Monday, 25 June 2012

Back to Brothels

Greetings from home where I wouldn't say I'm chilling out, I'm fecked. This has been a very long and very emotional week in lots of respects. On Tuesday the 19th, every sex worker's rights activist in Scotland was either at Holyrood or on the phone monitoring the progress of the Justice Committee's decision re Rhoda Grant's proposed changes to the legislation around paid sex, which would criminalise our clients. With baited breath we waited until the news came in that she had failed in her attempt and there was much jubilation, short lived though that was. We cheered and allowed ourselves our first deep breath in several days, but we know it's only a matter of time before she is back with a new consultation.

Having prepared ourselves for the worst, we all had a full diary of appointments lined up, meetings with MSP's, interviews and meetings with sex workers too, most importantly. I very much enjoyed Holyrood, what I found most interesting was the "contemplation seat" that MSP's have at the back of their office, it's a space by a window to allow them to mull things over. Those visitors who have to be accompanied by an assistant at all times are given a badge with an enormous "V", you seriously don't want to know my thought processes around that.

Mulling things over was not a luxury available to myself and my colleague N, we hit the campaign trail with gusto on Thursday and Friday and visited many saunas in Edinburgh, to talk to the ladies therein and inform them of what is going on. I loved every minute of it, it was like a trip down memory lane for me because I began my career in the biggest sauna in Dublin, run by a huge Irish country man (to be polite) who wasn't the brightest star in the sky. I still remember with great fondness the day he announced loudly to the masses that in order to cut back on his costs he had decided to wash and dry the towels on site and that very day we could expect delivery of his proudest investment, a "tubular dryer". (I damn near wet my thong at that, in fact if memory serves me correctly that was the day I got the sack for the third time.)

Although I had my own experience of working in saunas many years ago, I was very nervous about visiting the contemporary equivalents, I really didn't know what to expect. Well, all I can say is that I left every single  one of them beaming and more determined than ever before to work with our team and protect those wonderful women I met. To be perfectly honest, there was a moment when I walked through the door of each one when the women threw me a distrustful eye, and who can blame them ? Right now they feel as if everyone is against them, politicians who are determined to take away their livelihood, feminists and abolitionist campaigners who are determined to "rescue" them, not to mention various members of the public in their commentaries who have suddenly become experts on what it is to work in the sex industry and the psychology behind it all too, it's almost impressive.

As soon as I let it be known that I am on their side, the change in their body language was quite remarkable. Arms were unfolded and they leaned forward and listened. In fact, in most of the places we went to, N and I had a really good laugh. As I deal in truth and not fiction, I can tell you that there was not one lady who appeared to be trafficked, every lady I met was perfectly happy to be working there and in fact they were enraged when I explained to them the full ramifications of the proposed changes to the legislation. Having explained why they enjoyed working as they do, their next question was simply - "What can I do to stop this?"

Continuing in the vein of honesty, I can tell you that out of all of the women I met, there was ONE woman who was very clearly on drugs, the rest were perfectly ordinary women, busying themselves with hair straighteners and make-up. That was my experience of the "horrors" of the Edinburgh sauna scene and I've no doubt that when we begin visiting flats we will find pretty much the same scenario.

The trouble with the debate that's raging at the moment around the scene in Scotland is that the anti's are relying heavily on the street scene to back up their arguments, when they speak of drug use, beatings, arrests, pimps etc. Now, I'm not going to pretend for one moment that any drug addicted woman happily applies her make-up and goes out on the street night after night to earn enough money to feed her own addiction and quite possibly that of her boyfriend too, of course not. I will say, that there are some women who choose to work "the beat" because it's just what they've always done, like the woman two doors down does in the run up to Christmas too. The problem with some of those women is not prostitution, it's POVERTY, and it's drug addiction. If that's the case, why don't we ban drugs ? Oh wait, we have, that didn't work either. If those women cannot get their drugs from the proceeds of paid sex, no matter how dangerous that is, then they will source the money any other way they can, spot of shop lifting anyone ? Of course, that alternative course of earning might get them arrested, they might even end up in "The Vale", where they really will meet the creme de la creme of Scottish society, but that's OK, because they are morally superior to prostitutes.

Is not the answer to support these women rather than criminalise them ? If they want to get clean and get off the streets, HELP THEM, if they want to continue to work on the streets but do so in safety, HELP THEM. Looking at the Merseyside model gives us all some scope for hope, in that case the police have been treating sex workers as the victim of hate crimes where they have been assaulted or harmed in any way and the result of that is, the human rights and the safety of the women have become paramount, not futile arrests and harassment.

I don't claim to be an academic, (far from it, although I am working on it) but I do know the sex industry, because I have been working in it for quite a while and therein lies the reason why I do what I do under my "real" working name, I cannot be debunked. Oh sure, I can be discredited, jeered, all the usual fun stuff, (you know, if the best a purportedly educated forty-something woman can come up with is 'fat bitch' then I fear for the educational future of us all) but no-one can claim I am a pimp, a client, or just some (ahem) alternative person who gets their kicks out of writing as an escort, (they exist, believe me).

Nope I'm just me, a common garden variety escort, and a rather content one at that.

Before I sign off, huge thanks to the journalist who gave me a voice this week, you know who you are and thank you for fair and impartial reporting. I need to say though, that was nowhere near a "no holds barred verbal assault", no. That was "mildly irritated", if and when I really get my curls in a twist there will be no room for any doubt. ;)

LL xx

Friday, 15 June 2012

Celebrations and Campaigns

Good evening and greetings from home where I am not long finished supervising the construction of a rather impressive erection. It's an assault course for Fatty, apparently designed to appease boredom but if you ask me it wouldn't look out of place on The Krypton Factor and it should take her the best part of a week to get through it. I wouldn't mind but there doesn't even seem to be a reward at the end of it, I mean even Skinner's feckin' pigeons fared advantageously. Still, she seems content enough or maybe that's complacency, only time will tell.

Meanwhile a HUGE thank you to everyone who sponsored me for the Race for Life, it was tremendous as always and I know SCOT-PEP are very grateful to every one of you for your generosity, as I am. Since then I've not really been in circulation, quite simply I've been up to my ears in it.  I had to do an academic sprint which involved a lot of coffee, swearing and anti-social behaviours but I got there in the end and ultimately I am now study free until mid-August, splendid.

Speaking of splendid, huge congratulations must also go to Dollymopp who has recently been awarded "Sex Worker of the Year 2012" at The Erotic Awards in London, well done that woman ! She is one of the loveliest women in this industry, a nicer person you would struggle to meet so I am thrilled. I am also thrilled that having had the glorious news that Dr. Brooke Magnanti is to become a patron for SCOT-PEP, I am finally going to meet the lady herself in August. Waxing and nail buffing will be in abundance prior to that evening, and not an item of Primark underwear will be found anywhere near my corpus, nae chance.

Next week I am off to Edinburgh on Tuesday and Wednesday and I will be around Edinburgh for most of the working week after that, because Catherine Stephens will be there and we have many exciting meetings lined up, not to mention the later commitments I have with SCOT-PEP too. That's all you need to know for now, otherwise I might as well print up an itinerary for the anti's and abolitionists and we can't have that. I can exclusively reveal though, that we are taking time out to visit the pandas. I'm told that they are actually quite somnolent which is a blow, I mean I don't expect them to fire walk or juggle but even so. You'd think, wouldn't you, that when they get one chance a year to copulate they'd seize the opportunity but no, apparently chewing leaves and sleeping hold more appeal, rather like moi after a hard day's touring I suppose.

The reason there is going to be an upsurge in political activity is because the submission from Rhoda Grant is going before the Justice Committee at Holyrood on the 19th of June. Ms. Grant is seeking to have the submission approved on the basis that all of the relevant and required evidence was collated during the Godman consultation. Any right thinking individual can see how inherently flawed the Godman consultation was and it is my fervent hope that common sense will prevail. In the meantime, over the weekend I plan on writing to the Justice Committee although I am off to Liverpool in the morning with Mr. F and won't be back until Sunday night so it will be another ferocious burning of midnight oil session with a heavy reliance on spellcheck and vast amounts of taurine. Yay.

The upside to stress and being busy is that I have lost a hell of a lot of weight, so I have decided to get some new saucy pictures done and re-vamp my site, which I am looking forward to immensely. The site itself is out of date in that it's not compatible with iPads or iPhones both of which are popular browsing devices now for prospective clients trying to steal a surreptitious glance whilst on a boring train journey with colleagues, I have had those whispered calls from inside a hideously noisy Virgin train toilet cubicle.

Before I head to the land of nod I fancy a brief word on lobbying against the forthcoming proposed changes. I would never ask anyone to become an activist, aside from anything else I know the grief that goes with that. Once you stick your head above the parapet you become a target for all kinds of people, from those who pray for your soul right through to the false reviews, threatening phone calls, bandying your real name about, rumour mongering and basically any and every attempt being made to discredit you, both as a person and as a sex worker. Balls of steel are required and a willingness to bite back as and when required, with the correct amount of restraint being shown regardless of how despicably the other side have behaved. The underhand tactics of some of the abolitionists would take your breath away. It's water off a duck's back to me now, I really couldn't care less what they hurl at me any more provided they leave my family and privacy alone, which reminds me, if you're going to send me prayers in French, at least make a decent feckin' stab at it and don't just run it through google translate. (sigh)

If the submission gets through the consultation stage though, what I will be asking YOU to do is use your voice which is as powerful a tool as can be, because you see what the anti's rely on is that we will be too frightened as sex workers to speak up. You can use your work name and email address or a completely new email address for privacy, it's up to you. There are an estimated 80,000 sex workers in the UK and this legislation could completely change YOUR job and YOUR earnings. Please don't leave it to a select few motor mouths and hope that it goes away, how I wish that were the case.

LL xx