled as sex offenders. Men who are criminally inclined towards sex workers, however, have no such fear. Street prostitution in Sweden has not decreased since the law was introduced, and neither has violence against sex workers. Neither has trafficking or 'white slavery' - a practice that the law was ostensibly designed to help reduce.
Sex workers in Sweden will tell you that the government propaganda (swallowed by the establishment feminists in this country) is based on distortions and outright lies. A far better idea would be to work on the New Zealand model, which totally decriminalises both the selling and purchasing of sexual services.
To voice your opposition to this bill, please sign a petition here.
Here is an article I wrote for the Morning Star paper a few years ago on the New Zealand law, and here is another I wrote back in 2006 opposing the proposed law when it was being pontificated about even then.
Here can be found a useful site with some good articles criticising the law in Sweden and it's awful consequences for the lives of vulnerable women.
From a libertarian standpoint any consensual sexual acts are a private matter and the government should keep the hell out. Whether money is involved or not is irrelevant. Any patronising talk of sex workers being too vulnerable to be able to consent to sex, be it due to substance abuse, financial exploitation or whatever other problems they may face is an insult to the intelligence of women. While it is true that financial pressure applies to women in the sex industry, it is true for any job. I once had a low paid, boring job in an office and I hated it. My boss was financially exploiting me, but I saw no sign of police raiding his office door to put him away. Neither was I told by do gooders that I was 'unable to consent' to typing his letters or answering the phone for him because I was vulnerable. And substances? Hell, £5.50 an hour is barely enough for recreational use of anything, let alone to support an addiction. But being off my face would have made that job a bit more bearable, it just didn't pay enough. But I made sure at least I got drunk over weekends to relieve the boredom of the week.
Rad fems cry crocodile tears over the view of the sex worker as being the epitomy of the suffering of all women at the hands of the brutal male, and they objectify her as much as do the men they claim to despise. Ok, so there may be some rad fems who have been sex workers and have not had a good time. Their voices and views are valid, and I take them more seriously than I do those middle class women who are in no position to speak as they have never worked in that profession. However, the fact that these women have had bad experiences in that profession does not mean they have the right to speak on behalf of all sex workers and universalise their own experiences - or, even worse, try to make their own subjective feelings into law. They don't seem to mind the fact that they are held up as trophies and used by middle class women for political ends. They do not represent all sex workers (or former sex workers) any more than I can say that I have the right to speak on behalf of all low paid office workers, or former ones. Some women may just love working in offices - if so good luck to them, it just aint for me. Not all sex workers see themselves as victims, and to insist that they are unconscious of the fact they are being abused is a patronising and offensive attitude. It sure as hell offends me.
Radical feminists, the Swedish and British establishments, don't really give a damn about the safety or suffering of sex workers. What really outrages them is the offending of their middle class sensibilities. And hell, I love to offend middle class sensibilities and stupid prejudices. And I also despise the pinning of labels onto people - I've had people try to do so with me and have given them a surprise when they find I do not fit into the boxes they assign. Sex workers, of course, are more than just sex workers, they are individuals like anyone and you'll find that their attitudes and feelings about their work vary, as with any profession. Some may dislike what they do, others may enjoy it, and some are in the middle - they may not love what they do but find it preferable to working long and fixed hours for low pay in some factory, shop, or office - due to the fact that the hours are more flexible and the money is better.
Another important thing is not to confuse sexual slavery (forced prostitution) with sex work that is consensual, even if practiced under financial pressure. 'Trafficking' is not about sex work - it is about sexual abuse, rape, and slavery - a different thing. And even that is on shaky ground as the lines can be blurred. The numbers and extent of it are hard to estimate, but it seems to be rarer than the media promotes that women are literally taken off the street and bundled into vans and literally forced at gunpoint in that sense - although I don't deny it does occur, tragically. Or, for that matter, it is unlikely that so many women are so naive as to be blatantly deceived into thinking they will be working as nannies etc. What seems more likely is that they know what kind of work they will be doing but are lied to about pay and conditions, being financially exploited in a severe way. Their bosses do not allow them the liberty of leaving their job, so it does result in what is essentially slavery. But, the establishment would have little sympathy for the women involved if they admitted that they were aware of the nature of the work, so to say one has been forced is an easier way of gaining sympathy and avoiding deportation. And I don't blame them, hell, I'd do the same thing if needed be. Migrant workers of all description are harshly exploited, and the Chinese cockle pickers found dead on Morecambe Bay were working for a gang under bonded labour.
But the main issue is this - wage slavery (A Marxian term used for any kind of work in exchange for money, where a person is free to leave one's job and find another 'free' labour in other words) and slavery or bonded labour (where one is not free to leave and is literally the property of one's master or boss). This applies to the sex industry as much as any other, but the fact that it is underground and semi criminal makes it more liable to financial exploitation and abuse. The unionisation of sex workers is of course a step in the right direction, but adding repressive laws will make things like this harder to do, and leave women more open to the abuse that the government and the rad fems claim to oppose.