Sex & the Citizens

independent.co.uk 20 Nov 2008

In their own words: The workers’ view

Kitty Stryker 24, professional dominatrix, London

“I come from California and believe me the UK is a way better place to work. There, everything is illegal and you can’t talk to the police or get medical help. That’s where it is now heading here. People go on all the time about the Swedish model and how it works so well but if you talk to the Swedish they say, ‘Are you being absurd?’ Any job can be dangerous. A lot of illegal female immigrants are going to be in a position of scary subservience – that is not exclusive to the sex industry. We have factory workers being sexually abused or nannies, but they can’t go to the police because they are illegal. That says more about being female and illegal than it does about the sex industry. We should focus on things that do work, such as training for sex workers, being able to report to the police without fear, and keeping clients legal.”

Chris 32, male sex worker, partner runs a straight escort agency in the North-East

“I have no idea where they get these figures for trafficked workers from. I have been involved in the industry for 10 years either as an independent or working through an agency and I have never met anyone who has been coerced or forced to do the work. A third work full time and about a third part time. This legislation will just drive it further underground. The police don’t know how they will enforce it. How will the clients know who has been trafficked and who hasn’t? The worst thing about this legislation is that the worst affected will be those who are already suffering most. People are not going to come forward to the authorities if it puts them at risk. How could an agency or a brothel inform the police they think a particular girl has been trafficked? They would be put out of business. The clients are not all dirty old men. I specialise in elderly and disabled clients – will you really want these people in court in their wheelchairs? You don’t rush to be a sex worker, you have to make a decision. Some people who pick it, love it, but it is not for everybody, although that is no reason to ban it.”

Victoria Andrews 25, table-dancing club owner, Southampton

“This is Britain in 2008: stigmatising what you can and cannot do is unbelievable. I was a lap dancer for six years at a big national chain and have never seen sex being sold so it would be completely wrong to reclassify a lap dancer as a sex worker. If we are reclassified or relicensed it will change perceptions about the industry and make it hard to recruit staff. I am a graduate from a middle-class background and if my parents thought I was selling sex they wouldn’t talk to me again. It would be wrong to say that no one has ever asked for sex but they are always told that it’s off the menu. ”

Cameron 25, female escort, Newcastle

“I work from my own place for an agency and they take 30 per cent; I feel it is more secure than working independently because the clients get checked out. I can earn up to £80 an hour. I’m angry about what the Government is trying to do. This is the oldest industry going and I don’t see the problem with it. I am not ashamed of what I do. It is just a job but people are judging me by what I do. I have some really good friends in the industry and I love some of the clients to bits. I get more respect from them than I do from men I meet in town who talk to you like you are worthless. I have been to university – I am not stuck in a dead end.”

Toni 25, sex worker, South-East

“You are extremely vulnerable. Violent men target prostitutes because they know they won’t go to the police. I was raped and tortured for four-and-a-half hours by a client but the police told me, ‘You are a prostitute, you cannot be raped.’ It was very hard to go back to work after that. I am just trying to keep my head and my children’s heads above water – 80 per cent of us are mothers. It is just a job of work between two consenting adults. The only immoral thing is the Government telling us how to use our bodies. It is pure arrogance. The Government is using the trafficking issue to clamp down and criminalise prostitution even further.”

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