Feminist Men and Words that Wound

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susan davis susan davis's picture
Feminist Men and Words that Wound

http://www.wakingvixen.com/blog/2009/08/23/feminist-men-and-words-that-wound/ August 23, 2009 (by Audacia Ray)

Feminist Men and Words that Wound

On Wednesday night I attended a panel on feminist men, put on by Paradigm Shift, a feminist organization I recently discovered that is doing great community building work.

[And before I dig into the ugly stuff, I want to make very clear that I really loved the event, will definitely be going to future Paradigm Shift events, and I was really impressed with not only the organization of the event but also the friendliness of the Paradigm shift staff - they were greeting folks as we came in, which was just lovely. Well then.]

Over the last few years, people have said really fucked up things to me or in front of me about sex workers in private, in public, on live broadcasts, intentional and unintentional. I'm really proud to say that I handle most of these comments with grace and aplomb - I strive for that. I think it's a big part of the value I can add to the debate - I'm pretty unflappable, and I see pretty much all conversations as teachable moments.

But that night, I got rattled. It has been a long time since someone said something that made me feel so small, so raw, and so. fucking. angry.

One of the panelists was Robert Brannon. He works with the Pornography and Prostitution Task Force at the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS). He spoke about some recently emboldened anti-trafficking legislation and his general mission to end the sexual exploitation of women and youth. Which are admirable goals, to be sure. But his words got ugly. He blurred the womenandchildren lines. And he repeatedly used the phrases "women used by the sex industry" and "people used in prostitution" which made me shudder to my core.

Let me just quote Melissa Gira, who I was sitting with and was able to articulate her rage enough to stand up and make a comment (which she blogs further beyond the below quote here).

I stole a play from the book of the Latin American sex worker activists, who open every critical statement with a bit of gratitude before launching into their take. (And this mostly works, even for long meetings, conducted with simultaneous English/Spanish translation, in headsets. It was like the sex worker UN up in there some days at the AIDS Conference in Mexico City last summer. It was fantastic.) I said to Brannon that I was sure I was the beneficiary of some of his good work, the year I joined a community advocacy program against violence against women in college, we just integrated men into the group. That it was so valuable to work together with men. But that I had real concerns for how his group addresses trafficking without including the people most impacted by their advocacy around trafficking: people in the sex industry. Had they spoken to people who had been raped and assaulted by the police when they were arrested for prostitution? Because to hear him just speak, I didn't feel that he had. And to hear him just speak, it made asking this question of him that much more challenging, as I, a sex worker, actually did prefer to be called a sex worker, and that for anyone else in the room curious about how to refer to someone who sells sex, they should defer to what people call themselves and want to be called by others. Did they understand (I continued, I mean, I really continued and graciously, no one cut me off) that relying on police to arrest people who sell sex was therefore problematic, and that the raids and "rescue" missions themselves are traumatic and re-victimizing? What was his group doing to ensure that sex workers had access to housing, health care, and education? Rather than focus on what they believed was the inherent abuse in selling sex, how were they working to end the rape and abuse of sex workers at the hands of the people that his group believe can "protect" them - the police? Had they listened to sex workers at all?

Brannon again claimed that this wasn't really his issue, or his concern, and that though his people had worked with people who had left the sex industry and were trying to "make a fresh start" (or some similar metaphor, which I forget, at this point, not having had a notebook out to record anything so much as I was just trying to hold my ground and his eyes) but that he "didn't believe that sex workers [were] the experts" on these issues or deserved a place at the policy table.

So here we are again. None of this is surprising. I have friends in the community of sex worker advocates who do this all the time: try to get on some common ground with the "anti-trafficking" people in the feminist movement, go to their events, ask questions. It may seem like sanctimonious barnstorming, to show up where they show up, but some of these "anti-trafficking" activists are not people who respond to kind emails or invitations to debate or discuss. They use scare tactics and smear campaigns, and frankly, I don't feel all that safe in one-on-one discussions with them. I preferred the open forum of this panel as a way to ask for some accountability, and I knew full well I probably wouldn't get a response that even shimmied near anything resembling ethical consideration.

So how does one even respond to someone that a feminist organization has pitched up on a pedestal for a moment as "the good guy" telling you, for your own good, that you have been used and to just be quiet and let him get back to work?

To this man, and others who want to help: you need to listen. When a person who has worked in the sex industry tells you the words they prefer to describe themselves and their experiences, you need to respect that. Brannon spoke about "people used by the sex industry" as if there couldn't possibly be someone with that experience in the room. Guess what? We were there. Not all of us felt like we could speak up and correct him.

I for one felt a wave of shame quickly followed by the kind of rage that made my skin feel hot and my ears ring. If Melissa Gira hadn't been there to stand up and say her piece, I would've said something. But I wouldn't have been calm and collected at all. It would have been purely emotional vitriol. It takes a lot to make me feel that way.

And the thing that made me feel that way, the thing that actually made me feel triggered and sick and just awful - was the word "used." A man who probably (giving him the benefit of the doubt) thought he was speaking of other people out there in the world, not humans in the same room as him - that man called me used.

I am not "used." I'm not a car or a million other things that can be used. Used implies a permanence of damage - and yes, I certainly have been altered by my experiences in the sex industry, admittedly in ways that aren't all good. Some of those alterations are things I'm still figuring out, healing from, mourning. But I am not "used" - and a word like that does violence to my psyche and my ability to speak out and maintain my autonomy and my personhood. And that, in my book, is not what a feminist man should be doing with his words.




What is to be done with the monsters that our new modern legal open society has nurtured for us? surely not more free room and board at taxpayers expense!

remind remind's picture

You certainly aren't suggesting that pedeophilia is a new invention, are you highryder? And that progressive society had created it?

And are you advocating for the death penalty here too?

highryder wrote:
What is to be done with the monsters that our new modern legal open society has nurtured for us? surely not more free room and board at taxpayers expense!

Plus your article has absolutely nothing to do with susan's commentary!

In fact it is offensive that you did so!

martin dufresne

It seems to me that if we redirect and maintain the focus on what men do and want to do and are allowed to do to women and youths in prostitution - instead of putting thus-prostituted people on trial as society tends to do by criminalizing them instead of exploiters -, I don't think the verb "to use" is too strong. It's first and foremost this reality and the people who action it that are abusive and that wound, not any specific word (or euphemism) alluding to it.


remind remind's picture

martin..I think you are over looking susan's request and statement.

This is the feminist forum afterall, and not about what men think is the correct terminology.

Having said that, I personally believe that this "recession" is being exploited to further exploit women, as women who are the ones who are the most significantly impacted by recessions.

Alarmingly, I have heard the same comment from several young women recently,  which is; "I am going to have to sell my ass soon".


I think that men, such as myself, who are supportive towards the feminist movement need to shut up and listen. It is a women's movement, after all, about womens experiences in the world.  Men need to get over compulsions to assume authority.

If only we lived in a world where nobody had to 'sell their ass' and people only had sex because of mutual affection and desire.  It doesn't work that way, however, and I think that anything that makes life safer for women is a step forward.

martin dufresne

Which is why I support women who want to end sexual exploitation.


susan davis susan davis's picture

i am glad to finally have your support martin!!lol


i actually didn't write this, the author's name is at the top. i do however agree 100% with it's sentiment. listen....i also have a voice.

remind remind's picture

Oh so that was a whole quote from Audacia Ray, and not your experience at all susan. Thanks for the clarification.

Then carry on martin, with your observations, as I do believe that people are "used" by the industry, as if they were objects, and not people. It does not mean that the people are "used", but the vast majority most certainly are exploited, just as the poor economic situation where women find themselves in, is.

susan davis susan davis's picture

not true the majority are in it by choice and sex workers are not only women, but it is ofetn only seen as a women's or feminist issue


i am a sex worker and choose sex work as my job. i am a sex worker, not a "prostituted woman" or victim of the sex industry, rather as in the story above i am offended by men who presume to "understand" sex work or sex workers but diminish our voices by perpetuated myths about our lives and refusing to acknowledge our wish to be refered to as sex workers...there by ignoring the voices of women you oppress us. you lead by example and people listen because you are men. i personally find it offensive that men claiming to be "experts" about women's issues dismiss us as crazy or uncredible as i personally have experienced many times when trying to express pro sex worker ideas in feminist spaces which include men.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

I'm glad you're around martin.

susan davis susan davis's picture

i am not anti men....i only am anti oppressive language used by men......

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

That's cool.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture


remind remind's picture

Frankly susan, i do not believe the majority are in it by choice, if they were given other choices, they would not be choosing sexual exploitation.


martin dufresne

"sex workers are not only women, but it is ofetn only seen as a women's or feminist issue"

Actually, this is less and less true as more and more attention is being paid to the role of men in prostitution. I have spent the summer poring over research about and testimony from these men, and the emergence of such material signals a breakaway from the traditional limited "divided feminism" perspective that pits legalization advocates against abolitionists, along the stilted battle lines drawn at the Barnard 1982 conference where "sexual liberals" declared open season on any feminist critique of anything with a sexual dimension.

Listening to Montreal male hustlers' accounts of their johns and reading the research and analyses of Sven-Axel Mansson, Rose Dubois, Saïd Bouamama, Claudine Legardinier, Aurélie Lebrun and Victor Malarek ("The Johns") - who have all been looking into men's politics in prostitution - amply documents what I summarized in post #3. It is definitely also - if not foremost - a men's issue, and what these men say and do validates more than anything women's abolitionist reading of prostitution as exploitation. It establishes the need for a selective decriminalization, where pimps, traffickers, brothel-owners and johns won't get to hitch a free ride on our (belated) support for the women and young men they exploit.


susan davis susan davis's picture

of course you don't, why would you? bejamin perrin and melissa farely say different. what people fail to understand is none of their research has been acedemically reviewed or scrutinized not data collection methods nor sample population scrutiny. if you run a rape crisis line and only interview victims of violence of course you believe all sex workers are raped.


here you will find data collected for tamara o'doherty's thesis that was reviewed and scrutinized in the way academics believe produces unbiased data. professors from different universities looked at ethical sampling and data collection as well as comparison groups as far as related violaence data. it supports my assertions....90%of sex workers are NOT forced in sex work and abused as is claimed by our opposition

so, you don't have to believe me, judge for yourself. if one research piece is reviewed and another is not which is likely more accurate? it's why i get so angry!i know what legitimate research looks like versus un comfirmed assumptions made by people with no lived experience and based on a sample study group comprised solely of victims of sexual assault. perhaps we could make assumptions about all women based on information we recieve about their professions through a rape crisis line. "i was raped and i work for the government and it was some one i met at work!" my god! we must not allow women to be harmed so no more women working for the government...



susan davis susan davis's picture

martin, so because it takes 2 to tango, is abortion mostly a men's issue? if they could be shamed into keeping it in their pants we wouldn't need abortions?


it is my body and my choice...a fundamental freedom i believe.


genderizing these issues is what has prevented any meaningful stabilization of safety for sex industry workers in canada. it's a workers issue. i am not an exploited woman ( except in the sense of fundraising at the expense of my safety a la anti trafficking campaigns) , i am a worker forced to work in dangerous working conditions.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I think we can see from this thread that it isn't just hard to find support from men, but feminists in general, regardless of gender.

I don't buy that the majority of sex workers are in it by choice, and it isn't because some guy or some woman says so.  Sure, they may be part of the information that's out there, but I think we're all informed by a variety of sources.

For my pov, two or three times a week I go to a martial arts school that is located in a very poor area and a known "stroll".  Every spring, I notice young women are up and down the streets, usually dressed in unseasonably light clothes.  They're usually First Nations, and they are all heartbreakingly young.  I do not believe for one instant that any of these girls are making informed choices.  I think they are making desperate choices.  They don't look happy to me, and they sure as hell don't look free.

I can accept that some sex workers are in it by choice.  Fine.  But I honestly would like to see some supporting evidence that they aren't a minority.

susan davis susan davis's picture

10 to 15 % of sex workers are on the street, the rest of us are where you can't see or judge us as far as choice so you also are assuming we are all exactly like the example you see on the street....i also train 4 times a week, always dress for the weather and you wouldn't know i was a sex worker unless i told you.

your statement supports my assertion, mainstream society really have no idea how we live and only believe what inflated fears of the unknown allow them to believe.


what about web cam workers, massage workers, escorts, dancers, adult film workers....we are NOT for the most part first nations or abused.fro proof read tamara o'dorety's paper, it is reiewed and is academically ethical and unbiased. some workers in her study never experienced violence as a sex worker. some migrated between venues experiencing first hand the marked decrease in safety experienced by worker on the street as opposed to indoor workers.


disprotionate numbers of first nations sex workers on the street are a symptom of a deeper issue related to colonialization and i agree it's unacceptable but to assume it's like that in all areas of the sex industry is ludicris. look on line....how many first nations porn stars or escorts oor dancers do you see? how many blond and blue eyed girls? or asian girls? other races are represented more obiously as a race preferance in the sex industry.

 again, it's a workers issue, not a first nations or women's issue.

susan davis susan davis's picture

What predicts job satisfaction among female sex workers? A study from Queensland, Australia.- by Charlotte Seib


Objectives: For many occupations, much has been learned about the effects of work and the workplace on job satisfaction and employment-related stress. However, there is an absence of research exploring the determinants of job satisfaction among sex workers. This paper examines predictors of job satisfaction among female sex workers engaged in brothels, private situations or street-based work. Methods: A convenience sample included 247 female sex workers (aged 18 to 57 years) working throughout Queensland, Australia. This included workers from legal brothels (n=102), private sole-operators (n=103) and illegal street-based sex workers (n=42). Results: The average age was 32 years, with most participants born either in Australia or New Zealand. One in five women had completed a bachelor degree or higher. Overall, the sex workers reported roughly equivalent job satisfaction to Australian women (Baxter et al. 1996). A desire to leave the sex industry was most strongly correlated with reduced job satisfaction (p=<0.01). Satisfaction was also relatively low among those whose family was not aware of their sex work (p=<0.01). Average job satisfaction scores for private sex workers were 64 (95% CI 60, 68), compared with 59 (95% CI 55, 63) for legal brothel workers, and 55 (95% CI 49, 62) for those working illegally (p=0.03). Conclusions: Analysis suggests a complex interaction between variables contributing to job satisfaction. In general, it appears that the majority of sex workers enjoyed at least as much job satisfaction as women working in other occupations. Varying levels of job satisfaction in different sectors of the sex industry will be discussed in relation to characteristics of the workplace and the associated hazards, especially risk of violence.

Conflict of Interest: None disclosed
Financial Support/Funding: Prostitution Licensing Authority
Sydney Australia, April 2007

martin dufresne

Talking of "words that wound", can you support your vilification of Farley in post #16, susan?

"...bejamin perrin and melissa farely say different. what people fail to understand is none of their research has been acedemically reviewed or scrutinized not data collection methods nor sample population scrutiny. if you run a rape crisis line and only interview victims of violence of course you believe all sex workers are raped..."

From her Wikipedia bio, in addition to her books, Farley, a clinical psychologist, has published her major research so far in the following publications:
Violence Against Women 10(10): 1087-1125

Journal of Trauma Practice 2(3/4):33-74

Psychological Reports 89(3):595-606

Women & Health 27(3):37-49

Feminism & Psychology 8(4):405-426

What evidence do you have that none of these journals is peer-reviewed? Aren't you reaching just a little?

P.S.: BTW, I found interesting this reflection of the pitched war that some sexual liberals are waging against feminist analysts of the prostitution industry, in order to chase them off Wikipedia, among other platforms.


I suppose it all comes down to whether or not you believe it's possible for sex work to become better though regulation, unionization and so on.

susan davis susan davis's picture

she came to vancouver personally, never met with any organization working with foreign and migrant sex workers or workers for that matter, attended a police board meeting demanding action and enforcement of bawdy house laws, never spoke to groups working with police on these issues, caused reactionary enforcement actions based on skewed data, destabilized the safety of workers affected driving them further underground and eventually leading to 3 murders.

being published does not make your research unbiased and complete. ethical review before, during and after however does. ms. farely needs to be more careful when imposing her personal politics on reports being promoted as research. the outcomes are real and obvious, ask any of the migrant women being deported as we speak.


and yes, ultimately it comes down to beliefs. i believe we can make it safe for people and better protect victims of exploitation through a trasparent ,well reviewed and scrutinized process involving all sides including main stream society, criminal justice, support services, health and sex industry community members


Just after the turn of the century when I first came to babble, my views on this subject were not much different from Susan's.   But they've modified since to what I guess is described as the feminist analysis, though I've always maintained that women or men that choose to work in this field are doing something that frankly is none of my business, no matter what I may think.

What modified my position over the years hasn't been discussion here-- at least not directly-- but just from the stuff I see.

10 to 15 % of sex workers are on the street, the rest of us are where you can't see or judge us as far as choice so you also are assuming we are all exactly like the example you see on the street....i also train 4 times a week, always dress for the weather and you wouldn't know i was a sex worker unless i told you.

your statement supports my assertion, mainstream society really have no idea how we live and only believe what inflated fears of the unknown allow them to believe.


I'm not sure about the percentages, but I don't see workers like yourself, Susan.  I see workers, minority they might be that are different.  

Susan, I'm right out of central casting for the part of a guy whose worked in a factory for 30 years.  So, when I'm solicited by a woman my daughter's age, complete with quivering chin and watery eyes because her "boyfriend" needs money for oxycontin so she's ready to give a fat old man a blow job...

It has a way of modifying your viewpoint.  That's "real" to me because it's what's happened.

I'm not saying this to say you are wrong.   I don't think you are wrong at all. 

But it may explain why there's a polarization of views.

Which you did point out... I guess what I mean to say is in the face of visceral experiences, even if they are uncommon in the trade as a whole, it's human that the viewpoint is skewed in that direction, and for the most part I think people come by it from honest intentions.




susan davis susan davis's picture

lol!!central casting!!i make corsettes too!victorian steel boned!!lol


i am straight out of central casting as a mature woman making a choice to comfort teary eyed lonely men who are vulnerable and beautiful... to me anyway!


i am in agreement about young women trading sex for drugs, absoluteley awful. i remember once in the east end of vancouver i was walking along and suddenly a woman, screaming and not wearing any shoes. she was crying and pulling her hair out, dope sick. i gave her $20 and she hugged me. it breaks my heart.

i still believe decrim and transparency will ease the situation and will allow funds to be directd away from enforcement to support the street entrenched, survival sex workers, youth at risk, victims of trafficking etc.


we must move away from punishment and towards protection.

martin dufresne

I take it then, susan, that you can't support your allegation that Farley's work isn't peer-reviewed.

As for the project of decriminalizing brothels, to which you are closely associated, you and I know that one of the main speaking points used to sell it to the State is that such discreet establishements will allow it to "clean up" the streets. So I have to take with a grain of skepticism your sympathy for intoxicated street-prostituted women who would never be hired by a licensed establishement and whose lives will be made even more harsher. Heavy class issues there.

As for your suggestion that all women prostituted elsewhere than on the street are all exercising free choice, you will have to count me among the non-believers, especially since it has as much support as your slur against Farley's research.


susan davis susan davis's picture

i never said peer review, lots of academics read her work


as i said , ethical review as in REB like in canada;s federal policy for research involving human's?....


show me once where one piece of melissa farely work involved ethical review as per our federal ethic's policy requirements...?it doesn't exist. review is to take part before during and after to ensure fair and unbiased outcomes.


peer review is not ethical review and further more her peers are academics, not necessarily sex workers. we are not given equal opportunity to weigh in because of barriers created by lack of education=wealth=power.

we are not considered, as is so obvious here on babble, to be worthy as a peer or reviewer or to be credible or have a valid experience or opimiom and in some cases to even be truthful.

we have alot of support martin, i just found this space because of a link you posted else where and am tired of not being heard and the only voice being of an abolitionist perspetive. i exist, i have honor, i don't lie and i will oppose my oppressors.


Thanks for posting here, Susan.  I find your posts, and your voice, so valuable on babble.

susan davis susan davis's picture

i am a recovering addict 15 years clean and worked on the street in vancouver. don't give me your class arguement. i have been raped, pimped, exploited, on drugs, in prison and understnad what workers face on the street. i am a member of that community and am here everyday.


the coop is OWNED BY STREET WORKERS, read the coop thread man.


no one will be hired by our brothel....no rounding up women and standing them in lines for customers to choose from. it is for sex entrenched workers, asked for by, designed by, controled by, operated by, voted on by sex workers in the east end.


i guess you didn't feel i was credible enough to actually read what i posted about our brothel but hey...i'm the chick out front, the sex worker who pretends she likes her job.


don't tell me about my feelings for women i know, have known and have lost in my life...you couldn't possibly understand.


what an insult...licensing....you think i haven't lived?survived? give me a break! pretty rude man.

how many of your friends are dead as a result of all this martin? 6 of mine are...and not on any lists either cause you know their murders were solved. and what about suicide and death by disease? one young woman i knew and accessed a drop in a worked for froze to death one night...how bout you martin?any of your friends freeze to death trying to make some money?

it iss not about"cleaning up the streets" as much as adressing issues of public disorder which lead to community complaints, enforcement action and ultimately harm of sex workers.

everyone deserves to be safe at work



make corsettes too!

Well, my namesake did, for a time.  Always found that the kind of irrelevant factoid that gives the memory a place to hang it's hat, sort of like remembering Tycho Brache had no nose.  Lost it in a duel over mathematics.  

Fortunately, though it comes close, no one has lost a nose yet at babble-- just some disslocations.

Thomas Paine and the Marquis de Sade wrote different views on things like liberty at roughly the same time.  De Sade, however, confused liberty and libertinage, like a lot of people do today.

I consider myself a sexual liberal.  What separates a sexual liberal from a sexual libertine is the issue of consent, and what exactly constitutes choice.

Obviously,  a woman raped at gun point has a choice between compliance or death.  But everyone understands that this doesn't constitute consent.

A high standard has to be attached, if one wants to be a sexual liberal, to a personal deffinition of consent.  That's why I take the hardline when it comes to customers of prostitutes that are addicts.  I think that's rape.  Not that many would agree, but I'm entitled to that view, and I hold it resolutely.

i still believe decrim and transparency will ease the situation and will allow funds to be directd away from enforcement to support the street entrenched, survival sex workers, youth at risk, victims of trafficking etc.

 we must move away from punishment and towards protection.

Why we allways argue about this here though is while we all might agree wth that, it's difficult to map out all the ramifications of this change or that.

For example, in London it's rather obvious that the amount of  street prostitution has increased with the appearance of Oxycontin.  I'm all for demanding Perdue stop making the stuff, and throwing thier asses in jail for a long time.  

But what would happen?   Sudden demand for heroin?   Maybe.   Huge line ups at the methadone clinics where people can instruct each other on "safe" ways to shake and bake crystal meth?

Though it makes me want to gouge out my eyes with darning needles when I say this, ultimately Martin is right.  Men have to change.  But, realistically, this isn't going to happen anytime soon.  In the meantime, other approaches need to be taken, as you point out.

But, none of those approaches are without thier collateral damages, and unforseen consequences.

That's why, in a few months, we will argue this again as we have always done.






martin dufresne

susan davis: i guess you didn't feel i was credible enough to actually read what i posted about our brothel

I had read it when you posted it (are all your accusations this weak?), and I read it again to make sure that my concern hadn't been adressed. (BTW, thanks for calling it a brothel upfront and not some smarmy euphemism like "safe indoor sex work venue".)

It seems clear after re-reading your promotional material that the only way this project can happen is for brothel-keeping to be decriminalized, which could only happen nation-wide to avoid preferential treatment for your project, Vancouver or B.C.

Wouldn't that open floodgates for all the traditional procurers ("sex industry stakeholders") who don't give a fig for coop values and democratic processes and who do exploit women? How would you avoid your project becoming a Trojan horse for the very people whom we agree (post #6 and 7) exploit women, esp. racialized women...? I am really asking here.

susan davis susan davis's picture

actually we are in discussion with police and the city for 2 years and as stated in the coop thread are looking at the steam bath business model, room by the hour which is a legal and licensed business in vancouver and actually provides a private space in which 2 consenting adulting could legally engage in the exchange of sex for money.


we are engaged in a charter challenge to bring down the laws but are working on a 'one time trial" understnading with local polcie services and government.


as far as the "flood gates" opening shall i redirect you back to the industry associatiton thread?i tried to offer ways to find accountability but you never commented on my over sight committee (review board)idea. what about building in accountability that way?


as far as support, check out www.livingincommunity.ca


a steering committee i am on for 4 years including residents, business owners, coastal health, citystaff, police, sex workers, sex workers support services and youth protection services in which a series of consultations( 50 public meetings) developed an action plan . in this plan our industry association and brothel are supported under action 22....

 brothel is the term choosen by sex workers and i, unlike you, choose to honor their wishes as far language.

so you tell me? do we have a chance?i'd yes!!!


i loved it when you called me weak in a thread about feminist men wounding marginalized women with words. you always stoop to such lows sir, try to be civil. i am.personal attacks are unnecessary,

martin dufresne


1) I never called you weak. (One more false accusation.)

2) "safe indoor sex work venue" is a quote from your own material.

3) I don't see how brothels in Toronto, Montreal or anywhere else could be made "accountable" to what you call an oversight committee, or anybody else than its owners, if the law was abolished. So I still see your coop model acting as a Trojan horse for any brothel (or pimp).



I'm writing this post as a reader and as a feminist participant in the feminism forum, not as the moderator.

Describing a brothel as a "safe indoor sex work venue" is not the same thing as replacing the term "brothel" with that phrase.

And here goes: I think it really sucks, Martin, that you're going after one of the very few women on babble who work in the industry and are sharing with us her point of view, in such insulting ways, post after post.  It's a tribute to Susan's strength that she stays here and fights back against you in the feminism forum, which should be a safe space for her to have these discussions with us, whether we agree with her or not.

I hate the way you call people who disagree with you "sexual liberals" and people who agree with you "feminist analysts of the prostitution industry".  It really pisses me off, in fact.  Susan identifies as a feminist, and she's just as much a "feminist analyst of the prostitution industry" as anyone else is, and certainly as much so as you are. 

I think the voices of current sex trade workers are just as important as - in fact, possibly even MORE important than - male feminists who try to marginalize their voices with sarcasm, academic studies that deny their point of view and lived realities, and the implication that they are not feminists.  I would also say their voices are also just as important as former or "reformed" or "rehabilitated" sex trade workers, since it is people in the industry NOW who will be most affected by any policy or legal changes made, not people who used to be in it.


Bravo, Michelle.

susan davis susan davis's picture

I never called you weak. (One more false accusation.)

so...i am a liar?
"safe indoor sex work venue" is a quote from your own material.
and? it is a term used to describe any venue workers consider safe.
3) I don't see how brothels in Toronto, Montreal or anywhere else could be made "accountable" to what you call an oversight committee, or anybody else than its owners, if the law was abolished. So I still see your coop model acting as a Trojan horse for any brothel (or pimp).
you need glasses! just kidding, if you can't see it you never will. it is explained very well in the "labor on the margins report" on our website- www.wccsip.ca
tanx to everyone for your support of me being allowed to take part.


To be fair, he called your accusation weak, and I don't think he called you a liar, Susan. 

I hope you'll stick around and keep us updated on how your project is going.  You'll probably find some respectful disagreement on certain points (like from Tommy_Paine), but I think there are a good number of us who are reading with interest, and learning a lot from what you're posting.

susan davis susan davis's picture

i guess, it just difficult to be hear "another false accusation" as if i am once again not credible and not to be believed.

i am greatful to have an opportunity to debate these issues and it is actually giving me a clearer picture of where we need to be as far as accountability in the greater community.
in our culture( underground or street culture), all you have is your name, honor and reputation and if some one challenges your honor it's considered an insult. i guess i am not used to people not believing me, i am a long standing and well repected member of my community
i will continue to share our plans in this forum in hopes of finding support and understanding in all of the powerful organizations engaged here.


Yeah, I guess that's kind of an illustration of the thread title, huh? :)


I work in methadone maintenance, and I have some of the same concerns as Tommy.  I believe sex workers would be safer if sex work were legalized, taxed and regulated like other service industries.  But also, sex work is the last refuge for the truly desperate, like people who would starve otherwise, people who are addicted.  One of my clients, I've treated her over and over for gonorrhea of her eyes.

I know there are people who are happy and fulfilled in sex work.  But it's an industry that has the potential for enormous exploitation and abuse of vulnerable people like no other industry.

susan davis susan davis's picture

so true, we need to find ways to support people to get out if they need to like in our alternative coop enterprises as well as stabilize working conditions to prevent further harm.


that's why www.livingincommunity.ca is such a great plan! it's balanced and takes into consideration concerns from all sides. i have high hopes for its success in vancouver, we have received funding to implement the plan in a pilot/ kind of trial neighbourhood ensure access to resources and everything we could think of to try to prevent gaps from forming...wish us luck over the next 2 years!



I definitely agree with that.  But that's why I think an initiative like Susan's is so important and worth supporting - co-ops run BY workers, FOR workers, to help alleviate some of the dangers of the industry.

martin dufresne

I think it really sucks, Martin, that you're going after one of the very few women on babble who work in the industry and are sharing with us her point of view, in such insulting ways, post after post.



I have never insulted Susan, not once.

I have stood up to, yes, false accusations - some of them - against Melissa Farley and myself. If that is unacceptable in the feminist forum, sayonara.

The expressions "sex liberal" and "sexual liberal" have been around for more than 30 years as self-descriptors for the people hostile to the feminist analysis of prostitution as oppression. If you find the term inflammatory, please suggest another. To them.

I too appreciate the possibility of debating these issues here, but if answering points is caricatured as "insults", I'll live with a monologue.


ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

Susan just wanted to say that I'm glad your here and hope you stay around as well. Your perspective is not one that I've really had any contact with before and I appreciate reading it.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Adding my voice to those who greatly appreciate susan's presence, persistence and voice here on babble.

Isn't it a tenet of progressive thought to value the lived experience of marginalized voices over those who are more distant and therefore have more privilege? 


Offering a critique of Farley's work is not "falsely accusing" her of anything.  Susan has backed up her arguments well.  You're free to disagree with them.  Constantly accusing Susan of "false accusations" is making her feel like you're calling her a liar.

And I'm sorry, but labelling feminists who disagree with you "sexual liberals" and juxtaposing that label against "feminist analysts of prostitution" makes it sound like you are excluding those feminists you disagree with from the ranks of "feminist analysts of prostitution." 

Finally: what Maysie said.


Maysie wrote:
Isn't it a tenet of progressive thought to value the lived experience of marginalized voices over those who are more distant and therefore have more privilege?

A tenet, or 101.1 by another description.


I'd just like to speak up in support of Susan Davis as well, and in support of all sex workers in their struggles against both systemic constraints and against wrong-headed ideological assaults.

Here is an interview I did with her a while back:


(note: there are some not-totally work-friendly, albeit harmless, ads on the same page as the story)



Just to clarify Michelle's grotesque false accusation, ( kidding)  I'm not really dissagreeing with Susan, or anyone for that matter.

I think it's a false dichotomy to think that one pole in this disscussion is wrong and the other right or visa versa.   Both approaches can be done simultaneously.

And, would I be wrong in saying that all are in agreement that the status quo isn't an option?

Let's see, three posts, one of them rather long winded.

Time for me to shuddap.

susan davis susan davis's picture

i think you are absolutely right! we must find a way to meet concerns from both sides. you hit the nail on the head babe! never be silenced either!everyone has a right to have opinions or concerns about how we move forward.