Statement in support of women involved in prostitution as they take on the Government’s criminal records scheme in Court

By The Sex Work Research Hub

The Sex Work Research Hub send our support to the women challenging the law that requires people to disclose criminal convictions for prostitution. Our members are part of a long history of research dedicated to challenging the criminalisation of sex workers and those who are sexually exploited – it is wrong that sex workers, former sex workers and those who are sexually exploited, should be penalised and stigmatised in this way. The criminalisation of all sex workers should therefore end. The current law on brothel keeping also means sex-workers can be too afraid of prosecution to work together at the same premises, which can often compromise their safety. There must be zero tolerance of the criminal exploitation of young people and sex workers, and changes to legislation should not lessen the Home Office’s ability to prosecute those engaged in exploitation.

21 Questions with Professor Nick Mai Kingston University, London

By Raven Bowen

Nic Mai

Q: So, what do you do?
A:
I’m an ethnographer and a film-maker. I said that I’m an ethnographer first, because that’s what characterizes my work. I understand the world by engaging with people directly and spending time with people so that I understand the complexity of what’s going on and then the reality behind the self-presentations that people don’t necessarily provide you with the first time you meet them. And then I theorize data and observations by using different disciplinary repertoires like sociology or anthropology, depending on what’s more relevant. And in terms of film making, I wanted to make films all my life and so I started to use film to illustrate my research, and later I integrated it into the research process, so film has become part of data gathering and dissemination.

Q: And your favourite colour?
A:
Blue, without hesitation! I like light blues and darker blues. I like to wear darker blue but blue is my color, I love the sea above all things, so it gives me that feeling of looking at the sea!

Q: What are you most proud of?
A:
I’m proud of what I was able to achieve because I come from a little town in Northern Italy and considering what I was able to do with my life professionally and personally it was not obvious. I’m proud of being able to be myself. I think I live a life that is very true to myself in everything that I do and that is a very privileged thing. Q: You’re doing something completely different than your cohort? A: Yes, plenty of people in my peer group as an adolescent found their way and are established but I went to another country and it was a long journey and sometimes an adventurous one. I lived in Albania for 2-3 years and I’ve been very driven by my intellectual curiosity. I’m very proud of the fact that sex workers seem to recognize themselves in my work. That for me is the most important thing. It’s important to be recognized by academia but it’s more important to be recognized by the people you’re trying to understand and represent in your own work. So, when people use my films to advance their own rights, I’m very proud of it and it feels like I’ve done something good. My films are used by sex work support groups to deliver key messages to different audiences that they want to reach. Films allow the public to feel and to get talking about difficult issues.

Q: What drew you to sex industry related work?
A:
 There are different parts to it. I belong to a stigmatized group which is gay people and I grew up in a small place and I can see what it is to be stigmatized for who you are and how unfair and how painful it can be even though I didn’t have a particularly difficult experience but it was very significant. And then I think I’ve always been interested in very stigmatized populations who were also involved in migration. I started with Albanian migrants in Italy and then Romanian migrants because they were very stigmatized and treated unfairly and I think that I was drawn to that because I could understand it. There is a relationship between your own life and what you come to research. So, going to sex work, it was bringing the two aspects of stigmatization (according to gender and sexuality) and migration that led me to working with sex workers. Sex workers were a group who were viciously stigmatized and misunderstood. Q: The idea that no one wants them to be located anywhere even though they come from everywhere? A: Everybody wants them but no one wants to acknowledge that they do [laughter]! Q: Touché!
A: Migrants are always employed because they are exploited in different sectors so the sex industry becomes…paradoxically a place where they feel they are less exploited. This is what workers tell me, in a way my interest in sex work followed an interest in stigmatization and migrant groups and the exploitation of their labour. When I started researching labour migration I saw that there was a lack there because the sex industry was something that migrants were bringing up saying that this is work, but it was not addressed as labour in migration studies. So, I came to study prostitution as employment for migrants and that is the perspective I hope I’m bringing. The majority of people selling sex don’t have a political agenda and they might not adopt key words like ‘sex work’ but they definitely talk about work, including people who are trafficked. They say that people who trafficked them ‘exploited my work.’ Q: Yes. They are exploited because they can’t exercise their rights in the jobs that they get. A: Yes, often because they are undocumented. So just like other people in other sectors they are taken advantage of. That’s why it’s always important to address the sex industry in terms of policy-making in relation to the specificity of sex work AND migration. In many places around the world the majority of sex workers are migrants, so if you just address the population as if they are permanent residents then you miss the point, that there are whole populations of people who need targeted initiatives like regularization of their migrant status which would then provide them with rights to improve their working conditions in the sex industry or in other sectors.

Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A: I think it was something on Facebook. I posted a comment about the royal wedding and there were some very funny answers. I just thought it was very comical that the Queen would pay for the marriage but we ended up paying for it with our own taxes!

Q: What’s your favorite food?
A:
My favorite food is Italian. Q: Ah you’re loyal! A: [Laughter] I’ve tried everything but in the end, I think that Italian food is the best!

Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A:
At the moment, I’m working on a ERC grant funded by the European Union. The project builds on my previous work. It compares the realities of Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States and focuses on the contrast between the way is which sex workers understand their priorities and needs and how these are understood by the actors and policies targeting them. The Project is called SexHum: Migration, Sex Work and Trafficking. It is based on long-term participant observation and there are eight people working in different countries. We are gathering semi-structured interviews and of course there is an embedded film that I’m working on right now. The film that will come as a result of the project which will be based on participatory methodologies with sex workers involved in writing, acting and editing. Q: Yes, it’s a monster of a project!
A: Yes, it’s big and very challenging to set up across multiple countries. The participatory methodologies need to be based in the different countries so that we can have a longer span of observation. And now the project is up and running so we can concentrate more on data gathering and we’re starting to analyze, so that’s exciting.

Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A:
Well there’s many but my biggest regret is that I should have started my academic career earlier, because between my BA and my PhD, I spent some time which I could have used focusing on my PhD. But then you know, things happen when they do and I don’t consider that time as wasted but being retrospective, I wish I had started it earlier. That’s it, I don’t have many regrets. I can’t stand having regrets. Q: We share this regret, but we only realize how much work there is to do in academia once we’ get here!
A:
Absolutely. I wish I had started earlier. I was 27, I guess the self-confidence and determination to act on our desires come from life experiences… I only got to decide then.
Q: 27, that’s young! A: Well I tell myself in life when I have to make a decision, can I live with myself if I hadn’t made the decision. That is unbearable for me to think that one day I would look back on something I wanted to do but that I didn’t have the courage to do, so this is why I err on the side of courage, because I can’t deal with the consequences of not being brave. Q: Beautiful!

Q: Facebook or Twitter?
A:
Oh, Facebook absolutely, but mostly for friends and family as I have a life scattered between different countries! I also use Twitter just to post events to reach a wider audience as it’s an open platform but I can relate to Facebook more. The 280 characters now on Twitter is a good improvement, so I might use it more.

Q: What challenges you the most about your sex industry or related work?
A:
Intellectual dishonesty. I think that we live in a political and media environment which privileges sensational headlines and dramatic stories and I am very disheartened when I see the prevailing of neo-abolitionist rhetoric over the scientific and scholarly observation of reality. I find it challenging because neo-abolitionist people have got history on their side in terms of being able to use mainstream narratives of gender exploitation that they can easily manipulate in their favor. As a result, in the name of the fight against the exploitation of sex workers, sex workers are actually getting more and more exploited and less in a condition to defend themselves because their neo-abolitionist rhetoric changes the way we understand the world. This is why I’m using the term ‘sexual humanitarianism.’ It’s a way to talk about the narratives of sex workers that are not linked with trafficking. Now this conflation is becoming so hegemonic that people equate sex slaves to prostitutes and sex workers, so we have to unpack this because it’s been normalized, particularly in the United States and increasingly in the UK. It is this conflation that is intellectually dishonest as many sex workers and victims of trafficking told me again and again that sex work and trafficking were very different issues. People who make a career out of sensationalist headlines and the instrumentalization of truth, they end up legitimizing (in the name of good intentions) policies that are very dangerous. Q: And the institutional support that some receive. They have long established channels for propaganda. A: They have unfair access to the mainstream because they are comrades of politicians, the media and those in positions of power, although they present themselves as marginalized and downtrodden. So, it’s a very difficult environment in which the discovery of truth through scholarship becomes more challenging. Sex workers and academics who have a rigorous approach to these issues are silenced and only people who know fuck all about it are invited to speak in media and public debates. I also think that this very horizontal and pseudo-democratic culture within which everybody is now an authority is really problematic in the discipline of social sciences. I don’t think that if we were talking about neuroscience everyone would express their opinions, but why do they think they can about sex work? Q: Yes, with neuroscience, lay-people wouldn’t feel that they have a right to speak because of a lack of background knowledge. A: Exactly, they don’t have a background to talk about migration or sex work either but somehow they do feel that they can express an opinion, and while this can be seen as a democratic access to culture and to expression, I think it has legitimized a lot of stupidity, lies and bias. So, you get invited to a panel and the panel includes an ‘opposing view’ but there shouldn’t be an opposing view just for the sake of having one, only scholarship-informed views should be included in the debate. Everything else is just an opinion. Why do we have to be confronted on equal grounds with opinions when we can offer facts?

Q: Favorite Movie?
A
I have two favorite movies and they are about the same thing and from the same phase in my life. One is called Another Country and was released in the 80’s with Rupert Everett. The film was based on the true story of Guy Burgess, a gay young man who belonged to the Cambridge University élite and became a Russian spy. So, as an adolescent trying to figure out what the heck was going on with my sexuality while I was in Italy, this film was something that made me understand that homosexuality could be romantic and beyond sexuality. And that it was possible for people to chose to live in another country to become themselves. The other film is called Maurice and I like it for the similar reasons. What I really liked about this movie was that it doesn’t end badly, so the two gay characters do not die. The author of the book [E.M. Forster] decided that it should be published posthumously because the world was not ready for it because the two gay characters were not banished symbolically by death. And he was right because it would have created a scandal. Q: This was in the 80’s, the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the West, so the world wouldn’t have been ready. A: Yeah! That was the main narrative. I think that the superimposition of the HIV/AIDS crisis acted as a moral condemnation of homosexuality. It reinforced many people’s belief that there was something wrong with being gay. But those two films, they had a more life-affirming attitude to homosexuality and they related it to the expression of love and the realization of the self, so this is why I identified with them back then.

Q: And the last time you cried?
A:
The last time I cried was when I went to the cinema recently and I saw a film called Call Me by Your Name. It was just released in the UK and may be an Oscar winner! It’s a story about a very precocious gay guy who meets a young academic, but again it is about love. It’s about the life-affirming power of love associated with being gay. The film is very beautiful and moving about someone finding himself through love.

Q: Cat or dog person?
A:
Dog! I’m allergic to cats and I also like ‘real’ company! Otherwise I’d rather be alone [laughter]. Q: Cats don’t care about you anyway! A: I like cats but they’re really indifferent because they are very independent.

Q: Who understands you?
A:
My partner. Our understanding is a very important and real basis for a relationship because I don’t have to explain much.

Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A:
A book called Sous la Colline or ‘Under the Hill’ in English. It’s by David Calvo and it’s only available in French. It was a Sci-Fi novel based on the ‘Cité Radieuse’ Le Corbusier building in Marseilles. I was interested because the author is a friend and I really liked it a lot.

Q: Childhood Fear?
A:
Blood! There was a childhood incident involving other people at a beach and I got shocked at the time, but I’m over it now.

Q: What did your last text message say?
A:
“Goodnight my love.”

Q: One thing that your work or existence is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A:
I would like my work and my films to make sense for policy-makers and for the general public so that they can see the complexities of sex workers’ situations and so that they can identify themselves with the normality of it rather than the ‘exceptionality’ of it. Ultimately, I hope it will make people understand that decriminalization is the best way to improve the rights and lives of sex workers.

Q: The meaning of life in one word?
A:
Life is bigger than anything so my word: Everything!

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A:
When I was child I wanted to be an explorer of nature and as an adolescent I wanted to be a film director. Now I would like to develop my filming and make fiction movies, as well as documentaries.

Q: Three portable items that you would want with you while stranded on a desert island?
A:
So not people…well:
1. A bottle of Prosecco;
2. A few books;
3. A cell phone to call everybody!
Q: You’re not planning to be there very long [laughter]? No one else said a phone!
A:
Well I can be very pragmatic! I could have said water but I will enjoy myself with the Prosecco and the book while the sun sets and then use the mobile to call for help in the morning to get me the fuck out of there [laughter]! You could only like a desert island for a couple of days. After that you want to be in central London!

 

21 Questions will be back in 2018 with a new crop of sex industry folks and researchers.

Season’s Greetings!

21 Questions with Sex Worker and Activist Laura Lee**

By Raven Bowen

 LauraLee

Q: So, what do you do?
A: I’m a sex worker and sex workers’ rights campaigner, board member with Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI), student and proud mammy. 

Q: And your favourite colour?
A:
Blue, there’s something very soothing about it as a colour and I think royal blue is very smart. 

Q: What are you most proud of?
A:
Leading the High Court battle in Northern Ireland against the Nordic model and developing amazing allies along the way. 

Q: What drew you to sex industry related work?
A: 
 I was in university many, many years ago and found myself drowning in debt. I started working in a local massage parlour at weekends and although I’ve left the industry several times, it always called me back. There’s an old saying – “escorts never really retire, they just take long holidays.”

Q: The last thing you laughed about?’
A: I was out with friends in Belfast last night and we were in stitches recalling a man in a bar who asked in all seriousness, “why are all socialist women fat?” Good grief! 

Q: What’s your favourite food?
A: Steak and chips, with béarnaise sauce, mushrooms and onion rings. 

Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A: 
We’re just getting ready for battle in the High Court with dates for the full hearing coming soon, so that’s keeping me busy, plus I’m studying and touring too. 

Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A: 
I really regret not being smarter with money when I was younger and saving for the future, but then, I don’t think many 20-year-olds do that anyway. 

Q: Facebook or Twitter?
A: 
Twitter definitely! It’s the fastest way to keep up with new developments and I love that I can chat to other sex workers around the world too. 

Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work or related work?
A: 
We support a lot of sex workers at SWAI and the rate of violence in Ireland has soared since the introduction of the Nordic model there. So when I’m talking to a sex worker in distress, I sometimes feel very, very angry. 

Q: Favourite Movie?
A
: The Assassin with Bridget Fonda. 

Q: And the last time you cried?
A: SuperVet. Watching people saying goodbye to their beloved pets just ENDS me. 

Q: Cat or dog person?
A: Both. I would dearly love a dog but it just wouldn’t be fair because I’m away so much. Right now I have two moggies and they’re brill. 

Q: Who understands you?
A: 
My closest friends and my family. My partner is ace too, even when I’m stomping around.

Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A: 
I read a satirical childhood book on how things work, entitled “How it Works: The Mum.” It’s very funny. 

Q: Childhood Fear?
A: 
Electricity and mice and rats! I tried to fix the latter by adopting hamsters but it didn’t work.

Q: What did your last text message say?
A: 
“LOL. Oh dear. Now I really can’t wait.” I was talking to a SWAI colleague who says their karaoke skills are on a par with a cat who has just trapped their tail in the fridge door. 

Q: One thing that your work or existence is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A: To fight for decrim and to get out there and speak to as many people as possible to bust common myths and reduce stigma. 

Q: The meaning of life in one word?
A: Love. 

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: 
I wanted to be a lawyer at first, I also wanted to be a singer, but doing weddings and funerals for friends was the closest I came to that dream. 

Q: Three portable items that you would have with you while stranded on a desert island?
A:
 Hmmmm, tough one. Is there WiFi? Probably not.
1) A fishing net;
2) large knife; and
3) a very large white fermentation bucket so I can make wine!

**Laura was very busy with activism work so we were unable to arrange an interview in time but she kindly provided written responses to the 21 Q’s while commuting. 

21 Questions with PhD Student Max Morris

By Raven Bowen 

Max Morris
“It’s a Match! Sex work and feminism have liked each other”

Q: So, what do you do?
A: I’m a sociologist of sexualities and most of my research is about gay, bisexual and queer youth, but at the moment I’m writing up my PhD at Durham University based on 50 interviews with young men who have accepted money for sex online, which is something I call ‘incidental sex work.’ Basically, these guys did not advertise themselves as selling sex and most of them didn’t identify as sex workers. So selling sex is a form of sexual exploration or economic opportunism, and most often it was a one-time thing. So it challenges some of the assumptions about who sells sex and their motivations and the diversity of experiences people have about selling sex. What I want to do is to challenge some of our conventions around identity politics and sex work. I also managed to get a survey of 1,500 Grindr users and through that I found that 14.6% admitted to engaging in some form of commercial sex, with 8.2% of those doing incidental sex work or webcamming. So, it’s a lot more common among gay and bisexual men than we might realize.

Q: And your favourite colour?
A: Floral pink, because I’m a gay stereotype!!

Q: What are you most proud of?
A: So, last year I was diagnosed with HIV and it came as a total shock to me, but I was quite proud that I was able to turn this unexpected event into an opportunity to learn from other people and educate other people. Within a couple of months of my diagnosis I had begun giving public lectures at universities and to HIV charities and I did some radio and television interviews. And they were all about the revolutionary changes in medication over the years, like PrEP as a form of prevention. I’ve been very vocal about that. I became HIV positive in a very good context with the new drugs and the normal life expectancy, and now it’s impossible to transmit the virus when you’re on effective mediation. So I want to see us move away from that stigmatized view we have of the virus from the 1980’s. Q: The death sentence idea. A: Yes, and that needs to be gone now. And this impacts my sex industry research because HIV is an intersectional issue that affects not just gay men, but trans women, migrants, sex workers. It also angers me…recently seeing prohibitionist feminists going after Amnesty International, UNAIDS and other charities because they endorse decrim as an effective way to reduce HIV infection. So that affects my life and my research in lots of different ways. Q: Amazing how your life experience now expands your scholarship and activism! A: Yes and it’s given me a feeling of solidarity for a lot of different groups with the intersections of HIV, sexual identity and feminism it definitely expanded my horizons intellectually and as an activist.

Q: What drew you to sex industry related work? What was the call for you?
A:
 Looking back, on the street that I was raised on, just after I left home for university, there was a ‘gay brothel’ that was raided from the Vice Squad in my home city of Bristol and my mom sent me a news clipping of the story. So, these were basically my neighbours who’d been arrested in a crackdown on drugs and prostitution in my city. Often times the laws cracking down on brothels are often policing people who are working together for safety. So it’s an excuse, so that the police can be seen as being tough on immorality. Also, when I was 16 I was on the BBC program, the Big Questions. So that was 9 years ago now and they were talking about if brothels should be legalized and I spoke up and I said that I supported decriminalization in solidarity with the two women speakers, and one of them was from the International Union of Sex Workers. The responses were moralist, right-wing. I ended up bumping into one of the speakers at the end of my street and I stopped her and said ‘hey you were on the Big Questions’ and I really remember the look of terror on her face. She thought I was going to stigmatize her or attack her for being an open sex worker. And I said, no I was one of the people how supported you. So basically, the poor diverse neighborhood where I grew up in the Southwest of England, sex workers were my friends and neighbors, they weren’t this ‘other’ identity. So, for me I took that forward when I went into university and I began my academic career looking at why we have this binary between them and us. People who sell sex are exactly the same as us. We are all sex workers in a sense. We are all selling services. My peers are engaging in incidental sex work, and that blurs the boundaries between ‘them’ and ‘us.’

Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A:
 I have a game that’s called Top2Bottom, which is the gay version of ‘Cards Against Humanity.’ It’s really fun. There is this one card I always laugh at. The answer card is ‘AIDS Face’ and I’m in stitches about it. When I was diagnosed, my doctor made that face at me and he said ‘don’t worry, people don’t get this face [makes face] any more because the medications have improved things so much.’ So, that card always makes me laugh. 

Q: What’s your favourite food?
A: Olives, especially in a dirty martini. Q: That’s a bloody condiment!

Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A:
At the moment I’m working on an article looking at the legal implications of new HIV meds for a special edition on consent in the journal of criminal law. So, looking into whether someone can consent to having bareback sex with someone who is positive, in light of the research that says that if you’re on medication you can’t transmit it, so why do we keep the legislation around transmission. My partner and I are participants in the PARTNER study, and they found zero cases of HIV transmission across 58,000 acts of condomless sex between serodiscordant couples. There is a debate within NHS about funding PrEP as well. It has big implications for sex workers as well. So much advocacy has been around gay and bisexual men but these issues are really important for sex workers.

Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A:
I wish that I had been more of an ally to sex workers, trans people, migrants, people of color, people living with HIV, when I was younger. I wish I had been more active in challenging stigma before it hit me personally. The message I’d like to send is that if you have privilege and you’re not in these groups that are stigmatized, it can so easily be you or someone you know and actually these are people who you should care about. They are your friends and neighbours.

Q: Facebook or Twitter?
A: Well I went to a lecture last month by sociologist Bev Skeggs and she was talking about how Facebook collects user information, and basically sells high-end consumer goods to ‘high value’ users but sells debt to ‘low value’ users. It reinforces class inequality. And they are even tracking you when you’re not on the App. So I uninstalled the Facebook App and now I only use Twitter. Q: You don’t use Whatsapp? Facebook bought Whatsapp
A: Really!? Q: Yeah, it’s now part of their ‘family of companies’…data harvesters! A: And every website that has the Facebook logo is tracking you. Q: So, Twitter then [laughter]?

Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work or related work?
A:
Being raised by a single mom on benefits, I’ve always been a feminist and class conscious, but at the same time as a man I’ve benefited from male privilege and patriarchy, so the difficulty comes in balancing my critique of sex worker and trans exclusionary feminisms with my belief in giving women a greater platform. So, that’s often an intellectual challenge I come up against. For me the best solution for that has been to use queer theory and understanding as a vocal queer person I experience some of the same patriarchy and heterosexism, so goals are intersecting and unified. Homophobia and misogyny are two sides of the same coin, especially when it comes to toxic masculinity and issues of suppressing marginalized people. That’s how I square the circle as a feminist man. Q: Yes, and no need to square the circle, we need circles, but your level of introspection outstrips most humans!

Q: Favourite Movie?
A
:  Alien, I absolutely love Sigourney Weaver. She was amazing in it.

Q: And the last time you cried?
A: The last time I had an argument with my boyfriend. Relationships can be hard at times.

Q: Cat or dog person?
A:
I love all animals but I’m allergic to cats. I’m definitely a dog person. Me and my boyfriend dog sat for Alex Feis-Bryce who you interviewed a few weeks ago!

Q: Who understands you?
A:
My boyfriend.

Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A:
I actually borrowed this from Alex: ‘Sex workers unite: a history of the movement from Stonewall to Slutwalk.’ Q: Does he know you have it, or is he going to find out here on the blog? A: Yeah he knows. Q: Oh, too bad [Laughter].

Q: Childhood Fear?
A: I used to be a surfer kid and would go down to Cornwall every summer and even though there’s nothing that can kill you in the oceans around Britain, I used to be afraid of sharks while I was on my surfboard. Which is funny because I love sharks now and I use it as a symbol for irrational fears, like those around HIV transmission. You’re more likely to get hit by a car on the way to the beach than get bitten by a shark! Q: Interesting. Let me guess, you watched Jaws as a kid, right? A: Yeah! Another great movie.

Q: What did your last text message say?
A:
It was to my mom ‘Thank you for the lovely text a few days ago [mom’s name]. Happy Birthday! We are dog-sitting. Can’t wait to see more of your art exhibit.’

Q: One thing that your work or existence is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A:
I think the main thing I’m interest in doing is breaking down binaries and challenging the dichotomies between us and them. The idea that sex workers are some stereotypical other…a marginalized and victimized group. There are issues of victimization and problems that the community experiences, but we need to stop thinking in such binary terms. So, feminist and queer theories are great at breaking those things down. They are more like us than we realize. Q: Yeah, ‘they’ are us!

Q: The meaning of life in one word?
A:
So, part of me wants to reject the premise of your question. Q: Of course you do. Damn academics [laughter]! A: There is no objective meaning of life, but for me it’s Pleasure!

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A:
I’ve always liked the idea of becoming an elected member of parliament, if only to queer the House of Commons by attending important votes in full drag. I’ve said so many controversial things publicly now that I don’t think that I would ever be qualified for that, but there’s too many men in suits and it doesn’t really represent the population.

Q: Three portable items that you would have with you while stranded on a desert island?
A:
How long am I on the island for? Q: Well you’re stranded. Between you and Rosie I’m starting to regret adding this question. A: [Laughter] Okay, well I’ll definitely take
(1) a sex toy, like a vibrator or a dildo or something like that, because a boy’s got needs.
(2) Then I would take a full medical kit with my insulin and HIV meds, and plasters if I cut myself on a rock. So that’s sex and health covered.
And I’d take (3) a truck full of wine!

21 Questions with Dr. Rosie Campbell OBE

By Raven R. Bowen

 Rosie

 Q: So, what do you do?
A: At the moment I’m a researcher at Leicester University on the Beyond the Gaze research project that is running until September 2018 and in a voluntary capacity, I’m the Chair of National Ugly Mugs and a board member of the fabulous Sex Work Research Hub.

Q: And your favorite color?
A: Well I do like color. This is a hard one Rave because I have a favorite color for clothes, for eye make-up etc [Laughter]. Well, I love the sea and the sky so a whole range of blues and greens.

Q: What are you most proud of?
A: Various things here, from a work/advocacy angle, I’m proud of being involved for many years in the UK Network of Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP) and with some very inspiring people establishing that as a charity, then I’m proud of with others advocating for a National Ugly Mugs scheme as part of UKNSWP, which is now NUM. I’m proud to have been involved in Liverpool working with some fabulous people to get the policy of treating crimes against sex workers as a hate crime in place. I still think it’s an approach that could be developed and progressed further elsewhere, but I’m very proud of what that represents as a rights-based approaches to justice for sex workers. Q: And I was flipping through your PhD… for inspiration [laughter] and it’s about all of that. A: Yeah, in the PhD it was really about reflecting on the antecedents, the history development, the elements to it. And where could it be enhanced and all that. Also evidencing the academic case for why crimes against sex workers can be conceptualized as hate crime. It was great getting that written down because as we know in policy, things shift all the time and the things that have impact don’t often ensure. So, the legacy and it’s great to get that captured at this point in time. There are very amazing people in Liverpool…sex workers, some officers in Merseyside police, health and outreach workers. That’s the thing that energizes you, to work with all of those amazing people. I’m really proud of stuff in Leeds as well, having been the CEO of Basis and working with the great people there, proud of being part of shaping policy for the managed area and the change in policing indoor sex work. Then there is having been involved in some participatory research projects which try to make an impact and being co founder of the sex work research hub with people I respect so much.  It’s hard to say what I’m most proud of because it’s all interconnected and feeds into wider stuff.

Q: What drew you to sex industry related work?
A:  It was in 1995, I was in Liverpool a sociologist and researcher doing work with socially excluded groups and then got involved in a piece of participatory action research on sex work in inner city Liverpool. It was at a time when the city had been hit hard by recession but was then going through regeneration  but so many groups were being left out of that,  including street-based sex workers. Since then I’ve been involved in research and also outreach services.

Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A: I like to laugh; I think it’s really important in life. I had a proper hysterical laugh touching base with an old friend over the phone yesterday.

Q: What’s your favourite food?
A: Well I’ve been a vegan for 29 years. So I’d say, for savoury it’s bean curd, tofu!! And on the sweet front, it’s chocolate.

Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A: We’re in the absolute throws of gearing up to  launching the findings from  Beyond the Gaze participatory action research. So as a full-time researcher in this amazing team, I’m working with loads of people feeding into the launch and we just had a book published ‘Internet Sex Work’ that’s based on some of the findings. We are producing briefings, journal articles, practice guidance for working with internet-based sex workers and a short film, so I’m involved in supporting those outcomes at the moment. We have the launch in January and then till September we’ll be sharing learning in range of ways. Also as Chair of NUM with other dedicated members of the board of trustees we’re supporting the work of NUM on an ongoing basis.

Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A: I wish I could say none as life is not for regrets but living, but that said and to be honest I think I always regret not spending enough time with loved ones, especially those not with us. I’m now very much about valuing the time we have and it’s balancing the time demands of life and all the various things you want to do.

Q: Facebook or Twitter?
A: Twitter is great for work and sharing so much research and activism. I am on Facebook privately, but much less active.

Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work related work?
A:
The frustration about the problematic  law we have in the UK and enduring stigma, discrimination and hate crime, which undermine sex worker safety. We have to stay positive because we see change in other countries, progress and evidence-based stuff and approaches that allow rights to be claimed like in New Zealand.  Also I’ve been frustrated with some feminists. I’ve come through the 80’s and taught women and gender studies, I’ve been frustrated and disappointed by reductionist radical feminist analysis of sex work and how that translate into policies that endanger sex workers you know.

Q: Favourite Movie?
ASo many but I’ll go for  Letter to Brezhnev, was made in the mid-80’s  set in Liverpool when things were tough with recession, the screenplay is by Frank Clarke. So it’s a mix of romantic comedy and social realism, two working class women go out for a night on the town and they meet some Russian sailors! It resonates with me because of Liverpool in the 80s, 90’s and beyond nights out with the girls, love the scene with the friends chatting and doing make-up in the washroom. Margi Clark is wearing a red dress, I had one very like it! Love the scene filmed in the nightclub ‘The State’, had some great nights there. I love the movie for the humour, the resilience of Liverpool, reminder of  great nights out with friends and resonates for me, as years later I met my partner who is  Russian and a seafarer.

Q: And the last time you cried?
A:  
Oh the other day, associated with grieving.

Q: Cat or dog person?
A:
I’m totally on the fence there. I have a cat and I love dogs but I don’t get a dog because I’m away quite a bit so it wouldn’t be practical or fair on the dog.

Q: Who understands you?
A:
I would say several close friends and family members.

Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A: Well, fictional book…I was just reading, The Power by Naomi Alderman, highly recommend it. On the academic front, I have just reviewed drafts of a book by colleagues Dr Ivana Radačić  (Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences, Zagreb) & Mojca Pajnik (The Peace Institute & University of Ljubljana)  based on their  studies of sex work in Croatia and Slovenia. I’ve found it a very informative read and I feel a connection because I’ve spent time in Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia and there are very few studies of sex work in the Balkans, a post socialist and post conflict context.

Q: Childhood Fear?
A: Claustrophobia.

Q: What did your last text say?
A:
‘Happy Birthday’ to my nephew.

Q: One thing that your work or existence is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A: It’s all part of a goal for decrim, but we’re not there yet, but guess when you look at the stuff I’ve been involved with it’s about getting policies that enable safer working conditions and better policing responses to crimes against people in the industry informed by a rights based approach.

Q: The meaning of life in one word?
A: Love

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A:  Oh gosh at one point I wanted to be a vet. Now I wouldn’t mind having a go at being a fashion designer, spending time with fabrics and being more creative. 

Q: Three portable items you would have with you while stranded on a desert island?[1]
A:  Do we assume that we have an endless supply of fresh water? Q: Sure, Rosie [laughter]. A: And I guess I can’t bring loads of friends and family? Q: [Laughter] No, Rosie!   A: Ok  1) A  tablet with loads of e-books and audio books pre-loaded and downloaded music and photos of friends, family and colleagues; 2) a glamping tent or a beach chalet. Q: Okay, let’s go with the glamping tent…it’s portable; 3) I would have to go with factor 50 tinted moisturiser because I’d have to abandon all me make-up and the moisturiser will double-up as a sunscreen!

 

[1] New question added. Inspired by Desert Island Disc on BBC Radio 4. Rosie is the first person to respond to this, which replaced ‘the last thing you googled’ question.

21 Questions with the Award- winning Camille Melissa

By Raven Bowen

Camille Melissa

Q: So, what do you do?
A:  I’m an award winning and published commercial Photographer (mainly specializing in quirky documentary wedding and children’s photography)  I’m also a full service Sex Worker and I’m a Visual Activist interested in using photography to challenge the victim centered nature of sex worker imagery and how photography is instrumental in the prohibitionist war against sex worker through Whoretography which is a sex work activist & photobook Publishing Platform that sits at the intersection of imagery, technologies, society & the sex worker rights movement.

I’m challenging the prevailing ideology of sex-work, I want to present to the viewer of my work, an alternative perception of the industry and participants –  In a nutshell, I want to shatter the gaze on the current visual landscape of sex work to re shape the political landscape.

I have been accepted into a PhD that starts in January so think it is time to call it a day on sex work and return to full time photography work!

Q: And your favourite colour?
A:  Brink Pink, what can I say! I have happily succumbed to the genderisation of children who were raised in the 70 and 80s. It really compliments my freckles and golden-brown hair.  The only wedding dress I bought was a shade of pink.

Q: What are you most proud of?
A:
 Getting into a PhD program. It is the 40th anniversary of my father’s death this year, and I guess this is a wonderful way to honour his life and that losing a parent as a two-year-old did not throw me off the rails (too much). I feel like it has been what I have been working towards all these years, it brings together the photography, sex work, travel and criminal justice and I most proud of the fact that I can use my passion about photography to make a difference and that I’m determined to see this through to the end.

Q: What drew you to the sex industry?
A:
 
Who ever said money cannot buy you happiness never grew up on the poverty line or watched their mother pay for Christmas dinner with medicare rebate cheques. When you grow up poor you realise that money is about choice, freedom, happiness, peace of mind, security and comfort. That’s what drew me to the sex industry, whilst sex work has never been my only source of income, it’s a vital income that allows me to have a balanced life and not feel financially insecure like the environment I was raised in.

Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A: My mother lives in a RSL retirement village and she tells the funniest tales. This place is like a carry-on retirement village.  I have laughed so much but her recent story had me in tears. It’s a tale about a 95-year-old resident everyone thought was dead because someone peaked in through his window and saw him mouth open, slumped on his chair, sitting there in his undies. So, the whole village congregated around this man’s apartment, and the residents concluded that he must be dead, called the police. They broke in expecting to cart out a dead body but the old bloke was just passed out drunk at 11am on a Tuesday morning and was pissed off that they thought he was dead!

Q: What’s your favorite food? 
A: 
Chocolate. Anything and everything chocolate.  I’d give up men for chocolate if I had too.

Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A: 
On a personal note, I’m archiving and digitizing my Dad’s photographs, negatives and transparencies from his service Malaya & Vietnam 1963 – 1968 and this includes vintage photographs of Honk Kong.  There are 1000’s of photographs and I hope to have this finished within 3 months before I return to London. On the Whoretography front, I’m working a designing the cover of an academic book on sex work. It will see me journey to Adelaide and go though an archive of photographs to find the right image for the cover, it’s a collaboration.

Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A:
Not spending as much time in Australia as I should. I have only been in Australia for about 3 weeks in the last 7 years.  Life has a way of getting in the way of long haul flights. I’ve just come home for the Australian summer and I found my Mum’s bucket list the other day, and right on the top of that list was “to see Cam one last time” It was like a knife to the heart reading that.  It is an absolute curse to love two countries, to want to be on the other side of the world as more than just a tourist. It’s one thing to visit a country, it’s another thing entirely to live amongst its people.  It’s a constant battle in your heart and mind as to where you want to be, where you should be.

Q: Facebook or Twitter? 
A:
Twitter for work, as a platform to hustle for change and as a brilliant form of marketing but for real and honest connections with friends and family, then it’s Facebook.

Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work and related work? 
A: The constant battle about having to guard your privacy as a sex worker and the need to promote your work as an activist, I have never felt comfortable with the level of attention I get from men online and, from some clients who simply MUST know everything about you. I have faced a lot of stigma and had some terrible things done to be because I’m a sex worker from being made homeless to being told my baby deserved to die because I was a prostitute to loosing my photography business and you ALWAYS live in fear that the next terrible thing is about to happen.  I have never been comfortable with how interesting men find me to be and I think that is just the allure of sex work, being a sex worker someone how makes you fascinating as a woman which is ironic as I find the daily hustle of sex work boring (not, however the interaction with my clients)  I’m not ashamed of my work as a sex worker, but that does not mean my other life is up for discussion and dissection but it’s a fine line to tread especially since I have morphed my words of photography and sex work into one.  The biggest challenge I face for the sex work activism is funding, I have found social media to be a mixed blessing, I ask for help with funding and I get flooded with requests from men asking out to talk about photography in general, my desire to take this project mainstream apparently makes me more desirable to date, men seem to find me more fascinating than the project, and I think this is where my experience as a sex worker overshadows my work.  It is why, as soon as I start my PhD that I will retire as a sex worker.

Q: Favorite Movie? 
A:  Romanzo Criminale. It’s an Italian film about the Banda Della Magliana crime gang in the 1970s to the 1990s. It’s a difficult and violent watch but if you can get passed the subtitles, the film is ultimately about loyalty, friendship and love. I’m a huge fan of the actress that plays Patrizia, Anna Mouglalis.  Patrizia is by far the best representation of a prostitute in the contemporary film, she is a complex character.  The visuals of this film are stunning.

Q: And the last time you cried?
A:
When I got the call to say I had been offered a place in a PhD program.

Q: Cat or dog person?
A:
Cat, without a doubt!  I used to have a cat called Dickie Greenleaf and she’d look at us like she knew being a cat was beneath her. What’s not to love about a creature that hops into your cupboard at night and knocks the glasses off the just for the pure joy of it.

Q:  Who understands you?
A:
My friend Bertie.  He started out as a sex work client, who morphed into an affair, a brief partner and parent, now is my closest friend.  He is the only one who knows everything, all aspects of me. He knows where all the skeletons are buried.

Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A:
 A book about the life and work of Italian photographer, Tina Modotti by Margaret Hooks

Q: Childhood Fear?
A:
Ha!  When you grow up in rural Australia on a farm you don’t really have any fears because you have been raised with things that can kill you. That’s what I find so quaint about England, there is nothing there that can kill you. Raised being told to stamp your feet in long grass to scare the snakes, only swim to knee level in case of sharks.  My early years where of snakes showing up on your doorstep, dogs biting the backs of the chickens necks off and the chickens still running around, dogs chewing on calf afterbirth, to guinea pigs being murdered by rogue possums, I got a guinea pig who I named GP for my 5th birthday and he lasted one night. Pet rabbits would be found frozen solid from fright, having to put an ice cream bucket on your head to avoid the magpies whilst playing outside, to getting stuck in the damn up to your waist in mud. I once fell in the pit where the farmer washed all the waste from the milking shed, you just pick yourself up and get yourself out.  I was attacked by a rooster when I was 4 and we had that rooster for dinner that night. My sister was chased by an Emu once and I remember just screaming at her, to drop the orange.  We used to step in freshly down cow pats bare footed and put daisies in the cow pats and then throw them as frisbees. My older sisters used to squish me under the hay bales, I had a fear of suffocating – which may explain why I excelled at little athletic, had to learn to out run my sisters.

Q: What did your last text say?
A:
‘I apologise for using photography with questionable intent when we were teenagers. I really can’t wait to see you again.’

Q: One thing that your work or existence is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A: My cyber ethnographic work is about stopping the over-simplification of the lives of sex workers, and to challenge current imagery that encourages the sense that the only way of interpreting their lives is to see them as ripe for ‘rescue.’  Through Whoretography, I’m hoping that a new interpretation of sex work imagery that will help to change the visual landscape that informs political views that rob so many sex workers of autonomy.

Q: The meaning of life in one word?
A: 
Interconnections

Q: The last thing you Googled?
A:  How to get to Wheelershill from Mentone.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: 
Without a doubt, a police detective.  I really wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps but I could not do that to my mother as he was killed whilst on duty when I was a baby and that was enough of a sacrifice my mother should have to endure in the name of working for the state.  I remember Mum and I used to have these raging arguments when I was a kid as she’d say being a cop was not a job for a woman.  I did go through the entrance tests/exams but did not tell my mother and ended up working in Criminal Justice for many years.

21 Questions with Alex Feis-Bryce, Senior Researcher to MP and former Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband, and Founding CEO National Ugly Mugs

By Raven Bowen

Alex Feis Bryce

Q: So, what do you do?
A: I’m Senior Researcher to Ed Miliband leading on his work around inequality and also I’m an Advisor to National Ugly Mugs (NUM). My role as Founding CEO of National Ugly Mugs ends today [October 27th 2017]! So still a founder but not CEO.

Q: And your favorite color?
A: Oh, like a very rich blue because it suits me to wear. The name of the color is Yves Klein Blue. He’s a French artist and quite controversial but I like that color blue. I think it’s beautiful.

Q: What are you most proud of?
A: The thing I’m most proud of would be leading the team that took NUM from a very small project with very little to funding to what it is today and saving lives of sex workers. Q: Yes, monumentous as you look back on your journey. A: Yeah and I think I’ll probably go through the rest of my life never being prouder of anything more than being at NUM, which is quite depressing! I’ve already peaked! Q: And it’s your last day today. I know how it feels to grow projects and leave them, but hopefully it stays true to mission. A: Yes, I know it will. The staff team are amazing – Kerri who was there with me from the start is the most impressive person I’ve ever met – and here are very good people on the Board. A new CEO who starts in a month too who, I believe, is fantastic.

Q: What drew you to a sex industry support role?
A: I have some personal motives to support and campaign passionately for sex worker rights and safety including my own experiences of sexual violence and police brutality. Immediately before I took the job with NUM, myself and my now husband were wrongfully arrested and assaulted by police and that kind of really made me realize…not that I didn’t already, just how much harder it would have been to challenge if I was a marginalized person, for whatever reason, like a person of color or a women or trans. Sure, I was treated terribly but I had the resources and support to challenge it. I do feel it was a homophobic attack by police. I think I put into perspective my privilege in a sense. I had a really shit time but it would have been a lot worse if I wasn’t a White, relatively middle-class male and that affected my politics quite significantly. It reminded me of…how…difficult it can be for sex workers. Q: That’s an amazing story and shocking to people who identify the ways that I do, when a system that is designed around White, male privilege doesn’t work for people who fall into that category! But it’s wonderful that you turned that experience into contributing to NUM in the ways that you did. A: Yeah, NUM wasn’t my idea. I took someone else’s idea really. Sex workers in Australia and people like Dr. Rosie Campbell OBE who campaigned for it to be introduced in the UK, but I suppose I kind of made it my own turned it into what it is today. Kerri Swindells deserves a huge amount of credit too.

Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A: I was just with the Labour candidate for Lewisham Mayor, Damien Egan and he managed to make me laugh a few times. Not that politics is ever very funny!

Q: What’s your favourite food?
A: I’d say a good curry. That’s such a British thing to say but I would say curry or chorizo – I could put it in everything.

Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A: Basically, I’m leading on Ed Miliband’s work on inequality and that includes a podcast which we do weekly. At the moment it’s the most listened to news/current affairs podcast in the UK. So a shameless plug, it’s called Reasons To Be Cheerful and everyone should listen. Ed co-presents the podcast with a cult radio presenter Geoff Lloyd who’s hilarious – they have such a good rapport and each episode features radical policy ideas. The current episode is about decriminalization of drugs and we’re speaking with the Director of Release who is a force of nature! And credit to Ed who was willing to do a whole podcast on something that is a topic that politicians normally avoid like the plague.

Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A: I don’t think I have any regrets, I’m a very ‘in the moment’ kind of person. I don’t really regret anything. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life but I just don’t really see them as regrets, only mistakes. And I’ve probably make more mistakes than most people!

Q: Facebook or Twitter?
A: Facebook. I think Twitter can be a bit snippy with people with anonymous accounts and lots of aggression where Facebook is more personal with you and your friends. I find Twitter more effective for campaigning though.

Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work related work?
A: I would say that the biggest challenge for me has been battling against prohibitionists who are just hell-bent on a viewpoint that isn’t founded in evidence or the voices and experiences of sex workers and many of them, I’m like ‘how fucking dare you’ to be honest. I’m naturally a fighter and I find it difficult to reconcile those views and it’s frustrating to me because many of those people [prohibitionists] are people in the Labour party. I just find it very difficult to speak to them. Someone recently described me as an angelic troublemaker. I think they meant it as an insult but I took it as a compliment. Q: I would expect Labour to be supportive. A: Yeah like for the labour rights issue or whatever and it demeans them as a politicians. They have a duty to listen to people who a policy affects most and if they’re speaking about something they have a duty to be at least aware evidence, but I don’t think they care enough about sex workers or have enough respect for them. Q: I think as a justice-seeker you’ll find yourself in places that need progressive shifts, um…good luck with that!

Q: Favourite Movie?
A:  It’s True Romance by Quentin Tarantino and I’ve loved it since I was a kid. I can’t believe my parents let me watch movies like that! It also features a sex worker and while the portrayal is a bit ‘Hollywood’ and not necessarily realistic, she’s a fantastic, kick-ass character played by Patricia Arquette—tough and funny. And Tarantino creates really strong female characters! After doing work with sex workers I wonder whether this should be my favorite movie, LOL, but there are worse portrayals in films!

Q: And the last time you cried?
A: At the cinema, watching ‘God’s Own Country.’ Q: A British Brokeback Mountain?
A: Yeah, that was the last time I cried.

Q: Cat or dog person?
A: Massive dog person, I have 2 dogs: a basset hound called ‘Glinda’ and a sausage dog called ‘Merlin’. Cats are a bit too clever and independent!

Q: Who understands you?
A: My husband does, better than anyone and some of my really good friends do as well I think!

Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A: I was reading an article this morning by Frankie Mullen about pop-up brothels. She’s a very good friend of mine and she writes very, very well. Q: Yes, she’s a great writer and that article was very well done.

Q: Childhood Fear?
A: Actually, this is a bit of a gross one, but I used to not like to use public bathrooms for, well, you know…especially when it’s not in my home! I’m sure it’s a fear that a lot of people have?! Urinals in men’s toilets are disgusting, they should never have been invented!

Q: What did your last text say?
A: My last text…’I’m sat at the back.’ I was meeting someone in a coffee shop.

Q: One thing that your work or existence is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A: I think to save lives, to support sex workers’ safety. I always thought that with what NUM did, the thing that was most valuable to sex workers was the warnings that allowed sex workers to avoid dangerous individuals. Giving sex workers information to make informed decisions and to also change attitudes, is a big deal for me, especially those of politicians, police, the public, the media.

Q: The meaning of life in one word?
A: Happiness. I think people shouldn’t bother too much about success, just do what makes you happy.

Q: The last thing you Googled?
A: Votes at 16, because we are doing a podcast on it so.

Q: What do you want to be if/when you grow up?
A: A professional footballer. A lot of people reading this might be surprised and not see me as that kind of person, but that’s what I wanted to be! I failed in that goal obviously though I do still play.

 

 

21 Questions with Criminology Professor Teela Sanders, Director for Research, University of Leicester

By Raven Bowen

In Case You Missed It…Teela*

TeelaPicAug2015

 

 

 


Q: So, What do you do?

A: I’m the Director of Research and so I look after other research agendas, I facilitate and encourage research activities. My job is increasingly admin related but I try to keep myself thinking that I’m a research full time and a teacher… but the reality of it is that it’s the other way around, which you don’t really expect. You expect time to do research and autonomy but you don’t get that. Totally disillusioned I guess, LOL!

Q: And your favourite colour?
A: Purple, purple flowers and the bookThe Colour Purpleit was one of my first and favourite ever novels. Even though I don’t own anything purple at all. I used to have a purple car when I was younger.

Q: What are you most proud of?
A: Being a vegetarian for most of my life. To carnivores that sounds ridiculous but since the age of 11 I became aware of animal rights and since that age it’s probably the only thing that I’ve done consistently well over my whole life.

Q: Why did you choose the sex industry as a topic for your intellectual pursuits?
A: Well I think it chose me. I’ve always been one for the underdog, I’ve always been one to shout if you’ve got a voice and I’ve always done that. I went out to New York and volunteered with an HIV/AIDS organization when I was at university and I met sex workers who were volunteers and they just totally blew me away. Their lives, the stigma… and I was just like this is a cool group of people and I came back to the UK at looked at things from an academic point of view and that passion for sex workers just stayed with me and opened up the whole debate for me around sexuality and sex work and why this group of people get so stigmatized and outlawed and are the targets of our angst around sexuality. I was also very interested in the contradictions in capitalism and sex work being part of that, so I think it grabbed me politically and personally as it relates to regulation, policy and you see the inequalities. 

Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A: Well it’s my mum’s birthday today so I was laughing with her about her bucket list. She’s 69 today and we had a laugh as she’s writing her 10-year bucket list. She’s just got one thing on it at the moment and I thought that was pathetic. I want her to add a Caribbean cruise for the whole family so it becomes our bucket list!

Q: What’s your favourite food?
A: Oh Curry! Indian food is my favourite food.

Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A: I have another Wellcome Trust project on homicide and mental health which I’ve just started. My other pursuits as in lifetime pursuits is that I’m really into camping at the moment and getting living in the outdoors is part of my agenda. We’ve got our greenhouse and our chickens and I fire pit so we try to be in the outdoors as much as possible.

Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A:  I’m one of those people who don’t really have regrets. Roll with the punches I’d say. Not to say my life has been all happy with flowers but I don’t dwell in the past. Things happen for a reason.

Q: So Facebook or Twitter?
A: Oh definitely Facebook for family and friends only, but Twitter is kind of the devil! I think that forcing complicated stuff into 140 characters… it’s the devil. 

Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work related work?
A: Never having enough time and trying to make sense of something …so doing something decent within a finite amount of time. But in terms of sex work research has always been the challenge in trying to make changes and how academics are in a position to do that but are also very constrained, particularly in this area, so much time is taken up trying to quiet down the critics that the actual change can kind of get lost. So the challenge is getting past all of that and trying to make small steps and move things forward nationally, internationally and trying to be the critical voice. The challenge is the revolving door, sometimes you see 5 years later the same stuff comes up among a different set of politicians. I’ve seen the same issues about 2 or 3 times now and it’s the same stuff and in all that time you’re thinking where’s the change? It’s like flares, they’ll come back around again. Individually it can be a bit deflating but collectively we must take things forward with good evidence-based research. 

Q: Favourite Movie?
A: I’m a bit fickle on the movies…I love P.S. I love You and The Color Purple.

Q: And the last time you cried?
A:
I don’t know probably everyday over something, LOL! I definitely cried when George Michael died. That definitely made me sad and looking back on his videos and music from Wham! it’s really sad.

Q: Cat or dog person?
A: Oh dog! My partner’s got a cat that instantly took a dislike to me…it’s the rival meeeooowwww! They’re feral animals! If you fall over and had a stroke they would probably eat you! You can’t take them for a walk or anything, what’s the point of a cat? I do not get it!

Q: Who understands you?
A: Probably my dad and my partner.

Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A:
I read a philosophy book over the weekend calledConstellations of Philosophyby Alain Botton but to my son and I read the Famous Five series from the 1960s.

Q: Childhood Fear?
A: Snakes, massively! I’ve had one around my neck last year when I had animal parties for the kids and I didn’t want them to have my fear but as soon as the head started moving I had to get it off me!

Q: What did your last text say?
A: My last text was ‘Do you want me to make you a cup of tea?’

Q: One thing that your work is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A: Provide a space for alternative voices.

Q: The meaning of life in one word?
A: Love!

Q: The last thing you Googled?
A: The nine times table and the Mad Hatter for a costume for my son!

Q: What do/did you want to be when you grow/grew up?
A: I wanted to work with the law. I wanted to be a solicitor or a barrister when I was a teenager. It’s bizarre and I just thought it would be way to boring because I’m far too liberal to do that kind of stuff. It’s far too much of a serious profession for me.

*Original interview conducted February 13th, 2017

Next week: Alex Feis-Bryce, Founding CEO and Advisor to National Ugly Mugs, now Advisor to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.


Please Note: The Goal of the ’21 Questions’ series is to get to know sex industry professionals, other parties, and researchers in our network. The series will alternate profiling interesting people who support the human and labour rights, dignity and respect of those involved in sex industries. 

21 Questions with sex worker ‘Hannah’

By Raven Bowen

In Case You Missed It…Hannah*

hannah

Q: So Hannah, what do you do?
A: I’m an escort and I have been since I was 19. I enjoy it most of the time. I learn a lot off my clients and I hate some of them (laughter). I travel about to people’s houses and some of them I allow them to come to my house.

Q: Favourite Colour?
A: To wear is black because it makes you look slim all of the time but yellow just makes me feel really good it’s that bright, bright colour. Q: Never together to go for the bumble bee look? A: No (laughter) I never put them together actually!

Q: One thing you’re most proud of?
A:  I’m proud of getting off drugs and proud of being self-employed. I’m competent at managing myself and obviously I can work when I want and when I don’t want. I don’t have to obey anybody, I obey myself and make my own choices.

Q: Why the sex industry?
A: When I got off drugs, which was hard drugs, I had a desire for money I suppose, earning money because I’d been shoplifting. And I moved out of an area and it was something that was suggesting to me and I started doing the escorting and I was addicted there and then. I never did escorting when I was on drugs, it was when I got clean I had a big hole and a gap in my life and it was suggested about escorting and I did it.

I was instantly addicted because I straight away came out with that money and I felt incredible and I continued and maybe it was a control thing or maybe I swapped my addiction for drugs for money and it empowered me and it blends with my entrepreneurial desire.

Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A: Yesterday when I was in the voting ballot box [Brexit Vote June 23, 2016) and somebody brought their dog in and said that it was called Boris! Q: Was it a wild haired dog? A: It did have wild hair and we said he could come in and vote!

Q: Your favourite food?
A: My favourite food is prawns and seafood, although I’m trying to come off it because of the cruelty aspect. So big dilemma. I’m a pescatarian at the moment. I do love fish, particularly prawns.

Q: Current project of pursuit?
A: A new business venture [not disclosed to protect Hannah’s privacy].

Q: Biggest regret?
A: Biggest regret is not saving money and banking it into the system earlier on in my life and that came from the fear of being a sex worker and banking my money. Q: Because you feared that it would get seized? A: Yeah, you don’t want to go in to the bank…you don’t know what to say. Eventually I learned but if I had done that in my 20’s I would be a multi-millionairess!

Q: Facebook of Twitter?
A: Neither, I don’t like any of it but for my new business it will be both. Personally no, and I think Facebook’s actually very damaging. A friend just got off of it and she was just saying that she was so addicted to putting pictures of herself up every day and it controlled her life. Luckily I haven’t been able to be on it because of being a sex worker. People could see you on it and try to create trouble for you.

Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work-related activities?
A: I want to please each client and the biggest challenge for me is shy clients and quiet ones. Everything else is easy, getting apartments to work from, getting my clothes, managing my diary, that’s all easy. I love clients who are very responsive and the counselling and everything else I do but the ones who are shy, who I want to reach out to but they have so many barriers, that’s hard for me. They can be so distrusting and I want to help them and I want to connect with them.

Q: Favourite movie?
A: Midnight Express where the guy gets caught with weed in Turkey. It’s a true story and it’s awful and it’s about him in prison in Turkey and he gets put in this mental institution and there’s a scene where his wife comes to visit him after 3 years and it’s done very raw…

Q: Last time you cried?
A: Not long ago because I just had a baby and it was about animal cruelty.

Q: Dog or cat person?
A: Dog, I don’t trust cats! And they’re scratchy!

Q: Who understands you?
A: I suppose my husband and academics and that’s about it…strangers. You know when you smile at a stranger and you know that they understand that smile and they’ve appreciated it and they give you one back or they’ve given you one first. I would say that more than sometimes, my family or friends. Just in that moment, it’s so bloody powerful and it’s an amazing connection. Apart from if it’s a guy and he comes running backward going ‘can I have your number?’ and you’re like for ‘fuck sakes mate I was just being fucking nice now… do one!’

Q: Last book or article you read?
A:Ask and it is Given: learning to manifest your desires’ by Esther and Jerry Hicks

Q: Childhood fear?
A: That a crocodile was going to bite my bum in bed! I had to wear pants because I was convinced that I would get bitten. And death, I contemplated it a lot when I was a kid.

Q: What did your last text say?
A: ‘I’m sorry for being a twat’ because I shouted at my partner today.

Q: One thing that your work is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A: Just to help other workers to realize how they can do this as a business, not to feel shame about it, and not to listen to other people. Listen to yourself and to be strong with it.

Q: Meaning of life in one word?
A: Kindness

Q: The last thing you Googled?
A: Esther Hicks

Q: What did/do you want to be when you grow up?
A: When I was a kid I wanted to be a vet

*The original interview with ‘Hannah’ was conducted June 24th 2016.

Next week, Prof. Teela Sanders.

Please Note: The Goal of the ’21 Questions’ series is to get to know sex industry professionals, other parties, and researchers in our network. The series will alternate profiling interesting people who support the human and labour rights, dignity and respect of those involved in sex industries. 

21 Questions with Professor Maggie O’Neill

vBy Raven Bowen

In case you missed it…Maggie Gets a Grilling!*

Maggie Pic

  1.  What do you do?
    I’m a Chair in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at York and I am co- chair of the Sex Work Research Hub.
  1. Favorite Color?
    Green! I like grass green, Emerald and I like red. Although red and green should never be seen! I like red and green together. 
  1. One thing that you are most proud of?
    Oh, can I have two…okay, my boys. I’m very proud of my  boys. And as a feminist when I had boys I thought it was divine retribution but they are really great men and feminist men. And I’m also really proud of the work I’ve done around sex work, migration and the collaborations. 
  1. Why the sex industry?
    I was invited to do a piece of research on ‘prostitution’ in Nottingham  funded by Home Office ‘Safe Cities Money’ in 1989 the focus was to improve safety in certain Northern cities. I took  what I called ‘woman centered’ approach and spoke to sex workers about their experiences of first hand then other agencies. I met an outreach worker, Karen Hughes, who was working on her own to provide outreach to sex workers and she  also created a sexual health drop-in center in Nottingham for all people including sex workers. The research led to what I think was the first multi agency forum that included sex workers as equal partners in 1990. Sex workers said ‘don’t think you can just come out and take from us and go off and build your career!’ What a fantastic entry into empirical research! It’s a knowledge transfer, you’re facilitating you’re not owning it. I got to participatory action research through that model. 
  1. Last thing you laughed about?
    Yesterday, in a workshop with migrant girls. The project is looking at what it’s like to live in London for migrant girls and Mothers. The project combines walking and theatre-based methods and we had a fun finale to the workshop with girls,  they did a catwalk in the hall to play different characters and were playing/acting as ‘bad girls’, ‘good girls’, ‘nerdy girls’, ‘strict moms’ and we all laughed. They were so amazing! 
  1. Favorite food?
    Um, that’s a hard one. Chocolate and haloumi. But not together. Haloumi salad. 
  1. Current project or pursuit?
    The Sex work project, Hidden Lives of Female Sex Workers in Teesside. It’s participatory action research, peer-led. Women have interviewed other women about their lives and we are currently analyzing and the report will be launched on the 15th of July in Durham. So it’s kind of a Centre for Sex, Gender and Sexuality legacy project.  
  1. Biggest regret?
    Well I don’t really do regrets but I wish I had spent more time with my kids when they were young.
  1. Facebook or Twitter?
    Twitter, I love Twitter!
  1. What challenges you the most in your sex work related activities? Definitely the tension between academia and sex work. The power around who gets heard. If I could wave a magic wand it would be to flatten than, so I think what we do is use it and make sure that at every opportunity, if you’re doing something academic it must be collaborative -the participatory action research model is helpful. I hope the Sex Work HUB can build on that. Sex workers say ‘Nothing about us without us.’
  1. Favorite movie?
    It’s called ‘Silenceand it’s by an Irish filmmaker called Pat Collins and his wife Sharon Whooley. 
  1. Last time you cried?
    Yesterday (May 19th) after the workshop for girls. They were talking about family life and how their parents worked really hard and other struggles. Doing Theatre methods can remind you or  bring to the fore things that you haven’t thought about for a long time. So what made me cry was an experience of stigma, of  racial and class stigma. I was reminded about this moment with my mum when she was being interviewed about money for our school uniforms. I was about 10 [years old] and this man treated my mum like the dirt under his feet. And so, I cried yesterday on the way to the tube station, being reconnected to that feeling—the humiliation she experienced and being connected to the stigma of class politics. And of course that is then the fuel for my work. It drives me.
  1. Are you a cat or a dog person? Dog! Totally Dog! 
  1. Who understands you?
    Oh, I’m not sure who gets me. I think Steve [husband] probably gets me! Hopefully, yeah. And my kids do…I think so, I’m not sure!
  1. Last book or article you read? So the last book I read  Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border by Colm Tóibín who walked the Irish border during the troubles. It really gives you a good insight into sectarian politics.
  1. Childhood fear?
    Spiders. I like them now… 
  1. What did your last text say?
    I’m here Raven” 
  1. One thing that your work is aimed to do for the sex industry?
    Decriminalization, you know we need people to challenge the law and we have great lawyers in the HUB. I think in the HUB we have all of the necessary partners to bring together to really go for decriminalization.
  1. Meaning of life (One Word)?
    Relationships. 
  1. What’s the last thing you googled?
    ‘Premier Inn free wifi’ because I was staying at premier Inn in London. 
  1. What did/do you want to be when you grow/grew up?
    Well I did want to be an air hostess but then I got put off from working at Pizza Hut. But actually what I would really like is to be is a filmmaker!

*The was our first 21 Questions. The interview with Maggie O’Neill was conducted May 20th 2016. Next up, Hannah, a sex worker/madame.

Please Note: The Goal of the ’21 Questions’ series is to get to know sex industry professionals, other parties, and researchers in our network. The series will alternate profiling interesting people who support the human and labour rights, dignity and respect of those involved in sex industries.