Harlots Parlour

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I have been involved with sex work for just over twelve years and with activism for several of those years. During that time I have never heard any sex worker inquire about who is actually representing us. It is a very important question because sex worker activists are out there at conferences, attending meetings, holding meetings, talking on your behalf to government and the media about you, that is you, ordinary sex workers out there doing your best in an often hostile environment trying to survive.

I suppose that I am one of those activists but you will find few activists as open as myself about who I am and what I do and what I believe. I am certainly not one of the in crowd. In fact I can safely say that given a choice of dinner with Julie Bindel or myself most of the establishment sex worker activists would choose a pint of beer with dear Julie rather than myself.
The problem is that I’m difficult, I ask questions and I don’t share the same politics or snootch in the same social circle as those in what is best referred to as the sex worker establishment.

Protected behind closed lists with security clauses that would impress the mafia and secure that “friends” will always vote in their favour anyone like myself who asks questions is dismissed as arrogant or troublesome or an irritant who does not appreciate the unstinting work they do on our behalf.

I know that being a sex worker is hard work. Its tiring, expensive and you invite the intrusive prying of anti sex work lobbyists. It does however have its perks. Activism inevitably goes with ego. Even though nearly every activist I know has a conviction to change sex work for the better I am also aware that (and I include myself in this) there is and are ulterior motivations.

Sex work activism is made up of three main types of activists. There are the academics. Some academics are also sex workers either past or present. No problem with these people because we need them and the fact they pop up here, there and everywhere around the world is part of their work. The fact that many are also out to sell their blogs and books is therefore sort of forgiveable. Some however also have egos that have to be massaged and a tendency to behave like school children in protecting their research. Fair enough but sometimes (and I have heard some speak publicly) selling themselves as authors and spokespersons is as important as representing us, that is ordinary sex workers and you are left sort of wondering which is more important.
We then have the semi professional politicians and media friendly types. These people love committees and positions of authority and titles they collect like some people collect stamps. Inevitable sharing the same political motivation (as do many of the academics) they exist in a a little hot bed of activism that supports their political aspirations and they certainly are reticent about allowing ordinary, undisciplined and politically uncooperative sex workers to disturb their aspirations for power and influence.
Finally there are those sex workers activists who having been successful in sex work use their activism to promote (usually books) or themselves. No blame attached here. I’m all for free enterprise and if you’ve got something to sell then use what ever means you can to do so. These people however are usually limited to the fringes of activism. Not proper, hard core activists although I often wonder if they are not more important in influencing the general public and other sex workers than all the academics and the members of secret lists and the funny hand shake brigade “Can your recite Karl Marx backward” comrades put together.

Now of course you will find these types within any group of activism for any cause known to man. Its human nature to want power and to only share power and influence with similar types. The issue is that sex work is diverse and complicated and to be honest most sex workers here in the UK and I suspect else where know little about sex worker activism or the people who speak on their behalf . Among this great mass of people there probably are great speakers and representatives who given a chance to be involved and consulted could produce a sex worker movement that is genuinely representative of our diverse industry. While sex work activism however remains controlled by a self supporting net work and remains unwelcoming and inaccessible to often provincial, non academic and non politically motivated sex workers who never the less are caring and intelligent sex workers then we have to ask; will the movement ever grow and ever really be truly representative.

In the mean time it should not be wrong to ask questions and to expect answers from those who do (and some do so very successfully) represent us. We have a right to expect transparency. We have a right to ask why is there such a small pool of sex worker activists at important events and within important representative bodies. We have a right to ask who pays what bills and who sits on what decision making committees. We expect this of politicians and these activists are politicians, some overtly so. So why the secrecy?

There are many sex workers on the out skirts of activism who seem to be ignored by those on “committees” yet to me seem also to do a lot of activism independently which is rarely acknowledged. I have been told that they do not put the hours in or fill in the forms by the same people who suggest that I am arrogant to ask questions. A little over reaction it would seem to me and reason enough to ask the questions in the first place.

So sex workers out there start asking questions and as well as keeping an eye on the anti lobbyists keep an eye on ours as well. Better still start to get involved and demand answers. You could become almost as popular as me.


About Douglas Fox


  1. stephenpaterson
    11 April, 2011

    I’m not quite sure at precisely what point someone becomes ‘representative’? There is great difficulty in the use of the term ‘representative,’ and it is often confused with ‘typical.’

    Parliament, for example, is often said to be unrepresentative because women are under-represented as a proportion of MPs. Less often considered nowadays is the under-representation of socioeconomic groups D and E, which is far worse. And by the same token, presumably, alleged murderers and rapists could only be properly represented in court by other alleged murderers and rapists, which would be interesting if nothing else.

    I presume that when someone bravely speaks on behalf of IUSW or the ECP, they represent the views of those who chose them to speak. I don’t think anyone anywhere could possibly speak on behalf of all sex workers, but I do think these bodies offer a considered sex worker perspective and are relatively well informed.

    After all, the average sex worker wants to get on with their sex work. Sadly, they don’t necessarily either understand, or want to get into, the politics of everything, any more than the average sales assistant or fisherman or HGV driver.

    With your experience, though, I’m sure you don’t underestimate apathy.

    Insofar as other activists are concerned, you should think of yourself as that little bit of grit in an oyster which might be found to be f***ing irritating at times, but which ultimately produces the pearl.


  2. Douglas Fox
    12 April, 2011

    A little bit of grit LOL…..a little bi to something else possibly 🙂

    When any sex worker speaks publicly or chairs a meeting etc then that sex worker is a representative even if they claim to speak for themselves. Its just the way things are. This is especially true if a sex worker speaks with ministers.

    However has the industry ever been asked what our industry really wants?

    Yes I agree the apathy within the industry makes you want to pull your hair out and yes sex workers are notoriously difficult to organise. But when sectors of the sex worker rights movement chooses to exclude or uses language that is less than inviting to that sector of our industry that has a long term interest in the future of our industry then I think there is a problem with representation.

    When some sex worker activists choose to concentrate on sectors of our industry like street workers and migrants (not denying these sectors need to be represented) one has to ask if the majority of sex workers are too problematic to emphasise with.

    As I said in this post, being a sex worker activist is often a thankless task. That aside many sex worker activists and sex worker groups are established which will result in greater scrutiny and a need for accountability. If you want to attract sex worker participation then those who speak on our behalf will have to be more accountable and interactive.
    We, as activists, argue that no policy on sex work should be formed with out consulting sex workers and similarly sex workers should be consulted and involved in deciding what our industry wants. Basically greater democracy.

  3. Jeff Lewis
    4 June, 2011

    Recently the Village Voice exposed the Schapiro Group, a private consulting firm in Georgia, and the Women’s Funding Network of California, a women’s charity, for knowingly deceiving both congress and the public using false data manufactured through fraudulent research presented alarming reports of a sudden rise in trafficking and sexual exploitation of girls. This false data was used to justify funding which brings more harm than good.

    Tell the US Department of Justice to do its job and investigate these groups for fraud and possible racketeering in so far as they have received public funding.


    Send a Petition To:

    U.S. Department of Justice
    Criminal Division
    Fraud Section
    Bond Building, 4th Floor
    10th and Constitution Ave. NW
    Washington, DC 20530-0001
    Att: Denis J. McInerney
    Chief, Fraud Section

    Recently the Village Voice exposed the Schapiro Group, a private consulting firm in Georgia, and the Women’s Funding Network of California, a women’s charity, for knowingly deceiving both congress and the public using false data manufactured through fraudulent research. These groups presented alarming reports of a sudden rise in trafficking and sexual exploitation of girls.

    This false data was used to justify funding from private foundations, corporate donors, and potentially the government. No one would deny that the prevention of sexual trafficking of minors is vitally important. The safety of children is a commitment we share.

    Unfortunately the false information propagated by the Schapiro Group and anti trafficking non profits does more harm than good.

    Fraudulent research negatively impacts the crucial efforts of legitimate organizations that serve exploited and trafficked minors. When these organizations are not able to report that they have reached numbers of youth comparable to the inflated numbers of victims reported by the Schapiro Group, it jeopardizes their credibility and funding. Bogus data misrepresents not only the quantity of trafficked minors, but also their demographics. Boys and transgender youth are not appropriately included in the study. Additionally, we are concerned that increased funding for law enforcement efforts to combat a vastly inflated threat of the trafficking of minors is channeled instead into police actions directed not at traffickers, but rather against consenting adult sex workers, a vulnerable population that already suffers from social stigma, criminalization and unequal access to protection. We reject the concept that criminalizing members of any population is an effective way to rescue them.

    Exploitation of children is an important issue that should never be lied about. To do so represents a greedy and cynical funding grab at the expense of frightening the public, deceiving donors, and misdirecting resources. To do so knowing that this effort will undoubtedly result in law enforcement targeting of adult women consensually working in the sex industry would surely not be consistently endorsed by the supporters of a large women’s fund.

    Therefore, we, the undersigned, call on the United States Dept. of Justice to investigate the Schapiro Group and the Women’s Funding Network for conspiracy to commit fraud against their donors, the public and the US government. To the degree to which they received public monies, and provided false testimony before congress, we call for an investigation for fraud against federal and state governments as well.

    Maxine Doogan
    Erotic Service Providers Union





  4. sex work
    21 June, 2011

    I really impressed with your website. but I could understand a little bit if the person had second thoughts about having sex for a second or two and asking for it to stop without meaning it, but if they keep telling you to stop, then stop.

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This entry was posted on 11 April, 2011 by in Uncategorized.
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