sex workers

The power of defining and labeling

The first time I came across the labeling theory was in my second year sociology of deviance class. There are several theoretical perspectives and critiques when it comes to the labeling theory. Some of the names that come up when I think of labeling theories are Mead, Lemert, Becker, and most significantly, Ervin Goffman.

These two terms, defining and labeling, are almost synonymous to one another. It is almost as if the one cannot exist without the other. If you define one’s lived experiences, then you label their lived experiences and if you label one’s lived experiences, then you define their lived experiences. One does not exist without the other. 

So what does defining one’s lived experiences mean, and what does it mean to label another person’s lived experiences? This question is extremely relevant to the Bedford case which is going to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in June (and to have your case go all the way to the SCC is pretty darn important). 

Just recently, J. Wagner of the SCC denied leave to intervene to several prominent sex work organizations in Canada that would have represented the voices of sex workers from various geographic regions (Maggies, 2013) In Maggie’s press release, Kara Gilles, was quoted as saying, “When POWER and Maggie’s intervened in Bedford at the Ontario Court of Appeal, we were able to share sex workers’ perspectives and experiences that the Court would otherwise not have heard. It’s a shame that this time around, both sex workers and the judiciary will miss out.” And that is accurate on so many levels: both sex workers and the judiciary will miss out.

The fact that the judiciary denied leave to this coalition of sex workers is an act of defining and labeling in an extremely political sense. It says that this group is incapable of speaking or defining their own lived experiences and labeling their own lived experiences. More importantly, it says that this type of work isn’t real work. 

From the principles of Maggie’s, sex work is real work and it is socially legitimate and valuable! 

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Decriminalization of Canada’s Anti-Prostitution Laws

                On June 26, 2012, the Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2011-2012 was released and it is described as part of Canada’s public safety strategy by “providing external oversight and independent monitoring of the Correctional Service of Canada” (Sapers, 2012). One of the topics covered in the above Annual Report relates to Aboriginal issues. Under the report’s subheading “Diversity in Corrections,” it states that the percentage of Indigenous women in federal incarceration has increased by 85% over the last decade, and that all use of force incidents involved Indigenous women (Sapers, 2012). Though this report attempts to address the needs of Indigenous women who are already incarcerated, it does little to address how the women arrived there and what is being done to decrease the rising numbers of Indigenous women who are being criminalized. Previous to the report’s publication, a Report of the Standing Committee on 
the Status of Women was published in 2010, and it focused on violence against Indigenous women. In this report, a witness highlights that Canada’s “Criminal Code offenses related to prostitution increased the vulnerability of women in the sex trade by forcing women to work in unsafe conditions and to distrust the police” (Fry, 2010, p. 19). While some organizations support the complete decriminalization of Canada’s current anti- prostitution laws, there are some organizations that suggest this complete decriminalization will not address the violence that Indigenous women continue to experience. For example, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) supports the decriminalization of those who sell sex but does not supports the decriminalization of buyers of sex (Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2012). Although there is no current strategy on how to approach the further incarceration of Indigenous women, I will argue for the decriminalization of Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws as a way to address this modern-day colonization of increasing numbers of Indigenous women in federal institutions. To support my argument, I will provide a critical analysis of Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws, and discuss the role this modern-day colonialism plays in subjugating Indigenous women’s bodies and sexuality.
             In Home/Land, Mary Ellen Turpel (1991) argues that the current state of Indigenous peoples “can only be fully understood by appreciating its colonial context” (p. 336) and that “the system of white patriarchy is deeply embedded in Canadian legal thought, doctrine and jurisprudence” (p. 344). Turpel’s arguments appear to support the empowerment of Indigenous women by advocating that Indigenous people’s realities are unknown to Canada’s legal system and legal thought. Unfortunately, Turpel’s arguments fall short by not openly naming the oppression that Indigenous people experience due to Canada’s colonial legal system. To put it unashamedly, this oppression experienced by Indigenous peoples is both institutional and legislated racism that has been integral to Canada’s on-going colonization. Thus, there exists a need to reframe the issues Indigenous peoples experience to capture their lived realities. In Decolonizing Methodologies, Linda T. Smith (1999) presents the concept of reframing where she describes reframing as involving “taking much greater control over the ways in which indigenous issues and social problems are discussed and handled” (p. 153). This concept of reframing can be applied to the issue of decriminalization of Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws to include the lived realities of all Indigenous women who are involved in sex work. Citing NWAC, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) outlines that this reframing needs to occur where there is a consideration of the “decriminalization in the context of also stopping racism” (Yee, 2010, para. 6). Through understanding the decriminalization of Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws as also stopping racism, one can begin to understand the colonial structure of Canada’s Criminal Code.
            By examining the historical context of Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws, one must understand the effects of Othering by policy makers and its effects on Indigenous women. Smith (1999) makes this connection by outlining that the description of the Other through a colonial lens “has had very real consequences for Indigenous women” (p. 46). Some of the consequences, as outlined by Smith (1999), include the way Indigenous women are described, objectified, and represented through this colonial lens (p. 46). Often cited by Indigenous scholars are the once held prestigious political, social, and cultural roles Indigenous women occupied within their Indigenous communities before the colonization of Canada (Boyer, 2009, p. 75). In addition to occupying these prestigious roles within their Indigenous communities, Indigenous women also played a significant role with respect to the facilitation of Canada’s colonization. Boyer (2009) outlines Indigenous women’s roles were central to Canada’s fur trade era which eventually mutated to the misconceptualization of Indigenous women as being “more promiscuous in nature” (p. 77). While sexual relations between Indigenous women and white men were initially accepted, these practices were later penalized as a “social evil and a racial problem” (Boyer, 2009, p. 77). In effect, Canadian policy makers began to legislate various methods to govern Indigenous women’s bodies and sexuality.
Before the enactment of the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) in 1892 where Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws exist, the subjugation of Indigenous women bodies and sexualities occurred via the Indian Actthrough a number of colonial tactics (Boyer, 2009, p. 78). Among the most referenced of these tactics include the forced removal of Indigenous children from their homes, or the forced sterilization of Indigenous women (Boyer, 2009, p. 74-75). The forced removal of Indigenous children from Indigenous homes and the forced sterilization of Indigenous women are intrinsically connected to Indigenous women’s bodies and sexuality since their roles as life-givers and care-givers in their communities were subjugated through these legislated acts. While these colonial tactics are barbaric, one of the most underreported colonial tactics to subjugate Indigenous women’s bodies and sexuality is the enactment of anti-prostitution laws under the Indian Act. Boyer (2009) highlights that these changes began in 1879 and proceeded with more forceful provisions in 1880, 1884, 1887, and then finally in 1892 where all sections relating to prostitution were removed from the Indian Act and enacted under the CCC (p. 78). In Canada and Migrant Sex-Work: Challenging the ‘Foreign’ in Foreign Policy, Leslie Ann Jeffrey (2005) argues in a present day context “policy decisions on prostitution, therefore, most commonly reflect concerns to construct and discipline particular identities” (p. 33). This construction of the Indigenous women’s identity as being promiscuous and later legislated and criminalized as a prostitute is an example of Canada’s colonial concerns to discipline particular identities.
Today, Indigenous women over-represent both the prison populations and the sex work populations (Bruckert and Chabot, 2010, p. 96). Yet, there is limited discussion between the two relational statistics. In Challenges: Ottawa area sex workers speak out, the authors reported that Indigenous women, either sex workers or non-sex workers, are described as over-policed and under-protected (Bruckert and Chabot, 2010, p. 97). This same pattern of over-policing/under-protection is also highlighted by NYSHN in their October 2010 press release. Following the Ontario Superior Court’s decision to rule that the parts of CCC relating to Canada’s anti-prostitution laws as unconstitutional, Jessica Yee (2010), the executive director of NYSHN, writes, “high rates of arrest and incarceration are a reality, yet there still has been no justice for the over 500 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada” (para. 6). One might argue that these organizations are too focused on sex-work and do not capture the lived realities of those who are exploited. Consequently, there occurs a bifurcation of the topic of the decriminalization of Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws.
As stated earlier, some organizations that advocate on behalf of Indigenous women argue that the decriminalization of Canada’s anti-prostitution laws will not address the violence that Indigenous women experience. However, the violence that Indigenous women experience is often colonial in nature. It can be argued that in Home/Land (1991) Turpel’s focus on the violence that Indigenous women experience in the privacy of their homes is adopting a colonial lens since it is often that Indigenous women experience increased violence at the hands of non-Indigenous men and that these non-Indigenous men often commit these violent acts for years without any detection by law enforcement. Two examples of non-Indigenous men committing violence against Indigenous women and inconspicuously include Robert Pickton and John Crawford (Native Women’s Association, 2002, p. 5-6).  Respectively, one specifically targeted sex workers that often included Indigenous women and the other targeted Indigenous women, but both are labeled as serial killers. Another argument that is presented by some organizations is that the decriminalization of Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws will lead to an increase in human trafficking of Indigenous women and girls. However, often ignored is how exploitation through sex work occurs as a result of the criminalization of the trade. Through her post-colonial approach to migrant sex work, Jeffrey (2005) argues “trafficking, understood as exploitation within sex-work, occurs because of ignoring sex-workers’ rights to decriminalized and safe working conditions” (p. 34). As a result, the reframing of the topic of the decriminalization of Canada’s current anti-prostitution laws needs to occur which includes the realities of Indigenous women as being both over-policed and under-protected.
In Home/Land, Turpel appears to be advocating for the empowerment of Indigenous women by arguing that there needs be a dismantling of Canada’s colonial legal system. Yet, her argument appears to adopt a colonial perspective by focusing on the Other through the context of domestic violence in the homes of Indigenous families. When in reality, the violence that goes undetected has occurred through the examples of serial killers, Pickton and Crawford, or has been legislated through the use of force incidents in federal institutions as demonstrated in the Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2011-2012 (2012). Accordingly, when Turpel (1991) highlights that “[Indigenous] peoples do not want to continue as wards of the federal government” (p. 343), a reframing as to how Indigenous women’s bodies and sexualities are subjugated through over-policing and under-protection via the criminalization of sex work needs to be investigated. In Call Into the Night: An Overview of Violence Against Aboriginal Women (2011), it is emphasized “women who are arrested for prostitution are rarely given diversion programs, while male consumers are often given opportunities for ‘john school’” (Fry, p. 19). Since there is an overrepresentation of Indigenous women in sex work, there needs to be an investigation in how this relates to the overrepresentation of Indigenous women in federal institutions. In other words, and as mentioned above, there is a need to reframe how Indigenous women’s bodies are being colonized, subjugated, and becoming wards of the federal government through its federal institutions in increasing numbers. Though previous barbaric attempts of assimilation and colonization of Indigenous peoples through the forced removal of Indigenous children and the forced sterilization of Indigenous women has failed, it can be seen that with the increasing populations of Indigenous women in Canada’s federal institutions that modern-day colonialism is beginning to take on a different shape.


Reference List
Boyer, Y. (2009). “First Nations Women’s Contributions to Culture and Community Through Canadian Law.” Ed. Valaskakis, Gail G.., Madelein Dion Stout, and Eric Guimond, Restoring the Balance: First Nations Women, Community and Culture (69-96). Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.
Bruckert, C., & Chabot, F. (2010). Challenges: Ottawa area sex workers speak out. Retrieved from <http://powerottawa.ca/POWER_Report_Challenges.pdf&gt;.
Fry, H. (2011). CALL INTO THE NIGHT: AN OVERVIEW OF VIOLENCE AGAINST ABORIGINAL WOMEN. Retrieved from <http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/Committee/403/FEWO/Reports/RP5056509/feworp14/feworp14-e.pdf&gt;.
Jeffrey, Leslie Ann. (2005). Canada and migrant sex-work: Challenging the ‘foreign’ in foreign policy. Canadian Foreign Policy 12, (1): 33-48.
Native Women’s Association of Canada. (2002). Violation of Indigenous Human Rights. Retrieved from <http://www.nwac.ca/sites/default/files/reports/ViolationsofIndigenousHumanRights.pdf&gt;.
Native Women’s Association of Canada. (2012). Understanding NWAC’s Position on Prostitution – November 2012. Retrieved from <http://www.nwac.ca/media/release/14-12-12&gt;.
Sapers, H. (2012). Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2011-2012. Retrieved from <http://www.oci-bec.gc.ca/rpt/annrpt/annrpt20112012-eng.aspx#sIV&gt;.
Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. New York: Zed Books Ltd.
Turpel, M. E. (1991). Home/Land. In T. Brettel Dawson (5th Ed.), Women, Law and Social Change: Core Readings and Current Issues (336-344). Ontario: Captus Press
Yee, J. (2010). Decriminalization of sex work and Indigenous youth and communities – a response from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network on the recent Ontario Superior Court Decision. Retrieved from <http://www.nativeyouthsexualhealth.com/oct62010.pdf&gt;.

Definition and Legislation: Human Trafficking

A piece I wrote for an organization on human trafficking. In particular, I focused on the definition of human trafficking and human trafficking legislation. Sources are available below!

A recent issue identified by the RCMP and Canadian Federal Government is the increase in human trafficking. In relation to this issue, the discourse that surrounds human trafficking definitions and its legislation is troubling for sex workers in northern Ontario, including Aboriginal sex workers. One of the key issues among various reports is the definition of human trafficking itself (Sikka 2009: 4; RCMP 2010: 8). The RCMP uses a two-part definition stemming from two different pieces of legislation, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), and the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) (RCMP 2010: 6). The major difference between these pieces of legislation is how they attempt to identify human trafficking victims themselves. On one hand, the IRPA attempts to identify human trafficking victims at an international level, meaning the crossing of an international border (RCMP 2010: 8). On the other hand, the CCC identifies human trafficking victims as being “uniquely Canadian” and unique to “vulnerable, economically challenged and socially dislocated sectors of the Canadian population” (RCMP 2010: 8). The use of the CCC definition is an attempt to target those populations in socially dislocated regions. These specific regions are characterized as regions with excessive resource development, specifically northern First Nations (Campbell 2008: 66). In addition to the CCC definition targeting specific regions and specific populations within Canada, a human trafficking victim does not have to be consensual or non-consenual in the elements that surround human trafficking; thereby, removing agency from the victim (RCMP 2010: 43). In “Human Trafficking in Canada,” the RCMP has identified that human trafficking victims and human trafficking perpetrators may share the same ethnic background (RCMP 2010: 1). Therefore, the CCC definition potentially criminalizes relationships between a sex worker and their family members. For example, family members of similar ethnic background of sex workers and who also share the same residence or who are also receiving material benefit (food/clothing/shelter) from the sex worker’s income might be subjected to charges under section 279.01 (1) and 279.02 of the CCC. The RCMP has also identified that sex workers may not identify themselves as victims of human trafficking (RCMP 2010: 38). It is the criminal justice system and its definition that defines who is the victim (or the perpetrator). Even if a sex worker does not agree with the label of being a victim or being trafficked, he/she may be forced to see herself as a victim in order to access adequate health services. Definitions of domestic human trafficking limit the sex worker’s freedom of choice, and potentially criminalize personal/familial relationships of the sex worker. This type of oppressive legislations removes agency from sex workers by applying the label of human trafficking victim even before all elements of alleged human trafficking are met, and targets sex workers in the north, specifically Aboriginal sex workers.

Sources:
RCMP: http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/grc-rcmp/PS64-78-2010-eng.pdf
Sikka: http://iog.ca/sites/iog/files/2009_trafficking_of_aboriginal_women.pdf

Campbell, Kathryn M. 2008. “What Was It They Lost? The Impact of Resource Development on Family Violence in a Northern Aboriginal Community.” Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice 5(1): 57-80.

ONCA Canada v. Bedford

Like whoa! I am in a whirlwind of emotions today. Partly good and partly frustrated.

Today, the Ontario Court of Appeal announced it’s decision regarding Bedford v. Canada in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Justice Himel originally struck down sections ss. 210, 212(1)(j) and 213(1)(c) of the Criminal Code of Canada on September 28, 2010 as unconstitutional. However, not long after, the Attorney General of Canada and AG of Ontario opposed the application by Bedford, et al.

The government’s response can be read HERE. Basically, they said that the lower court’s decision is not binding because it did not follow a higher court’s previous decision (stare decisis) and that these sections did not pose risk to sex workers but rather that “the risk to prostitutes is inherent in the nature of prostitution itself.” Note: it is with these types of views that sex workers have previously faced and continue to face violence from both individuals and institutions; sex work is dangerous because of the indifference that institutions and individuals display towards sex work and sex workers themselves.

Justice Himel’s decision meant that these sections DO violate Section 7 of the Charter: life, liberty and security of the person. This means that, as cited in ONCA decision,

“Prostitutes are faced with deciding between their liberty and their security of the person. Thus, while it is ultimately the client who inflicts violence upon a prostitute, in my view the law plays a sufficient contributory role in preventing a prostitute from taking steps that could reduce the risk of such violence.”

Justice Himel’s decision meant that these sections DO violate Section 2(b) of the Charter: freedom of expression. This means that, as cited in ONCA decision,

“….does not meet the minimal impairment test. The expression being curtailed is not purely for an economic purpose, but is also for the purpose of guarding personal security, an expressive purpose that lies at or near the core of the guarantee.”

There was a lot of tweeting going on today and also a lot press releases from organizations that ROCK! You can check out some of those organizations’ press releases here:

A few things must be noted with this decision: It does not mean that a bunch of women are going to become sex workers now. It takes a lot to do this type of work and it is definitely not made for everyone. So, don’t think that this will cause the “moral fibre” of Canada to disintegrate. The moral fibre has long been tossed down the drain when Harper gained majority (just saying). It also does not mean that families are going to be ruined and marriages are going to be affected. Sex workers have families and relationships too! Sex workers are persons too! A brief outline of ONCA decision:

  • s. 210 and 212(1)(j) of the Criminal Code of Canada(CCC) are unconstitutional.
  • section 212(1)(j) are to be clarified that the prohibition on living on the avails of prostitution applies only to those who do so “in circumstances of exploitation”.
  • section 213(1)(c) does not offend the principles of fundamental justice; does not infringe the respondents’ s. 7 Charter rights; the application judge was bound by the Prostitution Reference to hold that s. 213(1)(c) is a reasonable limit on the right to freedom of expression under s. 2(b) of the Charter.

You can read over the entire decision yourself as I am not going to outline it paragraph by paragraph. The decision relating to communication/solicitation/s. 213(1)(c) was arrived on the basis that it did not mean the requirements for being “arbitrary, overbroad or grossly disproportionate.” I beg to differ, or at least agree with the dissenting judge. You can also read the reasoning/logic behind the dissenting decision which means this judge did not agree with opinions the majority. MacPherson J.A. did ultimately agree with the decisions relating to section 210 and 212 of the CCC. One important point that MacPherson highlights in the dissenting decision is this: My colleagues overlook evidence that, instead of reducing street prostitution, the communicating provision forces prostitutes into isolated and dangerous areas. MacPherson J.A. goes on to state, “By displacing prostitutes into isolated areas and discouraging them from working together, the communicating provision increases the risks faced by prostitutes. My colleagues disregard this displacement and assign no weight to its effects…Any measure that denies an already vulnerable person the opportunity to protect herself from serious physical violence, including assault, rape and murder, involves a grave infringement of that individual’s security of the person. The infringement caused by the communicating provision is especially significant in light of the reality that many prostitutes have few alternative means of protecting themselves. Putting aside the fiction that all prostitutes can easily leave prostitution by choice or practise their occupation indoors, the communicating provision closes off valuable options that street prostitutes do have to try to protect themselves.” This is important to note because sex workers who are most affected by this decision to stay section 213 are the ones who are most visible, who are ultimately the most vulnerable: street based sex workers. On a final note, MacPherson J.A. states, “For many prostitutes, safe working spaces are hard or impossible to come by…The world in which street prostitutes actually operate is the streets, on their own. It is not a world of hotels, homes or condos. It is not a world of receptionists, drivers and bodyguards.” This is ultimately true and cannot or should not be ignored. The image that is portrayed within the media or movies that sex workers either live a glamourous lifestyle or a very dark one filled with drug addiction. There is no in between. This is a problem because some individuals may never acknowledge the fact that sex workers may have families, relationships, or a place to call home. The frustrating part of today is that some individuals have taken the time to message me via social media and state that they agree with the decision. However, after much back and forth correspondence, there still exists some major misconceptions when it comes to sex work and sex workers. Some stating that sex work should be legal so that it can be regulated and policed. Sorry, but that is A MAJOR PART OF THE PROBLEM. Sex workers, especially outdoor sex workers are the most visible and are likely to experience over policing. In a report prepared by POWER, it was concluded that sex workers face stigmatization which causes them to be seen as the “other” and viewed as a threat to society. These views and images of sex workers are then embedded into institutions, like policing agencies, which leads to social profiling and over-policing (view the report HERE). Some also stated that they agree with this decision so that this profession could be ensured that health and safety regulations are followed by all. One of the main issues that sex workers face is access to such services. This is one the reasonings for the decriminalization of sex work. Sex workers, as outlined in the report by POWER listed above, “…are not passive and actively seek to minimize the physical, sexual, financial, and health risks they confront.” The one resource they do not access is the criminal justice system. With this being said, we have to be aware of how the media portrays the decision of this case. I have seen titles such as “Sex workers considered ‘real citizens'” and “Appeals court legalizes brothels”. The idea that sex workers are not seen as “real citizens” contributes to the dehumanization of same individuals. The idea that a bunch of brothels are going to pop up everywhere is also untrue. As I stated before, these decisions will not cause the “moral fibre” of Canada to disintegrate, and that it takes a lot to do this type of work. These decisions were made in an effort to make it SAFER for sex workers to conduct business. Sex workers are persons in Canadian society deserve the same protection as guaranteed to everyone else. Sex workers are persons too!

Bedford v. Canada: My thoughts…

In one of my online classes the question was asked simply put “What do you think of the recent challenge to the charter in the Bedford case?” Well in terms following up from my recent post “Whorephobia”, I thought I would share my answer. It is a complex subject but by the end of it, sex workers are persons to and deserved to be viewed/treated as such.

In order to approach this topic, I believe we must acknowledge the fact there exists much diversity among sex workers. To strictly view sex workers as corner prostitutes addicted to drugs is ignoring the issue at hand and that is the safety (or lack thereof) that sex workers face. Also we are ignoring the issue of stigmatization and discrimination simply because they are a “sex worker.” The stigmatization and criminalization that the sex worker faces can potentially lead to further isolation from society (Mensah and Bruckert 2011). This isolation perpetuates the violence that many sex workers experience.

There are many different types of sex work, indoor, outdoor, exotic dancers, massage parlors, escorts, etc. Each type of sex worker faces his/her own dangers, just like any other occupation. In particular a lack of access to justice because of the criminal laws that prevent them from participating in the profession with dignity foster the violence around such occupation. Sex workers may not go to the police when they are raped or beaten for fear of being further victimized or being blamed for the incident. This is a reality that many people face when they are attacked, in particular women who are not even sex workers and especially when their clothing or outward appearance is taken into account. Read this article here on “blaming the victim” in rape. This is slut shaming or the whore stigma.

Justice Himel’s decision highlighted that prostitution laws violated the Charter of Rights and Freedom because it “[deprived] sex workers of their right to liberty and security in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” It also puts the sex workers’ families and friends at risk because section 212 of the Criminal Code states that others can be charged for “living on the avails of prostitution” which according to Prof. M. Nengeh Mensah and Prof. C. Bruckert (2011) “criminalizes personal relationships and undermines the social integration of sex workers” (10 Reasons to Fight for the Decriminlization of Sex Work). The idea that prostitution is illegal and that all sex workers must be saved removes agency from individuals who choose to do it and those who participate in consensual, sexual acts.

Anti-prostitution laws are a prime example of the dominant ideology. During European colonization, its main goal was to spread Christianity. Much of our laws today can be traced back to religious ideals/ideologies. Prostitutes were once the subject of famous paintings like Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Now, prostitutes are shunned and belittled all because of one little goal that is now lost in translation as the battle of moral values against immoral values to which many of us have adopted.

Oh and online courses rock. They are like writing little blog posts every week but being graded for it. Ha!

Whorephobia

Whorephobia. The fear of sex workers.

What is a sex worker you ask? Well, it could be your mother, your father, your daughter, your son, your brother, you sister… They could be sitting next to you on the city bus or dancing with you in the bar (Yes, even with all their clothes on).

There are many norms and values that affect the way we perceive sex workers. One being morality, but what is morality? Morality is different for everyone. Even if it is the same for one family, does not mean that it is the same for all in that same family. Each person is able to define and set their own boundaries with themselves and with other people. However, in society today, some people, communities, and institutions believe that they have the power to exert their dominant ideologies onto those who have different morals.

Yet, sex work does not even come down to morality. Sex work isn’t about being immoral. Sex work isn’t about being right or wrong. Sex work isn’t about being a home-wrecker. Sex work isn’t about stealing your boyfriend or girlfriend. Sex work is about choosing an occupation. Just like any other occupation.

Unfortunately, this is the most criminalized and stigmatized occupation that exists in today’s society. It is the most over policed and under protected occupation. In fact, this morning one London ON fellow tweeted this…

Read the report mentioned in the tweet HERE.

Whether you want to believe it or not, whorephobia affects us all. Just as
Thierry Schaffauser writes,

In most languages, 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.

Women are brought up to think of sex workers as “bad women”. It prevents them from copying and taking advantage of the freedoms sex workers fight for, like the occupation of nocturnal and public spaces, or how to impose a sexual contract in which conditions have to be negotiated and respected. Whorephobia operates as a way of controlling and policing women’s behaviour, just as homophobia does for men.

Most sex workers are told that the reason they face so many problems is because of their work; however that is not the case. The decriminalization of sex work is important so that those who occupy this type of work are able to work in safe, secure, and autonomous environments. Sex workers should not sacrifice their own human rights and a right to a safe and secure working environment at the expense of society, as the above article’s title reads, “whorephobia affects us all.”

Note: This post is unrelated to the person’s tweet and the person who wrote the tweet. It was merely captured for to emphasis the fact that this is an occupation that “over-policed.”