The Fight For Decriminalisation – Honouring Laura Lee

Since the news broke yesterday that high profile sex work campaigner Laura Lee had passed, I have tossed and turned about how I would be able to honour her work.

The truth is, there is no way. How can you honour a woman who had words such as “powerhouse”, “titan”, “award-winning” “bold” “fearless” attributed to her? You can’t. But what can be done is to speak out, and in my case, write about the concepts that she fought so heavily for.

Laura was mostly active in Northern Ireland, where in 2015, we saw the introduction of the non-sensical “Nordic Model”. The Model saw a set of laws put in place whereby it moved the criminality of selling sex over to the criminality of purchasing sex. In short, it moved the “punishment” over from the sex worker themselves, to the “punter” or “client” of a sex worker. It was to provide a deterrent to any man (or woman) who wished to engage the services of a sex worker. After all, much of the world is yet to move away from the concept that sex work and human trafficking go hand in hand, and ignores the fact that often, sex work is a legitimate occupation.

It had been considered “overwhelming successful” in Sweden, and therefore other misguided countries such as Northern Ireland believed that a legislative regime such as the Nordic Model was required in their country too.

The truth is, the Nordic Model is dangerous. The Nordic Model has not been overwhelmingly successful in Sweden. It has been debunked by Amnesty International and various other leading human rights organisations.

As a lawyer, it is almost counter-intuitive to say that legislation is not needed. However, the decriminalisation of sex work is, in my professional and personal opinion, the only way we can move forward with sex work.

One of the most powerful things often said by Laura Lee was this (with words to the following effect):- “you do not have to like what sex work is, but you should at least want sex workers to be safe.” My job, like Laura’s, has never been to convince anyone that sex work is everyone’s cup of tea. We are all guided by our own morals, ethics and background, some of which say that sex work is not acceptable. However, we should all believe in one thing on a universal basis – that anyone who goes to work, should not have to die as a result of their work choice. It will never be okay that a woman or man’s safety is placed at risk by laws developed by our own governments.

It is for this reason that we need decriminalisation. That is, the complete removal of criminal culpability associated with sex work. From the seller to the purchaser.

Importantly, we need to step away from the concept that by accepting decriminalisation, we are somehow giving the green light to human trafficking and sex slavery. Firstly, sex work and human trafficking are not the same thing. Furthermore, decriminalisation is not the wiping of laws which severely punish those who traffic women, men and children across borders for the purposes of selling sex. That will never be okay, and any person who supports decriminalisation will say that these illegal acts should always remain illegal. We must get to a point where we realise that most often, a person entering sex work is doing it in a consensual and (for the most part) informed way.

Laura Lee fought for decriminalisation in Northern Ireland and was outspoken in Scotland, her home country. The two countries have different legislative regimes and Laura wanted decriminalisation in both of them. In Australia, some states treat sex work as decriminalised (NSW), some states have sex work as legalised (VIC, QLD), and South Australia is criminalised. It is a complex web and the answer to all of this is full decriminalisation.

There are so many reasons for decriminalisation, and I have written these in some of my posts back in 2015. However, to understand how toxic laws relating to sex work are, I’m going to give examples of where it goes wrong.

  1. As discussed, in Sweden and in Northern Ireland, the Nordic Model operates. The aim is to arrest the purchaser of sex. The man and in limited instances, a woman as the client. Men are threatened with arrest and sex workers are threatened by police that their clients will be arrested. This leads to underground transactions. This leads to transactions in places which are hidden. Clients are desperate to stay anonymous so sex workers find it very difficult to be able to do screening of the clients before engaging in the transaction. Some clients are fearful that DNA on condoms may be used against them. They therefore push for natural sex, increasing the chances of sex workers contracting HIV and other STIs. Sex workers then cannot present themselves to health services in fear of being involved in a criminal transaction, or threats from clients to take their matter to the police or other services.Criminalising the purchase of sex makes clients agitated and nervous, and thus seek sexual services in a rushed manner and a risky manner. Some are threatened with violence. Some are threatened with murder. This is the reality of the Nordic Model.
  2. In Victoria, Australia, there is a legislative regime that allows sex work to occur in certain situations, as long as the transaction and the people involved meet certain rules and regulations monitored by a Licensing Authority. One of the rules states that a sex worker cannot “sell sex” in her own home, which within the industry is called “an incall”. A sex worker may naturally fear attending the place where the client wishes them to meet, whether it be a hotel room or a home premises, or a car for that matter. The sex worker feels that her only chance of being safe is in the comfort of her own home, where she may security processes and procedures in place. The client arrives, and an unfortunate incident happens whereby a sex worker is raped or assaulted. She cannot report it to the Police because she will have to explain that the incident happened in her “incall”. The Victorian Police have expressly stated (to me, as a lawyer) that given the laws relating to incalls are “indictable offences”, then the police are unable to turn a blind eye to that crime and the sex worker would likely be charged for that offence, alongside her client who would be charged with rape or assault. A sex worker is therefore unlikely to seek assistance from police or other support services. Clients know this. Clients abuse this, and seek out women who do incalls, and know that these boundaries can be pushed because the fear of incrimination does not exist. This is the reality of a legalised sex work regime.
  3. In South Australia, if you are a sex worker, you are directly engaged in criminal behaviour by merely involving yourself in the providing of the service. To this day, there are hundreds of sex workers in South Australia willing to take that risk for the sake of feeding themselves or their children.

Laura Lee fought daily, and I (by far, a considerably less prominent and vocal sex work advocate) fight daily to try and have people realise that regardless of whether sex work makes you feel “icky”, or if it goes directly against your morals and values, surely as a basic human being, you do not want these women and men dying. This is based on the fact that human rights are universal.

You cannot pick and choose who you think has the right to live or die just that little bit more than another human being.

Everyone should be safe to earn a living, whether that living is one that you agree with or not.

Surely we should have government regimes that keep people safe, rather than maintain or increase the violent environment they find themselves in.

Surely we need to rise above the old concepts that by criminalising activities, it will eradicate them. We have learnt that through the war on drugs. The war on sex work does not work. It makes things worse.

We need to resist the temptation of punishing people who are choosing to do the work that they choose, regardless of whether we agree with it or not. We need to equally protect those who traffic women and children for the purposes of sex work, but we need to do it with the laws that we have. Sloppy “one size fits all” regimes like the Nordic Model believe that it is worth placing 80% of people at harm, for the sake of “saving” the 20% that need it.

Protect Laura Lee’s legacy by continuing to fight for decriminalisation. Read her work. Watch her interviews. Listen to the sex work organisations who, time after time, endorsed the words that she spoke – to them, to the Government, to the workers, to the “victims”, to the “survivors”.

May she rest in power.

KoTG.

 

 

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How To Manage Your #NSFW Social Media Accounts by Kim Cums

An issue that has been floating around lately has been the suspension or shutting down of social media accounts due to the alleged breach of terms and conditions by the social media websites. I asked Kim Cums, sex worker, pornstar and social media extraordinaire to guide us through how she manages her “#NSFW” social media accounts so that she avoids them being such down.

Take it away, Kim……

KVA

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I have seen many tweets over the past months about sex worker social media accounts getting deleted. I have no doubt that these deletions are occurring and for many of us in the adult industry our first reaction is to scream “discrimination” from the rooftops. This reaction is understandable given the amount of stigma and discrimination that we do face when speaking or posting in the public sphere.

However, often times we forget our own responsibility when posting on social media. Those Terms and Conditions that you skip over? You need to read those if you plan on posting adult content or advertising your business via social media. Some sites simply do not accept adult content, while others allow it when your account is flagged appropriately. What constitutes Not Safe For Work (NSFW), Adult, or Sensitive Material varies from site to site as well. As a user of any type of social media or membership site, it is your responsibility to know what the posting restrictions are and if they apply to the content you intend to post.

Besides actually taking the time to read the pesky T&Cs, you may also need to set up your account using the full website version of the app you are using. Many of us set up our accounts using the mobile app only. The problem is that the mobile apps often do not always include the full set of account options. Full settings are often only accessible on the full web versions of these websites. These settings include not only ways to flag your account as containing adult content, but also privacy settings, another important thing to have a look at if you are in the adult industry. A notable exception to this general rule is Instagram because it was genuinely built to be a fully mobile app, but it’s also one of the least adult content friendly social media platforms.

Now that we have established what this blog post is about, let’s also discuss what it is NOT about:

  1. It is not a conversation about what you can get away with in private groups or in private profiles. I know a lot of sex workers get around the rules this way. However, all it takes is one disgruntled member in your group to report your account, and then you have lost months (if not years) of posts, and potentially thousands of followers. Remember: Once you break T&Cs you will not have much, if ANY recourse if your account is reported, so although you might be able to get away with things for a while, it’s probably not worth the risk if you are trying to build up content, brand yourself, etc. because you will be forced to constantly rebuild from scratch.
  2. It is not a conversation about how sexist and backwards it is that you cannot post nipples or nudity, but how you can show and threaten violence and rape without getting deleted. (I’m looking at you Facebook). Yes, these are real issues and they need addressing, but since I could write a whole book on how bodies should just be treated as bodies and not as offensive perpetually-sexual objects, and how the societal treatment of female nudity is a reflection of that attitude, I think we can leave that conversation for another day.
  3. It is not a conversation about whether these policies are discriminatory towards individuals and businesses in the adult industry. Although these restrictions can make it more difficult for an adult business to navigate, these policies are in place to “protect” the under 18s from seeing “offensive” material. They are also often in place due to the (genuinely) policies of payment processors like Visa and Mastercard. Hence, whether these sites are being deliberately discriminatory, trying to keep things “family-friendly”, or whether they are simply stuck due to external policies is a different discussion for a different day.

Therefore, this blog post is about how you can keep your social media account within the bounds of the currently existing T&Cs and Acceptable Use policies on some of the popular social media sites.

Websites are can be classed as either Adult Content Friendly or Family Friendly. However, sites that accept adult content are not without their own restrictions and there are some types of content that are never accepted. The first three sites discussed here accept adult content as long as your account/content is marked appropriately. These sites are Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. I will also briefly discuss Facebook and Instagram at the end of this post, as they are popular platforms for promotion, but are strict restrictions for adult content and do not provide any options for adult-only accounts. DeviantArt does not allow pornographic content, but they do allow mature content and nudity, and it is a good platform to share original photos.

Twitter

How do I mark my account as containing adult content?

Quick Steps:

In the full web version of Twitter—> Settings —> Account —> Content —> Tick box “Mark media I tweet as containing material that may be sensitive” —> “Save Changes”

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Steps for technology-challenged individuals:

  1. Log onto the full web-version of Twitter. Do not use the mobile version of the website. Do not use the app. The setting you need to check is only available on the full web-version.
  2. Click on your avatar/profile picture in the upper right hand corner of the screen. This should be visible next to your tweet button. Clicking on your avatar will take you to your settings page.
  3. Look at your setting options in the column on the left side of the page. “Account” should be automatically selected. If you are not on your account settings automatically, click on “Account” to go to these settings.
  4. Look for the section that says “Content”
  5. Click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page

When do I need to do this?

From Twitter’s support page:

“If you upload Tweet media that might be considered sensitive content such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures, you should consider applying the account setting “Mark my media as containing sensitive content” by following the instructions below.”

For more Twitter information: https://support.twitter.com/articles/20169200

Tumblr

How do I mark my account as containing adult content?

Quick Steps:

Full web version of Tumblr —> Account —> Settings —> The blog you want to change settings on under “Blogs” in right column—> Directory —> Flag this blog as adult-oriented

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Steps for technology-challenged individuals:

  1. Log into the full web version of Tumblr
  2. Click on the little button that looks like a person; this should bring up a drop down menu
  3. On the drop down menu, click on “Settings”
  4. On the right column, you will have a list of blogs listed under “BLOGS”. Click on the blog that you want to change the settings for. (Alternatively, this settings page should be accessible at https://www.tumblr.com/settings/blog/name_of_your_blog_here)
  5. Scroll down until you see “Directory”
  6. Slide on the setting that says “Flag this blog as adult-oriented”

When do I need to do this?

Tumblr is pretty open about what you can and cannot show, but if you are going to show anything with nudity or “adult-orientated” content you will need to flag your blog. You can read more about their NSFW policy here: https://www.tumblr.com/docs/en/nsfw. However, some content is simply not allowed at all, such as gore, beastiality, necrophilia, violence, harm to minors, glorifying self-harm, etc. There is a full list of unacceptable content under their community guidelines here: https://www.tumblr.com/policy/en/community

Flickr

How do I mark my account as containing adult content?

Quick Steps:

Avatar —> Settings —> Privacy & Permissions —> Defaults for new uploads —> What Safety Level and Content Type will your photostream have —> Edit button —> Which safety level will you normally need to put on your content? —> Restricted —> Save Changes

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Steps for technology-challenged individuals:

  1. Log on to the full web-version. The Flickr app is absolutely hopeless. Hopeless.
  2. Find your avatar in the upper right corner and click to open the drop down menu
  3. Choose “Settings” from the drop down
  4. In “Settings”, click on the tab called “Privacy & Permissions”
  5. Scroll down to the section called “Defaults for new uploads”
  6. Find “What Safety Level and Content Type will your photostream have” and click on “edit”
  7. Under “Which safety level will you normally need to put on your content?”, choose “Restricted”
  8. Click “Save Changes”

When do I need to do this?

Their content restrictions are grey. Flickr keeps them deliberately grey, so that they can delete you without explanation. They state:

Don’t forget the children.

  • If you would hesitate to show your photos or videos to a child, your family, or a stranger on the street, that means you need to set the appropriate content filter setting. If you don’t, your account will be moderated and possibly deleted by Flickr staff” – https://www.flickr.com/help/guidelines

1. Safety Level

  • Safe – Content suitable for a global, public audience
  • Moderate – If you’re not sure whether your content is suitable for a global, public audience but you think that it doesn’t need to be restricted per se, this category is for you
  • Restricted – This is content you probably wouldn’t show to your mum, and definitely shouldn’t be seen by kids” – https://www.flickr.com/help/filters/#258

Flickr is a bit unique in that you do not have to mark your whole account as containing adult content. Therefore, you can post family-friendly type pictures and have them publicly visible for everyone to see, which is a major help when trying to get new followers. However, it is my suggestion that you set your default posting settings to “restricted”, then you will not have to worry about your pictures getting flagged by the conservative members of the community. Flickr’s favorite response is to delete accounts with violating pictures automatically. You will not get a warning, you will not get a chance to fix your settings, you will just wake up one morning and your account will be gone. Their deletions include any associated accounts as well, like e-mail addresses, so be sure to sign up with a secondary Yahoo! e-mail address so that they can’t touch it if they choose to delete your Flickr account (assuming you have a primary one! LOL). Play it safe.
** Also, if you want to see other member’s adult content, set your Safe Search off.**

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DeviantArt

How do I mark my account as containing adult content?

Steps:

When adding a new deviation —> Edit your deviation —> Contains Mature Content —> Yes —> Choose “Moderate” or “Strict” and click appropriate tick boxes

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When do I need to do this?

You need to do this if your photo you are uploading contains nudity, violence, sexual themes, strong language, or is ideologically sensitive. You can read more in the screenshot below. They are also very (refreshingly) specific about what they consider to be pornographic. A screenshot of restricted pornographic content is also included below.

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Facebook and Instagram

Censor anything that is as offensive or more offensive than the female nipple. Most importantly, don’t have any fun.

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Thank you to Kim Cummms for such an informative post. If you have any questions for Kim, you can find her at @kimcummms. If you have any specific legal questions relating to the above, please contact me on @KateOnTheGo or on my email at kva@kvalegal.com.au.

KVA

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Slut-Shaming – The Last Option For “Comedians”

As this week draws to a close and many sex workers are hanging by their social media applications for news as to whether Amnesty International will finally endorse “decriminalisation”, it is quite easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that society is beginning to progress just that little bit more when it comes to sexuality.

How very wrong we are.

The Video’s Instant Popularity

Just today, the above video in just 16 hours scored 4.1 million views on Facebook alone. 40,500+ people liked the video, thinking that it was simply hilarious. Expand that out to Twitter, YouTube and (ironically given the topic itself) Instagram, and we have a considerable amount of social media having a great old laugh about women who place Instagram photos of themselves.

The Rise of the Selfie

The argument for much laughter on this topic is, on the surface, is quite compelling. Egotism and narcissism has well and truly become recommended personality traits if you want to be a “social media success”. We have Kim Kardashian who has built a solid career out of perfecting the art of “the selfie” and tertiary institutions are considering inventing Bachelor degrees so that the masses can do it just as equally well. Yes, many of us, I am sure, have looked at someone’s twitter account and thought to ourselves “oh, another selfie!” But is it a just cause to unload six-minutes worth of “ha-ha-slapstick-comedy”? NOPE.

What Was Said In This Video?

Onto the video itself…

Here are some quotes for you in case you just simply want to take my word for it that this video is a bunch of vapid disgusting bile of women-hate.

  • “Consider this a State of the Union Address For Hoes Of the Internet”
  • “Hoes as far as the eye can see. Insta-whores, Facebook cunts….”
  • “There’s a lot of ‘do nothing bitches’ running the internet right now and I am not cool with it.”
  • “You poked holes in the condom you psycho bitch.”
  • “YOU ARE GIVING YOURSELF AN EXPIRY DATE”
  • “The difference between you and the porn girls is that they are getting paid.”
  • “You’re just all addicted to fake attention.”
  • “It doesn’t feel good to have gross men say nice things to you.”
  • “Its not modeling when you are modeling your own titties.”
  • “You have zero value to potential advertisers.”
  • “You were born for more than just banging millionaires.”

Yep. Hilarious.

What’s the Problem Here?

Its cold hard slut-shaming served up as comedy.

A brazen attempt at being comedy it may be, but its also one very attractive woman asking other attractive women to get back in their boxes and “do sexuality the right way”. She mocks women for their promiscuity (cue moral outrage that is bound to attract instant likes), and throws in the usual jokes that come with that – women are money-hungry, women are attention-seekers, and not to mention the fact that in doing all of this, uses offensive sex-worker terms such as “whores” and “hoes”.

Its a mixed up display of faux-feminism. One minute she is asking for women to maximise their value by bargaining for better pay when it comes to selling sexuality, she is telling women who can’t cut it as “real models” that they are putting TOO much worth on themselves by asking for *gasp* society to appreciate their attractiveness.

All the while, she is putting the side boot into women who may not necessarily want to get paid for doing what they are doing. They may just simply be wanting to celebrate their sexuality.

It’s not funny at all. It’s judgmental. Furthermore, without getting too academic (because its Friday night), its straight out internalised sexism. It’s women hating other women because they are just “not doing the woman thing quite right”.

What Will Happen To This Video?

My hope is that it disappears fast into the vast galaxy that is your internet history browser.

It won’t however because it is being deemed at someone finally coming out and saving the “real model industry”.

It is going to continue to be shared amongst young women who want to throw shade at their fellow females who, like many women, at the end of the day just want to feel good about themselves.

The message is simply this. How a woman chooses to “feel good about herself” is the choice of that woman and that woman alone.

Its called agency.

Stop the slut-shaming. Stop thinking this is comedy. Start thinking about how hurtful this kind of message is.

KVA

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18 Reasons for Decriminalisation of Sex Work

1. The Amnesty International consultation group found that sex workers face high levels of stigma and discrimination in a criminalised environment.

2. Placing “criminal status” on sex workers through a myriad of laws compounds that prejudice against them.

3. Sex workers face shame and marginalisation by police, friends, family, employers and providers of public services due to this “criminal status”.

4. Segregating sex workers through legislation sets sex workers apart from communities.

5. This segregation places them at odds with police and increases the risk of violence against them.

6. Future employers will not wish to hire sex workers who have been labelled as “criminals” by sex work legislation.

7. Sex workers are stigmatised as being spreaders of HIV, which discourages them from seeking assistance from sexual and reproductive health information and services.

8. Behaviour of nurses and other medical professionals prevent sex workers from going back to the health services.

9. Even when sex work is not criminalised and legislation takes the form of criminalisation of purchase of sex (ie. Nordic Model), there is a direct effect of making workplaces significantly more dangerous for sex workers.

10. Criminalisation of certain aspects of sex work such as laws relating to “nuisance” enables law enforcement to unfairly “profile” sex workers, particularly street based sex workers.

11. Laws which prevent advertisement of sex services drives more sex workers into street based sex work which is universally recognised as the least safest form of sex work.

12. Enacting laws which do not allow two sex workers to work together in the same premises places individual sex workers at risk, forcing them to work in premises alone and without support.

13. Criminalising the purchase of sex makes clients agitated and nervous, and thus seek sexual services in a rushed manner. This does not allow sex workers to do appropriate due diligence and safety checks before accepting bookings.

14. Criminalisation can provide police with immunity to abuse sex workers. Studies in some countries have shown that police are found to extort money or rape sex workers without punishment from law enforcement.

15. Police immunity against violence against sex workers makes sex workers suspicious of law enforcement and are unlikely to seek police assistance when they are in danger.

16. Reporting danger to police means that police and other “rescue organisations” will force the sex worker to cease providing sexual services, therefore denying the sex worker of her right to earn.

17. Rescue organisations push for criminalisation of sex work but fail to provide adequate services and support to assist sex workers in finding alternative employment.

18. Migrant street workers find that the police will not assist them because of intersectional discrimination that they face.

********Adapted from Amnesty International’s Draft Policy on Sex Work

http://www.swop.org.au/news/amnesty-international-draft-proposal-to-decriminalise-sex-work

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What Does the Amnesty Proposal Mean For Australia?

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On 7 July 2015, Amnesty International released their 32nd International Council Meeting Circular No.18, ORG 50/1940/2015.

In short, it was Amnesty International saying “hey, we’d like to change our views on sex work because we have been doing it all wrong so far.” Low and behold, every anti-sex work advocate, religious group, miniscule one-sided human rights organisation and a few “well known celebrities” have been up in arms about the fact that their once sacred Amnesty International had gone to the “dark side”. An organisation which had previously denounced sex work as abhorrent activity that needed to be criminalised was now saying that to attain the highest possible protection of the human rights of sex workers, sex work needs to be fully decriminalised.

Summary of Amnesty’s New Requests

1. Amnesty is saying that to start with, states need to not only review and repeal laws that make those who sell sex vulnerable to human rights violations, but also to refrain from enacting such laws (*cough* the Nordic Model).

2. Amnesty needs to adopt a “harm reduction policy”.

3. They are happy for laws to be enacted to ensure international human rights laws are dealt with but they need to be proportionate to the legitimate aim they are trying to achieve, and they must NOT be discriminatory.

4. They want gender equality and non discrimination.

5. They still maintain that human trafficking should always be criminalised and that states should take all steps to ensure that sexual exploitation and abuse of children should be prevented.

6. They want states to take all appropriate steps to “realise the economic, social and cultural rights of all people so that no person enters sex work against their will”, and those who want to leave sex work should do it by choice.

7. They state that discriminatory practices by governments often lead people into sex work and they ask for this to be stopped.

How Amnesty Came To This View

Amnesty International did not one day wake up and decide that they would treat sex workers with the full rights and dignity that they deserve. Amnesty International, two years ago, embarked on full consultation with as many parties who had an interest in matter, ranging from sex workers themselves, academics in the human rights and health fields, law enforcement, government agencies and religious organisations. They observed four sex industries around the world, including Norway and China. The likes of the big human rights conglomerates such as the Human Rights Council, UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, and UNAIDS all accepted that Amnesty needed to change its policy on sex work (surely when the United Nation jumps on your side in terms of human rights, you’re on the right track).

Two years later, they have produced the Draft Paper to be presented to Amnesty International at its International Council meeting in Dublin, Ireland from 7 August – 11 August 2015.

Cue international meltdown.

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What Is All The Fuss About?

It is hard to imagine that one of the world’s leading human rights organisations would come under fire for, you know, wanting human rights. However, when it comes to the oldest and dirtiest profession in the world, the issues are not always so clear cut. The Amnesty document was leaked before its release on the 7th July 2015, as if it was some secret CIA document that would expose the underbelly of a wayward organisation under pressure from the pimp lobby. The detractors didn’t like what was written so it spread far and wide, up into the lofty hills that is called Hollywood. Suddenly we had the likes of Lena Durham, Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep (who had till then been Amnesty International Angels) creating petitions for the world to sign, claiming that “prostitution” is a harmful practice steeped in gender and economic equalities that “leaves a devastating impact on those sold and exploited in the sex trade.”

The argument for and against decriminalisation is complex and cannot be explained in one blog post alone. However, it is clear (in my view) that the people who are up in arms about Amnesty International’s Draft Policy haven’t really grasped all of the concepts about the issue.

The thing is, Amnesty International wants full decriminalisation. Not half-decriminalisation. Full decriminalisation. The idea of full decriminalisation smacks right in the face of the growing trend that is the Nordic Model (which criminalises the purchase of sex) and therefore has made many people around the world feel as though Amnesty International has betrayed them. People erroneously claim that the Nordic Model is a form of decriminalisation, however it needs to be understood that the REAL decriminalisation that Amnesty International is suggesting is not only releasing sex workers from criminal obligations, but also releases the purchasers of sex, clients, and brothel owners of criminal sanctions also. Furthermore, it is being alleged that Amnesty International is calling for decriminalisation of human trafficking and child exploitation. Its as though Amnesty International is siding with the devil.

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The Truth About Decriminalisation

The proponents of “full criminalisation” (ie. everyone is a criminal, sex worker and purchaser) and the proponents of half-sorta-kinda-decriminalisation (ie. the Nordic Model) are all blind sided by the idea that by legislating something in the sex industry, it will produce the immediate result of complete cessation of industry. This is so very far from the truth. Full criminalisation and the Nordic model place sex workers at greater harm by creating a blacker market which is formed to evade law enforcement. It prevents sex workers from accessing the social services that are needed to create a safe and healthy environment to do their job. As such, the industry becomes larger and more dangerous for all parties involved. What some parts of society cannot grasp is the idea that sex work will always happen, whether legal or not. Sex work is work. However, for as long as sex workers are treated as social pariahs by the justice system, they will not be able to obtain the human rights necessary to live as sex workers, or go and make the choice to move out of sex work into a more “socially desirable” occupation. Amnesty International recognise this and believe that the world should adopt decriminalisation and focus on harm reduction, access to services, and decreased social stigma – thus reducing the violence that can occur in the industry.

Furthermore, the idea is that the sex industry would (if decriminalisation was to be successfully attained) have to police itself. God forbid, we cannot have that. The world does not want this because we have been told for so long that people involved in the sex industry are inherently bad and incapable of managing themselves. Bad people cannot do good things, apparently. While our financial systems love the idea of decreased regulation, the idea that sex workers have the same kind of system scares society. It seems that when it comes to issues of moral behaviour, good governance is impossible.

Marginalised members of society, it appears, are incapable of deciding what is good for them. But hey, Hollywood celebrities on the other hand apparently do.

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What Is the Impact on Australia?

If you have been following my blogs, where I have attempted to explain our myriad of sex work laws, you will find that we have quite a complex system of legislation and regulation that impacts various States and Territories with respect to different things relating to the industry.

The immediate impact, if Amnesty International is successful in lobbying for a change in policy, will be significant to those currently in South Australia who are furiously demanding that South Australia move away from their criminalised regime. This Amnesty International Policy change will provide a significant boost to those who are getting prepared to go into South Australian Parliament to argue the Decriminalisation Bill which has been submitted to Parliament.

Secondary to this, the Amnesty International proposal will assist those who are arguing for states such as Victoria and Queensland to move away from their haphazard sex work regulation which is complicating the sex work industry. The Amnesty International proposal will assist in arguing that these governments need to get rid of their rigid and unrealistic industry requirements which are in no way benefiting the sex worker in his/her pursuit for human rights and freedom from discrimination.

No doubt, the sex industry in all parts of the world will be looking closely at Amnesty International at the end of the week to see whether common sense will prevail in this instance.

I will be following the Amnesty International meeting on my twitter – @KateOnTheGo

KVA

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Why Lawyers Shouldn’t Judge Sex Workers

Tonight, I had a startling conversation involving two very prominent criminal lawyers in New South Wales which lead to a couple of things. First was the accusation by one lawyer that by defending sex worker rights, I was morally inadequate and “disturbed”. The second claim was the most astounding. It was stated that their disdain for the sex industry was a moral matter rather than a legal one. The other lawyer chimed in to argue that not all things legal are “right”.

When I was admitted onto the Solicitors Roll of New South Wales, back in 2003, I never envisaged that I would become a sex work advocate. My views about sex work had not yet formed. However, I was taught in law school that if I were to be a legal professional, I would always have to act in the best interests of my clients, I would need to put aside any preconceived ideas about what I consider to be right or wrong.

Today, in my sex work advocacy, I work on the following bases:

1. I Don’t Actually Think Sex Work Is Wrong

I have made it clear in my advocacy that I believe sex work is not wrong and that the industry needs to be decriminalised. This makes many people (including lawyers who like to make laws about things) very uncomfortable. I believe decriminalisation makes life better for sex workers and it leads to better health outcomes, safer and more open work environments, and less discrimination. For every argument that is sent my way that attacks the sex industry, I feel comfortable in defending its right to exist. Yes, there are drugs, yes there is violence, but all of these problems are far better dealt with by making the environment decriminalised rather than subjecting the industry to heavy regulation and criminal sanctions (unless they fall under the provisions of the Crimes Act).

We also need to remember that for every person who has suffered in the sex industry, we have a large body of men, women and transgender people who are willingly participating in it. Whether they love or hate their job, whether they are doing it just for the money, these are all things which are entirely separate from the baseline concept of agency.  As I have always stated very clearly in my practice, I am happy to help sex workers stay in the industry when they make the choice to do so, but I am more than happy to help a sex worker get out of the industry if that choice is taken away from them.

2. Even If I Did Think Sex Work Was Wrong, I’d Still Defend You

My job as a lawyer is to advocate for the interests of individuals before a court of law and at times, that means I need to act for individuals that society does not consider worthy of legal representation. The key to being a good advocate is to remain of the view that, despite your clients being in the minority, they are just as deserving of a life free from discrimination as everyone else, regardless of the choices they have made in their lives. This is fundamental to being a good human rights lawyer.

Thankfully, I was taught that everyone was deserving of the right to come before a judge and have that judge determine their fate. Any judgement prior to court day leads to a even greater miscarriage of justice. If lawyers picked and chose who their clients were based on morality, then those individuals who fall on the wayside of public opinion would be completely without assistance by our legal system. The irony of tonight’s conversation was that I was essentially being called morally bankrupt by two men who have acted for some of the most notorious criminals this state has come across. They have also acted on behalf of alleged criminals who have been found not guilty. If these men had subjected their clients to the same moral rigour as they have with sex workers, those clients may not have had the benefit of their legal services to begin with, and may have subsequently found erroneously guilty.

We lawyers cop a significant amount of criticism both from the media and society in general – we get called ambulance chasers, and people who have problems managing their own morals. It’s safe to say we lawyers have a bit of an image problem, so to speak. Some of that comes from the fact that sometimes, we need to act for people that general society would rather we not. So when lawyers cast their OWN moral aspersions on parts of society, something we are specifically trained not to do in ethics class, that does not leave much hope for the minority that are subject to those aspersions. It is likely that they will feel that they won’t be treated fairly by the law as a whole if and when they need it. This has a flow on affect to the way that minority class treats police enforcement, as well as officers of the court.

I may be criticised by a small portion of the sex work community for some stances I have taken but my overall stance regarding the industry remains the same. It disappoints me greatly that I was confronted by such attitudes from members of my own profession. We don’t like to publicly criticise each other for our behaviour because we are a proud profession. However, this behaviour was something I could not ignore. This has not only led me to have a deeper think about my role in the sex industry, but even moreso, my role as a lawyer.

KVA

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Sex Worker Lives – Touching Base

Today’s Sex Worker Lives interview is with Saul, President of Touching Base. Touching Base Inc is a charitable organisation, based in Sydney NSW Australia, that has been active since October 2000. Touching Base was developed out of the need to assist people with disability and sex workers to connect with each other, focusing on access, discrimination, human rights and legal issues and the attitudinal barriers that these two marginalised communities can face.

I asked Saul a few questions about what he does at Touching Base and what Touching Base does in the community.

1. Tell us about Touching Base and the role it plays in the sex industry?

The work of Touching Base – bringing together sex workers and people with disability – emerged under the umbrella of a decriminalised sex industry in New South Wales. Since we began in 2000 we have observed a remarkable change in the way many people now look at sex workers, especially those connected with the vast disability sector. Our involvement in the documentary Scarlet Road, featuring our inaugural member Rachel Wotton, has given Touching Base an international profile that brings awareness of this area of sex work to audiences around the world.

2. As President, how did you come to be involved with Touching Base?

Touching Base started from a small group of interested sex workers, people with disability and some allies in sexual health. We called a meeting to build bridges between sex workers and people with disability and to identify what each group needed from each other. As a sex worker my primary interest was to get training on how to better meet the needs of my clients with disability. Over the last 15 years volunteering with Touching Base has been a wonderful learning journey in many other ways, and as a sex worker activist I draw strength from working closely with a wide variety of awesome people who fully support the rights and aspirations of sex workers’.

3. Why is it so necessary for a service such as yours to exist?

In the past the sexuality of people with disability was invisible – unless it was raised as a problem. So Touching Base stands up for the rights of adults with disability to express their sexuality, including being supported to access to the services of sex workers if that is what they want to do. Because negative community attitudes towards sex workers can be a barrier we also address stigma and discrimination directed towards sex workers. Practical ways we do this is by producing information resources, delivering training, providing policy advice and engaging in research.

The most important ongoing service we provide is meeting the ever increasing demand from clients and support staff for referrals to disability-friendly sex workers and accessible brothels across Australia.

4. What does a sex worker have to do to be placed on the Touching Base Referral List?

Firstly a sex worker needs to apply for membership using the form available on our website and follow the instructions for sending it to our Secretary. Sex workers can choose to join up using their working name. Once membership is approved the annual fee is only $20 for 1 year or $50 for 3 years. Then the worker can provide details about themselves and their services via an online portal. A sex worker who helps maintain the referral list database will then call to welcome them as a new member and activate their listing on the database. Find more info about membership and our Referral List on our website.

5. What is some advice you can give to a sex worker who would like to work with men and/or women with a disability in this way?

Firstly, have a good look over the information available on our website – especially in the Sex Worker and Client sections. To increase your confidence come along to one of our Professional Disability Awareness Training workshops (PDAT). These workshops also offer a unique opportunity to network with other sex workers, to share tips and upskill together in a class that is strictly restricted to sex workers.

6. As a member of the sex industry, and as President of Touching Base, how would you define sexuality?

To my mind sexuality is a combination of: gender identity, sexual orientation and the expression of personal preferences – in relation to intimacy, and/or sensuality, and/or sexual activities; with one’s self and/or with others – within private or public arenas.

7. What advice would you give to someone in the disabled community who is a little apprehensive about using Touching Base’s services?

Many clients feel nervous before seeing a sex worker for the first time, for a range of reasons. Sex workers are used to helping new clients to relax in their company – it’s all part of the service. Curiosity is a great antidote to anxiety. On the Touching Base website you can read short stories from other men and women with disability telling their experiences of seeing a sex worker, and check out the Frequently Asked Questions pages.

8. As President of Touching Base, what would you say to the overall community about overcoming discrimination and the attitudinal barriers that exist about sex and disability?

One of the easiest ways to influence prejudiced minds is by sharing genuine insights and personal stories. If you want to become a part of the positive changes we are making why not join up as a member of Touching Base. You can create change within your ‘circles of influence’ by getting hold of a copy of the documentary Scarlet Road to share with friends, work colleagues and family members – and you’re sure to have an interesting chat about it afterwards.

9. Finish this sentence….”In a perfect world…. the sexual and relationship needs of people with disability would be given equal focus to their other personal support needs – and all sectors of the sex industry would be fully decriminalised in all jurisdictions across the planet”

You can learn more about Touching Base at http://www.touchingbase.org/.

Thanks to Saul for taking the time out to talk with me.

KVA

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The Life of a Sex Toy Reviewer – My Interview With Eva Sless

Today I interviewed Eva Sless, freelance writer and all around Australian sexpert who has written for a number of magazines such as Birdee and Australian People. She regularly provides us with reviews of the latest sex toys so I thought I would sit down with her and ask her some tough questions about her job as a sex toy reviewer. Here is what happened:

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KVA: Welcome Eva and thank you for participating in my blog interview!

ES: No worries. Glad to be here!

KVA: So, I have it on good authority that you are Australia’s best sex toy reviewer. How on earth did this happen?

ES: Haha. Well to be honest I kind of fell into it. I was writing a sex column for Australian People magazine and, through that, met a whole bunch of contacts. One of them was the good folk at AMM and they asked if I would be interested in writing for them – which I was. And one of the first pieces they asked me to do was a sex toy review. It went down really well (pardon the pun) and so they asked me to do more. And suddenly I had a box of toys under my bed and a reputation growing….and from there i had all sorts of people sending me stuff and asking me to review it.

I think the reason people like what I have to say, is that I’m very, very, honest. I’m not necessarily rude… Haha… but I’m honest. I don’t do cash for comment. I never have.

It has been known to piss some people off… but I couldn’t be happy within myself if I just bullshitted good things about a product because I’m getting paid.

So people know if I give something a good review I truly believe it – because I’ve given some pretty shitty ones too.

KVA: Ah-ha! That leads me to my next point. I am very turned off by sex toy packaging. Is this common?

ES: Haha. Yes! I absolutely agree! Actually in a lot of my reviews I mention the packaging because I really think it’s important.

I think, especially if you’re spending a lot of money… and let’s face it, sex toys are not cheap, you want a nice box and a classy looking package. It’s definitely improving – but there are a few that still don’t seem to get it.

KVA: What are some of the hallmarks of a cheap toy, as opposed to that of a more expensive toy? Besides price obviously!

ES: Usually the functions and effectiveness of the motor and longevity of the toy’s life. But sometimes the el cheapo twist bottom single battery vibe is precisely what the user wants. Price doesn’t always necessarily mean quality unfortunately.

Some of the worst toys I’ve ever reviewed have been ones priced at over $200 and my most favourite toy ever, the one I go back to, is priced under $100.

KVA: How can you guarantee that what worked on you during your review will work on the purchaser, or do you put a disclaimer in your review?

ES: I can’t. And I never guarantee anything like that. Every woman, every vagina, every clitoris is different. There’s no way i could make a blanket statement like that and feel okay.

My reviews are very personalised. I talk about my body, my experience, my enjoyment or lack of.

I often will point out that this is my opinion. I cannot speak for others. That would be silly.

KVA: What should people know about looking after sex toys?

ES: (1) Only use cheap batteries. Anything too powerful like rechargeable or lithium will damage the motor and burn it out. Those little motors can only go as fast as they go. Putting too much power into them will burn it out and it won’t last.

(2) Never clean a toy with soap. Always use an antibacterial toy cleaner. Soap will damage toys and never fully washes off properly and can screw up your internal Ph balances and make your vagina sick with thrush and other imbalances.

(3) Never use silicone lubes with a toy that has silicone components. it will damage it and void any warranties etc.

KVA: Do you remember what your first sex toy was and how old were you when you bought it? Do you remember how much it cost you?

Hahaha. Oh I remember it all very, very, clearly.

I even have a blog on it I originally wrote for the Australian Sex Party blog on how much adult shops etc had changed over the years. Here’s the link: http://deliciouslybad.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/then-and-now-of-sex-shops.html?m=1

I was around 17 and it cost me about $30 I think. It was one of those penis looking twist bottom buzzers. A blue jelly type material.

It was pretty rad.

KVA: I’ve gone from a rickety old Doc Johnson motorised clitoral stimulator to an expensive Lelo. I’ve never looked back. Have you had the same experience? What is the most expensive sex toy you’ve purchased?

Well… That’s hard because I actually have not purchased a toy in years. I have thousands of dollars-worth in my house, but I have not paid for them. They get sent to me by various companies.

Probably the most expensive one would be this one called the Jopen Intensity which is actually more a medical device designed by doctors to help stimulate vaginal muscles in instances of prolapse etc but many users reported it as not only helping to stimulate the muscles but was stimulating intense orgasms too..

It runs an electrical charge through it. It’s becoming very popular as a pleasure toy.

Personally i couldn’t use it. I tried. I really really tried. But I’m not a huge fan of electro stim and i just couldn’t bring myself to try it. So there’s no Eva Review on that one unfortunately. The company who sent it to me were really good about it actually.

They totally got why i ended up not reviewing it.

I still have it. Maybe one day I’ll work up the courage!

KVA: Finally, what was the most ridiculous sex toy you’ve ever used?

Hahaha. It’s called the Lelo Ida and Ida just… Well… It does not do what it claims it will do. When i get a new toy i avoid everything I can about it. Other reviews and write ups etc so I can go in blind. Then, once I’ve finished testing and write up my stuff I go searching to see what others thought. we’re all (other reviewers) usually all pretty spot on.

I found this toy was so bad, and yet i love Lelo so much, that I was super curious to see if maybe i was way off this time…

I wasn’t. I’ve never seen so many bad reviews on a product before.

It was a relief at the same time as it was a bit sad. Haha.I have discovered, though, that if you sell it as a solo anal toy, rather than a couples intercourse toy as designed, it’s amazing and people love it.

So sometimes it’s a matter of stepping outside the box to see if it has a positive side.

Oh. I don’t particularly like ones with animals on them. Dolphins and rabbits and critters.

I used to have a green worm one I’d call Cedric. He was cute and worked well…

But overall I’d prefer it not to have a face. Haha.

KVA: YES! LIKE THOSE DUCK VIBRATORS!!!!

ES: Hahaha. I see the point of them though in a way. They are easy to hide in plain sight…

KVA: Thank you so much for sitting down with me.

ES: No worries. Was my pleasure.

You can catch Eva at her blog on: http://deliciouslybad.blogspot.com.au/?m=1

And this:
http://www.adultmatchmaker.com.au/author/8/eva-sless

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