Are johns the new 'fags' because of Bill C-36?

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Sexual shaming is on the prowl, not just somewhere far away but, sadly, right here, right now. And it is state-sponsored. 

I'm talking Bill C-36, officially called the Protection Of Communities And Exploited Persons Act. This is Harper-speak for "Of course I will devilishly manipulate sexual anxiety, primarily female, to get my next majority." Sacrificing the lives of sex workers on that unholy ground? Not a problem.

While this whole city celebrated our beauty and our outrageousness, the government was busy unleashing a moral panic across the country designed to keep the shame machine working overtime. 

Only the names are changed to condemn the innocent. If the bill becomes law, johns will become the new "fags" -- the people fed into the fear factory of career-ending public exposure and the criminal underground because of their personal sexual choices.

It used to be us, my queer brothers and sisters, who were the targets. Now, we can gather like bees into a joyful, porous rainbow buzz that is sexy and soulful and fun. Meanwhile, the government is stepping up its new copulation-monitoring game. Something is deeply wrong here. 

Men who purchase sexual services are the spanking new category to be targeted for their sexual preferences. They are to be criminalized for what? For seeking and hopefully finding an uncomplicated and pleasurable way to satisfy their sexual hunger?

Surely by now, mature adults get what we've been explaining for decades. Adult, mutually consenting sexual behaviour is something personal for people to negotiate for themselves. 

And that is also one of the reasons why NOW Magazine has always refused to discriminate against adult advertising. Full disclosure: in the new proposed law, advertising sex work is also criminalized. So that is my own stake in this story. But the big issues remain, and they profoundly inform why NOW publishes this body of advertising.

The preamble of the proposed law is even more disturbing than the title, a hybrid of Victorian sensibilities and pretend-feminist jargon. Did you know that the Parliament of Canada might soon recognize the "social harm caused by the objectification of the human body?" Really? Don't get too excited. The only skin in that game is being peeled off the backs of already marginalized sex workers.

A key phrase proclaims, "Exploitation is inherent in prostitution." Pardon me, but that is only true if you are a complete prick. If you are a nice guy, a respectful guy, you are just a good customer, which is a good thing for someone running a business. 

How could a bunch of over-privileged white men with their own junk hanging between their legs suggest this law with a straight face? If you are a guy who thinks "exploitation is inherent," you must think everyone who has a dick is a dick. That is profoundly insulting to themselves and all mankind.

How ironic that our shrink-the-government prime minister is working to expand government control of people's sex lives. We know Harper is a control freak. But giving himself full access to the bedrooms of the nation? Does Stephen Harper have some kind of Putin envy?  

Jail time, shaming, career-destroying -- how is that an appropriate response to engaging in a very popular human activity that has been around since forever? 

Sexual anxiety in our strange species is crazily "normal," which makes it a perfect vehicle for political exploitation. Yes, that is partly because sexual violence is such a threat, particularly -- though far from exclusively -- to women and girls. But it goes deeper.

Profound disease with the inherent human reality of our diverse sexual natures (literally nature) has kept the knickers of the planet tied up in knots for -- how long? Millennia? Over the last few decades, it is our LGBTQ+ movement that's done the world wonders by loosening these spirit-killing, life-chilling bonds. And that is a blessed gift to our proud selves and our children. It is a gift to the earth as a whole. We should be proud!

Here we are, able to gather together as a rainbow nation, in delight and full recognition that we all are sexual creatures involved in the uncontrollable magic of life, all in our own unique and astonishing ways. But let's not be complacent as we rally round our right to love whomever we wish. Let's not forget to acknowledge that sexual freedom, in whatever mutually consentful way we desire, is at the core of our accomplishments. 

Let's not let those for whom human sexuality is the enemy succeed in taking any of our sisters and brothers back into the closets and back alleys.

This column was first published in Now Magazine.

Photo: flickr/Karen Stintz

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