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Thierry the president of the IUSW/GMB London adult entertainment branch has had an article published in CIF. Most of what he says I support. He is talking about the ideas being discussed in France to reopen bordellos, an issue discussed previously on this blog. He is however also heavily involved with French sex workers unions who have a particularly left wing agenda which is often reflected in many of the statements made by Thierry. This paragraph in the CIF article for example:
“To many, Brunel’s proposal to reopen brothels seems the ideal solution. But like most French sex workers, I remain sceptical. On one hand, brothels could bring a certain safety and guarantee police protection instead of repression, but on the other, it means more control over our lives. I doubt our community will easily consent to working in brothels when traditionally, French sex workers have fought since the beginning of the movement in 1975 and the occupation of churches to remain independent from pimps and state control.”
This is the sort of statement that I as a fellow sex worker have issues with. Sex workers are part of society. They communicate and interact not only with other sex workers but with members of the public. Sex workers go to bars, theatres, restaurants. Like most people sex workers work for money, it is a job. Most sex workers in France as well as the UK employ the services of a third party to represent them and/or to provide services that will/do make their work and lives easier and safer. Thierry refers to these people as pimps which is wrong. These people he refers to as pimps suffer the most from oppressive laws. Many are retired prostitutes or indeed still work. Many of my fellow sex workers for example share flats and charge small fees to other sex workers to cover the costs involved in running a flat. Are they pimps? The law says they are and it is wrong for Thierry who claims to speak for sex workers to publicly further stigmatise fellow sex workers because of his personal politics which often seem more important than the rights of sex workers. To refer to a fellow worker as a pimp is as bad as referring to a prostitute as prostituted. It infers stigma which as a movement we should be resisting not encouraging.
Thierry claims that sex workers do not want to be controlled by the state. As a sex worker I want to be recognised by the state and I accept that if the state recognises my right to work and protects me rather than persecutes me then I will have to accept a degree of state control. Of course I will resist certain controls such as forced health tests which are unnecessary as is state registration. I also will resist attempts to force brothels into isolated areas. As a sex worker I am part of society and to fight stigma we have to be seen to be a part of society and not an embarrassment to be hidden away. I will however understand that some regulations will have to apply and that I will have to compromise and perhaps accept things that I may disagree with. Every business and every worker has to do this to a degree. The issue is will sex workers compromise and negotiate? Thierry is president of the IUSW GMB London adult entertainment branch and in that position he has to attract sex workers not isolate sex workers and he has to be prepared to both talk to and negotiate with not only fellow sex workers but with any agencies that offer areas of compromise that will allow sex workers to work safely.
We all have to accept some degree of control over our lives. The skill is to negotiate the degree of that control and to learn sometimes to compromise for the greater good. That means putting our personal politics and beliefs to one side especially if you choose to take a representative role.