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Edinburgh saunas: Police Scotland’s non-legal partial criminalisation regime

Police Scotland are closing Edinburgh saunas so that sex workers will be “safer”. What irony. These sex workers are being forced into street sex work which is more risky, independent sex work which is a little more risky, agency work which is about the same. Or, of course, other massage parlours.

If they choose street work, they will suffer even more stigma from police and the general public. This means police will be less likely to believe them if they report violence against them by clients, partners or the community – just like what happened to @JasminePetite, who wasn’t believed when she reported to police that she feared violence from her ex, who later murdered her. This stigma also makes it more likely thhat these sex workers will recieve violence from clients and the community. Street work makes it more difficult for outreach services and police to work with sex workers – which is a very bad turn of events, considering that street work is the most dangerous type of sex work. They will also find it more difficult to change their jobs (or “exit the industry”) because the “revolving door effect” of being fined for soliciting and then having to work to pay off the fine will keep them in the industry. Criminal records also mean they’ll be discriminated against if they do apply for non-industry jobs. In fact, the stigma against street work is so bad that it’s possible they’ll be discriminated against when applying for some other adult industry jobs. If the police want to make sex workers safe, why not help them get into adult industry jobs which they deem are “safer” than working in massage parlours, for example adult films or agency work or pro-domming? (I’m not saying those jobs are safer than parlours, I’m just saying the police could take the option of finding workers adult industry work which they think is more safe. This would still be state control of sex and it would still be stigmatising and patronising, but at least it’d have, like, a sort of veneer of concern that wasn’t entirely see-through. ).

If the sex workers choose to work independently, they’ll also arguably be less safe because brothel-keeping laws mean that it’s illegal for them to work with a friend for safety. However, in the massage parlours there would have been other workers present so it was more safe. Police Scotland are not making sex workers more safe. They are putting them in danger, or at best simply forcing them to change their workplace or work further from home.

The owners of the massage parlours and any non-sex-working staff such as receptionists, managers, bookkeepers, PR staff etc will also lose their business and their jobs. This is just contributing to unemployment. Does Police Scotland see these people (and sex workers) as collateral damage in their plan to police our sex lives and destroy our labour rights and freedom to sell and purchase services? Imagine the outrage if corner shops, newspapers or accountancy firms were suddenly shut down and people were losing their jobs and having their businesses – which they’ve built up over years- ruined. But, once again, it’s different for sex workers and anyone who happens to work in or own any adult industry business.

Though Rhoda Grant’s Bill has failed, Police Scotland are effectively continuing her work by implementing, if not the Swedish Model, then a non-legotimised, non-legally sanctioned Moralist Model of their own devising. Like the Swedish Model, it appears to be a partial criminalisation, but a criminalisation of sex workers themselves instead of criminalising the clients.  No new laws have been passed to give Police Scotland these new powers. So what gives them the right to endanger innocent people, destroy businesses, ruin lives and disregard our freedom to purchase sex, seeing as Lothian and Borders Police did not feel the need to dominate citizens’ lives so brutally? There needs to be a clear law limiting the police’s power over our personal lives and freedoms, and to protect businesses. They’re not only putting sex workers in danger, they’re taking away all our rigts to sell and purchase sexual services and to start and run businesses. At least Rhoda Grant MSP followed the democratic procedure in trying to implement the Swedish model. But the police ignored any kind of democratic procedure or transparency; they didn’t involve the public in creating this new partial criminalisation model. I wonder what Rhoda Grant MSP would say to this new model – the model of non-legally sanctioned partial criminalisation.

Police closing saunas: http://www.scotsman.com/news/edinburgh-saunas-to-close-with-sex-trade-crack-down-1-3013314#.UfBkB83DsIw.twitter

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Sex work

 

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Why decriminalization is best for sex workers and society

Illegalization

This is the classic feminist stance – make all sex work a crime. Radical feminists were pushing for this in the 1970s and some feminists, such as SCASE, continue this fight today.

Illegalization is:

Good because it’d stop commercialisation and target all sex workers, not just streetwalkers as decriminalization currently does. It would target clients as well as sex workers so it’d stop the double standard of criminalizing sex workers and not clients.

No prostitution means women will not be objectified (not sure on this one, though – prostitution and objectification of women may not be linked. And what about men who are prostitutes?)

Bad because the police have to use unethical and questionable methods of entrapment to get prosecutions (e.g. America, where privacy and freedoms have been severely threatened, for example police breaking down doors to catch people having sex). This might actually do more harm than good for sex workers, women and society in general. Art 8 ECHR (right to private and family life) and its case law may preclude using these methods in Britain, because they may fail the two-prong test of being a proportionate response and legitimate in a democratic society.

Bad because illegalization stigmatises and criminalizes the already marginalized sex worker

Bad because prostitution would still exist, though there might be less of it. If sex work is a crime, it means that sex workes will not report rape, other violence, the behaviour of pimps, etc to the police. The policies of brothels (which are now called escort agencies/massage parlours etc, but might change in structure and operation after illegalization) could not be subject to scrutiny. Sex work would be invisible and harder for police to investigate. Sex workers would be more likely to experience rape and less able or willing to go to the authorities for help or escape the sex work criminal underworld,  which would likely be controlled by criminal gangs rather than exist as a cottage industry, as it does now (similar to other illegal things like drugs, guns, etc) . Trafficking would be more rife because of said criminals controlling sex work and less British women willing to do risk punishment by doing sex work. Sex workers charged by the police might lie that they were trafficked to avoid punishment or stop their children being taken away by Social Services. This is happening at this very minute across the pond, where it leads to innocent brothel managers being locked up for sex trafficking. The sex workers who can’t bring themselves to get their colleagues injustly imprisoned get their children taken away. Valuable taxpayer’s money and police time are thrown away tracking down and jailing sex workers and clients. This does not benefit sex workers, clients or society at all. Neither does the existence of a criminal-controlled prostitution underworld.

So, we can see that while illegalization does have its good points, ultimately it endangers sex workers and also our general individual freedom from state/police intervention. It gives nothing of benefit to society and harms society by hurting families, generating crime and trafficking, and wasting police resources that could be better used stopping murder, rape, etc.

Legalisation argument

Legalization:

Stops streetwalking, the most dangerous type of sex work, as workers can work in legal brothels (a la Nevada in America, Australia, Netherlands)

Stops the public nuisance aspect of streetwalking with red light districts/zones/designated sex work areas (Netherlands, zones in some Scottish cities such as by the docks in Leith, Edinburgh)

Safer, cleaner, better environment for sex workers because brothels will be registered with the state and subject to inspections. (I like to use the body modification or tattoo industry analogy here – licensing and inspections enforce safety).

Improves their rights

Health checkups to stop disease

Stops stigmatization/criminalization

It’s a useful social service for shy, disabled or lonely men

Can tax sex workers so the state earns money (ILO supports this as its good for poor countries)

Oldest profession/we must learn to accept it

Response to male needs

Just a job

Problems

Some workers prefer streetwalking as they choose their own clients and working hours, or aren’t organised enough to work in brothels, or have HIV and are rejected by brothels

Checkups usually only on sex workers not clients (though not in Australia where the client sticks his thing in the wall and it scans for diseases!)

Diseased or drug addicted women rejected by state brothels

Some people prefer to run illegal brothels so they will still exist

Sex workers who streetwalk or are unregistered/working in illegal brothels are criminalized even more than in the present decriminalized approach in the UK

Workers in illegal brothels or streetwalkers fear to report violence as they would be charged with being a non-registered sex worker (the illegalization problem again)

Sex workers’ rights not always protected

Environments are worse as they cannot choose own clients

Many clients married, not shy or disabled

The oldest profession argument is fatalistic/defeatist (Matthews)

Natural response to male needs argument stops discussion of female needs (McIntosh)

Supports double standard (Jeffreys)

Reinforces patriarchal male dominance (Schoular)

Assumes all laws are bad, ignores the way they protect women from exploitation

Checkups historically only on women and forced, doesn’t protect them from clients

Liberals depict women doing it because they enjoy it or find it empowering however many are coerced into it or forced to do sex work because of poverty (Doezema). The image of the ‘happy hooker’ may be true for educated women such as students (the ‘Belle du Jour’ experience)  – who usually work off the street – but not for working class women especially streetwalkers. Most become sex workers before the age of 18 – are they really magically consenting as soon as they turn 18?

Prostitute identity inseparable from sense of self, unlike other jobs (Phoenix)

Trafficking increases with legalization

Red light zones are bad places for women to live as street harrassment increases a lot and crime tends to thrive once an area is designated.

So, legalization doesn’t protect streetwalkers or workers in illegal brothels and actually victimizes them more, similarly to illegalization. It is also bad for women who aren’t sex workers as they get harassed. Legalization may be good for non-streetwalkers, but it still comes with mixed blessings, such as forced sexual health checkups, mandatory registration of real identity with the state/less privacy and anonymity and being taxed on earnings, which may cause sex workers to increase their prices.

Decriminalisation argument

Decriminalization (the current UK situation) is:

Less hypocritical

Health/control disease by voluntary checkups

Allows welfare provision and exiting strategies as well as allowing freedom to be a sex worker at the same time, thus allowing sex workers to choose their destiny

Avoids stigmatisation by the criminal justice system and social attitudes

Sex work is not harmful/is consensual so law has no right to intervene

Laws protect workers from exploitation, unlike legalization

Sex workers can report violence to police without fear, so they are more safe

Trafficking rates low as British people willing to do sex work as it’s not a crime, they can choose how they work and they don’t have to register their legal name

Problems

The relationship may be unequal or coercive, not really consensual

May allow more profits to be made from prostitution/increased commercialization which is bad for sex workers’ rights

Legitimising prostitution only accentuates the double standard/polarised view of gender roles and sex, however not as much as legalizing it would do

Legitimising it increases harassment of women in red light districts and sexual assaults, but again not as much as legalization

So, decriminalization, while not without its problems, is the best for sex workers because it allows them freedom while simultaneously offering exiting help to those who want to leave the industry. Privacy and anonymity are protected and sex workers can choose whether they want to streetwalk, work from home or in a brothel. Although soliciting and kerb-crawling are crimes, this is necessary to stop public nuisance and is not punishable by jail time for either the sex worker or the client. Women are protected from the street harrassment common in legalization, and decriminalization does not support the double standard as much as legalization does.

This doesn’t mean that it all ends here and we can’t make changes within a decriminalization framework.

Roger Matthews argues that we need to move beyond existing approaches to decriminalization and legalization and construct an alternative, radical regulationism. He then outlines some general legislative routes through which this radical regulationism could be realised:

General deterrence – criminalize clients rather than focus on sex worker

Stop commercialization of sex work – allow sex workers to cohabit to a degree, to protect themselves; from dangerous clients or needing the protection of a pimp

Exploitation and corruption: harsher sentencing/longer prison sentence as it is a form of rape; current UK legislation can’t differentiate between friends and parasites or protect women from pimps. However, Matthews doesn’t discuss this or mention evidence, though it is true, it would just have been nice to see some discussion of this.

Disturbance/harassment/nuisance – criminalize and deter clients who are more easily deterred than sex workers (proven by the Home Office report that they are much more easily deterred).

Proof of annoyance should be required for conviction of either,  not just police evidence, treat both client and sex worker equally, respect for  their rights and civil liberties (how, Matthews? If they are not allowed to sell sex, isn’t that already a violation?)

Radical regulationism differs from the Wolfenden approach cos not liberal or focussed on public nuisance or public visibility of prostitution; however, Matthews’ radical regulationism does put a lot of importance on harassment/public nuisance; it is one of its 4 strands. The fact that he doesn’t want to illegalize it is still “liberal” – ie rejects New Right discourse of prostitution as dirty- just he sees commercialization as a bad thing, unlike liberal/libertarian perspectives which are neutral or see it as good, but that’s the only real difference between radical regulationism and the Wolfenden approach/current situation (especially since the 1985 and 2007 acts do criminalize clients).

(This view by an academic is an example of how things could be changed. Doubtless you have your own views. I included this view to show that, even while accepting decriminalization and not pushing for the other two options, real change can still be fought for. Realising the status quo is the best way doesn’t mean we can’t get radical.)

References/stuff you might like to read if you’re interested

R. Matthews (1986) “Beyond Wolfenden? Prostitution, Politics and the Law” in R. Matthews and J. Young (eds) Confronting Crime, London: Sage

R. Matthews (2008) “Prostitution, vulnerability and victimisation” in Prostitution, Politics and Policy, Abingdon: Routledge-Cavendish

The Scottish Executive (2004) Being Outside: A Response to Street Prostitution (about exiting strategies and small red light zones in non-residential areas of cities. Proves that there’s only about 2,000 prostitutes in all of Scotland who streetwalk or work out of flats. However, this isn’t counting call girls and those who work in massage parlours/saunas so is an underestimation.) Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/30859/0024989.pdf)

J. Phoenix (2000) “Prostitute Identities: Men, Money and Violence” British Journal of Criminology 40 (1) 37-55

R. Matthews (1993) Kerb-Crawling, Prostitution and Multi-Agency Policing”, Police Research Group Paper 43, London: Home Office

For Scottish Government information on the regulation of prostitution in Scotland (including information on recent legislation) see: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/crimes/Response

Home Office (2004) Paying the Price: A Consultation Paper on Prostitution, London: Home Office (just Google it)

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Feminism, Sex work

 

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Sex work as affirming ownership of the body

I was just looking at LoverofMaggie’s blog and it just reminded me, as I’ve thought sometimes, that prostituting myself has been the only big decision I’ve ever made only for me, to please and fulfil myself. All the other decisions like going to university were simply expected of me. I didn’t understand that I had a choice to go to university and as a first-year student I’d get confused when other students asked why I’d chosen to go to uni or what made me decide to go. As a three year old I’d been told I’d go to university. I’ve never felt as in control of my own life as I do now. I was always allowed, as a child and teen, to do anything I wanted as long as it wasn’t illegal or unsafe but somehow I always felt controlled although I was quite spoilt. I had panic attacks occassionally until I was about 16 but was never diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, as I never went to the doctor about it. I was criticized often for being emotional or weird, and lied that I thought I had Asperger’s Syndrome to avoid this, which didn’t work, but on the whole I was very happy and had a dream life, and all the toys, books and games that I wanted (I still have over 1000 books even though hundreds were given away to charity shops over the years!)

Anyway, prostitution is empowering for me (so far). This is my body, it is mine, so I shall use it to get the money I want.

Money is the one thing you can always trust.

Prostitution is liberating; it means you don’t need any emotional attachment whatsoever, you just get sex without any strings attached. And in my case you get to fulfil a fantasy and just be yourself and explore your personality and grow from it.

I’m not trying to say my experience is representative. When I studied prostitution at uni, I wrote in my exam a month ago a radical argument for using two terms and discourses to describe prostitution – one for streetwalking and another for all other types. I believe that you simply cannot formulate policy that covers educated prostitutes who earn hundreds or thousands off each client and may be sex activists and/or doing prostitution part time while studying or working other jobs and that also covers prostitutes earning £10-£30 off each client, who have no other job and use prostitution to pay for drug addictions, bills/rent or pay it to boyfriends or pimps. These women usually have a history of abuse and suffer from illness and sleep deprivation, and according to reports are often barely able to stand up as they negotiate with clients. Most were forced into it or started very young so their agency is doubtful, in contrast with sex activists who form coalitions such as PLAN, COYOTE or the UK Trade Union for sex workers. Streetwalkers usually fall into the second group, while those that work through agencies, from home or from massage parlours usually fall into the first. So you cannot have one policy to cover both situations. In the first category, the problem seems to be victimization by society and the criminal justice system itself; the solution is freedom/nonintervention. In the second category, a laissez-faire approach would be irresponsible.

(R Matthews’ books and articles, Scottish Government Report ‘Being Outside’, Home Office report on multidisciplinary handling of kerb-crawling, Ann Phoenix’s article)

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2012 in Sex work

 

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