Apparently there is some sort of dreadful “consultation” document knocking around about Scottish sex workers (regulation, decriminalisation? I dunno*). Glaswgowsexworker, who subscribes to Dwight Towers, has absolutely owned the author of this document. The whole long response, all of it, is very good indeed, but this bit on the slippery nature of “choice” is, to me, especially worth reposting.
The choice between the steak and the risotto brings me onto a further, er, quibble with your language. “A chosen profession”. Let me tell you about ‘choice’. I graduated into a recession; most of my cohort were either unemployed (a fairly horrible state these days; endless stupid hoops to jump through to prove you’re ‘looking’ for jobs which don’t exist), or being ground down in bars and cafes and pubs, being tired and – ooh, your favourite word – kind of exploited, actually. I’ve waitressed; I’ve worked in bars, and I’ve made coffee in fancypants supposedly-ethical artisan stores (living wage? Yeah right). Bar work was the only one which made me even nearly enough money to live on, but I got pretty sick of it because of that one time I was sexually assaulted by my manager. So when I graduated, and was faced with a ‘choice’ between two different jobs in the service industry, both of which were not prestigious, both of which came with a medium-high risk of sexual assault, neither of which were presented in a parcel labelled ‘Dream Job’ – when presented with that ‘choice’, I ‘choose’ the option with the higher hourly wage, which is how I ended up being a sex worker instead of doing bar work.
When you say “choice”, you’re either ignorant of the fact that people make the best ‘choice’ they can with the options they have, or you imagine that we all had a ‘choice’ to be, oooh, President of Harvard Law School, but we turned it down just so we could ruin your statistics by turning up in the hooker census, all mouthy with opinions you don’t like or want to hear. There’s not the clear bright line that you seem to imagine between those who ‘chose’ this and those who ‘didn’t’, because beyond the most appalling cases of coercion (c.f, the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers), ‘choice’ only ever means “these are all non-ideal, but what’s my best option?” Some people have fewer options. Migrants whose immigration status is in limbo are denied the right to either work, or to receive benefits. Where do you think this policy of forced destitution leaves people? Since you profess to be so concerned about those who are denied a ‘choice’, why not legislate in such a way as to offer migrants in limbo another choice to add to their current options of a) homelessness or b) working illegally? I shouldn’t need to spell out to you, of course, what working illegally does to one’s chances of being – that word again – exploited.
* Well, that would have been fucking lame of me, wouldn’t it – to, um, take the piece I wanted and not do a read-around?
“A consultation that closes today for a bill in Scotland that would criminalise the purchase of sex.”
So, this from “Anarchist Whore“, about the recent International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is useful indeed.
We face violence from some social justice activists and feminists. If you campaign for laws that make it harder for us to work legally (or campaign to prevent sex work from being decriminalised) you are committing violence against sex workers. You are pushing the work underground, making it harder to access things such as health checks and safety equipment and making us less visible so that violence can go unnoticed.
We need decriminalisation so that we are not policed, the police have shown time and again that they are not to be trusted regulating or policing the sex industry, if you push for anything but decriminalisation you are pushing for us to be at risk of police violence.
If you don’t speak out against whorephobic feminists who attack sex workers and instead pretend it is a valid difference of opinion then you are allowing for feminist spaces to be unsafe for certain women. If you value sex workers as much as you do other women then you wont stand for this, any less is enabling violence against us.