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Imagine opposing big business in ALL its forms. Challenging industry lobbyists. Following the money. Fighting for alternatives. Freeing the world’s poor from having to service the world’s rich. Choosing solidarity with women, children and the world’s poorest.

The deregulated banking industry started the 2008 financial crisis, which paved the way for austerity. Volkswagen fitted cars with devices to cheat emission tests. Food, pharma and agricultural industries lobby governments to minimise controls and accountability, to the detriment of human health and the environment. The licence for the drug Daraprim (vital for people with HIV infection) was purchased by Martin Shkrelrim, who increased its price from $13.50 to $750 a tablet, this was entirely legal.

Does industry deregulation benefit workers? Can industry be trusted to regulate itself for the benefit of people, society or the environment? Sex industry advocates insist that it can.

We are told that prostitution is a free and empowering choice, which (at the same time) poor women ‘need’. We are told this by organisations actively hostile towards the establishment of exit services for prostitutes or support for trafficked women [1]. Opportunities have dwindled as the sex industry has grown, rendering ‘sex work’ compulsory for poor women. Coercion into sex is normally defined as rape: we are told that economic coercion is just ‘work.’

On the premise that ‘sex is a basic human right’ [2], Amnesty International decided in August 2015 to work towards complete decriminalisation of brothels and ‘third party operatives’ (eg pimps). It accepted that women resort to prostitution “due to marginalisation and limited choices” but, dedicated to the cleansing power of money, claimed: “By definition, sex work means that sex workers who are engaging in commercial sex have consented to do so.” [3]

Their circular reasoning magicked away the realities of global female poverty, starvation and suppression of economic alternatives. Their ‘consultation process’ was a sham, as their support for decriminalisation had been decided in advance. They lied about consulting sex industry survivor groups, did not conduct research in any country that had decriminalised the sex industry, and chose to study Norway, which has only had the Nordic Model (the abolitionist model, which involves decriminalising the prostitute her or him self, while criminalising the buyers, pimps and brothel keepers) in place for a year, rather than Sweden, which has had it in place for over a decade. [4]

As survivors, exited women, and women’s liberationists, we are used to the hearing that ‘all work under capitalism is coerced’, and being told that there is no difference, emotionally, physically or psychologically between flipping burgers, and submitting to unwanted sex.

Our experience has been different and we will continue to speak truth to power.

We will tell the truth about our lives. We will tell the truth about the effects of decriminalising the sex industry. In Germany, where there are more restrictions on running a food stall than on running a brothel, prostituted women often live in brothels [5], suffering trauma from their experiences, and developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. [6]

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women’s Taina Bien-Aime describes the normalisation of prostitution as gender apartheid [7]:

“What would happen if every country decriminalized prostitution? […] What marketing slogans would ensue? Might public agencies launch poverty alleviation campaigns? “First Nations, Indigenous, Aboriginal, African-Americans and Global South Populations: Are you Poor, Young, Incested, Transgendered, Homeless? With our help, the Sex Trade will provide you with shelter, food, free condoms and the opportunity to contribute to your (or a foreign) country’s Gross National Product. No experience or education required.”

“By encouraging governments to enshrine the sex trade as just another potential employer, Amnesty is promoting gender apartheid, the segregation of women between those who deserve access to economic and educational opportunities and those who are condemned to prostitution. Make no mistake: as long as women are for sale, no woman will be viewed as equal in corporate boardrooms, in the halls of legislature, or in the home.”

Meanwhile, the definition of ‘sex worker’ remains deliberately vague, so as to include managers (pimps). ‘Sex worker’ groups focus on their need to free the market from constraint, while remaining silent on exploitation, customer violence, murder, stress induced substance abuse, the right to strike, arbitration, withdrawal of labour. The drive to maintain supply to service demand, by any means necessary, is at the core of their activism. UK pimp Douglas Fox was involved in Amnesty’s decision [4]; Mexican pimp Alejandra Gil, who was vice president of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, was, in March this year, found guilty of sex trafficking and sentenced to 15 years in prison [8]; a German brothel operator Felicitas Weigmann, was instrumental in bringing about Germany’s liberalisation/decriminalisation of the sex industry [9]; American Maxine Doogan, of the ‘Erotic Service Providers Union’ is a convicted pimp. [10]

Today you will hear the New Zealand model held up as ‘proof’ that industry decriminalisation works. But in 2012, the Prime Minister of New Zealand admitted that decriminalisation had not reduced the commercial sexual exploitation of children, or street-based prostitution [11]. New Zealand is portrayed as almost a ‘cottage industry’ of independent ‘sex workers’ but the country has its own chain mega-brothels (fully supported by the groups claiming to represent ‘sex workers’) [12], and for homeless, street-based prostitutes with drug and alcohol dependency problems, their experiences are as grim as in any other country [13]. The New Zealand model, like the German one, hasn’t worked.

Fight capitalism. Oppose big business in all its forms. Challenge the lobbyists and the libertarian ‘left’. Free the world’s poor from having to service the world’s rich. Choose solidarity with women and children.

[1] https://sim345.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/the-scarlet-alliancesex-worker-collectives-misogyny-why-they-should-not-be-funded/ (http://tinyurl.com/ob8cqwo)
[2] http://glosswatch.com/2015/08/05/the-amnesty-challenge/ (http://tinyurl.com/q5378qu)
[3] http://files.ctctcdn.com/54482ed6201/46da8bac-36d7-4a59-b9e0-fd79b1aec409.pdf (http://tinyurl.com/q63ry82)
[4] https://thefeministahood.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/what-amnesty-did-wrong/ (http://tinyurl.com/nb6ohss)
[5] http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/human-trafficking-persists-despite-legality-of-prostitution-in-germany-a-902533-2.html (http://tinyurl.com/n9djwvt)
[6] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/taina-bienaime/germany-wins-the-title-of_b_7446636.html (http://tinyurl.com/pzzqsyl)
Also: http://www.trauma-and-prostitution.eu/en/ (http://tinyurl.com/qz6w58a)
[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/taina-bienaime/the-framing-of-gender-apa_b_8273268.html (http://tinyurl.com/ph5q7j6)
[8] http://www.faber.co.uk/blog/a-human-rights-scandal-by-kat-banyard/ (http://tinyurl.com/o7sn887)
[9] http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/human-trafficking-persists-despite-legality-of-prostitution-in-germany-a-902533.html (http://tinyurl.com/n6f6824)
[10] http://archives.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/keep-trafficking-out-of-city/Content?oid=2143391 (http://tinyurl.com/qylpbab)
[11] http://www.odt.co.nz/news/politics/234736/prostitution-law-reform-hasnt-worked-pm (http://tinyurl.com/oawngo8)
[12] http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10887382 (http://tinyurl.com/otagcew)
[13] https://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/street-based-prostitution-in-new-zealand/ (http://tinyurl.com/p7axe4d)

(Flyer for the Anarchist Bookfair 2015)

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This flyer was written for ‘afem2014’

One of the workshops today will challenge so-called ‘sex positive’ thinking, the idea that all sex that isn’t obviously coerced is good, that ‘sexual liberation’ can only mean saying yes to any and all sexual activity. I ask you to take that critical thinking and apply it to the sex industry.

To be truly positive about sex is to say that sex actually matters, that being forced, directly or indirectly, into sexual activity you don’t want is wrong and is abuse, that the right to be able to say no to sex is just as important as the right to be able to say yes.

Prostitution is, fundamentally, submitting to unwanted sex in exchange for money or some other material return. There is a physical and psychological reality to submitting to unwanted sex, this is something sex industry advocates refuse to acknowledge. This is the classic bait-and-switch of sex industry advocates; ‘sex work is work’ so we can’t talk about what it is like to submit to unwanted sex ten times a day, but, at the same time, ‘sex work’ is sex, and to say anything critical about it makes you an anti-sex prude.

There is a tiny global minority of women and men in the sex industry who get to pick and choose, have a great time, and make a load of money, and that’s absolutely great for them, as individuals, in isolation. But, for the vast majority of women and children and men engaging in transactional sex, it represents a lack of choice.

I also ask you to challenge the liberal idea that any choice made without a gun to your head is a free choice. The ‘choice’ of prostitution is to give up the right to say no to unwanted sex. Those who aren’t coerced directly into prostitution and pornography through violence are coerced through poverty; to say that all work under capitalism is coercive is a cop-out; yes, there is harassment and abuse in all kinds of work, but prostitution and pornography are the only ‘jobs’ where the harassment and abuse are the ‘work’.

To say that poor women ‘need’ prostitution for economic reasons is the same as saying that poor women aren’t good for anything other than prostitution. The girls as young as 11 who were groomed, abused, and pimped in Rochdale, Rotherham and elsewhere were dismissed by police and social workers as having made a ‘lifestyle choice’ to be ‘child prostitutes’, because those working class girls were seen as having no other possible value [1].

Sex industry advocates used to argue that decriminalising the sex industry would decrease child prostitution, in 2012 the New Zealand PM admitted that child prostitution had not decreased after decriminalisation [2]. Now, academic sex industry advocates write about the ‘agency’ of ‘juvenile sex workers’ and call the ‘sex’ of a homeless child engaging in survival prostitution a part of that child’s ‘sexuality’ and ‘sex life’ [3].

The reality of decriminalising the sex industry is Germany’s entirely legal, flat-rate brothels, where groups of men can purchase ‘gang bang’ packages; German women do not work in these brothels, women from Eastern Europe do. There has been an increase in trafficking, no significant improvements in the working conditions of prostitutes, and little use of new labour laws [4]. Why else would sex industry advocates try to distance themselves from the German reality by dishonestly calling it “state-run legalised prostitution”? [5]

Of course, getting the police off prostitutes’ backs is important, but the abolitionist model (also called the Swedish or Nordic model), which criminalises the john while decriminalising the prostitute her or himself, achieves that as well. This is something sex industry advocates deliberately and cynically ignore, or outright lie about, by claiming that abolitionists want to criminalise prostitutes.

If you want to find out about the reality of prostitution, you can hear about it from the johns themselves, through the ‘Invisible Men’ project [6]. Sex industry advocates tried to get an exhibition of this work censored, what are they trying to hide? [7]

Notes

[1] “Rochdale Council was criticised for missing opportunities to help victims of a child sex ring after nine of the ringleaders were jailed in May. An independent review found staff who failed to act had said the girls were making “lifestyle choices”.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-19907076

“One father called Children’s Social Care (CSC) up to 50 times, reporting his daughter’s “uncontrollable drinking, running away and difficult behaviour”. Social workers told him she was “a child prostitute”, and he accepted this “because he did not know that it was wrong”, the review said.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-25450512

[2] http://www.odt.co.nz/news/politics/234736/prostitution-law-reform-hasnt-worked-pm

[3] Laura Agustin wrote on her blog: “The issue of young people on the street who have a home somewhere they don’t want to live in – runaways – is always charged because of a widespread refusal to accept that everyone has a sexuality – babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, old people.” Later in the comments thread she denied that she had called prostitution a sexuality, but there is no other way to interpret that paragraph.

http://www.lauraagustin.com/youth-on-the-street-selling-sex-and-end-demand

An LSE blog post talks about the commercial sexual exploitation of children like this: “We argue that the precondition for such research is setting aside ideological positions about sex work and seeking a deeper, broader, and more dynamic understanding of the experiences of young people in commercial sex markets, rather than focusing obsessively on their sex lives.”

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2014/05/02/research-shows-that-minor-sex-trafficking-narratives-do-not-reflect-the-experience-of-many-domestic-sex-workers/

[4] http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/human-trafficking-persists-despite-legality-of-prostitution-in-germany-a-902533.html

[5] On 25th April ’14, the Guardian published a letter from Niki Adams of the ‘English Collective of Prostitutes’, in which she described Germany’s decriminalised sex industry as “state-run legalised prostitution”. The Spiegel article listed above disproves this: “In 2007, then-Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), wanted to make brothels subject to government approval, and fellow CDU member Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was interior minister of the state of Saarland at the time (and who is now governor of the state), supported her. But the two politicians failed to secure a majority within their party and nothing happened.”

[6] http://the-invisible-men.tumblr.com/
http://invisible-men-canada.tumblr.com/

[7] http://www.sexworkeropenuniversity.com/blog/stop-exploiting-sex-workers-scotlands-two-sex-worker-led-organisations-criticise-the-invisible-men-exhibition-call-it-exploitative-non-consensual-silencing

The invisible men projects reproduce the ‘reviews’ written by johns, and reveal a reality of prostitution that sex industry advocates would rather we did not see. The blog post describes the project as ‘hate speech’, but this is what johns say about prostitutes on ‘review’ forums, this is what johns really think about the prostitutes they use.

This leaflet was written for the “Sex Work from an Anarchist Perspective” discussion at the Anarchist Bookfair 09.

Question Authority

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

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.

This leaflet was written for the “Sex Work from an Anarchist Perspective” discussion at the Anarchist Bookfair last weekend.

As radical feminists we feel that there are fundamental flaws and dishonesties to today’s workshop on prostitution*. The organisers of this meeting will tell us that this is not a gendered issue, because in theory women have the right to be sexually serviced too. We will be told that the sex industry doesn’t exist because of male demand, and that there is equivalent demand for/industrial scale of, adult men servicing women. We will be told that, unlike other industries, in the sex industry, demand is rarely met through the coercion of extreme poverty, deception, or more direct violent control.

We will be told that we should not look at women as a class, that instead we have to concentrate on ‘individual women’ in their ‘unique situation’, but the ‘free’ prostitute we will be asked to consider does not exist. She really really wants to be a prostitute (in spite of how dangerous it currently is) and she came to this choice free of poverty, addiction, a history of abuse, violent coercion, manipulation or social pressure. Who is she? Where is she? What remote island was she raised on free from patriarchal pressure (because we would dearly love to move there)? Also, how is she, and the handful of her elite sisters and brothers engaging in ‘free’ prostitution, going to be able to meet demand when men feel entitled to order up a prostitute the same way they order up a takeaway pizza?

It will be denied that the normalisation and expansion of the sex industry affects the social status of all women and girls, and reinforces male dominance and male entitlement; apparently this is an “empty generalisation” compared to our putative ‘free’ prostitute. Saying this is not a gendered issue because women have the right to be sexually serviced too is like claiming anti-vagrancy laws don’t discriminate against the poor because millionaires aren’t allowed to sleep under bridges either.

We maintain that there is a physical and psychological reality to sex, that women’s bodies are not insensate lumps of meat and the vagina/anus is not a passive open hole. There is a physical and psychological reality to being penetrated multiple times a day when you are not aroused; without poverty, without more direct coercion, what would motivate any woman or man to do this?

Some sex industry apologists feel that ‘sex work’ will be necessary in an anarchist society, that if “some men can’t get laid” they have the right to be sexually serviced – so much for women’s ‘sexual freedom’, this is in essence about ensuring men get sexually serviced. Sexual pleasure is an inalienable human right, unless you are the person doing the sexual servicing, at which point it becomes just ‘work’, and having to service all the men who ‘can’t get laid’ is no big deal, physically or psychologically.

If all men have a right to be sexually serviced, and serviced the way they want, when they want, by who they want, someone somewhere will then have to lose the right to say no. What will happen, in our future anarchist society, when not enough women freely choose to be ‘free’ prostitutes? Will some new way be found to manipulate women into it? Will it become an obligation all women have to fulfil, like taking your turn cleaning the toilets? How will this ‘obligation’ be enforced?

The tired old argument about ‘needing’ prostitution to protect (other) women from rape is a gross insult to all the men who manage not to be rapists, even when they ‘can’t get laid’, and is a fundamental misunderstanding of what rape is. Men do not commit rape because they can’t control themselves, it is not a crime of sexual excess, it is a crime of power, of domination and control. Even if rape did occur because men just couldn’t hold it in any longer, how is it going to work in a system of ‘free’ prostitution, with its inevitable long waiting lists given the inevitable scarcity of those wishing to be ‘free’ prostitutes?

Arguments about prostitution being driven underground are just more tacit acknowledgement that this is about men’s right to be sexually serviced, if the men using prostitutes really cared about their welfare, there wouldn’t be any coerced prostitution in the first place. This is also tacit acknowledgement that ‘free’ prostitution will never meet demand as it currently stands.

Saying that the best we can offer poor women is a ‘safe’ way to be sexually assaulted for money is saying that female poverty and male sexual violence is inevitable, and that the world will never change in any significant way. It is also a veiled threat against all women: give us (men) what we want, or we’ll take it anyway and worse.

The ‘anarchism’ on display here is nothing more than a desire to give male supremacism free reign, from men who are not prepared to give up any power.

* We are using the term prostitution rather than ‘sex work’, because the term ‘sex work’ is a deliberate obfuscation which covers up the exploitation inherent in the sex industry (consider the term ‘juvenile sex worker’ used to describe child victims of commercial sexual exploitation). It obscures the lived experience of those directly engaged in transactional sex, it obscures power relations between workers and bosses. Pimps, pornographers, brothel keepers, escort agency managers, telephone sex line operators, those working behind the till in sex shops and sperm donors all call them selves ‘sex workers’.

The sex industry is highjacking the left. Lobbyists for the sex industry have been given a platform at the anti-capitalist, pro-development events taking place around the G20 Summit in London, this is our response:

Fellow Workers: Do we accept the control of others’ sexuality as ‘work like any other’? Do we want to embrace escort agency owners, brothel managers and lap dancing entrepreneurs as comrades?

The IUSW (‘International Union of Sex Workers’) along with other sex industry advocate groups is working with the Lap Dancing Association, Escort Agency owners and punters to deregulate the sex industry. Claiming to speak for all sex workers, they are fighting for more Lap Dancing Venues, continued ‘café style’ licensing for sex establishments, and more widespread sex work ads in Jobcentres.

The IUSW does not distinguish between workers and managers. It identifies owners, controllers and punters equally as sex workers and encourages their membership. It does not promote collective or worker-owned brothels, simply denying any conflict of interest or inequality, between those who ‘sell sex’ and those who ultimately profit from its sale. They deny all research on the incidence of trafficking, maintaining it is rare and that forced prostitution is a myth.

Their recent campaign is focused on stopping the Policing and Crime Bill currently in session. In relation to the sex industry, it aims to: create a new offence of paying for sex with someone who is controlled for gain and introduce new powers to close brothels, modify the law on soliciting, and tighten up the regulation of lap-dancing clubs by reclassifying them as ‘sex encounter establishments’ rather than ‘entertainment’ venues. Although minimal, symbolic and largely unenforceable, it is at least a notional recognition of the harm of pimping and trafficking.

The claim that prostitution is ‘work like any other’ ignores the physical and psychological harm involved. Accepting it as ‘work like any other’ eradicates women’s sexual agency, and reduces sex, for women, to just another piece of drudgework women (or the underclass of prostituted women necessary to fulfil the imperatives of male demand) must undertake to survive, no different to scrubbing a toilet. If sex, for women, is no different to scrubbing a toilet, then rape can’t be that big a deal either. Our culture already sees rape as trivial, the normalisation of prostitution as ‘work like any other’ is gradually helping to cement that attitude.

There is nothing radical about the sex industry. There is nothing transgressive. It is fundamentally a part of the status quo. The sex industry is capitalism in its purest essence, reducing whole people to commodities. The sex industry is also patriarchy in its purest essence, the hierarchy between men and women reified. Patriarchy has always required a class of prostituted women, and has tacitly condoned the sexual abuse of girl children to create this class.

We are feminists and trade unionists. We call for our brothers in the union movement to fight for a fundamental gender equality, which includes fighting the presumption of unlimited access to female bodies through the sex industry. People are NOT FOR SALE.

Increasingly, the media promotes the myth that prostitution is a free, empowering choice. We don’t hear about the boredom, the pelvic inflammatory disease, the sexual dysfunction occasioned by numbing repetitive penetration, the STDs, the pressure to not wear a condom, the 12-hour shifts and the exhaustion, the reality of not being particularly liked or respected by punters. The voices of women harmed in the sex industry are ignored, dismissed as one-offs who made ‘bad choices.’

Prostitution itself is not illegal. But the argument to legalise brothels and further expand all areas of the industry lest it be ‘driven underground into the hands of criminals’ applies equally to child prostitution. Should we legalise child prostitution to keep it ‘out of the hands of criminals’ and to allow frequent health checks and free condoms for prostituted children?

Accepting prostitution as inevitable is to accept that women’s poverty is inevitable, that men’s sexual violence is inevitable. The sex industry is an institution, it creates a demand for women and children that can only be met through poverty and coercion, poor women deserve better choices than between prostitution and poverty.

If prostitution is the ‘only’ available way out of poverty for large numbers of women and children, as claimed by sex industry advocates, should western aid workers, businessmen and soldiers working in the developing world be encouraged to ‘help’ women and children survive by buying them? Should we turn the developing world into one giant brothel to service the west? Or should we fight for real change, and real routes out of poverty?

Should we change society to suit the globally tiny minority of people who claim to actively want to engage in prostitution? Should we accept any industry just because some people want to work in it? How about the arms industry, or the oil industry? What other industries have benefited from deregulation?

Far from promoting freedom and empowerment, the IUSW and other sex industry advocates are exploiting the economic crisis to try to push through their laissez-faire agenda. They are trying to apply the same kind of ‘shock tactics’ used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Iraq after the US invasion, and Sri Lanka after the Tsunami, to push through what is ultimately a neo-liberal, ultra-capitalist agenda.

We are glad ‘the feminist anti prostitution argument’ will be discussed here today. The workshop looks good and we hope it will be productive.

As anti-prostitution feminist activists we may be ‘on the other side’ but there are things we share: we want everyone, sexworker or not, to be safe, to have autonomy in their lives and control over their sexuality.

But. As you celebrate sexwork this weekend, bear in mind the bigger picture. This event may be ‘alternative’ with a more politicised, and LGBTQ sensibility, but consider the following points about the sex industry within the larger society we live in.

  • We all live under patriarchy (or, as bell hooks puts it, white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy), and in the context of an Earth where men, as men, own and control most of the money, land, food and resources, men buying sexual access to woman is not a neutral process.
  • The demand to buy sex, globally, is overwhelmingly male (C4 docs about rich ladies buying Gambian men notwithstanding). It’s about men buying women and children.
  • The rise of internet porn, and the mainstreaming of the sex industry, is pushing an agenda of disinhibited, unrestrained, male entitlement.
  • It is changing sexual and social relations, especially amongst teens.
  • Not for the better.
  • As social/sexual inhibitions are lost, so are economic ones, accelerating the pace of commodification, pushing the agenda that everything has a market value, and we are all expected to accept this uncritically.
  • We’re accused, as radical feminists, of being anti-sex, but the opposite is true. The idea that sex is essentially labour is profoundly anti-sex. We are pro-female sexuality, and think that a liberated, fully expressed female sexuality is incompatible with just servicing men—which is, out there on the streets, what sexwork consists of.
  • The everyday reality for most women workers is not the same as it is for politicised LGBTQ sex workers. Contrary to the claim made by organisers in the Guardian on the 3rd April, we do not believe that only a minority of people want to leave the sex industry (just as exact figures on trafficking are notoriously difficult to prove, this statement is unverifiable). If you don’t believe us, just hang around any of the dozens of lap dance clubs and sex establishments around here and talk to the workers as they come off shift, and a different picture will emerge.
  • As radical feminists we want always to keep consciousness of coercion and trafficking to the fore: London is a major hub of agricultural, construction, domestic, sex and textile work trafficking, with latest research showing the links between these industries (both in terms of interlinked gangs and workers between the industries. As relatively privileged people we don’t see this underclass. But our lives are subsidised, serviced, eased by their labour.
  • Industrial sex happens in a context of a sexually abusive society in which, for many women and children and men, being sexually acted upon has been oppressive not transgressive.
  • The expansion of the mainstream sex industry (more porn, more sexwork ads in job centres, more ‘adult entertainment’ venues) is basically counter to the equality between women and men we fight for.
  • For these reason, we question the value of recruiting into this industry.

Objectification, Exploitation, Capitalism and the Destruction of the Planet (or, You Can’t Eliminate One Hierarchy without Eliminating them All)

This workshop aims to achieve a greater understanding of feminism, and how feminist struggles are not a ‘minority’ interest, but a vital part of the ecological and anti-capitalist movements.

We live in a patriarchy, a hierarchy of men over women. We live in a capitalist society that places man over nature. It is impossible to eliminate one hierarchy while leaving another intact.

We live in a commodified society. Capitalist big business has encroached on almost every aspect of our lives; you can go anywhere in the world and eat the same food, buy same clothes and watch the same TV.

Industrialised sex is encroaching into our personal lives and changing us, altering our sexuality to make us the perfect consumers; never satisfied, never happy.

Pornography eradicates female sexual autonomy and dictates a narrow and limited idea of male sexuality predicated on cruelty coercion and degradation.

There is a libertarian strand to the current leftist movement that says that all sex is good, no matter how cruel, how degrading, how damaging; as long as someone (a man) achieves orgasm, it is unequivocally good. We need to challenge this male supremacism and male entitlement.

Harm done to women and children is being re-pathologised as individual problems resulting from individual ‘bad-choices.’ The systematic oppression of women and children is being ignored.

If we cannot create a society where all human beings are free, then the planet, and all living things on it, are doomed.