delve a little deeper....
Last week the European Parliament voted on Mary Honeyball's motion for a
resolution on sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality. In other words she was recommending the Swedish (or Nordic) Model that criminalises the clients of sex workers.
The motion was passed with 343 MEPs voting for, 139 against and 105 abstentions.
It is worth remembering that this is not a legislative vote. It doesn't mean any laws will change and it is still down to each individual state to make it's own laws regarding the issue of prostitution. However, it felt like a huge kick in the teeth for many sex workers and their allies. It feels incomprehensible that ANYONE could not see that criminalising clients is not a way of making sex work safe for anyone however they got into it and whatever type of sex work they do. The problems with the Swedish model have been well documented so will not repeat them again and I expect I am preaching to the converted here, but just for the record:
Sweden's Sex Trade Laws: Not the Answer by Wendy Lyon and Stephanie Lord on Feminist Ire.
If Europe votes for the 'Swedish model' on prostitution, women will be at risk by Diane Taylor in The Guardian.
A response to Mary Honeyball on Total Politics by Alex Bryce et all
And my thoughts here!
So whilst many sex workers were gutted at the results and that it would impact on the possible (likely) recommendation by the APPG report next week to criminalise sex work. Last weeks vote does not bode well. Or does it?
Looking more closely at the votes from last week from UK MEPs the result doesn't seem so bleak.
Of the 73 UK MEPs only 7 voted For, 15 against, 25 didn't vote and 26 abstained.
So, more UK MEPs voted against Honeyball. This is good.
I'm not entirely sure about the difference between not voting and abstaining to be honest (I've never claimed to be a politics expert!) but the reasons this may happen are:
They disagree with their party line but do not want to vote the other way (rebel)
They do not feel informed enough about the issue
They can not make their mind up
They agree and disagree with parts of the motion
They are ambivalent about the issue
This means that with 51 of UK MEPs not making a yes or no vote there is certainly much uncertainty about the belief criminalising sex worker's clients is the way forward. If this attitude runs through MPs as well there is certainly a nice big fat space for those campaigning for sex work laws to become safer to get their voice listened to and understood.
The ECR (European Conservative and Reformist party) party line was to abstain, and all 27 of their MEPs either abstained or did not vote. This may be due in part to Marina Yannakoudakis's strong and open opposition to Honeyball. Here is her open letter to her.
Yannakoudakis sit's on the European Parliament’s gender equality committee alongside Honeyball. Interestingly fellow Brit MEPs who sit on this committee Godfrey Bloom, Nicole Sinclaire did not vote at all (so not in favour) of Ms Honeyball either. One of the Vice Chairs of the European Parliament’s gender equality committee Barbara Matela abstained, also going against her Party's line (The ECP).
It's also interesting to see that Honeyball's own party S&D (The Socialists & Democrats) did not do what it was told. The party line to its 13 UK MEPs was to vote in favour. Only two voted for (One was Honeyball obviously!) 10 either abstained or didn't vote and one (Brian Simpson) voted against.
So I don't think all is lost. I think from what our UK MPs have behaved should be seen a positive thing. It does bode well for the UK. There is room to change minds if/when it comes to campaigning against the criminalisation of sex work. I also think it demonstrates a lack in faith of Ms Honeyball's report, her flawed stats and outrageous lies. I think knowing that The UN, Amnesty and over 500 NGOs and 90 researchers have rejected Honeyball's report any MEP with half a brain is bound to be cautious! Read this from the ICRSE (International on The Rights of Sex Workers in Europe) to see who and how many have rejected and refuted Honeyball.
Don't lose heart, use that anger and upset to rally together against any future action against sex workers! Honeyball, like Rhoda Grant will be seriously discredited over this!
Love to you all!
This month I spent some time ranting about The All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade (APPG) are launching an inquiry to assess the current UK legal settlement surrounding prostitution. They wish to identify how legislation to tackle demand could safeguard those in danger of sexual exploitation and abuse. I wrote about the issues that concerned me regarding the APPG in this blog and urged people to respond to the questionnaire. In fact I was so determined to get people to take note and respond I blogged a helpful breakdown of the questions, along with my answers.
Incidentally, the responses for this survey are due to be released in January 2014, so that'll be interesting.... watch this space.
I also had a photoshoot in January. Here is one of the photos:
Consisted of me both plugging my March tour to Reading and trying to convince people to romance me on Valentines day. Both failed miserably :(
I also wrote my first blog on my struggle with feminism and how I found it hard to relate to. As someone who of course believes in the equal rights of women, I found it hard to discover that many other women only want equal rights for a certain sort of women (ie. Not sex workers, the working class or anyone who they disapprove of) and that radical feminism has hateful views on sex work, transgender issues and all men.
The Easter Bunny with One Ear was one of my favourite stories I shared with you this year! The saga rumbled on into May too where I wrote about it again. I never did get a refund!
Other than being the oldest bunny in town I wrote a lot in March! Joan Smith pissed me off, I worried about Talking Dirty and I got pissed off again, this time with Melissa Farley and was inspired to write Why I made The Choice to become a prostitute by Brooke Magnanti who had written about Farley.
With April's showers came a long piece on porn, this took for-fucking-ever to write so you can read it again- it's a bit about the history of porn and inspired by me getting fed up with men who learn about sex from porn and therefore don't know how to do it properly!
I also dabbled in satire after Samantha Brick annoyed the entire nation yet again by announcing she was so beautiful other women hated her...
Finally, probably one of the hardest stories to write, but also one I am proud of being allowed to tell. It also highlighted the appalling rape conviction statistics and the Merseyside model in relation to Police attitudes to sex workers.
The Minxipedia was born!
AND I started a Twitter Storm!
Go May !
Oh, and then I got all angsty about feminism again!
Another tough blog- I wrote, for the first time about when I was outed at work. A hard one to write but something that a lot of people wrote to me and tweeted about which was lovely.
However, I also got slagged off by Mumsnet (I'm sure I need a T shirt for that) and in terrific news there was Victory for Scottish Sex Workers.
Part Two coming up tomorrow!
It's kind of ironic that last night I was literally round the corner from Soho having been to see Miranda Kane and her Coin Operated Girl show. A comedy performance of a former escort aiming to dispel some of the myths that sex workers are unhappy, forced, trafficked drug addicts *insert media stereotype of choice*. It's hilarious and brilliant by the way.
Completely unaware what was going on in Soho I went home to discover via Twitter that the police had been making raids on 25 flats of sex workers, three sex shops and two lap dancing clubs. This morning's media is awash with stories of crime, trafficking and forced prostitution. The angle is all about 'cleaning up' Soho and rescuing women. I am not naive enough to think that Soho is squeaky clean, I am pretty positive that there are criminal elements in Soho, however sex work is not one of them and the treatment of the women caught up in the raids is appalling and barbaric:
I just feel feel very angry, sad and helpless.
There is some irony that having published a guest blog earlier today from a lovely client that I then read THIS from The Independent by Mary Honeyball, a Labour MEP for London. Said article informs me that actually, my clients are committing violence against me and she is in favour of the Swedish Model.
Yes the Swedish Model which criminalises clients, but not the sex worker (except she uses the term prostitute, natch) which is well documented as dangerous, ineffective and stupid and of no help to sex workers whether they choose to be in the industry or not.
Soooo much has been written regarding the Swedish Model and attempts by other countries to introduce similar models or the criminalisation of clients including me, but far better by Dr Brooke Magnanti- here, Laura Lee here, here by the International Prostitutes Collective, here by Feminist Ire and here is a paper that explains why The Swedish Model has failed. A small drop in the ocean of blogs, newspaper articles and academic papers on the subject.
I read such articles as the one mentioned in my first paragraph and feel angry, ranty and sad. They make me want to shout, I feel frustration, I feel confused why sex workers are not listened to by these people who think they know better what sex workers want or need to operate safely.
I have said before but I truly believe the anti brigade operate on the basis of personal preferences (I don't want to have sex with strange men so why should anyone else), a sense of do good-ing blindness (Oh lucky middle class me, let me rescue some poor people) and possibly fear (These filthy women lure our husbands into dirty vices). Or is it just terribly trendy to come out as anti prostitution? (ooh brave old me, tackling such a gritty grimy subject, I'm just like Princess Di hugging those AIDS children) or simply misguided all men are bastards feminism?
I don't know.
I wanted to tackle what Mary Honeyball has said, but it's been said, over and over and over. Crap stats and skewed studies have been discredited, heck Melissa Farley for starters? Joan Smith, who is referenced in the Honeyball piece was laughed at collectively for her little jaunt to Sweden to sit in cop cars as 'research', but forgot to speak to any actual sex workers... then we get ridiculous TV shows where Jodie Marsh is considered a good idea and "hard hitting" expose documentaries about the seedy side of the industry whitewashed as the *entire* sex industry.
Honeyball starts her piece by referring to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women citing rape, domestic violence and genital mutilation as issues that (rightly) need tackling, then goes on to whine that prostitution isn't considered violence against women and that everyone seems to be mildly amused by it because Russell Brand pays for it! Seriously, you think that?! You don't think there is enough anti sex work propaganda about?! Or maybe, just maybe, many people do actually think that plenty of women do enter prostitution freely, do it happily and not under force or pressure. I do hope Smith reads the comments on her piece which are overwhelmingly negative with regards to her words.
Apart from anything, I don't want want crimes of violence against women shoved to one side and yet another debate on prostitution had. Those who are forced into prostitution are not sex workers, they are as much victims (and survivors) as other women subjected to violence.
Further to that, Honeyball says:
I favour the Swedish Model, a middle way which permits selling sex but criminalises buying it.
Can't you hear the clutching of pearls and smug, holier than thou smile? Aren't I clever, I'm not harming the poor women, just the nice, law abiding clients who pay for their services thus their bills and food on the table and shoes on their children's feet.
Not only has it halved street prostitution...
I think you'll find the advent of the internet did that to the industry from about ooh, what 1999?, Oh yes, by coincidence the year the Swedish Model was introduced. Spooky no?
...but it has also successfully stigmatised using the sex trade...
Ahh yes stigma, we all want more stigma don't we? Why don't we start sending unmarried mothers to the country to be hidden away until their baby is adopted or shall we start putting up signs in pub windows saying 'No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish' ? or why don't we sack women who work as escorts because they get outed by the press? (oh, that happens still).
Yes stigma, it's what made Britain great.
Finally, just in case anyone hasn't got this point:
THERE ARE ALREADY LAWS IN PLACE WHICH COVER THE RAPE, ATTACK, ROBBERY, COERCION OF MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN. WE DON'T NEED SPECIAL ONES FOR SEX WORKERS THAT STOP US DOING OUR JOBS!
This weekend was Nottingham Womans Conference. One of the topics was sex work. They invited no sex work relevant organisations along- at least not ones that were anti criminalisation, made up of current sex workers or those who don't feel sex work is 'bad'. This link from the blog of SWOU (Sex Worker Open University) details the issues many sex workers have with the conference.
Three women from SWOU went along to the conference to try and gain entry to the conference and to try and put across their views. If you read the last two blogs from SWOU you'll see other organisations offered the SWOU women a place but this was refused by the organisers.
It's not my story to tell, but the women from SWOU spent the day talking to people from the car park. Last night Eithne Crow tweeted some of the things said to her:
The woman from POW Nottingham yesterday asked me if I use condoms after ten minutes of discussing my various qualifications.
"What should I do once my clients are criminalised?"
"You'll find something else."
"Sex can't be work, it's too intimate."
Me: "But my physio put her fingers in my vagina last week."
"Yeah but she didn't come."
Me: "Because of my health, and the debts that I have, I can't currently do anything else than sex work."
3 other women: "We think you can."
"Do you get condoms and get yourself tested?" A left-field and exceptionally inappropriate enquiry during unrelated discussion.
People are very keen to tell sex workers they are wrong, to ask invasive questions and what we do isn't work, isn't acceptable and so on.
On Friday these tweets from @allovrr amused me and make a great point:
Good tip: every time you say something with SW in, substitute "postman". If it sounds weird, it's probably wrong/ whorephobic.
"Does your partner mind you're a "postman?" "You can't be a postman forever." "So what do you do other than being a postman?"
Further to that, I got embroiled this morning in a series of satirical tweets reversing the notion of paid for sex and 'free' sex.
The ridiculousness of these statements highlight how annoying and offensive some of the assumptions and questions are to sex workers.
So there you go.
Have a think before you ask sex workers questions or try to save them and how you might be offended if the same thing was asked of you.
Thank you to all those who took part in the #banfreebies hashtag. There are more if you care to look!
Those of you who follow 'the industry' will be fully aware of the recent murders of two sex workers and several blogs have already talked about them so I am not going to regurgitate their words when so much has been beautifully written already.
What I wanted to to do was highlight these terrible events and promote the demonstration happening on Friday to those of you who follow this blog and may not have read about the deaths of Dora in Turkey and Jasmine in Sweden.
Please do take time to read the following links:
From Tits and Sass by Caty Simon
Sometimes it's just a cigar blog Justice for Jasmine by Jemima. Do read the comments made by Jasmine's mother
It's time for ACTION by Laura Lee
From The International Commitee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe by Luca Stevenson
and the press release from the ICRSE
Following the murders of Dora Özer and Petite Jasmine on the 9th and 11 of July 2013, sex workers, their friends, families, and allies are coming together to demand an end to stigma, criminalisation, violence and murders. In the week since the two tragedies occurred, the feelings of anger, grief, sadness and injustice – for the loss of Dora and Jasmine, but also for the senseless and systemic murders and violence against sex workers worldwide – have brought together people in more than 25 cities from three continents who agreed to organise demos, vigils, and protests in front of Turkish and Swedish embassies or other symbolic places. JOIN US on Friday the 19th at 3 pm local time and stand in solidarity with sex workers and their loved ones around the world! Justice for Dora! Justice for Jasmine! Justice for all sex workers who are victims of violence!
Words taken from http://jasmineanddora.wordpress.com/
What I'd love is for some non sex worker type to come out in support too. Do read the above links to see where a demo is happening near you.
If you can't make it then you can do your bit by getting #stigmakills to trend on twitter at 8am, 12pm and 10pm. Follow @whorephobia for more info and look out for my relevant tweets which you can retweet.
The irony of course is that those who aren't connected with the industry will be too embarrassed what other people might think to stand in solidarity with us.
Take a little bit of that fear or shame and use it to understand how stigma, whorephobia, shite laws and injustice effect the lives and cause the deaths of sex workers.
Do it for the Jasmines and Doras of the world.
In most excellent news Rhoda Grant's bill to criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland has failed.
Here is SCOT-PEP's press release on the news.
and how The Daily Record reported it.
Of course I am thrilled for those who work in Scotland and thrilled for the wider implications of the failure of this bill.
Congratulations to those who have fought so hard to get their voices heard and continued to shout when the consultation resulted in a biased proposal with misinformation and missing responses.
And finally thank you to those of you who read my words about the proposed bill and were inspired to add their support in fighting this.
You may or may not be aware of THIS webpage. The point it is trying to prove is a little vague. The site says:
Before I start with this blog I need to say I know I am coming from this as a privileged escort. I choose who I see, I don't have to see everyone who calls me, noone controls me and I genuinely love my job. I am fully aware many women do not have this and whenever I write about how fortunate I am or about issues regarding criminalisation I try to be mindful of this. So, before I continue, I AM aware that some men are twats and some women are unhappy and abused. I am just putting an alternative view on the Invisible Men project.
Each day on this website there is a picture of a mask with words taken from the Punternet review section.
Now reviews, they can really help with establishing an escorts reputation and certainly increase hits to a website. My reviews have always been pretty kind and complimentary. They usually give me a warm fuzzy glow and I am not offended by them or feel objectified by them. Again, I am lucky I get to see lovely respectful clients.
However, I must admit sometimes I read reviews and I do feel for the woman. They can be brusque, demeaning and personally insulting to a woman. On the other hand, like in any service industry there will be good and bad and views are subjective. The point of 'bad' reviews is to let people know what to expect in the same way that we might research a new laptop, restaurant or tattooist.
Choosing an escort can be tricky. I have heard many stories of men finding it hard to get a reply from women on Adultwork. There are tales aplenty of bad service and of men being ripped off or threatened by heavies as as well as a concern from many men that they might pick someone who is trafficked, forced or really doesn't want to do the job. Trust me, most men are not abusers and most men want no part in using the services of an unwilling woman. They also have to look out for themselves. They are parting with a lot of hard earned money, they often nervous about discretion and might have a limited time slot. As a minimum they need an escort who will be where she says she is at the agreed time, provide the services he requires and make him feel she is enjoying it too. On top of that he might desire a safe area to park his car, a woman who is able to converse in good English or who has natural boobs.
It's not uncommon to hear of women stretching the truth about their age or dress size. Whilst I believe sexiness goes deeper than how old you are or how much of a tummy a customer has a right to make these choices. If you really fancied a steak and chose a restaurant which promoted it's wonderful aged Scottish steak then showed up to find that they were only serving vegan food that night, however yummy the bean and lentil stew might be you're going to be pissed off.
Review sites exist to help men choose the right escort for them and to check out if she is what she says she is.
The Invisible men project has clearly cherry picked quotes to shock and outrage. The graphics help create an image of faceless women with no features and are nothing more than a price tag. There has been much applauding of the project and from the responses on this Mumsnet thread it's clear the aim and result was to shock and disgust people. Comments include:
"certainly gives the reality of prostitution. so sad."
"Well, yes - because they are using women as objects - they might as well be toasters for all they care."
"Really sad - this is the reality of prostitution. None of that happy hooker nonsense."
"You can't respect men like this. There is no way the women they pay to be with respect them or think anything much of them, regardless of what these deluded freaks might think."
"Nooo, the basis of the argument is that men who use prostitutes are utter cunts."
And before I get accused of cherry picking, there were a couple of attempts by posters to question the project, but they were quickly shouted down and 90% of the comments were expressing disgust and supporting the project.
This New Statesman article by Helen Lewis attempts to be unbiased but clearly is supportive of the project and only looks as far as the words written and without any context.
And what of lovely things men say? No examples of them at all. Here are a few quotes from my own Punternet reviews:
Thanks Lydia for reminding me how good sex can be.
We had a chat about this and that and Lydia gave me another blowjob, however, I decided to wank myself over her tits, a brilliant end to a great great first punt!
To say that Lydia specialises in this (anal play) would risk ignoring all her other lovely skills, but she was careful, gentle and considerate as she introduced me to some new experiences.
Beautiful sparkly eyes with the naughtiest glint in them, a wonderful smile and a cracking figure: curves in *all* the right places and the *most* fantastic boobs it has been my pleasure to come across...
Treat her with the utmost respect gents, Lydia is one in a million.
with great natural boobs and a friendly, intelligent face.
Hardly insulting or objectifying are they?! Do they sound like monsters who hate women? No.
So let's look at some examples used on the project and see them from a different stance..
"She expertly began oral on my bare cock slowly at first then with a little help at a faster pace occasionally holding her head down impaled on my cock while she gagged and choked but never wavered - extremely professional young lady!"
You know, there are women who enjoy gagging and choking (not me though, but I know some who do!). Who is to say whether she enjoyed it or not. I have found the original review and it ends:
"Very nice friendly & willing young girl thoroughly recommended!"
Doesn't sound like she was miserable and unwilling to have this done to her does it? Those who are appalled by this review are judging it on their own personal sexual preferences. Here is another...
"Disappointing started with OWO which she reluctantly performed"...."she wouldn't kiss nor would she let me touch her fanny"
Yes, this does sound as if the woman was unhappy in her job. The writer of the review ends with a question over whether she does the job by choice or not. The tone of the words doesn't suggest he relished the booking, for all we know he went home and felt like shit about it and vowed to research harder next time. His review, if it is a true reflection on what happened is a fair warning to other men, whether on a harsh 'Don't waste your money lads' level or a saddened 'Don't be part of this poor woman's unhappy life' level we don't know.
One more- Look at this:
Sounds pretty horrible when reading doesn't it? Sounds as if she was abused and used. Here is the full report
The reviewer says:
Nicha is very attentive. I was undressed, caressed, kissed and made to feel at home
Many WGs have said the head of my cock is quite large and Nicha certainly had problems getting it into herself. Once in though, she rode me like the Pony Express.
whenever I pulled my cock out and thrust it back in, she cried out in pain, but never asked me to stop. Fake of course but done so well that it was fantastic.
Nicha is quite lovely, has a fantastic body and good tats if that turns you on. She fucks like an animal, got soaking wet from all the cunt juice and will take a bit of rough. The woman is practically perfect.
Doesn't that full review make it sound like a two way street? The reviewer sounds Ok doesn't he? Yes, the language is graphic but I don't think he is the sadistic, rapist brute he comes across in the few words The invisible Men project chose to use. I'm fairly confident Nicha enjoys this kind of sex or at least is highly professional.
The anti prostitution movement will do anything to try and further their cause. I have written enough about my personal feelings of the job and have always made it clear that I am not blinkered to the suffering and abuse of others and I feel that help should be given to those who are abused and desperately want out. I don't deny their are some nasty men who pay for sex, but will always make the point that many are lovely and 'normal'.
Why can't everyone see there are many sides to the industry and those who use dirty tactics such as The Invisible Men Project use their time more productively?
The following blog is about the experiences a friend of mine had when she was raped by a client. I have dithered about whether to post this in what is essentially a blog to promote myself and on a site where I want people to learn about me and my services. However, if you read me often enough you'll know that I do wander into other realms occasionally and this I think is important and what has happened is important to me and other sex workers.
Those of you who do not want to read about rape and sexual assault should stop now, although there won't be anything too graphic. I think this is what is known as a Trigger Warning.
I have asked my friend if I can do this and she is happy for me to so. I am going to refer to her as G. Any details which are hazy are ether because of the gaps in my own knowledge or to protect her identity
G had been working as an escort for a few years. She is in her early 30's and studying part time along with escorting and working on adult phone lines. She had decided a few months previously to stop offering full penetrative sex for various personal reasons. It was going well for her and she had retained several of her old clients.
One evening last year she saw a client she had not met before. He was nice enough on the phone and even when he arrived she was not suspicious of him or wary. He did however leave her flat after he had arrived to say he needed to get some cash and be back. Even then she wasn't concerned and thought either he will be back in a minute or he has changed his mind and made an excuse to leave and not come back. It happens.
When he came back he pulled a knife out on her, threatened her and proceeded to orally, vaginally and anally rape her. She was too terrified to struggle because he had a knife to her throat and was much stronger than her. When he left he stole her laptop.
After he left she rang me. I kicked into practical mode and told her to get off the phone and call the police and her mother (who lives locally to her, I was over an hour away).
From the 999 operator who took her call and stayed on the line whilst the police arrive to all the police officers she came in contact with she was treated kindly and with respect.
According to An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales by Ministry of Justice, The Home Office & the Office for National Statistics (published January 2013) females who had reported being victims of the most serious sexual offences in the last year were asked whether or not they had reported the incident to the police. Only 15 per cent of victims of such offences said that they had done so. Frequently cited reasons for not reporting the crime were that it was ‘embarrassing’, they ‘didn’t think the police could do much to help’, that the incident was ‘too trivial or not worth reporting’, or that they saw it as a ‘private/family matter and not police business’
Baring in mind 90% of serious sexual assaults (including rape) are carried out by someone known to the victim it's easy to see why many women do not report crimes. The reasons are very different for prostitutes. The chances of sex workers knowing their attacker beforehand are much lower but there is still a feeling among many sex workers that there is no point going to the police because they don't think they will be taken seriously or that they risk arrest themselves.
Between July 2012 and April 2013 The Ugly Mug scheme has received just under 60 reports or crime, half of which were of rape or sexual assault from sex workers. Only a third of these attacks were reported to the police. According to The Metro (April 2013) The English Collective of Prostitutes said victims were afraid of being arrested.
‘Until the police prioritise prostitutes’ safety over prosecuting them, we do not think things will get better,’ said spokesman Niki Adams.
A famous case is that of Shelia Farmer who has been attacked twice in her career but still also arrested when working in a flat with other women for her own safety. High profile cases like this make women too scared to report crimes against them. Her story is here if you're interested. She is an amazing brave woman.
Of course what myself and G do is perfectly legal but many many women are breaking the law by either being street workers or work for other people in brothels or agencies who do not want to draw police attention to themselves and will discourage them from reporting crimes. So for both sex workers and non sex workers reporting sex crimes such as rape is difficult and woefully under reported
My friend did phone the police. They were fantastic. They arrived within minutes along with an ambulance. She was checked out by the medics and then taken to a police station and given a female officer for company in an informal meeting room until a specialised officer arrived to talk to her. She was then taken to a specialist centre for sexual offences where a forensic examination took place. At no point did any officer she come into contact with suggest or insinuate that she was lying about what happened or that her role as an escort made any difference to anything.
The police caught her rapist by tracking him down using his mobile phone. He still had her laptop in his possession. They also spent hours examining her flat for evidence.
The following day G had to return to the police station to give her formal statement. The police seemed confident that the arrest of her rapist would result in a trial. They took copies of her Adultwork page which made it clear she didn't offer penetrative sex services, they had the knife the rapist used, she was clearly distressed by what had happened and her 999 call was further evidence of her trauma. She reported the attack quickly so there was no question over whether it was something she had thought about because she regretted having sex with this man.
The police work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide the best course of action with regards to any crime. In 1993 the CPS were accused of not taking sexual offences against sex workers seriously. The Independent newspaper reported that there was a growing number of cases where the CPS has refused to prosecute for rape because they believe the witness would be considered 'unreliable' and 'unsuitable'. In a recent case the owner of an escort agency in southern England complained to the CPS after it dropped a case involving a rape allegation made by a prostitute. The CPS denied this.
Here is a table of figures to demonstrate how few rapes result in a conviction.
These figures were taken as a 3 year average from Sexual Offending in England and Wales
Estimated number of victims of rape- 60,000-95,000
Police Recorded Figures- 15,670 (plus another 3,850 of 'detections')- Total 19,520
Rape Cases that become court proceedings- 2,910
Guilty Convictions- 1,070
Note on Detections. There are a number of ways that the police can detect a crime, including by charging a suspect, issuing a summons, or administering a caution. Sanction detections are where offences cleared up by the police result in a formal sanction issued to an offender. These can take the form of a charge or summons, a caution, a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PNDs), or offences that are asked to be taken into consideration by a court (TICs)
The figures speak for themselves really. Rape is notoriously hard to get to court let alone convict against. Add to that the added perception some people have about rape and sex workers....
G's attacker is an illegal immigrant from Africa so was detained in a London prison and not granted bail. The CPS were happy with the police evidence and the case proceeded to court.
Last week a trial went ahead at a Crown Court. He was charged with three counts of rape (oral, anal and vaginal rape are considered separate offences) as well as aggravated robbery for the theft of her laptop. Aggravated means that a deadly weapon was used.
The arresting officer who liaised with G kept her up to date throughout the period running up to and during the trial. I met him when he came to take my statement as the first person she called after the rape. He was lovely, very kind, very non plussed and non judgmental about us being escorts. He was full of admiration for her bravery and commented that he really liked how she was so open and didn't hide that she was an escort or what services she did and didn't do. i also spoke to him after she had given evidence (there was a possibility I would have to stand as a witness) and he told me how proud of her he was.
On the second day of the trial G appeared for two hours on the stand. This was done in a way she didn't have to see her attacker and she said the judge was very kind.
G couldn't fault the police or the courts in any way. It was incredibly heartening to hear how she had been treated. The arresting officer kept her up to date and was positive. Apparently after the tape of her 999 call was made the judge commented that is was pretty damning for the defense. By Thursday the jury had come to their decision.
It's hard to put into words how angry and disappointed I was. My feelings won't compare to how G must have felt of course but I was devastated her on her behalf. I wanted to find each of those twelve jury members and shake them hard. How fucking dare they pass a not guilty verdict.
Noone apart from those jurors will know how they came to that decision.
I have to remember that it is a basic presumption in our legal system that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty. The accused does not have to prove his or her innocence. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. This means that if the jury has a reasonable doubt about whether the person is guilty, then the verdict must be 'not guilty'.
I have to try and believe that the jury felt there was not enough evidence to confidently pass a guilty verdict and not that they were prejudiced that G offered sexual services for money. It doesn't make it a less bitter pill to swallow though.
They did pass a guilty verdict on the aggravated robbery which I suppose is something. His defense basically said she cried rape because she was pissed off that he took her laptop and that they had consensual sex.
The rapist (I refuse to think of him as anything else) has been returned to prison pending an investigation into his immigration status. The sentencing is not happening until June, and I think that whatever he gets he will be deported after he has served that. With some luck he will get the maximum sentence allowed. It's a small 'at least...' I suppose. I don't believe two wrongs make a right as a rule, but I hope someone rapes his arse hard in prison.
As for G, well she doesn't regret going to the police, she is filled with praise for them. She has told me she can't and won't let this man ruin her life despite still living with nightmares, flashbacks and fear of leaving the house.
In 2006, Merseyside police declared crimes against sex workers hate crimes. In Liverpool, in 2009, police convicted 90% of those who raped sex workers. In 2010, the overall conviction rate in Merseyside for crimes against sex workers was 84%, with a 67% conviction rate for rape. 6.5% is the national average conviction rate for rape.
Much is being made of the Merseyside Model at the moment and there are calls to ensure this becomes UK wide. There is currently a government e-petition found here if you'd like to sign and here is a link to a Guardian article about the Merseyside Model.
As I have said right through this blog the London Metropolitan Police that dealt with G were fantastic, but it would be even more fantastic if this kind of treatment was UK wide and guaranteed for every woman in the sex trade. I'm not sure there was anything the police could have done to ensure a conviction for G's rapist but anything that ensures sex workers can stay safe and be treated fairly when things go wrong is a must.
Finally- a link to Ugly Mugs for those sex workers who haven't signed up-
and for thsoe of you who would like to make a donation to this cause contact them on
Telephone: 0161 629 9861
International: +44 161 629 9861
Link to the Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales by Ministry of Justice, The Home Office & the Office for National Statistics
Ok, this is really bloody long, but I thought it might be useful both to comment on the questions asked, my interpretation of them and some possible ways of answering. Of course I am not saying Here are the answers, this is what is right, copy me!
What I am hoping to do is a) Give my opinions (It is my blog after all) b) Maybe someone will read my responses and be inspired to respond to the survey- that would make me happy and c) Possibly help guide someone one flummoxed on how to answer.
If anyone wants to pinch any of my responses I don't mind, but I think it's important to add your own personal experiences and views.
So, here we go!
6. Do you consider the current laws on prostitution in the UK to be effective and consistent in safeguarding those involved in prostitution from violence, exploitation, and/or abuse? Please answer 'Yes' or 'No', and provide reasons for your response.
Which laws? It even asks specifically for a yes or no answer! *sigh* not a good start.
Prostitution is itself not illegal- this is good. Brothel keeping is illegal- The definition of a brothel is more than one woman working in a location selling sex. This is a bad law, some women would be safer working with someone else. It is illegal to profit from prostitution as a third party- i.e a pimp. Pimping is procuring the services of a prostitute for another and taking a cut of the fee. This is illegal. If it’s a pimp who works by forcing, threatening or drugging a women then of course this should be illegal. However, parlours or agencies can provide support, advertising, security checks and so on for women and as a business should get a cut. Many women who don’t have a location to work from on web savvy rely on their agency to provide them with business. Good parlours provide a great support network and security for many women. I personally agree kerb crawling and soliciting should remain illegal, others may disagree. Laws regarding trafficking are good and the harshest penalties should be give for those found guilty of this.
If you answer Yes it implies you think that everything is hunky dory or that violence, exploitation, and/or abuse does not exist. If you answer No it implies you think that violence, exploitation, and/or abuse does exist and is a problem. It is for some women and isn’t for others. We already know that the ethos of this inquiry is to bring about paying for sex as illegal so saying No can be interpreted as No, we need to make prostitution go away.
Don’t just say either yes or no or else you will be plopped into a statistic saying something you don’t mean.
How I’m answering
Prostitution should not be made illegal, nor should paying for the services as a prostitute. The laws on brothel keeping need relaxing. It would be safer for women to work together legally for their own security and support.
Whilst it is illegal to profit from prostitution as a third party, parlours or agencies can provide support, advertising, security checks and so on for women and as a business should get a cut. Many women who don’t have a location to work from on web savvy rely on their agency to provide them with business. Good parlours provide a great support network and security for many women. I agree kerb crawling and soliciting should remain illegal. Laws regarding trafficking are good and the harshest penalties should be give for those found guilty of this.
There are already laws in this country that cover coercion, abuse, rape, theft and assault and can already be applied to those who are victims whether they work as a prostitute or not.
7. Do you consider the current laws in the UK to be a barrier to those who wish to exit prostitution? Please answer 'Yes' or 'No', and outline reasons for your response.
Again, which laws? I’m not entirely sure what the law has to do with those who wish to exit prostitution. Women who want to leave have all manner of barriers from the fact they are forced by someone else, have gaps in their CVs, are unqualified for other work or can not earn as much as they need to to live on in careers they are qualified for as well as high unemployment rates, a lack of part time work for those who are carers and so on. There are already laws in place and charities for those who need to escape from someone forcing them into prostitution.
I’m not sure what they are getting at. Can someone enlighten me?
How I’m answering
Women who want to leave prostitution have all manner of barriers from the fact they are forced by someone else (which obviously needs tackling and there are already laws that make this illegal) Other reasons are that have gaps in their CVs, have been outed as sex workers at some point and have a stigma attached to them, are unqualified for other work or can not earn as much as they need to to live on in careers they are qualified for as well as high unemployment rates, a lack of part time work for those who are carers and so on. The real issue is that escorting carries a massive social stigma which means many have to hide their work. Laws won’t change this, the erosion of Victorian morals in this country will.
8. Around the world, there are different legal settlements that govern prostitution. Do you think any of the legal settlements outlined in the summary above would be a good basis to base reforms in the UK on? Please give evidence and reasons to support your answer.
Ooh, a good question. However it relies on those answering to have a clue about the laws in other countries and how to interpret the statistics and spinning by those for and against!
The background on the first page of the questionnaire mentions New Zealand and the quote- ‘the majority of sex workers interviewed felt that the (act decriminalising prostitution) could do little about violence that occurred’ in the sex industry, and that the social stigma surrounding involvement in prostitution continues.
This implies it is a bad thing, however is the most popular model among prostitutes because brothels and agencies have been decriminalised. There has not been an increase in prostitution (a myth the antis have tried to perpetuate) and more women are reporting crimes against them.
This is a great article why decriminalisation works in NZ- http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6292753/Sex-conditions-safer-but-prostitute-stigma-remains
USA- Illegal to buy and sell sexual services. Not an option!
Canada- Very similar to the UK
The Netherlands- legal and regulated, including brothel running. During the 1990s, some 10% of prostitutes worked on the streets, 30% in window prostitution, 30% in a sex clubs, 15% in an escort service, and 15% in their private residence. However, there is some evidence to say that because of these laws the criminal element is high and is the top destination for human trafficking.
However, I think there is some merit in regulating the industry, but only if there are resources to prevent an increase in trafficking. I also think the problem with The Netherlands is based on a reputation and a culture which has made it a destination for buying sex- rather like Thailand. I don’t want this for the UK and I don’t want prostitution to become a career option for young women who are encouraged by financial gain yet not enjoy it.
Sweden- The laws on prostitution in Sweden make it illegal to buy sexual services, but not to sell them. Pimping, procuring and operating a brothel are also illegal. The criminalisation of the purchase, but not selling, of sex was unique when first enacted in 1999, but since then Norway and Iceland have adopted similar legislation, both in 2009.
As our survey tells us “ The aim in Sweden is to reduce or end prostitution rather than to manage it” which will obviously appeal to the antis in this country and for those offended by prostitution seems like a good idea.
This is a bad idea. In a nutshell- it will NOT make prostitution go away, it will push it underground, deprive some men of the only bit of affection they might get, make it impossible for women to report crimes against them if they carry on, criminalise decent men, makes hundreds of women ‘unemployed’ thus financially vulnerable, not stop the real criminals anyway.
And this will tell you in more detail why it doesn’t work:
How I answered
Prostitution will not go away. Nor is it a crime of violence against women, which was the thinking of the Swedish Model and the proposals in Scotland. I am hugely opposed to this. The closest legal settlement I support is of that in New Zealand where women who choose to work as prostitutes receive police support when required, have better access to health information. Research has shown that the Prostitution Reform Act (2003) has had little impact on the number of people working in the sex industry. Here is link to evidence. http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy/commercial-property-and-regulatory/prostitution/prostitution-law-review-committee/publications/impact-health-safety/2.-estimation-of-numbers
This article also demonstrates the positives- http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6292753/Sex-conditions-safer-but-prostitute-stigma-remains
9. At present it is often legal to purchase sex. Do you feel criminalising the purchase of sex could make a contribution to tackling demand? Please answer 'Yes' or 'No', and outline reasons for your response and what other measures would be required.
I think the answer is yes. Many men, certainly initially would be put off paying for sex if it became criminalised. However, I feel there would be ways around it. Prostitution won’t go away, it’ll be driven underground and draw out the criminal element of this world making it harder and more dangerous for both clients and providers.
However, I’m not simply answering ‘YES’ because next thing we’ll know is newspaper articles saying ‘89% of people want paying for sex made illegal’ headlines and something for the antis to bang on about, Therefore you answer needs to give a bit more detail. Maybe some personal information?
How I answered
The estimated figure of men who pay for sex in the UK is about 10%, although some surveys have put it at 20%. In 1948 Kinsey stated that 69% of white males had at least one experience with a prostitute.
My instinct says that 69% is closer to the reality, even in the UK today. As an escort with 3.5 years experience I have met a huge number of men from every profession, background, race, nationality, religion and age. They all have different reasons paying for sex. None of them have been to commit violence against me. This indicates that many men do pay for sex and those men are nice, decent polite men. Of course there are abusive men who do pay for sex, but there are also abusive men who play golf or ride bicycles. Banning bikes or golf will not make those men any less abusive. If a man is intent on hurting a women he will find someone to do this to, not necessarily a prostitute.
Why does there need to be any legislation made to decrease the demand for sex? What happens between two consenting individuals is no one else’s business.
What Criminalising paying for sex would do is deter the kind, law abiding clients that all sex workers wish to see. Business would be reduced for many women leaving them financially vulnerable. It could potentially force women to take more risks on whom they see or offer services that they may not be entirely comfortable with. Why should women have to leave a job they enjoy because someone else believes they are not enjoying it?
10. At present a number of laws seek to regulate and restrict prostitution in England and Wales. Do you think altering or removing these laws could make a contribution to tackling demand? Please answer 'Yes' or 'No', and outline reasons for your response and what other measures would be required.
Isn’t this the same as question 9?
I’m wilting now.
How I answered
Please see my response to question 9. I do not believe the issues regarding prostitution that need addressing is tackling demand.
11. There is evidence that a number of people involved in selling sex would like to exit prostitution but find it difficult to do so. What measures (including legal measures) would be most helpful to support those involved in prostitution who wish to exit?
Isn’t this a repeat of question 7? Is this survey trying to trick us?
This ‘evidence’? Not seen any. Are there more women who want to leave prostitution than women who work stacking shelves want to leave that? Wouldn’t we all prefer to leave a job we either hate or at least tolerate to go and do something wildy exciting, fascinating and challenging yet unstressful and with a huge salary? How many people in this country are miserable at work but can’t leave for financial reasons?
For the record, I have days I want to do something different, but I do like it most the time, which frankly can be said for every single job I have ever held.
Of course, the real reason is that this is asked is because a big deal was made about helping women exit prostitution when the Swedish laws were changed.
How I answered
I refer you back to question 7 for my views on this. I would also like to add that if the law changed to criminalise clients, many women would be in a financially worse position due to a decrease in business. Is it realistic to offer them benefits or other financial assistance, training courses, child care for them to work more traditional hours and so on over the many other people who are struggling in this country at the moment? For many women I know (including myself) the biggest barrier to finding alternative employment would actually finding a job I am qualified for that would pay the salary I require to exist on. That and explaining the gap in my CV as well as dealing with what happens when they find out I was outed in a tabloid and had to resign my previous position. The latter being the biggest issue with prostitution, the stigma. I am not sure what laws would realistically change that.
14. Do you have any other comments surrounding the legal settlement on prostitution in the UK?
This is your chance to say anything else that you feel strongly about or that is pertinent to you as an individual.
How I answered
I would like to add that there are many women in prostitution who do it through choice, because they enjoy it and are good at it. Many many people who see prostitutes are decent people and are not abusing the women they see. The law that needs changing is one that would allow women to work together for safety.
What the police need to be able to do is tackle those who are forced into prostitution. If the women out there who are abused and trafficked have not been rescued yet then that is a huge failing and where resources need to be focused. The law that prevents women working together in the same location needs reviewing. If the wellbeing and safety of sex workers is a concern of yours then you have to actually listen to sex workers, find out what would make our already stigmatised jobs safer and focus on those who are forced and abused. This is what those in power should be focused on, not the criminalisation of the innocent.