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. 

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.