An article by the Pivot Legal Society points out some problems with the hearings on Bill C-36, the new prostitution law, including that there is a large proportion of religious people on the committee and that people with direct experience in the sex trade aren’t being listened to. I’m not sure if the author actually interviewed all the people on the committee to find out what church they go to, but if it’s true that one-quarter of the committee are evangelicals, that’s terrible. There shouldn’t be any evangelicals on the committee. We don’t need people’s judgment clouded by religious nonsense when they’re trying to pass such an important law. And while we’re on the subject, a professional sexist such as Peter MacKay shouldn’t have anything to do with it either. A better idea would be to have a committee made up of mostly women, where at least some of them are Aboriginal, and where at least most of them have been in the sex trade.
This article asks us to listen to sex workers, which we absolutely should do, but we’re not being asked to listen to all of them, only one group of them. We’re being asked to listen only to those sex workers who want legalization. More and more it seems that the the phrase “listen to sex workers” really means to listen only to the sex workers who claim they are not being abused, and to dismiss any of those who point out the abusive nature of the industry. We’re not supposed to compare human trafficking to sex work and we’re not supposed to think of women as victims. The author states that she used to do sex work “in circumstances of profound addiction, poverty, and occasional homelessness” and yet she thinks we should stop “saving” sex workers. Well I have some questions for her: Why shouldn’t we save people who are homeless, in poverty, addicted to drugs, and being abused? Do you also oppose other groups who try to save the homeless and the drug-addicted or it just sex workers who shouldn’t be saved? If saving sex workers is wrong, then should we also stop saving other groups that we as a society try to save? Should Canadians stop buying goats and mango trees for families in poor countries, so that they are no longer seen as “victims”? Should sex workers just try to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and not accept any help from anybody? Us silly feminists, thinking we should save people!
This isn’t the first time I’ve been told that human trafficking and sex work are completely different and not to be compared. Except everyone does understand the difference between these two things. The difference is, in human trafficking the women know they’re being abused, because the forces keeping them in the trade are explicit and direct, such as beatings from their pimps, being without citizenship, and being confined. In sex work the women don’t think they’re being abused, because the forces keeping them in the sex trade are invisible and indirect, and they’ve decided that No Woman Is Ever A Victim Ever. What keeps women in so-called consensual sex work is the cultural beliefs such as sexiness-is-empowerment and sex-is-a-transaction, and economic factors such as the pay gap between men and women, the high cost of tuition, and the lousy economy. What needs to happen is we need to look at the way that trafficking and sex work are similar. The similarity is the johns. You don’t really think there’s a whole different set of johns for trafficked women than for sex workers do you? That the pimps who force women into prostitution are living in a different world than the sex workers who get into the trade to pay their tuition while they’re becoming a physiotherapist? For christ sakes it’s the same johns. They don’t care how a woman got into the business, they don’t care whether she’s a college student or a slave. They just care about getting their dick sucked. To them, a woman is a set of holes who exists on this Earth for their sexual pleasure. You may not “feel” abused, but when you constantly shout from the rooftops that sex workers are empowered people in charge of their own sexuality and not victims and don’t need saving, it gives the johns justification for abusing more women, both those who “consent” and those who do not, and for believing what porn has taught them: that women are whores, we love being whores, we want what they want, to be holes for them to penetrate.
Those of you who think that sex work is socially legitimate work, what would legalization look like to you? If drinking men’s bodily fluids and having your rectum stretched out is important, legitimate work, should these skills be taught in community college? Should jobs like these be advertised on the government job bank, should guidance counsellors in high schools recommend these jobs to high school students as a possible career choice?
Look, if funfeminists want to be taken seriously, they’re going to have to start making some sense. The claim that women “consent” to sexual abuse is ridiculous. Legalization of violence against women does not reduce violence against women. Men’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies is not going to be solved by promoting men’s entitlement to women’s bodies.
Let’s start talking about a law that would decriminalize women completely but that doesn’t legalize prostitution either. Let’s talk about women being allowed to advertise their services and work together, but still criminalizing abusive men. I want to see women empowered to say “You can only do X, Y, and Z, you try anything else and I have you arrested” and I want to see men actually get arrested if they attempt anything else, because it’s already illegal for them to be a john. I want to see that as a temporary solution on the way to the abolition of prostitution, which we’ll accomplish by ending poverty and ending misogyny. We could probably come up with such a solution if women were in charge of this prostitution law and if we were all on board with ending violence against women.