Sex trade - Harm Reduction

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Infosaturated
Sex trade - Harm Reduction

I do not have the emotional fortitude right now to delve into facts and figures on violence against women in sex industry and I am not sure when I will but I aim to try because this issue is just too important to take on face value.

By that I mean that it is theorized that legalization or decriminalization will reduce the harm inflicted on women in the industry. It sounds good in theory but I am not convinced that it makes women safer or reduces the number of women that are harmed.

Some groups are claiming that legal/decrim increases the harm suffered by women and other groups are claiming just the opposite. As there are a wide variety of examples around the world I think we should be able to collect a good mix of information on the actual as opposed to purely theoretical outcomes.

Harm reduction includes simply not getting a criminal record but the Swedish model takes care of that so neither legal nor decrim are required to attain that goal.

Sex-trafficking as in economic migration - It's philosophical, there is debate as to whether it represents freedom to choose or economic coercion so I am not sure it should be included for the purposes of this discussion. Either way there is a difference between this kind of sex-trafficking and that which is unwilling. It can't be addressed as one issue. I'm looking for solid information on whether or not what we all agree is harmful is lessened, increased, or neither.

This is the list that I consider of primary importance but please feel free to add to it.

Sex-trafficking as in women that have been tricked, forced or coerced in some manner.

Children - not older teens, children.  Say 14 and under.

Teens - lured by false promises, offered drugs, alcohol, and ending up trapped by addiction or simply the belief that there is no way out for them.

Same as above only women rather than teens.

Physical attacks, anything from slapped around to murder. This includes rape.

Thats all I can really think of right now.

 

martin dufresne

CLES has a committee working on analyzing and improving harm reduction theory (HRT) and practice. We look at the differences between prostitution and drug addiction, the field where HRT was developed and explore whether we can do better than merely reduce and manage the harm in prostitution.

A few key questions surfaced:

* What harm? The industry had long denied there was any. All those metaphors and clichés about "happy hookers", "the oldest profession", those women being "naturally hot"... Now it says that the harm merely comes from attempts to restrict it, that feminists are the agents of harm. So listening to women and youths and letting them define the harm they had known and were still experiencing was step 1.

* Harm to whom? We like to think that intervention is focussed against the harm experienced by the women and youths hurt in the industry. But one thing that comes through clearly in the literature and govt-funded policies is that the harm in "harm reduction" has almost always been foremost thought of and defined as the harm to the rest of society, to legitimate commercial interests, private properties, etc. The harm to the women and youths being used by prostitutors was rarely taken into account - "use condoms". Even today, most of the money goes to organizations that promise to prevent the outside spread of AIDS, hepatitis, etc. rather than johns infecting the people they hire.

* Harm by whom? Harm reduction theory was defined in the field of drug abuse, with consumers seen as harming themselves or being harmed by a chemical product or an unclean needle. So abstinence was the goal; and when that proved impossible because of addiction and despair, reducing that harm to non-abstinent users became the second best objective.

However, in prostitution, subjects are not alone with a syringe. They are in interaction, harmed by others: johns, pimps, brothels and agency owners, traffckers, complicit corporations and governments, international agencies, armed forces, etc. Its an entirely different dynamic, not one of self-abuse but one of organized oppression. The HRT model isn't designed to take this into account at the rot; it can only try to adapt with "bad trick sheets" for instance or safety advice that pales in the face of systemic oppression.

* So, with external, human and corporate  agents of harm identified, one can ask whether this harm is merely to be managed, hopefully kept low, or whether we as survivors and society are entitled to and should work at eliminating the cause of this harm, the privilege that creates it -- that is abolitionist policy.

The Downstream/Upstream prevention model illustrates that vividly. Your thoughts?...

 

 

peasant woman

Harm redcution emerged from medicine, and in response to spread of disease (HIV+) among IV drug users. As Martin said, the goal was/is largely to reduce the harms to the non-drug-using "legitimate citizen". Like most medical interventions, also, harm reduction treats the symptom of the 'dis-ease' rather than systemic foundations of the problem. This is the case for both drug users and women in prostitution. They are the 'symptoms' of broad and deep social and political problems and are much easier to target with policies and band-aids. In relation to drug use, Harm reduction maybe saves lives, or at least prolongs life, but it does not improve the lives saved. In relation to prostitution, I think that, because the causes of the harms (the johns, the men who demand sexual access to women) are not addressed at all, the harms of prostitution continue unabated.

Unionist

Is there a reason for thread proliferation (four of them now at my count)... other than the obvious one that we've already seen in several other threads?

I recommend this thread be closed.

 

Michelle

I also agree that this is being discussed in other threads.

Unionist, please don't shadow-moderate.  Sending an e-mail or flagging a post is good enough.

Michelle

Actually, I change my mind.  I'll reopen this one since it's more general and see what threads I can shoehorn into this one. :)  Sorry, Infosaturated and Martin.

martin dufresne

Continued from here, with a focus on harm reduction theory and how it fits in overall social justice and health issues and a focus on oppression rather than dysfunction. I think this his can proceed with a more evidence-based body&soul focus, rather than a pro/con political one.

I had written:

CLES (Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle) has a committee working on analyzing and improving harm reduction theory (HRT) and practice. We look at the differences between prostitution and drug addiction, the field where HRT was developed and explore whether we can do better than merely reduce and manage the harm in prostitution.

A few key questions surfaced:

* What harm? The industry had long denied there was any. All those metaphors and clichés about "happy hookers", "the oldest profession", those women being "naturally hot"... Now it says that the harm merely comes from attempts to restrict it, that feminists are the agents of harm. So listening to women and youths and letting them define the harm they had known and were still experiencing was step 1.

* Harm to whom? We like to think that intervention is focussed against the harm experienced by the women and youths hurt in the industry. But one thing that comes through clearly in the literature and govt-funded policies is that the harm in "harm reduction" has almost always been foremost thought of and defined as the harm to the rest of society, to legitimate commercial interests, private properties, etc. The harm to the women and youths being used by prostitutors was rarely taken into account - "use condoms". Even today, most of the money goes to organizations that promise to prevent the outside spread of AIDS, hepatitis, etc. rather than johns infecting the people they hire.

* Harm by whom? Harm reduction theory was defined in the field of drug abuse, with consumers seen as harming themselves or being harmed by a chemical product or an unclean needle. So abstinence was the goal; and when that proved impossible because of addiction and despair, reducing that harm to non-abstinent users became the second best objective.

However, in prostitution, subjects are not alone with a syringe. They are in interaction, harmed by others: johns, pimps, brothels and agency owners, traffckers, complicit corporations and governments, international agencies, armed forces, etc. Its an entirely different dynamic, not one of self-abuse but one of organized oppression. The HRT model isn't designed to take this into account at the rot; it can only try to adapt with "bad trick sheets" for instance or safety advice that pales in the face of systemic oppression.

* So, with external, human and corporate agents of harm identified, one can ask whether this harm is merely to be managed, hopefully kept low, or whether we as survivors and society are entitled to and should work at eliminating the cause of this harm, the privilege that creates it -- that is abolitionist policy.

The Downstream/Upstream prevention model illustrates that vividly. Your thoughts?...

peasant woman:
Harm reduction emerged from medicine, and in response to spread of disease (HIV+) among IV drug users. As Martin said, the goal was/is largely to reduce the harms to the non-drug-using "legitimate citizen". Like most medical interventions, also, harm reduction treats the symptom of the 'dis-ease' rather than systemic foundations of the problem. This is the case for both drug users and women in prostitution. They are the 'symptoms' of broad and deep social and political problems and are much easier to target with policies and band-aids. In relation to drug use, Harm reduction maybe saves lives, or at least prolongs life, but it does not improve the lives saved. In relation to prostitution, I think that, because the causes of the harms (the johns, the men who demand sexual access to women) are not addressed at all, the harms of prostitution continue unabated.

 

susan davis

it's my belief those who wish to "end sex work" should continue. it is necessary and important work. but in the face of all of the casulaties of attempts to abolish sex work, can we not agree we need to do something pragmatic to increase safet for men,women and trans individuals working in the sex industry? we all agree some workers choose, could we not respect that choice and support safety in making that choice while still weeding out exploiters and traffickers, etc? by bringing the sex industry out into the light we will shine a beacon on bad business owners, traffickers who under our proposed ideas would be obviously outside of acceptable standards by not being active participants in industry association development or not proactively trying to improve working conditions for their employees. i just think if we drive it further under ground we will just see more violence as is proven by destabilization of our industry thus far and increasing numbers of murders and violence against sexworkers. we must be able to find common ground amongst us all which takes a step back and leaves moraity and patriarchy behind...for now.....it is an importat discussion and i respect people who work towards this goal but at what expense?how many workers will die? i am committed to trying to have 1 year without a murder of a sex worker in vancouver....could we not all agree by creating safe working conditions this dream might be achieved? 2 members of the coop development team have died since our incorporation....2 more are terminally ill with fatal diseases....i would love to able to say to them,"we did it. you did it.your life meant something. your pain meant something. we had 1 year with no murders.we created choices for people"

martin dufresne

I appreciate your endorsement of the necessity of work to end prostitution, thank you. We are on the same page when it comes to decriminalizing soliciting by prostituted folks and offering them substantive supports and uncompromised rights and recourses.

But, respectfully, I disagree that their casualties are from attempts to abolish sex work. I see the killers are not feminists critical of the industry but johns, pimps and traffickers, and that it is somewhat of a guilt by association smear to try and attribute the calculated, willed violence of abusers - one that also occurs behind closed doors and in decriminalized contexts - to the very people who try to surface this abuse and end the abusers' privilege and support by society. The Nordic model - and conversely the escalation of prostitution in war and disaster zones - demonstrates that the sexual abuse of prostituted women and youths is not a fixed, absolute, unmodifiable quantity that can only be "driven underground" by feminist efforts, but that it can and has been reduced, in huge numbers in the case of trafficking, when prostitution is acknowledged as violence against women and buying sex is made illegal rather than legitimized.

susan davis

i would like share how numders of murders are directly impacted by actions taken to "end sex work" or save sex workers from exploitation...

Year.................. Number of murders of sex workers in vancouver

 

 n1960-1964.................. 0

 

n1965-1969 ....................0

 

n1970-1974 ...................0

 

n1975-1979 ...................3 beginnings of the impacts of2nd wave feminism and attempts to end sex work as well as perceptions of sex workers as all abusedsupper clubs no longer allow escorts in clubs

 

n1980-1984 ...................8

 

n1985-1989 ...................22 current legal frame work implemented based "protection" for sex workers who are perceived as all abused

 

n1990-1994 .....................24

 

n1995-1999 .....................55 sex workers no longer allowed to rent rooms to work in DTES vancouver based on perceptions that hotel owners were exploiting us

clearly, a mistake was made,numbers don't lie. we were way safer before attempts to "end sex work" began.

i will state this eveidence was complided by a civilian VPD member who is a woman. it is based on numbers from VPD, not on my assumptions etc.

Infosaturated

susan davis wrote:

i would like share how numders of murders are directly impacted by actions taken to "end sex work" or save sex workers from exploitation...

Year.................. Number of murders of sex workers in vancouver

.....

clearly, a mistake was made,numbers don't lie. we were way safer before attempts to "end sex work" began.

Numbers don't lie but conclusions drawn from them are not necessarily correct.

Suicide and prostitution were more hidden not more legal or more respected in the sixties. Police were less likely to protect prostitutes.  The idea of a wife charging her husband rape was laughable.  “Date rape” meant the girl wasn’t careful enough, teased, gave the wrong idea, got drunk, didn’t really mean no.  Families didn't admit it when a death was due to suicide and they certainly wouldn't want it known that a family member was killed or injured as a result of prostituting herself.

The increase in reports of domestic violence since the 1960s could be correlated to the increase in shelters for battered women but that doesn't mean feminists caused an increase in domestic abuse.

susan davis

could we not at least accept the numbers increasing could in part be due to de stabilization? i don't really believe there is one all encompassing cause for the situation in the downtown east side.......and what about the marked rise in street level sex work as jobs were being eliminated and safer environments lost?

CMOT Dibbler

If our focus was on any other kind of working woman who earns a living doing shitty work(waiters at Pizza Hut, Casheers at Walmart) any self respecting activist in the leftist establishment would say, My God!  Get those people a union Stat!

But when it comes to sexwork, the leftist establishment turns it's back and says, "we can't improve working conditions for sex workers!  They fuck for a living!  Get these people some demeaning charity, stat!"

It's very sad...     

martin dufresne

Isn't that a bit unfair, CMOT? Only yesterday, Unionist posted a CUPE Background document from 5 years ago: Sex Work: Why It's a Union Issue  In it the authors pointed out some of the problems with such a project, e.g. identifying these workers' bosses. And there are others. I recall that ten years ago, Ontario dancers tried to oppose the generalization of lap dancing in bars: it was becoming difficult to resist bar owners pressures to that effect. Masturbating clients was becoming part of the job definition, regardless of dancers' wishes. Women tried to organize against this pattern, but the issue was decided at the Supreme Court level, in favour of bar owners, on the basis of libertarian principles. So there seems to be a disconnect between neo-liberal pressures to give in to the generalization of prostitution and Leftist politics of defending workers' rights. Exploring that may be a way to understand why it is NOT unionization that spokespersons are advocating but a lumping together of owners, pimps and "workers"' interests.

 

Infosaturated

CMOT Dibbler wrote:

If our focus was on any other kind of working woman who earns a living doing shitty work(waiters at Pizza Hut, Casheers at Walmart) any self respecting activist in the leftist establishment would say, My God!  Get those people a union Stat!

But when it comes to sexwork, the leftist establishment turns it's back and says, "we can't improve working conditions for sex workers!  They fuck for a living!  Get these people some demeaning charity, stat!"

It's very sad...     

Supporting improving working conditions for women doing shitty work does not result in more women doing shitty work. It results, hopefully, in improving working conditions. 

Supporting pimps and johns leads to greater numbers of women being abused and murdered, many of whom were also abused as children.

susan davis wrote:

it's my belief those who wish to "end sex work" should continue. it is necessary and important work. but in the face of all of the casulaties of attempts to abolish sex work, ....

Sometimes Susan defends prostitution as a lovely rewarding job that most prostitutes would be delight to continue doing and the majority of harm is caused by laws that criminalize johns, pimps and brothels.

It is her contention that the violence women suffer at the hands of johns is caused by attempts to abolish prostitution through legal means.

There is no evidence at all that decriminalization of johns, pimps and brothels leads to improved outcomes for women.

What you are proposing Dibbler, is that we stop trying to prevent Walmart from dominating every market across Canada. What you are proposing is that we abolish attempts of unionization "laws at Walmart because it leads to job losses.

We do not want johns and pimps, the Walmart of sex work, to be decriminalized. This would not be a step forward for worker's rights.

Prostitution itself is not illegal. Sweden decriminalized solicitation which I also support.  This way the worker is never faulted.

The people held to account are those who would exploit women.  Even Susan admits that those who wish to "end sex work" should continue. it is necessary and important work.  Ending prostitution is necessary and important work.  Ending the exploitation of workers at Walmart is important work.  Exploitation will never be beaten by giving more power to exploiters.

Suggesting that unions should back off of Walmart because you are threatening the workers with harm (job losses) increases the power of Walmart.

There is no evidence at all that decriminalization of pimps and johns reduces violence against women and there is plenty of evidence that it increases the harm.

This is not a matter of "worker rights to a safe environment".  It is a matter of legalizing pimps and johns so it is easier for them to exploit women.

martin dufresne

Janine Benedet, from UBC, who wrote about the risks of prostitution behind closed doors ("Legalization wouldn't make prostitutes safe", G&M), will be interviewed on The National Sunday evening.

CMOT Dibbler

Isn't that a bit unfair, CMOT?

Nope. When Jack Layton stands up and says, I want to adress this issue. I want to meet with sex worker rights organizations and work out a framework for decriminalization. The leftist establishment will have taken notice. That hasn't happened yet, because we live in the ice cold land of the covenanter and the Jansenist and any party that purposes leniancy when it comes to sex work will be destroyed on election day.

CMOT Dibbler

What you are proposing Dibbler, is that we stop trying to prevent Walmart from dominating every market across Canada. What you are proposing is that we abolish attempts of unionization "laws at Walmart because it leads to job losses.

No, I didn't say that. Decriminalization doesn't have to equal exploitation. There are many different approaches Canada could take when it comes to dealing with prostitution.   If we had more sex workers on the board,  we could look at the sex trade from multitude of different angles, but we don't so we can't. Discussion can't progress on this issue, not in this fucked up virtual environment.

Infosaturated

I am pro decriminalization of prostitutes and against decriminalization of pimps, brothel owners, traffickers and johns.

Voice of a prostitute who doesn't know what she's talking about:

For another moment, I want you to imagine that you are a woman who is being used in prostitution. Every time a john buys your body to masturbate in, on, or around, he has pornographic vignettes running in his head, and he re-enacts these vignettes on your body.

While he is masturbating, he tells you that you are a dirty whore, or a nasty skank, or that sucking is really all you’re good for. You are nothing more than a sexualized, commodified collection of body parts to him.While he is sexually and verbally assaulting you to achieve his pleasure, you have to listen to his verbal degradation. You have to spread your legs, you have to open your arms, and you have to open your mouth. You have to seemingly invite and embrace this continuous onslaught of sexual and verbal assault. This is the so-called work of prostitution. It demeans, it humiliates, and it devastates the women in prostitution who are used this way.

http://sisyphe.org/spip.php?article1803

What prostitutes try to reserve for themselves is the right not to kiss. Pretty woman suggests it so they won't fall in love and get their feelings hurt.  What do you think?

remind remind's picture

In whose world do you live CMOT?

Women are exploited badly already, you think things are going to change because prostitution is legalized  or decriminalized and somehow it will be different and that exceptions will happen?

What needs to happen is men need to change their fucking attitudes, already there have 4 times today that have indicated here of all places no such a change.

remind remind's picture

What a BS starting  sentence INFO, sex workers are already "decriminalized."

martin dufresne

Soliciting by women and youths isn't, remind. It's one of the big issues where abolitionists and pro-legalization folks and concerns are in agreement and where we could just swing it by making common cause.

remind remind's picture

Then she should have stated decriminalization of solicitation.

As sex workers in many many fields are not criminals.

And I am saying this because of her disrespectful insistance on usiing the word prostitution.

remind remind's picture

Ground rules need to be established, eh?

Men can't stop being misogynist, sexist fuck wads, bent on doing whatever they want, here, how in hell  can anything of the sort happen in real life?

 

CMOT Dibbler

I am pro decriminalization of prostitutes and against decriminalization of pimps, brothel owners, traffickers and johns.

You can't be for sex workers while at the same time arguing that all Johns should be punished. The sex workers make money off the Johns.

Should John's be allowed to do whatever they want? Of course not, ground rules need to be established. But throwing them in jail or slapping them with huge fines for simply being a client is silly.

remind remind's picture

*bump*

CMOT Dibbler

 

 

Ground rules need to be established, eh?

Men can't stop being misogynist, sexist fuck wads, bent on doing whatever they want, here, how in hell  can anything of the sort happen in real life?

 What can I say, I have faith...

Infosaturated

remind wrote:

And I am saying this because of her disrespectful insistance on usiing the word prostitution.

"Sex worker" includes pimps and traffickers and exotic dancers who I think would be offended to be thrown into the same pile as pimps.

If there is a more polite term for prostitute I think ex-prostitutes would be using it. If you know of one please tell me.

CMOT Dibbler

Voice of a prostitute who doesn't know what she's talking about:

If we were discussing a labor activist from the USW, would you be so quick to dismiss her contribution?

remind remind's picture

Faith, ya right, I have been having faith that some men here would smarten the hell up for 7 years.

martin dufresne

Why are leftists so immature and/or perverse about violence against women issues? I honestly don't know. I think it may have to do with the fetishizing of power. (Someone ought to write a play to explore that...)

remind remind's picture

Laughing

remind remind's picture

Infosaturated wrote:
remind wrote:
And I am saying this because of her disrespectful insistance on usiing the word prostitution.

"Sex worker" includes pimps and traffickers and exotic dancers who I think would be offended to be thrown into the same pile as pimps.

If there is a more polite term for prostitute I think ex-prostitutes would be using it. If you know of one please tell me.

personally i do not include any of those labels in my terms of reference for "sex worker" as i noted elsewhere, or maybe here there have been so many disseparate threads, I know 2 exotic dancers, who do not refer to themselves as  sex workers. It is a term i use speciifcally for those who choose to work in the sex industry portion that deals with actual sex.

I can see your use of term prostitute is in reference to those who use the term in application to themselves. But I consider them sexually exploited women.

Having said that, if that is the term they choose, far be it from me to say otherwise in respect to their words, but I will use my own words when I discuss it.

 

 

 

Infosaturated

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_worker

Although the term is sometimes viewed as a synonym or euphemism for prostitution, the term is meant as a general term for erotic labor in any of the different parts of the sex industry, hence, strippers and performers in pornography (who generally do not define themselves as prostitutes) are also considered sex workers.

remind remind's picture

Yes, I would consider them to be sex workers, and use that term when/if refering to that type o endeavour  . Not so much strippers though, at least in BC, as they do not do lap dances.

Pimps and traffickers should be called what they are; slave traders and criminals.

If people want to self identify as prostitutes,  or prostituted people, I will respect that, as I will with those that don't. Until such a time as the whole damn language within the industry changes.

 

martin dufresne

Did anyone catch Janine Benedet on The National tonight? I thought she kicked ass, pointing out how men's interests in protecting ever younger women's "choice" to enter prostitution had been made totally invisible in the CBC "documentary" on the controversy. And what about that eerie slug - Ron Mazell? - defending the industry...? Yuk.

 

martin dufresne

(double post)

Infosaturated

remind wrote:

Yes, I would consider them to be sex workers, and use that term when/if refering to that type o endeavour  . Not so much strippers though, at least in BC, as they do not do lap dances.

Exotic dancers in Quebec and Ontario were forced into accepting it to keep their jobs. They fought it in court and lost. If prostitution is legalized they will be "offered the choice" to do that to.  If they won't do it women will be imported who will. Ontario strip clubs have hired consultants to get around the change to the visa laws made by Conservatives because they can't get enough Canadian women willing to gyrate on men's laps which apparently falls under the job title of dancer in Quebec and Ontario.

 

Infosaturated

martin dufresne wrote:

Did anyone catch Janine Benedet on The National tonight? I thought she kicked ass, pointing out how men's interests in protecting ever younger women's "choice" to enter prostitution had been made totally invisible in the CBC "documentary" on the controversy. And what about that eerie slug - Ron Mazell? - defending the industry...? Yuk.

No but I'll look for it online.

remind remind's picture

Going to watch it in 8 minutes

martin dufresne

You'll have to wait as it comes in the last section of the show.

remind remind's picture

Just got finished watching it.

All it did was make me more pissy.

Infosaturated

CMOT Dibbler wrote:

Voice of a prostitute who doesn't know what she's talking about:

If we were discussing a labor activist from the USW, would you be so quick to dismiss her contribution?

I am not sure if you are responding to someone or not because I didn't see anyone dismissing anyone's contribution.

There are Army recruiters who tell young people all about the joys of being a soldier, the lifelong friendships, the opportunities for job training and for post-secondary education, not to mention travel.  Some even tell young people that they won't have to go to war depending on what kind of job they choose to train for. These recruiters are soldiers themselves so they know the truth.  Then there are the ex-soldiers or even worse deserters, who are a disgruntled minority. There voices don't have the same authority because they aren't soldiers anymore.  Maybe they just had a bad experience.

Most of us posting here aren't even soldiers so what do we know?  Shouldn't we be listening to the soldiers who can tell us of the wonderful humanitarian things they are doing for the people of Afghanistan now?  Shouldn't we be listening to them tell us about how, because of their actions, little girls can go to school? Sure there is bad stuff going on. People dying. But the news focuses on all the bad stuff. They aren't showing us the roads that are being built or the happy smiles on children's faces when the soldiers give them candy.  Everyone is always focusing on the bad stuff but the soldiers on the ground, the people that are there now, are the ones who know the truth, not ex-soldiers and certainly not arm-chair academic theorists and left-leaning journalists. They are are biased and they aren't there so they don't know what they are talking about.

As Canadians, we consider it our responsibility to have an opinion on the war. That we are not soldiers, that we are not there on the ground, that we are not generals, that we are not professional political analysts, even if we didn't go to college, does not mean that we cannot form an educated opinion. We do not even give the soldier or the general's opinion greater weight based on superior knowledge or understanding. We know that the soldier and the general have their own agenda. We listen, but then we ask for information to base an opinion on.  How many miles of road were paved and were they to military installations or water-wells? How many schools have been build? At the cost of how many innocent lives? No matter how much the soldier loves her job, no matter how sincere she is about what she saw in Afghanistan, we want facts. We know that as Canadians we are responsible for what our country does in our name and what the outcome is even if we are not personally involved. We will listen to the soldier, we will sympathize with her and afford her every respect. But we will not agree that her opinion is more accurate than our own due to her experiences.

The views of contented sex workers should certainly be heard and given every respect as should the voice of the happy Walmart employee. But listening to them cannot substitute for taking the trouble to have an educated opinion based on facts and critical research.

The USW is a known organization that can be researched and the funding for it can be tracked. XPALSS  and the Aboriginal Women's Action Network are as difficult to uncover the funding for as the pro-prostitution groups are.  There is no way to see how many women actually support any of them.  Who's word do you take? Which organization is more representative of the views of sex workers who are prostitutes? Do we just pick the view we like best?

The issue is not isolated to Canada although we can only affect the law here.  Women and children are being trafficked around the world, including into Canada, for the purposes of sexual exploitation and even slavery.  Decriminalizing prostitution and solicitation is only humane. Decriminalizing johns and brothel owners is far from being being obvious and that is what this Charter Challenge is about. Full and complete decriminalization of the entire industry which is the situation in New Zealand.

The issue does not end there. Canada is already full of brothels in the form of full service massage parlours and of escort services who offer more than dinner dates. 

It's easy to sit back and be sophisticated and defend the "worker rights" of prostituted women. It's easy to say that of course no one should be forced into it.  It's much more diffcult to spend hours, days, weeks, pouring through the information critically to discover the complex truths about prostitution. What it does to women, what it does to men, what it does to societies. Factual data is out there in the form of numbers. Factual data is out there in the form of workers personal experiences shared individually and through studies by those who support prostitution.

I am biased, but a progressive community has a responsibility to do diligent research on an issue of such enormous significance to the women of Canada and around the world.  It is not good enough to listen to this soldier or that soldier. It's not good enough to listen to my opinion.

skdadl

People might be interested to read the fisking that [URL=http://thestar.blogs.com/broadsides/2009/10/bawdy-blow.html]Antonia Z.[/URL] did of an op-ed by Benedet last week, and her [URL=http://thestar.blogs.com/broadsides/2009/10/bawdy-of-evidence.html]more general presentation[/URL] of the current constitutional challenge.

 

I try not to interfere here too much, but I am keenly concerned with the erosion of civil liberties by the language of "values" -- as though there were some standard of "core Canadian values" apart from the basic principles and structures of democracy (see the Charter), and as though it would be a good thing to start enforcing "values" through law.

 

To me, there is a problem with talking about sex work as though it were all the same. It bothers me to see so many serious social crises tossed together when in fact each deserves its own particular, non-sensationalized, fact-based analysis. As I have read about it, the challenge that Alan Young is arguing is pretty specific, well defined, and a strong defence of a principle that matters to us all. I not only hope he wins but I expect him to.

 

I'm not saying, of course, that values don't matter. My values certainly matter to me, although I can distinguish between my commitment to the principles and structures that are necessary to preserving a democracy and my own private convictions about all kinds of things, including sex. I can appreciate those moments when another person suddenly feels a baroque aria coming upon her/him about intense life experiences -- I have those moments too, and I've written a few baroque arias of my own (usually to be embarrassed by them later). But I don't expect my arias to become the law for anyone else.

 

sk "478 4evR" dadl

Michelle

I've been reading Antonia's commentary on BnR too, skdadl, and it's excellent.

Stargazer

Excellent post Skdadl and I completely agree with the entire post.

martin dufresne

Skdadl, it has been pointed out that it was proponents of "sex work" who used that expression as if it was all the same (from receptionist all the way to trafficked sex slave, pimp and grateful johns). As for values I have some, I imagine tha you do too and that legislation supporting them is not something you entirely give up on - I like it that rape is illegal and that not everything can be bought). Indeed, values seem to also imbue the libertarian challenge against the current legislation on pimps and brothels: people's security, agency, standing up to what is described as puritanism, etc. 

I generally love Zerbisias' writings but I was not impressed with her broadside against Benedet and critics of johns and pimps (I have a comment in that section of her blog). It often borders on disinformation. Has she merely drunk the neo-liberal Kool-Aid on that issue, or is there more to it? Anyone who sees pimps as hired by prostituted women - if she believes what she relays from the Alan Young team - has some serious reckoning to do. I hope she will speak to actual working women and rise to a different view, because her voice is an essential one. 

 

martin dufresne

Some facts that challenge the notion of prostitution's inevitability:

Why British men are rapists
Joan Smith, New Statesman, 23 January 2006

In the world of stag-night excess, lad mags and lap dancing, paying for sex is losing its stigma and more and more men do it. These "clients" are responsible for a grotesque crime, yet they get away scot-free. (...)

 

Infosaturated

skdadl wrote:

People might be interested to read the fisking that [URL=http://thestar.blogs.com/broadsides/2009/10/bawdy-blow.html]Antonia Z.[/URL] did of an op-ed by Benedet last week, and her [URL=http://thestar.blogs.com/broadsides/2009/10/bawdy-of-evidence.html]more general presentation[/URL] of the current constitutional challenge.

 

I try not to interfere here too much, but I am keenly concerned with the erosion of civil liberties by the language of "values" -- as though there were some standard of "core Canadian values" apart from the basic principles and structures of democracy (see the Charter), and as though it would be a good thing to start enforcing "values" through law.

sk "478 4evR" dadl

I quite agree which is why I stay away from "values" arguments unless the "values" argument can be shown to have a specific negative effect on the population as a whole or part of it. For example moralistic judgements against gambling as the devil's vice are insufficient to justify state intervention in individual rights and freedoms. 

Arguments about gambling in Canada can be based on the issue of state control versus the rights of people to have private gambling businesses and on if, as a society, we have a responsibility to protect the vunerable. We have to examine the harm done and decide if it is minimal and shouldn't interfere with the rights of the individual.

Does the state have the right to prevent the mining and use of asbestos if workers insist that they want the jobs and are willing to take the risk and Canada has customers willing to buy it?

Do we have the right to use zoning laws to decide what types of businesses should open where?  Should someone who wants to open a grocery store have the right to open it where they believe it will be the most profitable or convenient for them? Or do we, as a society, have the right to say we don't want the level of traffic that would be generated to occur in a particular area?

I would say that as a society we have a responsibility to evaluate outcomes for everyone not just for the people who believe they will benefit. The worker willing to risk his lungs for a paycheck to feed their family cannot be the one to decide.

If prostitution is a victimless crime that does not result in unintended harm to other members of society beyond their moral sensitivites, then it would be interfering in the rights of the individual to ply their trade.

If, however, it can be shown that it causes a huge increase in the prostitution of minors, or places undo pressure on improverished women to accept work in the field by welfare and unemployment insurance or by their families thats a problem. If it is used as an excuse not to cover the costs of transgender surgery because after all, they have a way to earn the money, that's a problem. If causes an increase in the trafficking of women and children into Canada, that's a problem.

These are not arguments based on debatable values and morals within our society.

When we argue against the war being fought in Afghanistan we are not using the arguments of pacifists. We are arguing the validity of the justifications being used and the outcomes.

That is where this debate should stay.

Does legalization result in reduced harm to women who willingly work in the industry? There are models we can look at around the world to find the answer to that question. There are models of decriminalization, limited decriminalization and of legalization in Western nations.

This thread, along with all the others, has become useless as a venue to study any particular aspect of the business.

 

 

 

 

CMOT Dibbler

Faith, ya right, I have been having faith that some men here would smarten the hell up for 7 years.

 

Yeah my  last  statement was  a sacren piece of  fluff  wasn't it?  Anyone  who read it  would  be forgiven  for  puking  copiously  all  over  there  keyboard s.  Forget the Fernie Fix, I could  write  for Pat Robertson.  Jesus Land here we come!  But  seriously,  I could  expand  on that  statement,  and make it a little less evangelical, but I think this  thread is  to far gone (and I  know too little  about the  subject  matter)  for me to contribute anything of substance.  Good-bye. 

skdadl

Gee, I arrive, and suddenly people decide that the thread has gone south, or west, or wherever threads go to die.  *wink*

 

Martin, I wanted to respond to your use of the word "libertarian." I'm most used to seeing that word applied to a particular kind of right-winger, especially in the U.S., who is suspicious of government intervention in almost everything and keeps his gun at the ready all the time. I don't think that it's useful to smudge that by-now fairly loaded term by applying it also to people who believe that our codes of civil liberties (the U.S. Bill of Rights, the French Declaration, our Charter, etc) are foundational to democracy, and who are worried at their steady subversion over the last while, most often from the right and for sure by BushCo, but sometimes also from the left.

 

An American friend said the other day on another site that BushCo seem to have succeeded in convincing a lot of Americans that the Bill of Rights is some kind of left-wing fringe enthusiasm, and I feel that same kind of creep here (in Canada). I won't bore you with my full lecture about how the alternative to the Charter is some form of tyranny, but I do believe that deeply, and I don't think that that is libertarianism at all. I guess we could call it civil libertarianism, except that's kind of clunky, yes?

 

So then we come to the issue of what I consider to be false equivalence. You're right, I guess, to say that the defence of democracy implies that we're on the turf of "values." But here I'll take an example from the post following yours, where it's implied that there is somehow some equivalence between section 2 of the Charter and municipal zoning regulations. To me, when we start arguing at that fuzzy a level, all meaning is lost. That doesn't mean that I don't take municipal zoning regulations seriously or recognize the impact they could have on people's lives, but they are negotiable social values in the sense that I use the term. Freedom of conscience, to me, is not a negotiable social value. I won't die in the defence of zoning regulations, but I would certainly consider dying in the defence of freedom of conscience (if I didn't have six little mouths to feed).

 

Rape is assault. Sex trafficking is illegal on several scores. What has happened to aboriginal peoples in this country and especially to aboriginal women is a history on its own that goes much deeper than this court case.

 

We have police and legal and political means to address all those particular crimes, if we're serious about tackling them.

 

That doesn't change the fact that adult women are not only being infantilized by our current laws but put in danger by them, unnecessary danger. That's what the court challenge is about.

 

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