SPEAKER 1 – RYAN (reproduced with permission)/Rally at State Library – Melbourne
I would like to acknowledge that this land we are meeting on today is Wurundjeri land, and I pay my respects to elders past and present. Sovereignty has never been ceded. I also want to acknowledge that sex workers in Australia live and work in a racist and colonised space that is impacted by illegitimate and unjust colonial laws including but definitely not limited to Victoria’s Sex Work Laws.
I am speaking as an individual sex worker. I work on the streets, privately and in brothels and I travel around for work mostly in between Sydney Adelaide and Melbourne.
Today I obviously don’t have enough time to talk about the many different ways the laws, social stigma, victim blaming, whorephobia and many other systems of oppression in our society
work together to create and enable violence against sex workers.
I will just start by talking a little bit about the police.
When visiting Melbourne this year I’ve mostly been working in St Kilda where police have current operations targeting sex workers and our clients.
I don’t think its rocket science to realise having police posing as sex workers to entrap and arrest our clients negatively impacts our work and lives. Apparently it’s very hard to figure out for a lot of university lecturers and left wing activists in Melbourne though. I want to ask these people who support criminalising our clients, or at least don’t speak out against it a few questions.
How does making clients on edge and suspicious of us and not as able to negotiate for fear of arrest help us at work?
How does making our clients pay the money they were going to be spending on us to police officers instead help us… or anyone for that matter? The police don’t even provide any service except for fucking over most people in our society! How does running police operations that pressure us to not work in the areas that we have scouted out, feel secure working at and are within close proximity of our workmates or friends help us?
When there are also police officers (both undercover and in marked cars and uniforms) driving past harassing me and my workmates, to try and entrap us, or just cruising past watching, this makes it even harder again for us to negotiate with our clients. In this environment, police evasion tactics for both me and my client have to become my priority and this often comes at the expense of me being able to use all of the skills I could be using to assess other non-police related risks and look after my OHS in the most optimal way at work.
One Police Inspector argued last year in the media ‘the reality is, these girls are getting into cars anyway.’ in some attempt to counter sex workers stating that the laws and policing practices in St Kilda are enabling violence against sex workers. These kinds of whorephobic arguments rely on perpetuating the idea that sex work is not skilled work – so it doesn’t matter for sex workers how many ways the police limit our ability to implement these safety tactics- according to them and our whorephobic society we were never expected to have any skills or be able to implement them anyway?
Maybe left wing activists and feminists think they are different to police and conservatives because they pretend to not blame us and instead say its just sex work or our clients that are THE problem. But people from across the political spectrum end up politically united in whorephobia when they frame sex work or parts of sex work as violence. When they see sex work as inherently creating violence they normalise this violence against us.
But Violence is not part of our job descriptions or something that is just part of sex work. It is just as shocking if it happens to a sex worker as it is if it happens to any other person at any time.
Violence is not just something that just comes hand in hand with sex being sold, it comes from whorephobia and often racism, ableism, classism, transphobia, anti- drug user sentiments, xenophobia, homophobia and/or misogyny. And it continues to happen when these sentiments are unchallenged in our society and are reflected in our legal systems. It happens when people think violence against sex workers is normal or just what happens when you are a sex worker.
Ending violence against sex workers is not going to be achieved by non sex workers appropriating our experiences of violence and sickeningly using them to further upper class feminist’s campaigns to make money for themselves harming -I mean ‘saving’ sex workers by campaigning for greater police and immigration powers over sex workers.
SHAME Project Respect, Kathleen Maltzahn SHAME every second author published by Spinifex press EXTRA SHAME Melinda Tankard Reist.
To campaign for the systems that cause violence against sex workers to be further expanded and strengthened in the name of ending violence against sex workers is just evil, especially when sex workers have been so vocal about this for so long.
Ending violence against sex workers will not happen by repeating over and over that this day isn’t political or claiming we can have a ‘peaceful’ gathering with the wider public and police today. Sex workers are not living in peace in Victoria!
To employ non sex workers to run outreach programs and to compile the experiences of sex workers under Victorias harmful laws and to NOT come out publically condemning the laws, policies and policing practices that are key in enabling violence against us IS TO BE COMPLICIT IN THIS VIOLENCE.
We already know that to create the best environment for ourselves at work we need full decriminalisation of sex work which would remove the police as regulators of our industry. We need the wider community to recognise sex work is work, and that sex work is skilled work. We need our society and courts to recognise that being a sex worker does not in anyway mean you are not a good parent. We need our families and friends and communities to support sex workers.
Any non sex workers and non peer run sex worker services who actively undermine our rights or are complicit in the systems that create violence against us should be held accountable and stop making money off sex workers! We need sex worker organisations like VIXEN in Victoria to be supported and listened to, for sex workers who are organising together to be supported and listened to. We are obviously highly skilled in looking after ourselves and our peers at work. Its amazing the ways we do it in the face of such a hostile legal environment and whorephobic culture in Victoria. But we need change and we shouldn’t have to deal with so much of this bullshit! So we continue to fight to be respected and to push back against the systems and beliefs that are violent and enable violence against sex workers.