By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
Greg Fingas, meanwhile, looks at one resolution that didn’t pass.
Now, the resolution didn’t pass. But that wasn’t a matter of it lacking support on the convention floor: instead, after one strong speech favouring the resolution, Libby Davies moved that it be referred to federal council with instructions that it return a formal policy later this year. And that motion, combined with the obvious support of the convention for the cause of ensuring that sex workers are recognized as citizens rather than stigmatized, looks to ensure that the NDP will present an unprecedentedly inclusive policy in the years to come.
By Mika Rekai - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 4:23 PM - 0 Comments
Free classes on offer in advance of 2014 soccer competition
Sex workers in Brazil, where prostitution is legal, will soon be getting a new set of skills to pay the bills.
Hundreds of prostitutes are signing up for free English classes in advance of the 2014 World Cup, which will be hosted by multiple cities in the country. Cida Vieira, president of the Minas Gerais state Association of Prostitutes, told Reuters learning to communicate in other languages will be extremely important for prostitutes who do not want to be taken advantage of. In English, they will learn to negotiate prices and boundaries, but also how to describe sexual fantasies and fetishes to provide better service.
The classes are “important for the dignity of the work,” says Vieira. “The women need to be able to negotiate a fair price and defend themselves.”
While proponents believe English lessons are a sensible investment in the lead-up to the World Cup, some in Brazil believe prostitutes’ time could be better spent learning to speak Portuguese, as many are immigrants and do not speak the local language. Regardless, tourism money is proving to be an effective catalyst for the education of the country’s prostitutes, many of whom are young and grew up in poverty.
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Employees who expense prostitutes are more common than you’d think
As awkward explanations go, the one given for Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s alleged involvement with a French prostitution ring may have set the bar lower than ever before. During a recent radio interview, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer acknowledged that his client did indeed participate in an orgy at the upscale Carlton hotel in Lille, France, but stressed that he could not have known the women were prostitutes. “People are not always clothed at these parties,” said Henri Leclerc. “I defy you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a classy lady in the nude.”
The sensational case, dubbed the “Carlton affair” by French newspapers, is merely the latest sex scandal to envelop the former head of the International Monetary Fund, who lost his job after being accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid last year (the charges were later dropped). It’s also the most recent example of a company—in this case a French construction firm—being accused of improperly using corporate funds to throw so-called “sex parties” for employees and clients. In fact, some experts say using sex to grease the wheels of commerce is far more common than most people think—even in a relatively conservative country like Canada. “We like to paint ourselves as better than other countries,” says Al Rosen of Toronto-based forensic accounting firm Rosen & Associates. “But we’re absolutely not.”
Though generally well-hidden, Rosen assures that there’s plenty of questionable corporate spending going on behind closed doors. “It’s usually the international companies where there’s a lot of competition and money at stake,” he says. “They grease the skids with whatever (customers) want.” Even more shocking is the fact that many employees aren’t automatically fired when such transgressions come to light, owing in part to a general lack of clear corporate policies on such raunchy behaviour.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 8:55 AM - 0 Comments
The Rugby World Cup is bringing plenty of men behaving badly to New Zealand
The English national rugby team kicked off its World Cup campaign in unconvincing fashion last month, limping to a win over underdogs Argentina in Dunedin, N.Z. The Englishmen struggled for points and played from behind for much of the match. But outside the stadium, where tens of thousands of travelling English fans gathered, scoring was not expected to be a problem.
Prostitution is legal in New Zealand, and brothels there reportedly doubled their condom orders ahead of the six-week Rugby World Cup. “Whenever I hear an English accent,” madame Mary Brennan told Agence France-Presse, “I know there’ll be some good business there.” The English are not the only fans in town. Brennan says she’s had bookings from South Africa, Ireland and even Canada.
As for the players themselves, the English, at least, aren’t averse to a little bad behaviour. Members of the team were photographed at a dwarf-themed pub night ahead of a pool match with Georgia. Management assured the public that, contrary to reports, no midgets were thrown. Captain Mike Tindall, meanwhile, who recently married the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips, was said to be “just friends” with a mystery blond he was spotted with at the bar.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 4:51 PM - 35 Comments
Decriminalization, on the other hand, views sex work as legitimate work, and rescinds the laws against consensual adult sex workers, whether the work is commercial or private. New Zealand and New South Wales in Australia both have decriminalization. In these places, sex workers are not required to get expensive licences, and can work without the threat of criminal charges. The cost for licences and permits is on par with those of other businesses, and sex workers pay the same taxes that any other businesses do. Decriminalization puts the power back in the hands of the sex worker so we can work under our terms while still being productive members of society. We should be able to work safely, and should be able to contribute to, and participate in, society, just like everyone else.
By macleans.ca - Monday, June 13, 2011 at 11:44 AM - 6 Comments
Federal and Ontario governments appeal ruling that struck down existing laws
The federal and Ontario governments’ appeal of an Ontario Superior Court decision last fall which struck down several key prostitution laws, began on Monday. Last year, Ontario Justice Susan Himel overturned three anti-prostitution laws that were ruled to endanger sex workers—keeping a common bawdy house, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, and living on the avails of the trade. Alan Young, a York University law professor who represent sex trade workers, argues that making communication for the purposes of prostitution illegal prevents sex workers from being able to “screen” their potential clients or take necessary safety precautions. Terri-Jean Bedford, an outspoken advocate for the legalization of prostitution and a practicing dominatrix, and two other sex workers, Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch, are the three litigants who have maintained that the existing laws expose them to violence on the streets. The Crown is appealing Judge Himel’s ruling on the basis that prostitution is a degrading criminal pursuit that should not be encouraged under relaxed laws, which themselves do little to protect sex workers from violence. Young says he expects that regardless of the outcome of the appeal, the case will most likely be argued at the Supreme Court of Canada.
By Michael Barclay - Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
British Columbia:… The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed a class-action lawsuit against the
British Columbia: The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed a class-action lawsuit against the district of Mission over a bylaw that allowed homes using more than the average amount of electricity to be inspected for signs of a grow op. Residents who were growing cucumbers or had incorrect wiring—with no marijuana to be found—were nonetheless fined up to $5,300, and in one case had trouble entering the U.S. The bylaw has since been suspended pending review.
Alberta: A man is suing the Calgary police, claiming he was wrongfully beaten up and arrested for trying to pick up a prostitute. According to the plaintiff, he was simply the passenger in his friend’s van when the driver allegedly tried to buy sex from an undercover police officer. A police vehicle then approached the van, and the plaintiff says he was pulled out and punched and kicked by two officers before being questioned and searched.
Saskatchewan: Regina’s CTV News anchor Manfred Joehnck is suing the local alternative weekly, Prairie Dog, for a blog post he claims misinterpreted on-air remarks he made comparing k.d. lang’s physical appearance to Charlie Sheen: “The older she gets, the more she looks like Charlie Sheen,” Joehnck joked, before qualifying: “Charlie on a good day, not his web page days.” The blogger took umbrage to what he perceived as a slur against lang’s appearance, and by extension her sexual orientation. Although Joehnck has apologized, his lawsuit claims the post and the reader comments are harmful to his reputation.
By Nicholas Köhler - Monday, May 2, 2011 at 1:00 PM - 3 Comments
In conversation with Nick Kohler
Chester Brown, the Toronto-based graphic novelist best known for his 2003 book, Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography, will be touring North America in May in support of his latest, Paying For It: a comic-strip memoir about being a john. Painfully candid, the book begins with the collapse of his relationship with long-time girlfriend Sook-Yin Lee, current host of the CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera, then recounts how that split led him to forgo romantic love in favour of paying prostitutes for sex. [SPOILER ALERT] It ends with his discovery of a new kind of monogamy with his “special friend”—a woman he met while she was still a working prostitute and who he continues to pay in exchange for sex.
Q: What do you hope Paying For It accomplishes?
A: Obviously there’s a political undercurrent to the book. I’m trying to make a point. Last fall we had Justice Susan Himel’s ruling basically decriminalizing prostitution. In the wake of that there were all these people saying, ‘Okay, now we have to re-criminalize prostitution and make it illegal for johns to buy sex.’ Stop criminalizing the prostitute, which I agree with, and start criminalizing the john, which of course I don’t agree with. There was Victor Malarek’s book [The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It] a couple of years ago and Benjamin Perrin, who wrote a book [in 2010] called Invisible Chains, with a very similar theme: that johns are evil monsters. I wanted a book from the john’s point of view, since of course, I don’t think of myself as an evil monster and I hope I’m not. So you want a book to explain where you’re coming from, and hopefully people will understand.
Q: One of the things that comes out in one of the appendices in the back of the book is that you hadn’t wanted to call it Paying For It. What would you have preferred?
A: I had a couple of different titles. One I was considering, but not that seriously, was The Sex Life of John Brown. But probably more seriously I was thinking of I Pay For Sex—much more direct or blunt. And for them [his publishers at Drawn & Quarterly], that was too blunt, too direct. Darn, I wish I could remember the title they suggested that I really hated. I think they actually suggested In Defence of Prostitution, which just is so boring.
Q: You suggest in that same passage that it’s a difficult book to market. But in my dealings with Peggy Burns, the associate publisher at Drawn & Quarterly, I would guess that she’s having the opposite problem, which is fighting people off with a stick. Are you surprised by the level of interest in the book?
A: They are concerned about the reaction of bookstores. I guess it’s not so much, “Will journalists be interested in covering the book?” It’s, “Are bookstores going to be willing to carry the book?” The Riel book did very well—there were lots of people willing to buy it as a gift for other people. This is a very different book. It’s much less likely that people will be buying it as a gift. Even just being in a bookstore and asking for it. When we were still considering calling the book, I Pay For Sex, they were saying, “Imagine you’re in a bookstore and you’re having to ask the bookseller for the book, I Pay For Sex.” So, I can see the problems associated with marketing this book.
Q: But it’s also a bold book. It’s a book that’s fun to cover as a journalist because it’s kind of audacious. You’re left exposed by the book, the way it’s drawn, how graphic it is. How can you open yourself up to this degree?
A: I read an interview with Spalding Gray several years ago where he was questioning—why do people even have secrets? Most of us just take it for granted—we all have secrets. And he was questioning the whole idea of secrecy. And I was like, “Yeah, why do we even have secrets? Why do I care if people know this or that about me?” It is easier to live openly when you’re not married. Not to get too much into the whole “romantic love” thing, but if you’re going to live successfully with another person, there are things you have to keep to yourself. So the guy who lives on his own, I think, is more used to just expressing things openly.
Q: You mention romantic love. The book begins with such a charged tone—when you break up with Sook-Yin Lee—and it propels the rest of the book in many ways. It’s actually quite painful to read.
A: Incidentally, that first scene is entirely black in the book. I tried to draw that scene so many times, I couldn’t get the emotional tone right. I tried just drawing our faces, and that didn’t seem to work. Then I tried drawing our heads shot from the back, and that didn’t seem to work. I went through at least four different drawn versions, redrawing and redrawing that scene. And so finally I was like, “Okay, I’m going to start drawing the next scene.” And the next scene seemed to work right away. And then eventually I was like, “I’m just going to black out that scene. I can’t draw it for whatever reason.”
Q: And the reason I think it propels the rest of the book is, it’s kind of a meditation on romantic love—what it is and what different people want to get out of it. Is that what you wanted to discuss, or is that incidental to the other discussion, about how society should treat prostitution?
A: I think they go together in some way. But I can’t say that I even come to a conclusion about romantic love. In that last chapter, or the last two chapters, I have various people talking about what romantic love is. And then at the end of the book I have myself saying that I do love this woman. But it’s hard for me to even be sure what I mean by that. Obviously I do have deep feelings and I care for her a lot. But how does that relate to what other people mean by the word “love,” because so many people mean so many different things. So, yeah. I guess in the end it is all kind of vague—what does love mean? Personally, I like just living on my own. I would prefer not to be living with anyone, really. Like, as much as I care for my special friend, I don’t want to live with her. The relationship we have works perfectly and I don’t think we’re trying to move it in a conventional relationship direction. It is the way it is. I don’t think she wants to live with me anymore than I want to live with her.
Q: It’s not clear to me from the book whether that relationship goes beyond the physical.
A: Do we share some interests outside the bed? Yes.
Q: Can you talk a bit about how the written appendices at the back of the book came about—where you elaborate on the details of prostitution and why it should be decriminalized? Were they originally part of the conception of the book?
A: I’ve got a notes section at the back of the Riel book, and I’d done this with other works too. I didn’t want to drag down the narrative with too much in the way of theory. Most of the stuff I introduce into the book as “my ideas” was done through dialogue I would have with people. And some things I just thought without actually talking about it with other people. I didn’t want to invent conversations, so it seemed like, instead of inventing conversations, just put those things in the appendices.
Q: Was there any worry that you should acknowledge or anticipate arguments that critics would no doubt marshal against you?
A: Oh definitely. That was a big part of it.
Q: Can you talk a bit about some of the things that didn’t lend themselves to the comic part but that you thought you should deal with?
A: The significant one is probably the issue of human trafficking. None of my friends ever even mentioned the topic, and I didn’t think to talk about it with people. And I didn’t become aware of the subject until 2003, in a CBC story that Shelagh Rogers did on Sounds Like Canada. I might have heard of human trafficking before, but not in relation to prostitution. I never really put together that that might be a problem. So, yeah, putting it in scenes—there wasn’t really a way to do that. But I wanted to address the topic.
Q: In the section of the book when you’re introduced to the protocols of prostitution, which is so interesting, the thing that jumps out is that your experience doesn’t jive with the perceptions many people have of that world—that it’s all about drugs and exploitation. Why the discrepancy between the perception of that world and your experience of it?
A: Well, I was seeing indoor workers as opposed to streetwalkers and from what I hear, drug use is much more prevalent among streetwalkers then it is with girls who are escorting.
Q: In a funny way, is Paying For It a love story in the end?
A: Certainly not a conventional love story. But, yeah, I guess it is. It feels like a love story to me. Even though she has never said the words “I love you.” She has certainly indicated in enough other ways that she does care about me. She wouldn’t think of it as a “romantic” love. I care for her and she cares for me. It is a type of love story.
Q: At this point in your relationship with your “special friend,” is the payment—the transactional part of the relationship—almost like an escape hatch, something that says, ‘this is still fleeting’?
A: I don’t know if it’s an escape hatch, but I think it is something that makes the relationship feel different. In a lot of ways it is like a conventional boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, and even occasionally we argue about stuff. But it never gets into the type of melodramatic arguments that I’ve experienced in my relationships with my girlfriends. Things just don’t get hostile in that way. It feels like a different sort of sexual relationship between a man and a woman. And the only thing I have to attribute that to is the money.
Q: This will no doubt be a controversial book. What do you worry about what could happen—about how others will criticize you? Does it worry you?
A: It only really worries me in what I might call “real life” situations. I’m going to be doing a tour to promote the book, and giving live presentations in front of audiences, and I’m worried about the heckling—if there’s going to be heckling. Because I’ve never experienced it in the past, I have no idea what I would do with hecklers. I guess we’ll see. And maybe it’s not even going to happen.
By Nicholas Köhler - Monday, May 2, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 2 Comments
Chester Brown chronicles a life of paying for sex in his controversial new book
In the whole of the Platonic canon, Socrates leaves Athens just once: in the Phaedrus, the second of the dialogues on romantic love. As Socrates walks through the city he sees Phaedrus, an attractive young man, deep in thought. Phaedrus tells him he has just heard a speech about love and invites Socrates to walk with him into the countryside to hear the details. Under a tree, he outlines the speech: you should always be with someone who doesn’t love you rather than someone who does. Someone who loves you will make your life difficult: they want to be with you always; they become jealous, frightened you’ll leave, and so discourage you from meeting people who might take you away; they become angry when you change; they suffocate you. With someone who doesn’t love you, you can come and go as you please. It doesn’t hurt to be with someone who doesn’t love you; often it hurts to be with someone who does.
Later, just as Socrates turns to leave, he stops. He realizes that by discussing love in these terms he has committed the sin of impiety against the god Eros. To make amends, he must make his own speech: that to be in love is actually the greatest good.
Consider now a modern treatment of the issue. Cartoonist Chester Brown’s new graphic novel, Paying For It, is sure to stir controversy when it’s released next month, for its explicit chronicling of his life paying for sex, and for its impassioned argument in support of prostitution’s decriminalization. But the book is at its best when it explores the same territory as the Phaedrus—the nature of romantic love. The comparison isn’t so far-fetched. Brown, a Canadian, has been instrumental in popularizing the notion that comics are capable of a lot more than just caped superheroes, and he’s best known for a psychologically acute biography of Metis leader Louis Riel.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 12:34 PM - 0 Comments
A round-up of the oddest crimes from across Canada
Newfoundland: Two St. John’s citizens face assault charges in two separate incidents involving unusual weapons. Earlier this month, a woman was arrested in a hospital emergency room after striking a man in the head with a crutch, and charged with assault with a weapon. That same week, police responded to a domestic call where they found a man allegedly threatening his family with a television remote control. He has been charged with assault and uttering threats.
Prince Edward Island: A 51-year-old man from Tracadie Cross is facing charges of assault causing bodily harm after he allegedly attacked a snowplow operator. The accused was plowing his driveway with a truck and dumping the snow in the road, which the operator saw and advised him not to do. Police say the accused then entered the plow’s cab and threw the driver to the ground, continuing to assault him and breaking his finger.
Ontario: After failing to break into a bakery in the town of Madoc, a 20-year-old man allegedly went on to steal a bag of cookies and two packages of butter tarts from a nearby gas station. In addition to charges of break and enter and theft under $5,000, he is charged with breach of probation.
Saskatchewan: Two 19-year-old Regina men were arrested after allegedly firing a paintball gun at a man pruning trees. The victim called the police, who entered the house in question and found three large bags of marijuana. The men face charges of mischief, assault, weapons, and possession of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking.
British Columbia: A 45-year-old Langley woman has been charged with keeping a common bawdy house and living on the avails of prostitution after she was arrested at Broadway Bodycare, a “health enhancement centre” that is advertised online as an escort service. Police were responding to complaints about “sexual noises coming from the business,” said Const. Lindsey Houghton.
By Chris Sorensen - Monday, February 7, 2011 at 12:43 PM - 2 Comments
Companies like Craigslist and Apple walk a thin line between profit and morality
Just before Christmas, online classified service Craigslist pulled the plug on its controversial erotic services category in Canada in response to growing political pressure from Ottawa and several provinces. The move followed a similar decision in the United States after 39 state attorneys general wrote to CEO Jim Buckmaster requesting the category, nestled innocently between more mundane sounding services like “automotive” and “farm + garden,” be banned because of growing public concern that “ads for prostitution—including ads trafficking children—are rampant” on the website.
Of course, Craigslist is not the only place offering ads for erotic services. Pick up a Yellow Pages or any one of several weekly papers in major cities and there’s plenty of adult-oriented entertainment to choose from, including pages of ads for “erotic massage” and escort services—several of which no doubt intend to telegraph sex for sale. Go elsewhere on the Internet and the sky’s the limit.
But while Craigslist grabbed attention after its ads were connected to a grisly murder, dubbed the “Craigslist Killer” by media, it’s far from the first time a company has been singled out—some say unfairly—for dabbling in adult content. “It’s very difficult to predict social attitudes and mores around sex,” says Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto. “Some of it is purely time and place and the way companies purport themselves.” In other words, when it comes to selling sex, executives walk a razor-thin line between profit and morality, or at least the public’s current conception of it.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 2:50 PM - 9 Comments
Stay extension means current laws will stand at least until April
The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that Canada’s prostitution laws will stand for at least several more months while government lawyers prepare an appeal of a landmark ruling that essentially decriminalized prostitution. The court ruling on Thursday means the laws banning communicating for the purpose of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy house, and living off the avails of prostitution will continue to be valid. (Earlier in 2010, an Ontario Superior Court judge struck down the three laws.) Today’s decision extends the stay on the lower court’s ruling until April 29, putting pressure on the government to expedite the appeal process. This means it is still against the law for prostitutes in Ontario to work in brothels and openly solicit customers.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 10 Comments
Local police have ordered women, who troll a local highway for work, to put on the high-visibility clothing
Street prostitutes working near the Catalan city of Lleida now share a uniform: fluorescent yellow vests. Local police have ordered the women, who troll a local highway for work, to put on the high-visibility clothing in order to prevent road accidents. Anyone who opts out of the brightly coloured bib faces a $57 fine by the Mossos d’Esquadra, the regional police.
A spokesman for the force emphasized that officers were not singling the women out; prostitution in Spain is legal in most cities (though pimping is not). Instead, this crackdown is in accordance with a 2004 law, which stipulates that anyone on a highway, including those with broken-down cars, must wear a fluorescent bib.
Most women have incorporated the sleeveless jackets into their previous uniform of short skirts, tall boots, and revealing tops. The police say that if they continue to abide by the law, the women have no other reason to face fines. After all, the road they work falls just outside the boundaries of Lleida, one city that recently banned street prostitution.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 2:20 PM - 0 Comments
The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner is impatient with the columnists cawing against Justice Susan Himel’s prostitution ruling. This morning he exasperatedly tweeted at them that “You don’t have to agree. You do have to read”—that is, read what Himel wrote. I’m on Dan’s side in this debate, but, hey, isn’t he being a little unfair and obnoxious? Surely respectable writers like Daphne Bramham wouldn’t denounce the Himel decision in such strong terms without examining the evidence:
If prostitution were a job freely chosen, as the pro-legalization forces would have us believe, it’s unlikely that the average age of entry into that workforce would be 14.
Damn, I guess Dan was right after all. This soundbite is a poor choice for an opening salvo against Himel, since it came up specifically in her hearing of the evidence from supporters of the existing law [emphasis mine]:
I find that Drs. Raymond and Poulin were more like advocates than experts offering independent opinions to the court. At times, they made bold, sweeping statements that were not reflected in their research. For example, some of Dr. Raymond’s statements on prostitutes were based on her research on trafficked women. As well, during cross-examination, it was revealed that some of Dr. Poulin’s citations for his claim that the average age of recruitment into prostitution is 14 years old were misleading or incorrect. In his affidavit, Dr. Poulin suggested that there have been instances of serial killers targeting prostitutes who worked at indoor locations; however, his sources do not appear to support his assertion. I found it troubling that Dr. Poulin stated during cross-examination that it is not important for scholars to present information that contradicts their own findings (or findings which they support).
Himel’s judgment gives the impression that she carefully scrutinized and weighted the massive body of evidence before her; Bramham, by contrast, uses cherry-picked stats in a way that recalls the old proverb about the drunk and the lamppost. Indeed, her column is such an impossibly confused piece of argument that one is tempted to think the drunkenness literal.
Like other critics of Himel, Bramham sneers at the idea that selling sex can possibly constitute an exercise of “choice”; you know this, she suggests, because you wouldn’t want your sister to be a prostitute. Well, I sure as hell wouldn’t want my sister to be a columnist at a Postmedia newspaper; I did that job, and, given my sister’s other options, the uncertainty and meagre pay certainly wouldn’t maximize her happiness or her income. It’s nonsensical to criticize someone’s means of earning a living from the standpoint that she could just presumably go be a master mariner or an accountant tomorrow if she didn’t have an imaginary gun to her head.
We are all trying to get by within a context of skills, credentials, abilities, and tastes, and these things are limited by our life experiences (particularly the horrible ones) and our inherent endowments. This is not the prostitute’s condition; it is the human condition. Sneering comments about the meaning and value of choice don’t reflect well on any commentator’s realism.
They’re especially odious when realism is precisely what those commentators claim to be advocating. Bramham writes: “Selling sex is dehumanizing and soul-destroying to most of the people who do it. That’s not a moral judgment. It’s fact.” This couldn’t be more embarrassing if she’d shouted “SCIENCE!” instead, could it? Has this soul-destruction been quantified by a graduate student? Is there an SI unit of dehumanization? Or is the columnist simply reluctant to admit that there might, in fact, be some irrational prejudices and scolding Methodist ghosts swirling around in her hindbrain?
Oh, not possible: Bramham eventually comes around to advocating the progressive, presumptively sex-positive “Nordic model” of prostitution—having either forgotten or never realized that the crux of the Nordic model is decriminalization of the supply side of the sex trade. It’s the pre-Himel law that’s inconsistent with the Nordic model! As Himel’s decision points out!
In Sweden, where prostitution is approached as an aspect of male violence against women and children, buying sex and pimping are illegal, but the seller of sexual services is seen as a victim and not criminalized. Public education campaigns targeting buyers of sexual services have reduced demand. Intensive police training has led to a 300 per cent increase in arrests and a reduction of complaints that the law is too difficult to enforce.
This evidence suggests to me that Canada’s prohibition of all public communications for the purpose of prostitution is no longer in step with changing international responses. These legal regimes demonstrate that legislatures around the world are turning their minds to the protection of prostitutes, as well as preventing social nuisance. The communicating provision impairs the ability of prostitutes to communicate in order to minimize their risk of harm and, as such, does not constitute a minimal impairment of their rights.
I don’t mean to pick on Daphne Bramham in particular; she’s just the latest target to pop up, and the faults in her rhetoric, enormous and fatal though they are, don’t descend to the level of Barbara Kay, who is sure that legalizing prostitution today means she’ll be clapped in irons for being agin it tomorrow. Still, at least my friend Barbara is upfront about not giving a fig about any harm done to prostitutes by the law. I was criticized a little bit last week for suggesting that opponents of the Himel ruling, people who don’t like to entertain arguments about “harm”, should logically regard serial killers as Dexter-esque defenders—perhaps distasteful but in a sense admirable—of the social order they value so highly. I’m afraid this implication is hardly even disguised by Mrs. Kay: in her first column on Himel she brings up Robert Pickton explicitly, mentions in a flat, neutral way that his murder spree “seem to have been a strong motivation for [Himel's] decision”, and goes on to dismiss the question of “harm” willy-nilly. You’re left to infer her feelings about Pickton: she doesn’t take an explicit position. I think I know that she would oppose his particular species of social activism, but given her arguments against harm reduction, I can’t really account for why she would.
Espousal of the Nordic model of supply-side decriminalization is probably more reasonable, and Bramham should be given credit for that, even if the idea collides with absolutely everything else she apparently believes. For myself, I’d prefer it if we could just get past our superstitions about power imbalance in technically victimless exchanges. Our law, in practice, now pretty much treats pot growers as Satan and pot smokers as delusional, lazy unfortunates; suppliers bad, demanders OK. When it comes to prostitution we take the opposite tack: suppliers victims, demanders monsters—though at other times, for no better reason, the reverse approach has prevailed. I’m content to let the Nordic model be judged on a close, unbiased study of its practical effects (and I certainly do believe that policy surrounding prostitution should facilitate, even encourage exit from it), but at root, do all these just-so stories make sense?
My ideology is that it takes two to tango and that people should be allowed to tango. Nobody wants to argue for a man’s right to buy commoditized sex, just as he buys commoditized brainpower (in theory) when he buys the Vancouver Sun or the commoditized sweat of Mexicans when he buys garlic and oranges from California. The anti-prostitution regiment, though it may appear in our minds arrayed in the black bonnets and hoop skirts of our Victorian foremothers, seem to me like nothing more than degraded Marxists or hippies carping about alienation, or about how we don’t deal with each other as real human beings, maaaan. We commoditize each other and are commoditized; that’s where everything that lifts us above the miseries of subsistence farming comes from.
And that’s really pretty OK. Unless you’ve breathed in too much nonsense borrowed from nitwit German philosophizing about “the I and the thou”, you know that capitalist alienation doesn’t prevent civilized persons from forming genuine connections, or acting with decency and kindness, within a client-servant framework. As prostitutes will be the first to tell you. My argument here would probably seem stronger if I had some good, obvious objects of pathos to parade—if, for instance, ex-johns wrote as many blogs and books and news articles as ex-hookers do. But that’s the price of monsterizing the john: people can blather on about how “prostitution is violence” without even having seen or heard of the widowers, the social castoffs, and the deformed and disabled who make up part of pretty much every whore’s clientele. (Whether that whore is male or female.)
This is not to say that a lot of johns aren’t woman-haters: the only question, absolutely the only question, is how best to protect the women. Which brings us back to Bramham. She cites a case, and it is a fantastically rare case, in which a Vancouver “incall” prostitute was murdered by a client in an apartment being used as a massage parlour. (OMG! Another “Craigslist killing”!) But as Bramham presumably understands, many women are killed every year by husbands, boyfriends, and acquaintances under similar circumstances; we probably cannot expect prostitution policy to make sex for pay any safer than sex in general. So how is prostitution relevant to the example at all?
If anything, its relevance would seem to be that there was a record of the man’s internet browsing, a record of the cash transaction, and security-camera images of his arrival at the illicit business. The commercial aspect of his visit is almost certainly the reason he got caught; it’s the only way Bramham is able to give us the exact amount he paid. As an argument that violence against prostitutes can’t be deterred by making indoor security arrangements legal, her anecdatum isn’t just ineffective, it’s self-annihilating.
So, too, is the quote she provides from a UBC law professor who says “says at most the decision might change [prostitution] from ‘an extremely dangerous job to a very dangerous job’.” Here, again, the idea that prostitution should be made safer is just being laughed at. We have a whole universe of occupational health and safety regulations devoted to making extremely dangerous jobs very dangerous, don’t we? Are these rules somehow bad or ridiculous?
A useful exercise in assessing columns about prostitution is to substitute “taxi drivers” for “sex workers” and see how the rhetoric holds up. Driving cab carries the highest risk of violent assault and homicide of any commonly performed lawful profession—higher, easily, than that faced by cops. So imagine Bramham writing “What are the chances, if driving a taxi really were a choice, that so many who choose it are poor, under-educated immigrants or members of minority groups?” Whoa, the demographics check out and everything! Could Bramham find a lawyer to say that it is “naive, disingenuous and dangerous to frame cab driving only in terms of safety, choice and individual autonomy”? I wouldn’t bet against it. A journalist—particularly one who’s a brilliant, tireless reporter—can always find what she has decided to look for.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 11:01 AM - 0 Comments
The Ontario Superior Court’s Charter finding against prostitution-related provisions of the Criminal Code has unexpectedly cast light on the new Alberta politics. The hard-charging Wildrose Alliance talks a good game when it comes to defending provincial rights; the logical corollary, one might suppose, would be for it to observe a dignified silence about matters reserved to the federal government. This is never how things work, of course, and the Alliance couldn’t move fast enough to issue a joint statement in the names of its two turncoat MLAs, Heather Forsyth and Rob Anderson.
Just as the mind of Newton was instantly discernible by contemporaries from his anonymous solution to the brachistochrone problem, so the corresponding organ inside Heather Forsyth is recognizable from the language of the press release. Forsyth never heard an idea for “protecting children” she didn’t like, and certainly never, as an Alberta cabinet minister, implemented one she would recognize as a failure.
“No little girl,” reads the statement, “ever dreams of growing up and becoming a prostitute, and no parent wants to see their child become a sex worker.” As an argument in favour of the existing prostitution laws, this immediately raises the question whether the parents of Robert Pickton’s victims dreamed fondly of their fate, complete with a soundtrack of swine gnawing bone. No little girl does foresee becoming a sex worker, any more than little boys imagine becoming garbagemen or sheet-metal cutters. (Hands up, all those of you who do have the job of their dreams! I’ll admit I’m relatively blessed in that regard, but then again I am not writing this note from the deck of the space shuttle.)
It is precisely the unpleasantness of such professions that demands we attend carefully to their occupational safety. That is the ground, for better or worse, on which Justice Susan Himel acted. The Wildrose statement does not object that Himel’s decision will fail to make prostitution safer; it concedes the point, and specifically rejects the idea that prostitution should be made safer for women. Why, one wonders, is Robert Pickton in prison at all? By the Forsyth standard, surely he should be freed, perhaps even subsidized as a public benefactor.
The fact is, Alberta already has a governing party that was happy to implement Forsythian ideas of justice and child welfare, dozens of them, before Forsyth became the victim of a geographic squeeze and left the PCs in a snit. The party’s statement thus leaves one wondering whether a vote for the Wildrose is a vote for ideological change, or just the same old formula with a different gang of ministers. It suggests tentatively that Danielle Smith’s “big tent” is going to fly the Oriflamme of social conservatism rather than the Gadsden flag of libertarianism.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 12:57 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Joy Smith explains one part of her push against human trafficking.
Smith’s plan calls for Canada to study ways to adopt a decade-old Swedish policy that considers prostitution violence against the sex trade worker and makes it illegal to buy or attempt to buy sex either on the street or in a business such as a brothel or massage parlour. The policy cut demand for the sex trade and resulted in a significant drop in human trafficking there compared to its European neighbours. Some estimated the amount of prostitution in Sweden plummeted 90 per cent.
Canada’s current laws prohibit solicitation but not the actual purchase of sex. ”Personally, I like the Swedish model and we can adapt many concepts from that model concerning the demand for the sex trade,” said Smith.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
Ready to dish?: Berlusconi’s wife may call Letizia and D’Addario to testify
A prostitute and an aspiring model may be about to testify against Silvio Berlusconi, in the embattled Italian prime minister’s nasty divorce proceedings that continue to drag his already tarnished reputation further through the mud. Veronica Lario, Berlusconi’s wife of 19 years, has won the right to call witnesses, and is reportedly planning to bring Noemi Letizia, the model who sparked the separation when the PM attended her 18th birthday party, and Patrizia D’Addario, a former prostitute who claims Berlusconi paid her for sex in 2008, before a judge.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 10 Comments
The country’s sex workers generate 1.6 per cent of total GDP
In 2004, the South Korean government enacted new laws designed to crack down on the country’s sex trade, which by some estimates accounted for a whopping 4.1 per cent of GDP. To some extent, those regulations were successful: according to the Korean Women’s Development Institute, a think tank dedicated to researching women’s issues in South Korea, the sex trade now generates approximately 1.6 per cent of GDP, or about $14 billion annually (by comparison, South Korea’s agriculture industry accounts for roughly three per cent of GDP).
But Sealing Cheng, an anthropologist at Wellesley College in Massachusetts who specializes in sexuality, prostitution and human rights in South Korea, argues the government’s efforts don’t always work as intended. While the sex trade laws target pimps and brothel owners, and offer financial and vocational assistance for victims of prostitution, they also establish fines and jail terms for the approximately 269,000 sex workers in the country. “It makes life difficult for a lot of women who, for some reason, remain in the trade. If there isn’t adequate assistance for them, they won’t leave.”
The crackdown is also forcing prostitution further underground. When illicit massage parlours are raided, they often reopen as “hostess bars,” where women are paid for their company but don’t specifically have to sleep with clients, although they often do. “They’re moving too quickly for the government to shut them down,” says Whasoon Byun, a researcher with the Korean Women’s Development Institute.
By Ken MacQueen - Friday, November 20, 2009 at 4:11 PM - 80 Comments
FULL STORY: From the death penalty to same-sex relationships, a new poll shows huge shifts.
An Ontario court judge will soon decide if Canada’s prostitution laws should be struck down. In British Columbia, the Supreme Court will decide if laws prohibiting polygamy can still be enforced. And in the House of Commons, a private member’s bill would make it legal for the profoundly ill to seek a doctor’s help to commit suicide. As a nation we are reinventing, refining—or undermining—our morality in dramatic fashion. In some instances we are asking the courts to do our thinking for us. But in most cases we forge a national sense of right or wrong in the millions of individual judgment calls we make every day—increasingly without the guidance of organized religion.
With so many moral issues at a crossroads, Angus Reid Strategies undertook a national survey last month asking Canadians to consider 21 ethical issues. Their answers—on issues as diverse as animal rights, prostitution, homosexuality and illegal drug use—show some profound divisions by gender and region. But taken together, they seem to reveal a rather astounding liberal tilt in our morality, albeit with some exceptions. Each Canadian steers by his and most certainly her moral compass, and the wonder is we don’t bump into each other more often.
Consider these six sticky moral situations. Which are the most and the least acceptable to you, and to most Canadians?
- You plan to have an abortion.
- You wear a mink coat.
- You favour killing convicted murderers.
- You think the dying have the right to commit suicide with a doctor’s help.
- You don’t care if the drugs you buy have been tested on animals.
- You support medical research using the stem cells of human embryos.
Let’s start by saying there’s never been a better time to be a Canadian mink, or a seal, or a lab rat. Canadians today are more likely to moralize about the treatment of animals than about the lives of our fellow humans. Just 22 per cent oppose euthanasia, but 41 per cent condemn medical testing on animals, the survey found. Abortion is considered morally wrong by 22 per cent of Canadians, fewer than the 31 per cent who have moral qualms about wearing fur. But while four in 10 oppose animal testing, only 17 per cent take issue with researchers using human embryonic stem cells. As for capital punishment, 53 per cent of Canadians consider it “morally acceptable,” a jump of six percentage points since Reid last asked the question in 2007.
By Scott Feschuk - Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 6 Comments
Dear Highest Bidder: You are a man who has amassed great wealth and head trauma
When I first heard about the U.S. college student who’s auctioning off her virginity, a number of thoughts went through my head, including, “What has our society come to?” and “Where did I leave my chequebook?”
Natalie Dylan, a 22-year-old women’s studies graduate from Sacramento, has put her virginity up for sale—and the bidding has soared to an astonishing US$3.8 million. Economists say this provides the most convincing evidence yet that the impact of the global financial crisis has yet to be felt among those in the “huge idiot” demographic.