Friday, 25 September 2009

Glasgow Debate : 24/09/09

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that there were a couple of us floozies attending a meeting which I didn't want to say too much about. Well, it took place last night and all I can say is it was the biggest eye opener I've had for a long time. It was a debate entitled "Give prostitution the red light ?" In short, it was a discussion about the possible implementation of a law making it illegal for a man to pay for sex. It was chaired by Alex Bell and had as panelists :

Bill Skelly : HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland
Catherine Stephens : A working girl and an activist with the International Union of Sex Workers
Julie Bindel : Feminist and Guardian journalist
Roger Matthews : Professor of Criminology in London
Margo MacDonald MSP was also due to attend but unfortunately had to cancel.

The only escorts to attend were myself, Highland Amanda and Melanie Head-Girl. We were very, very nervous and sought the organiser's guarantees that there would be no press present at the debate. As soon as we entered the auditorium we were greeted with flashing bulbs which set me on edge, but it was a photographer for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and having been introduced to us all was well.

As soon as the debate opened, I could see the direction it was going to take. It was very much geared towards street workers and the problems they face on a daily basis, which nobody will deny are abhorrent and should never have to endured by any woman. The entire room was in agreement that trafficking can and must be eradicated in all it's forms, but Melanie made a very valuable point. Aside from the obvious influx of trafficked women in the UK at present, we also have a large number of migrant sex workers. These women are here by choice, all one has to do is visit any London escort agency gallery to see the large variety of Eastern European women advertised. Does this fact colour the statistics for trafficked women ?

Roger Matthews spoke about his findings in research he did, however it soon became apparent that his research was dated and also solely based on street workers.

Bill Skelly spoke about the policing aspect and I must admit I was very impressed with his perspective. His main concern was harm to the person, be they a street worker, client or any other classification of person you care to name.

Catherine Stephens was in short, wonderful. In many respects she was like a tasty morsel thrown to the lions and I thought she held her composure and answered even the most ridiculous of questions with a degree of dignity that would put a Royal to shame.

The self-appointed star of the show was Julie Bindel. Familiar though I am with her opinions and her self satisfied universal declarations, nothing could have prepared me for the vitriolic rants she subjected the audience to. She referred to the sex industry as a "despicable industry" to begin with. One could say the same of journalists, but there we are. This is also the woman who referred to The Netherlands as a "cesspit". As Bill Skelly quite rightly pointed out, I'm sure they'll be thrilled with that description.

Catherine Stephens quite rightly pointed out that she has been working for nine years and thoroughly enjoys her job. Yes, there are bad days and there are idiots, but on the whole she feels no regret for entering her chosen profession. Julie Bindel on the other hand, views such ladies as deluded victims. She said that there can be no differentiation between the desperate drug addicted woman on the street and your average "happy hooker". How obscene.

You see, I agree with Catherine on one crucial point, when attempting to pass any legislation, due consideration must be given to all aspects of the industry concerned. It's simply not acceptable to allude to the fact that we are all victims, that we have all been subjected to some form of mass delusion. As Catherine quite rightly pointed out, we are the invisible women. We are not the desperate, pimped and drug addicted women that you may come into contact with in an Accident and Emergency environment. Neither are we the "£10,000 a night coke fuelled romp" ladies that the press love to report. No, we are ordinary, decent, hard working ladies who are also mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and lovers. In the mind of Julie Bindel, we do not exist.

In short, why does a man hating, political feminist feel she is suitably qualified to pass judgement on heterosexual women ? It simply doesn't make sense to me. As part of her speech last night she also alluded to the fact that she speaks for feminists everywhere. That is quite simply a complete fabrication. There are many feminists who celebrate the empowerment of women to make the choice to enter the sex industry, as can be seen here :

Finally, I would like to ask Bill Skelly, if the current proposal does become law, how on earth do the police propose to enforce it at our level in the industry ? Are they going to intercept escorts and their clients leaving the country at airports ? I was quite incensed to learn that under the current legislation, my leaving the country with Mr F recently for Spain qualifies as trafficking. What a farce. I have the greatest of difficulties at times in controlling myself, let alone anyone else stepping up to the task.

Julie Bindel at least had the good grace to acknowledge the fact that there is still a lot of stigma and social exclusion associated with the industry. The irony is, with bigots like her abounding, it's not likely to recede any time soon.

LL xx

1 comment:

  1. Well done for going,
    it have been easy in your own home town......
    Reading your post the one thing that struck me is the absence in these types of debate of the client. While it's not surprising, I think it does mean that many statements about the male of the species go unchallenged. This was also evident in the recent TV show (discussing similar issue) which Rebecca Dakin contributed to. You have a little while to watch the programme online on ITV player

    Don't get me wrong, as a male of the species I am under no illusions about my compatriots. I have seen and had to intercede on some particularly appalling behaviour. And I'm afraid to say I have turned a blind eye when faced with 'friends' who have treated some very nice lassies badly (emotionally). I don't want to apologies for these types of blokes. However as a 'client' I do try to take a great deal of care to ensure that any lady I am seeing is choosing to do so freely. That means without and pressure from another individual or any other reason e.g. addiction, poverty etc.
    This is where I see the problem with the debate in the UK. In many instances it seems unable to separate those ladies who do it through choice, who clearly respect themselves, expect to be respected and treated properly by the client and who take every care to ensure their own safety and those who have no choice. I have no issue with these ladies being allowed to make their own career choice. I expect people to respect my freedom to make my own choices in life so I want to extend that to others.
    One of the strongest themes of the TV programme was that the only reason why men paid to have sex with women was to have control, to subjugate the women and degrade them. While there are some sexual practices I would not personally indulge in, I can see no reason why others should not have the choice. However as I surf around cyberspace I do come across women who seem to be prepared to do things I really consider beyond the realms of normal behaviour that do indicate that there are men around who do wish to dominate and degrade women. The key question of the current debate should be, what can be done to protect and release women who have no choice (for whatever reason) from participating in the sex trade/industry. My personal view that is that criminalising the industry simply makes it more likely that it will be dominated (although not completely) by criminals who force women to participate against their will.
    At least the current system allows some women to be reasonably open and honest about what they do (within the constraints of the law) so that genuine, honest males who for whatever reason can avail themselves of their time and companionship.
    I have been fortunate in the ladies that I have met. But this is not just luck, it takes time to find a lady that is clearly content with their lifestyle and also respects themselves and are selective about who they will see and what they may chose to do in their time with a client.
    I don't know if it would help, but I do think the debate should look at ways to include the views and thoughts of clients. This should be a cross section of clients and not just those who are publicly acceptable.
    I also think that we need to debunk the myth that it is all about sex. for some men that is not the be all and end all of their time with a lady


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