Is this journalism? A response to DiManno and The Toronto Star's falsification of the prostitution debates

A piece published in the Toronto Star over the weekend may have led you to believe it would, as the headline: “Feminists take opposite stands on prostitution” alludes, explore different feminist positions on prostitution and prostitution law.

The author, Rosie DiManno (“one of the Star’s best and most prolific writers“!), immediately trips all over herself in an attempt to rile up some page views by framing feminist positions on prostitution as “completely oppositional,” following through with a 1300 word story she made up in her head about feminism. Cool story, Rosie! Oh wait, are we pretending this is journalism? Sweet.

As much as the prostitution debates in feminism are divisive, they aren’t “oppositional” (though, I don’t know how many more times I can point this out without feeling like no one really cares to cover these debates accurately). As DiManno may or may not know, the division among feminists (with regard to prostitution law, in any case), is centered around the criminalization of pimps and johns. It’s safe to say that the vast majority (if not all) of feminists advocate to decriminalize prostituted women. It’s also safe to say that all feminists want an end to violence against women, including women working in the sex industry. The value in pointing this out is both to find common ground, because there’s lots of it, but also to avoid falling back on tropes and nonexistant stereotypes. In terms of having this debate with some kind of integrity and with the goal of finding a real and viable path towards equality (which, one would like to presume is a goal of feminism), honesty is useful.

And with that point, the “honesty” one, let’s move back to DiManno. The headline suggests we can expect a fair shake of sorts — a piece that explores two sides of an argument. “Misleading” is a tepid word in this case, as it becomes immediately clear that DiManno’s goal is anything but exploratory, unbiased, or honest. Which isn’t to say I think we must be unbiased in our writing, but rather that it’s reasonable to expect, at very least, some level of truth. Particularly when we are trying to convince our readers we are, indeed, exploring two sides of a debate with integrity. DiManno’s goal, it’s clear, is not only to further divide, but to do so on deceptive ground.

Let’s start at the beginning (maybe take this opportunity to take some Gravol or grab a drink), with DiManno’s explanation of these “dual, completely oppositional feminist perspectives on prostitution”:

The first operates from a premise that sex for money — the business of prostitutes — is inherently wrong and exploitive. These arguments cleave to a time immemorial moral disapproval, which is why its proponents, though often calling themselves feminists — and by many definitions they indeed are — have a great deal more in common with religious organizations and the family values mob.

OH ROSIE. Let’s try this again. The abolitionist position (is this what we’re talking about? You’ve yet to say exactly WHO it is you are pretending to characterize here) argues that women’s bodies are not things that exist for male use. We argue that women should not have to resort to selling sex in order to survive or to feed their kids. We argue that prostitution exists as a direct result of class, race, and gender inequality. “Moral disapproval” has no more to do with our approach and ideology than socialism is about “moralizing” against the exploitative nature of capitalism. It could be argued that advocating towards an equitable society is about morals, if you believe that equality is “right” and inequality is “wrong”; but I’m pretty sure that’s not where you were going with this. Case-in-point: Your next line, which claims feminists have “great deal more in common with religious organizations and the family values mob.”

Well I don’t know, because as an atheist and as a person who rejects the nuclear family model, the institution of marriage, and traditional notions about women’s primary purpose in this society as baby-maker, I’ve never felt I had much in common “with religious organizations and the family values mob.” The Christian right doesn’t think prostitution is “bad” because they want an end to male power and to elevate the status of women. They think it’s bad because they believe sex shouldn’t happen outside of marriage or without the purpose of baby-making/maintaining a traditional, heterosexual, patriarchal family. This position is actually “oppositional” (you know that word, right?) to the feminist position on, well, everything.

Next paragraph!

At the most radical end of that spectrum, some might even subscribe to the infamous assertion by the late anarchist Andrea Dworkin that “all heterosexual sex is rape’’

It’s high time (and by “high time,” of course, I mean: Clearly none of you give any fucks about accuracy) people stopped misquoting Dworkin on this non-point. You could try actually reading her work, or you could do a quick Google search for: “Dworkin ‘all heterosexual sex is rape.’’’

Go on. I’ll wait.

Ok. Let’s compare notes. You likely came across a number of entries correcting this common (and intentionally, lazily manipulative) misrepresentation/myth. One of those places was likely a Wikipedia entry which clarifies that, while Dworkin was, yes, very critical of heterosexual sex as both the norm and as a potential space for female subordination within the context of a patriarchal society, there is actually no place in the history of ever where she is quoted as saying “all heterosexual sex is rape” (Quick tip for future reference: Quotations often imply that you are quoting someone). Dworkin herself corrected this misinterpretation a number of times over (for example, in this interview from 1995 — That’s over FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, folks! Think it might be time to put this one to rest?), saying things like: “I think both intercourse and sexual pleasure can and will survive equality,” and “Since the paradigm for sex has been one of conquest, possession, and violation, I think many men believe they need an unfair advantage, which at its extreme would be called rape. I do not think they need it.” (Again, this information is available via handy Wikipedia! You don’t even have to do any real reading or research to know what you’re talking about — That should please you immensely, Rosie).

So it’s not actually possible to subscribe to a notion that doesn’t exist, for starters and while, yes, there are some anti-PIV feminists, I nor any of the women I work with in the abolition movement believe that “all sex is rape”.

Now, you got the Nordic model mostly right, Rosie (nice one!) — It’s a feminist model that sees prostitution as a product of patriarchy (and capitalism) and, works towards a society where women have other options than to sell sex while simultaneously teaches men that it is not their right to use women’s bodies simply because they have an erection/cash. There is absolutely no argument that can be made to argue that prostitution is not a gendered industry when 80-90% of prostitutes are women. We are all, also, fully aware that the vast, vast majority of clients/johns are men (even when sex is being bought from other men and boys). The Nordic model targets male buyers rather than female prostitutes because of the gendered  (and economic) power imbalance. That is also why we call this model a “feminist” one. Violence against sex workers happens at the hands of men, and therefore the focus should be on the perpetrators. You can call that “aggressive” if you like, provided that you admit that you think feminist ideology is somehow “aggressive” and then provide an argument that backs up the notion that working to end the oppression of, and subsequent violence against, women is, somehow “aggressive.”  Be sure to let us all know what you come up with.

Next up: the Bedford v. Canada case.

Bedford v. Canada was initiated by Alan Young. He brought on three women, two of which have aged out of prostitution and are looking to open and brothels, as part of his efforts to challenge Canada’s prostitution laws. Currently the laws in Canada criminalize living on the avails of prostitution (pimping), communicating in a public place for the purposes of prostitution, and running a bawdy house (brothel). On September 28, 2010, Justice Susan Himel ruled for the Ontario Superior Court that these three provisions were unconstitutional and struck them down. That decision was appealed and went on to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

On March 26, 2012, the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down the bawdy house law, upheld the law criminalizing communication (the law that, in essence, criminalizes women working the streets), and found the “living on the avails” law should apply only in “circumstances of exploitation” (so no real change there as that is, after all, the point of that law).

At this point, the impact of this decision is nil (and would have only had immediate impact on Ontario’s prostitution law, as the laws are decided on a province-to-province basis) and the judgment was appealed and is going on to the Supreme Court of Canada (scheduled for hearing on June 12th, 2013).

DiManno claims that “neither side was happy” with the Court of Appeal’s decision (because it left the communication law intact), but that’s actual bullshit. Both Young and his clients were elated by the decision, calling it a “emancipation day for sex workers” and a “victory.” This is because the primary purpose for the case was not to decriminalize street prostitution, but to legalize brothels. Bedford herself is quoted as saying: “I was mainly concerned with winning the bawdy house law because of what happened to me at Thornhill” (Bedford’s “Bondage Bungalow” in Thornhill, Ontario was raided in 1994 and she was charged with keeping a common bawdy house, which is what lead her to get involved in this case).

DiManno goes on to quote “Jane Doe” who seems to be under the impression that she’s debating someone (evil, imaginary feminists, one might presume?), who says she “rejects outright the moralizing quotient and maintains that keeping solicitation on the books, in fact, furthers violence against women, particularly the most marginalized prostitutes who will continue to work on the streets.”

This statement manipulatively implies that, somehow, there is a “moralistic” faction of feminists who want to criminalize prostitutes, placing the Bedford claimants on the other end of this imagined spectrum which, as noted above, is a lie.

DiManno goes on to quote this anonymous person in order to confirm and reinforce all the sweeping and untrue stereotypes she set out to “prove” in the first place — comparing the religious right and radical feminists, and making the mysterious claim that abolitionists believe “prostitution is responsible for all violence against women, but especially sexual assault.”

I will say this again, though I doubt it will stick and imagine I’ll be repeating this for the rest of my life so long as folks like DiManno feel comfortable ignoring facts, research, and ideology; publishing bold-faced lies in order to put forth their arguments (to what end, I have no idea, really, as that which women like DiManno might see as a successful outcome of these misrepresentations — the decriminalization of pimps and johns  — has been proven disastrous): Feminists don’t hate sex, they don’t think prostituted women are “bad,” and they aren’t “anti-sex worker.” Abolitionists are far more “pro-sex” (if you want to call it that), than those who believe sex is something that should happen under duress or out of desperation. You want “enthusiastic consent”? That’s not going to happen under a model that treats prostitution as a social safety net. If a woman needs to give blow jobs to pay her rent or feed her kids, that doesn’t count as “enthusiastic consent” — that counts as having no other choice.

And finally, we come to exit programs. An integral part of any system that wishes to help women leave the sex industry if they desire. Jane Doe says:

What the state offers right now are exit programs. The police arrest you and the woman is given a choice — get charged and go to jail or take this exit program. They’ll teach you how to use a computer, how to put your resumé together, and the ill of your ways. I know what I’d choose between those two. They’re completely ineffective and insulting to adult women. They encourage you to get the job at McDonald’s. Women can do that all by themselves, without exit programs.

So actually no. There are no real exiting programs in Canada. Nothing comprehensive or functional, in any case, if what we’re looking at is actually helping and supporting women who want to leave the industry. And the thing is that, if we legalize or completely decriminalize prostitution, we lose any and all leverage we might have in terms of lobbying the government to allocate money for these kinds of programs because prostitution has become just a job like any other. Do we provide exiting programs for people who work as massage therapists? Or as waitresses? Do you need an exiting program and years of therapy, drug treatment, retraining, safe housing, and treatment for PTSD when you quit your job at the coffee shop? Nope. Think there might be a reason for that?

In Sweden, one of the progressive countries that’s adopted the Nordic model, when the police come across a john and a prostitute they offer the man the choice of admitting the offense and paying a fine, based on income, or going to court (but then risking publicity). The prostituted woman, “who hasn’t broken any law, is offered help from social services if she wants to leave prostitution. Otherwise, she’s allowed to go.”

If we can all agree, which it seems we can, that “The violence is the problem,’’ then we should also be able to agree that it is the source of that violence that needs to be addressed. There’s some common ground for you.

And to DiManno: Lying and manipulating readers via misguided, misinformed, misrepresentative, anti-feminist diatribes is almost as bad as liberally quoting an anonymous source’s misguided and misinformed lies. I don’t know what the Toronto Star thinks it’s publishing, but it isn’t journalism. It isn’t even an informed opinion. Shame.








Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • vouchsafer

    Typical of the Toronto Star. They were running ads recruiting teens for strip clubs, weren’t they?
    What a crock of shit.
    Why do I feel like there’s an agenda behind this Rosie’s article? It seems like she’s trying to make feminists look silly, but why?
    Who benefits from her story? Is it just reaffirming the patriarchy by negating feminist viewpoints?
    either way – what a lame waste of print space.

  • MLM

    While DiManno’s article largely strikes me as a lazy (pro-sexlobby) rehash of the usual uniformed tropes about the feminist stance on prostitution, it also a reflection of a serious deterioration in journalistic standards and accountability in the media on a more general level, which I’m always surprised more people don’t seem to be deeply concerned about.

    “Whether one is reading an online magazine or watching a cable news channel, there is an excellent chance that more opinion than fact is being communicated. Several decades ago, this sort of thing would have been frowned upon, to put it mildly. Why have media standards fallen as the times changed?” (Joseph Cotto)

    “The real danger we face now is the death of reporting. There is very little reporting done on the Internet. And I fear that the skills of reporting are being lost. Reporters are going the way of blacksmiths”. (Chris Hedges)

    (Investigative journalist Chris Hedges interviewed by Joseph Cotto for The Washington Times)

  • feminist lurker

    This is such BULLSHIT!!! Did you see what happened this week with Stop Patriarchy? Kicked out of the CLPP’s conference in Amherst “From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Justice” for DARING to have an ANTI-sex-industry analysis. Conference organizers called in the campus POLICE to escort them out. Civil Liberties and Public Policy? Uh huh, sure, MY GINOROMOUS ASS!!!

    There is a concerted effort on the part of Sex-Pozzers to control the debate to such an extent that the actual abolitionist perspective is completely lost, and then they can roll us all up as “Right-Wingers” who can be ignored. I went for years thinking that the (meanie!/bad!/reactionary!) feminist anti-sex-industry perspective was criminalization of the women. Of course I was against that! I wasn’t until I started clicktivism as a Sex Workers Rights Advocate, and started actually reading the works of Anti-Porn Feminists (to better argue against them) that I realized I had been fed a whole pack of lies!!!

    This article you are responding to, the treatment of Stop Patriarchy at the CLPP conference, we aren’t even allowed to present our analysis. How many threads have I read here at Feminist Current that have been hijacked by SWRA claiming that we are trying to get “Sex Workers” thrown in jail. I can’t even count. ARGGGGG.

  • Missfit

    The terms ‘sex for money’ obliterate whose sex is (mostly) being sold and to whom. I consider that on a stricly feminist ethic perspective, prostitution, as it is currently experienced, is promoting an anti-feminist view of sexuality. And considering what is being done to girls and women in the name of prostitution, then I’d say we are objectively into anti-feminist territory. Why so-called feminists seem to find almost incomprehensible that there are feminists who are against this institution, accusing them of simply being moralistic, is beyond me. And yes, I use the terms ‘so-called feminists’ because when you misquote Dworkin like this, your claim to feminism (and maybe journalism) can be questioned. And when you put the word ‘pimps’ in brackets in order to emphasize that they may just in fact be a boyfriend or manager (insinuating that these are automatic antagonists), your understanding of the realities of prostitution is also questioned.

    Still, it took me some time before taking a strong stand in regards to the legalization of prostitution as I was still unconvinced as to what was the best approach to deal with the central issue of prostitutes’ safety. After more reading on the subject, after balancing the pros and cons, I came to the conclusion that the best approach so far is the one being referred to as the Nordic Model. As feminists, we all should work towards equality, what is best for the majority of women and towards an end to women’s misery. As such, I think it should be possible to exchange on every subject affecting women, even when we disagree on some points, without resorting to dishnoest rethoric like trying to assimilate anti-prostitution feminists with the religious right, more so radical feminists; I mean, seriously? Radical feminists have provided the more incisive critique there is of patriarchal religions and its family values. And considering that many of the men evolving in religious circles are utter hypocrites when it comes to the subject of prostitution, I find the analogy with any feminist point of view non tenable. In fact, religion’s view of sex has much more in common with prostitution than with the one radical feminists wish to further (and calling such a view anti-sex says a lot about how religious/prostitutional view of sex is ingrained in some people). But since these so called feminists want to hold on to this analogy, I wonder with whom they might ‘have a great deal in common’ then? Pimps (no brackets) and traffickers (aren’t they both working towards the same aim?), MRAs and other misogynists whose only women’s ‘right’ they approve of is the one to prostitute themselves? Now can we please stop this game?

  • MLM

    I can relate to what both Missfit and feminist lurker have said about changing their opinions based on better understanding.

    I used to sincerely believe that legalisation would better ensure the safety and welfare of women in prostitution – I now realise the reverse actually seems to be true in every country where it has been tried, and legalisation seems to be a massively failed experiment. The Nordic model, on the other hand, seems to be an approach based on far more wisdom and has had demonstrable success.

    I used to be taken in by the argument that I should respect someone’s “agency” to be a prostitute. I now realise that position lacks any analysis of the systematic ways in which choice can be eroded, obscures questions about what might actually have happened to somebody in order to lead them to that “choice”, and helps erase the fact that so many wind up in the situation precisely from a profound lack of choice.

    It was pretty shocking to find out just how much the script has been flipped by the more powerful and financially invested players, and how much their voices have dictated which story is told. Even to the point where they manage to frame their position as the “underdogs”, who fight for “freedom”, in spite of the fact that what they advocate for means enslavement for the most vulnerable, and undermines, on some level, the humanity of all women.

    But the reason they can get away with such bullshit is because people rarely want to look behind the curtain for themselves, and abolitionists (as well as anti-porn feminists) pose some very uncomfortable and inconvenient truths about the sex industry which many people are unwilling to readily confront. When the curtain is torn right away for them, though, and the brutal realities lay exposed, it can tend to get far more of their attention. Hence the huge incentive by sex industry lobbyists to shut down abolitionist voices- especially those who make good sound arguments, well supported by research.

    It’s very telling, I think, just how much time sex positives and the pro-sex industry crowd put into demonising the people who make the abolitionist arguments, as opposed to engaging with the actual arguments. They seem to attack or attempt to discredit the messenger whenever they can’t provide adequate challenge to the message.

  • Antonia

    “Jane Doe” is not, as you claim, “anonymous.” She is well-known to many journalists and feminists across the country as the woman who successfully sued the Toronto police after she was attacked in her own bed by the so-called “Balcony Rapist.” She has written many opeds and even a book under that pseudonym. Surely you have heard of her?

    And, leaving Rosie’s column aside, as it is her opinion and not reportage per se, nice work on dodging the reason for it in the first place: Jane Doe’s submission to the SCC representing the Feminist Coalition, a national group of 23 women’s anti-violence and feminist organizations, including anti-trafficking groups. (Rosie gets the number of organizations wrong.) This coalition has filed for intervener status in the Bedford case, arguing in support of the full decriminalization of prostitution and the human and legal rights of sex workers. We are talking shelters, rape crisis centres, legal clinics and even one anti-trafficking group.

    But hey, don’t let Jane’s anti-violence cred or these (mostly) frontline organizations and their experience get in the way of your ideology.

    • Meghan Murphy

      The REAL reason, huh? As if, Antonia. The real reason is clear — to shit on and lie about abolitionists. Get real.

      And the supposed Feminist Coalition was formed specifically to manipulate and confuse the public, as far as I can tell. Name the feminist and anit-traifficking groups involved.

    • stephen m

      @Antonia: Megan seems to have hit the nail on the head! Your Feminist Coalition seems bogus.

      I cannot find anything about the “Feminist Coalition” except that there was was correspondence “Re: Correction to law firm” — through Marie-France Major SSC case Attorney General of Canada, et al. v. Terri Jean Bedford, et al.

      Perhaps you would be so kind as to supply a whole lot more information if we are to take you seriously? The 23 women’s groups you refer to and their credentials would be a good start.

  • Antonia

    Again, you avoid crediting Jane Doe for all her hard work on behalf of women.

    “The REAL reason, huh?” What is that supposed to mean? Rosie wrote a column, with errors, because of the release of the Coalition’s intervention on April 15. It’s called a news hook. Is it the column I would have written? No, although our views are similar. But my tone would have been different and I would hope that I would not have made mistakes.

    Here is the news release, which a simple Google search turns up:

    Among the intervenors are:

    2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy (Montreal, Quebec)
    Located at Concordia University, the CGA facilitates social action through ongoing programming and campaigns, as well as building coalitions and working in solidarity with grassroots social movements. It provides respectful, confidential peer-to-peer support, advocacy, and resources for those who seek it with a focus on harm reduction, empowerment and self-determination.

    Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Counsellor Advocate Program (George Brown College, Toronto, Ontario)
    Established in 1989, this two-year program provides students with a feminist analysis of the political and counselling issues related to violence against women and children. It trains students to be agents for change in their work of community education, political action and law reform. It prepares them to provide counselling and advocacy for women and children who have experienced or are experiencing violence.

    Assaulted Women’s Helpline (Ontario)
    For more than 25 years, the Assaulted Women’s Helpline has served as a free, anonymous, and confidential 24-hour telephone and TTY crisis telephone line to all women in the province of Ontario who have experienced any form of abuse.
    The Helpline provides crisis counselling, safety planning, emotional support, information and referrals accessible 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The Assaulted Women’s Helpline has responded to over 728,000 calls in the past 26 years, including 49,000 calls in its past fiscal year alone.

    Atira Women’s Resource Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)
    Located in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, Atira Women’s Resource Society is a community-based organization that supports all women, and their children, who are experiencing the impact of violence committed against them and/or their children. Through education, advocacy and outreach, Atira is an active voice in the struggle to end violence against women and their children. Our feminist-based philosophy informs all our work with ourselves, each other and the community.

    Carleton Sexual Assault Support Line (Ottawa, Ontario)
    The Carleton Sexual Assault Support Line provides confidential telephone peer support to any student staff or faculty experiencing sexual violence and is independent of the university. Other services include crisis intervention and long-term support.

    Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre (Ottawa, Ontario)
    The Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre advocates on behalf of the voices of Carleton students to develop a student-run, university-funded, sustainable, and accessible Sexual Assault Centre on Carleton University’s campus. This proposed Centre would be available to all Carleton students, staff, and faculty regardless of gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, age, Mother Tongue or student status. It would provide peer support, advocacy and public awareness about sexual assault.

    Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter (Toronto, Ontario)
    Provides support and shelter for women and children escaping violence. Ernestine’s assists women and children in rebuilding their lives by providing crisis intervention and a range of holistic support services, while acknowledging the multitude of issues women face. It promotes awareness and education, and advocates for early intervention and prevention.

    Feminist Law Student’s Association (Kingston, Ontario)
    An official student group recognized by the Law Students’ Society at Queen’s University, the FLSA organizes events and forums for law students to discuss and debate issues from a feminist perspective, including issues related to violence against women.

    Juliette’s Place Women’s Shelter (Toronto, Ontario)
    Juliette’s Place is the only shelter in North East Scarborough where women and their children fleeing domestic violence can get the necessary help and resources in their time of crisis. Juliette’s Place has maintained excellence in service delivery to current and ex-clients, while providing extensive community outreach to help individuals and families better identify and address issues of domestic violence and other forms of oppression.

    Hamilton Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton, Ontario)
    The Hamilton Sexual Assault Centre is a feminist organization that believes all women have a human right to live without violence. To achieve this, women must have equal power in their personal lives and in society. The Centre works for women’s equality by challenging discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, ability or sexual orientation. It provides services to women who have experienced sexual violence at any points in their lives. The Centre works to end violence against women, eliminate barriers that prevent women’s equality, and works towards the equitable inclusion of all women.

    Kingston Sexual Assault Centre (Kingston, Ontario)
    Since 1977, the Sexual Assault Centre of Kingston has provided confidential, non-judgmental support to women who experience sexual assault. It offers public education on that issue and strives toward prevention of all forms of violence against women.

    London Sexual Assault Centre (London, Ontario)
    Founded in 1973, the Sexual Assault Centre of London provides counselling, group and peer support to women who have been sexually assaulted or experienced other forms of sexual violence. Services include: a 24-hour crisis line, court accompaniment, community outreach, advocacy, public education, forums and training.

    Nellie’s Women’s Shelter (Toronto, Ontario)
    Since 1973, Nellie’s has helped over 13,000 women & children from our communities. Our Mission is to operate programs and services for women and children who have and are experiencing oppressions such as violence, poverty and homelessness. Nellie’s is a community-based feminist organization which operates within an anti-racist, anti-oppression framework. It is committed to social change through education and advocacy, to achieve social justice for all women and children.

    North York Women’s Shelter (Toronto, Ontario)
    For 25 years, NYWS has provided shelter and services to women and their children fleeing violence. We also provide training and information seminars on women abuse to schools, hospitals, businesses, religious groups and other community agencies.

    Sarnia Lambton Sexual Assault Centre (Sarnia, Ontario)
    Established in 1984, the Sexual Assault Centre of Sarnia Lambton provides supportive, non-directive counselling to women who have experienced sexual assault including: group counselling; referral and advocacy; public education through school programs, public speaking, presentations and trainings on the topics of incest, date rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault and prevention and safety. It also operates a 24-hour crisis line.

    The Schlifer Clinic
    The Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic provides counselling, legal, and interpreter services for women who have been physically or sexually assaulted. Opened in 1980, the Schlifer Clinic currently receives referrals from countless community based agencies, as well as medical, legal and criminal justice professionals, religious organizations and individuals concerned about violence against women. More than 4,000 women were helped last year.

    Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape (Toronto, Ontario)
    TRCC/MWAR is a grassroots, women-run collective working since 1974 towards a violence-free world by providing anti-oppressive, feminist peer support to women who have experienced sexual violence through support, education and activism.

    University of Windsor Women’s Centre
    Volunteer and paid student staff run the Centre. They provide referrals to professional agencies; promote special events, vigils, films and guest lectures/seminars/workshops; raise awareness of women’s issues, including health (sexually transmitted diseases), pregnancy, abortion, violence against women (assault, harassment), employment equity and racial discrimination.

    Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County
    Since 1994, the Centre’s mission has been to support women who are experiencing, or who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives. It is committed to working towards ending the violence against, and the oppression of women.

    York University Centre for Women and Trans People (Toronto, Ontario)
    The Centre is a pro-choice, anti-racist, queer-positive, trans-positive, feminist organization committed to breaking the social isolation that women and trans people face on campus through programming, socials and networking events, and providing services such as peer-to-peer crisis intervention, peer counselling, advocacy & referrals from a feminist, anti-oppressive framework.

    International Membership

    Association of Women in Development (AWID)
    AWID is an international, feminist, membership organization committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women’s human rights. Understanding violence against women as a denial of equality rights, AWID funds, initiates, participates in, and otherwise supports members and the broader constituency to take urgent action to protect anti-violence movements globally. Recognizing that political-religious projects are gaining ground all over the world with particularly negative consequences for women’s rights, AWID’s “Resisting and Challenging Religious Fundamentalisms” initiative was begun. AWID supports and works with sex workers internationally including in East Africa, Krygyzstan, India and South Asia.

    Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
    GAATW’s mission is to ensure that the human rights of all migrating women are respected and protected by authorities and agencies. GAATW promotes rights of women migrant workers and trafficked persons and believes that ensuring safe migration and fair work places should be at the core of all anti-trafficking efforts. We advocate for living and working conditions that provide women with more alternatives in their countries of origin, and to develop and disseminate information to women about migration, working conditions and their rights. We support the self-organisation of women in vulnerable and marginalized situations, especially migrant workers in the informal sector and aim to strengthen their efforts of self-representation and advocacy.

    Therer are also a number of academic and legal advisers who attach their names to what you call this “supposed” Feminist Coalition. If you had bothered to find out what they had written, which is a matter of public record, you would know who they are.

    What I can’t understand is, why you (and abolitionists in general) seem so eager to dismiss the opinions of those who have worked to help victims of male violence for decades as well as pay no attention to the women who are sex workers and are legitimately seeking their rights and security of the person.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “you avoid crediting Jane Doe for all her hard work on behalf of women.”

      How does anyone’s “work on behalf of women” excuse bold-faced lies and misrepresentations of the feminist/abolitionist movement? What does that have to do with anything??

      “Rosie wrote a column, with errors,”

      “Errors”???? Really? Is this all it was? Well, gosh then, I hope the Star issues a correction.

      It is ridiculous to defend perpetuation of misrepresentations in order to manipulate the public, simply because you disagree with the abolitionist position. You say your “views are similar” — well, I believe you, because as far as I can tell, these kinds of bullshit articles are the best the pro-prostitution faction can do. The facts and the ideology don’t back you up, so you resort to lies.

      Thanks for the info re: the coalition. It wasn’t in DiManno’s article because, well, that wasn’t the point of the column, despite what you claim. The purpose of the column was to attack and spread malicious lies about abolitionists. It’s odd for you to say this was the point of the article when the article doesn’t actually provide any accurate information about said coalition…The information you provide here is also not in the link you provided. Where did you get your information?

      “What I can’t understand is, why you (and abolitionists in general) seem so eager to dismiss the opinions of those who have worked to help victims of male violence for decades as well as pay no attention to the women who are sex workers and are legitimately seeking their rights and security of the person.”

      We are challenging the sexist and oppressive sex industry. People can have whatever ‘opinions’ they like and if they are also doing work to help victims that’s great. But if they have no interest in ending violence against women, patriarchy, objectification, and oppression, then we’re going to have a hard time agreeing on a way forward, I suppose.

      What I’d like to know is why prostitution-as-free-choice advocates insist on inventing lies about feminists and abolitionists in order to win their fight? Why can’t you argue with integrity?

    • Me

      Like Stephen M above, I can’t find anything online on the Feminist Coalition either, expect two mentions of the name on SCC’s site on the case. Certainly the list you posted of the intervenors isn’t to be found online, and having looked through about a half of the listed organizations’ web pages, I haven’t come across any mention of their participation in this court case in their news/current events pages where those exist.

      The article you referenced has no links and makes no references I could confirm. The only hits for the quotes in it are the article itself and SWAP Peterborough facebook page.

      The Toronto Star article quoted a Feminist Coalition factum that can’t be found anywhere online except in that same article:
      “As the Feminist Coalition’s factum puts it: ‘The simple fact of making a sexual act dependant on a monetary transaction does not in itself create violence or exploitation.'”

      Please explain.

    • sens et bois

      “What I can’t understand is, why you (and abolitionists in general) seem so eager to dismiss the opinions of those who have worked to help victims of male violence for decades”

      I can’t speak for others, but I look at how prostituted women are the most raped and murdered women in the world and then see you trying to give credit to pro-legalization folks for keeping prostituted women safer from male violence “for decades.”

      If the past few decades are your evidence, the ability of sex workers to self regulate violence out of the industry is the biggest regulatory failure of all time, I mean bigger than Enron because those people lost their jobs and pensions but they weren’t bodily brutalized and murdered.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I find it very odd that none of this information you have provided here, Antonia, is available online anywhere. Are you able to let us know where you got this information?

  • Jackie Tilley

    I loved your argument in response to being compared a religious organization or a traditional family mob. You helped to make my decision about the decriminalization of prostitution so much clearer. Thank you!

  • Antonia

    Wow Meaghan. Shame on you. I will be posting the reply that you didn’t post here on the Facebook group.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Your comment’s posted. Get a job/life.

  • Antonia

    Ooops. Apologies. It just showed up. That was weird.

    • joy

      It’s not “weird”, Antonia, it’s comment moderation.

      Which is not the same as “censorship!!”, despite that popular misconception, because Meghan routinely publishes opinions that are not in line with her own (as she demonstrated here). Many feminist blogs require comments to go into a moderation queue before being approved, because we are routinely subject to shitstorms of (usually male) vitriol that can be wearying or even triggering for readers to slog through. Meghan is one of the bloggers who chooses not to subject readers to that kind of time-wasting and/or emotional distress, which is really considerate.

      If you are not familiar with the onslaught of bullshit I mentioned, maybe it’s because your ‘feminism’ is not terribly controversial to the oppressor class, eg the people in power.

      • vouchsafer

        Good point.

        The Decriminalization faction is doing the work of entrenching a system of domination whereby women’s only recourse is to secure financial means through prostitution, an institution that perpetuates the objectification of women.
        Why would the patriarchical mainstream wish to impede them?

  • nina

    why would sex workers think feminists (or abolitionists) are on their side? anyone can say they want to eliminate sex work to protect women, but you can’t expect people to be happy when you make it impossible for them to do their job.

    “In Sweden, one of the progressive countries that’s adopted the Nordic model, when the police come across a john and a prostitute they offer the man the choice of admitting the offense and paying a fine, based on income, or going to court (but then risking publicity). The prostituted woman, “who hasn’t broken any law, is offered help from social services if she wants to leave prostitution. Otherwise, she’s allowed to go.”

    so she can go, but without getting paid because her client got busted? and having social help she may not wantforced on her? so why would sex workers trust you if you want to force them to leave their jobs/make it impossible to do their jobs? how does making it impossible to be a sex worker actually help women who want to be sex workers?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Nina — I understand that some women working in the sex industry want to keep their jobs, as individuals. But the purpose of feminism is to work towards an equal society free from oppression and to end violence against women. The idea is to provide women with other options. Maybe a few women truly want or would truly want, in an equal society, to be sex workers, but most don’t and your trampling over the human rights of all other women because you want to hang on to your job (which, for the record, no one is taking from you) tells me that you have little to no interest in the feminist movement, in which case, I have to wonder where this conversation could possibly go?

      • nina

        it can go wherever you like :)

        what i don’t understand is how wanting to be a sex worker is trampling the human rights of women?

        and if johns are being arrested, it would make sex work much more difficult. so i can see that as an argument that it is taking the job away.

        but i am more confused about why women who choose sex work are causing a human rights violation for other women?

        • Meghan Murphy

          Wanting to be a sex worker isn’t trampling the human rights of women. But defending your individual choice to do sex work by standing up for an industry that exploits and abuses and murders and objectifies and oppresses thousands of other women and contributes to the larger oppression of women as a whole, does.

          Men don’t have the right to access women’s bodies. Men are the ones doing the harm to prostituted women. There is no reason why that needs to be legal.

    • stephen m

      @nina: Meghan is right but I just have to try to convince you that you are being deceived by the bright lure of full decriminalization.

      Just for a moment lets follow the full decriminalization route and see what will happen. I don’t think you will HAPPY with that conclusion. Just a quick overview, some from existing fact in other countries and a little logical extrapolation from me:

      Full decriminalization absolves the government, (you and I) from all responsibility. We will open prostitution up to the “market forces” (read big money) and let it all manage and regulate itself. The big money moves in and hires women as private contractors so there are NO benefits for the prostitutes. We next see trafficked women brought in as legal foreign workers who will work very inexpensively so all women will get the new minimum wage, after all who wants to pay more. We all know the problems with the foreign nanny program and its abuses of the women involved don’t we. Now extrapolate that to prostitution. The hotel, bar, convention etc. concessions will all be won by the big money organizations. The mom and pop operations will find it very hard to stay in business. Not only that but your “shelf life” will be shortened with all the new fresh young women being brought in by the big operations.

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