As some of you may know, bill c-36 was passed into Canadian law this weekend, quite deliciously on Canada’s day of remembering violence against women. Which makes sense since we all know that the combination of sex and money becomes an act of horrendous violence equivalent to a school shooting where the males and females are separated, and the gunman specifically shoots only the females in order to “combat feminism.” That is what selling sex is like every day; dodging a hail of bullet fire as you try to bring your client to orgasm. It’s a combination of Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Commando, and unfortunately the prostitutes are Sully.

However, in reality, average sex workers have more problems with the law than they do with being on the wrong end of a Schwarzenegger-esque killing spree. In fact, a year ago the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the current laws that were in place because they deemed them unconstitutional. After much deliberation, the Conservative government of Canada put forward a new bill, bill c-36, as their way of fixing the problem. I have discussed most of the issues already here, but I would like to add a few new bits of information.

First and foremost, the way most of the discussion surrounding the Nordic model (prosecuting the Johns rather than the sex workers) is giving the illusion that we were prosecuting the sex workers before. Sex work in Canada was already decriminalized. It wasn’t technically illegal to sell sex, there were just a whole bunch of laws surrounding the selling of sex that made it relatively difficult to practice. It was these auxiliary laws that were deemed unconstitutional. The new law doesn’t actually address any of those issues, and actually made things worse, as I discussed.

One thing that I don’t cover in that blog is that advertising is not technically illegal, so long as it is the prostitute publishing it. So a magazine that has escort ads in the back is breaking the law. Which is the same thing as making advertising illegal, because I sincerely doubt that we are going to be getting subscription letters to “Whores Weekly” in the mail. Normal publishing organizations such as magazines or web providers would not risk an altercation with the law, and counting on the lady herself to create her own web server or publishing company is ludicrous. As with most laws surrounding prostitution, there is no direct legal threat against the prostitute herself, but the punishment is there for those surrounding her in order to dissuade her from the practice .

Now, since I wanted to do a little more than vent, here is a brief history of sex worker activism. I do try to keep most of my information on this blog Canadian when I can, but all the books and websites I’ve read surrounding this topic have been about America. Since pretty much all our media and public discussion comes from the States anyway, I don’t see this as such a huge problem.

Contemporary sex worker advocacy started out in the late 1970s, under the organization called Whores, Housewives, and Others. Now, this might seem like an odd combination of groups coming together, but it’s really not all that odd when you think about it. Whores do something for money that society thinks they should do for free, and housewives were asking for money to do something that society thinks they should do for free. Woman’s work, be it sexual or domestic, is supposed to be inherent to her gender and therefore asking to be paid for either of these two paths is an affront to decent society. So the two banded together to form WHO. For those wondering, the “others” were lesbians. This was at a time when few people were bandying around the idea of specifically lesbian rights, and so the whores and housewives gave them an organization to belong to. They were referred to as “other” because back then, one could not even say the word lesbian, as Kate Clinton would say, even when their mouths were full of one.

WHO (remember, whores, not health organizations) went on to become COYOTE under the leadership of Margo St. James. COYOTE is an acronym for Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics. This group continued to fight for the decriminalization of prostitution, with their argument being that the sexist ethics of the past no longer applied to modern day society. Women are allowed to make their own decisions, and if they decide to sell sex, it is only outdated misogynistic mores that declare that to be improper.

Then, in the 1980s, AIDS happened. Whether created by the CIA, sex with monkeys, or simply Reaganomics, AIDS devastated the 1980s with its brutal stigmatization of homosexuals, drug users, and, hey whaddia know, sex workers. It was the disease of the deviants, and although the sex trade was responsible for only a small fraction of the AIDS cases, with its already unsavoury nature, it became an easy scapegoat for fear-mongering politicians and media talking points. This nasty turn of events destroyed the decriminalization aspect of sex worker activism, and thus was born the BAN THE SHIT OUT OF IT movement. Feminists, to combat the newly reignited stigmatism of the sex trade, declared these women to be hapless victims, unwilling participants in the deviant career of prostitution. Rather than continue to fight the criminal nature of the sex trade in the face of the AIDS monolith, activists took the easy route. People already believed that women were incapable of making their own decisions, so that tried and true angle was applied to the sex trade, but now women’s rights activists were saying it, and that makes it okay.

Advocacy for the sex trade hasn’t changed much since then. There are smaller groups that continue to campaign for decriminalization and declare that sex worker’s rights are human rights, but the vast majority of voices heard in regards to the sex trade are those condemning it as patriarchal indentured labour. A few token sob stories will be taken out of the woodwork to justify the abhorrent nature of prostitution, but for the most part, sex workers themselves will be ignored during the discussion of the morality or lawfulness of the sex trade industry.

Like I’ve said, the perceived passive nature of female sexual consent is a tough nut to get around on both sides of the feminist spectrum. Because a woman’s consent is being compromised by adding money into the equation, obviously something must be wrong, right? Very few people are able to grasp that the sexuality of a woman might encompass more than just her ability to give or decline consent, and so decisions are made for her in regards to what she can and cannot do with that sexuality.

This bill doesn’t affect me in the slightest. I am what is referred to as a “square”, someone who is entirely outside of the sex trade industry, though I prefer to be called a rhombus. However, I can occasionally pick out bullshit when I see it, and this bill is bullshit. There were many horrors associated with abortion before it was legalized/normalized, and both issues come down to a woman being able to control what she can do with her own body.

Advertisements