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ADULT Sex work: Beyond the stereotypes. Thinking about: what we know, how we how we know it and the implications of myths and misconceptions. Sex work is illegal. False. Selling sexual services for compensation is not and has never been illegal in Canada.

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Adult sex work beyond the stereotypes

ADULT Sex work: Beyond the stereotypes

Thinking about: what we know, how we how we know it and the implications of myths and misconceptions


Sex work is illegal
Sex work is illegal

False

Selling sexual services for compensation is not and has never been illegal in Canada


Sex workers their partners and their friends are vulnerable to criminalization
Sex workers, their partners and their friends are vulnerable to criminalization

True

Sections 210, 212 and 213 make it virtually impossible to work without breaking the law


Most sex workers are street based
Most sex workers are street based vulnerable to criminalization

False

5 – 10% of industry is street based – most work in other sectors


Sex work is a women s issue
Sex work is a women’s issue vulnerable to criminalization

False

It is a human rights issue


No one would choose to sell themselves
No one would choose to “ vulnerable to criminalizationsell themselves"

False

“Its better then flippin burgers and MacDonald’s”

moral argument


Well then no one would freely choose to work street based
Well then... No one would freely choose to work street based vulnerable to criminalization

False

Workers choose based on personal and familiar needs, flexibility, personality, preoccupations ......


Okay then once they are in they are trapped
Okay then .....once they are in they are trapped vulnerable to criminalization

False

Stigma renders ex-workers silent and invisible....however criminal records do limit options


Sex workers are drug addicts
Sex workers are drug addicts vulnerable to criminalization

False

Subsistence (survival) sex compared to sex work


Sex workers are controlled by pimps
Sex workers are controlled by pimps vulnerable to criminalization

False

“Lock up your daughters” folk devils and moral panics


Sex workers have low self esteem
Sex workers have low self esteem vulnerable to criminalization

False

“being rewarded for being physically attractive and sexually competent is not an obvious barrier to self-esteem” (swav)


Sex workers come from dysfunctional families abuse
Sex workers’ come from dysfunctional families, abuse..... vulnerable to criminalization

False

Another statistically unsupported ‘explanation’


Sex workers are victims of their exploitative clients
Sex workers are victims of their exploitative clients vulnerable to criminalization

False

Clients versus aggressors


Sex workers are responsible for the spread of hiv aids
Sex workers are responsible for the spread of vulnerable to criminalizationHIV/AIDS

False (in Canada,)

Sex workers are the original safe sex experts


Sex workers lives are disorganized and dysfunctional
Sex workers’ lives are disorganized and dysfunctional vulnerable to criminalization

False

Sex work is something a person does not something a person is.....Workers have friends, homes, they play sports, take their kids to hockey practice, love their parents , fight with their siblings. ......In other words they are just like everyone else!


Canadians think sex work is immoral and want it controlled
Canadians think sex work is vulnerable to criminalizationimmoral and want it controlled

False

Canadians are generally ambivalent about consensual sex between adults ....it is the nuisance they do not want


Sex work is dangerous
Sex work is dangerous vulnerable to criminalization

True

Tragically this is very true, like other jobs the job is dangerous


Rates of non fatal violence
Rates of Non-fatal Violence vulnerable to criminalization

PACE survey

Robbed – 53.2%

Physically Threatened – 73.3%

Threatened with a weapon – 60.3%

Physically Assaulted – 47.3%

Forced to have sex against will – 56.7%

Forced to have sex with weapon – 38.8%

Kidnapped/confined – 30.9%


Rates of fatal violence
Rates of Fatal Violence vulnerable to criminalization

  • Street sex workers 60 – 112 times more likely to be victims of fatal violence (Lowman)

  • Between 1991 – 2004 – 171 female sex workers murdered (stats can)

  • 45 % of homicides unsolved (stats can)

  • Increasing rates of violence


Sources of violence
Sources of violence vulnerable to criminalization

  • Physical and sexual violence from aggressors, and clients

  • Theft from clients, aggressors and police

  • Harassment from neighbours and vigilantes

  • Police violence and misconduct

  • Police harassment


Another myth sex work is inherently violent
Another myth vulnerable to criminalizationSex work is inherently violent

False

Criminal intent violence is not inevitable or a risk of the job – it is result of the context in which workers must operate. Therefore it is preventable.


Explaining the violence 1 criminalization
Explaining the Violence 1 vulnerable to criminalizationCriminalization

  • Pressure from clients

  • Limits opportunities to access security of third party controlled establishments

  • Criminal Record


Explaining the violence 2 enforcement practices
Explaining the Violence 2 vulnerable to criminalizationEnforcement Practices

Conditions labour practices

  • Street workers

    • Relocated to dark areas

    • Do not work in teams

    • Do not take time to assess clients

    • Can not communicate/clarify with clients


Rates of fatal violence british columbia
Rates of Fatal Violence vulnerable to criminalizationBritish Columbia

  • 1960 – 64………………. 0

  • 1965 – 69………………. 0

  • 1970 – 74………………. 0

  • 1975 – 79………………. 3

  • 1980 – 84………………. 8

    1985 “communicating law” comes into force

  • 1985 – 89………………. 22

  • 1990 – 94………………. 24

  • 1995 – 95………………. 50+


Explaining the violence 3 lack of protection
Explaining the Violence 3 vulnerable to criminalizationLack of Protection

Can not call the police

Targeted by aggressors

Limits options in cases of domestic violence

”I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.“ Gary Ridgeway


  • Candy vulnerable to criminalization: He won’t let me go. He takes me down by the marina, down by Hull. Rips the buttons right off my dress, starts beating me up. Nothing sexual, he just wants to hurt me. Beating me up. Finally somebody calls the cops, they come. You know what? They arrest me! For prostitution! They let him go! And I – no bra or underwear, dress wide open, black and blue, bleeding and they arrested me! The Hull police. You know. Because – and I told them, “yeah I was working on the Market and this guy picked me up and he’s beaten the shit out of me!” Fucking arrest him! I got rights. (Ottawa street based worker)


Explaining the violence 4 police inaction
Explaining the Violence 4 vulnerable to criminalizationPolice inaction

  • Police failure to afford violence against sex workers the same consideration as non-sex workers

  • Do not respond to sex violence against sex workers (Lance Dove and Robert Pikton)


Police inaction vancouver s murdered women failure to take seriosly
Police Inaction vulnerable to criminalizationVancouver’s Murdered WomenFailure to take seriosly

  • Refuse to accept evidence of foul play

  • Refuse to acknowledge possibility of serial killer

  • Did not investigate murders

  • Questionable claim that absence of bodies prevented investigation


Explaining the violence 5 discourse of disposal
Explaining vulnerable to criminalizationthe Violence 5Discourse of Disposal

‘Disposable’ Women (Lowman)

Constructs workers as

  • Responsible

  • Irresponsible

  • Unworthy

    Sex work as master status


The discourse of disposal
The Discourse of Disposal vulnerable to criminalization

  • Nature and extent of media coverage

  • Public indifference

  • Lack of political will

    “Hooker and woman raped” Vancouver Sun


So then
So then….. vulnerable to criminalization

  • Myths and misconceptions :

    • Are based on discourses of protection, salvation and immorality

    • Are not based on evidence

    • Result in marginalization and stigmatization of workers

    • Support policing and criminalization

  • The policing and criminalization of sex workers

    • Increases their vulnerability to violence,

    • Further stigmatizes and marginalizes workers

    • Undermines their ability to realize their human and labour rights

      What to do?

      ……….Decriminalize


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