C-36: Some initial thoughts on Canada's new prostitution bill

Most of you are likely aware by now that Canada’s federal government has unveiled their new prostitution bill. I wrote about it for VICE this week and based on talking to a number of women on the issue, here are the conclusions I’ve come to for the time being. I say “for the time being” because I think at this point we’re still speculating about the purpose of one particular (problematic) provision.

Ok. So first a very brief summary of key aspects of the proposed legislation, called Bill C-36, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act:

  • buying sex is criminalized
  • pimping is criminalized
  • advertising for sexual services is criminalized unless it is the prostitute themselves who is doing the advertising
  • prostituted people are decriminalized BUT there is a communication provision in there that leaves open the possibility to criminalize the sale of sex if it is being sold in a public area where there might be children around.

The purpose of the bill is to target the exploiters. It explicitly challenges men’s right to buy sex and positions women in prostitution as victims, not criminals. There is money ($20 million, which I’m not convinced is enough) for exiting services and to support front-line work. The language used in the bill is very heartening and actually states that prostitution is inherently exploitative (which it is), that it “has a disproportionate impact on women and children,” and that “the objectification of the human body and the commodification of sexual activity” causes “social harm.” It explicitly names demand as the problem which needs to be addressed: “it is important to denounce and prohibit the purchase of sexual services because it creates a demand for prostitution.”

All of this kind of thrills me. This language is explicitly feminist in that it names men as the problem and points to gender inequality as a key factor in terms of why prostitution exists in the first place and in terms of who is exploited in prostitution.

What is troubling is the communication provision. We don’t know why it’s there and we don’t know how it might play out in real life. It’s possible that “think of the children!” was stuck in there to appease Conservative voters who are concerned about prostitution happening around kids or in their (wealthy) neighbourhoods (meaning it could be a NIMBY provision). It’s also possible that the provision is just an excuse to leave the door open to criminalize the most vulnerable — women working on the streets, Aboriginal women. It’s possible that, as promised, the focus will remain on criminalizing the pimps and johns and that the women will be left alone but if that was the intention, it would be great to take that communication provision out entirely. It could simply be applied to buyers, not sellers — I see no real need to criminalize the women even if it were a NIMBY law (which I don’t support, for the record — just trying to get inside the brains of Conservatives…).

So. There are very good things in the bill and there is a potentially bad thing in the bill. It isn’t, in my opinion, accurate to say that Canada has adopted the Nordic model, though we are much closer than we were previously. The Nordic model does not include a provision that could potentially criminalize prostituted people if in a a public place “where persons under the age of 18 can reasonably be expected to be present.” But the reality is that we are in a better position to advocate for what we want now than if, for example, the proposal were to fully decriminalize or if it weren’t so specific in its intention to target demand and support women. I would like to see a commitment to reeducating the police in order to ensure they actually focus on the johns and both leave prostitutes alone and support them if they need support. This is a key part of the Swedish model. It’s also, of course, important to remind ourselves that Sweden has stronger social safety nets and a better welfare system than Canada does and so we need to keep the pressure on in regard to all of these aspects.

I’m particularly unimpressed by certain leftists who have continued to actively spread lies around about the Nordic model and the goals of abolitionists and of this bill. This, for example, is absolutely manipulative:

Like the failed Nordic model, this made-in-Canada approach criminalizes the clients of sex workers, while ostensibly trying to convince sex workers to stop commodifying their bodies, in a hopeless attempt to end the sex trade.

1) The Nordic model has been very successful in terms of curbing demand and helping prostitutes exit the industry. To call it a failure is an outright lie. Check your integrity and journalistic ethics, folks.

2) The goal of abolitionists, the Nordic model, and the proposed Canadian model has absolutely nothing to do with convincing sex workers of anything. The goal is explicitly to target the johns and exploiters.

I have zero respect for people who are promoting and sharing this kind of bullshit and suggest that if you’re going to take a stance, you might start by actually reading the bill.

I’m going to continue thinking and learning about possible impacts and outcomes and so these initial thoughts may change as we move forward. I’m looking forward to hearing all of your thoughts and concerns as well but will note that I’m seeing a lot of folks completely dismissing the bill as “bad” without having even looked at it, which doesn’t feel particularly productive to me.

What would be productive, in my opinion, would be to work together to put pressure on the government and opposition parties to challenge the communication provision and be vocal about our support for the aspects of the bill that confront male power and privilege and work against the exploitative sex industry.

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

  • http://tradfem.wordpress.com Abolissimo

    Hello Meghan,
    Thank you for this very proactive and encouraging summary of the good points and possibly bad point of the new proposed legislation.

    I have also been thinking and posted this question an hour ago, which I am glad to share with your astute readers:

    Before Bedford – even now, since the law against soliciting is still valid – solliciting in public view for the purpose of prostitution was illegal *everywhere*.

    And implementation of this section is, as we know, in the hands of municipalities, who decide arbitrarily of various bylaws to « protect » areas and « dump » john activity elsewhere (e.g. in the poorest boroughs).
    But they rely on the Criminal Code to do it.

    Sio my question is: With article 213.1* in the proposed Bill, aren’t the feds actually *restricting* that municipal privilege by narrowing down to very specific cases (impeding automotive traffic and in places where there is a reasonable possibility of minors being present) the ambit of such bylaws, which are the scourge of street-prostituted women?

    It would be interesting to know if – even under the Swedish model – Swedish or Nowegian cities *do* prohibit, at the by-law level, soliciting near schools or children’s parks, for instance. An ally in France, for instance, tells me that any prostitution activity whatever that is close to schools, for example, is simply unthinkable because it falls under the obscenity laws, corruption of minors etc. (laws that have nothing to do with prostitution), and pimps are VERY careful about it”

    *213 (1.1) (1.1) Everyone is guilty of an offence punishable
    on summary conviction who communicates
    with any person — for the purpose of offering
    or providing sexual services for
    consideration — in a public place, or in any
    place open to public view, that is or is next to a
    place where persons under the age of 18 can
    reasonably be expected to be present. (http://bit.ly/1tOGC5e))

    What do you think?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hmmm… Ok that’s a useful question and way of looking at it Abolissimo. See this is the thing. I can’t figure out the motives behind that provision. I’m going to keep trying to figure this one out. Thanks for this perspective.

  • http://djupgron.wordpress.com Henke

    “Like the failed Nordic model, this made-in-Canada approach criminalizes the clients of sex workers, while ostensibly trying to convince sex workers to stop commodifying their bodies, in a hopeless attempt to end the sex trade.”

    heh yeah, if it in fact had failed that might had been true.. but it has not failed at all.

  • http://www.montrealcyclechic.com lagatta à montréal

    Hello Meghan, I think this is very important:

    quoting you: “It’s also, of course, important to remind ourselves that Sweden has stronger social safety nets and a better welfare system than Canada does and so we need to keep the pressure on in regard to all of these aspects”.

    I think the Cons have proven themselves utterly incapable of even maintaining the social safety nets (the welfare system is a social safety net), let alone improving them. Their failure to even acknowledge the scope of the Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women catastrophe is proof of that. I don’t trust their feminist rhetoric – it reminds me of the “feminist” justifications of the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It is true that there is a false leftism that views the sex trade as empowering, when it is a very severe form of physical and psychological violence against vulnerable people in the trade. There is a tendency to state that the Nordic model has “failed” without proof, although France and the European Union have adopted it. And that all pro-abolitionist researchers are bogus somehow.

    Have you read Heather Mallick’s dossier in The Star?

    It will be interesting to observe the reaction of the opposition parties.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I agree that it would be naive to put faith in the Cons re: safety nets and welfare. That said, I’m still going to push. My understanding is that the provinces have much of the control over welfare rates… So we have *some* options, I hope.

      • http://twitter.com/Jan4Matt Jan (@Jan4Matt)

        Do you have any information on whether prostitution in Canada is (disproportionately) concentrated in certain provinces ?

        • sunnydee

          Larger provinces have more sex workers than smaller ones, i don’t think you can consider any of it disproportionate. No one has actually done a study (they may pretend to have stats) but other than Calgary who recently determined that there are 1000 to 3000 sex workers, with 70-95% of them working indoors, i doubt if anyone has real numbers. We know for sure that Sweden did not do any quantitative analysis of the sex workers in 1999 prior to the law in order to come up with the figures they claim had been reduced. We do know that New Zealand did research the numbers in 2003 when the PRA was introduced, so they were able to properly compare 2003 stats with 2008 stats.

          • stephen m

            @sunnydee:

            Citations?

  • Nick

    My hopes were high but in the end I think this has turned into a Conservative version of the ‘nordic’ model, which is highly problematic.

    The biggest issue I have is that the Nordic model was predicated on providing money and other services to women wanting to exit prostitution and education to the general public and to the police. While Mckay has said they will put $20 million of funding towards helping women exit, I think this amount of money is far far too little and is a pathetic gesture to pretending they’re adopting a Nordic type model.

    I also have a huge problem with the criminalization of selling sex around minors, what does that mean for women selling around underage prostitutes? or from their homes? I like you think this was a conservative move to please their constituency but that has essentially ruined any thoughts for me that they are committed to a Nordic model.

    I do really appreciate their commitments stated on the first page, and I hope that these commitments will enable a Nordic Model to be developed in the future.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I completely share your concerns, Nick.

  • http://autocannibalism.wordpress.com sarah m

    “What would be productive, in my opinion, would be to work together to put pressure on the government and opposition parties to challenge the communication provision…”

    If nothing else, this.

    I would add a few other things in the bill that appear to me to be unacceptable from a feminist and harm reduction perspective, but communicating is the big one.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m glad we have some common interests here :)

  • Rob

    weather or not you accept the idea of legalized prostitution, the idea that the “Nordic model” of criminalization can actually “curb the demand” for prostitution (that is the willingness to purchase sex) among men is the weirdest thing I have heard anyone say about this topic. How exactly has criminalizing the purchase of drugs actually curbed the demand for drugs?

    I’m not necessarily saying I’m against the Nordic model, anything that attempts to take away the social stigma and persecution of sex workers is invariably a good thing; all I’m saying is don’t be surprised when this new bill doesn’t actually do the things you expect it to do (protect women), because guess what: it hasn’t actually changed anything in Sweden; you remember a few years back a newspaper in a Swedish town put up a false ad for sex with teenaged girls up and by the end of the day something like 200 men responded, yes curb desire indeed. And how the hell could you possibly quantify “desire for prostitution” to begin with, I mean reliable statistics on prostitution are notoriously hard to come by in the first place, so unless Stockholm has come up with some sort of new technology that can examine the intimate desires of it’s entire male population, anything you say about “reducing desire for prostitution” is pretty much bunk.

    When the laws in Sweden were first enacted in the late 90’s, the assumption was that as criminality shifted from the supply side to the demand side, prostituted women would be jumping over themselves to get johns (their oppressors) arrested and save themselves from patriarchy, which is funny because according to data from 2006, out of 1500 men charged with prostitution in Sweden only 86 (slightly more than 5%) were actually convicted, what’s even more interesting is that even though there are provisions in the law for johns to be imprisoned (I think the range is 6 months to a year), no one convicted of purchasing sex has ever actually been sent to prison, ever. According to figures released in 2010 police in that country have reported a dramatic increase in the number of men reported paying for sex, and all this DESPITE Sweden being considered the number 1 country in terms of gender equality according to the UN. You want to know why – because sex workers aren’t partial to getting their clients (the people who pay them) arrested.

    My guess is that despite the best efforts of both Radical Feminists and the Conservative Party of Canada (who are inching ever so closely together these days) this new legislation will see a dramatic rise in the sale of sex in this country

    • Meghan Murphy

      1) Since when are we trying to stop people from doing drugs??
      2) One in 13 buy sex in Sweden now whereas before the law it was one in eight.
      3) “the assumption was that as criminality shifted from the supply side to the demand side, prostituted women would be jumping over themselves to get johns (their oppressors) arrested and save themselves from patriarchy” — Well no, I don’t think that was the assumption or intention. I think the intention/assumption was that it would deter men from purchasing, which it has, and provide the option for women to call the cops if their john tries to rip them off or is violent.

      • http://autocannibalism.wordpress.com sarah m

        “the option for women [& other workers] to call the cops if their john tries to rip them off or is violent”

        This, too, could be usefully spelled out in a better piece of legislation. Of course it has always been illegal to rape or rob a sex worker, but police haven’t typically taken sex workers’ complaints seriously. When cops in Merseyside UK started treating crimes against sex workers as hate crimes, their rate of conviction of bad tricks skyrocketed.

        I don’t think it’s enough to just hope enforcement plays out in a way that helps reduce violence against sex workers. I’d really like to see legislation that specifically addresses the kinds of behaviours that make sex work harder to tolerate (e.g., violence, threats to ruin business, pressure to work without condoms) and includes a process for reporting, investigating and addressing them, even for workers who choose not to report the clients they don’t consider bad dates.

        • http://autocannibalism.wordpress.com sarah m

          (In my fantasy world, there would already be labour legislation heavily penalizing bosses and consumers who endangered workers, and that protection could be extended into the legal and illegal sectors of the sex industry. But that is a fantasy, and this bill is a reality. So.)

          • sunnydee

            there are already laws against this, even for sex workers, because after all even sex workers are people, and laws protect the people.

          • http://autocannibalism.wordpress.com sarah m

            Enforcement of labour legislation, even in legal sex worksites, is minimal to nonexistent. That is why we see so many sex workers misclassified as independent contractors, illegally fined by employers, working in unsafe conditions, working without income protections such as EI and CPP. In illegal sex worksites, criminalization precludes the use of labour legislation to protect workers.

            I’m not expressing doubt that sex workers are human; I’m expressing doubt that either C36 or current labour legislation are particularly useful, as written, for dealing with sex workers’ labour issues.

        • lizor

          “Of course it has always been illegal to rape or rob a sex worker, but police haven’t typically taken sex workers’ complaints seriously. When cops in Merseyside UK started treating crimes against sex workers as hate crimes, their rate of conviction of bad tricks skyrocketed.”

          Yes, I think police attitudes and actual practices are key, especially given the farce that was Wally Oppal’s enquiry into the missing and murdered women and what was uncovered (most police conduct in relation to that issue still hidden, I fear) about the VPD. I believe that a lobby to overhaul police conduct and procedure regarding sellers is extremely important.

        • Rob

          I wholeheartedly agree with you

        • Meghan Murphy

          Yes, I guess the trouble before was that a woman couldn’t call the cops because she had to fear arrest herself whereas now — and under the Nordic model — they are no longer doing something illegal so would be able to go to the police when something happens, knowing that the man is already doing something illegal and is more likely to be punished, whereas she is not.

          • http://autocannibalism.wordpress.com sarah m

            I worry that clients will try to use it as a bargaining chip. “Let me touch your pussy before I pay because you might be a cop… let me fuck you without a condom or I’ll think you’re a cop… give me a discount or I’ll post on a review website that you’re a cop…” and so on. They pull that kind of shit already, when they really have no reason to worry about being arrested.

            So if the law can be adapted to give the worker the upper hand (e.g., if she and the client both know without a doubt that the client will be very heavily penalized for intimidation or assault), that could be a very practical help to sex workers.

            If it’s up to individual cops (like the ones who didn’t press charges against the serial killer in Vancouver when a woman reported him for stabbing her) or otherwise not standard practice everywhere, then it falls apart. Clients who want to be violent will go where they think they won’t be reported.

            And of course for any of it to work, sex workers need to be free to call the cops, which means being free of the communicating law.

          • Meghan Murphy

            That’s a good point which had not occurred to me. (And I agree with you on the other points.)

          • http://autocannibalism.wordpress.com sarah m

            I would imagine that this adaptation could be as easy as adding a clause making it a separate offense to violate x y and z sections of the criminal code (ones related to robbery and violent crime) in the process of purchasing sex.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Hey Sarah – I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the advertising provision?

          • http://autocannibalism.wordpress.com sarah m

            I remember for awhile when I didn’t have internet access, another woman posted my ads on Craigslist for me. That kind of thing shouldn’t be a crime. Then when CL closed, and I didn’t have a credit card to use Backpage, getting ads online was a logistical nightmare.

            I don’t have much love for anybody who makes money off someone else’s labour, and escort advertisers often have close ties to the owners of review websites (who could contribute more to humanity by just spontaneously combusting), but I wonder how indoor sex workers are going to deal with it, if advertising rates skyrocket or there’s just nowhere to advertise, besides standing on a street corner. That kinda defeats the purpose of decriminalizing sellers, since going outside anywhere but the most abandoned parts of town puts the workers in violation of the communicating provision. So workers can’t win.

            Is there maybe a more targeted way to criminalize making money off someone else’s sexual labour, without limiting the workers’ options so much? The way this is written, it feels like they are still going after the workers with a version of the bawdy house law, but just wriggling around the SCC decision by pretending it’s about the advertisers. It’s not written from the perspective of someone who knows what sex workers do on a day-to-day basis and truly cares about their wellbeing. Feminist legislation, while perhaps still criminalizing making money off of advertising, *would* be written with concern for sex workers and with the goal of enhancing their wellbeing and equality.

            How would you write the advertising provision, Meghan?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well I thought the advertising provision was written well, but was wondering if maybe I was missing anything so thank you for your perspective!

          • sunnydee

            They were supposed to acknowledge that sex workers have business relationships with 3rd parties which is why living off the avails 212 (1) (j) came down, however they are lumping 3rd parties, with johns and pimpsl. This means to me that advertising is hit, whether a single escort needs someone else to post her own indy ads, or a massage parlour or agency is posting ads for her, all seen as exploitive under this law. How is an mp or agency going to post advertisements for their businesses, and how is anyone going to work as an employee, which is by far a preferred way of working for many who do not want to do their own booking, marketing, advertising, nor do they want worry about where they are working. You really think the 210 bawdy house law coming down makes a bit of difference if all agency and mp owners are considered criminals under the law?

            There are repercussions far and above what the general public knows that can be used against sex workers due to this C-36

          • http://autocannibalism.wordpress.com sarah m

            Thinking about this more, it also needs tightening because it’s easy to get around. Most escort ads only mention sexual services in code already, so that’s easy enough to take out. And then agencies will just make workers post their own ads in whatever places will host them. That’s why I said targeting the advertisers seems like an excuse. It’s not targeted enough to stop exploitation.

          • lizor

            This is an interesting piece re:police attitudes towards prostituted women/sex workers.

            http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/Chief-Clunis-says-rounding-up-sex-workers-would-further-victimize-them-262147181.html

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh thanks for sharing this! I read it last week. Very heartening!

        • Laur

          Rob–
          My primary question is: why do you care so much that men have sexual access to women’s bodies?

          The Nordic Model is not just about arrests, although holding “johns” and pimps accountable is important; it is also about changing the way the public generally views prostitution. We have laws against sexual harassment in publicly funded education and employment, but this has not stopped either. The difference is, women now know that if they have been sexually harassed or battered, it is against the law. If they want, they can tell the perp that what they’re doing is illegal. And, if they wish and are able, they can take legal action. And men’s behavior in the workplace and in education has changed–not enough, but it has.

          “When the laws in Sweden were first enacted in the late 90′s, the assumption was that as criminality shifted from the supply side to the demand side, prostituted women would be jumping over themselves to get johns (their oppressors) arrested and save themselves from patriarchy, which is funny because according to data from 2006, out of 1500 men charged with prostitution in Sweden only 86 (slightly more than 5%) were actually convicted, what’s even more interesting is that even though there are provisions in the law for johns to be imprisoned (I think the range is 6 months to a year), no one convicted of purchasing sex has ever actually been sent to prison, ever.”

          Whose assumption was that? It certainly wasn’t mine. Oppressed groups don’t “jump over themselves” to be saved; every form of oppression works by consent. As Harriet Tubman said, “I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

          I completely agree that the laws are not being enforced enough; prison sentences need to be mandatory. Otherwise purchasing sexual access to women’s bodies is on par with getting a speeding ticket.

          “And how the hell could you possibly quantify “desire for prostitution” to begin with, I mean reliable statistics on prostitution are notoriously hard to come by in the first place, so unless Stockholm has come up with some sort of new technology that can examine the intimate desires of it’s entire male population, anything you say about “reducing desire for prostitution” is pretty much bunk. ”

          Give me a break. It’s actions that count to women, believe me. I’d rather not have any man fantasize about raping a woman, but there is a big difference between having that thought in one’s head and actually doing it.

          Finally, it shows a great deal of contempt for women to compare anti-drug laws to the Nordic model, which is one step in the right direction for women. When someone is buying marijuana, all they want is marijuana.. In prostitution, men are buying “do what I say” sex. Men feel entitled to this, and are then able to go on with their lives without another thought, while survivors endure a lifetime of PTSD on par with soldiers returning from war.

          • sunnydee

            Please don’t perpetuate a stereotype by claiming you know that consensual sex work is men buying ‘do what i say’ sex, you’ll be laughed out of any debate with actual sex workers. Clients of sex workers know one thing, and that is she determines what is or is not available. There is no sense of entitlement here, the services are advertised, it is legal, they respond to the advertising knowing all of this. The PTSD thing is just nonsense if you try to apply it to all sex workers. More Farley bunk.

          • stephen m

            @sunnydee:

            Citations?

          • Missfit

            What do you think men are paying for if not ‘do what I say’ sex? If you don’t provide them what they want, they gonna get it somewhere else. The purpose of the sex industry is to provide men what they want.

          • Laur

            Sunnydee,
            “Clients of sex workers know one thing, and that is she determines what is or is not available.”

            If a woman in the sex trade doesn’t advertise certain services, she isn’t going to get paid. Or not get paid enough. The man can just go down the street and pay someone else for what he wants, and yes, what he feels entitled to.

            Most clients are partnered, so they’re looking for the type of sex they’re partners are not willing to give.

            I find it interesting, too, that women who have never been in the sex trade are welcome to voice their views when they’re in line with continued male access to women’s bodies, but as soon as non-sex workers critique male entitlement, they’re told to shut up because they’re not actually in the sex trade.

            Not to mention, the ENTIRE radical feminist critique of the sexploitation trades COMES FROM the voices of women (and yes, some men and transfolks) who have been in it.

        • sunnydee

          criminalization, especially of clients, tends to lead to the kind of working conditions you suggest are ideal. In Sweden the number one complaint of sex workers on the street are that they have to negotiate to use condoms (and anyway, police use the presence of condoms to harrass sex workers), and it has driven good clients to the indoor escorts, away from the street workers, leaving them with less ideal clients. In addition, sex workers are unlikely to call police if they work indoors, because then police will know their location, and landlords then are told to evict her because the landlords are not permitted to ‘profit’ i.e. rent to sex workers.

          • stephen m

            @sunnydee:

            Citations?

      • Rob

        Meghan,

        In response to point 1):

        Just because we aren’t trying to stop people from using drugs, doesn’t mean it isn’t related to stopping people from buying sex, both involve using legislation to criminalize behaviour a sizable segment of society finds ethically wrong and/or dangerous, in the hope that said behaviour will eventually be greatly reduced or even eliminated. The history of the criminalization of drug use being a prime example of how that doesn’t work at all. Now obviously, drug use and the purchase of sex differ in that the primary victim of drug use is considered the purchaser/user while the primary victim of purchasing sex, if one accepts the radical feminist view of sex work at face value, is the seller. I think what your basically trying to tell me is that drug use is a matter of personal ethics and consequence , while prostitution; again, if taking radical feminist theory on the subject at face value, a matter that negatively impacts the rights of all women/girls everywhere, and thus the two are unrelated. A brief look at history shows that the issue of controlling drug consumption and women’s rights haven’t always been unrelated. In the early part of the 20th century the temperance movement, which was tied closely to the women’s suffrage movement (in fact some of the earliest women’s rights organizations of the 19th century were based on the concept of temperance) successfully lobbied the American government to ban the sale and purchase of alcohol in the 1920’s. They viewed the consumption of alcohol as inextricably linked to violence against women, due to husbands beating their wives and children in a drunken rage, and believed that, if they could prohibit the consumption of alcohol, then the rate of men beating women could be greatly reduced, if not altogether eliminated. They staged protests, sometimes violently destroying bars and distilleries; produced research which backed up their claims, and rallied social and religious leaders to their cause. I don’t have to tell you that this movement, while noble in it’s intention of preventing violence against women, was ultimately a colossal failure, because while alcohol abuse can exacerbate human rage, it’s not the liquor that makes men beat women, it’s the men that make men beat women. The only thing that prohibition did was give rise to a vast, violent criminal enterprise which supplied the public with the alcohol they desired at a greatly exaggerated cost in spite of stiff laws for doing so. Now the question we need to ask ourselves in regards to the issue currently before us is this: do people (men) desire sex enough that they are willing to pay for it, despite the risk of criminal prosecution and the inevitable social stigma that comes with it? The answer, invariably, is YES. In hindsight its easy to view the temperance movement now as misguided, but that certainly wasn’t how it was viewed at the time of prohibition. What I wonder to myself is this: What will the landscape of the sex industry in this country look like after 10 years of the Tories “made in Canada” Nordic model?

        In response to point 2)

        As mentioned in my earlier response, reliable data on the number of men seeking sexual services in Sweden is extremely hard to come by, because buying sex in Sweden is illegal, meaning men who are inclined to purchase sex aren’t likely to announce the fact to government investigators. Conversely,even though Sweden is the most feminist country in history, and doesn’t prosecute sex workers, and treats them all as victims that deserve our sympathy and pity, they ultimately work in an industry that the government is actively trying to destroy, so society ends up stigmatizing them anyways, in some cases denying them social services when they refuse to leave the industry, meaning most of them aren’t too keen on letting people know they are sex workers, and so inevitably, reliable data on the number of women entering and leaving prostitution in Sweden is extremely difficult to come by. In fact, pretty much every report ever prepared by the government examining the desired effects of the new prostitution laws, on both the number of men seeking sex for money and the number of women providing sex for money has the word “INCONCLUSIVE” written all over it. In other words, the authorities in Sweden themselves don’t actually know if the laws they created to end sex work are, in fact, ending sex work. So when you, tell me that the number of men buying sex has gone from 1 in 8 to 1 in 13, please forgive me for asking where exactly you got that information, please?

        In response to point 3)

        In regards to the first part dealing with your belief that the laws have successfully deterred men from purchasing sex, please see my response to point 2), and finally in regards to the second part dealing with the intention of the law being to give the sex worker the ability to call the cops on abusive johns without the fear of themselves getting arrested, I can only completely agree with you

        • Meghan Murphy

          “Just because we aren’t trying to stop people from using drugs, doesn’t mean it isn’t related to stopping people from buying sex, both involve using legislation to criminalize behaviour a sizable segment of society finds ethically wrong and/or dangerous, in the hope that said behaviour will eventually be greatly reduced or even eliminated.”

          The reasons feminists want to abolish prostitution is because it is exploitative, violent, and perpetuates gender inequality. I could care less if people use drugs (which isn’t the same as saying I am not interested in support for those struggling with addiction — I very much am, though how I’m interested in seeing that happen is a whole other story) — everyone uses drugs. Just some of them are legal so that Big Pharma can profit and some aren’t.

          We’re looking at prostitution through an equality lens and trying to end violence against women. It is not at all the same thing as drug use.

          “Conversely,even though Sweden is the most feminist country in history, and doesn’t prosecute sex workers, and treats them all as victims that deserve our sympathy and pity, they ultimately work in an industry that the government is actively trying to destroy, so society ends up stigmatizing them anyways…”

          Women in prostitution are still stigmatized under legalization. Part of that is because women simply don’t want to do prostitution. It doesn’t feel good to have to sexual service/be fucked by someone you don’t desire. Part of that is because of how men see prostitutes/women — men don’t respect prostituted women and think that they are disposable objects that exist to satisfy their sadistic fantasies/do what their wives/girlfriends won’t.

          “So when you, tell me that the number of men buying sex has gone from 1 in 8 to 1 in 13, please forgive me for asking where exactly you got that information, please?”

          From the Kajsa Ekis Ekman who has done extensive research and compiled extensive research in her book “Being and Being Bought,” which I highly recommend you read http://feministcurrent.com/8514/being-and-being-bought-an-interview-with-kajsa-ekis-ekman/

          • Rob

            “men don’t respect prostituted women and think that they are disposable objects that exist to satisfy their sadistic fantasies/do what their wives/girlfriends won’t”

            OK, but how do I go about respecting prostituted women, other than not having paid sex with them, I’m not trying to be sarcastic or impolite, but what it seems your telling me (and I appreciate you taking the time to respond and educate), is that it’s not possible for me as a male to view prostitutes (or any women for that matter) as both an object of sexual desire and an individual human being with her own thoughts, feelings, and emotions; the only way I can respect prostituted women is for them to stop being prostitutes. I believe the problem lies in our failure to discuss sexual ethics and boundaries. Just because I may want to fuck someone doesn’t mean I believe I’m ENTITLED to fuck that person, or even believe it’s a good idea to let that person know I want to fuck them – but I still really want to do it, and in spite of what you may think, no amount of social conditioning/education can change who/how I want to fuck, all I can do is treat people (women) the way I expect to be treated, which I know may sound like a cop-out, because my personal experience is not the same as that of women, but its still the best I can do. I put entitled in cap locks because I think entitlement is the key word here; when I read your posts or listen to your podcasts and I keep hearing you talk about “porn culture” or “rape culture”, frankly, I begin to lose interest – because I’m not entirely sure what your talking about, but when you talk about ENTITLEMENT CULTURE, then I say to myself “ok now Meghan’s speaking my language”. What I have difficulty in comprehending is how the sex industry, not just prostitution, but porn, strip clubs and the like, cause me to negatively view both the women that work in those industries, and women that don’t work in those industries, as objects which exist exclusively for my gratification, because well, I don’t.

            …..and thanks for the letting me know where you got your info regarding rates of men seeking prostitution, I’ll be checking that when I read Ekman’s book:)

          • Meghan Murphy

            “what it seems your telling me (and I appreciate you taking the time to respond and educate), is that it’s not possible for me as a male to view prostitutes (or any women for that matter) as both an object of sexual desire and an individual human being with her own thoughts, feelings, and emotions; the only way I can respect prostituted women is for them to stop being prostitutes. I believe the problem lies in our failure to discuss sexual ethics and boundaries.”

            No I don’t think that’s what I’m saying and I don’t think it’s impossible for a ‘male to view prostitutes (or any women for that matter) as both an object of sexual desire and an individual human being with her own thoughts, feelings, and emotions…’

            I do think, though, that prostitution exists because men don’t see women as full human beings and think, on some level, that they are entitled to sexual pleasure/access to women’s bodies. I was talking about why I thought prostituted women were stigmatized, not creating a black and white binary about what individual men are capable of thinking re: the humanity of prostituted women. Whether or not it’s ‘possible’ for men to see prostituted women as individuals with thoughts, feelings and emotions isn’t really the issue. Of course that’s ‘possible’ — but that’s not what’s behind the idea or the reality of prostitution and how men treat women in prostitution.

            Like, sexist men, I’m sure, see women as individuals with thoughts and feelings as well as objects of desire. So what? I mean, that doesn’t change the sexist behaviour/thoughts.

            I also think it’s useful to remember that women are oppressed as a class. Likewise, prostituted women are offered up to men as a particular ‘class’ of women who men can use and abuse in ways (as I mentioned earlier) they might not be able with their wives/girlfriends. So I think we get a bit off track if we start speculating about what some individual men may or may not think about some individual prostitutes.

          • Laur

            @Rob,
            If you are looking for encouragement to stop participating in purchasing sexual services, I highly recommend Ekman’s book. If you are looking to come up with ways to rationalize your sex purchasing behaviors by coming up with counter-arguments to feminist ones, well, we’re not interested in hearing them.

            “and in spite of what you may think, no amount of social conditioning/education can change who/how I want to fuck, all I can do is treat people (women) the way I expect to be treated”

            Change is typically generational; you may indeed have certain sex fantasies, urges, all your life. That doesn’t mean you have to ACT on these urges. It’s the actions that count. Really. You may feel compelled to do something but if it hurts another person and/or if you are feeling guilty yourself, that’s a sign something is majorly wrong with your behavior.

            You are saying you don’t feel entitled to women’s bodies, yet have no problems with going to a strip club, where women’s sole purpose is pleasing their customers, the majority of, and the ones with the most money, certainly are men.

            I can’t wrap my head how you can post honestly that watching porn doesn’t involve entitlement. Women (and men) used in porn can never get the video taken off the Internet. Legally speaking, they can’t. Even if they are raped at gunpoint, and it was videotaped. You don’t know what you’re watching, how it was produced, or if the women still want it to be out. If you want more information about why women formerly in the industry, as well as many feminists, oppose the porn industry, one blog to start with is rageagainstthemanchine.com There are many, many others. If you would like more blog suggestions on porn/prostitution, myself and others here will gladly give them to you.

            I understand you treat women in prostitution as you would want to be treated. The problem is, as you have pointed out, you really don’t *know* how she wants to be treated, and she may well have very low-self worth and not think she deserves to be treated well.

            You CAN change, get a life, and perhaps speak to other men as an ex-john. But that’s up to you.

          • Missfit

            You mention wanting to fuck a person, not being ENTITLED to fuck that person, but still really wanting to do it. So what? So what if you ‘still really want to do it’? Just because you want something does not mean you have to have it regardless. If you really respect someone and care about this person’s ‘thoughts, feelings and emotions’ (as you said), you don’t use that person’s vulnerabilities and throw money to do what you want with this person’s body. Because you can’t really know the thoughts and emotions of a prostituted woman, she is paid for you not to know or to mislead you if necessary. And that there is a minority of women with choices who really truly enjoy sexually pleasing any man any way he wishes does not change that fact – you don’t know. If you want to fuck (as you said) someone, you seduce this person, you get to know her/him, his/her thoughts, feelings and emotions and you act in accordance with these. Women do it all the time. Sometimes, we really want to ‘fuck’ someone, and it does not work out. But we ‘still really want to do it’. We don’t use money to break boundaries. You say you don’t view women as ‘objects that exist exclusively for your gratification’ but in the sex industry, women are paid to be just that.

            You ask ‘how do I go about respecting prostituted women, other than not having paid sex with them’ – maybe the answer is in your question.

        • stephen m

          Please excuse this re-posting, I am trying to get it in the proper location.

          @Rob: I suggest you read the following

          Did Prohibition Really Work? Alcohol Prohibition as a Public Health Innovation
          Jack S. Blocker, Jr, PhD

          Abstract:
          The conventional view that National Prohibition failed rests upon an historically flimsy base…

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470475/

          As Meghan points out, the rest of your premise is also based on similar flimsy and crap research/conclusions. Please take some time to do some serious reading and research before you embarrass yourself again

          • http://www.montrealcyclechic.com lagatta à montréal

            yecch. Prohibition was deeply racist, including against Southern Europeans who tended to use wine moderately, drinking it with meals. I just hate that Fundie, pleasure hating American “culture. Fuck them.

            (This has nothing to do with the sexual enslavement of women, which is horrible).

          • stephen m

            @lagatta à montréal: The point is that @Rob: is operating on the *conventional wisdom* about prohibition which is seriously flawed.

            He should now be interested in reexamining and reevaluating his *conventional wisdom* on the treatment of women. In this case specifically for prostitution.

          • sunnydee

            Because alcohol is like sex how?

          • stephen m

            @sunnydee:

            Perhaps if you took the time to read what you comment on it might help your comprehension. Notice the “conventional wisdom” in asterisks.

            You have stated many supposed facts in your copious posts with no citations to back them up. So you also seem to be using flawed *conventional wisdom* too.

    • http://suvversify.com stacy

      There is a demand for lots of things that have ethical and moral dilemmas. Gambling, murder, cruelty etc. That doesn’t mean society has to tolerate these activates. Sex and libido are behind the demand, but prostitution need not be the accepted outcome.

      • http://epistemicinstruments.wordpress.com Megan

        I’m not even sure sex and libido are behind the demands. That’s the rational, that men are biologically predisposed to have sex (with multiple women), but that in itself is off. In practical terms a man can go back to the same woman over and over if he so chooses, but unless he’s paying high-end prices, or has made that person his ‘girlfriend’ – to survive a prostitute needs more clients. As well, far fewer men are engaged in prostitution than women, and plenty of male prostitutes serve male clients. So it’s the women who are taking on multiple, indiscriminate clients. If one follows the biological argument, that means that women are the ones able (or predisposed) to having sex with multiple indiscriminate partners. And then with a prostitute the sex is for what purpose? Conversations about this don’t recognize the reproductive aspects of female sexuality at all, and barely ask whether prostitutes derive their own sexual pleasure from what they do. Studies out of Netherlands that have surveyed prostitutes’ attitudes pin only 30-40% of them as seeing their activity as tied in any way to their sexuality. Highly undefined as to what that means, since this could mean some will only to BD/SM or serve one gender or another, or who knows what else, rather than giving any indication of the pleasure they may experience. This stuff is actually swept under the carpet via an overweening focus on the buyer’s pleasure and desire, or in some cases sexual education – because that’s what they’re paying for. Underneath that is the simple argument that some women are ‘here’ to give men what they want for a price, whereas other women still exact a price for sex, but ‘don’t give men what they want.’ Hence the need for prostitutes. It’s a circular argument with the demand point of view taking priority over all other considerations.

        I have read research out of Australia where brothel prostitutes who have been interviewed talk about slipping off the the bathroom once they’ve met their clients to apply lubricant “because their clients don’t like the idea that they aren’t aroused.” What is that? Some idea that the seller must motivated by sexual desire to make the offer. This is the big illusion that we are all expected to live under. Our ideas about mens’ libidos and their need for sex is never really interrogated. It’s become such a normal point of view, it’s the fall back, defensible status quo. What’s more to the point is that a prostitute, outside of needing cash from the buyer most likely does not want anything from him/her. This is one reason for the violence against prostitutes – few people like the idea of going with someone who could care less for them. The bad ones refuse to pay, or take out their rage. It’s the buyer’s disfunctional point of view about relationships and sex that is the problem in prostitution. Whether I think they deserve something like a conditional discharge in exchange for john school or counselling, I don’t know. Canada is not a ‘high-user’ country, but there’s still a pervasive negativity toward relationships with women here that is alarming. What men (and women) aren’t entitled to are people who automatically or unconditionally find them sexually or personally attractive.

    • http://furyadept.wordpress.com furyadept

      I don’t understand why you think this model would increase the sale of sex when street prostitution has gone down 50% in Sweden, and while legalization is proven to increase sex trafficking AND cause the expansion of the sex industry, and mostly in the illegal sector ?

      • Rob

        In retrospect I think you might be right and I might have been a little hasty in saying that the Nordic model would actually increase the sale of sex, in all likelihood it probably wouldn’t make a difference in the amount of men seeking sex, but while street prostitution in Sweden has in fact gone done by about 50%, which is a good thing, given it is most dangerous form of prostitution, the same study you got that figure from estimated that street prostitution accounted for slightly less than a quarter of all prostitution in Sweden; the vast majority of it being “indoor” prostitution which takes place in hotel rooms, massage parlours, and private residences – which is much harder for the authorities to track, hence the lack of hard data regarding rates of prostitution; that means that while the authorities can say with certain confidence that street prostitution has been reduced by 50%, due to the fact that street prostitution is relatively easy to track compared to other types, we have no idea of knowing weather those 50% of street prostitutes actually exited the trade or merely switched to the indoor mode of sex work

    • lizor

      Who said anything about “reducing desire”? “Desire” does not equate “demand”. Reducing desire in men to dominate, use and dehumanize women is another conversation about our culture and the way boys are socialized. Here’s a piece (written by a man, so you can take it seriously) re: the roots of sexual entitlement. http://goodmenproject.com/gender-sexuality/why-men-are-so-obsessed-with-sex-jvinc/

      “don’t be surprised when this new bill doesn’t actually do the things you expect it to do” Well thank YOU for the lecture responding to an assertion that you have invented entirely. You are the one who has decided he knows what the bill will “do” when you insist “this new legislation will see a dramatic rise in the sale of sex in this country”.

      This blog is a comment on which aspects might operate in vulnerable women’s favour and which are highly problematic with a huge does of mistrust in the Cons to truly carry through legislation that will offer relief to economically and socially marginalized Canadians. The blog post is an explicit open-ended conversation starter. Your coming here telling us what’s what and inaccurately defining radical feminism as increasingly conservative (that’s a really tired old one – couldn’t you come up with something more original?) shows your total disregard for the issue of women’s safety. Your assertion that reducing “stigma” is of utmost importance without acknowledging exploitation as a real issue as does your crowing about “choice” with no regard to how individual choice impacts other members of our collective, whether thats a neighbourhood or a nation shows us where you stand, loud and clear.

      You support neoliberal capitalist patriarchy. Got it. So why not quit giving lip service to any concern for women’s well-being? At least then you’ll come across as a bit more honest.

      • marv

        Incisive as ever Lizor! Rob’s correlation of drug prohibition and prostitution abolition is reprehensible too. Would he dare juxtapose laws criminalizing racist behaviour and substance use on a People of Colour blog? Is a living, breathing being like some*thing* to consume? Moreover, what if laws designed to prevent slave labour were alleged to be ineffective, should we decriminalize it or vigorously enforce the laws? If sweat shop labourers weren’t partial to having their employer/owners arrested should we seek to legalize the exploitation, adding on a few harm reduction requirements?

        When the anti-slavery movement began to gain traction prior to the Civil War there was an upsurge in violence against black people by whites, and again after the war. White men had a burning rage to keep slaves in their place. Some slaves understandably capitulated not solely out of the fear of death but of having no livelihood.

        I can’t help but think, what is he doing here with his monstrous propaganda? Dicking around?

        • lizor

          Thanks marv! I think your analogy is apt both in terms of the backlash when emancipation came closer to reality and the rationalization that to abolish slavery would be to deprive black people of a good safe choice to remain the property of someone else.

          Also, your point about sweat shop labour is spot on. Certainly a response to the sweatshop question would be to pay wages that reflect the value-added of the construction of the article for sale, making the benefit from the profit of sale proportional.

          I can imagine a sort of utopian world (i.e.non-partrarchy) where sexual service is integrated with therapeutic forms and, like physical and mental health therapists, the practitioner would have completed rigourous training, have gone through a therapeutic process themselves (like clinical psychologists must), be addiction-free, be paid wages conducive to the specialized service and as the authority whose knowledge is being purchased, the sex worker would control everything that happens in the therapy session. I’m willing to bet that Bedford and other pimps would not want to see that sort of protocol for sex work, any more than they’d support the dismantling of patriarchy as it is essential for supplying the raw materials necessary for their particular brand of exploitive profit making: male entitlement and sexual/emotional repression + female abuse and/or poverty.

          I don’t believe such a service can exist within such a deeply toxic culture as ours and many of those that present along the lines of what I have described are dangerous charlatans. (anyone watch the documentary called Sex Magic? It’s infuriating, triggering and upsetting on a number of levels.)

          • Me

            Not to take this too far off topic, sorry if I do, but regarding your imagined utopia, I wonder if there have ever been examples of a healing practice–if that’s the argument–that would’ve included sexual acts? I very highly doubt that. I mean healing where illness is also understood to be communal.

          • lizor

            Hi Me,

            Yeah it was bait of a derail on my part. I have a bad habit of voicing half-formed thoughts when I’m trying to figure something out.

            The short answer is “no” but I do think that movements like naked yoga for men and orgasmic massage for women are helpful, despite they’re being somewhat permeated with the present culture. I do know that sexual and emotional trauma heal much more effectively when the healing is body-based. I don’t think CBT and other talk/think therapies alone can do it. I also think that we are so disembodied as a culture that this feeds the limiting framing we have around sex where the psychological dominates the sensual to the extent that the idea of simply feeling your way to pleasure is pretty marginalized in service to “playing out scenarios” or “celebrating fetishes” or the ever-present domination drama that most people have now seemed to accept as innate to human sexuality (I don’t buy that for a second). Our post-Cartesianism produces yet another layer of sublimation for women as we are culturally identified with the body first.

            There were times in my recovery from sexual abuse that I wished that there was a spiritually connected loving healer who could help me back into the places that were frozen in fear and loathing. But I think I’m lucky in the long run that I did not come across anyone who purported to offer this as I think most of these, from what I can tell, are on some level reiterations of patriarchy/porn.

            Just some raw thoughts… and apologies for veering off topic.

          • lizor

            I was also going to say that the wording of the assertion we keep hearing about “a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body” speaks to that disembodiment – the body is a separated object/commodity. Stealing, raping and driving drunk are all “things we do with our body” – but we conceive of them as things that WE do. Selling sex in 2014 requires bodily dissociation as a practice – which of course is why “training” so often entails rape, and the language belies this.

          • Me

            Thank you for those comments, lizor.

          • lizor

            Thanks for asking. :)

  • http://www.montrealcyclechic.com lagatta à montréal

    I think we all do, at least so far among the commenters. It is a matter of not letting them get away with criminalizing prostituted people, or claiming to espouse a “Nordic Model” without the requisite social support, which has to go far beyond miserable welfare payments, which drive many women (and some vulnerable men, especially young men) into prostitution in the first place. It requires the same kind of support that (at least in theory) is provided to workers whose lines of work or workplaces (when it is the only one in a smallish town or remote region). In Québec I’d think of the examples of the asbestos workers and the workers at the Gentilly nuclear power plant.

    For a long time, politicians and the more backward type of trade-unionists wanted to protect that industry although it gave most of the workers asbestosis and/or cancer; but finally Québec agreed to put an end to it – it was killing many building workers in the global South as well.

    And with all the hydroelectricity we have, we have no reason to put up with the great risks involved in atomic energy.

    I’d be more sanguine if the Cons had at least admitted some kind of responsibility in the systemic murders and disappearance of Aboriginal women, many (but not all) in prostitution.

    Here is a communiqué from the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, a Québec labour confederation that supports abolition: http://www.csn.qc.ca/web/csn/communique/-/ap/comm2014-06-05?p_p_state=maximized#.U5Iw3i8fzAA They are saying about the same thing; supporting the approach, but saying that it requires serious social support. Moreover they express the same concern about the criminalization of “offering services” where children might be present.

  • http://tradfem.wordpress.com Abolissimo

    My translation of Meghan’s essay is now here for your French-speaking contacts: http://on.fb.me/SBPOxY
    It will soon be up on the humongous multilingual abolitionist news/research/analysis portal http://ressourcesprostitution.wordpress.com

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Abolissimo

  • Margaret McCarroll

    I received a letter from Megan Walker, the Executive Director of the London Abused Women’s Centre – the letterhead contained this quote which i think is so graceful and luminous : “Prostitution and violence against women are ‘issues . . . related with each other. Men’s violence against women is not harmonious with the aspirations toward a gender equal society . . . . In such a society it is also unworthy and unacceptable that men obtain casual sex with women for remuneration’.” Swedish Parliament passed Omnibus Bill on Men’s Violence against Women, 1998

    • Meghan Murphy

      I adore Megan Walker :)

  • http://twitter.com/Jan4Matt Jan (@Jan4Matt)

    The fact is that the conservatives did not want to decriminalize any aspects of prostitution. A few years ago people tried to bargain with them to have the Nordic Model as a compromise and they refused. However the pro-prostitution lobby pushed them to decriminalize all aspects of prostitution last year and so now they had to compromise with them. As far as I can see there were two enormous groups going into this, those for complete legalization and those for criminalization of everyone. The statistics that they released saying that 66% of Canadians wanted prostituted women decriminalized and 56% wanted johns criminalized I believe were an aggregate from the two groups. Let’s face it very few Canadians are radical feminists and the Nordic Model is a radical feminist idea. Advocates for the Nordic Model were a strong but vocal minority that pushed the Conservative government towards choosing this particular compromise rather than others and we probably encouraged the government to choose this compromise. Normally in government when you have to compromise neither side is really happy and you’re not really “gaining” any supporters so I’m sure that seeing the Nordic Model not just as a compromise but one that would also a albeit small group of people really happy encouraged them to go for this choice. We ended up with C36, some incremental progress towards to the Nordic Model. It’s not the Nordic Model but it is an amazing accomplishment for radical feminists in Canada. We got something incrementally closer to a radical feminist ideal when neither major group wanted to support women’s rights and safety to this degree.

    • http://subversify.com stacy

      Its odd to think that the people who identify with a right political ideology ( the folks who embrace an idealized morality) can’t see the positive outcome in all this. When you think about it, the Nordic Model doesn’t really challenge the moral highroad that right wing politics claims to swim in (with the exception of the ultra libertine factions). If anything, the Nordic Model is more problematic for middle of the road liberals that can’t rectify their sex positive stance with prosecution of johns. It is going to be interesting to see what happens if all this becomes law.

      • http://twitter.com/Jan4Matt Jan (@Jan4Matt)

        I’m pretty sure that the right wingers ARE happy with things as is. The Conservatives made sure to satisfy their voting base. I’m pretty sure that the “communicating in the presence of a child”/ “family friendly” clause was put into #C36 to appeal to their Conservative voting base. The Conservative voting base did not want the Nordic Model and partially criminalizing women in prostitution appeals to their “morality” and desire to blame the women to some extent.

        • http://subversify.com stacy

          I wonder how much of this might be due to a faulty understanding of prostitution, the thinking that assumes prostitutes are free agents peddling their bodies. Its a faulty analogy that assumes prostitutes are like drug dealers, meeting the demand of their customers for a fix and contributing to social problems. The woman is acting according to her “free will”. Its one of those things that I wish would get addressed more in the media, because if people across the political spectrum understood the mechanics of prostitution, then I think the Nordic Model would have more traction. Or maybe I just put to much faith in people exercising critical thinking!?

          • http://twitter.com/Jan4Matt Jan (@Jan4Matt)

            >I wonder how much of this might be due to a faulty understanding of prostitution, the thinking that assumes prostitutes are free agents peddling their bodies.

            Perhaps, if they recognize how little power women have they will recognize that women aren’t the means through which they can exert control.

            However generally I don’t think that the Conservatives relate to this from a perspective of empathy towards women at all. (They have that wording in their bill to passify the pro prostitution lobby, “You’re so mean for not letting women sell sex to men.”) The Conservatives I have spoken to are just as likely to buy the lie of the high class rich escort (“happy hooker”) as the liberals.

            The reasoning both sides buy into is that money makes it OK, and money somehow shifts the blame for rape and sexual exploitation (or for the Conservative sexual immorality, “Well she took money so she is guilty too. Look how much money she has, more than us!”) (Sorry I’m going to use the word “whore”, I’m aware it is considered a slur by some people, but hopefully I’ll explain what I mean). It’s like their attitude to a “whore”, the Conservatives hate that because she’s not under their control, not being a good little (virginal sex object) and the Liberals relate to women as “whores”/sex objects and want all women to aspire to be that. (You know Melissa Gira Grant, “We are all whores.”)

            As for the term “whore” it seems to me that the only place where it really loses it’s stigma is under the Nordic Model, “whore” becomes as harmless as “mugging victim” or “rape victim,” “exploitation victim,” someone who didn’t have much power and was exploited. It even becomes somewhat de-sexualized, and it becomes something that is clearly not about sex but about power and control and the strong exploiting the weak. Then the stigma can fall the exploiters and the society that allows barbaric exploitation of the weaker. I don’t have any definitive proof of this but in terms of prostituted women having a chance to rebuild their lives, it seems that in a Nordic Model adhering country like Sweden a prostituted women would find it easier to rebuild her life, “Well I was a victim of a crime like Elizabeth Smart. I was preyed upon and exploited” than in a decriminalization country like Germany or Netherlands where prostitution would be personally attributed to the woman as having made an unwise “choice”.

          • http://subversify.com stacy

            Thanks, great post. It makes my head hurt thinking about it, that you can have people who love their daughters and do everything they can to raise them so that they won’t be targets of predation – yet allow the system of predation to continue. Patriarchy is a twisted beast.

      • http://twitter.com/Jan4Matt Jan (@Jan4Matt)

        “If anything, the Nordic Model is more problematic for middle of the road liberals that can’t rectify their sex positive stance with prosecution of johns. ”

        This is spot on. Yes the “sex positives” (,johns and pimps) are very unhappy with it. It’s, “so cruel and oppressive to the women.”

        “It is going to be interesting to see what happens if all this becomes law.”

        Yes it will be interesting to see this.

  • stephen m

    @Rob: I suggest you read the following

    Did Prohibition Really Work? Alcohol Prohibition as a Public Health Innovation
    Jack S. Blocker, Jr, PhD

    Abstract:
    The conventional view that National Prohibition failed rests upon an historically flimsy base…

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470475/

    As Meghan points out, the rest of your premise is also based on similar flimsy and crap research/conclusions. Please take some time to do some serious reading and research before you embarrass yourself again

    • http://twitter.com/Jan4Matt Jan (@Jan4Matt)

      Thanks for posting this. At first with alcohol, there was a lot of drunk driving and alcohol was being sold freely to kids. There were no rules, limits or guidelines as well. After the complete prohibition on alcohol was removed, there were regulations and limits in place this time and kids could not buy alcohol.

      • http://www.montrealcyclechic.com lagatta à montréal

        But such rules were also enacted in most countries where there never was prohibition.

        Prohibition was quickly abolished in most places in Québec. Evidently this opposition was not only a French, Catholic thing as BC followed soon after.

        There were very serious problems caused by alcohol abuse, which were also the result of women’s dependence on father or husband at the time. Most workers earned very little, so they could easily drink up a whole paycheque on a Friday or Saturday night, leaving the family with nothing.

        But in some countries (especially the traditional wine-producing ones) “temperance” meant moderation, not prohibition. Cheap hard liquor (a problem in northern France) and taverns where one drank hard without dining, were considered serious social problems there as well.

  • Laur

    Meghan, glad to see you post on this subject! Do you have any idea how, if at all, this law will impact strip clubs?

    Clearly, no one knows for sure how it will turn out in Canada. It seems to be a step in the right direction, though.

  • Jacqueline S. Homan

    OK. How many peeps reading this post have NOT completely swallowed their brains when it comes to envisioning and working towards a society where there is no sex trafficking? I can envision a society without prostitution and instead some real options and opportunities that do not entail personal bodily invasion. I’d like to be able to believe that this is not a complicated exercise in outside-the-box thinking.

  • http://demillsresearch.wordpress.com/ Danny Mills

    A couple of points I feel compelled to contribute, tentatively at least…Any steps made towards creating a situation where anyone (but predominantly women) are not compelled to sell sex and where anyone (but predominantly men) are not compelled (or able) to buy it is a great step toward improving the quality of life of everyone involved. I think it’s always imperative to also, as discussed, push for improvements and amendments until we have bills that work for everyone. Whereas I accept criminalisation must be part of the solution, I believe that they MUST be followed by schemes and national and local efforts to reach out and educate the groups of users that commonly take advantage of the availability of these ‘services’. I also believe that bills such as C-36 don’t work without the support of a sympathetic welfare system to support the people whose financial situation and lifestyle would change dramatically as a result of them not taking part in these practices anymore.

    I wanted also to express my discomfort at seeing clauses like ‘men are the problem’ and words like ‘oppressors’ and ‘Johns’ and even ‘victims’. I would like to stress, I am not personally offended by this. I don’t expect anyone passionate about this issue to sympathise with those who buy sexual acts from others but reducing anyone to an archetype I think is dangerously dehumanising – part of the objectification I assume many people on here would abhor. Is it really constructive to have a ‘you do it to us so we’ll do it to you!’ approach? If this is how it is meant.

    Yes it’s a fuzzy liberal ideal but I think everyone involved is a victim of the situation that allows this to happen whereas yes we have individual responsibility for our actions and I absolutely am not defending any individual but I don’t think it fair either for the sex worker who is compelled to do that or for the person who has the choice freely and easily available within a culture that approves that choice. I believe the ‘oppressor’ is not an individual but the ‘social contract’ that allows society to accept and permit this to happen, which is much more powerful and dangerous.

    I don’t think it is even possible to separate these issues with other issues such as the way males are socialised (mentioned above by Lizor) and objectification of women in society…it’s all interlinked and I don’t think we can effectively deal with this without acknowledging these links and effects. It’s an important tool (althought a ‘blunt one’) but we can’t just bash people over the head with legislation forever can we? Where do we influence the WILL to change, the DESIRE for fairness? Without education and knowledge as a foundation we’re figuratively buggered for profound change.

    I would like to stress my support for any means which attempts to abolish a situation where these things can happen and which societies accept as normal.

    • http://gravatar.com/dannyemills dannyemills

      Just wanted to stress that I understand (as far as I can know) why it is possible to say that men are oppressors and men are the problem, especially from a feminist theory standpoint. I was making an attempt to question how some of the language in these threads might be percieved, by men (as that is what I am) and whether indeed this local feminist community cares or agrees. Not meaning to diverge too much from the original point about the abolition of prostitution and its mechanisms.

      • marv

        “It’s an important tool (although a ‘blunt one’) but we can’t just bash people over the head with legislation forever can we? Where do we influence the WILL to change, the DESIRE for fairness? Without education and knowledge as a foundation we’re figuratively buggered for profound change.”

        You have a small conception of the law. It is a primary tool of education. One of the most efficacious ways to learn that murder is wrong is to criminalize it. Same holds true for the demand for prostitution.

        “I was making an attempt to question how some of the language in these threads might be perceived, by men (as that is what I am) and whether indeed this local feminist community cares or agrees. Not meaning to diverge too much from the original point about the abolition of prostitution and its mechanisms.”

        But it is a divergence from the aim of achieving “the abolition of prostitution and its mechanism” when we sugar coat the reality of male power to appease men who are disgruntled by candid and abrasive language. The truth stings men. Soothing the oppressors with diplomacy never results in the surrendering of power.

        • Danny Mills

          I agree with your last point (soothing oppressors with diplomacy). Just coz it hurts don’t mean it ain’t good for me… Disgruntled and candid and abrasive yes I’ll deal with that: but (genuine question) is generalizing indiscriminately ok? I understand how the situation perhaps forces approaches that aren’t desirable. As if a hand is being forced into doing something it doesn’t want to do but feels like it has to to affect change. I expect that many women performing topless /naked protests and similar would much prefer not to have to do that but they feel no other option because they feel so marginalized?

          But I don’t agree about the law I think it’s reflection of education, not an educator. You don’t get a law without a lot of weight of (hopefully informed) opinion behind it. You don’t learn that prostitution is wrong BY criminalizing it, enough people have learned it’s wrong and push for change, therefore a law is made. Or government changes law on what it believes is the ‘will of the people’. I believe It’s a reflection of the desire for the society we want. Or it should be at least.

          • Laur

            Danny Mills, that last paragraph sounds like your opinion. Law does change social opinion. I did an entire undergraduate thesis related to the topic.

  • Komal

    For a while I was leaning toward legalization, but your articles and my own recent reflections on the subject are bringing me more toward the Swedish model. This bill sounds overall good to me.

    By the way you might like this article on objectification from a feminist point of view (it deals with prostitution as well): http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/

    • http://mmmariguana.wordpress.com Mar Iguana

      “A sex-symbol becomes a thing, I just hate being a thing.” …Marilyn Monroe

      • http://www.montrealcyclechic.com lagatta à montréal

        I believe Brigitte Bardot said something very similar.

        Note that I’m not excusing her becoming a fascist in later life, just recalling her resentment about how she was used, in her view.

  • http://www.montrealcyclechic.com lagatta à montréal

    I think the text of the Indigenous Women’s declaration on the new Prostitution Bill is important, both because it underlines the beginning of a recognition of harm, and also by its shortcomings in “that the law doesn’t fully address the compounding inequalities of gender, race and class of women in prostitution and that some elements of communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services are criminalized”.

    http://www.nwac.ca/press-release-immediate-release-2014-06-09-en

  • http://epistemicinstruments.wordpress.com Megan

    I think Canada is moving in the right direction with the new bill. One thing, though, is that while we know that legalization makes the situation worse, and decriminalization does nothing to stop violence, street prostitution, youth prostitution, nor end stigma and is weighted against aboriginals and immigrants, early reform movements around the turn of the century in the UK and US (and had already tried legalization and knew it failed) also concluded that while the reformists thought virtually all prostitutes would exit the trade given the opportunity, this was not, in fact, the case. I’d have to go back and search out the research, since I have had so much of it laying around at various times over the past several years.

    I’m beginning to think this will have to be a greater area of inquiry, because advocates associated with Maggie’s Farm keep repeating that they “like their jobs.” I have been shocked by comments from at least one escort who argued that she is good with people, and offers companionship, intimacy and discretion. Questioned about it though, her final answer was ‘so what if it’s transactional?’ I found her view to be a distorted vision of companionship and intimacy, and it seems to me some of these prostitutes have a point of view toward their clients that is as exploitative as that of johns who think that all people in prostitution are there because they want to be there.

    Politically active sex workers, such as those affiliated with Maggie’s Farm are trying to normalize the idea that commercial sex is a healthy replacement for ‘non-commercial’ interpersonal relationships – on many different levels, including that of saving sexless marriages, by allowing the husband to go outside knowing there will be no emotional upset to tear the marriage apart. It’s not that long ago that women here in marriage (my grandmother’s generation) accepted their husbands using prostitutes. I think there are many things related to prostitution that as women, we do not want to return to.

    There is a ‘socialized’ and ‘socializing’ aspect to the legitimation of commercial sex that we need to address as a society. We need to ask why there is so much stigma around prostitution. For sure, I think there are structural issues – not least of which a society that wants to legitimate use of people in a mechanical, unconcerned way for sexual gratification, but then ‘clean them up’ through legalization or decriminalization. But I also don’t have much sympathy for the opportunism I see in Maggie’s Farm. In itself it’s kind of a criminal mindset. Very similar to that of chronic johns. It’s not the sex, it’s the exploitation of it and the flouting of human relations that is the offense leading to stigma and the decision to criminalize it. I don’t think it sets anyone ahead to create a society where human relations are defined by a superficial preoccupation with sex. And this seems to be the nature of prostitution. If it weren’t for the predators around it, I would make it illegal, period, because there’s something not right in the women who happily practice it.

    • lizor

      You make some great points. As for “We need to ask why there is so much stigma around prostitution”, I would submit that there is a deep stigma to being female and that is the root of it. There certainly is no stigma around being a capitalist – in fact, I’d say that the newest incarnation of profitmaking-as-virtue, is largely responsible for how convoluted and contentious the conversation around prostitution and women’s safety has become.

      I also agree with you when you say “I don’t think it sets anyone ahead to create a society where human relations are defined by a superficial preoccupation with sex” and would add that it’s also a particular [neoliberal] regression to view all human interactions as economic transactions.

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