Link to a guest post by Douglas Fox from the IUSW

May 18, 2009 at 11:09 am (Caroline S, sex workers)

From sex worker and human rights activist Douglas Fox of the International Union of Sex Workers:Why Sex Workers Need the IUSW.

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An absolute epic fail from Amazon

April 14, 2009 at 11:13 pm (Caroline S, censorship, Feminism, Free Speech, LGBT, Pornography)

Image found at CRAIG’S POP LIFE.

Via Audacia Ray (on Twitter): Amazon US have removed the sales ranking from “adult material”. Adult? Why, sexuality, lesbian, gay, transgender, feminist and, um, other smutty porn books, of course.
The sales rank, as you can see from the picture, on the left is under ‘Product Details’ at the bottom of the list. On the left is the product details of Kitchener’s Last Volunteer (I picked that just because it’s top of my wishlist). Below right is the product details of Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, a title I got from Helen G. Note the missing “sales rank”.Heather Corinna (on her Amazon blog) explains:

In other words, it [her book] is no longer listed in the sales ranks with other books of its subject or genre, no matter how good my sales are, or if my sales are above others who are currently listed. As well, my book, as is the case with many others, is not currently listed anymore in the subject heading appropriate to it. That deranking can massively impact us as authors, and also can impact consumers, particularly those who are trying to seek out material on a subject broadly without knowing what books are available by title or author. And with books that serve any sort of marginalized population or subject matter, finding them offline is often tough. Deranking books like mine further marginalizes the already marginalized.

(See also this article for more information on Amazon sales ranking, thanks to Dacia for sending me the link).

Here’s a list of some of the books from Meta Writer and another list from Jezebel affected by this. Up there at the top, I see Brokeback Mountain, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Well of Loneliness have had the treatment. Jesus. This is scary – what is happening here is actually incredibly disturbing. To be honest, I’m still absolutely stunned.

So what can we do? Craig Seymour, who has been on this from the start, has a round up. Smart Bitches proposes Google Bombing – “As always, fuckwittery should not go unrewarded”:

All you have to do is link to the page using these words: Amazon Rank. The more you do it, the higher up in rank the page will go, and the more successful it will be. One would hope.

The goal: that “Amazon Rank” points to the definition that underscores Amazon.com’s shortminded censorship and inconsistent policing of what ought to be accessible to the book buying public.

Also, there is an online petition you can sign, a call to boycott Amazon, fill out their customer complaint form, ring them or you could email them – here’s an example of what someone wrote to them. Finally, keep an eye on what’s being said on Twitter by searching for #amazonfail.

This is very reminiscent of Google’s indexing, which makes it all the more disturbing. It’s like the internet’s being “cleaned up” by the damn Christian Right.

Edited to add: Don’t you just love how Mein Kampf keeps its rank? Hell, Adolf fucking Hitler’s books fine, that Winterson woman though? She dangerous.

Also, via a commenter at Jezebel‘s:

Wanna hear something that will really make your day? Now because of this who sales rank thing when you search for Homosexuality in the Amazon search engine guess what is the first book that pops up? A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality!

It’s true, for both US and UK Amazon (click to enlarge).


Cross-posted at Sex In The Public Square and Uncooler Than Thou.

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Oops!

March 29, 2009 at 4:36 pm (Caroline S, labour party, sex workers)

Well here’s an interesting development:As you all know, Jacqui Smith is very dedicated to ridding the community of the blight of the poor unfortunate ladies of the night, so blinded by patriarchy, they think it’s fair crack to sell their souls to the incubi kerb crawlers.

Meanwhile, her own husband is actively thwarting her plans to bring emancipation to these bad lasses by exploiting them even further. Yes – Mr. Jacqui Smith has downloaded prostitutes and charged the taxpayer for the pleasure of doing so!

I for one am sickened by the hypocrisy. If you can’t trust Jacqui’s husband, who can you fucking trust, eh? And that is £67 the taxpayer will not be seeing again.

Shall we see what the Sundays have to say?

The Sunday Times
goes with Jacqui Smith ‘mortified’ as adult movies put on expenses:

Jacqui Smith revealed she is “mortified and furious” after the cost of two adult films watched by her husband were paid for out of the Parliamentary expenses budget.

Yes, I bet she is.

The Sunday Telegraph, Jacqui Smith ‘claimed for husband’s adult movies on expenses’

The revelation is an embarrassment to Ms Smith, who last month faced criticism for claiming taxpayer-funded allowances for a second home while living with her sister.

Really not going well for Jacqui anyway, is it? This could [crosses fingers] finish her.

Next, the little buggers who broke the story – The Sunday Express with JACQUI SMITH PUT ADULT FILMS ON EXPENSES

As she fought for her political life last night, Ms Smith apologised after being confronted by the Sunday Express.

“fought for her political life…” [sparks up cigarette]

The MirrorHome Secretary Jacqui Smith submitted expenses claim for adult films watched by husband

A friend said the Home Secretary knew there was “no excuse” for the error but added: “To say she’s angry with her husband is an understatement.

“Jacqui was not there when these films were watched…”

I don’t want any shit head comments casting aspirtions on Jacqui’s integrity. If she said she didn’t watch them, she didn’t watch them. Mm’kay?

One more? Ok, The Sunday Mail with the very saucy headline – Blue movies on expenses: Jacqui Smith’s husband apologises for watching porn… paid for by the taxpayer. “Blue Movie”, bloody hell guys, bit much for a Sunday morning, that.

So, this is glorious. But let me tell you why it is glorious –

  1. She’s in trouble again.
  2. She’s saving the whores while her husband creates a demand for them – it has irony, hypocrisy and, just, y’know, beaucoup de lolz.

Now, let me explain why people should be pissed off –

  1. It was charged to her expenses.
  2. Which means she’s either really fucking careless or really fucking cheeky.

Problems? The porn bit. There’s the tempation there to chastise the dude for watching filthy dirty smut. The media have gloated over his humiliation at having to apologise, and to be fair I bet he was fucking mortified. But the actual watching of porn isn’t shameful nor is it a reason to apologise.

I think this is one to keep an eye on, not to laugh at Jacqui, cos we’ve done that, but to see how the media handles this. Fair enough to get on your high horse about the films being charged to her expenses, but simply moralising on the watching of pornography – FAIL.

(cross-posted at Uncooler Than Thou)

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Sex Traffic at Institute of Contemporary Arts in London

March 2, 2009 at 10:50 pm (Caroline S, sex workers)

via Laura Agustín.

SEX TRAFFIC at London’s ICA – Institute of Contemporary Arts
http://www.ica.org.uk/Sex%20Traffic+19176.twl

11 March 2009 – 1900 / 7pm

The media and NGOs have raised awareness of sex trafficking in recent years, but does it serve the interests of migrant sex workers to suggest they have been trafficked, or does it collude in their criminalisation and deportation? Should our priority be to give migrant women in the sex industry more control over their own lives, or to stop the traffic?

Speakers: Laura María Agustín, author of Sex at the Margins and a former educator working with expatriate sex workers; Georgina Perry, service manager for Open Doors, an NHS initiative which deliver outreach and clinical support to sex workers in east London; Catherine Stephens, sex worker; Jon Birch, inspector, Metropolitan Police Clubs and Vice Unit. Chair: Libby Brooks, deputy Comment editor, The Guardian.

Nash Room.  Book here  £10 / £9 Concessions / £8 ICA Members

The ICA is located on The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH. How to get there.

Box Office: 020 7930 3647 Switchboard: 020 7930 0493

The Institute of Contemporary Arts is a registered charity in England No 236848 and a Limited Company registered in England No 444351. Registered offices as above. VAT No 853 7217 17

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Link to a guest post by Douglas Fox (IUSW)

January 28, 2009 at 3:07 pm (Caroline S, sex workers)

Those who have been following the blog posts about Jacqui Smith’s plans to change the prostitution laws in the UK will surely know the name Douglas Fox, spokesperson for the IUSW. He, as well as the IUSW in general, has faced a great deal of criticism this month from the UK radical feminist bloggers who have been largely inclined not so much to show their support for Jacqui Smith but more to discredit sex worker’s unions.

Douglas has written a post at my blog about the proposals, as well as the misunderstandings, prejudices and preconceptions held by those who no doubt would see themselves as allies – government ministers and feminists. I’m hoping he’ll contribute regularly to my blog.

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Another reason to dislike New Labour (without mentioning Jacqui Smith)

January 26, 2009 at 10:54 pm (Caroline S, labour party)

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The extreme porn law comes into effect today.

  • It’s based on an understanding (developed in the 40s and 50s) that suggests the media acts like a hypordermic needle, injecting messages into a passive audience.
  • It is based upon the premise that pornography has more to do with rape than the actual scumbag himself.
  • It neglects to acknowledge that the case on which it was based (Jane Longhurst’s murder) was actually a great deal more complex than Labour gave it credit for; with regard to the Longhurst case, Graham Coutts’s fascination with asphixiation began years before he began to download the materials found on his computer, in fact he didn’t look at material on the internet til a good 5 years after he discussed his fascination with his GP? Also, not that it really matters to this case apparently, he said himself he wanted to kill women since he was 15, even seeking psychiatric treatment, believing his thoughts would one day lead to criminal actions, 12 years before the murder. But whatever, extreme pornography killed Jane Longhurst.
  • What does this mean? Here’s the long version, and here’s the short: You watch porn of adults consenting to violent or apparently violent sexual acts and you, my friend, are a crim.

Labour for the win!

So yeah, destroy your kinky porn my criminally perverted friends, Jacqui’s watching!

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(oops, mentioned Jacqui)

Cross posted at my blog and Sex In The Public Square.

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SCOT-PEP’s funding withdrawn

January 20, 2009 at 10:12 pm (Caroline S, sex workers)

SCOT-PEP, or the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project, describes itself as “promoting health and dignity in prostitution”. Want their creds? Sure you do –

Between 1 April 2006 and 31 March 2007 SCOT-PEP worked with 557 individuals – recording 3,977 contacts. Services and support were provided to an average of 122 sex workers each month. 367 of our service users were indoor-based sex workers and 89 were street-based sex workers. During the year contact was maintained with sex workers in 37 establishments.

The average number of individuals accessing sessions were:

daytime service
establishment outreach
night-time services
10.43 (189 sessions)
6.41 (86 sessions)
10.94 (97 sessions)

We provided
info and advice to 404 individuals on 2,627 occasions;
a listening ear to 318 individuals on 1,669 occasions;
referrals for 192 individuals on 1,152 occasions;
high level support to 8 individuals on 12 occasions;
and our website received 5,729 hits.

Safe Sex Supplies – SCOT-PEP distributed 91,063 condoms.

Ugly Mug Scheme – SCOT-PEP received 81 Ugly Mug reports in 2006/7 with information being shared amongst sex workers to alert them to potentially dangerous clients – related to:

Abduction
Rape
Assault
Robbery
Attempted murder
Sexual Assault
Other
0
7
36
4
1
6
27 (including verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation)

Moving On – 29 (33%) of street-based and 142 (47%) of indoor-based sex workers have moved on from the Edinburgh sex industry since 2005/6.

So, their funding’s been withdrawn by NHS Lothian (see SCOT-PEP’s front page for details); SCOT-PEP will lose £150 000 per year and six jobs will be lost, which means from the 31st March, the group will be unable to provide outreach and support services to sex workers in Edinburgh.

Now, this is crap in itself, but don’t forget Scotish laws have recently changed, which has led to an increase in violence against sex workers.

The group plan to restructure as a voluntary campaigning group,

bringing together sex workers and allies to argue for better legislation and services and ensure the voices of sex workers are not lost.

They’re gonna need support.

Here’s their fundraising page with the details, which include options of a one-off donation or regular donations. Do check out these pages for more information, or ring the Project Manager, Ruth Morgan Thomas, on 0131 622 7550.

Also, if you wish to voice your concerns at the withdrawl of funding, you can email Jim Sherval, Public Health Specialist at NHS Lothian – jim.sherval@lhb.scot.nhs.uk

(corss-posted at Sex In The Public Square)

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More on how to protest against Jacqui Smith’s proposals

January 5, 2009 at 10:14 pm (Caroline S, sex workers, women)

From the IUSW

The second reading of the new bill is now on MONDAY THE 12TH.

We must get as many MPs as is possible to speak out against the governments proposals.

This is a draft letter from the IUSW.

Please will everyone concerned with this industry send this to your MP. If you need help finding out who your local MP is IM me and I will give you details. [or check out this site]

Clients can of course change the begining to something appropriate such as concerned member of the public.

This is urgent please do this asap.

I am writing to you as a resident of your constituency who is (a concerned member of the public)involved in the sex industry. The Policing and Crime Bill, that has its second reading on 12 January, contains proposals which will make people in the sex industry less safe and increase our social exclusion. The proposals make it more likely that street sex workers will be forced to work in greater isolation and as a consequence be hurt and killed, and less likely that victims of trafficking will come to the attention of the police. The proposals directly play into the hands of exploitative and violent criminals and traffickers by decreasing the ways to work safely and making sex workers less likely to call the police if they are the victims of crime and abuse.

The Home Office has failed to consult with sex workers’ organisations during the preparation of legislation (neither the International Union of Sex Workers or the English Collective of Prostitutes are considered to be stakeholders on this issue according to the Home Office report on Tackling the Demand for Prostitution of November 2008; neither is the uk Network of Sex Work Projects which provides frontline health and support services to people in the sex industry through 63 projects across the uk).

In addition, the proposals completely ignore an enormous range of academic research which shows that increased criminalisation has a negative effect: we need evidence based policy to create effective change and protect the vulnerable. The magnitude of the Home Office’s misinterpretation of evidence is shown in the Regulatory Impact Assessments associated with the Bill, which state that Pentameter 2 (a nationwide police operation) identified 800 brothels containing trafficked women. In fact, the police’s own figures for Pentameter 2 show raids on 822 premises located 250 victims of trafficking: the Home Office has confused the number of premises raided with the number of actual victims found.

I ask you to condemn these proposals during the second reading debate, and call for policy on the sex industry to treat our safety and human rights as the highest priority. This can only be achieved by meaningful consultation with those most effected: we are the experts in our own lives.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Like I said with the petition – if you’re in the UK and have an MP, please do get involved with this. If you’re not in the UK, please post this on your blog or website for your UK readers, or forward it in email – anything to spread the word.

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Petition to defer any bill on prostitution until after the next general election

January 1, 2009 at 2:45 pm (Caroline S, sex workers)

There’s a petition up to defer any bill on prostitution until after the next general election on Number10.gov.uk

The right of people in this country to decide by mutual agreement whether and under what conditions they consent to sexual intercourse is fundamental. In particular, it has never been illegal to pay for consensual sex since at least as far back as Magna Carta. The government are now proposing to criminalise men who pay for sex for the first time in this country’s history. That would constitute a radical change in the legal position for which the government has no electoral mandate, since the policy at the time of the 2005 general election was to legalise brothels operated by a small number of sex workers. We therefore call upon the government to obtain a mandate from the electorate before introducing any bill on prostitution.

If you’re wanting to fight this Jacqui Smith nonsense, there’s a good place to start.

If you’re a British citizen, do please sign this. I’ve written on this blog (A feminist perspective on Jacqui Smith’s proposals to change the prostitution laws and What do you make of this?) and my own about how much these new laws would endanger sex workers if they came into effect, so do have a read through if you’re not sure what’s happening and then do sign the petition.

I would also like to ask people to spread the link to this petition as widely as possible. If you’re a blogger and not a British citizen, I’m sure you’ll have British citizens reading, so do please reblog this.

Cheers.

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What do you make of this?

December 30, 2008 at 5:05 pm (Caroline S, sex workers)

Everyone has an opinion about sex work. Straight off – is it work? Why not say “prostitution”? A few days ago I wrote about how preserving an ideology should be secondary to the safety of sex workers; comments were overtaken swiftly by a discussion on whether or not sex work could be properly defined as work. Yet again, sex workers rights were towards the back of the agenda. But consider what has happened this year –

February 2008

Steve Wright was found guilty of murdering Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls, sex workers working in Ipswich, England in 2006. Mr. Justice Gross ordered him to serve a maximum sentence, commenting –

Drugs and prostitution meant they were at risk. But neither drugs nor prostitution killed them. You did. You killed them, stripped them and left them… why you did it may never be known. This was a targeted campaign of murder. It is right you should spend your whole life in prison.

Two men raped a sex worker in Swindon, England.

After dragging her upstairs Arvinder pulled out a clump of her hair while Karnail slammed a sash window shut on her fingers as she tried to get away. Both men then raped the woman, first forcing her to perform oral sex on them and then having intercourse.

April 2008

A man is alleged to have raped a sex worker working in Nottingham, England. thisisnottingham.co.uk reported –

Nottingham Crown Court heard he had given her a ticket stub instead of cash, forced her against the fence and placed his arm across her throat.

Dowding was aggressive and threatening, prosecutor Stuart Rafferty said as he opened the case to a jury yesterday.

Dowding removed the woman’s jacket and pulled off her trousers, he added.

“She was completely naked on her bottom half and wearing a thin top. She realised what was going to happen.”

She asked Dowding to wear a condom before he put her against the fence and allegedly raped her before throwing her clothes over the fence, Mr Rafferty told the court.

Shortly afterwards, the woman saw a police officer she knew and told him she had been raped.

The Bradford News reports a sex worker was alegedy raped in Leeds, England.

A man was jailed for raping a sex worker in Manchester, England, in January 2007. Detective Constable Ginette Smith from the Force Sexual Crime Unit commented –

This man preyed on a vulnerable woman and subjected her to a terrifying assault.

I understand that many street sex workers may find it difficult to contact police when they are the victims of crime because they think that, due to the nature of their work, they will not be believed.

I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to those people working in Greater Manchester to say that we take all reports of these types of offences extremely seriously and will investigate all reports thoroughly. We will do everything in our power to catch offenders and bring them before the courts.

June 2008

A court heard that a sex worker working in Liverpool, England, was raped at knife point in 2007.

July 2008

In Bolton, England, a court heard how a sex worker was raped after refusing to pay

“I turned round and said £20 for sex but you have to use a condom. I always use a condom,” she said.

She added that McManus took her to a nearby car park off Carlton Street but he refused to give her the money in advance.

When she tried to walk away he grabbed her and raped her without using a condom.

Afterwards the distressed woman found her boyfriend nearby and the police were called.

August 2008

A court heard that a sex worker was alegedly raped in Bristol, England in November 2007.

Lubomir Kora went on trial accused of being part of a rape gang which was responsible for five attacks on Bradford (England) sex workers.

September 2008

A sex worker was raped at knife point in Preston, England.

October 2008

A man was sentenced to life for the rape and assault of a sex worker working in Northamptonshire, England. He is still being investigated by Northamptonshire Police for similar attacks on prostitutes in that area.

November 2008

West Yorkshire Police plead for information after two sex workers in Leeds, England were raped. It is not known if these incidents are linked.

********

Radical Feminists use this kind of evidence to support the Swedish Model, making the buying of sex completely illegal. This year, Scotland adopted this model.

The Edinburgh Evening News reported in December that ten sex workers were raped between January and September 2008, double the numbers reported in 2006. Ruth Morgan Thomas (SCOT-PEP) was quoted in saying not a night went by where support workers in Leith did not hear of an attack taking place. Earlier in the year they reported prostitute attacks had soared. This is after the news laws in Scotland were implemented.

Margo MacDonald, MP, argued that the Swedish approach had failed because it had driven prostitution underground so no-one knew what was going on and now the women had returned to the street, something Sex Workers Unions such as the IUSW fear will happen under Jacqui Smith’s new laws. If you want to read about the negative consequences of this approach in Sweden, check out Sexsäljares och allierades nätverk i Sverig (it’s in English).

So what do we do with this? The danger that prostitution may be pushed underground is real and it’s effects are seen in Scotland. The advantages of decriminalisation are shown in New Zealand (h/t to HangBitch). It would seem logical to talk about what is most adventageous to sex workers. All barring one of these examples above are sex workers working on the street. These examples of what’s been happening in the UK this year is on the tip of the iceberg. God only knows how many sex workers have been sexually assaulted these past few years in England and Wales.

So do we, British society, talk about decriminalisation? No. We talk about definitions, semantics. “Sex worker” or “prostitute”. Is it work? We talk about the ickiness of prostitution as though that justifies all these crimes against women. We debate the morality of it, is it right to sell sex? We place ideology above the safety of these women. We don’t question ourselves. UK feminists do not read that which disagrees with them (from blogland to parliament, who has been listening to the sex workers themselves?). Why not do all that after we’ve supported women’s rights not to be raped and assaulted?

And I can’t believe that anyone would look at the above list, read some of the links, and then support any law that would push this industry further underground and increase the vulnerability of these women.

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