This post is not going to deal primarily with the harm that is being caused by criminalization (arrests of sexworkers, which occur even with the Swedish ‘end demand model’, state sexual assault framed as ‘evidence gathering’, civil liberties and police surveillance. I’ve written about this before. Instead, I’m going to focus on the irresponsibility of abolitionist logic and what they’re doing.
Firstly, abolitionists do not accept responsibility for their own mistakes. Stella Marr is a wonderful example. She chose to enter the sex industry, but instead of admitting it was her own choice, she blames men/the patriarchy/the sex industry. Stella was a high-class escort in Manhattan, who eventually went to cohabit with one of her clients, a British professor, for two years. He gave her “a beautiful condominium across from the Lincoln center” which she sold and then went off to university where she met her life partner, the ‘beloved’ she’d been waiting for. (All this information is from Stella’s own blog).
So, she was actually much more fortunate than the other students. They were living on a tight budget, still relatively inexperienced with the opposite sex, vulnerable to being hurt by breakups and knowing that they have a lot of uni debts to pay back. But Stella had lots of money and was much less vulnerable to being coerced by boys or being hurt by breakups or regretting casual sex. She didn’t have to figure out relationships or worry about debts or what would happen if she didn’t get her degree; she had money so didn’t need a degree. She was living a dream student life – well, actually the life she was living wasn’t a student’s life at all, it was the life a well-off person.
But Stella calls herself a “prostituted” woman as if she was trafficked, instead of choosing to go into sexwork. I feel genuinely bad for her that she regrets her choice of career. But we all make mistakes and we all have to own up to them. We can’t all blame men for that. It also seems ungrateful to her client to imply that he was bad for her. Women get beaten or raped by boyfriends and husbands, yet he was just her punter and he treated her better than many men treat their partners and lived with her like they were married. But no, Stella still thinks all this is legitimately something to whinge about. She should try being a battered wife, or a woman who is used by a man for sex and then dumped. Or me – Roland hasn’t given me a house. Huh.
Also, the fact that she tried to out a fellow sexworker, (@pastachips on Twitter who blogs over at glasgowsexworker.wordpress.com) on SCASE’s (an anti-sexwork group) very public Facebook page, is not very impressive. It is not very nice when the threat to your anonymity comes from a feminist, an ex-whore, who (in theory) should be one of your own. Not a journalist or a conservative, but someone who knows what it’s like to be you. I didn’t think about anonymity back then; it was just more freeing writing such personal stuff under a pseudonym, and I’d actually thought about writing under my real identity. But I assumed people would respect your wish to remain anonymous unless you were trolling.
Stella Marr has 3 degrees; why can’t she think? She is now a well known abolitionist figure in some circles, and a public speaker; she gets fame and money to say this stuff. It’s incredible. And it looks like sexwork at least now has brought her a degree of fame, so it wasn’t all bad for her. At least she wasn’t outed like other sexworkers and sex bloggers;, or fired for previously being a call girl like American teacher Melissa Petro. She is accepted by society despite being an ex-sexworker because he is repentant; she bolsters the patriarchal ideas of women’s innate modesty by regretting sexwork and by claiming that no woman willingly sells sex. This soothes the fears of many a conservative.
The feminist orgs’ position that sexwork is violence against women is also promoting the refusal to accept responsibility for your own choices, but instead blame it on society and on men for demanding it. Yes, clients are part of the equation, but neither can the provider’s agency be denied. They are silencing sexworkers’ stories, confusing sex with rape and sexwork with trafficking, to the annoyance of real anti human trafficking organisations. They confuse the issue of human trafficking. This is also insulting to human trafficking and rape survivors, who did not consent and whose experiences were traumatic and violent, not just another day at work. They also bolster patriarchal norms of modest women, which promotes rigid gender norms and the sexual double standard.
Rhoda Grant MSP
If ignoring the existence of male sexworkers and female clients isn’t irresponsible, I don’t know what it. She’s a politician. She is prepared to drastically change the law while knowing nothing about the issue. She also presented misleading information in her consultation. Oh, and she’s pushing for a law that is very harmful to sexworkers.
All of this is just holding back feminism. Men won’t take women seriously if we are seen not to admit our own mistakes. Teaching female children and young girls to be irresponsible and give others the blame for their mistakes is not a good example. Confusing sex and rape just plays into the hands of rape apologists and rape culture more generally.
Tackling human trafficking is very important, but by giving a separate designation to ‘sex trafficking’ instead of just leaving it in with human or labour trafficking, they are getting in the way of real human trafficking organisations. By vastly inflating sex trafficking figures, the abolitionist groups get funding which is not needed and which should be going to human trafficking groups who are struggling to raise awareness of labour trafficking which doesn’t involve the sex industry.
The rhetoric also begs the question whether sugar daddy relationships and sites like seekarrangement.com which pair up students with rich older men who give them a monthly allowance in exchange for a sexual relationship will be criminalized. This is clearly sexwork, but the radical feminists seem to define sexwork differently (though Grant’s consultation doesn’t define ‘sex’ or ‘money’, to stop people getting around it.) It also begs the question of whether pro dome, fetish and adult baby service providers are sexworkers and therefore whether their lients should be criminalised. (Grant’s consultation would probably catch all of these as well as anyone haing sex after dinner and a movie). Threatening so many of us with arrest, jail and a criminal record is clearly irresponsible.
British abolitionist groups are funded by right-wing American Christians, giving Americans too much influence over British politics and laws, now culminating in Rhoda Grant’s consultation.
All this leads to increased policing and moralizing attitudes which push sexworkers, especislly street workers, out into dark, secluded areas where they might experience violence. Some died because policing forced them away from well lit areas. In other countries where criminalization holds sway, rape by clients and abuse by police as well as trafficking has increased. It’s very ironic and sad that people are being murdered and raped because of criminalization which is supposed to ‘help’ them – a ‘help’ they never asked for and are doing their best to fight.
Rhoda – misleading information in Consultation: http://glasgowsexworker.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/close-reading-rhoda/
Feminists’ tactics to silence sexworkers, by Nine on the Feminist Ire blog. (She’s @supernowescna on Twitter): http://feministire.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/just-dont-call-it-slut-shaming-a-feminist-guide-to-silencing-sex-workers/
Letter from an Irish sexworker about feminist organizations oppressing sexworkers and lack of representation of sexworkes at a hearing about criminalization: http://glasgowsexworker.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/letter-from-an-irish-sex-worker/
A woman died when increased policing forced her to do street sexwork away from the city: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/9750059/Current-laws-do-not-prevent-violence-against-sex-workers.html
These links are sources for what I’ve said in this post, but I’ve left out all the sources about criminalization etc because they are in my other posts here:
Why I think sex trafficking should be lumped in with labour trafficking, and more sources: https://diaryofavirginwhore.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/sex-trafficking-is-labour-trafficking-and-thats-what-we-should-call-it/
My response to Rhoda Grant’s consultation: https://diaryofavirginwhore.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/response-to-the-rhoda-grant-consultation-on-criminalising-sexwork/
UPDATE: Stella Marr links (wasn’t going to post these, but understandably you might appreciate some evidence that I’m not just making stuff up):
The Stella Marr v Glasgow Sex Worker fiasco:
They disagreed and had a simple and civil debate —-> http://glasgowsexworker.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/dear-stella/ possibly to do with/escalated by this stuff: http://glasgowsexworker.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/further-scase-study/
Then Stella doxed GSW and attempted to out GSW on SCASE’S Facebook page —> http://glasgowsexworker.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/so-that-was-weird/
Stella Marr’s blog: http://secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com/