Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland - Paper launch

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland invites you to:

The launch of, ‘Realising Sex Workers’ Rights in Ireland’, a briefing paper exploring a human rights based approach to supporting people engaged in sex work.

When: 1PM – 2PM, Wednesday 4th February 2015

Where: The Pressroom, Buswells Hotel, 27 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2

Speakers - Kate McGrew - Sex Worker and Activist

Wendy Lyon - Solicitor and Blogger (feministire.com)

Billie - Community Support Project Worker GOSHH (Gender Orientation Sexual Health HIV) Limerick

For more information please contact swaiireland@yahoo.com

We look forward to seeing you next Wednesday.

Warm Regards,

SWAI Team

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Farewell, my feline friend.


This week's blog was intended to be a less than gentle poke at Turn Off the Red Light, or Turn Off the Altar Light as they've become known in better circles. Unfortunately, circumstances have dictated otherwise.

My regular readers will know of my love for Boy Cat, who chose me at the cat rescue centre. For those who didn't read back that far, he was the runt of a litter comprised of himself and three big ginger bruisers, and he chose me, there's no doubt about that. When the centre manager opened the door he came straight to me and I knew he was my boy. We bonded from the offset and I cheered him on as the underdog.

It's safe to say we had our trials and tribulations over the years, I had him for eight years and we went through three house moves, his being locked in a church for five days and then getting a belt of a car/ned and under going emergency surgery to repair a ruptured bladder. I hit the knees that night, and no mistake. I prayed, and he came home, skinny and weak, but home.

Thereafter, he developed a habit of doing a disappearing act, from my new property. In the beginning, it was for two days max, and he would stroll in, so I was of the opinion that he had a second home where he was meowing loudly at the back door, not unusual for Tom cats. In the run up to Christmas, he did a bunk again, but this was long term. I knew something was wrong, but I really didn't know what to do. I spoke to all of my neighbours and asked people to keep an eye out for him. He had gone missing with a beautiful black sparkly collar and spotted bow tie, so I felt that at least he would be instantly recognisable.

Come the new year, there was still no sign of him and I knew something was badly amiss. I contacted a local cat rescue project to find that a black and white cat had indeed been found in an awful state and brought in by the SSPCA, to an emergency vets. I'm going to spare you a lot of the gory details, he suffered a terrible death. What I can tell you, is that he got his front paw stuck underneath his collar and as a result basically starved. The SSPCA battled through the night to save him, but he was so badly injured that it was decided it was better to put him to sleep.

I went to identify him on Friday, an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemies. It was very difficult, he had horrific injuries. But at least he looked at peace and I got to say goodbye. I will always miss him, he was my friend and comfort, and I know he loved me with ferocity too. I'm okay that he died, he's at peace. I can't bear that he suffered, he must have been so frightened.

The reason I shared this is not to evoke sympathy, it's to implore you - if you have a cat and they go outdoors, please DO NOT put a collar on them. Even the collars with a so called emergency release, useless. By all means, microchip them but collars? NEVER.

A very heartbroken,

LL xx

P.S : Note to abolitionists - please do not take a period of grieving as an opportunity to try it on, I'll still nail you to the wall. Twice.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Sex work and solidarity - Part Two.


If you follow me on Twitter or read this here blog from time to time, you'll know, the one thing I cannot abide is bad data. Sometimes it's down to sheer laziness, but in the majority of cases, it's a very deliberate misrepresentation by those who would further demonise the industry I know so well, usually for profit/funding. From the sublime to the ridiculous, one of my recent favourites was that there are at any given time, over 80 victims of trafficking in Galway. Not only that, but there are 20 men per day queuing up to have sex with women who are of course, chained to radiators. I can find many reasons to hold the Irish Alpha male in utter contempt, but actively pursuing victims of trafficking and in those numbers ? Not buying it. Antis can demonise the average client all they wish, but I'm certain that out of 20, several would have blown the whistle.

For a shining example of dodgy statistics, allow me to introduce Object. On their website they cite the The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), as saying "the sexualisation of women in the media ... is a 'conducive context' for violence against women" which they want to see an end to. I can't quite marry that statement with the recent demonstrations Object have had outside strip clubs, during which they are alleged to have spat on the strippers entering the premises. Yes, I said they were spitting on them, apparently this is how we end violence against women. Further, here is a video taken at such a recent demonstration, in which Object and their supporters call the men entering strip clubs scum, losers, wankers and rapists. At the end of the video is Roz Hardie, CEO of Object.

I had the good fortune to meet Roz at a recent speaking event in Carlisle and she sat and watched me take Object's statistics apart. I have one of their "fact" sheets from that event (pictured) which contains some statistical beauties -

- "75% of women became involved when they were children." That has been debunked so many times it's laughable. It is a statistic based on a study of street based sex workers, ALL of whom were underage on entering. Aside from that, street sex work represents about 12% of the overall industry so that statistic is, I'm afraid, hogwash. See also, this resource.

- "9 out of 10 women would exit if they could." Funnily enough, if you interview women for your "study" ALL of whom are already part of an exit program, that's not quite so compelling.

- "In Sweden there has been a significant reduction in prostitution." Huh ? There was an initial fall in on street prostitution but the number of massage parlours in Stockholm doubled.

- "The law in Sweden is working." Now you're just being silly. Have a read of this account straight from a Swedish sex worker.

I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. No-one denies that abuses happen in the industry, as they do in every industry, but it's really not helpful to finding a real solution (psssst....decriminalisation) to grossly misrepresent such important data for your own agenda. As sex workers and also as campaigners, we get very frustrated, and understandably so. I get emails all the time from sex workers saying - "What they're saying is rubbish ! I've been doing this for years, I wish I could come out and speak with you." I wish you could too, but wouldn't ask that of anyone, there is a very high price to be paid when you tackle NGO's where it hurts, their pockets.

As a big fan of Twitter, and on a day when I really needed a good laugh, (I had just finished reading a press release from Doras Luimní) a hashtag #sexworkstats started. Sex workers around the world used the opportunity to poke fun at the abolitionist method of scare mongering with stats. Below I have listed some of my favourites, the sense of solidarity was badly needed and the sense of humour in our community was never more apparent. Enjoy.

97% of statistics used against sex work are ficticious. The other 3% are privileged and unrepresentative. #sexworkstats

100% of pro-dommes report that "I want to do whatever you want to do, mistress" doesn't mean what you think it means.

100% of sex workers failed to realise they'd sold their bodies & continued to use them afterwards. #sexworkstats

76% of escorts state their favoured position as doggy style, so they can pretend it's George Clooney. #sexworkstats

97% of escorts try to make the other escort laugh during threesomes. #sexworkstats

84% of sex workers have at least one cat. 5% of the cats reported being awake when a client was present. #sexworkstats

5% of sex workers do not own a cat, we dont talk about them #sexworkstats

Only 17% of girls growing up with a pony became sexworkers. As opposed to 78% of girls growing up owning cats. #sexworkstats

Study proves that a history of engaging in prostitution leads most women to later having a sandwich for lunch. #sexworkstats

99% of men think they'd be great at sex work. They'd be wrong. #sexworkstats

73% of #sexworkstats are made up. The other 38% are impossible.

#sexworkstats Jenga 54% is the most popular game among sex workers followed by twister 17%

87% of 2028's sex workers will enter sex work because their parents let them stay up and watch Game of Thrones. #sexworkstats

LL xx


Friday, 2 January 2015

Choice or not ? Academic request for input from sex workers.


In the debate about sex work, people constantly bring up the question whether or not someone can ‘choose’ to do sex work. Radical feminists and other abolitionists argue that no one would ever choose to sell sexual services; and that people (or rather: women, as abolitionists tend to ignore male and transgender sex workers) are ‘forced’ to sell sex because of whatever their life circumstances are. The opposing view would be to say that it is (usually) sex workers’ ‘free/rational choice’ to engage in sex work.

I would like to pose the following question to escorts/sex workers:

Do you feel that becoming an escort was a ‘choice’ you made? Why/why not? Were there alternatives, and if so, what kinds of alternatives? If you feel that it was a choice, what led you to make this decision? If you felt that it wasn’t really a choice, what was it that led you to sell sex in the first place?

And I would also like to ask: do you feel that other people (family members etc.) who are not sex workers had more (or less) of a choice regarding how to make a living and feel less ‘forced’ (or more forced!) to do what they are doing?

A bit about me: I am a researcher and supporter of sex worker rights (and opponent of the criminalisation of clients). You may have read about the piece of research we did in 2014 – the study on sex work funded by the Northern Irish Department of Justice (which, by the way, is available here.

I am currently writing a critical academic article about the idea of ‘choice’ in relation to sex work and would like to include the views of sex workers (and clients, if they want to comment) in the article. As always, I will not use people’s names or aliases nor will I include any information that allows readers to identify the people cited. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions: susann.huschke@gmail.com

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Sex work and solidarity (part 1)


It may surprise you to learn that the sex industry is a remarkably bitchy environment. Have women competing against each other on the basis of looks and personality, I mean, what could possibly go wrong ? Happily though, there are times when as a community we bond together in an unbreakable circle, regardless of dress size or number of reviews. The most obvious example is the recent murder of Petite Jasmine. As a community we mourned, and demonstrated around the world for the repeal of the Swedish model. I have never been so proud, or moved as I was that day.

To further illustrate my point, I'm going to take you back to 2008, right around the time I was outed in the highlands. There was a forum then which was women only and even at that, it was dedicated to the curvier of us, those who don't pass up a slice of cheesecake. It was a very small community with say, 20 posters or so, but only ten of us used it regularly, on a daily basis, and it became a haven from life. Indeed, it was that very forum which saw my shriek for help one Sunday morning because I had just been door stepped by a local provincial newspaper, I was terrified. How times change. These days they would be told to bog off, or wait for the press complaints commission or my lawyer, or both. But I digress.

One particular lovely lady logged in excitedly one evening with great news. A man had accidentally sent her a text, believing her to be someone else entirely. She replied saying - "wrong number, I'm an escort", and having expressed his shock at his faux pas, they began to chat. As it turned out, they had a lot in common and they chatted for many an evening. Then came the clincher from him - "Look this is mad, but what if we meet up ? I'd love to know who I'm talking to." So, she dolled herself up to the nines and went to meet him. What followed was an intense, and highly charged affair. It was at this point that she finished her story on the forum. My spidey sense was bubbling over, and sadly when I really didn't want to be right, I was.

Later that evening another lady logged in and having read her gushing tale said, "Um, does his number end in 067 ?" Yes, it turned out that our witless Lothario was actually rather clever, in that he had done the very same thing to several escorts. Not so clever though, as to use a different number. I felt SO sorry for his original victim, she was crushed.

As a community, there are several things which will always bind us together and one of them is abusive men. Oh, HELL no. So we sat, all of us, through the night, texting and calling this gentleman to see if he could remember "our" particular encounter. He was demented. By the end of the evening one or two of our members had resorted to more forthright approaches and quite frankly, he was terrified. Quite frankly, we didn't care.

It is alleged that in the aftermath of that episode, someone put his number up on Glasgow Gumtree as -

"SLIM SUBMISSIVE TWINK SEEKS HAIRY BEAR FOR NSA MEETS. NO LIMITS."

I can't imagine who would do such a dreadful thing. Escorts - 1 Idiot - 0.

LL xx

Sunday, 21 December 2014

War is over (Merry Christmas)


In the "debate" on sex work in Ireland, it's time for a ceasefire over Christmas. I need to tell you, Irish abolitionists fight dirty, dirtier than I've ever experienced before. Given their background in the Magdalene Laundries, I guess that shouldn't surprise me, but there is no low to which they won't stoop. When they weren't (allegedly) reporting me to the taxman for a full investigation they were putting my details up on Dublin Backpage, posing as clients to fill my diary with false appointments and that's before we talk about hauling me through the mud at Stormont and telling blatant lies to the media about me and my colleagues. Ho hum.

I'm not saying I didn't respond with ferocity, I did. That's because they made a common mistake and mistook a pleasant manner for weakness. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I go into every single debate I do to win. Whether that's an hour long event at a university or an eighteen month campaign in Northern Ireland, I don't do giving up. So if it means a trip to the Supreme Court, or the European Court of Human Rights, so be it.

About the only thing I can't blame abolitionists for this year is smashing up my leg in Belfast, although if I didn't know better, I'd swear they crept in to my room in the dead of night and added a generous coating of vegetable oil to the base of my shower. I hate to be the one to burst their bubble, but I'm back on my feet and still smiling. See to me, Christmas is lovely when you receive gifts and all, I mean who doesn't need lavender soap on a rope ? But more important than that, it's time to take stock and appreciate the real gifts you have. In my case that's a number of people around me who can best be summed up with the phrase - "I've got your back, sweetie."

If I need to rage that's okay, if I need to let off steam that's fine too. If I need to cry my lamps out, there is always a man sized tissue with extra soothing balm ready. There are people I can call and request sanctuary, a DVD and a curry at anywhere else than your hotel room can be medicine indeed. I also have some friends with the most amazing sense of humour, who send me emails which have me braying like a donkey. Most unladylike but therapeutic in the extreme. One such friend has written a letter to Santa, which I've decided to share with you, he's based in Ireland and disabled, so no prizes for guessing the forthcoming tone. It just remains for me to wish you all, a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones. Not you, abolitionists, I hope your turkey is trafficked and contaminated and necessitates a 48 hour stay in your government funded bathroom suite.

LL xx

P.S : If you're stuck for a last minute gift, check out this worthy site. To help those in need, it's far better than soap on a rope.



Dear Santa,

I'm probably wasting my time writing to you, but let me remind you of some of the requests that you didn't deliver last year.

-New Bentley
-Super Model Wife/Girlfriend
-Body Transplant
-Villa in the Bahamas
-Yacht in Monaco.

This year I have only one simple request, I want a visit to Belfast. As you know I'm a vulnerable simpleton cripple and it's my duty to be targeted. There is a dangerous one who goes by the name Laura Lee and she specialises in targeting the likes of me and she visits Belfast. She has what she calls toys, I wouldn't like to tell you what she does with them it would probably kill an old man like you if I told you. Be careful Santa, she is well connected, friends in high places, her BEST Friends are the DUP you know those Lovely Upright Law Abiding God Fearing Political Citizens that look out for everyone, especially women.

Those lovely nuns at Ruhama, they are the ones who told me that she is dangerous, in fact they say she is pure evil. She writes blogs about how she loves to target the likes of me, she bragged on Twatter recently how she had her wicked way with another vulnerable fella in Inverness then she stole all his belongings and ran over his cat. After she had her wicked way with another she made soup and sandwiches for him but the nuns tell me that if you sample her culinary skills that's probably the end of you. They say it's worse than having to eat Kangroo Balls on I'm a Muppet in the Jungle. The poor sod is probably cat and hamster food by now you can't get any more evil than that Santa.

She also makes television about targeting the likes of us vulnerable ones, I've been asked recently by a television station to star in her new show "I'm a cripple get me out of here". In fact the nuns are trying to capture her and put her in a safe house but between you and me I think there's a better chance of them finding a bisexual leprechaun with hen's teeth. They have told me it's just as well that I'm a vulnerable simpleton cripple, that way I don't understand just what she's up to when I'm targeted. She has told me that I'm lovely and then she said the other day that I'm a good one but Santa you know that's just not true. Apparently that's part of her plan to trap me. I think that's the drugs. Those nuns say she only does all this because she and all her mates are junkies.

She told me the first time that we met that just because I'm a vulnerable simpleton cripple, doesn't get me off my duties as a man, and she wouldn't let me leave until I did. She seem to love it and wriggled around smiling and moaning, but I know that's just the badness trying to escape her.

If you ignore this request like last year's, I will have to arrange to borrow a decommissioned surface to air missile and then you will be the one, Mr Clause who will be targeted when you fly over my house on Christmas Eve.

Yours,

Frustrated of Fermanagh

Monday, 15 December 2014

Women's Aid NI - The Truth


The following is a guest post from an anonymous author, given the sensitive nature of the information, you'll see why.

Women's Aid across the island of Ireland have made no bones about their support for the criminalisation of clients. In the Republic, they're vocal participants in the Turn off the Red Light campaign. In the North they lobbied the Stormont Assembly and as we're a bit short of nuns, have become the most powerful NGO to speak out on he subject. For years we all knew Women's Aid were the experts on domestic abuse and violence, but now it seems, they're experts at everything. So much so, that they were invited onto the committee that oversaw the research into prostitution in Northern Ireland commissioned by the Department of Justice.


For half a year, I would presume under the watchful eye of that committee, academics at Queen's University drew up their plans and then carried out their research - which included a number of interviews with sex workers in the country. Then, just before the paper was published, Women's Aid withdrew from the committee claiming that the research was..

"deeply flawed and lacks a basic understanding of the links between prostitution, human trafficking, and the spectrum of sexual exploitation that is taking place in Northern Ireland."

Their action was a gift to the DUP. Their MLA and peer Lord Morrow was the sponsor of the bill - our very own William Wilberforce. In the final remarks before voting clause 15 through last week, they echoed Women's Aid's views on the research - dismissing it out of hand.

Why? Well, the people who were interviewed didn't want clause 15. And that didn't suit the DUP and Sinn Fein's political agenda to be seen to work together.

Simples.

I thought Women's Aid had washed their hands of involvement after their hissy fit over the research but then I learned that they couldn't quite afford to let the issue go.

Last week I heard that the same organisation that dismissed the views of sex workers completely now feels it's a suitable body to offer an exiting service to sex workers.

I'm sorry?

You wouldn't listen to what we had to say in our interviews in the research and now you expect us to come to you if we want to move on?

How can I explain this, Women's Aid, in a way you'll understand.

I know.

Fuck off.