On March 3rd, 2018, #HowIWillChange: Men’s Accountability Conference, took place on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples – specifically the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) & Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations in what is colonially known as Vancouver, Canada.
The online description of this conference stated that one of many issues that facilitators and presenters would “deep dive into” included “showing links between rape culture and our use of pornography, pr*stitution and massage parlours“.
As supporters of sex workers’ rights to safe working conditions as well as for the decriminalization of sex work, this is our response to the organizers of this event, which took place on International Sex Workers’ Rights Day. A flyer was created and distributed at the conference on March 3rd. The Men’s Accountability Conference has yet to publicly address and apologize for their promotion of sex work abolition. Below is the text from our flyer…
INTERNATIONAL SEX WORKERS’ RIGHTS DAY
this document is crafted & distributed on the unceded, occupied territory of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically Musqueam, Squamish, & Tsleil-Waututh nations.
this day’s history goes back to 2001, when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to prevent it taking place by pressuring the government to revoke their permit. the event was organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group that has over 50,000 sex worker members, and members of their communities. Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3rd March as an annual, international event, as International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.
considering the significance of today’s date and the central focus of this gathering to be around men’s accountability, it is alarming to witness this conference publicly state, through promotional material, its intention in discussing “[the] links between rape culture and our use of pornography, pr*stitution and massage parlours”, thereby promoting anti-sex work/sex work abolition ideology.
cisgender men, especially those who are white, abled, middle/upper class, straight (& straight-assumed), conventionally attractive and/or a combination of the above, who seek to work in solidarity with an intersectional, anti-oppressive feminist movement must stop conflating all sex work with trafficking and listen to sex workers when they demand decriminalization and declare that sex work is work.
SEX WORK IS WORK
Sex workers’ rights includes:
- the right to non-discrimination – sex workers experience a high degree of stigma and discrimination & often choose not to disclose their sex work to even their closest friends & family members
- the right to life, liberty and security of the person – sex workers have many barriers to accessing police protection & reporting violence, & reports from sex workers are not always investigated
- the right to working conditions that are safe and healthy – the criminalization of sex buyers forces sex workers to work in isolation & secrecy, and consequently limits their ability to work safely
- the right to freedom of expression & association – Canadian law forces sex workers to work alone & limits their ability to communicate with clients & effectively negotiate the terms of service
- the right to freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment – sex workers have up to a 75% lifetime risk of physical or sexual violence (CPHA, 2014), and are 60 to 120 times more likely to die by homicide than non-sex workers (Stats Canada, 2007)
[image description: the first image is of an illustration of a sex worker pointing with her left hand and holding a whip in her right hand. to the right of her, it says IN TEXT: ending violence against women starts with ending violence against sex workers. end text. at the bottom it says PACE-SOCIETY.ORG. the second image is of a black and white image of road signs that say RACISM, SEXISM, HETEROSEXISM, CLASSISM, COLONIALISM, ABLEISM. in the middle it says INTERSECTIONALITY. above and below the signs it says ALL OPPRESSION IS CONNECTED. end description.]
Upholding sex workers’ human rights is key to ending violence, exploitation and discrimination against sex workers and people who sell or trade sexual services.
SPEAK WITH SEX WORKERS NOT FOR THEM
(the text above describes the images of our flyers at the bottom of this post.)
some resources to learn more about the sex worker-led movement for decriminalization:
- “Criminalizing Sex-Work Has Not Saved Indigenous Women” by Naomi Sayers
- “Speak with sex workers, not for them” by Pivot Legal Society
- “How To Be An Ally to Sex Workers” by Sex Workers Outreach Project-Chicago (SWOP)
- “Sex work is work: renewed push to decriminalise profession in Victoria” by Neelima Choahan
- “Decriminalising sex work is the only way to protect women – and New Zealand has proved that it works” by Lynzi Armstrong
- “For Anti-Sex Work Writers, Sex Sells” by Noah Berlatsky
below are the flyers we created and distributed at #HowIWillChange: Men’s Accountability Conference.