This leaflet was written for the “Sex Work from an Anarchist Perspective” discussion at the Anarchist Bookfair 09.
Question anyone who claims to represent workers. You may hear (today or whenever discussing this issue) confident claims that “sex workers think x” or “sex workers want y.” You may hear that the thing they want is for men to have more freedom and less restrictions to buy them. That the main thing they want (because they all speak with one voice and the experts, like the ones today, speak for them all) is to defeat Clause 13 of the Policing and Crime bill currently being read (which makes punters responsible for asking whether a woman or child or man they want sex off has been coerced). You might hear that the main thing children and women who sell sex want, is a bigger, free-er, less regulated industry. That there is no problem with managers. That, unlike all other workers, they are happy to not get paid, just work for tips (like they have to in lap dancing clubs around here) That there is no exploitation in the sex industry. That harm is minimal. There is no pressure. No coercion. No grooming. No history of abuse. No poverty. That sex work is intentional. Chosen. Better paid than other crappy jobs, even when just working for tips. That millions of children all around the world grow up aspiring to ‘be sex workers’ and that the ‘sex workers’ on the panel today can tell you, with authority, what they want.
Challenge the Bosses AND Challenge the Union
Challenge claims that unlike people trafficking for agricultural, domestic and sweatshop purposes (which even the Guardian accepts exists!), that unlike other forms of pressured migration, trafficking for sexual purposes doesn’t exist. That it is a myth, a moral panic, ‘victim feminist’ bleating on the part of women who just don’t seem to get how that the neoliberal sex industry has empowered children and women. Query claims that ‘sex workers’ are mostly or 50% male; that the global sex industry is not driven by men wanting to buy women and girls. Challenge claims that the industry is not as murderously exploitative as other big business. Challenge any union that uses the underground nature of the industry to hide figures, hide the ratio of managers to ground-level workers in its membership. Challenge any union or ‘prostitutes group’ which doesn’t fight managers. Which doesn’t campaign against exploitation or fight for proper wages. Which doesn’t challenge workplace structure. Which never ever threatens to withdraw labour. Which never mentions industrial action because (unlike everywhere else) there’s no problem with bosses, only with regulation. Which informs you about the internal injuries you’re going to get, but doesn’t suggest getting out.
Dig deep into yourself and ask yourself why you don’t work in a brothel. If ‘sex work’ is so ok, and those millions of women and children and men choose it, why don’t you? Jobcentres have started advertising for female phone sex line operators, web-cam performers and lap dancers. Should young women be made to take those jobs? No? What if demand outstrips supply? Should there ever be restriction on global male sexual entitlement or should men just be able to get what they want, how they want, when they want it?
Talk to the People, Let the People talk to you
Don’t believe me. Don’t believe the IUSW. Don’t believe the ECP. Even, don’t believe the Poppy project! Don’t just believe educated, relatively privileged people talking shit at bookfairs. Before you slope off to the pub tonight, why not do your own research? Why not chat to the women working the Mile End Road – about their lives, the conditions of their work, whether they chose it, whether they like it. How they define sex. Whether they have orgasms. What THEY identify as the real issues which affect their work. Get a translator — Lithuanian, Bantu, Bengali, Uzbek — talk to them!
Imagine A World Not Based on Male Sexual Entitlement
Think about sex. Be honest about your experience, whether you’re male or female. Some people define sex as experience/s and processes pleasurable to any/all concerned. Some people query whether men paying to get serviced is, actually, ‘sex’ and therefore whether the term ‘sex work’ might be bullshit. Some people query whether women and children actually get off on servicing men as much as popularly portrayed on tv or porn. Try to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Question whether internet porn (which increasingly drives what men demand) really serves women and children (and also men) sexually. And FINALLY If you are going to speculate about a libertarian utopia where all transactional sex is fine, why not imagine a reversal of power relations. Like, art, architecture, popular culture, based on genuine self-defined female sexualities. Imagine cunt shaped cavernous buildings with indoor waterfalls and sheelagh na gigs everywhere. Imagine everything based on representations of clitorises and wombs and contractions and aspects of women’s real bodies. Imagine everyone was based around females being served and serviced. I’m not even saying this is a good thing! But it is a thought. Have fun speculating, But try to remember real power relations in the real world, here and now.