Sunday, 30 December 2012

Faux feminism - part deux

What is WRONG with women ? I ask because I have not long returned from a break with my family in Ireland and having speed read the internet, I'm just perplexed at raw hatred.

In some respects, I'm a simple soul. At the core of my belief system is simply this - 'walk a mile in my shoes'. At a time when women so clearly need to bond together, what's with the divide and rule campaign ? As you know, I have never been a fan of faux feminism, I truly believe that if you purport to fight for the rights of women, then you purport to fight for the rights of all women, it's as simple as that.

So, a woman is gang raped in India and quite rightly, very many women jump up and proclaim the injustice of it. A woman is reunited with her daughter who was stolen from her many years ago, and the vast majority of us jump up and celebrate, except for those of us who believe that the man is master, and to overrule his say is to deny intrinsic faith.

One woman goes into the Scottish Parliament and says that sex between consenting adults where money happens to change hands is no longer okay, and what happens ? A mass roll over. Those women who read up on suffragettes and the right to vote, those women who campaign for the right to choose, those women who campaign for the right to equal pay under a glass ceiling - suddenly become silent. Why ?

Why is there a hierarchy of women's rights ? Why is it okay for women to write in the press of oppression through the media via their sexual choices, be they bi, tri, poly - but when the subject of the exchange of sex for cash comes up, absolute silence ? There is something very wrong there.

Thinking back to when I was outed in a small highland town and to you, those women who held a sneaking respect for the lifestyle I had at the time, isn't it time that you forgave your upbringing ? I did. Isn't it time that you acknowledged, that somewhere deep inside you there is a sneaking respect for a woman who is so confident in her own body and sexuality that she can go forth and use that gift to provide pleasure and healing to others?

What are you afraid of ? That you'll be judged ? Look around you, the queue is simply straining at the seams and with far more heinous crimes.

LL xx

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas - Irish Style


I had a bit of a moment this morning. I was pondering equality - trying to eat white and black pudding in the same proportions when Mass began in earnest, broadcast live from the local church. I thought about the attendees, wondering if they included the couple who were arguing loudly beneath the window of my hotel last night as to the state of their sex life.

“Everyone does it, you’re just being awkward”.
“NO THEY DON’T and stop trying to make me feel bad for not wanting to put that YOKE in my gob”.

I wondered if the congregation included the man from the night before who was running amok with mistletoe, to the point where hotel staff had to interject and ask him to sit down because ‘no’ was not a feature of his somewhat limited vocabulary. Of course the beauty of Catholicism is, you can do what you want provided you confess all, preferably before you arrive at the pearly gates with the traditional English and Scots man. So, a few Hail Marys later (add one Glory Be if you’re going for canonisation) and no-one minds a bit of harassment, what with the season that’s in it. Besides, women on the west coast don’t take any prisoners. Around here there’s no such thing as legal action or any such nonsense, it’s knock your assailant out with one clean punch and then back to the bar, before they call last orders or worse, before you forget how many Hail Marys you owe. Incidentally, man with mistletoe made to come over in my general direction but I pulled myself up to my full height in kick ass boots, leather trousers and my newly acquired long leather coat and there was a sudden screech of brakes. Faced with a woman who resembled a curious hybrid of Leather Face and an extra from The Matrix, I’d back off an’ all.

It’s truly wonderful here though, the people are so welcoming and loving, indeed I’ve had my hand shaken until my upper arm started to seriously discolour. The greetings and sayings we have are fantastic. How to win instant popularity is to answer an enthusiastic greeting in our native tongue, which is very possibly where I went wrong with mistletoe man. ‘Dia dhuit’ is an everyday ‘hello’ and literally translated means ‘God be with you’. The answer is ‘Dia is Mhuire dhuit’, which means ‘God and Our Lady be with you’.

Where these wonderful Irishisms run into trouble is when they are translated into English, and the phrase ‘lost in translation’ comes to mind. “Happy Christmas to ye, and many more of them”. To me that reads as follows; ‘have a wonderful Christmas and like, I hope you don’t die very soon’. I’m sure the originator of that phrase would turn in his peaty, watery grave if he heard that contemporary usage.

Of course, real Catholics take approximately forty five minutes to swear, none of your ‘f’ words here. You can literally wander off and make a cup of coffee, before coming back to see if they’re finished. ‘Sweet sacred heart of divine suffering son of eternally glorious virginal ….. ad infinitum’.

Tonight’s mission then, is to go real life trolling. I’m going to see if I can elicit the longest curse in Irish history and record it for posterity. They’ll thank me in the long run, a spot on The Late Late Show awaits.

LL xx

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Annus horribilis / Annus mirabilis



2012 has been a roller coaster of a year, no doubt about that.

It was the year for change and growth.

On a couple of occasions I was taken aback, courtesy of people I thought I could trust. Part of being an adult, though, is to learn from every experience and at any rate - the signs of toxicity were screamingly apparent. So, two choices. Either dwell on the negativity or focus on the renewed energy and drive which comes from finally saying - "I'm done with you". I choose the latter, particularly when every time I questioned why on earth I had ever allowed myself to become involved with such people there were several other people ready to pick me up and dust me down, never for a minute questioning my choices. 2012 is the year when I learned that sooner or later, the mask always slips and the lesson for the future is to take that first glimpse as a stark warning.

2012 was the year when I learned not to be afraid of the media. In years gone past, when a journalist made contact, yours truly would be found hiding behind the nearest available sofa, but no more. When it comes to media work, provided I have the support of my sex worker advocate colleagues, my real friends and my family, then that's all I need. I have come to realise that there are some members of the media who are very definitely sex work positive - the challenge now is how to stop them editing interviews to infinity and beyond.

Speaking of being misquoted, allow me to share with you a short tale from this morning. To borrow a phrase from my good friend N, I don't come out of this one very well. Not in my actions per se, but my reactions. I got upset and I cried. No, I howled. Because of SCASE. For the uninitiated, SCASE is the Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation and, well, they hate me. With reference to the first two paragraphs I've written above, I don't actually care about that. From time to time I peek in at their Facebook page and I've become accustomed to the snarky comments, the sarcasm and the back-slapping.

So why did I get so upset this morning? Well, I read a piece which SCASE have paraded on their site and Twitter feed, my mistake. With other haters I just block them on every site I can think of and resolve never again to subject my corneas to their drivel. This is a formula which works. Quite what possessed me to go and read this piece KNOWING it was going to be blatant hatred, I do not know. I've learned my lesson now, of course and blocked them everywhere but that's a little like locking the stable door after the entire farm has bolted.

So to the piece itself. Allow me to make this clear, SCASE didn't write this piece, it is the anonymous submission of one of their members. However, they did parade it with glee, so I take it as being representative of their views.

First off we have -

"The pro-sex work lobby in Scotland has attacked individuals online and as a result they have experienced high levels of harrassment (sic) and abuse"

Run that one past me again? I have NEVER harassed any abolitionist online. EVER. I went so far as to praise both Rhoda Grant and Jan MacLeod for being approachable and friendly women. Next.

"What about the women who have not had media training or had the chance to polish their media personality"?

The only reason I have had an opportunity to polish my media 'personality' is because I am up to my ears defending the rights of ordinary decent women against bigots like you. Also, those 'other' women are afraid of coming forward and speaking to the media because THIS is exactly what happens - personal attacks from cowardly anonymous keyboard warriors. Next.

"What about the women who don’t write blogs about how transgressive, revolutionary and empowering prostitution is? What about all those women who are struggling to cope and don’t position themselves to get book deals or plays written about them"?

What about them ? Have you gone out to the saunas and the streets and spoken to these women ? Thought not. I have. Also, exactly who do you think you are to presume that I have never struggled to cope ? You know nothing about me and my background, only what you see in the press and that is edited to death. Next - this was the one that really got me ...

"I have heard vulnerable women described disrespectfully by “sex-work” representatives as “drug addled prostitutes,” with little empathy for their situations and how they have ended up involved".

There you go again. Taking what I said completely out of context and to suit your own agenda. THAT'S NOT WHAT I SAID. I said, "let's step back from the hysteria of the stereotype of drug addled prostitutes and see sex work for what it is, an incredibly multi layered and diverse industry".

Let me explain something to you in plain English. I started sex work in the dingiest of dumps in Dublin, working for 'pimps'. Each week I went to the sex workers' clinic held in Haddington road, so I could socialise with sex workers and not feel so alone. Whilst I was there I made some friends for life, including street sex workers, one of whom I chat to online daily. It was those women who stood by my side when I reported a client for raping me, who went with me to the Garda station. It was those women who did me the honour of inviting me to christenings, communions and weddings. To this day, it is those women and their friendship I miss.

I was a law student then, and those women really believed that I would help them. It may be twenty years later but damn right I'm going to help them. I'm going to do EVERYTHING in my power to stop these laws going through and stop those women I loved so much suffer at the hands of 'feminists'. Unlike you, I am quite prepared to shake off my cloak of anonymity if that's what it takes. Because I OWE THEM. I owe them for what they did for me and I owe them for the suffering they have already been through. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

So congratulations, both you and SCASE made me cry today. You made me cry for the women of my past, those women who are lost forever, either through sex work or through drug addiction or through sheer poverty. Some got out, with no help from organisations such as yours.

I ought to mention - that last night I sat in a room filled with people in Glasgow to remember the victims of violence through sex work. We cried. We cried for our friends, for our colleagues and for the bloody injustice of it all. Don't let me stop you, go right ahead and press for this law to be passed, but know that you will be placing real women in danger, women just like you and me. I hope you're going to be immensely proud of yourself.

I ought to thank you really, whoever you are. Because once I had stopped sobbing I realised that - it's bigots like you who spur me on to do what I do. When sheer exhaustion kicks in and I'm getting sick to death of the threats, it's women like you who give me that last five percent of strength which says - "keep going". So thank you.

To you the writer and to SCASE, I'm done with you.

To my friends, my fellow sex workers and everyone else I simply adore, Merry Christmas. May you enjoy the rest and relaxation and may we all hit the ground running in 2013.

LL xx



Friday, 14 December 2012

Belfast and bum sliding


It's been a frenetic week thus far. I lighted back on Scottish soil yesterday and flew up the road to my humble abode to get busy with my submission to La Grant. It's not great, but it hits the main points and campaigning will persist in spite of various offers of assistance towards my demise. Abolitionists really ought to be introduced to the wonders of spell check, not to mention internet security.

My visit to Belfast was wonderful, I thoroughly enjoyed a brief trip to the Christmas market and the usual permutations of perversion. My final client of Wednesday evening was a rather genteel chap and terribly nervous into the bargain. I lit some candles and played some soft soothing music in the background too, hoping that eventually, he would relax. Ordinarily, that combination would work without question, were it not for the room filled with gobshites immediately opposite. Not content with contaminating their own ears with what could reasonably be described as aural torture, they subjected the entire hotel to two hours of what I believe is referred to as 'trance' or what you and I would refer to as music (sic) for those in the middle of a psychotic episode.

Thankfully, it all went quiet, either because they had passed out in a drug induced stupor and were visualising little fluffy clouds or because they had moved onto a club. Suffice to say I was very glad when the time came to embrace my beaming guy and wish him goodnight. Having closed the door, something was bothering me and I knew I couldn't ignore it. It's what I call my spidey sense, essential in the sex trade.

The "Do not disturb" sign, yes that's what it was. Having narrowed my eyes, I peeped through the spyhole and sure enough, there it was. Belfast's answer to "Trainspotting" had nicked my DND sign and put it on their own door. I THINK NOT.

Bounding across the hall, I snatched the sign back and placed it on my door handle. Fait accompli, except now I had a problem. I had left my own room without a key and the door had slammed behind me. SHIT.

I resembled one of the delegates from Lady Marmalade, hair flowing, stockings and suspenders, killer heels and a thong which would cut Swiss cheese. I remembered the wise words of my pal in Brighton and decided that keeping my ass to the wall would be exceptionally wise. There was nothing else to do but wait, and I don't mind telling you, those were the longest 12.457 minutes of my entire life.

In time, a tipsy but perfectly lovely couple emerged from the lift. There was a sharp intake of breath, followed by ...

"Are you, I mean ... do you need ..."

"That would be lovely, do you mind ? Only I really can't .."

"Not a problem, give me two minutes".

Mister Lovely Couple went sprinting back down to reception to get a room key. In the interim, Mrs. Lovely Couple managed an entire conversation without eye contact, quite an achievement really.

"So, good ...ah ....night then?"

"Yes, just this, you know. MORTIFIED".

"Yes. I mean no. Whoops".

Having gratefully received the new key from Mr. Lovely Couple, I can say with an enormous degree of certainty that I really wouldn't recommend bum sliding up the wall of a hotel to retain any last shred of dignity.

LL xx

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A letter from an Irish sex worker to the Irish Justice Committee


Today, the Irish Justice Committee is hearing evidence relating to prostitution legislation. Only one small problem with that, there isn't a prostitute in sight. Not ONE. Every group giving evidence are staunchly anti-sex work and will roll out blatant falsehoods to ensure that their funding continues. Several sex workers, (myself included) offered to travel to Dublin and speak at the hearings but we were ignored. I am re-blogging the letter below from one very brave Irish sex worker who refuses to be ignored.

I am sending this same email to every single member of the Justice Committee and two relevant Ministers, because the total exclusion of real sex workers from the Justice Committee hearings on legislation that will directly affect them is totally unacceptable, and even unjustifiable under any circumstances, but under circumstances where you will be inviting several NGOs with an adversarial position towards them to make false claim to speak on their behalf this amounts to running a government committee like a kangaroo court, and each one of you who supports this decision should be ashamed.

There is no NGO currently speaking for sex workers in any real sense. All NGOs ruthlessly exclude them from decision making as if they were stray animals, or some kind of substandard, feral people in need of guidance and control from their “betters”. They even go so far as to abuse invalid statistics and distort facts to cultivate this as an image of sex workers in the public eye. The truth is, most sex workers are of above average intelligence, many of them are remarkably well read and/or well educated. They are intelligent people who can do their own thinking and speak for themselves far better than the NGOs who try to insist on being funded to do it for them against their will and sex workers are likely to base that thinking and self-representation on reality rather than the usual NGO basis of pursuit of agenda and funding that is mostly deployed on huge and superfluous salaries and expenses.

Sex workers did not ask for NGO or State assistance in the first place. Many sex workers have already been failed multiple times by the HSE and voluntary and community sector. They are often fully aware of the shortcoming of that system and have made a positive choice to reject further malign interference due to the limitations of unwanted poverty and use the high wages from sex work to take care of their own lives, families, and problems, in a fully autonomous way that no longer leaves them at the mercy of anyone. They are proud people who do not want to discuss, let alone whine on and on about their personal problems, they just want to get on with using the high wages from sex work to solve them.

Ruhama foisted themselves on sex workers in 1989, when sex work was street based by the simple ruse of parking the van so nobody could make any money until someone pretended to engage with them against their will. They omitted to mention that they were outreach for the Magdalene Laundries (that would not be exposed for another 4 years or shut down for another 7). Ruhama, and the orders behind them, have never apologised, even for this deception. Thankfully the women sensed something very wrong anyway and just humoured them without ever really engaging.

With one or two gullible exceptions who stayed around until all their hopes were shattered, the only women who have ever engaged with Ruhama since are a handful of opportunists with considerable expertise in playing the system. They are not remotely representative of sex workers. Some of them have never even been sex workers.

It had been my intention to send this as hard copy accompanied by a sworn affidavit I am in a position to make that states that I have never seen the individual who asks to be known as FreeIrishWoman selling sex on Waterloo and Burlington Road before April 1993 and as I was a full time street worker and it was a small area and community this would be impossible if she had worked there as she claimed. FreeIrishWoman is now making expenses paid trips to the USA to tap into the almost unlimited funding available to “abolitionist survivors” from the Hunt Foundation and similar in the USA. Unfortunately I am seriously ill and cannot organise that affidavit but I am happy to swear it at any time that I physically can. (I have informed Sarah Benson of Ruhama of this fraud and have yet to receive even a response, several weeks later. I am also willing to attest to this on oath.)

If you insist on listening to this particular Ruhama backed fraud rather than extend the same courtesy to any of the real autonomous sex workers who were willing to risk everything to speak to you as a committee, then let there be no room for any claim of ignorance after the fact, or ever.

Sex workers never asked for or wanted NGO assistance, they certainly do not want to be defined and misrepresented in their absence by NGOs and affiliated HSE services. In the early 80s, a sex worker called Dolores Lynch demanded to bring a group of sex workers to speak to the Minister for Justice. He refused to see her. Shortly afterwards she was murdered, literally by fire, as a direct result of her advocacy. Very few people have her kind of courage, yet she is forgotten, to the extent that the Justice Committee STILL refuses to see sex workers unless a self appointed, anti-sex work NGO has them on a tight leash that assures they will bear false witness to the current fad in propaganda.

I realise the Justice Committee have already made up their minds without ever seeking the facts at all. Apparently the simple fact that any attempt to “end the demand” will take away the income of women who are already desperate without offering any alternative is inadmissible. What is the point in being decriminalised if you cannot eat or keep a roof over your head?

The Committee took off to Sweden, at the expense of the State, to hear the same hard sell “sales pitch” you have already heard several times before, and did not even attempt to hear the other, more realistic, side. You wouldn’t even buy a car that way, but apparently that is good enough for sex workers as you do your best to destroy the only livelihood they have in a recession. (What ON EARTH do you THINK happens to people when they run out of ways to survive?), but the women who are willing to bite down all their fears to present the truth to you DESERVE that you give them the respect of a hearing instead of the ongoing mockery of encouraging their worst adversaries to lie against their best interests instead.

No-one knows how far this recession will go before it turns. There is no money to meet everybody’s needs.

Next week’s budget will leave a few more people with no survivable alternative to sex work, god knows why you feel it will be *a good thing* to make that harder still on them, by taking away the market on which their last resort depends. You are all comfortably off, and get enough even in expenses to provide for at least any of those women without her having to sell sex.

What could you possibly know about the terrifying and dire consequences of taking that last option income away? Yet you are not even willing to try and learn about it from the people who do.

Because of the recession and cutbacks in essential resources that cannot be avoided, there are ALREADY too many sex workers competing for demand that is dwindling because of the recession. The women have to offer more invasive services, more cheaply, to compete, because they still need the money just as badly to survive and keep their homes and families together because their lives have fallen through the ever widening gaps in the welfare net.

(The impression of the majority of sex workers as addicts or similar who are prevented from rehabilitation by deriving an income from sex work is yet another outright lie used as propaganda by the NGOs. The majority of sex workers are mothers, paying the same kind of essential bills as anyone else. We never had a welfare net that took care of everybody, there were always some people left out, and now we can’t even to sustain the welfare net we have.)

If you “reduce the demand” you will not reduce sex workers real need for the money, you will just make their lives impossible.

“Turn Off the Red Light” core orgs are fully aware of this, but do not want to tell the truth about it, because they would rather abuse that situation to force enough of the women to engage with them *against their will* out of sheer desperation so that they can justify continued and even increased funding, the women who do not engage with them are designated collateral damage in their race to the bottom for funding allocation.

To claim that supports are, or will be, available goes beyond mockery. The “Turn Off the Red Light” orgs have never had any real help to offer apart from ongoing indoctrination in the alternate reality they have cultivated in support of their agenda that has become a cult like ideology that is as far removed from the reality of sex workers lives, and as unhealthy as handing over their lives to a dysfunctional religious cult.

In addition I have always been lead to believe that telling another person what they think and feel is abusive, harmful and destructive, but apparently if it is a “Turn Off the Red Light” member org, treating a sex worker that way it suddenly becomes helpful and supportive…to everyone but the sex worker on the receiving end, who is likely to suffer severe PTSD from the cognitive dissonance alone.

Would you place your life, and family, at the mercy of a weird cult who treat you as a child, regularly lie to you and about you and demand you pretend that black is white. Because that is what Ruhama and affiliated orgs want laws to force and state funding to pursue.

(I have absolutely no idea how anyone can justify sanctioning the Immigrant Council of Ireland to deploy the majority of their funding on salaries and administration costs, not related to immigrants, but to a propaganda initiative to abolish sex work. To me that seems to meet the criteria for criminal fraud.)

I could not live with watching the terrible harm the legislation proposed by “Turn of the Red Light” will do, unless I knew I had done my utmost to stop it.

That effort will never make me fit to wash Dolores Lynch’s feet, but I suspect it makes me far better than every one of you deciding to refuse to even listen to real sex workers, before deciding to destroy their lives and pretend it is for their own good.

I have no illusions left for anyone to play on now. I dreaded coming before the committee because I am too angry, for too many reasons and have deep issues that mean I may not be able to guarantee to contain that. But I honestly do not see why you must deny all the people you are determined to make life impossible for even a fair hearing. For some sex workers you will literally be writing their death warrants (that would have been the case for me at several times in my life and may be so again soon enough) yet you will not let them plead their own case, preferring to listen instead to their adversaries lying about them.

In a decade or so “Turn Off the Red Light” and “The Swedish Model” and the REAL consequences will be as big a scandal as the Magdalene Laundries – the only real advantage is the vote catching potential through appeasing a bloc of corrupt, self serving, NGOs.

That is truth.

As the “Information Age” has quietly become the “Propaganda Age”, truth is the one thing nobody wants to care about any more.

It wouldn’t kill any of you to treat a few free sex workers who are independent of the NGOs like fully paid up members of the human race and listen to them for a couple of hours before you do your best to destroy their world without a court of appeal.

Think on it.

Friday, 7 December 2012

The times, they are a-Changin'


Once upon a time, there was a man I was quite simply mad about. I'll call him D. He supported me through some very turbulent times and never stopped believing in me, even when I couldn't go to my local supermarket without someone shouting abuse at me in the car park. "I didn't know they sell hookers here now ! Is it buy one get one free ?" When you consider that D was raised in 1950's Ireland, then his support was all the more important, because it broke through every societal barrier you can think of.

"Never let these people get to you, hold your head up high. What matters is how you feel about yourself and those around you who will love you regardless." In time, came the shocking news that D was dying, he had terminal cancer and it was a matter of weeks, which very quickly became days. With a huge knot in my stomach, I went to his bed side and was truly lost for something to say. I didn't want him to see me getting upset so I smiled and asked him how he was feeling.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I've made my peace. Besides, the priest was in and I told him to put me down for everything except rape and murder". Thereafter came the explosion of maniacal laughter combined with guttural sobbing and I told him, "I'm going to miss you". His reply is something which will stay with me for the rest of my life. He said, "You may not know this but you were put on this earth to help the underdog. Be true to yourself and make sure you fulfil that promise for me".

D's funeral was hard for me, it was my first experience of death and when I kissed him goodbye as he was laid in the coffin, I thought my heart was going to physically break. I took comfort from the fact that he looked so peaceful, towards the end of his life he was in so much pain that no amount of morphine could take away the permanent frown he had. In death, he looked beautiful, so serene.

I've never forgotten D's words although it has taken me many years to work out what he meant. When D died, I was in the second year of my first degree which was law, and truly, I thought I was going to change the world. Myself and my Uni pals had an idealistic vision of challenging every law ever set into statute, but I was soon to find out that in Ireland, unless you have family in the law or are sleeping with half of the law library, getting briefs is actually incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Since I was already sleeping with half of the law library on a part time basis anyway, it seemed like a futile exercise to chase a career where every time I got to my feet I would look across the court room and be reminded of time spent on my back.

Unperturbed, I dusted myself off and went into financial services, for nine years. That went horrendously wrong in the end and I will write about it in the future, but the time isn't right yet. So the time had arrived, attempt at career number three. What to do ? I decided to go back to Uni and study, since academia has always been a part of my life and I adore a challenge. I'm still studying, and very much enjoying it too.

Through all of the changes, the upsets, the move from Ireland to Scotland and my transition from irresponsible student to semi-responsible mother, the sex industry always called me back. I've retired three times now, and not had a carriage clock yet. Over the last twelve months though, a new transition has begun. I speak to the media. I now know that I have years of experience in the sex industry under my belt and I can speak with authority against those who seek to stop what we do. Finally, I have a knowledge and an area of expertise which no-one can take away from me.

Tomorrow, I'm going to Leeds to film a documentary with Channel 4 about my work with disabled clients and I wouldn't say I'm nervous, I'm terrified, although I know it will be fine once I start. I will be throwing off my cloak of invisibility because what we do as sex workers with disabled clients is too important. The general public need to see what we do, our gentle, nurturing side.

Thank you D. Finally, now I get what you meant and I hope you're proud.

LL xx

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Nefarious - A sex worker's review


Sub titled the "Merchant of Souls", Nefarious is a documentary currently being screened by Abolition Scotland. I went to a viewing in a church in Johnstone. My companion and I immediately aroused suspicion and the lovely lady who was hosting the evening asked who we were and where we were from. Whilst my friend answered her questions, I fumbled around in my bag and finally fished out my glasses and notebook, perhaps they thought I was a reporter. I've become quite accustomed to sitting in a room full of abolitionists and holding my own but there was no necessity for that here, because this was a very different environment. This was a group of truly lovely people, devoutly spiritual and all ready to be exposed to the 'truths' of trafficking.

The film opened with a look at Moldova, which is reportedly at the heart of trafficking. Here, we were told, 10% of the country have been trafficked. There was no mention of an overall population figure or the industries attached to that percentage, be they domestic servitude, factory work or the sex industry. The figure of 10% was offered as a bald fact.

The next segment was entitled - 'The Breaking Rooms'. Having answered advertisements for offers of jobs abroad or having been simply snatched from the streets, it is here that the young girls are repeatedly raped and beaten until they comply with their handler's orders. Their treatment was horrific and the psychological torture that they endured was heart breaking. One statement stuck with me from that segment, that once some of these girls are sourced from an orphanage, they fall into 'a vortex' and are not missed. Why not ? Can you imagine if a child was snatched from an orphanage in the UK ? There would be a nationwide search and no stone left unturned until she was found.

The film moved on to Cambodia to look at the child sex trade and there is no other description for it, it was stomach turning. Here, we were told, there is a flourishing industry in the sale of a daughter to the sex trade. There was a horrific image of a seven year old girl's pyjamas, badly blood stained around the groin where she had been raped by a 'punter'. As a mother, that made me cry. I couldn't help but think of my own daughter when we saw images of very young girls wearing next to nothing and reluctantly flirting with punters. I wanted to scoop every one of those little girls up and just get them the hell out of there, to where they could be children again. And safe.

Then came the statistics. 80 to 90% of parents in Cambodia sell their daughters to the sex trade. Often,(we were told) it's not to provide for food or other such necessities but luxuries, such as mobile phones and televisions. Indeed, in some cases, the women celebrate when they give birth to a girl because they know that as soon as she becomes in any way exploitable she will be their ticket to a new life of prosperity. What a disgusting conjecture to make.

As a mother myself, I object to the unfounded hypothesis that the majority of an entire race will see a baby girl as a meal ticket. Mothers will fight to the death for their children and would offer themselves in a heartbeat to save them, that's reality. Of course there are exceptions to that rule but to broadly proclaim a figure of 80 - 90% where there is no real basis or evidence to substantiate that is misleading and counter factual.

Throughout the screening Melissa Farley was interviewed. Since Farley's evidence has been treated as biased and questionable by a court of law, and not forgetting the complaint to the APA, then I disregard any of her assertions.

At the end of the screening, a member of Abolition Scotland stood on the altar of the church to address our group. This was the moment I had been waiting for. They thanked us for coming, asked for donations and sold some DVD's and then began to speak in favour of Rhoda Grant's proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex. The film we had just been shown, (they said) is just the tip of the iceberg. Trafficking is RIFE in Scotland too. Why only in 2006 did a police report make mention of 6,000 people trafficked into Scotland, with approximately 90% of those destined for the sex industry.

Mathematics was never my strong point but I'm pretty sure Abolition Scotland just claimed that in 2006, there were 5,400 prostitutes trafficked into Scotland. Isn't it simply amazing then that last year we had one conviction ? ONE.

Needless to say I'm going to request a copy of that 'police report' and debunk the statistics they are using for myself, because that's a MUST do.

Of all the memories which will stay with me from that evening, one of the most potent was the woman behind me who was visibly moved. She was going to write to Rhoda Grant, she said, because THAT level of trafficking in Scotland is simply not acceptable. It took all of my self control to resist initiating a friendly debate based on fact, but I believe that it is far better to write about the truth and inform many than to channel my energy into challenging one.

LL xx

Friday, 23 November 2012

Topiaries and Tom Cruise

Thusfar, November has been stressful beyond belief. In fact, when I recently met Rhoda Grant at Holyrood, I told her that I will be a size ten by Christmas and it's all her fault. How we laughed.

Meanwhile, at Activism HQ, we've had moments of nothingness, by which I mean, November and December are just so full on that we wondered what on earth we will campaign about come the new year. Fear not, for I have a solution.

Mandatory conscription for sixteen year old males to a two week intensive training piece on kissing. Preferably, this would be held in the dark, but I'm sure that idea would be contrary to some Human Rights Convention or another, initiated by some well meaning train spotter called Colin.

This rather unique and brilliant idea was born out of my time on Facebook yesterday, when I noticed several friends vying for the title of most notable Movember 'tache. I know I'm an escort, but were I to sponsor them all I would have to resort to shop lifting cat litter again, not a prospect I relish to be honest.

It got me thinking about the whole Magnum PI era. Remember THAT moustache ? It was iconic, it was part of his character and it was even 'cool', but I bet his make up people didn't have to kiss him. See I don't mind moustaches or beards per se, they can even be sexy. Where it becomes problematic is where the length of such facial topiaries mean I will be eternally grateful for the emergency tonsillectomy I had as a child.

The crux of the matter is this, kissing is rather like any other form of oral gratification, it needs to be built up slowly, y'all. I make no secret of my love of cheesecake but to woff it down in one would be gluttonous and anyway, the taste needs to be savoured, treasured even.

So I object, yes I said OBJECT to anyone who thinks that as a prerequisite to making the beast with two backs they can explore my larynx and expect me not to gag, (I gave up fake moaning years ago). Don't do that, dude. Softly softly catchy girly, or words to a similar effect anyway.

All of the above has been brought on by an event last night which will scar me for life. One of my friends sent me as message as follows - "Remember that day when we bunked off school and watched THAT scene from Top Gun over and over ? We rewound that Betamax tape until there was smoke coming from the machine just so we could see Tom Cruise making love in silhouette ? Well I've found the scene on You-Tube."

I was so excited I could barely contain myself, indeed boy cat dived for cover. But what I witnessed resulted in slack jawed horror. He does the tongue thing, BEFORE they've even hit the bed. UNFORGIVABLE. I thought my respect for Tom Cruise had diminished beyond any and all conceivable repair following *that* incident on Oprah's sofa, but no. I'm done with him now. And November.

LL xx

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Pregnancy and progress


I can still remember where I was when I found out I was pregnant. It was in the bathroom of the office where I worked and I can still feel my cheeks burning with shame at the recollection of the 'walk of shame' to my manager's office. It was the year 2000. Yes indeed, Robbie William's 'Millenium'.

"Um, I need some time off".

"OK, going anywhere nice"?

"Not really, the maternity hospital".

I can still see his face now, it was a curious hybrid of a fatherly like concern combined with an embarrassed half smile.

I don't regret becoming a mother. Quite the opposite, there are very stressful times when the only thing which keeps me going is that cheeky wee face around my door. Why else would I have just agreed to another three days in Blackpool Tower with two thousand, (count them) TWO THOUSAND little princesses running riot in sequins ? If I have any regrets, it's the manner is which my little darling was conceived. She wasn't planned, hell no. I went with the old Irish Catholic method of "Och, it'll be all right". Quelle surprise, it wasn't. Wasn't it Billy Connolly who nodded in the direction of the Catholic Church and the rhythm method for his very existence ?

Post conception, I struggled with the shame thing for a while. I COULDN'T be pregnant, because I come from a very large, very Catholic family. What to do ? Common sense prevailed when I realised at 27, I had a full time job, with maternity leave. Not quite the end of the world then. Still, telling those closest to me was hard, although once La Princess arrived, the whole schema became pink and fluffy.

See, I come from a country where until recently, it was deemed acceptable to condemn women to a life of abject torture in The Magdalene Laundries, because they were unmarried and pregnant. Indeed, in some cases they weren't even pregnant, just "queer". I come from a country where in 1984, Ann Lovett lay down beneath a statue of Our Lady. She died from irreversible shock caused by haemorrhage and exposure during childbirth and her new born son died also.

I come from a country where for years, the Catholic Church became a convenient hiding place for paedophiles and homosexuals because you see at that time, they were one and the same. I come from a country where every time one of those sons of God attacked a child, they were simply moved to another parish and a huge cover up ensued. All of those cover ups are only beginning to come to the surface now, as are the cover ups around the Magdalene Laundries.

As a society though, we have moved on, right ? Well no, not really. Today I have taken time out to read the horror story of a young woman who was effectively sentenced to death by Irish Catholicism. Strong words ? Maybe, but the truth is she was bearing a child who stood no chance at a sustainable life and because of the archaic laws surrounding the rights of an unborn child, she was allowed to die. I'll just say that again. SHE WAS ALLOWED TO DIE. There was no medical intervention to remove the foetus and ultimately, although the child was destined to die, the mother lost her life also.

There's something seriously skewed with that thinking. Let me make this plain, as a feminist I am not pro-abortion, not at all. But that's MY choice. I don't deem it my right to dictate to any body else what they should and shouldn't do with their own bodies. Never will I support the Jeremy Kyle generation who pop down the clinic to have termination number three because they can't be bothered to use contraception or because they simply decide at twenty weeks that they've changed their mind. Not on.

The women who choose to have a very early abortion deserve a mention too, I don't believe they ought to be burnt at the stake either. A bitch will fight to the death for her pups yes, but sometimes she will eat them. It's called survival.

The afore mentioned situations are different, this is a woman's life we're talking about. A happily married woman who could have continued to have had any number of successful pregnancies.

Is it any wonder that a sizeable proportion of my Irish friends have converted from Roman Catholicism to Christianity ? Not really.

LL xx

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A letter to the Daily Record


Dear Sirs,

I am an independent escort/sex worker based for the most part in Glasgow. The supplement that appeared in your edition of Saturday forces me to write, because to call it mistaken and misleading is a gross understatement.

I have been working within the sex industry now for about eighteen years. I have worked in saunas, I have worked for escort agencies, and in my work as a sex workers' rights advocate I have also come into contact with many street sex workers. Indeed, as a sauna "Saturday girl" many years ago, I came into contact with a lot of street sex workers as we used the same GUM clinic. Ergo, I speak with authority on what has become my area of expertise, the sex industry.

Before I begin examining the articles themselves, let me say that I respect the press. Indeed, I work with journalists on a regular basis and have never had any cause for complaint. My desire for privacy for myself and my family has always been respected and for that I am very grateful. I understand that reporting the 'news' as it appears must be an extremely difficult role to fulfil and a challenging one too.

However, for your reporter Steve Smith to say that there were "93 potential victims of trafficking flagged up to Scottish authorities last year" is more than a little inflammatory. In Scotland, we have had one conviction for trafficking, just one. I don't feel it appropriate to conflate overall trafficking statistics with the sex industry because it's misleading and invokes moral panic.

Further, I find Steve Smith's reference to the sex industry as akin to the car trade very offensive. We are not women who are bought and sold, we are mothers, we are daughters, we are the women who do their shopping next to you in Asda. We are human.

Steve Smith's article goes on to say - 'Last year, 12 children were victims of trafficking - three were discovered working in the sex industry...' Where is the evidence for that claim? Have there been arrests or convictions? The article continues: 'Det Chief Supt Whitelock added: "We are reluctant to ever put exact figures on the number of people trafficked because the 93 referrals are only the tip of the iceberg"'. It is simply not acceptable to assume 'facts' without evidence and the statement that exact figures are not required is farcical. Of course exact figures are required. If the current proposed clamp down involved electricians rather than prostitutes then I'm certain there would be studies run by respected authorities to establish exactly how many had been electrocuted in the course of their duty rather than trying to base legislation on a throw-away remark.

Moving on to the piece by Annie Brown, she begins by saying that she once interviewed a doctor who had witnessed trafficking victims with spinal problems because of the number of times they had been raped. That is horrific. I am the mother of a little girl and to read of the woman whose little girl was taken from her when ever a punter called, only to be locked into an adjacent room to listen to her mother being raped made me feel physically sick. Were my daughter to endure anything akin to that, quite simply I would not be held accountable for my actions.

Let's have some perspective here. I have visited the saunas in Edinburgh and I have met and spoken to the women therein. These are not drug addicted desperate trafficked women, these are women trying to pay their bills in a recession. As a society, if we are looking for drug addicted desperate women then I suggest we look to the street scene, where there are women willing to risk a criminal record to pay for their next fix. Are they indicative of a sick society that has fallen prey to the evils of prostitution? No. They are indicative of a society labouring under intense poverty. Their problems do not stem from trafficking, their problems stem from drug addiction and poverty.

As a purportedly civilised society, isn't it time that we recognised the rights of sex workers ? I and many of my colleagues are registered for, and pay, tax and national insurance; is it right that in those circumstances our rights as law abiding citizens are simply pushed to one side to make way for an ill-informed 'moral' crusade ?

Never has it been more important to support the rights of those who choose to work legally for a living. Isn't that infinitely better than claiming benefits and further draining the national resource?

Yours faithfully,

Laura Lee.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Faux Feminism



The recent suicide of Amanda Todd got me thinking. From where I'm sitting, there are two schools of thought. One is that she was a young girl who made a stupid mistake on a social networking site by exposing her breasts. One picture ended up doing the rounds of various social platforms and in the end, she could stand the bullying no longer and in spite of having changed schools, she gave up and ended her life.

The second school of thought suggests that she recorded multiple videos involving masturbation, which she distributed through BlogTV whilst persuading a thirteen year old boy to cheat on his girlfriend. Amanda Todd has been compared with Paris Hilton, hence the picture above. "Why does everyone pick on Paris, she does such great work for charity and she only did one sex tape".

Give me a break.

Let's get this into perspective here. Paris Hilton is an attention seeking 'celebrity' who spends Daddy's money and gets to go to lots of red carpet events to exchange air kisses with other beautiful people who have also had sex tapes leaked (cough) and feel her 'pain'. Amanda Todd was a young school girl who was physically assaulted and dumped in a ditch. She drank bleach in an effort to kill herself and when that didn't work, she committed suicide, this time ensuring it was effective.

Those are not the actions of an attention seeker. Those are the actions of someone who had truly had enough and wanted off this planet, for good. But why ? Because some pitiful insecure pack running bullies decided she wasn't good enough to join their social circle ? Really ?

When it comes to overt sexuality, why is it that women perpetually turn on women ? This is what I find so perplexing. We live in a society which deems it acceptable for an individual to approach a seven year old child and tell her - "Your mother is going to die of AIDS", simply because that child's mother chooses to work quite legally as a sex worker.

We live in a society in which Rape Crisis Scotland deem it acceptable to loudly announce a 'Reclaim The Night' march in Glasgow in support of women against rape (which in itself is fantastic) but to then denounce sex work as an 'act of violence'. One rule for the 'nice' women and one rule for sex workers ?

We live in a society in which Joan Burnie of the Daily Record deems it acceptable to say that Edinburgh saunas are "sad, seedy and sorry". I doubt that she has ever set foot in a sauna in her life, I challenge Ms. Burnie to visit the saunas with me, and speak to the women therein. I think she'll find that they are very much of the same ilk as herself, ordinary women getting by and paying their bills day to day.

All of the above is what I lovingly refer to as 'faux feminism'. It's when women who choose to call themselves feminists selectively choose their allies, to the exclusion of other minority groups who don't meet their moral standards. And it's not on.

So why am I so angry about 'faux feminism' ?

I'm a sex worker, prostitute, whore, call me what you will. I have felt first hand what it feels like to be isolated and bullied because of what I have chosen to do in private, between consenting adults, and within the law. I don't fit within the moral code of faux feminists, I make them uncomfortable. How they deal with that discomfort is to project their insecurities onto me.

They call me slut. They call me whore. They hold their husbands tighter. They hitch their skirts higher, to compete.

None of which bothers me, but what does bother me is when a young impressionable girl like Amanda Todd is driven to suicide because of the elitism of others. She was a hormonal teenager and flashed her breasts. Crime of the century ? We could have a discussion around the 'Page 3' debate ad infinitum, but the reality is, there will always be breasts in the media. Nudity, even. I'm willing to bet that the very women who complain loudest about the 'abuse' of such 'victims' who dare to show their breasts on a public platform are the very ones who creep to bed with 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and their rampant rabbit. That's morally preferable, after all.

I just hope that those who ensured Amanda Todd's early grave can live with their conscience and can sleep at night. I sure as hell couldn't bear that burden, and if you pay any heed to the sex work abolitionists, then you will know that my future confessional is simply straining at the seams.

LL xx


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Conference Against Human Trafficking - why YOU should be very angry.



Let me begin this blog post by saying that the statements I attribute to various speakers at the CAHT are not verbatim. It is very difficult to pose a question, contemplate the answer whilst paying attention to the speaker and write it down simultaneously.

When N and I volunteered to attend the conference, we knew it would be difficult. We knew we would be the only two sex workers' advocates there, and we knew that both Trish Godman and Rhoda Grant would be speaking at the event. Regular readers will need no introduction to those two.

First to speak was Trish Godman and she began by saying that the movement to ban the purchase of prostitution should not be deterred by the lack of statistics, in fact she said, "we don't need numbers just now". Further, she said that the "Belle" ideology is all a myth, there is no such thing as a happy sex worker. The Belle 'myth' is wheeled out by those of us in favour of decriminalisation to strengthen our position and has no place in reality.

Godman went on to say that really, it is the buyer of sex who has all of the choice and in fact she went so far as to say that she would advocate a public list of all 'punters' to include their names and car registration numbers. The survivors of the sex trade, she said, deserve to have their voices heard.

So to the Q & A session thereafter. I challenged Godman by saying, "it's not just my clients who have a choice, I have a choice and I choose to work in the sex industry. I too deserve to have my voice heard and further, I have the right to earn a living and support my family".

Her reply is something I will never forget. She said, "of course you have a voice, you're here now and we're listening to you aren't we ? You also have a choice and if you continue with that choice in the event that this law comes into place then you will be running a risk as you will be breaking the law". She chose to ignore the last part of my question.

So, not only was Godman dismissive, she was factually incorrect, and I had no opportunity to rectify her statement as the next question was being posed.

Next to speak was Jenny Marra, who was her usual lovely and sensible self. She spoke about Kenny MacAskill's suggestion regarding the introduction of an aggravated charge on trafficking, because people trafficking is already an offence. I should also point out that Jenny was the only one of the politicians to approach both N and I and extend her hand to welcome us to the conference.

Jenny spoke further about arming the front line forces to be able to better deal with trafficking, such as police, the health services etc. and went on to say that she would be visiting the training to ensure that it would be implemented effectively. Having met Jenny before at a cross party group on trafficking I knew that she would be level headed and refreshing as a speaker and she certainly was.

Following on from the first two speakers we were separated into smaller discussion groups, and when I looked at my group I could have fled. It was comprised of many much older Soroptimists and - Jan MacLeod. Jan comes from the Women's Support Project and suffice to say that when she and I met it was very much a case of - "we meet at last". Yes, there have been times when we have clashed in the past and I'm sure that there will be times in the future too, but to disappoint you all, I have to tell you, Jan is a lovely person. She's witty, warm and engaging and as she said herself, we may not agree on the legislative piece but we are very much on the same page when it comes to other aspects of women's welfare. In fact, we spoke about the possibility of an outreach service in Glasgow which would involve visiting the working flats rather than police knocking on the door because the ladies therein would be far more likely to speak to another sex worker. And I didn't just say all of that because Jan admitted she reads my blog, honest.

The Soroptomists were a very pleasant surprise. They were open and willing to listen when I told them that as an industry we are very self regulating and that we would look to report anything untoward as a policy. Overall I was very encouraged by the group discussion and we took time out for lunch. Great raspberry cheesecake.

Next to speak was Gunilla Edberg, a feminist lawyer and a former Special Advisor to the Swedish Government. Edberg said that it was time to break the silence in relation to the real perpetrators, the clients. Prostitution she said, is a crime of violence and as women in prostitution, we are not afforded the option to go to the police.

Further, she said that by following the buyers, the organisers will be found and that the only people who are usually opposed to criminalisation are the buyers. The part which stood out was when she said that we must not buy into the stereotype of the "lonely client". These are not men in search of companionship, rather they are "sexually experienced" individuals who know exactly what they are doing in terms of exploiting and repeatedly violating sex workers. She finished by saying that prostitution is akin to indignity and a loss of integrity.

Of most interest to me was the next speaker, Rhoda Grant. In fact, we first met in the ladies "restroom", and I extended my hand and a smile.

"Rhoda ? Delighted to meet you at last. I'm Laura Lee."

"I'm aware of who you are and your work".

Right, stage set then. To her credit she did shake my hand and smile too.

When she began speaking, her tone and delivery were very different to that of Godman. She was quietly spoken, flat and monotonous and I found it difficult to stay focused at times. I was soon jolted out of my stupor in spectacular fashion. To a shocked "oooh" from the audience Grant declared, "studies have shown that 75% of women enter the industry as children".

Come Q & A, I challenged her."No-one will deny that the notion of 75% of new entrants being children is horrific. However, the statistic you are quoting is from a study conducted in 2004 by Melrose, which was based on 47 street sex workers. Since we know that only about 10% of all sex work takes place on street, then those figures as presented are inadmissable".

Her face was a picture of dark thunderous anger.

Here, in my own words, is Grant's (visibly flustered) reply - "I CAN rely on that study because there are very few others done".

N and I were aghast, and speechless.

As someone who obviously also (begrudgingly) reads my blog, she went on to say - "I'd also like to say that the notion of using disability as an excuse is offensive and appalling".

So there we have it. To highlight the perfectly natural desires of disabled persons when it comes to paid sex is offensive. To my disabled clients, take a bow. You are little more than an excuse.

Get ANGRY. Anger and action are what will stop the success of this preposterous abolition attempt.

LL xx

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Let's get to WORK.


Rhoda Grant MSP believes that ‘prostitution in Scotland is a form of sexual violence against women and sexual exploitation.’ She believes that ‘prostitution is inherently harmful and dehumanising’ and that ‘the majority of those who are involved in prostitution are unwilling participants.' She is proposing to make it illegal to purchase sex in Scotland.

Now, I know, and you know, that her assertions are simply not true. I know from years of experience at various levels in the sex industry that in fact the vast majority of sex workers are working (quite contentedly) of their own volition and to support themselves and their families. Indeed, my colleagues and I have been visiting brothels so we know the truth, and we think it's time that the truth is told.

The public consultation on Rhoda Grant’s proposals for a new law to criminalise the purchase of sex is open until 14th December. This is an open consultation - you do not have to be a resident of Scotland or the UK to respond.

All of us at SCOT-PEP have been campaigning to stop this law going through and we will continue to do so but we need YOU to use your voice too.

Are you a sex worker, a client or an individual interested in human rights and safety for sex workers? Politicians need to know the realities of sex work, so let's tell them!

If you are a sex worker and enjoy your job, if you do not feel exploited or that it is dehumanising, harmful or degrading, SAY SO.

If you choose to work as a sex worker because it is the best available option for you, SAY SO.

If you see disabled clients who would otherwise never experience the joy of skin to skin contact, SAY SO.

If you feel that making it illegal for your clients to pay you is not going to tackle trafficking or ‘reduce demand’ but deprive you of a living, SAY SO.

If you are a client, who uses the services of sex workers and have yet to find a victim of coercion or trafficking, SAY SO.

If you work in health services and come into contact with sex workers who don't fit *that* stereotype, SAY SO.

Here's what you can do.

You can write to Rhoda Grant and tell her what you think of her proposals.

The consultation document asks specifically for answers to 8 questions – but you can also just write in with your opinion if you prefer. Your letter will be much more powerful if you can add your own views and experiences, although at Scot-PEP we have prepared some template letters here which you can use as a guideline for your own letter. In fact you can simply print the letters off and sign them.

You don't need to use your real name, for example you can use your work name or an alias to send in your opinion. If you do use your own name you must ask for your response to be treated as anonymous if you do not wish your name to be published on Rhoda Grant’s website and by the Scottish Parliament. (Only names will be published – not contact addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses etc.)

You can email your letter to: Rhoda.Grant.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

or post it to:

Rhoda Grant MSP
Room M1.06
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

It has never been more important to stand up for your rights and to have your voice heard. Please don't let this new proposal drive our already clandestine and stigmatised jobs further underground and please don't allow politicians to tell you how you feel or how you ought to live your life. Enough is enough.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Can't cook, won't cook


See, here's the thing.

I need a hobby. I don't have time for a hobby but I need one nonetheless. This is because I am about to embark on the two most stressful months of my life, (exams, activism and a personal life which would drive St. Peter to genocide). I've all but decided that said hobby will be cookery, mainly because I can't cook to save anyone's life and secondly because it's flexible in terms of how and when I wreck it.

I have an idealistic vision of yours truly, resplendent in a gingham apron, smiling beatifically and shelling peas effortlessly into a sparkling stainless steel pot, to produce an acclaimed home made dish which is the envy of every middle class housewife in the village. So much so, that they will decline to enter their gooseberry jams and strawberry flans into the annual county fair for fear of humiliation.

I fear that this vision of mine is doomed to failure for lots of reasons really, but let me examine just two.

1. I CAN'T COOK

Quite a while ago now, a dear friend presented me with a gift of a cookery book, the short title of which might as well have been, "cooking for gobshites". Chapter one was devoted to "how to cook an egg". What could possibly go wrong ? Particularly when they even included instructions on how to cook an egg in a microwave, (for busy professionals, you know). Place the egg on a small saucer with a little water and place in microwave. Idiot proof really, except at no point did they say to remove it from the shell firstly. It may surprise you to learn that when I tried to "top" the egg with a small spoon the resulting explosion and coating of walls was enough to send my house mates into convulsions and that tale went around our social circles for far longer than I would have preferred.

Undeterred, and now in my own bedsit, I announced to a fellow student and good pal that I was going to cook her a Sunday roast dinner. Perhaps I chose to ignore her crestfallen expression, I mean nothing was going to get in the way of this ideal project. I produced lovely vegetables and gravy, all topped off with chicken which was a little bit crispy on the outside but I felt that the fact it was a bit pink in the middle kinda made up for it. After all, you can have medium beef, so you can have medium chicken, right ? Both of us were in bed for two days, with only a large basin and tender sips of 7-up for company. I did apologise.

2. MY ADDICTIVE/PERFECTIONIST NATURE

As a pseudo-adult, I am now acutely aware of my highly addictive personality.

When Amanda and I were on the tour circuit, we both discovered a game on Facebook which at the time, was all the rage, Farmville. Suddenly, I had a farm to tend every day and most of my friends were playing it too. When it got to the point where I was spending up to two hours a day milking cyber cows and reaping cyber strawberry harvests just so I could "level up", I had to acknowledge that this was becoming somewhat of an obsession. With a heavy heart, I deleted my account although I would like it noted that I had the highest score at the time, hell I even had my own mechanical plough.

The early days of my recovery from Farmville were difficult and there were many times when Amanda had to physically restrain me from climbing a fence just off the A9 to deftly organise some bales of hay in an adjoining field. Indeed, come lambing time I still get the odd twitch and if I had my way, those lambs would be organised into groups according to size, weight and colour coded too. On even daring to present with such a twitch, Amanda sits on my head, surprisingly effective.(Truly, that woman will never know what she means to me.)

In real terms with my new chosen hobby, gone will be the apron, the smile and the award winning marmalade.

In it's place will be a woman demented, stomping up and down the galley at 2am and shrieking -

"THE RECIPE SAID TWO HUNDRED FECKIN' DEGREES".

I am determined though. At this point I would usually ask you to "wish me luck".
Instead the mantra in my house when I step into the kitchen seems appropriate -

Good luck everyone.

LL xx

P.S : Hardcore activism begins mid-October, as soon as I have my horrendous exams out the way. You have been warned.



Saturday, 15 September 2012

On the subject of Rhoda Grant


Quite a while ago now, I took La Princess to see the new(ish) Katy Perry film. I was looking forward to it rather like I look forward to a smear test, irritating but necessary nevertheless. For the first part, I was mildly interested and just able to resist the infantile temptation to flick popcorn at random heads. Understand this, embarrassing your children in public is not a benefit, it's an obligation.

Imagine my pleasant surprise then, when I discovered what an immensely enjoyable outing it was. The film itself wasn't exactly oscar award winning, but what struck me was the way in which Ms. Perry dealt with the disintegration of her marriage to Russell Brand. She was in the middle of a gruelling tour and absolutely exhausted and one was left with the feeling that his treatment of her during the break up was nothing short of appalling. (Lawyer clients, quit twitching, I of course mean allegedly.)

There was a scene which will stay with me for a long time. Our heroine was lying on a bench where ordinarily she would have her make up and hair done before going on stage and she was crying. Now, I don't mean "crocodile tears and gentle dabbing of eyes with embalmed tissues" crying, I mean sobbing. The majority had no idea what was wrong, since she had been intensely private about her marital troubles and only the very closest to her such as her sister were able to give her some comfort.

There were various people clucking around her who were clearly unwelcome at that moment not because she was being unkind but because she just couldn't do the whole "air kiss" thing. Having sought solace with her closest, she took a deep breath, looked at her make up artist and said "START". Various voices arose into the fracas, "are you sure ? we can cancel the show". Her reply was simply, "I SAID START". Start they did and thereafter, she managed to find a huge smile from somewhere and went on to deliver an undeniably mind blowing performance.

I can relate to that. I know how she felt and I know what it took to find that smile and "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON". Crucially, she wasn't alone and there was a huge amount of support in evidence. Thanks to those treasured people around her she found that last reserve of strength.

This week, Rhoda Grant announced her proposed change to the legislation in Scotland (link here) and when I read it I could have sobbed myself. Debunking the "statistics" quoted will not be an issue and together with her own comments, the whole paper made me gasp in disbelief. It is simply unthinkable that anyone in a position of supposed power could be so ill informed, not to mention doggedly determined to proceed on the basis of some seriously skewed beliefs and statistics.

But if I thought for one moment that I could curl up on a sofa and weep, not a chance. Once again, I am surrounded by those who truly care not to mention the army of activists who will fight to the death to ensure this shoddy and contemptible piece of legislation will never see the light of day. We will not be dictated to and no-one, but NO-ONE will take away our rights and our livelihoods. We are many, we are united and we are strong.

I said START.


LL xx

Thursday, 6 September 2012

On the subject of disabilities


(The following blog post contains graphic scenes of sexual contact with disabled persons, reader discretion is advised. If you think you may be affected by any of the content contained in this blog post, I suggest you feck off and read a blog about flower arranging instead.)

I have a client I see from time to time, let's call him 'K'. K is a young guy, very handsome, always spotlessly clean and smelling like heaven on earth. His emails send me into convulsions, he has the most amazing sense of humour and his wry observations on the topics of the day would outdo many contemporary writers.

Like most men, one of K's favourites is fellatio, he likes nothing more than for yours truly to peel off the layers down to lingerie with stockings and suspenders and get to work. He lies back in blissful abandonment, and enjoying every moment.

Every so often, I get a swift blow to the back of the head, something I'm accustomed to now. We seem to have developed a ratio around the whole experience, for every three or so thumps, there is one "sorry". K can't avoid smacking me, because he has very limited motor control of his limbs as a result of his cerebral palsy. In the end, we both usually end up in fits of laughter at the absurdity of it all, because that's all we CAN do really. How wonderful.

Many years ago and in a brothel far away came an elderly man and it's fair to say that he frightened small children (to coin a phrase) because he had developed a form of mouth cancer which back then, very little was known about. His treatment at the time involved cutting the offending tissue away, which meant that on one side of his face his cheek was missing and if you looked at him from the side, he looked like a sinister, grinning skeleton. His wife had died some time previously and as a result of his appearance he lived as a recluse, going out only every couple of days for messages. Once every couple of months though, he took a taxi to the parlour where I worked and I knew what he wanted.

I would thank him for my chocolates, light some candles and play some soft music. After that, he would drown me in baby oil and massage me from head to toe, every so often dipping his head just to inhale my perfume and bury his face into my neck. That was his treasured contact which he looked forward to so much. After about a year and a half of our appointments I moved to London but to this day I still think of him, a true gentleman in every sense of the word.

All of which leads me to the question, if the purchase of "sex" is banned, then what will become of those men who rely solely on sex workers for their needs, whatever they may be ? Can you honestly foresee a day when that elderly gent will be able to join a dating site and find a woman for a massage and a cuddle ? And what of K ? Will he ever meet a woman who can meet his needs and see beyond the exterior ?

It really angers me when I read the views of various writers who paint a picture of my clients as insatiable lust driven animals. A lack of knowledge on their subject is no deterrent to most of those critics. Let me be quite clear here, it's not a question of entitlement, not at all. No man is entitled to claim a sexual act as his right. On the other hand, I do believe that disabled clients ought to have the same opportunities as their able bodied counterparts, that's the differentiation.

If Rhoda Grant's new proposal is adopted as law, it will be a shocking indictment on just how small minded and blinkered we are as a country. It's time we recognised that not only is it impossible to "reduce demand" but also, "demand" is a very complex and multi-layered animal, as indeed is "supply", (best described as diverse in the extreme).

Frankly, were I a purchaser of "sex", I know I would find the notion of an ill-informed politician telling me what I can and can't do in the privacy of my own bedroom downright insulting. Ironically, to condemn those men I have written about to a life of solitude and loneliness on foot of a Victorian attitude towards the exchange of sexual services for money is hugely immoral in itself.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A letter to The Irish Times


A Chara,

I am an Irish sex worker of 17 years experience and although I now live in Scotland, I lived and worked in Ireland until 2003.

The current consultation around paid sex is in danger of being derailed. Much of the "evidence" is badly presented and seriously skewed. One of the chief advocates for criminalising the consensual and essentially private acts we engage in is Ruhama, who have based their campaign on the following statement - "75% of all sex workers enter the industry as children". That statement is based on a study (Melrose, 2002) which had as its subjects a mere forty six women, three quarters of whom were engaged in street work. As only 10% of all sex work is conducted on the street, the 75% figure is not statistically allowable. It is being manipulated purely to create a moral panic. It is not based on fact.

Some facts - 81.7% of Irish clients said they had never met an escort they suspected was being physically abused. (Irish Escort Clients Survey, 2006).

Following decriminalisation in New Zealand, 93.8% of sex workers reported feeling that they had health and safety rights under the law ( Abel, Fitzgerald and Brunton 2007).

In the UK, 440 sex workers were interviewed and only 7% reported that being paid meant that they handed control over to the client. 85% of the women were aged 26 and over. 32.9% of the women had degrees whilst 18% held post-graduate qualifications (Jenkins, 2009).

Ireland has for many years laboured under the shame of its treatment of unmarried mothers in Magdalene laundries. It is time to stop marginalising and stigmatising sex workers who, ultimately, are inheriting identical practices.

The International Union of Sex Workers campaigns for the human, civil and labour rights of those who work in the sex industry, and for policy which is based on evidence. Evidence, please.

Is mise le meas,

Laura Lee
International Union of Sex Workers

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Apes and Altruism

Is there any such thing as true altruism ? I ask because of late I have been studying apes, not the type to be found at the taxi rank just off Sauchiehall Street on a Friday night, but bonobos. The female of the species appease an aggressive male by having sex with him, and in doing so ensure the continuity of peace within the group. That's all very magnanimous of her, but isn't there a reciprocal benefit ? As a female I know that you can't put a price on peace and quiet and what of her own sexual pleasure ? Also, what of her own increased standing in her peer group as a peace maker ?

I ask for your opinions on altruism (and do please feel free to comment) because last weekend, I raised the level of magnanimousness to infinity, I agreed to take LP to a "dance competition" in Blackpool. If the truth be known, I was rather looking forward to it because I had never been to Blackpool before and also, I knew she would enjoy the experience because she has been training SO hard, (for which read, almost taking the cat's eye out in the living room with various contortions which would have Madonna reaching for her cod liver oil).

On arrival to the recommended hotel (which by the way, I wouldn't order a sub to stay in), we were greeted with the familiar base beat of the music which was to haunt my life and my dreams for the next 48 hours.

Every parent's worst nightmare (aside from the very obvious) must surely be your treasured child, having consumed three cans of red bull, cartwheeling across the reception area of a hotel, almost knocking the zimmer frame out from under Glenda, recently arrived back from her trip to the local bingo. Ordinarily, I would die before I would allow my little darling anywhere near red bull, but here I had to concede because this is the way it's done at "comps". The dancing that they do is high energy, high effort and in repeated rounds, so if your little treasure wants to do well, taurine it is, like it or lump it.

One gets to an age where night clubs just no longer hold any appeal, the loud music, blinding lights and having to roar at each other become tiresome, a good meal out with some laughter becomes far preferable and to be honest, the thoughts of having some gobshite try and bellow some cheesy lines at me at the bar of a noisy nightclub in an attempt to get me under his duvet just fills me with horror. GET. LOST.

So, here's where the altruism comes into play. I placed myself in a darkened function room for two days, with two hundred wild eyed little princesses, all decked from head to toe in sequins and flinging themselves around to the incessant bellow of massive speakers, HELL.

Of most curiosity were the Mothers who wondered past with a broad beam, "...you enjoying yourself ? It's a great atmosphere !!"

ARE YOU QUITE MAD ??

From time to time, I took time out to retreat to our hotel room, and in spite of my immortal terror of them, I could enjoy the sight of several large rats scampering over the bins at the back of the hotel, (told you it was a dump) mainly because I was two floors above them. I allowed myself a flight of fantasy and pictured what it must be like as a rat. I'm sure it's pretty shit overall, what with natural predators, poisons, not to mention those eejits on a "life of grime", but at least they don't have to sit and "enjoy" two days of some truly dreadful music which would drive squatters and bed bugs out, never mind hotel "guests".

So in the end, I gave up. Sod it, if you can't beat them, join them and I necked two red bulls just to join in the hysteria and see what I was missing out on. Bugger all actually, but at least it convinced LP that an early night was in order if only to stop me doing my "Ebeneezer Good" rave moves on the dance floor, mission accomplished.

In the end, when I had all but voluntarily signed myself in to the nearest secure unit where I could draw with some nice non toxic crayons all day, came the moment, that which made it all worthwhile.

She had done it and lifted a very large trophy over her head, to tumultuous applause, and screeches from her amassed completely delirious and cross eyed peers.

"Altruism" my backside, the reciprocal feeling of maternal pride was one I won't let go of for a very long time to come.

LL xx


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Mother of the Year

It's a very odd situation to be in really, mine I mean. Recent events have conspired to ensure that I am 95% "out", at least in my local area, but that's OK. Had I been asked how I felt about being "out" four years ago, the likelihood is you would have found me in a crumpled heap in a corner, but that's because at the time there was a very large element of a very small community determined to make sure I was "out" to all and sundry and further, to make sure that the full brunt of all that entailed in a small town was brought to bear on both myself and my daughter. How times have changed.

These days I view it as a very strong position to be in because I believe that if it's not a secret, then it can't hurt you. So my neighbours, my family and all my good friends know too, that I am a chubbier and probably narkier version of Belle. Their support and their acceptance mean a great deal to me actually, not that I'm so insecure that I would seek their support but when it comes to protecting my daughter then I will take any help that is on offer.

When we initially moved to Ayrshire some time ago, La Princess befriended a couple of little girls and at first everything was splendid although I did have one or two inner "niggles". Two of the girls concerned began to literally live at my house at weekends, ostensibly because I was a "cool" Mum, in other words I let them bake cakes in the kitchen on a Sunday and didn't have a nervous breakdown if there was some flour left on the counter. Having (at that point) never met the parents of one of the little girls though, I began to have concerns when her parents said it was perfectly OK for her to spend the night at our house and she could come back the following day, um .... whenever.

Quite obviously, I'm not a child abductor or serial killer, but they didn't know that. Again, I'm not nominating myself as "Mother of the Year", but if my heiress to the throne wanted to stay out all night then damn sure I would be down to the house to meet the parents and make sure I knew who they were and what they were about. These "sleepovers" happened on several occasions before I actually met the parents and I'm sorry, but I found that odd. Following on from that came the Sundays. I literally became the "Pied Piper" of the locality and every time I sought to go out on a Sunday with La Princess, there were two little tag alongs, kicked out of the house for the afternoon with a fiver and a "make sure you say thank you".

None of that became an issue until it became known locally who I am. Suddenly, those little girls who were kicked out of their houses routinely because their parents needed "to rest" were no longer allowed to come to my house, or hang out with my daughter. I have to tell you, that hurt. It hurt me, because I had welcomed them in with open arms when they were clearly a "nuisance" at their own homes. Stepping aside from my own feelings though, it hurt La Princess, because she couldn't understand what she had done to create such a rift, and given that I had only begun to explain to her about the nature of my job then I really couldn't explain the actions of some severely hypocritical and bigoted parents.

The good news is, since then we moved again and are now surrounded by the most wonderful, loving and accepting people, who will stand by us and support us no matter what, a position which is very much reciprocated. The irony of it all is, we still bump into those girls and indeed their parents, and it's all I can do to stop myself bawling them out on sight, but that's not who I am and it's not the values I want to instil in La Princess either.

So instead, since they know who I am and I know they read my blog then I would like to say the following -

*clears throat*

Congratulations. Congratulations on teaching your daughters the very values I have gone out of my way to avoid as a Mother. Intolerance, bigotry, prejudice, and downright dogmatism.

Myself ? I'd rather continue to teach my daughter acceptance, assertion, self-worth and a belief that no matter who or what you come up against, let it never deter you.

LL xx