Personal and Professional Stories of A Working Human
“working as a prostitute in private is not an offence, and neither is working as an outcall escort.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_the_United_Kingdom#Current_laws)
…this is currently true. For now. There is a move to make it illegal to pay for sex.
I do not currently live in the UK, but I have very strong feelings about this partially because I’m a caring human being and smart enough to know that this is a devastating move towards making people’s lives less safe, and partially because I have history with legal and illegal sex work and it scares me that so few people seem to realize the reality of the hell a person can go through because of the legality of sex work, and the danger element that making it illegal adds to sex work.
I am from the United States, and I live in currently live in the United States. Here it is illegal, except for certain parts of Nevada, to sell sex for money. The reason I bring this up is because the police in many major cities not only feel that it is ok to harass us (sex workers), but also to terrorize women who work on the streets. By terrorize I mean they threaten to arrest any woman carrying condoms, which makes sex workers afraid to carry condoms, which makes sex work so much more risky. One of the largest risk factors in sex work is sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and therefore we need to be able to carry condoms and use condoms to make this a safer type of employment.
I will post a few links at the bottom for anyone who wishes to read up on how the police are terrorizing sex workers by taking away condoms, thereby helping the spread of HIV and endangering people’s lives and livelihoods.
I don’t think the system in the UK is perfect, I know that it varies from country to country as to how tolerated sex work is, but it is legal. This means that if a sex worker has to call the police to get protection, she will not end up being the one who is punished, which is often the case in the U.S. (where they don’t necessarily call the police but someone else may do so on their behalf and then they end up in trouble rather than the person who assaulted and/or stole from them).
I have worked in the U.K. under conditions that were not nice, I was in a situation much like those very common in places where sex is criminalized, where I had someone who controlled my actions, money and clients. I then found a way into the safer and more legal sex work where I could screen clients, choose who I would and would not take, and if need be I could even call the police if I did need help. I never did call the police but this is more because of the stigma that is placed upon us as sex workers, that also needs to be addressed.
Harriet Harman, who is proposing a “Sweden” style law against prostitution, claims that this will lower the amount of prostitution in the U.K. In Sweden it is illegal to buy sex, but not to sell sex, however let’s just look at a quote (the original link is missing so I’ll just link to Wikipedia) “Those who defend prostitution argue that it is possible to differentiate between voluntary and non-voluntary prostitution, that adults should have the right to freely sell and freely purchase sex (…) However, based on a gender equality and human rights perspective, (…) the distinction between voluntary and nonvoluntary prostitution is not relevant.” So it’s fairly clear this has nothing to do with sex workers rights and all to do with an idea that sex is never in the control of the sex worker and therefore it’s always forced. or to be blunt, prostitution is rape, not matter what the prostitute says. Which is fairly offensive to those of us who think that rape is quite a big deal and selling sex is quite a small thing that should and could be normalized if we got over our own hang ups about sex and women and power. But that is quite another long topic.
Legalizing sex work, or making sex work illegal, will have very little effect on sex trafficking. Do you know what sex trafficking is? That is forced prostitution. That is not sex work. That is slavery.
The people that I approve of, the people that I see regularly, in London, they would never go to a brothel where women are forced into having sex (or being raped). My clients come to me because they respect sex, at least to a point. Some people have hang ups, it’s a part of our culture, but they respect me. They respect that this is what I do, not what I am forced to do. I don’t think that one single client I had, once I went independent, would ever go somewhere and rape someone, or even feel comfortable having sex with someone who was clearly in some sort of situation that they weren’t happy with.
Sex isn’t evil, it’s not bad. Respectable people have sex. Just as rape is not sex, in any way. Trafficked sex slavery is completely dissimilar to sex workers who choose to have sex for money. These people need our help and our compassion, they are not choosing this and they do not gain from it. This is a situation unlike any healthy sexual relationship and to compare what we do, to someone forcing another human being to do things they wish not to do, is very disingenuous, actually it’s a flat out miscalculation and puts these women/men’s lives at risk and lowers the importance of their problem.
I know that people are reactionary, and after the “grooming” incident in Luton, people just want something done. Well what we need to do isn’t to punish people who are working legally, and it isn’t to punish those who wish to seek our sex for money. Luton was a horrific failure of the police to recognize or respect young girls as being victimized. And that is a different industry than the one that I work in.
I will repeat this. People who want sex, do not want little girls, they do not want to rape women in slavery style sex trafficking operations. They just want sex. I just give sex. I do not need the right of anyone to tell me that I can have sex with someone, and if I’m honest about how I feel, if this were a less female dominated profession I do not believe there would be such a huge push to call us unwilling. Men would be less likely to be seen as the unwilling participants. I do believe this. This is a view of women as not being intelligent enough to make up their own minds or control their own bodies.
I live in a country where we are constantly attacked, simply for being female. If we are raped, Paul Ryan wants the rapist to be able to sue us for custody or visitation rights. If we are raped someone else gets to decide whether we have abortions are not. If we have abortions we must first go through horrible humiliations. If we are raped we must go through humiliations if we are to prosecute a rapist. If we are sex workers and we are raped…honestly there are so many people who don’t think that it’s rape, they think we get what we get and as sex workers we are supposed to take anyone. That is how they used to think of women in general, not just sex workers. In some states that is how women are treated still.
I will fight in this country for better working conditions, even though it is illegal what we do. I will fight for legalization or decriminalization, for as long as I live. But it’s even more painful to watch a country where it is legal, consider making it illegal.
It is painful to watch the Tories tear apart every good and fantastic bit of what I love about the United Kingdom. To watch them take apart the NHS, to watch them privatize everything they can get their fingers on. To watch them make everything more and more American. America where police will arrest you if you carry condoms. America where police will rape you and you have no legal ability to fight back because you are just a whore. I cry to think of other countries taking on our systems, when they clearly hurt so many people.
Why are so many people in power so disgusted by sex, or so afraid of sex, or so afraid of women who have sex (or power?) that they would wish to put our lives in danger? They wish to put us in danger? Are we nothing to them?
(Here are some links about police helping the spread of HIV)
“Carrying Condoms Brings Arrest Risk for Sex Workers”
“Condom seizures from sex workers are undoing years of progress on HIV/Aids
Police in major American cities are using condoms as evidence of sex work, thereby discouraging their use” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/20/condom-seizures-sex-workers-hiv-aids
“US: Police Practices Fuel HIV Epidemic” http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/07/19/us-police-practices-fuel-hiv-epidemic