Hi the media. Do your job. Love, feminism.

The Canadian Press published a weird little story today by reporter, Stephanie Levitz, claiming that “sex workers” feel it is “‘sick and twisted’ that Canada’s controversial new prostitution bill comes into force on a day dedicated to eradicating violence against women.”

The day referenced is December 6th, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre and the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Levitz only interviewed one self-described “sex worker,” Valerie Scott, who is one of the women Alan Young brought on as an applicant in his court challenge (Bedford v. Canada) and who is most likely no longer actually working as a prostitute, having aged out of the biz (johns like the young’uns).

This is, of course, part of the problem with the term “sex worker.” It is intentionally vague. Technically, a “sex worker” could be someone who runs a brothel (i.e. a pimp) which is, in fact, the impetus behind both Scott and Terri Jean Bedford’s desire to decriminalize the sex industry — so they can continue to make a living off of prostitution despite the fact that men no longer will buy sex from them (those johns are total sweethearts though — it’s just they only want teenage pussy, nbd). A “sex worker” doesn’t necessarily mean a woman who is prostituted, but a “sex worker,” apparently, can speak on behalf of all prostituted women.

As Sarah Ditum wrote recently for the New Statesman:

[The term ‘sex worker’] covers street walkers and escorts, strippers and phone sex operators, dominatrixes and dildo retailers, as well as their respective managers. Clearly, all these things are not the same, and any theory or legislation that attempts to treat them as identical is liable to founder on the object that not all sex work is like that.

Levitz writes that “those who work in the sex industry have expressed their disdain for the new prostitution laws, which they fear will result in more victims, not fewer,” (which is decidedly inaccurate — most women and girls who are prostituted aren’t doing media interviews…) and then quotes “sex worker,” Valerie Scott, as proof.

For starters, one “sex worker” does not equate to “those who work in the sex industry,” nor is it reasonable to quote one “sex worker” who is not actually working as a prostitute, but rather is an aspiring “manager” and then present this as the opinion of all women and girls who are (actually) being prostituted as we speak.

Also, it is the full decriminalization and/or legalization that has “produced more victims,” not the Nordic model, which is what Canada’s new laws are modeled after. Also — key point — prostitution produces victims. The demand for ever more (younger, fresher, newer) prostitutes is what supports the entire industry. Johns = the demand. Johns victimize women and girls in prostitution — not laws. And if it is the perpetrators we are after, than a feminist solution would be to go after the perpetrators. A law that criminalizes a man who seeks to abuse prostitutes will not abuse a prostitute. Rather, that law will serve to deter the man from seeking out a prostitute in the first place and make it easier to charge him if he does assault a prostituted women or child.

The fact that the new law, which will criminalize those sweet old johns out there prowling the Downtown Eastside, perhaps and likely looking for a young, vulnerable, Aboriginal girl to satisfy his “needs,” will come into effect on December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, is perfect.

December 6th is the day we remember and take action on violence against women. That is the name of the day. What better action could we take on that day than to say to perpetrators of violence: no more. It is not your right, these women and girls are not for you. They deserve better and are more than a series of holes for you to penetrate on a whim. Women who are poor and racialized deserve better options than prostitution. They deserve better than to be left on the street for the Robert Picktons of the world to pick up. So let’s criminalize those men before they have a chance even to get to them.

The reporter allows Scott to reframe the conversation in a completely dishonest way without actually seeking out any of the feminists and women’s groups who were involved in pushing this legislation forward or who are involved in planning events for December 6th, like Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter (VRRWS), who is holding their annual Montreal Massacre Memorial event this Saturday at the Vancouver Public Library.

Scott says, “That day should not solely be for women who were murdered by Marc Lepine, it should also be for women who were murdered by Robert Pickton.”

Agreed. Which is why every year the VRRWS event addresses the ongoing abuse and colonization of Aboriginal women and girls in Canada and the Missing and Murdered women, as well as other issues such as the push for a Guaranteed Livable Income, sexism within the police force, child custody and family law, migrant women escaping male violence in Canada, the impact of immigration law on women, the feminization of poverty, incest, ecofeminism, battered women, rape on campus, and more, including, yes, prostitution and prostitution law.

I’m not sure what events Scott and Levitz have scoped out, but based on this ludicrous attempt to pretend as though murderers like Pickton and his victims have somehow been left off the table on December 6th, I’m going to have to guess none.

The full decriminalization and/or legalization of prostitution has been shown only to increase trafficking, draw pimps and organized crime, enable the industry to flourish “underground” and in the legal sector, and most certainly has not reduced violence against those in prostitution. The notion that, somehow, to legalize the industry or to decriminalize johns is feminist in any way at all is naive, dangerous, and offensive.

Do better journalism, journalism.


Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.