So yesterday, I started my commentary on the Lateline program that was shown on the ABC about sex work in Australia.
In summary, we had Lateline failing to understand the importance of moving away from the use of the word “prostitution”, we had claims sex work was equivalent to violence, sex work equivalent to domestic violence, sex workers are all victims, males who purchase sex are all criminals, and spooky policemen following sex workers in cars.
The program continues and many of us all say “HALLELUJAH!” Sanity seems to have prevailed with the introduction of Canadian decriminalisation expert and former sex worker Kerry Porth….
But Emma Alberici’s first question—-wait, comment—- to Kerry Porth was not “so, what is your proposition, Ms. Porth? What do you do? What is your basis for argument?”
It was “I suspect that many, if not most people would find the man having the right to buy a woman’s body abhorrent.”
[insert curl of the upper lip and look of utter disdain byAlberici].
Twitter reacts immediately. Holly, as she does, dives in by stating what we all immediately think:
“@HollyInAlbury: ok so its quite obvious the host does not approve of sex work..@lateline.”
Porth, thank goodness, does not take the bait.
Porth outlines that there are a significant number of misconceptions when it comes to sex work. She highlights that much of sex work commentary focuses on street based sex work rather than the sex work that quietly occurs behind closed doors, without much disturbance to the greater society. She goes on to explain that the introduction of the new Canadian laws which criminalise the purchase of sex (using the Swedish Model as a basis) harms workers rather than assists workers. She talks about how the transactions are “rushed” in order to protect clients, placing them in danger. Furthermore, sex workers are unable to appropriately screen clients because clients are unwilling to give names, details, nor wish to outline the kind of services they seek for fear of prosecution prior to the transaction taking place. The negotiation has to take place in person, placing sex workers in danger. Porth continues her great commentary by stating that sex work laws were always in place – they just were not enforced.
Just when we think that the Lateline program is beginning to make some concessions for the sex work industry, Emma Alberici comes in with yet another stupid, ill informed comment by stating:
“Isn’t prostitution an inherently dangerous occupation because it involved being alone with a stranger who is more often than not stronger than you and it is not like you can screen a client who will harm you.”
Holly automatically reacts with:
“HollyInAlbury: NOOOOOO It is NOT [an] inherently dangerous occupation!!! FFS @lateline.”
Lets break this down a little. This statement assumes:
- All men are dangerous creatures;
- Sex workers are unable to efficiently screen a client beforehand.
We know all of these two statements to be untrue IN A DECRIMINALISED ENVIRONMENT. Not all men are dangerous. Most men are just wishing to purchase sex. We also know that, in parts of Australia where sex work is decriminalised or at least regulated, independent workers manage to screen their clients quite effectively through various means.
Estelle Lucas, one of Australia’s sex worker/sex advocates dives in and correctly states:
“@Estelle_Lucas: You cant screen clients? Yes, you are correct, you can’t screen appropriately when criminalisation is in place.”
Homohearthrob chimes in and states:
“@Lunarynth: Sex work isn’t inherently harmful – criminalisation, attitudes towards us make it dangerous @lateline.”
Porth echoes this by stating that we need to decriminalise sex work, that decriminalisation has been supported by various global organisations such as the UN.
Porth wins that round, which lasts ten seconds because Alberici then decides to suggest the following:
“If you want to help the welfare of sex workers, wouldn’t your efforts be much better placed by helping women exit the industry altogether?”
Wait, what? Sex workers need to stop? By assisting in their welfare, we must prevent sex workers from working? Can we talk about choice here?
Jackie McMillan chimes in approriately by tweeting:
“@MissDissentEats: Sex work is not a cult @Lateline it is a job, you do not need “exit” programs.”
Porth rightfully states that exiting is not that easy. Those resources are not available and in the meantime, sex workers’ work is too busy being stigmitised.
Alberici descends further into her biased commentary by stating:
“Wouldn’t criminalisation send a message to the community that it is not okay to commodify a woman’s body?”
Porth deserved an instant HOO-RAH by putting Alberici in her place by stating that, really, society should focus their efforts on the movie industry or the advertising industry that commodifies women’s bodies on a daily basis to sell products to the community.
Quite conveniently, Alberici “runs out of time” and does not have anything else to ask Kerry Porth so she thanks Kerry Porth for her time and we all sit staring at our television screens, frightened of what is yet to come….
Stay tuned for Blog Three.