law school: #whorephobia and #c36

[TW] Discussion of whorephobia

I finished my first week of law school and I am just finishing my second week.

I laughed. I cried. I swore. I drank some wine and ate some cheese. It was good.

It was also overwhelming. But I am happy that I met with someone today to ease some of that stress. I know that this journey will become more intense. I don’t really know what to think of the experience…yet. It is everything that the pre-law program prepared me for though. So I am grateful for that experience as well.

I know this is going to be somewhat of a challenge too. I’ve already had my first whorephobic experience. That was really difficult to handle. It made me sick to my stomach. I was shaking after it happened. I almost cried. In fact, I almost skipped class that day but decided against it.

“Compose yourself. You’ve handled much worse,” I thought to myself.

It happened right before class was about to start. I went into the classroom early. The room was empty for all but two other individuals. I didn’t pay much attention to them until they started talking about an event happening in Gatineau. A porn star was planning to film a scene which involved multiple people (Source).

The one (M) brought up the event and the other (F) replied basically calling the event disgusting and eventually the sex worker participating in the event was being called disgusting too. I didn’t say anything because, you know, they were having a private conversation. But they continued talking about the event, and quite loudly too. She is disgusting. This event is disgusting. Then the conversation switched over to strip clubs and strippers. Strip clubs? Disgusting. Strippers? Disgusting.

I couldn’t take it anymore. Disgusting. Disgusting. Disgusting. Disgusting. Disgusting. Disgusting. Imagine hearing that about any other population group that you identified with? Sex worker. Stripper. Porn star. Anyone who has sex outside the norm or sex for money? Disgusting.

Whatever term you want to use, to whorephobes, sex workers are all disgusting. With the recent Senate meetings on Bill C-36, this blatant fear and hate of sex workers is omnipresent. Literally. EVERYWHERE! Sex workers! Disgusting! Whorephobia dictates that sex work(ers) must be wiped out at any and all costs. Their lives and well-being means nothing.

Whorephobia is the fear of or the hate of sex workers (Source). As Thierry Schaffauser highlights: 

The most common sexist insults are “whore” or “slut”, which makes women want to distance themselves from the stigma associated with those words, and from those who incarnate it. The “whore stigma” is a way to control women and to limit their autonomy – whether it is economic, sexual, professional, or simply freedom of movement” (Source).

When other people, especially women, refer to sex workers as disgusting (or whatever other negative image that comes to mind when you hear the word “whore”), it is a way to effectively distance themselves from this whore stigma. Whorephobia also feeds into the misogyny (and transmisogyny) that triggers violence against sex workers, whether these people who reinforce whorephobia know it or not. If “respectable” women are effectively subordinated or marginalized due to colonialism and all of its racism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, then sex workers are treated as less than these women, and sometimes by other women. In other words, sex workers are treated as less than persons.

We see this “respectable” women versus the whore within the Bill C-36 debate. Just have a listen to the JUST Committee and Senate meetings. During the last panel of meetings yesterday, Conservative Senator Plett tried to tell a member of Sex Professionals of Canada that she can have sex however she wants. But Valerie Scott replied, “Only if it is free.” Conservative Senator Plett’s reply? Yes, only if it is free.

The only permissible sex for respectable women is free sex. 

The whorephobia is so obvious within these discussions. There are good women and bad women. Sex workers are amongst the latter, and they must be punished for being bad. This is, as a whole, the goal of Bill C-36: to punish bad women, to punish sex workers and to get rid of prostitution. And as a result, the goal is to get rid of all sex workers. The current Canadian government is willing to do whatever it takes to do this. Who cares about the lives of sex workers!

On the day that this discussion was overheard, I knew I had to say something after hearing the word “disgusting” being repeated over and over again. The event is disgusting. The porn star is disgusting. Strip clubs are disgusting. Strippers are disgusting.

I turned to them and asked them politely to stop talking about that event in that manner. The young woman tried to justify her comments about the event, porn stars, strip clubs and strippers by attempting to talk about Montreal strip clubs.

“In Montreal there are strip clubs…” she said.

“Oh I know all about strip clubs,” I interjected.

“Some are classy and some are disgusting…” she continued.

Then I proceeded to interrupt her explanation for calling these women disgusting and then trying to explain that some of them are even more disgusting than others, “But as your peer, can you stop talking about these women in this manner?”

She eventually stopped. But not after she tried to justify her comments about women who work in the sex trade: there are good ones and bad ones. Yet, they are all still disgusting. Welcome to whorephobia, ladies and gents, which effectively relegates some women to a certain class, a class not worthy of being treated as persons. Whether whorephobia is directed at me or not, it still affects me. I was shaking after this experience. This isn’t the first time I experienced whorephobia during my post-secondary journey. I don’t suspect it to be my last.

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