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. 

Autumn Newsletter

Publications

  • Dr Joanna Busza’s work in Zimbabwe resulted in a very short commentary in Journal of International AIDS Society –here’s the link (and it’s open access): http://www.jiasociety.org/index.php/jias/article/view/21860/html It’s an example of how one legal case and the surrounding publicity actually reduced police discrimination.
  • Dr Erin Sanders-Mcdonagh Women and Sex Tourism Landscapes presents ten years of ethnographic research on female tourists’ interactions with highly sexualized spaces and places in these two very different national contexts, and argues that the visual consumption of sexual spectacle by female tourists requires a new conceptualisation of the what constitutes sex tourism.  This text explores the ways in which these sexualized spaces are presented and constructed, and examines the different relations that govern the management of, and female tourist interactions with these liminal, eroticised zones. Data collected in both countries suggests that far from being male-centred spaces, the red light districts and associated sexual entertainment venues are very much open to female tourists, and argues that the nature of these particular spaces and places as authentic tourist sites/sights invites women to consume sexual entertainment in ways that are normally ‘off-limits’ to women in other national settings. The author argues that many women tourists in Thailand and there Netherlands are not only interested in exploring sexualized zones, but do so in surprisingly large numbers, challenging many existing assumptions about women’s involvements with sexual space and their attendant sexual agency. Thinking specifically about the visual nature of women’s sexualized experiences, the analysis draws on a range of different theoretical understandings that address power, privilege, and the gaze. The book ultimately concludes that the stigmatisation of sex work is highly problematic as it allows female sex workers to be read in reductive ways by female consumers, and argues for the decriminalization of sex work as a way to decrease the stigma association with all forms of sexual entertainment. An important contribution to a range of debates, this book will appeal to students and researchers in tourism, geography, sociology, gender studies and cultural theory.
  • Angelika Strohmayer, Dr. Mary Laing, and Rob Comber and is titled: Technologies and Social Justice Outcomes in Sex Work Charities: Fighting Stigma, Saving Lives   See the accompanying conference presentation at CHI’17 (Conference of Human Factors in Computing Systems).
  • Kate ListerThe pen is mightier than the whore: Victorian newspapers and the sex-work saviour complex.” The title of the book is The Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality.
  • Heidi Hoefinger and Srorn Srun (2017) “At-Risk” or “Socially Deviant”?  Conflicting Narratives and Grassroots Organizing of Sex/Entertainment Workers and LGBT Communities in Cambodia, Social Sciences, Special Issue: Sex Workers’ Rights: Looking Toward the Future,  6(3), 93; doi:10.3390/socsci6030093

Conference Presentations

♦Feminist Emergency conference at Birkbeck 22-24th June 2017  the organisers invited a panel on Sex Work as follows:

This panel reviews the 2017 Home Affairs Select Committee report into Prostitution and the government response to it, from the perspective of those involved or interested in the industry. Voice will be given to critical reflection on the interrelations of race and feminist concerns with sexual labour, as well as evaluating the type of work that sex work might be, and the relationship between feminisms and activisms, in the service of social justice for sex workers. Chaired by Julia Laite (Birkbeck)  and organised by Katherine Angel (Birkbeck)  there were three panel speakers, Laura Watson (English Collective of Prostitutes), Angela Dimitrakaki (Edinburgh College of Art) and Maggie O’Neill (University of York). Laura in turn invited the fabulous Empower collective from Thailand

to join the session with a performative feminist ‘intervention.’  Wearing doctor’s coats and stethoscopes the collective dealt with the feminist emergency by handing out information and support  and care to the audience. The presentations and discussions highlighted various feminist readings  and representations of sex work, activist, academic and practical/material  with a clear focus on social justice, citizenship, status recognition and the decriminalisation of sex work.

♦Heidi Hoefinger and Nicola Mai (2017) Sex work, migration and trafficking in NYC– Preliminary findings from the Sexual Humanitarianism study, Society for the Study of Social Problems 67th Annual Conference (panel: Challenging and Resisting Neo/Liberalism in Sexualities Activism and Research); August, Montreal, Canada

♦Several members of the SWRH presented at the annual British Society Criminology conference in Sheffield early July. The following papers got some interesting feedback and much support:

  • Peer Talk: Hidden Stories-A Participatory Research project with Women Who Sell of Swap Sex in Teesside. Maggie O’Neill, Alison Jobe, Kelly Stockdale and community co-researchers
  • Following the Money: the differential economics of on street and off street sex work.
  • Alison Jobe, Maggie O’Neill, Kelly Stockdale and community co-researchers
  • Lucy Neville (Middlesex University) and Erin Sanders-McDougal (Kent University) Gentrification and the Criminalization of Sex Work: Exploring the Sanitization of Sex Work in Kings Cross with the sue of ASBOs and CBOs
  • Commercial Sex in the Digital Age: Crimes;Safety & Strategy
  • Teela Sanders*, Jane Scoular**, Rosie Campbell*, Jane Pitcher**, Stewart Cunningham** (*University of Leicester, ** University of Strathclyde) and community co-researchers

♦We are keen to have the SWRH represented at the 2018 conference in Birmingham City University 3-6th July. Contact with Prof. Teela Sanders for details.

♦SEX, WORK, LAW AND SOCIETY UPDATE …report from Mexico June 2017
The Sex, Work, Law and Society Collaborative Research Network (CRN #6) held its inaugural sessions at the annual Law and Society Conference in Mexico City June 20-23rd 2017. CRN #6 was the brainchild of Menaka Raguparan, a PhD Candidate at Carlton University in Ottawa. Coordinators include: Prof. Chris Bruckert University of Ottawa, Raven Bowen PhD Candidate, University of York UK; and Dr. Tuulia Law Sessional Assistant Professor, York University, Toronto, and joining us this year, Dr. Tamara O’Doherty Lecturer, SFU, Vancouver.

The June conference comprised seven sessions, with sex work researchers from around the world presenting on migration, trafficking, regulation, the experiences of third parties, tropes, and the political economy. In additional to the enlightening presentations, we hosted a dinner with special guests representing Casa Xochiquetzal, a home for active and former elderly sex workers. With the generous donations from CRN attendees, we contributed 14,516.91 pesos to support the work of this tenacious sex worker organization. Please view the event Storify for pictures and conference tweets.


Upcoming Events and Conferences

  • The North East Sex Work Forum will be hosting this year’s Regional Learning Day on 16 November at Middlesbrough Football Ground. There will be the usual range of speakers, stalls and workshops. For more information contact Gaynor Trueman on: gaynor_trueman@hotmail.co.uk
  • CALL FOR ABSTRACTS – LSA Annual Conference will be held in Toronto, Canada, June 7-10th 2018
    The theme of the 2018 meeting is Law at the Crossroads/ Le droit à la croisée des chemins. As such, we interpret the meeting theme as an opportunity to explore issues such as: law as both a tool of oppression and as a tool to challenge oppression and how sex workers and allies navigate this field; the growth of critical legal studies and the resulting recognition of law as inherently political rather than a neutral abstract notion of justice; the rise of nationalist and populist powers and their effects on marginalized groups, including but not limited to sex workers, who have seen their human rights gains rolled back or threatened; the limitations of law where public opinion or political will is resistant to reform or supportive of harmful laws; the use of evidence in law and the challenges that arise with increased use of social science evidence and experts in courts; the politicized, rather than empirical, basis for law and the resulting quandary for the sex workers’ rights movement in seeking labour and human rights through legal mechanisms; the ethics of engagement with law, a primary tool and feature of colonization, where decolonization and Indigenization are goals; the recognition of the violence of law, or the limitations/failures of legal institutions and the need for fundamental institutional change; new directions for sex workers, allies and the movement, given the current legal and political landscape.   We have extended the deadline for Abstracts to CRN #6 for the Law and Society Annual Meeting in Toronto, June 7-10th 2018.  Please Submit a 200-250 word Abstract byTHURSDAY OCTOBER 12TH 2017 5PM PST OR 10PM BST  using this link http://www.lawandsociety.org/Toronto2018/2018-submit-menu.html
    and indicate your affiliation as CRN #6.
    All proposals for paper presentations, panel (salon) sessions, round table discussions and Author meets Reader sessions will be accepted through LSA’s automated submission system. You can find more details about the automated submission system here http://www.lawandsociety.org/MexicoCity2017/2017-types-submit.html.If you are already planning a LSA session with at least four panelists (and papers) that you would like to see included in the Sex, Work, Law and Society CRN 6, please contact Menaka at menaka.raguparan@carleton.ca
  • BtG Beyond the gaze Launch conference 23rd January 2018 Manchester A one day conference event to launch findings of the Beyond the Gaze (BtG) research project, the largest study to date of UK internet based sex work in the UK. Participants will hear from a wide range of expert speakers from: academia, sex work community, policy, health and social care practice, take part in workshops linked to the research findings and have the opportunity to hear about several new resources based on Beyond the Gaze. Follow this LINK for tickets.
  • Postgraduate Sex Work Conference  March 26th 2018, University of Northumbria, Newcastle. Organised by Dr. Mary Laing and colleagues.  Watch this space for call for abstracts!
  • Sex work and the ARTS!
    We have just announced the tour of Sex Worker’s Opera  going to Cambridge. Weston-Super-Mare, Sheffield and London! We are so excited to bring the show to different audiences outside of London and connect with people. We are going to be giving creative workshops to sex workers in the local areas and advocacy/101 worjshops to groups of potential allies – LGBTQIA+ groups, Feminist groups, migrant women’s groups, human rights organisations and universities.
    If any groups in Cambridge, Sheffield, Weston-super-Mare would like a workshop please get in touch to clare@sexworkersopera.com or siobhan@sexworkersopera.co
    Press Release
    Press Pack

Launch of the Teesside  Peer Talk:hidden stories Research project, June 2017
Almost one year after submitting the report, Peer Talk: hidden stories [funded by Northern Rock and managed by A Way Out in Stockton] was launched in the North East. Durham University researchers  (Maggie O’Neill and Alison Jobe) were commissioned to undertake oversight of the research, train the community /peer researchers, design the research and research tools, gain ethical approval and lead the analysis and write up of the report in collaboration with the research team. The research team included Colleen Bilton, Kelly Stockdale, Hannah, Cath and community co-researchers who did not want to be named. The research complements participatory research undertaken by Changing Lives and Mary Laing and Adele Irving at Northumbria University in Tyne and Wear, also funded by Northern Rock.

Aims
Peer Talk: hidden stories sought to provide an evidence base to inform service provision, knowledge, policy and practice in Teesside and specifically to:

  • Document the lived experience and needs of women selling sex both on and off street, including their use and experience of services;
  • Document the experience of key stakeholders providing services to women selling sex both on and off street;
  • Document the key issues highlighted by both sex workers and stakeholders;
  • Produce targeted information for local service providers, policy-makers and key regulators in the region;
  • Contribute to research, academic and policy debates in the North East region and also nationally;
  • Use a participatory peer driven methodology to undertake the research and build research capacity.

What We Did
Community co-researchers interviewed women selling sex about their experiences, needs and support, and the key issues affecting them. The researchers were instrumental in producing research to help us to better understand the lives and needs of women and to further develop services to support women in Teesside.
The community co-researchers undertook 9 interviews with escorts selling sex from flats and on-line; 17 interviews with women who were, or who had recently worked selling sex on street; and 21 interviews with stakeholders.

How We Did It
The research was conducted using participatory action research methods. The community co-researchers were trained in participatory methods, designed the research and research tools in collaboration with the University research team, A Way Out and Barnardos SECOS project staff and volunteers. Twelve people completed this training: five current or former sex workers, five project workers and two A Way Out volunteers.  The community co-researchers were supported in the process by research buddies. They conducted the interviews together. Research buddies were project staff or volunteers who also undertook the participatory action research training.
Get in touch with Maggie maggie.oneill@york.ac.uk or Alison Jobe alison.jobe@durham.ac.uk if you would like a pdf copy of the report whilst the project web site is being updated.

  • East london logo  East London Project update: the qualitative study is underway. The East London Project is a new participatory research project to see how removing police enforcement against sex work could affect sex workers’ safety, health and access to services in East London. We will use the results to advocate for evidence-based policy and practice to protect the safety, health and rights of sex workers in the UK and internationally. We’re a multidisciplinary team of health and social scientists, sex worker rights activists and practitioners, based at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University of York, University of Bristol, Imperial College London and Homerton University Hospital. Our key partners are Open Doors and National Ugly Mugs, and some of our co-researchers are SWARM members. The project is led by Dr Lucy Platt and co-led by Pippa Grenfell.
    The project involves carrying out neighbourhood walks and interviews, and a two-part survey, with sex workers working in Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets. We are also interviewing other adults who work in the sex industry (e.g. maids, receptionists, security) and people who work with or make decisions that affect sex workers locally. We will use these results, together with routine data on the total number of arrests of sex workers and clients in the boroughs, to develop a computer model – designed to resemble the “real-world” using mathematical equations – to predict how removing enforcement could affect sex workers’ health, safety and access to services over time.
    Since August we’ve been accompanying Open Doors on outreach, attending clinics and drop-ins, and getting in touch with people online, which have been great ways to meet people working in the boroughs. We’ve started interviewing but we’re still looking for more people to take part, so please do get in touch if you or someone you know is interested in participating. We’re interviewing people who sell sex in Hackney, Newham or Tower Hamlets (now or in the past year) – any sector (direct services), 18+, all genders. Contact Pippa on 07948 906026; email: elp@lshtm.ac.uk. We’re also about to start recruiting a team of freelance co-researchers for the surveys (October/November 2017 – July 2019), so if you have experience and/or knowledge of sex work in East London and are interested in getting involved, please get in touch. Contact Jocelyn on 0207 612 7824; email: elp@lshtm.ac.uk. To find out more about the project check out our website: blogs.lshtm.ac.uk/eastlondonproject. Follow us and tweet us @EastLndProject.
  • STudent sex logo   News from Wales
    We have been out the summer spreading the word about the harms associated with stigmatising student sex work www.thestudentsexworkproject.co.uk  We were delighted to be asked by PXL University College, Hasselt, Belgium to deliver an all-day seminar on the Student Sex Work Project on June the 1st 2017. There were a series of presentations by Debbie, Tracey, Sam and Marije and an evening screening of Fog of Sex with a Q&A with Professor Chris Morris, Falmouth University and Debbie, Tracey and Sam.Tracey n DebbOn the 3rd of July Tracey and Debbie presented to health care professionals at the annual (sunny) Student Health Association conference at Loughborough University.And following on with the European theme, Debbie, Tracey, Sam and Jordan presented a special session on Student Sex Work on the 12th of July at the XXXVth International Congress on Law and Mental Health Prague.

Project news
We have just embarked on a small project with Public Health Wales which seeks to reanalyse the Student Sex Survey to look at student attitudes to sex work and we are also working with them on the development of a training package which looks to educate professionals about the harms associated with the stigmatising of sex work.  We are hoping that sex workers will want to get involved in this project with us so that the messages they want to get out to professionals can be embedded into training. So, if you would like to know more please email Debbie  Deborah.a.jones@swansea.ac.uk

Debb andThat’s all from us for now!

Debbie Jones, Tracey Sagar, Jordan Dawson, Marije Van Stempvoort and Sam Geuens PXL University College (I know he isn’t strictly one of the Welsh gang )


Announcements

Please regularly check this blog for up-to-date news and items

Finally, to welcome new Board Members of the SWRH:

  • Dr Kate Lister
  • Dr Belinda Brooks Gordon
  • Professor Jane Scoular


    These fine academics join the existing team of Professor Nick Mai, Professor Tracy Sagar, Debbie Jones, Dr Mary Laing, Dr Nicky Smith; Co-chairs Dr Rosie Campbell, Professor Maggie O’Neill and Professor Teela Sanders; and Administrator Raven 
    (The Rook) Bowen. 

 

Sex, Work, Law & Society Update & Call for Abstracts, 2018

By Raven Bowen

The Sex, Work, Law and Society Collaborative Research Network (CRN #6) held its inaugural sessions at the annual Law and Society Conference in Mexico City June 20-23rd 2017. CRN #6 was the brainchild of Menaka Raguparan, a PhD Candidate at Carlton University in Ottawa. Coordinators include: Prof. Chris Bruckert University of Ottawa; Raven Bowen PhD Candidate, University of York (UK); Dr. Tuulia Law Sessional Assistant Professor, York University, Toronto; and joining us this year, Dr. Tamara O’Doherty  Lecturer, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. We would like to thank our respective Departments for supporting our attendance and coordination.

The June conference comprised seven sessions, with sex work researchers from around the world presenting on migration, trafficking, regulation, the experiences of third parties, tropes, and the political economy. In additional to the enlightening presentations, we hosted a dinner with special guests representing Casa Xochiquetzal, a home for active and former elderly sex workers. With the generous donations from CRN attendees, we contributed 14,516.91 pesos to support the work of this tenacious sex worker organization. Please view the event Storify for pictures and conference tweets.

Casa%20Xochiquetzal%20Raven.jpg

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS

LSA Annual Conference will be held in Toronto, Canada, June 7-10 2018

The theme of the 2018 meeting is Law at the Crossroads/ Le droit à la croisée des chemins. As such, we interpret the meeting theme as an opportunity to explore issues such as: law as both a tool of oppression and as a tool to challenge oppression and how sex workers and allies navigate this field; the growth of critical legal studies and the resulting recognition of law as inherently political rather than a neutral abstract notion of justice; the rise of nationalist and populist powers and their effects on marginalized groups, including but not limited to sex workers, who have seen their human rights gains rolled back or threatened; the limitations of law where public opinion or political will is resistant to reform or supportive of harmful laws; the use of evidence in law and the challenges that arise with increased use of social science evidence and experts in courts; the politicized, rather than empirical, basis for law and the resulting quandary for the sex workers’ rights movement in seeking labour and human rights through legal mechanisms; the ethics of engagement with law, a primary tool and feature of colonization, where decolonization and Indigenization are goals; the recognition of the violence of law, or the limitations/failures of legal institutions and the need for fundamental institutional change; new directions for sex workers, allies and the movement, given the current legal and political landscape.

We invite scholarly presentations relating to the overall conference theme, our CRN’s aims and scope, or the following keywords (primary key word should be Sex, Work, Law and Society, secondary key words should come from the following list): 

Access to Justice
Citizenship, Migration, and Refugee Studies
Class and Inequality
Economic and Social Rights
Economy, Business and Society
Gender and Sexuality
Labor and Employment
Policing, Law Enforcement
Race and Ethnicity
Race, Critical Race Research
Regulation, Reform, and Governance
Rights and Identities
Social Movements, Social Issues, and Legal Mobilization
Social Networks, Personal Relationships

Law and Society requires a 200-250-word abstract to be submitted for conference presentation vetting. The deadline for submission is THURSDAY OCTOBER 12TH 2017 5PM EST OR 10PM BST.

All proposals for paper presentations, panel (salon) sessions, roundtable discussions and Author meets Reader sessions will be accepted through LSA’s automated submission system. You can find more details about the automated submission system here http://www.lawandsociety.org/MexicoCity2017/2017-types-submit.html.

If you are already planning a LSA session with at least four panellists (and papers) that you would like to see included in the Sex, Work, Law and Society CRN 6, please contact Menaka at menaka.raguparan@carleton.ca Tweet using #LS2018_sexwork

Please note that everyone attending the meeting is expected to register. Only those who register will be included on the official LSA-RCSL Joint Meeting Program (online and printed), or be allowed to present papers, or attend presentations and other functions. You do not have to be a member of LSA or any of the co-sponsoring organizations to participate in the meeting generally.

21 Questions with Matt Valentine-Chase Licensed Professional Therapist, Sex Coach and Healer

By Raven R. Bowen

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Q: So, what do you do?

A: Well, I might sound like a ‘Jack of all trades’ but I usually have three jobs on the go at any one time so at the moment I’m a sex coach qualified in therapy, so I’m basically a therapist who coaches, which is slightly different from a coach. I’m also a research assistant with Beyond the Gaze and I’m doing a mainstream job [in the private sector]. I’m a former escort and that informs my sex coaching.

Q: And your favorite color?
A: Orange. It’s weird because I don’t look good in orange but I just like the color!

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: Oh that’s easy! I’m most proud of the length of time I spent in the adult industry and the way that I developed the job and how I’ve overcome some of the pitfalls. I think it’s a difficult job to do because there is not much professional development (so far as the industry is concerned), so to do it well I used some of my professional training to kind of inform my self-awareness. So, if I was off with my boundaries for example I would change things. I turned my sex work into more of a healing experience for the client and that also helped my business. I hope that by incorporating the therapeutic element I have contributed to changing the image of the industry. Sex workers, whether they are qualified therapists or not are doing this healing work in my opinion and they don’t get enough credit for it.

Q: What drew you to the sex industry?

A: Well it chose me! I go into a stereotype here but I think most people who will read this will understand. I was in a desperate situation when I first started. I had friends telling me to be a model because I was quite good looking back then, but I thought that was kind of boring. So I looked at escort agencies, back in the day of print press and so I did it and didn’t enjoy it at first because of my internalized whoreaphobia. I worked through that, because I was working in a brothel and I started at the bottom of the industry, and I worked my way up and turned it into a career.

Q: The last thing you laughed about?

A: I laugh at the most inappropriate moments. When I meditate, it makes me giggle because it opens my heart, so it’s a strange response but I giggled during my meditation this morning.

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: Steak, chips, garden peas, garlic mushrooms. It’s not right if it doesn’t have garlic mushrooms!

Q: Your current project or pursuit?

A: I have a lot of links in the industry and industry-related projects especially to do with sex and disability because this is one of my passions. A current project is that I’m a Trustee for The Outsiders Trust and they are a social and dating group for people with disabilities. So, it’s basically about helping disabled people to have fulfilling sexual and social lives just like everybody else. We’re launching an online sex school for disabled people very soon. Stay tuned.

Q: What’s your biggest regret?

A:  I would love to be one of those enlightened people who have no regrets but I have so many! My biggest regret…that there were issues that I had with my mom many years ago and although I resolved them with her before she died, I didn’t do it soon enough. I wish I had faced that a little bit sooner but she had a beautiful death and there was nothing left unsaid.

Q: Facebook or Twitter?

A: Facebook for friends and Twitter for work. I have a love/hate relationship with both because they’re addictive and they can be shallow places. I also use Facebook Messenger for work.

Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work and related work?

A: What challenges me the most is giving up sex work. I’m retired but there is a sense of guilt at letting down clients who’ve been with me for a very long time. I know that’s my stuff but at the same time I have a massive passion and respect for the profession and a lot of clients do too. With the coaching, the challenge is I feel very respected among sex industry people but I don’t feel very respected by other therapists because people don’t seem to understand how my sex work has informed my therapeutic training and the coaching that I do. I think the two together are just fantastic because I haven’t learned these skills from a book. When I tell a coaching client what to do – I know it works.

Q: Favorite Movie?

A:  I, Tina “What’s love got to do with it” The true life story of Tina Turner. I’ve probably seen that movie 200 times!

Q: And the last time you cried?

A: This morning. I usually cry to something pretty much every day. Sometimes they are happy tears, sometimes frustration.

Q: Cat or dog person?

A: Dog, definitely dog! Cats as so selfish!

Q: Who understands you?

A: My spiritual teacher understands me but as far as my friends are concerned, I have a core group of fantastic friends so I would say that they understand me but I must say I’m quite complex … so it’s a big job to understand me!

Q: What’s the last book or article you read?

A: Well it was several hundred pages, but the Beyond the Gaze research findings.  Q: You’re going for brownie points now! A: Yes I am. It was exhausting but I had a sense of achievement in doing it I have to say!

Q: Childhood Fear?
A: The dark. It was not helped by my mom telling me that the bogey man lived in the outside toilet. So I’d have to go outside to the loo and it was dark and the bogey man lived there! I’m not sure why there was no light…we were poor.

Q: What did your last text say?

A: ‘That’s my favorite position.’ Q: I’m afraid to ask… A: Yes, someone was suggesting something! Q: Clearly, moving on then…

Q: One thing that your work or existence is aimed to do for the sex industry?

A: To mainstream it. That’s my big goal because you do that through education and that will eliminate stigma.

Q: The meaning of life in one word?

A: Love, kindness and non-conformity. Do you see what I did there? Q: Yeah, you gave me three words! How’s one. A: Okay non-conformity.

Q: The last thing you Googled?

A:Sex coaching London’, because I was checking my search term ranking! Pretty good.  

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?

A: Everything! That’s it. I want to be everything, and I want to do everything from my bucket list, singing lessons, DJ courses, you name it. I used to work for a radio station and I’m missing it.

Is sex work still the most dangerous profession? The data suggests so

By Teela Sanders & Lucy Platt

Romina Kalachi, a 32-year-old woman, was stabbed to death in her own home on May 29, 2017. She was killed in her flat in Kilburn, London and is the latest known sex worker to be murdered in the UK.

In 2007, Hilary Kinnell wrote a book chapter, Murder Made Easy, followed by her important book Violence and Sex Work in Britain, an accumulation of research and practice-based knowledge about the extent of violent crimes and homicides against sex workers in the UK. She reported comprehensively the nature of violence against sex workers, who the perpetrators were and heavily criticised the legal context in which sex workers worked.

A decade on, the reality is that those working in the commercial sex industry likely remain the most at risk of violent crime.

As part of a Wellcome Trust funded project reviewing the occupational risks of sex workers compared to those in other “risky” professions, my colleagues Dr Lucy Platt, Stewart Cunningham, Pippa Grenfell and Dr PG Macioti and I analysed a database of sex worker homicides in the UK between 1990 and 2016. The data are curated by National Ugly Mugs, a reporting mechanism for crimes against sex workers. In the absence of a comprehensive police database, we believe that it may be the most accurate existing resource for understanding these extreme crimes. Of the 180 victims in the database, we classified 110 as known occupational homicide cases – that is to say, they were murdered while engaging in sex work.

We found that women accounted for the clear majority of victims (105), with only two male and three trans victims. Overall, the vast majority of victims (85) were also street-based sex workers.

This trend remained consistent during the decades 1990-1999 and 2000-2009 even when total number of reported homicides nearly doubled (from 28 between 1990-1999 to 50 in 2000-2010), reflecting the increased vulnerability of street-based sex workers.

Recent trends:

Since 2011, proportionally more indoor sex workers have been murdered (ten, or 59%) than street-based sex workers (seven, or 41%) – and the majority of murdered indoor workers were working alone. This is likely to be because most sex work now happens indoors as street markets have declined and the internet has become the preferred place for advertising and marketing. It may also be the case that working alone indoors presents greater risks.

Overall, the numbers killed whilst working in the current decade (2011-2016) is suggesting a decreasing trend with 18 homicides (16 of them cisgender women victims) compared to other decades. Since 2011, there has been a significant shift to indoor working only, and different forms of online sex work, such as webcamming, that do not require physical contact. There were also fewer serial killer murders reported than in the previous decade.

The static nature of murders so far this decade reflects the overall homicide rate in the England and Wales which been stable for a similar period – ranging from 533 to 574 recorded murders a year, apart from a spike in 2015-16 when the number rose to 723.

Our other key finding is that the proportion of homicide victims with a migrant background has increased in recent years. In the 20 years between 1990 and 2009, only 6% (five individuals) of sex work occupational homicide victims (where nationality/migration status is known) were migrants, compared to 94% (77) who were British born. Since 2010, however, the proportion of migrant victims has dramatically increased with eight of the last 18 victims coming from a migrant background.

This may reflect changes in the overall makeup of the sex industry, with increasing numbers of migrant workers working in it, and/or suggest that offenders are specifically targeting migrants because of their potentially increased vulnerability.

One positive finding was that the solve rate for sex worker occupational homicide improved substantially in the 2000s. Since 2006, all 34 occupational homicide cases were solved with the offender in question convicted and given lengthy and sometimes multiple life sentences.

But there should be no perpetrators to sentence. These homicide patterns must be considered against the broader evidence of how the justice system in the UK (and other jurisdictions) increases the risks and vulnerabilities faced by those involved in the sex industry. Laws that make involvement in the sex industry criminalised means that safety can never be prioritised.

Where a legal system stigmatises, marginalises and pushes into the shadows those in the industry, sex workers are made vulnerable by their treatment as partial citizens. Hate crimes against sex workers are prevalent on an everyday basis through physical attacks, online abuse and harassment, largely because sex workers are not treated as equal citizens worthy of the same protection and rights as those working in other professions.

Policing strategies also have to be scrutinised when we question why sex workers are considered “easy targets” who will not report crimes against them. It is clear that for both street and indoor sex workers, enforcement led policing creates barriers to reporting crime and the law offering adequate protection.

Without legal reform, which moves on from the simple ideology that “prostitution is wrong” and towards a legal and policy framework which addresses the practicalities of sexual labour in the 21st century, such tragedies will continue to occur.

[This piece originally appeared in The Conversation]

The UK Sex Worker Homicide Database: An Analysis

By Stewart Cunningham, Teela Sanders, Lucy Platt, Pippa Grenfell, PG Macioti

As part of a Wellcome Trust funded project on ‘reviewing the occupational risks of sex workers in comparison to other ‘risky’ professions: mental ill-health, violence and murder’ we undertook analysis of a database of sex worker homicide in the UK between 1990 – 2016.  While we cannot say with certainty that the database constitutes a record of absolutely all sex worker homicide in the UK we believe that it may be the most accurate existing resource on the subject given its proximity to the sex worker community and those with on the ground knowledge (it is currently held by National Ugly Mugs and was previously updated by Hilary Kinnell and then Shelly Stoops on behalf of UKNSWP).

We decided to classify the homicides based on whether the victim was killed in the course of work to better identify instances of occupational or work-related homicide. The database records 180 sex worker homicides between 1990 and 2016 and of these we classified 110 victims as being killed in the course of work, 37 of the homicides as being non-work related and in 33 of the cases we were unable to classify based on a lack of information.  We conducted more detailed analysis on the 110 cases of known occupational homicide.

Cis-gendered women represented the vast majority of victims (n=105) of occupational homicide with two cis-gendered male victims and three trans women victims.  The vast majority of homicide victims were street based sex workers (n=85) with a smaller number (n=24) of victims who worked indoors (work setting not known for one victim).  The trends around work sector have, however, changed quite dramatically since 2010.  Between 1990 and 1999, 85% (n=28) of sex work occupational homicide was committed against street based sex workers.  The overall numbers of homicides increased significantly in 2000 to 2009 but the percentage of street based victims remained the same at 85% (n=50).  Between 2010 and 2016, however, this pattern has reversed and there are now more indoor sex workers killed (59%, n=10) than street based sex workers (41%, n=7).  This could, in part, reflect the changing working practices for sex workers with the rise of internet facilitated indoor working resulting in a significant decline in street based sex working.

The vast majority of victims (where ethnicity and nationality were known, n=100) were of white British ethnicity (n=77, 77%) with white Eastern European victims the next largest group (n=9, 9%).  There were smaller numbers of mixed race (n=6), Black (n=5) and Asian (n=2) victims of various national identities.  The proportion of homicide victims that have a migration background has increased in recent years.  In the 20 years between 1990 and 1999 only 6% (n=5) of sex work occupational homicide victims (where nationality/migration status is known) were migrants compared to 94% (n=77) who were British born. Since 2010 the proportion of migrant victims has dramatically increased to 50% (n=8), exactly the same number of British born victims.  This may be reflective of changes in the overall makeup of the sex industry with increasing numbers of migrant workers and/or suggest that offenders are specifically targeting migrants because of their potentially increased vulnerability.

The solve rate for sex worker occupational homicide improved substantially in the 2000s and since 2006 every single case has been solved with the offender convicted.  It is also important to note that this current decade has the lowest number of sex worker homicides on record since the database was created.  Between 2010 and 2016, 27 sex workers were murdered in total (17 while working) compared to 91 (60 while working) in 2000 – 2009 and 62 (33 while working) in 1990 – 1999.

Analysis of the homicide database shows changing trends in sex worker homicide with victims now being more likely to work indoors than on the street and also increasing numbers of migrant sex worker being targeted.  Future research on sex worker homicide must consider the social and legal contexts in which sex work takes place and how this may impact on vulnerability to homicide.  Legal change though cannot occur in isolation and much has to be done to challenge and counter the, still pervasive, stigma that exists against sex workers, making them so vulnerable to all forms of violence, including homicide.  Only with a combination of anti-stigma work alongside meaningful legal and policy change that prioritizes sex worker safety can there be any hope of addressing the tragedy of sex worker homicide

The briefing papers can be found here:

http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/criminology/people/teela-sanders

 

An Open Letter to the Mother of a Sex Worker – The Spared Conversation

By Anonymous

Dear Mum,

You do not know this and you probably never will, but I am a sex worker. Men and sometimes women pay to have sex with me. Most would call me a prostitute, but calling me a prostitute is the real immorality in my choice to sell sex. It is a word that means I should be ashamed, a word that robs me of my rationality, a word that infers that you did not provide for me and failed as a mother. Well you did not. I am not ashamed of what I do and the choices I have made. I enjoy selling sex and I have made a rational, well thought out, individual, eye-opening, intelligent choice. Large sections of society lambast the choice I have made. My sanity, my intelligence, and the love I have for myself, my self-respect, my childhood, and my dignity is consistently, called into question and contested. If you knew what I did, you would probably be disappointed in me and feel like you have failed at parenting me. I do not want to put you in that position so I will probably never tell you. Coming to terms with my life as a sex worker would most likely cause you to battle emotionally over the love you feel for me with the disappointment and shame replacing it. I do not feel shame, but I do not want to put you in that position. You raised me to respect others, so I respect you enough to spare you this struggle.

You should know that it is because you raised me with positive values that I made this choice. You taught me to care for myself, so I know how to respect my body. I own it, and I decide how I will share it. You taught me to have a good work ethic, so I know how to take my job seriously and professionally. I am dedicated to providing a good service and enlightened enough to know my own boundaries. You taught me to strive to be the best I can be, so I take joy in knowing that I am good at having sex for money and I enjoy providing this service. You taught me to care for others and to help people whenever I can. I know therefore how to remain non-judgmental with clients of all body shapes and sizes, or with clients who have specific sexual interests, or those who wish to share with me their daily struggles. You taught me to be compassionate at all times and to appreciate positive relationships, so I know how to provide a caring service to my clients whilst never feeling that I have compromised my self-integrity. You taught me to do the things I love most in life and be proud of them, so that is exactly what I do.

You gave me the most amazing gift as a parent: you empowered me with the knowledge that I could make my own decisions as long as I was happy with them. It is because of you that I was able to make this choice by being informed, sensible, and fulfilled.