Category Archives: Sex Work

Please support Dutch sex workers

Sex workers in Groningen and PROUD, the Dutch union for sex workers, are concerned about the illegal registration of personal data of sex workers. This is happening through the mandatory intake and distribution of a registration card in the city of Groningen. Both the intake procedure as the registration of personal data are serious violations of human rights and a breach of privacy laws.  Please support Dutch sex workers and sign the petition.

groningenThe mandatory intake is illegal, stigmatizing and humiliating. It has serious consequences, including profiling by the police and discrimination by the authorities. In addition, the mandatory intake can also be potentially dangerous for foreign sex workers and/or sex workers that still live abroad, as sex work is not legal everywhere.

Police in the Netherlands have informed families of sex workers about their profession, they enter homes without a proper warrant, they take money from sex workers without their consent and ask prostitutes invasive and humiliating questions. Sex workers need to be protected from human rights violations and state and police violence.

Sex workers will leave Groningen, have done this already or will choose to work illegally. Illegal working sex workers have no acces to the legal system, thereby being at greater risk of experiencing violence.

The sex workers of Groningen and PROUD want the city of Groningen to reconsider its policy and stop the mandatory intake and illegal registration. Please support Dutch sex workers by signing their petition.

Interview with the partner of a sex worker

Marijke: Hey Tim, thanks for doing this interview! You’re the partner of a sex worker. So what exactly does your girlfriend do?partner of a sex worker
Tim: Well, I can’t tell you exactly, for privacy reasons. But she’s been working as a prostitute for almost a decade. Her work is fully legal and licenced, she pays her taxes like everyone else. We’ve been living together for a few years and I’ve always been fully aware of her profession.

Did you ever find it difficult?
Well, honestly, yes. When we started dating and she told me, there was a lot I had to work
through. We’re brought up with this idea that there’s something wrong with prostitution, that something must be wrong with a woman if she wants to do such a thing. I really liked her, but is this someone I can introduce to my parents, start a family with? And it made me feel insecure, what does it say about me if I end up with someone who will sleep with anyone, what’s wrong with me? And also that, as a man, it’s humiliating if your partner slept with more people than you did, it’s a masculinity thing, I guess. I came into the relationship with a lot of hang-ups about sex work. If she did it only because she liked it than okay, maybe, but if she had sex just for the money it felt like it devalued her as a person. Looking back, I don’t know how she put up with me and all my bullshit!

I take it you’ve changed your mind?
Oh yes. I think the biggest change is that I’ve realised that sex workers are just people, you know? And I began to understand that the value of your relationship isn’t about how many people you have or have not slept with, but that it’s about having a healthy relationship with someone you love. And I think I’ve changed my perspective on sex, it doesn’t make a person cheap or less than. In fact, I think it’s admirable when people have the courage to follow their own dreams, make sexual choices that are good for them. When we were just together I didn’t really want to tell my friends, what if they don’t approve or think badly of her? Now I’m proud of it and I want them to know. Not just because I’m proud, but also in order to be able to be honest about my secret to somebody.

That sounds really great. But it’s not only your own feelings you have to deal with – the rest of the world isn’t always accepting of sex work. Are you worried about that?
Yes. There’s so much to be worried about, actually. I’m worried that when we have children, we’ll get child services on our back. You hear so much about full-on discrimination of prostitutes, it’s scary. It’s easy to forget partners of sex workers are just as vulnerable too. And with the current human trafficking hype my rights are even further limited, there are even laws being proposed that would make it legal for police to go into my/our house whenever they want, without as much as a warrant. I, as a male partner, also have to be so careful, even with the current laws I could easily be prosecuted for human trafficking. Even though I am in no way involved in her work, I always have to be on guard.

Yeah, I think in the sex workers’ rights movement we talk a lot about why decriminalisation is important for the safety of sex workers, and there’s some attention to the rights and wellbeing of clients. But I think we don’t always realise how dangerous it can be for people involved in a sex worker’s life, such as their partners. Even giving her a ride to work could get you in trouble.
Exactly, I have to be careful about picking her up from work. That’s crazy, right? If she had any other type of job it would be no problem. You have to be careful, if she has a booking in Germany or Belgium and I drive her I am literally, according to the law, trafficking her.

Does it help that you’re white? I know that sounds horrible when I put it that way, but the system in the Netherlands is deeply classist and racist, they go after people who are poor and/or black. Our idea of a pimp or trafficker is a black or Eastern European guy, not a university educated white man.
Yes, I think that it definitely helps that I’m white, I have a good job and I actually make more money than she does. My partner and I are both university educated, if child services ever investigate us we talk and act in a way that won’t set off all of their triggers. I’ll get to defend myself and I think I have the advantage that I am able to, people are willing to listen.

You don’t look like a loverboy.mansuit
Right. But I am still careful. I’m good with numbers but she does her own bookkeeping, it’s little things like that, you have to make sure you don’t create any wrong impressions.

Are you ever worried about her safety?
At work? No.

Why not?
There’s not much to worry about. After a few years of hearing about her work, how she protects her safety, hearing her stories, both positive and negative, I have a pretty clear idea of what risks are involved. Compared to many other jobs it’s relatively low-risk, actually.

And her clients?
No, I’m not worried about them. Of course there’s the occasional bad guy, the thing I’m most worried about is idiots who try to pull the condom off. But my partner handles things like that very well, she’s responsible and knows what to do in such situations. I trust her.

What about STD’s?
No, we have reasonable safer sex practices. She practices safer sex at work, we get tested regularly, her work environment prioritises her safety. Accidents can happen, and assholes like the ones I mentioned before can happen, but all in all I think we’re managing this well. From what I understand we’re actually at a below-average risk of catching an STD.

All of that sounds really good and positive. Is there anything you struggle with regarding your partner’s work?
Yeah, I think what’s difficult is that, as a male partner of a sex worker, there’s not really a place for you. It’s not a very male-friendly business, unless they know you well you’re often regarded with suspicion. It’s different when your partner works in one place and people get to know you, but in general, managers really don’t want you in their establishment, you don’t have a role, you know? If I have a company barbecue I take my girlfriend, even if they don’t know her well she can walk into my office, as a society we sort of know what to do and expect with an employee’s partner. But when you’re the partner of a sex worker, you don’t really have a place in the whole thing.
I think people underestimate the burden it can place on a partner. I live with a secret too. I have to lie about my girlfriends profession everywhere. The question, what does your girlfriend do, sounds casual, but for me this is where my “double life” starts. If people find out it could be a problem at my work place, I could even be arrested, it’s as much my secret as her secret. But she has a whole community around her, other sex workers she can talk to, she has peers at her work who are in the same situation. I don’t, I’m kind of on my own with this. There are not many people I can talk to. And I’m, in a sense, in the most vulnerable position. If my partner had bad intentions she could truly wreck my life, if she wants to divorce me and ruin me in the process, she can accuse me of forcing her and even if it’s not true and there’s no evidence I stand pretty much powerless. I trust her completely, but I think people don’t realise this, how vulnerable you are as a sex worker’s partner. When I look back to my struggles with sex work when we just met, about my girlfriend having sex with other people, I didn’t realise the real issues with being in a relationship with a sex worker. About the vulnerable position I’d be in. When I told one of my friends he asked me “are you okay with this?” and he didn’t mean in an emotional sense. He meant, are you okay with the impact this will have on your life?

What do you think would happen if people found out?
I don’t know. Most of our friends know and that’s not been a problem, they don’t always agree with it but I experience support in my friendships. Sex work is so stigmatised, I don’t know how it would affect my career. I’m not too worried about most of my direct colleagues, people who know me and I can explain and defend myself to, but people higher up the ladder or clients can be very important in the future of my career and I don’t know if they’d give me the benefit of the doubt if they knew my partner was a prostitute. I don’t know what would happen. I don’t think I’d lose my job directly but it could seriously hinder my career.

Is that a reason for you to want her to stop doing sex work?
No, that’s really up to her. The thing is, I’m really proud of her and her work, she’s independent, she likes what she does. I think I’d have a bigger problem with it if my partner worked somewhere she would be exploited, say she worked in health care, where people work ridiculous hours for terrible pay. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with people wanting to work in health care, but honestly, I’d rather my partner worked somewhere she feels appreciated, decides her own hours, receives a good income and is happy.

So you don’t want to end demand for nurses then, for their own good?
Haha, no.

What do you like about her work?
I love the stories she comes home with. She’ll tell me about a client who might be nervous or insecure and then they have the time of their life with her, and I love hearing about that, imagining how it must have been for them and what a great experience they had. It’s just fun to hear how she made their day brighter, had fun. I can see that makes her really happy too. She usually comes home in a good mood, she’s enthusiastic and proud about her work. She talks with interesting people too, I think people underestimate how much quality time prostitutes spend with clients.

Do you get the impression she likes most of her bookings?
Yes. Well, most are just routine I think, it’s simply her work. Like in any job at the end of the day it was just a day’s work, but most days she comes home with some interesting story, or met someone she had a great connection with. From what I understand she doesn’t always have sex that is satisfying to her, but she usually finds something to like in a person and have a pleasant interaction with her client.

You make it sound perfect.
Well no, it’s not. Sometimes she doesn’t like a client, they’re exhausting or pushy, it’s like any job, sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s just work. But, overall you can do worse I think.

Does her work influence your sex life?
Yes, when she works a lot it does. It’s not that she wants less sex, we have a normal sex life, but it’s mainly that her desire for physical contact becomes less, she doesn’t want to cuddle as much. I think that’s because she already had that need met, she’s been physically close to people, while I didn’t and still desire it. When that happens we talk about it, and see what we can do to meet my needs without cuddle-overloading her.

What do you think needs to change in the Netherlands regarding sex work?
We need a reasonable, fair system that would facilitate sex workers to work legally, independently and without fear of police and government interruption. The current system is so vague and unclear, if the government wants to hinder you they can. We need a clear system in which sex workers are seen as workers, with clear and consistent rules, so sex workers can run their business as a business. I think that the current solutions offered by the government are ineffective and unnecessary limiting sex workers personal freedom, and also endangering the legal position of their spouse.

What do you want people to know about being a sex workers’ partner?
Well, the image I get from the media and the government is that partners of female sex workers cpiplekissact as pimps or loverboys. I think that this image wrong and does not really exist. In the same way you can’t recognise a sex worker in normal life, you can’t recognise their partners either. I
think most sex workers’ partners are supportive people with ordinary lives, we live in normal houses, have careers.

Any last words?
That sex work is just a job, and sex workers are just people. I love my partner, she loves me, we have a normal relationship and a normal life. The real harms come from discrimination and stigma, not from sex work itself.

Inside Australia’s Largest Brothel

I think this is a really lovely video, Inside Australia’s largest brothel. It seems sex workers can sometimes become defensive about their jobs because there is already so much negativity and stereotyping, so I enjoyed hearing these women talk about the negative sides of their job in such an open way. The interviewer obviously did something right :). Also, it shows yet again that men don’t “buy a piece of meat” or “a hole to fuck” but instead are looking for a connection, intimacy and to be accepted and seen. Australia has regulated sex work in most states which seems to work quite well – I’m hearing a lot of positive stories from working women here. Punishing consensual sex between adult simply should not be an option.

Free Sex

 

The idea that sex is something a woman gives to a man, and a man takes from a woman, is of course very problematic. But when we’re talking about sex work it is often suggested that a sex worker does what a non-sex worker does for free, and I could not disagree more. Some even call non-sex workers ‘amateurs’ and say they can’t understand why you’d have sex for free if you can get paid for it. I find it offensive. Sex work is not the paid version of sex.

There is a reason it’s called sex work: you are providing a service, a sexual experience, it’s about them and not you. When you have sex it’s about both of your sexual needs and desires, when you do sex work it’s primarily theirs. That doesn’t mean you can’t have great sex when you work, but the primary focus is on their desires.

I see many similarities between sex work and therapy. Both are very intimate on a psychological level, but constrained by time and place. When I’m with a patient I open my head and heart to them, I focus my empathy on them and let them in. Sex workers do the same thing, create an emotional connection, get into their head and their feelings. I often feel genuine affection for my patients, and sex workers for their clients. Both are a paid relationship, and are temporary. I wouldn’t listen to them for 45 minutes if I didn’t get paid to do it, a sex worker would not meet a client for a session if there was no money involved. Both are one-sided interactions: my therapeutic relationship is not about me and my emotional needs. It’s about them and what I can provide for them. That does not mean I don’t enjoy our contact, I often do, and I don’t cross any boundaries I don’t feel comfortable with. In sex work it’s the same, it’s not about you, it’s about them, although you can enjoy being with your client and always protect your boundaries, the interaction is about them. It’s a form of paid intimacy, and I love that I’m being paid to share something like that with others :).

But a good friend is not an amateur therapist. Listening to a loved one is not the ‘free’ version of what I do for a living, when I patiently support a friend through a rough patch I’m not ‘giving it away for free’.

Sex work, like therapy work, is an actual job with skills and responsibilities, not just a paid version of what everyone else gives away for free.

Sex work is work.

Rescue Rhetoric: Wedlock

wedlockAmy Sweeth was only 21 years old when law enforcement found her traumatised and neglected in a house in Gardenville, CL. Police officers were shocked at the extent of her injuries: almost every bone in her face was broken, she had been beaten with a metal pipe and kept in a freezing basement for days on end. Married at merely 18 years old, she is one of hundreds of thousands of women brought into wedlock each year. “Marriage and domestic violence are on the rise” says Tom Kreapy, police officer in Woodland and head of the Stop Homes Now project, a state-wide initiative to crack down on all home-related violence. In his fourteen years in the Anti-Domestic Force, he says he has seen the worst. “Young women suffer unimaginable cruelty at the hands of husbands and boyfriends. The public should be made more aware of the hidden abuses behind marriage”.

On Thursday, the Stop Homes Now Project released a report that highlights just how staggering a problem domestic abuse remains in the United Sates. According to the report, the Domestic Hotline has recorded more than 3,000 million cases of potential domestic violence between 2003 and 2013. “Marriage is happening right in our neighbourhoods” warns Angela Tite, co-founder of Concerned Maidens for America, a non-profit organisation against domestic abuse and romantic slavery. After working with victims for over a decade, she emphasises the inherent dangers of spousal relationships. “Young women are lured in with promises of love and respect, only to find themselves entrapped in what can only be called modern-day slavery. We can’t close our eyes to the dangers of marriage. The great majority of domestic abuse occurs within the home, and it is estimated that over 70% of wives experience some form of violence or coercion”.

“People who think that women voluntarily get into marriages should visit one of our SafeHouses” argues Tite. “The stories from thousands of wedlock-survivors will open your eyes. We recently had a woman come in so battered and bruised not even her mother could recognise her. Nobody would choose that kind of life voluntarily”. Kreapy concurs: “Not a day goes by that we’re not called in for another incident of domestic abuse, these are not isolated cases. Our officers are on permanent watch at SafeHouses, as husbands, wifebeaters and other spouses stalk and harass women. We must realise marriage is quite a grim practice, disproportionally victimising females”.sadchild

Not just adult women are at risk. According to the FBI, the average girl becomes involved in romantic relationships between 13 and 15, and some 500.000 American youths are at risk of becoming victims of marriage and domestic violence every year. “Child abuse is most commonly found inside homes” explains Mary Addington of No Child Left At Home, the largest organisation advocating children’s rights and safety in the US. “Children experience physical, emotional and sexual abuse in household situations, and are often witness to sexual relations, romantic relations and wife battering”. Over three thousand children and women have been taken out of homes into state-monitored protective shelters, where home-raised children and wedlocked women are rehabilitated. Some might question whether children really are better off homeless, but deputy Kreapy makes it very clear: “if it saves just one child, we must continue home-stings and neighbourhood raids. We cannot allow a single child to stay in a violent household.”

State Rep. Stephen Homer announced the forthcoming legislation that is committed to reducing the illicit ‘groom’ demand for domestic abuse along with important provisions to combat this crime. “Individuals willing to marry expose vulnerable women and children to the abusive realities of domestic violence” said Homer. “This is an important step to make sure we aggressively address some of the most deplorable, criminal activity that plagues our state”.