Don’t blame sex workers for rape.

Last week-end, a new controversy arose when Conservative MSP Bill Aitken suggested that a woman victim of rape may be a sex worker and wondering what the woman was doing in the place where she was attacked. When asked if the fact that she could be a prostitute would make a difference, he replied: “Well, the prostitute has possibly put herself in a position of some vulnerability.”

Usually feminist activists are divided on the issue of sex work, but this time Mr Aitken succeeded in creating a common front against his comments since we are all saying: “Stop blaming the victim!

A victim of rape’s reputation is always used against her (or him) to deny or invalidate her testimony. For sex workers, it is still very difficult to report rape and we continue to be discredited when we try to obtain Justice. Many people, including among politicians, police forces and public authorities continue to consider that rape is a less serious matter for sex workers.

Some people think that prostitution is paying to obtain the consent to rape. When a friend of mine went to the police she was told: “For you it’s nothing, it’s just a job without being paid, you’re used to getting fucked all the time anyway. Stop what you do and it wouldn’t happen.”

Also, a sex worker is always suspected not to tell the truth. Some people think that if we are “selling our body” we have no value in ourselves and it means that we are ready to do anything for money, including accusing falsely a man of rape.

These of course are misconceptions. Being a sex worker doesn’t prevent us to make the difference between rape and consenting sex or to say no to a client. Selling a sexual service does not mean that we are ready to accept everything or never able to impose our conditions in terms of rates, practices and prevention.

The main problem sex workers face is obviously the lack of trust with the police and the public authorities. Laws against sex work prevent efficient practices to stop violence and are in total contradiction with harm reduction approaches. How can the police investigate against violence faced by sex workers if they are already busy trying to arrest us?

However good practices exist in Liverpool where the Merseyside police collaborate with the local outreach project Armistead Street to prioritise safety for sex workers. In addition, the ACPO recently called for a change in the law toward decriminalisation so the police can better spend its time and resources.

We need to be careful when we talk about sex work. It can be a very difficult and exploitative job and the criminalisation of many parts of the industry can as a result dangerously increase violence, but defining sex work as inherently rape or violence against women adds more confusion than it helps.

Anti sex work arguments that define sex workers as sexual objects and saying that the sex industry normalises rape put sex workers in an unfair position, because if we don’t dislike our job and we continue working, then we become the accomplices of rape and patriarchy.

The absence of desire is not the absence of consent. To those who want to criminalise our clients, I would like to ask: “Why do you want to arrest the men who pay and respect the contract when nothing is done against those who rape us?

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About Thierry Schaffauser

Queer, sex worker, drugs user, student in Gender History, GMB trade unionist, migrant, wants to change the world, etc
This entry was posted in Sex work. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Don’t blame sex workers for rape.

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