This week (April 1st) Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation), an unfunded volunteer sex worker organisation, launched its protest to raise concerns over the “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference being put on in Melbourne this weekend.
Antis/abolitionists have jumped up and said ‘actually, we’re saving woman’s lives, can’t believe you’d think the selling of woman’s bodies is acceptable, it’s degrading’, etc.. This doesn’t make any sense because last I checked I still had my body, as does every other sex worker. I wouldn’t even say my body is rented, my body still houses my soul and only my soul. I’m sure every person will agree it is especially degrading to have someone else tell you are suffering from false consciousness and thereby dismiss everything you say and then go on to speak on your behalf.
It is frustrating for me as a sex worker, who closely empathises with sex workers because I live a similar life experience, to be accused of not caring for other sex workers. In fact it is infuriating when I am told that I am advocating for the harm of the people I work beside, converse with and regularly share workplace knowledge with. This is a purposeful, direct attempt to deter any sex worker advocating for their rights from speaking up. You might even say this is silencing. This is a very deliberate tactic by the antis.
Antis define anything that has elements of sex and money as the sex trade, and often refer to sex workers as “pimps” and sex workers organisations as the “pimp lobby”. This is a tactic used to silence sex worker’s voices when sex workers speak out on their own rights.
Sex workers speak out about the issues we face – about our working conditions, violence, and that we want things to be better and safer for us. To deliberately ignore us in conversations about our lives is not okay. For antis to tell us they know what we need and want is highly patronising and condescending. We know what we want. We want to be heard, and to be recognised and having a right to decide our own fates.
We are advocating for our rights like any other workers. When we speak, we are talking about our workplaces and jobs. As for everything else, there are already laws in place to deal specifically with different issues.
Another thing that’s come up is the accusation that we are ‘silencing’ or gagging survivors or threatening violence. This is simply not true. We are a marginalised population, we are not capable of doing these things, we do not have the means to do so. All we have is a job, our experiences and a social media account where we can speak up. The aim of the protest is to raise awareness that both the Swedish Model/abolition is harmful to sex workers. This isn’t a difference of opinion, this is an evidence-based conclusion. This conference advocates for the Swedish Model/abolition, it is not an event that is open to academic debate, only those whose stories and research fit into a specific narrative that endorses the position of the anti sex work lobby are invited. The anti sex work lobby are powerful, loud, and invested in their campaign to criminalise sex work, and they use your emotions to cloud your ability to discern and make independent thoughts.
People across the globe are celebrating the implementation of the Swedish Model in France, but not sex workers. They know their lives are just going to get harder and they’re going to have to take more risks. Systematic and institutional violence is not to be celebrated. Sex workers are going to be further stigmatised, further discriminated against, pushed underground. While a bunch of anti sex work warriors behind the desk are going to clink their champagne glasses and say hooray for their victory against marginalised people they never listened to.