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