The Sound of Silencing Sex Workers

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On Friday last week I posted a blog entry entitled ‘Join the Online Protest – “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference’ about the efforts of local peer sex worker organisation Vixen Collective to protest an anti sex work conference here in Melbourne, Australia.

Individual sex workers and sex worker allies have joined Vixen Collective in protesting online – primarily on Twitter – RMIT University’s choice play host to a conference that brings together a range of anti sex work figures, outspoken in their support of either the Swedish Model of sex work criminalisation (sometimes called the Nordic Model) or of outright abolition of sex work.

It’s always interesting to see what reaction there will be online to a protest by sex workers.  Interesting, but often predictable.

Anti sex work groups have a tendency to claim that they themselves are being “silenced” when sex workers speak out for our human rights.

Since the protest started, a member of local pro-Swedish Model organisation NorMAC, Simone Watson, who once likened sex workers to “meat” has published an opinion piece in the Tasmanian Times where Vixen Collective, an unfunded peer sex worker organisation is referred to as a “pro sex trade group”.

Simone Watson, also in the Tasmanian Times, makes the claim that I personally have “launched an online campaign to discredit the voices of prostitution Survivors”.  Given that I have done no such thing, as is demonstrable from reading the actual post – I would suggest that Ms Watson retract her defamatory statement.

In comments on Twitter by anti sex work folk, I noticed just this morning, the standard refrain that their side is being “silenced” by sex workers.

Of the listed speakers for the conference – Julie Bindel, Rachel Moran, Dr Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist – all are published authors, at least one has tenure at a University, and all make regular appearances as public speakers on the subject of the criminalisation of sex work – of which it is to be expected, that some appearances are paid.

These are not people who are silent.  These are not people who are lacking in a platform.  To suggest that an online protest by individual sex workers, an unfunded peer sex worker organisation, and sex worker allies – is in any way “silencing” people with this degree of power, social capital, and continuing access to a variety of platforms is absurd.

But it is a useful tool in continuing to silence sex workers, which really is the point of the exercise isn’t it, when your end goal is abolishing sex work?

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Want to join the protest?

Take action online:

RMIT is on both Twitter and FaceBook

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Looking for info when arguing with anti’s or debunking their arguments?  Check out ‘A Pocket Guide to Dealing With Anti’s Online’

 

Join the Online Protest! – “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference

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On the 9th and 10th of April 2016 an anti sex work conference called the “World’s Oldest Oppression” is being held in Melbourne, Australia.  Hosted by RMIT University, and billed as a “2 Day Anti Sex Trade Conference” for a “World Free of Sex Trade Abuse”.

The conference brings together anti sex work figures such as Julie Bindel, Rachel Moran, Dr Caroline Norma, Melinda Tankard Reist and others.

Despite the fact that sex workers, sex worker’s representative organisations around the world, human rights organisations and allies all call for the full decriminalisation of sex work for sex workers’ health and safety – anti sex work groups (such as those represented at this conference) continue to call for the criminalisation of our work, and attempt to silence our voices.

Join sex workers in protesting!

**Thinking of joining the online campaign?  Do you have an anonymous Twitter/Facebook/Email account?  Please consider your safety/anonymity in your protest activities**

 

Write to RMIT:

You can write to RMIT to express concerns about the Conference to the University Chancellor, Ziggy Switkowski at:

Email – chancellor@rmit.edu.au
& Email to ombuds@rmit.edu.au as well

 

Take action online:

RMIT is on both Twitter and FaceBook

 

Promote the online protest!

  • Talk to other people you know that support sex worker rights and encourage them to participate
  • Spread the word on social media – Twitter, Facebook, everywhere – let people know to join the online protest
  • Post the ‘Join In Online Protest’ flyer in your workplace

 

Will there be action/protest happening in Melbourne during the conference?

This is yet to be decided – watch the social media spaces of Vixen Collective to be kept up to date:

Twitter: @VixenCollective

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/32794381768/

 

Looking for info when arguing with anti’s or debunking their arguments?  Check out ‘A Pocket Guide to Dealing With Anti’s Online’

To download the ‘Join In Online Protest’ flyer, click here > WOO_GeneralFlyer

A Pocket Guide to Dealing With Anti’s Online

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Finding the internet a hateful place?  Sick of being attacked by anti’s online, or just looking for an antidote to all the lies?

Look below for information to help recharge or re-engage.

 

Full Decriminalisation of Sex Work – for Sex Workers Health and Safety!

10 Reasons to Decriminalise Sex Work (Open Society)

Sex Work and the Law – the Case for Decriminalization (Desiree Alliance)

Decriminalisation of Sex Work – The Evidence Is In (HIV Australia)

The sexual health of sex workers: no bad whores, just bad laws (Ally Daniel, Social Research Briefs)

Decriminalising Sex Work Would Cut HIV Infections By A Third (Imperial College London)

 

The Swedish Model of Sex Work Regulation Harms Sex Workers

‘We Want to Save You – & If You Don’t Appreciate It You Will Be Punished’ (SWAN Network – Youtube)

The ‘Nordic model’ of prostitution law is a myth (The Conversation)

Swedish Model – A Failure (BAYSWAN)

The Problem With the “Swedish Model” for Sex Work Laws (New Republic)

Nordic Model of Prostitution ‘Makes Sex Workers More Vulnerable to Violence and STDs’ (IBT)

Advocacy Toolkit – The Real Impact of the Swedish Model on Sex Workers (NSWP)

Resistance to the Swedish model through LGBTQ and sex work community collaboration and online intervention (Nicklas Dennermalm, Digital Culture & Education)

Göran Lindberg and Sweden’s dark side (The Guardian)

 

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Bad Science, Lies and Other Anti Sex Work Rhetoric

A Load of Farley (Maggie McNeill, The Honest Courtesan)

Remembering Judge Himel: Bold assertions and inflammatory language not useful to the court (Laura Agustin, The Naked Anthropologist)

The Sex Trade: Lies, the ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ and Other Silencing Tactics (Ruth Jacobs, Huffington Post)

Is One of the Most-Cited Statistics About Sex Work Wrong (Chris Hall, The Atlantic)

The War on Sex Workers (Melissa Gira Grant, Reason.com)

There is more to the prostitution debate than privileged sex workers and silent, abused victims (Abi Wilkinson, International Business Times)

Inside the Sensational Business of “Rescuing” Sex Workers (Mike Ludwig, Truth Out)

From aborton to sex work, why the state shouldn’t control women’s bodies (Frankie Mullin, New Statesman)

Rehashing Tired Claims About Prostitution – A Response to Farley and Raphael and Shapiro (Ronald Weitzer)

Amazingly Stupid Statements (Maggie McNeill, The Honest Courtesan)

 

Diversity of Sex Worker Community and Activism

All sex workers have the right to speak out about their lives and work – but the myth of the “privileged few” not only silences sex workers, it obscures the voices of sex workers of colour, those outside the West and the most marginalised in our communities.

Black Sex Workers’ Lives Matter: Appropriation of Black Suffering (Robyn Maynard, Truth-Out)

Why VAMP Supports Decriminalisation of Sex Work (Meena Saraswathi Seshu and Aarthi Pai, Feminist India)

Meet the Thai Sex Workers Fighting for Their Right to Earn a Living (Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, VICE)

South Africa: Coalition Launched to Decriminalise Sex Work (Ashleigh Furlong, All Africa)

What the Rentboy Raid Tells Us About the Gendered Rhetoric of Trafficking (Morgan M Page, Tits & Sass)

Why Cambodia’s sex workers don’t need to be saved (Patrick Winn, Global Post)

The creative protests of sex workers in Argentina (Georgina Orellano, Open Democracy)

Dear Justice Minister, Let’s Discuss The Concerns Of Sex Workers (Naomi Sayers, Huffington Post)

An open letter to Tom Meagher, from St Kilda street-based sex workers (Feminist Ire)

 

Who Are These People?

*NOTE – particular effort has been taken to find pieces written by sex workers, allies or general media about these people rather than referencing their actual work

Cathy Brennan – Outing, platforms, harassment and privilege (Jem, The F Word)

Caroline Norma – Make room for sex workers in the sisterhood … and don’t forget men (Anthony Smith, The Conversation)

Melinda Tankard Reist – “Gaping Arseholes” And “20-Foot Schlongs”: Australia Debated Porn Last Night And It Was Magnificent (Meg Watson, Junkee)

Rachel Moran – Played Out (Maggie McNeill, The Honest Courtesan)

Sheila Jeffreys – Leading feminist launches bizarre ‘racist’ attack on trans community (Star Observer)

 

And now… some humour…

Just Don’t Call It Slut Shaming: A Feminist Guide to Silencing Sex Workers (Feminist Ire)

Hanging Out In the Pimp Lobby (Sometimes It’s Just a Cigar)

Everything You Need to Know About the Pimp Lobby (Charlotte Shane)

 

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Organisations that Support the Decriminalisation of Sex Work

Amnesty International – Sex Workers’ Rights Are Human Rights

United Nations (UN) – Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific (pg.21-31)

World Health Organisation (WHO) – Consolidated Guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations (pg.90-91)

Human Rights Watch – Human Rights Watch: World Report 2014 (pg.47)

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) – Submission to Scottish Parliament in Support of Decriminalisation of Sex Work in Scotland

Open Society Foundations (OSF) – Understanding Sex Work in an Open Society

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Global Commission on HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health (pg.40)

Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) – Why Decriminalise Sex Work?

Vixen Collective in alliance with Sex Worker Organisations in Australia – Sex workers stand in solidarity in calling for full decriminalisation of sex work!

* Only one reference has been provided for each organisation, when many are available and note that this list is (obviously) not intended to be an exhaustive list of references.

 

Have a reference or link you think needs to be on this list?
Either comment on this post or contact me on Twitter at @sexliesducttape

ID2EVASW – Ryan’s speech

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.