Monday, 4 August 2014

Hoarding versus hookers


See, here's the thing, I'm often accused of glamourising the industry. I honestly don't think I do, in fact I've written in the past about how I spend a lot of my time talking newbies OUT of joining the sex industry, but for those who still think I do, here's a tale of woe. Incidentally, I wouldn't recommend reading this whilst tucking into your dinner.

A long time ago and in a town far away, I had a call. The voice was articulate, pronounced and filled me with visions of deep filled hot tubs and chilled glasses of champagne. I'll admit, I was naughty and looked up the address on Google maps. Well, this would be a treat. Discretion he said, was paramount. Status, you know.

After a two hour drive, I found the house. It was well off the beaten track and very beautiful. Pulling into the carpark, I sent my guy a text message to say I had arrived and my heart did a little dance when the reply came - "On my way". I suppose I had a vision of Downton Abbey - "Let's get rid of the pesky house staff so we can be absolutely filthy." Reality, I'm afraid, hit me hard across the face and dunked my head down the toilet whilst continuously flushing for good measure.

From within the bowels of that beautiful building came an apparition. Oh, the accent was still in evidence but picture if you will, the father from Steptoe and Son and you're half way there. Before me stood a man in tracksuit bottoms which can best be described as crusty, insofar as they could have stood up and walked to the washing machine on their own. One hand was gamely picking his ear wax as the other was rooting in the under carriage of his tracksuit bottoms on his approach. It was the latter hand which was drawn out to meet me and ever the professional (shut it), I shook his hand. "Delighted to meet you, I'm Laura." He didn't speak, but rather continued to massage his lower lip in a quasi menacing fashion whilst looking me up and down. "BAGS ?"

I offered him my overnight bag from the boot of my car and made to follow him into the house. Oh, this was bad. His sweater was obviously bearing the remnants of several evening meals without any apologies to anyone. I needed time to think. "Could we have tea, do you think, before, you know ....?" He smiled and led the way to the lounge and here, I began to appreciate the issue. He had, he explained, had a very acrimonious break up with his wife and as they both loved the house and couldn't bear to sell it, they reached an agreement to split it down the middle. Literally. So, as he didn't cook, the kitchen was hers and his kettle etc, was in the lounge.

That wouldn't have been a problem, had we been able to see the kettle, or even the floor. Very often I've watched hoarding programs on television and wondered how on earth people can live like that and if it's made up. I'm here to tell you, it isn't. Hoarding would have been one thing but it was the abject filth that went with it which got me. Piles and piles of pizza boxes, empty beer cans, bottles of spirits, chippy wrappers, dirty clothes, over flowing ashtrays and what I'll always remember, hundreds and hundreds of VHS porn videos. The bathroom was indescribable, with cigarette butts crushed into the sink, a toilet that should have been referred to the World Health Organisation and in the last word in irony, an air freshener hanging from the door to the shower with a display of mould and spider webs.

Leading me through to the bedroom, which he proudly displayed with a sweep of his arm, I surveyed the scene in utter dismay. Here was a single bed I suspect rats would avoid. As sexily as I could, I slowly began to strip, taking an extraordinary amount of time in removing each item of carefully chosen clothing. As he neared closer, it was now I began to notice that his teeth didn't quite meet in the way they ought to and in fact clacked when he was talking. He peeled off his sweater to reveal a chest which was dark with dirt, that's the only way I can describe it. From there, he ran his yellow, calloused, fingers up the inside of my thighs, whilst leaning into my neck. "I want you", he breathed, and drew me closer. Nothing, but NOTHING prepared me for the bonus, that thick layer of green scum over his tongue. As his head dipped towards me, I won't say I shouted, it was more of a guttural scream.

"I CAN'T DO THIS. I'M SO SORRY I HAVE A MIGRAINE. YOU CAN HAVE YOUR MONEY BACK."

"Oh for fuck sake, you're the third escort I just couldn't click with."

There are times, when to bite your tongue rather than point out the screamingly obvious green furry one, is the far better option.

Now, ask yourself, still think I glamourise the industry ? Still think I paint a picture of some euphoric utopia ? And while I'm on it, still think that because a man pays a sex worker, we have to do exactly what he says ? The answer to all the above is no, a refund was issued, resulting in a drive home and a very grateful dive in to my pyjamas. Never has one woman been more glad to see her cowprint onesie.

LL xx

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

They shoot hookers, don't they ?


Guest post on the recent shootings of sex workers in Baghdad.

They certainly do in Baghdad.

But where is the outrage from the Fem Nazis? Where is the team of ‘British specialists’ sent out to Baghdad to investigate by our Prime Minister David Cameron? Where is Michelle Obama gormlessly holding up a #BringBackOurGirls sign? Where is the hysterical Twitter campaign?

Perhaps if we were to relabel those women as ‘vulnerable victims of evil sex traffickers’ their death might attract more sympathy? As independent women, standing tall amidst the chaos of Baghdad, supporting themselves, not relying on some well funded NGO organisation to ‘rescue’ them, or a politically correct British barrister to demand the removal of their ‘demeaning’ burka, they were, as with the proverbial British Rail ‘wrong kind of snow on the line’ – simply the ‘wrong kind of women’ to be deserving of the ritual hand wringing on the six o’clock news.

A year and a day after the infamous ‘Swedish model‘ killed Petite Jasmine, on 12 July 2014 Iraqi abolitionists gunned down 29 sex workers in an apartment building in Baghdad.

That is exactly what happened, in simple words.

An abolitionist is an abolitionist, and an extremist is an extremist whether Radfem or Muslim. It is a little bit moot whether you kill someone with a bullet or by making their lives impossible while cranking up the stigmas with hate speech (the preferred method in Europe and America).

You are still just as dead, and in my honest opinion the bullet is quicker and cleaner.

This is not hyperbole either, on 8 July the French Senate voted to remove the clauses penalising sex buyers from proposed legislation, leaving behind only decriminalisation and provision of exit resources. Their argument was that, properly examined, it is clear that ‘Swedish model’ legislation does not work in terms of reducing the sex industry, but has a significant negative impact on sex workers and places their safety at considerable risk – just common sense really.

The remaining argument to be made against that by abolitionists involves attacking sex workers head on, much as beauty queens were once attacked, as complicit enemies of gender equality. A few days ago that seemed a good thing that would show the true viciousness and callous indifference of the abolitionist movement for what it is. Today I am not so sure.

“The apartment complex is known for prostitution and in the past prostitutes have been the targets of extrajudicial killings there by Muslim extremists. It was not clear if that was what happened this time. However, if the targets were prostitutes, it is unlikely that would cause the kind of backlash that a large-scale sectarian killing would.“

People know very little about Iraq. It has often been presented in the media as a primitive country not unlike the Yemen. In the real world, Iraq, land of the Tigris and Euphrates, was the cradle of civilisation, and its indigenous people and culture are more closely related to the Jews than the Bedouins, while being unique and very different to both.

Iraq was a sophisticated country before the Ottoman Empire, let alone before the first Gulf war. In truth Iraq was a pretty sophisticated country before Abraham. Sadly, like any old and sophisticated culture Iraq tends to fast breed political intrigue, much of it toxic, hence the apparently endless trouble.

Regardless, you can forget any image of Iraqi sex workers as illiterate peasant girls. It doesn’t work that way in Iraq.

Salon.com Joshua E. S. Phillips 25 June 2005 – Unveiling Iraq’s teenage prostitutes

Cnn.com Arwa Damon August 16 2007 – Iraqi women: Prostituting ourselves to feed our children

Al Monitor July 9 2009 – Iraq’s Prostitutes Inhabit a Dark, Dangerous World

Wikipedia: Prostitution in Iraq

Blip.TV (video) – Alive in Baghdad Iraqi Refugees Forced Into Prostitution

CNN (video) November 2009 – Prostitution in Iraq

Some of it is exaggerated, most of it is spun to agenda, except for the noticeable absence of anyone with the raw cheek to suggest that ‘ending the demand’ would be in any way helpful.

(Listen to their stories, where on earth would any ‘Swedish model’ fit in constructively?)

What I want you to take in is the element of ‘same old…same old’ particularly in the videos.

The women who were gunned down by people who wanted to abolish them are just like any other sex workers in the media, they are just like you, and they are just like me.

They were my sisters and they were yours, just as much as Jasmine, and they are just as violently dead. I cannot help wondering about the coincidence. The first anniversary of Jasmine’s death fell on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, and I am not sure how that works. It may have the same weight as the Jewish Sabbath with some Muslims.

If ever there were a clearer message that *STIGMA KILLS* I have not seen it.

…and the Western Press brushes it under the carpet. So far the UK and Irish press are mostly ignoring it apart from a brief piece in the Telegraph. The Irish Times makes reference to the death of ’29 women in an apartment block’ but no mention that they were sex workers, despite the fact that ‘punished for prostitution’ was written on the door of the building like an edict.

The BBC went with ‘At least 20 of those killed were said to be women’ - ‘said to be women‘? Obviously not the ‘right kind of women’ for anyone to be sure! ‘The motive for the killings is not clear‘ continues the BBC copy – despite then quoting:

Writing left on the door of one of the buildings read: “This is the fate of any prostitution,” AFP news agency reports.

Locals in Zayouna have accused Shia militias of killing women thought to be prostitutes, Reuters news agency reported. The neighbourhood is a mixed district of Sunni and Shia Muslims.

A brothel in Zayouna was attacked in May 2013, with seven women and five men shot dead.

Only for the BBC is the motive ‘unclear’…

Of course there is a punchline that changes everything. I have done a lot of research no journalist seems to have bothered with today.

Several European services regularly book tours for ‘Escorts’ – another euphemism – in Iraq, there is also some evidence of British sex workers operating in Iraq.

Stand by for the hysteria when it is discovered that one of those murdered women was a British passport holder, a ‘child’ no less, enslaved by evil jihadists…until then…

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Every. Fecking. Time.


"The Good Lord only gives you that which he thinks you can bear; no more, no less. Further, every trial and tribulation is sent to teach you a lesson about yourself - resilience, strength, patience, tolerance, or in your case how feckin' dim you've been to get yourself into that situation in the first place."

Those wise words of my Nan still make me smile and have never been more apt than the last six months, which have been a test of gigantic proportions. So much so that I've developed a theory. In the same way that psychopaths lack empathy, I believe that my psyche is lacking that element which says, "That's it, I'm off."

Let's start with the appearance I did at the Northern Irish Assembly in which I was told that I'm financed by pimps and target vulnerable disabled men for my own benefit. Further, I was told that a Justice Committee "do not need evidence." Lovely. That didn't actually get to me until I boarded the boat home that evening and it began to sink in. That any human being in a position of trust and responsibility could be so unprofessional and downright rude, all whilst maintaining an air of sanctimonious righteousness is astounding. What was even more perplexing was when my complaint about that behaviour was cast to one side.

I was home a matter of weeks when having had my real name revealed to the abolitionists present on the day of my NIA appearance, COMPLETELY by coincidence, I had a letter from HMRC to say they had singled me out for a tax inspection. (This is the price you pay as an activist, it's seen as just punishment for daring to question the lies and seemingly unquestionable bottomless funding that the abolitionist NGO's enjoy.) I have nothing to hide, and have years of accountant prepared reports, but even so, spending my evenings going back over every strawberry flavoured condom purchased is something I could have done without.

Finally, and after many months of arguing, I satisfied the requirements of HMRC and was given the all clear. Next up, exams. I became feral for several weeks, and surviving on a diet of Diet Coke and crunchy nut cornflakes I locked myself in to my office and crammed. I'm really not sure how I did, nowhere near as good as if I had really studied to the best of my ability but then when you're holding off HMRC and abolitionists, there's only so much you can do. Finally through the exams and back on the road to enjoy a summer of freedom from any major stresses, I landed back in Belfast.

Day one was grand, enjoyable appointments and good craic. Day two started off like any other working day, sprinting down the stairs at the very last minute for breakfast before hitting the shower in preparation for a busy day. Having carefully laid out my towel, coconut body butter, razor and shower gel, I stepped in to the shower. I'm not sure if you've ever seen those injuries sustained by footballers where their knee goes in completely the wrong direction, but in a nutshell, I did that in conjunction with the splits. Feel free to wince, it goes one eighth of the way towards the guttural screams which emanated from my hotel room.

It's funny what goes through your mind when you've had a bad shock. I was naked, wet and in a crumpled heap at the bottom of a shower cubicle and I knew that my right leg was badly injured and wouldn't take my weight. So I crawled, out of the bathroom and pulled myself up on to the bed where I dried off and got some clothes on. What next ? "Well", I reasoned, "I'm going to be in feckin' A & E all day so I might as well have a ciggy". Yes, that's right, with a leg which was starting to resemble that of an elephant and turning fantastic colours, I hopped over to the other side of the room and hung out the window. By now the shock was beginning to wear off and pain was setting in so I called for help, and David (one of my lovely guys from Belfast), came to my rescue. He picked me up and brought me to A & E and waited with me all day while they did tests, x-rays, and that loud hissing noise through the teeth, usually reserved for mechanics about to hand you a monster bill. End tally = ankle broken in two places, dislocated knee and assorted torn tendons. Full house.

Aside from the fact that I was now facing six weeks off work with no income and probably lots of pain, I was also wondering how the hell I was going to get to Glastonbury. Y'see, I'd been asked if I could go quite some time previously, so what followed was a very animated "discussion" with the hospital consultant. Really, I could have saved us both a lot of time by introducing him to anyone who knows me well, I was going and that was final. Go I did, and it was fantastic, until my motability scooter got bogged down in the mud and I had to be towed out by four burly security men. (In fairness, I've been ably assisted by security men towards the exit in the past, but this wasn't my fault and was particularly mortifying.)

A product of 1950's Catholic Ireland, my Dad doesn't do "I love you". He did say it once but that was after sustained familial pressure when I was emigrating to the US. (I was back ten days later, but that's a story for a whole other time.) No, the best you get from Dad is as follows -

"I'll give you one thing. Life knocks you back but by God, you get up. Every. Fecking. Time."

LL xx

P.S : I'd like to thank everyone who has supported me when I've been unable to work, including Jewel of Edinburgh, Lucy Smith of Ugly Mugs, David (as mentioned above) and the very many others. It means more to me than you'll ever know. Three more weeks and I'm back on my feet.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Northern Ireland, we need you !



As you know, the debate on the implementation of the Swedish model in Northern Ireland has been heating up and is expected to conclude in the autumn. It has been a long and drawn out battle, but the passion and resilience of a number of people have kept the abolitionists on their toes, in spite of a very heavily funded campaign built on proven lies. Now it's your turn. Justice Minister Ford has called for evidence around the sex industry in NI, because he wants to be informed of the facts, which is very admirable. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of research which can be called upon to give him, so a new study has been commissioned and is well under way.

What is crucially important about this study is that it is impartial, factual and accurate. The researchers are respected academics and want to hear from anyone who has ever bought or sold sex in Northern Ireland. They want to meet and discuss your experiences whether those were good, bad or indifferent because it's important that a true cross section is sampled. Your anonymity is guaranteed and your opinion matters, so please consider the invite below and have your voice heard. It is apathy and silence which have historically allowed crippling laws to be passed, causing real harm to sex workers and indeed those around us. Let silence no longer be the biggest ally to those abolitionists who would do us harm.

LL xx

STUDY ON PROSTITUTION IN NORTHERN IRELAND

What is this about?

We are doing research on the sex industry in Northern Ireland. The project was commissioned by the Department of Justice and aims to provide a detailed understanding of the sex industry (i.e. who sells which services where and why, and to whom). The findings from the may be used to inform policy and debate within Northern Ireland.

How can you help?

We are looking for people to interview – both people who sell and who buy sex. All interviews are anonymous and confidential. We don’t need to know your real name. If we use quotes or information from the interview in the report we will write, they will be anonymized so that that your are not identified.

Who are we?

We are a team of researchers based at Queen’s University Belfast and at the National University of Ireland in Galway. Most of the interviews will be undertaken by Susann Huschke. If you would prefer to be interviewed by a male researcher, this can be arranged.

What’s in it for you?

You will not be paid to participate in this research project. The interviews are important in terms of informing debate and giving voice to those who sell and pay for sex. This is an opportunity for you to have your voice, experience and issues heard. You are free to not answer questions that make you uncomfortable, and to withdraw from the study at any stage (we will then not use the interview in any material that we produce).

Are there other ways of participating?

At a later stage, we will also be doing a survey which can be filled out online anonymously. Both the interviews and the survey are essential and important parts of the study, if you are interested in taking part in one or the other, or both, or if you have any further questions, please contact me via email:

Dr Susann Huschke
Queen’s University Belfast
Email: sexwork.research.NI@gmail.com
Phone: +44(0) 28 9097 5155

The SURVEY FOR CLIENTS (people who pay for sexual services) is available in English here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SexworkResearch_ClientSurvey

The SURVEY FOR SEX WORKERS/ESCORTS is available in English and 9 other languages here:

English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Research_SexWork_English
Bulgarian/ български: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Izsledvane_Prostitucija_Balgarski
French/français: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Recherche_Prostitution_Francais
Italian/italiano: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Ricerca_Prostituzione_Italiano
Polish/polski: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Badanie_Prostytucja_Polski
Portuguese/português: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Pesquisa_Prostituicao_Portugues
Romanian/românesc: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Cercetare_Prostitutie_Roman
Russian/ ру́сский: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Issledovanie_Prostitucija_Russkij
Spanish/español: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Investigacion_Prostitucion_Espanol

Sunday, 6 April 2014

On the sex work debate - an Irish client


What has disgusted and scared me more than anything about this legislation is the deliberate lies and misinformation being fed by the abolitionists to a gullible and depressingly pliable media and political class. The blind acceptance of these supposed facts and supposed morality is incredible. I had initially and naively supposed that much of the opposition to sex work was due to a lack of understanding of the issue and an unwillingness to seek out or accept the truth. I now realise that the abolitionist agenda is infinitely more sinister and cynical, more akin to mob rule and a theocracy than a supposed democratic state.

I'm not ashamed to say that I am a purchaser of sexual services, one of those people who, despite having a criminal record consisting of two parking tickets, would be locked up if TORL and the Magdalenes had their way. Having had several devestating relationship experiences and vowed 'never again', I chose an option which was both transparent and honest for both parties -- visiting an escort.

I'll freely admit that prior to my first visit, I had, like many, a stereotypical view of those selling sex. I had vague notions of drug users, of deeply unhappy or even coerced women in filthy rooms, staring at the ceiling until the act was over. I entered the building fully prepared to walk straight out again if such ideas were true. Instead, I was greeted by a friendly, intelligent woman who calmed my nerves, provided a wonderful experience, chatted freely afterwards and left me with a renewed faith in human nature. Nothing I have experienced since has changed that view and talking and listening to sex workers has merely reinforced it.

I'm not naive enough to pretend that everything in the garden of sex work is rosy. Just because I, or those I have talked with, haven't personally encountered obvious drug users or trafficking doesn't mean they don't exist. The ladies I visit tend to be more mature (over 30) and are usually Irish or English. But what I do know is that the homogeneous, stereotypical abolitionist view of all sex workers is absolutely wrong.

Sex workers are people. They are people with families, with children, with needs and aspirations like everyone else. They have chosen that work for many different reasons, some positive, some negative. But it is not some simple issue that can be dealt with by one piece of misinformed legislation driven by fear, prejudice and hatred. Sex workers in the job by choice and trafficking victims cannot be lumped together legislatively, any more than trafficked and willing agricultural workers should be.

None of the women I have visited remotely resemble the abolitionist stereotype. A lady I met this week is a prime example. Escorting for a number of years now, she is highly intelligent and is working on a diploma to follow her university degree. She is entirely independent and genuinely loves her work. It was an absolute delight to be in her company, not only for her services but for her winning personality. For an agreed fee, we spent a wonderful, mutually fulfilling hour together. Neither of us needed to pretend that such a transaction means anything more than human companionship and the sexual act. We are two consenting adults being mutually beneficial -- financial reward for a professional service (and it IS a professional service, both physically and psychologically). I went home calm and fulfilled and I'm not ashamed to say I felt and still feel happier than at almost any time in my life.

How is this wrong exactly? Why should I be criminalised for a consenual act? Why should an escort be deprived of her income and her freedom of choice? Why should legislation based on lies, greed, one-sided consultation and a deliberate denial of reality be allowed to destroy sex workers' lives? Such legislation will decimate their good and respectful clients and leave them in genuine danger on several fronts. Sweden proves that criminalising clients doesn't get rid of sex workers or trafficking. Norway are due to vote this summer on repealing their client criminalisation law. France have allowed the proposed legislation to be indefinitely delayed in their upper house. Other countries have rejected it out of hand. Hardly surprising as it doesn't work, unless making sex workers lives a misery is somehow a measure of success.

Sex work is like any other. It has its downsides, but having worked in a vile financial institution where nervous breakdowns and even suicides were almost routine, it's hardly the worst. Sex work, if harmful at all, is hugely less so than the sale of alcohol or cigarettes. Yet sex workers are stigmatised and have their lives needlessly complicated by laws making them work alone. But that is nothing compared to the behaviour of the abolitionists. Several sex workers I have spoken to stated that they had next to no problems from clients, but unbelievable vitriol and abuse from the supposed moral guardians, many of whom have an appalling past and are in no position to judge anyone. These people need to be seen for what they are -- hypocrites dealing in lies and abuse for financial gain and control.

If we as a country give in to this kind of twisted and breath-takingly dishonest campaigning, virtually everything else is up for grabs.

The message to legislators is simple. Leave sex work alone. Stop pretending that fiction is reality. Allow the police to deal with traffickers and abusers. Give sex workers respect and help when they genuinely need it. If you're morally opposed to sex work, don't buy sexual services. And give consenting adults the basic privacy and respect they deserve.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Sex Workers Response, Stop the Criminalisation of Sex Work – Safety First!


Sex workers from a number of European countries including Sweden will be speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday 26 March 2014.

Where: Committee Room 12
When: Wednesday 26 March, 6.30-8.30pm
Hosted by: John McDonnell MP
Organised by: English Collective of Prostitutes and the People’s Parliament

An All-Party Parliamentary Group recently recommended changing the prostitution laws to criminalise clients. They are doing this without even releasing any analysis of the evidence. We don’t even know how many of the respondents supported this recommendation. Claims that sex workers will be decriminalised aren’t true. ASBOs would continue to be used against any woman who didn’t “rehabilitate”; they have already massively increased women’s imprisonment.

Similar proposals have been put forward in various European countries. The meeting will hear about the impact on sex workers’ safety of increased criminalisation and the creative and determined campaigns by sex workers and supporters against these measures.

International speakers:

Carina Edlund, Rose Alliance, Sweden, will speak about the increased stigma and discrimination resulting from of the 1999 Swedish law which criminalised clients.
“Before even thinking of a law that criminalises men who buy sex, UK politicians should hear from Swedish sex workers like myself about how we have treated under the law. We are still criminalised if we work together in apartments, we risk losing our home if we sell sex there even if we own it, social workers treat as like children and we can even lose custody of our kids because we are seen as victims suffering from a form of self-harm who can't take care of ourselves. This law should be taken away not exported to other countries.”

Ariane G, Germany – problems of working within a state-run legalised system.

Aisling Gallagher, Women's Officer NUS-USI -- the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill and its anti-gay proponents.

Morgane Merteuil, STRASS, France – spearheading opposition to a law criminalising clients which has just been approved by the National Assembly.

Jenny O, Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland – staving off proposals to criminalise clients from groups with a history of running Magdalene laundries and imprisoning “fallen women”.

Molly Smith, Scotpep, Scotland – defeating the proposed: “Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill”.

Luca Stevenson, International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe – Europe wide opposition to MEP Mary Honeyball’s EU motion to criminalise clients.

ALSO
· Lori Bora, Soho Working Girls -- the impact of mass raids and closures

· Prof. Colin Francome -- polling the public on the criminalisation of clients

· Jean Johnson, Hampshire Women’s Institute – support for decriminalisation among women’s organisations.

· Nicola Mann, Women Against Rape -- what is needed to improve sex workers’ safety.

· Nandi Lothar, All African Women’s Group -- prostitution arising from government enforced destitution.

· Vera Rodriguez, dancer, x:talk-- the impact of re-defining lap-dancing clubs as sex entertainment venues.

· Didi Rossi, Queer Strike – lgbtq support for decriminalisation of consenting sex.

· Robert Jappie, Release -- effects of criminalisation on drug users.

· Paula Yanev, English Collective of Prostitutes -- knowing our rights.

· Clayton Littlewood, author – Soho support for its sex worker residents.

· Toni Mac -- Sex Worker Open University

· Dr. Nic Mai – migrant sex workers and trafficking

· Nigel Richardson, Hodge, Jones & Allen – sex workers’ legal defence



Cari Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes, which is organising the meeting with the People’s Parliament commented:

“The existing prostitution laws force sex workers to work in isolation and danger, so change is urgently needed. But criminalising clients will be a disaster for sex workers undermining safety and increasing stigma.

We are appalled that at a time when benefit cuts and sanctions, lowering wages, increased homelessness, and debt are forcing more women, particularly mothers, into prostitution, the best that MPs can come up with is to increase criminalisation. These proposals will further divert police time and resources from investigating rape, trafficking and other violent crimes to policing consenting sex.

Why did the APPG ignore New Zealand which decriminalised in 2003 with verifiable improvements in sex workers safety?[1] Canada’s Supreme Court threw out the prostitution laws for violating women’s right to safety.[2] This wasn’t even mentioned by the APPG.”

Monday, 10 March 2014

A level playing field


When I became a sex workers' rights campaigner, I knew that when I stuck my head above the parapet there would be consequences. I knew there would be mockery, name calling etc. but that's okay with me. I'm a very strong woman, and when I'm let off the leash I'm fierce too, especially when it comes to the rights of our so often stigmatised group.

I was ready for it all, and boy did I get it in spades. In particular, the Irish abolitionists have been hard work, and they fight dirty. I'll never prove it was them of course, but I now find myself in the middle of a tax investigation which I could really do without on top of studying, working, parenting and campaigning. I'll get through it in time, it's just tedious.

In Ireland, to have a current sex worker prepared to go on camera and talk openly about the realities of the sex trade is as rare as hen's teeth and it is a valuable media platform which must not be wasted, not for a second. By waste, I mean that nothing should stand in my way of getting the most important message across which is that my twenty years of experience are absolutely nothing like what Rachel Moran and The Magdalene Sisters (Ruhama) have been peddling, in order to continue with the sales of her book and of course their continued funding.

In her evidence to the NIA, Moran was asked to comment on my evidence as a woman who said she enjoyed the sex trade, and her response was a lofty - "We call them the pimp's union." In addition, Jim Wells and Co. alleged that I'm funded by pimps and am effectively a front for pimps, all of which is absolutely untrue.

I came to the conclusion that in order to be an effective spokesperson for sex workers, I need to stand on my own two feet and speak from my life experience without abolitionists screaming - "PIMP LOBBY", every time I open my mouth. You see, I don't mind if they shout and bawl at me, truth be known I enjoy a robust "debate". But when a constant stream of hate is propelled my way because of the actions of others, that's not fair. And since I appeared at the NIA it has been absolutely vile, with comments about my daughter "coming of age" and one man who speculated whether I had a special uncle who liked to play games in the wendy house with me - I wish I was joking. This, (he said) is the only reason he could see why I "hang out with pimps".

That was the last straw.

For those reasons I have decided to step back from the IUSW, my health and welfare and that of my daughter come before anything else. Always have, and always will. Rest assured, I'm not going anywhere, I will campaign for sex workers' rights until the day they put a tag on my toe (wonderful expression). In fact, later this month it looks like I'm off to Westminster and of course the Labour Party Women's Conference is coming up too.

All I ever needed was a level playing field, because justice and truth have always been on my side.

LL xx