Sex workers bring good to the Labour movement

FEATURE: Sex work is work

Published by the LRC on 17th February 2012

“Within the LRC I don’t need to apologise for who I am”, says LRC member and sex worker, Thierry Schaffauser

Recently I have been elected secretary of the Hackney LRC where I live. Although a majority of people supported me, I was surprised that I was questioned whether my public profile as a sex worker, and the porn films I did, could bring a bad image to the LRC. I was challenged because I state publicly that I am a sex worker on my Facebook page which can be seen from the LRC one.

I answered as calmly as I could that of all my life, I have never let anyone, whether my family, my friends or my boyfriends, tell me anything about my sexuality or my occupation, and that I wouldn’t start with my comrades in my own movement.

The concern was that my refusal to hide my job could be seen as a form of promotion of the sex industry criticised for being detrimental to women. So I feel the need to explain that my pride to be a sex worker means that I refuse to be ashamed and nothing else. When sex workers say that sex work is work, we are not saying that sex work is fun but that it’s work. We don’t glamorise it.

Work can appear as a form of fulfilment and accomplishment for middle class people who benefit from the status work gives them. For most working class people, work is just something we do to pay the rent, transports, and tuition fees, to fill in the fridge, to support our family, etc.

People have different opinions about the sex industry and whether it’s bad or not. But what should be clear is that sex workers are not bad and that we shouldn’t be blamed for violence or sexism in society, even when we refuse to be portrayed as victims. Being a victim has nothing empowering while being a worker means that we are part of the working class and that we share a History of struggles.

The LRC has taken a position in 2009 to support decriminalisation of sex work and sex workers’ unionisation. This is the reason why I joined the group: I could see that I had a place. I felt that I was respected as a real worker and real trade unionist as a member of GMB. Within the LRC I don’t need to apologise for who I am.

Sex workers’ unionisation is relatively new, because like women before us, we have been for a long time excluded from trade unions. This doesn’t mean that sex workers never resisted or never participated in the social struggles of the working class. We did and we will continue to do.
Nowadays, many workers have to work in a decontractualised and a casualised environment. Increasingly many workers are like sex workers; deprived of labour rights. Trade unions need to realise that younger generations no longer work in the usual workplaces and factories but are disseminated, and isolated from each other. More than ever, sex workers’ working conditions actually look like those of other workers.

Of course, the stigma attached to sex work remains very strong and makes such a difference. But precisely by coming out, we try to fight against it. So please don’t reproach us to be proud when we just try to resist to our oppression. We are part of the same class.

About Thierry Schaffauser

Queer, sex worker, drugs user, student in Gender History, GMB trade unionist, migrant, wants to change the world, etc
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3 Responses to Sex workers bring good to the Labour movement

  1. Jennifer Hynes says:

    Good for you Thierry! I’ve known several working girls, and not one was a victim. I know a lot are trafficked and abused, or do the job for reasons of addiction, but in my own small experience, the ones I have known have been independent and aware of the risks. Plus the mothers amongst them are REALLY good Mums. Overall I have seen sex workers at their best. I’m proud to have counted them as friends.

  2. Cliente X says:

    Exact. If we (SWs and johns) want to be accepted, first we need is to not to be ashamed of who we are and what we are doing. Hide our job/hobby/way of life? Why? Who are we harming? “Dignity of women”? The dignity of the radical feminists that have never worked with prostitutes and that don’t recognize them the right to live the life they want? They are the ones that are attacking prostitutes’ dignity!

    It’s really wonderful that u’ve found a political party that supports ur struggle. I’m from Spain (so excuse my basic english), and here there are very few parties favorable to SWs rights. Main left party, PSOE (socialists), is openly abolitionist together with their trade union the UGT. Also IU (communists) is, after a fierce internal debate, against regulation and accepted the abolitionist point of view. But their trade union, CCOO, it’s –at least nominally- pro right’s, although in practice it hasn’t do too much. Actual govern, from PP, hasn’t got an official doctrine as has both conservative (against prostitution) and liberal (favorable) tendencies. As happened to Pye Jacobssen in Sweden, only political support comes from liberals and they are very weak here: Ciutadans (political party o the citizenship) and P-Lib (party of the individual freedom) have both shown a strong support to SWs and their allies. Anyway they are irrelevant in the national politic scene, just Ciutadans has a few support and representation in Catalonia (it’s mainly an anti-separatist party).

    Well, returning to the topic of the stigma I’m really happy to found more SWs aware and active, determined to fight the social exclusion that suffers anyone linked to the sexual work. Rationally, this stigma is senseless as u explain: why to make a difference between this and any other work? Why u can say openly that u work as waiter, dependant, cleaner but not as prostitute? Do traditional moral determines which works are honorable like in the Middle Ages, when manual works were of not enough “dignity” for the nobility? Well, if someone thinks prostitution is not good enough for him/her nobody forces to do it. We just want respect from them –as I suppose they want us to respect them in their works- and recognition of rights from the public powers, as any other worker. Not more, not less. We just want the same as ANYONE.

  3. Pingback: Real men, don't buy girls. Los hombres de verdad, no compran mujeres.

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