Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Eat Up Your Brothelly

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  • giovanni tiso,

    I expect he's correct in saying that these are phrases the sex workers he has spoken to use themselves.

    Goody, shall we start using the "n" word then? Really. But it's not even how offensive the blanket use of those terms is, it's that they were designed to reduce all sex workers to the sex workers that Ben knows.

    Experience's a fine thing, but then there are the things you don't know. Emma is good at reminding us of that.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Eh? I don't even know what this is supposed to mean. Cocaine is a pretty upmarket drug. Would you say that practicing law is bad because some people use it to support their cocaine habit? I'm just confused now.

    Have you known many methamphetamine addicts? They're vulnerable in some pretty significant ways.

    I guess it's my fault for relating the brothel P story in the first place but I was quite shocked when I heard it -- this was post-legalisation -- and I think it's an example of the way that it can still be a nasty, risky industry to work in. Any comparison with banking in that sense seems misguided.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I'd just like it if part of the picture didn't become all of the picture by virtue of shrewd wordplay.

    This is what happens with this debate, on both sides, pretty much everywhere, not just at PA. Each side believes they're presenting a piece of the picture that the other one is omitting. Each sees the other as universalising a particular experience when neither actually is, so in attempting balance you just end up skewing wildly between two extremes.

    I choose Ren to quote a lot partly because she is well-educated and articulate, and explains things well, but also because she works for SWOP, so her own comfort with the job is tempered by her experience of helping other people out of it. Jill Brennerman's story is hardly Pretty Woman.

    it would be hard to take his comments as the basis for arguing "it would be a good thing if the sex industry was bigger than it is already", whereas you could probably find some leverage for the proposition "it would actually be better if the sex industry was somewhat smaller than it is today"

    Why does the size matter? Rather than, say, working conditions, or the happiness of the people in it?

    Someone in a debate in another forum a while back asked people to consider if, in their perfect future utopia, there would be sex work. And after what I've learned over the last five years or so, I'd have to say 'yes'. Or at least, that it wouldn't be a utopia if you banned sex work, because there are people - and it doesn't really matter how many - who genuinely enjoy it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Goody, shall we start using the "n" word then?

    Okay, forget it. I'm out of this conversation.

    Really. But it's not even how offensive the blanket use of those terms is, it's that they were designed to reduce all sex workers to the sex workers that Ben knows.

    I don't think they were. I think you've put a preposterous construction on what Ben was trying to say and you're simply refusing to acknowledge that he might have some idea what he's talking about.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Someone in a debate in another forum a while back asked people to consider if, in their perfect future utopia, there would be sex work. And after what I've learned over the last five years or so, I'd have to say 'yes'. Or at least, that it wouldn't be a utopia if you banned sex work, because there are people - and it doesn't really matter how many - who genuinely enjoy it.

    Plus there is the not at all small matter of the organisation that Philip linked to upthread, yes.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Any comparison with banking in that sense seems misguided.

    And Dentists! High suicide rates, what's that say about their work conditions? Just rosy?

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    I'm going to guess that members of all three of those professions support a P habit in NZ. Banking and dentistry are probably harder to get into and make enough money off if you've already got the habit however.

    I'm sure they are. But if you weren't already a dentist or banker, but already had a P-habit my guess is that the lead time between deciding to take up those professions and actually making any money at it would make them unlikely destinations for our hypothetical addict.

    Just a wild guess, but would be happy to learn that I was wrong.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Someone in a debate in another forum a while back asked people to consider if, in their perfect future utopia, there would be sex work. And after what I've learned over the last five years or so, I'd have to say 'yes'.

    You're back! Yay!

    My answer would also emphatically be "yes".

    Why does the size matter? Rather than, say, working conditions, or the happiness of the people in it?

    Yes. Or, rather, YES.

    Which doesn't change the fact that for some of the people who work in it now -- and probably not a small proportion -- it's still a nasty, risky business to be in. I wish it wasn't, but in the real world I think it is. Even more so than banking.

    Okay, gone now ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    you're simply refusing to acknowledge that he might have some idea what he's talking about.

    No, actually. It was a discussion on what kind of job prostitution is, in which I said it's not all exploitation, and in which he said would you be proud if your son sucked dick for a living. Which to me is not okay, I don't care how many johns Ben knows.

    And that was my point in the banker vs. prostitute comparison. It's not whether one job is better than the other, it's that the names of the jobs don't tell you enough. Because there are many different kinds of bankers, and many different kinds of prostitutes.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    This is what happens with this debate, on both sides, pretty much everywhere, not just at PA. Each side believes they're presenting a piece of the picture that the other one is omitting. Each sees the other as universalising a particular experience when neither actually is, so in attempting balance you just end up skewing wildly between two extremes.

    Happy to plead guilty to that one.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Happy to plead guilty to that one.

    I'll put my hand up too. Can't help defending the underdog. Possibly because I can draw comparisons from all types in all walks of life. I'll leave yous there too.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    Can't help defending the underdog.

    Hey! That's what I was doing! ;-)

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    You're back! Yay!

    What, you're not enjoying this? We could talk about... copyright? Cycling? Slut-shaming?

    Also on the subject of balance. (I've been baking, and thinking.) When I look at the figures I linked to before (I love me some sweet, sweet data, it's true), what strikes me is that I don't think anyone looks at those numbers and thinks, "Wow, I thought prostitutes were older, less drug-addicted and better-educated than that." I'd like to know how many people were genuinely surprised. So apologies in slight advance for the huge quote:

    Information was collected from 772 sex workers in Christchurch, Auckland, Wellington, Napier and Nelson and the final sample included workers from the diverse sections of the sex industry:

    * There were participants from street, private and managed sectors.
    * There were participants with the different gender identifications of male, female and transgender.
    * There were participants from both large cities and smaller towns.

    The majority of participants were New Zealand European, female, between the ages of 22 and 45 years, had entered the industry after the age of 18 years and had education levels of at least three to five years at the secondary school level, with many indicating they have tertiary level education. Nearly half of the participants reported having children. Most participants (67.1%) had been in the industry for longer than two years, with more than half reporting working prior to the implementation of the PRA in 2003.

    Okay, on reflection I didn't huge-quote. The section related to entering and leaving the industry (which includes figures on drug addiction) is here, but the table formatting is borked and it's giving me headaches.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    Each sees the other as universalising a particular experience when neither actually is, so in attempting balance you just end up skewing wildly between two extremes.

    Balance is always worth attempting. Otherwise you risk falling into the same trap as Martin did with his original comment.

    Why does the size matter? Rather than, say, working conditions, or the happiness of the people in it?

    I'll skip the obvious joke, but asking whether you would be happy to see the sex industry double in size is really asking whether it is a good thing for the great majority of its current participants. But if you can't make an argument that it should be bigger, then perhaps you are obliged to conclude that it should be smaller. (I am not arguing against better working conditions and all the rest of it, just that I doubt that many people would argue that sex industry is somehow akin to, say, clean tech start-ups, and what New Zealand really needs is more of it).

    Someone in a debate in another forum a while back asked people to consider if, in their perfect future utopia, there would be sex work. And after what I've learned over the last five years or so, I'd have to say 'yes'. Or at least, that it wouldn't be a utopia if you banned sex work, because there are people - and it doesn't really matter how many - who genuinely enjoy it

    I am not sure any decent utopia would have work, sex or otherwise. Some people lack imagination.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Balance is always worth attempting.

    Absolutely. But not easy. I think it requires tempering what you think you're hearing as well as what you're saying.

    I am not sure any decent utopia would have work, sex or otherwise.

    Having watched my mother deal with "retirement" (HA!) some people appear to go slightly bat-fuck if they can't work. Which I suppose would lead us into a debate on what we mean by "work"...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    The section related to entering and leaving the industry (which includes figures on drug addiction) is here, but the table formatting is borked and it's giving me headaches.

    It also gives me a headache when the go for "reasons" rather than "main reason". I mean who isn't going to use their prostitution money for household expenses? Only people who have no household, right? And the 8% who didn't do it for money, not even as a minor reason? WTF? Why didn't they do it for free then?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • andrea quin,

    How about huge quoting the summary then?

    Entry into sex work

    Entry into sex work was predominantly for financial reasons:

    * 73% of participants needed money to pay for household expenses.
    * Financial incentives were more important to female sex workers than to male or transgender sex workers.
    * Nearly half of street-based, male and transgender sex workers had no other source of income.
    * Flexibility of working hours and financial benefits were advantageous in terms of child care arrangements.

    Entry into sex work was also influenced by social factors, especially for street-based and transgender sex workers:

    * More than half of street-based and transgender sex workers had friends in the industry prior to starting work in the sex industry
    * Many participants were influenced by friends and family into entering the sex industry

    Entry into sex work was also influenced by identity factors:

    * Many street-based and transgender sex workers thought sex workers looked like they were fun to be with and that the work looked exciting and glamorous.
    * Sex work was also identified by male and transgender sex workers as a way of exploring their sexuality.

    The decriminalisation of the sex industry did not play a great role in reports of entry into the sex industry.
    Information at entry into sex work

    * 62% of all survey participants reported sufficient information on starting sex work to keep themselves safe
    * Nearly half (47%) of surveyed street-based workers reported that they did not have enough information
    * 33% of surveyed street-based workers did not get any information when starting sex work
    * Co-workers were the most often cited source of information on starting sex work
    * Most managed workers received information from the manager or reception at their place of work

    Expected length of stay in the industry

    * There was uncertainty in how long participants expected to stay in the industry.
    * Sex workers who had only been in the industry for a short period of time, were more likely than long-term sex workers to report that they intended to stay in the industry for less than one year.

    Reasons for staying in the sex industry

    Financial motives were key to staying in the sex industry.

    * 82% of survey participants remained in the industry to pay their household expenses.
    * 83% of survey participants valued the flexible working hours.
    * 42% of survey participants liked the company of other sex workers.
    * 43% of surveyed street-based workers said that all their friends were in sex work.
    * 39% of survey participants enjoyed the sex.

    Payment for work, other than money

    * Street-based workers were more likely than workers in other sectors to accept alternative forms of payment for sex.
    * Street-based workers who had been in the industry for some time stressed that they would only accept money for their services.

    Benefits of working

    Few participants reported no benefits of working in the sex industry.

    The key benefits reported by participants were:

    * They had more money.
    * They had made new friends.
    * They had survived.
    * They enjoyed contact with the clients.
    * They valued their independence, the flexibility of the work and the camaraderie with other workers.

    Some disadvantages reported in the qualitative interviews included:

    * The continuing stigma of sex work and harassment by the general public.
    * Many participants talked of the physical and mental stress of the work.

    Movement between sectors

    * There was little movement between sectors reported in the survey for street-based and managed workers, but half of the private workers reported starting out working in the managed sector.
    * Private workers reported moving into private work because it provided a safer working environment, where they could earn more and attract better clients.

    Exit from the sex industry

    * 51% of all survey participants had stopped working in the sex industry at least once and then returned.
    * The main reasons for returning to the industry were financial, but participants also reported missing workplace friendships and wanting time-out from their families.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2009 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Bryan Dods,

    There is a always a lot of strong opinion about prostitution regardless of which position the argument is supporting. It is always quite extreme and usually from people who have no personal involvement as buyer or seller.

    Does anyone have any data on the number of users of prostitution services in this country? (Preferably ignoring repeat business - I'd rather know how many individuals have indulged)

    My guess would be a fairly low percentage of the population, but I am only basing that on those that I know.

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 46 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    But if you can't make an argument that it should be bigger, then perhaps you are obliged to conclude that it should be smaller.

    I'm back to why does size matter. Shouldn't we want to improve it, rather than shrink it or enlarge it? I'd say the way to make it smaller would be to improve the socioeconomic lot of the people who are sex workers but would rather not be. It's a non-minimum wage job that you can do without major qualifications - provide more training and different and better working opportunities, it might shrink by itself.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    * 39% of survey participants enjoyed the sex.

    Boy, wouldn't it be nice to ask that question to all workers across all industries and compare the results.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • JoJo,

    Not sure of the relevance, but there were times (fairly recently. in the scheme of things) when doctors digitally massaged women to treat hysteria... and I'm sure the clients paid a fee. So, if we consider sexual release or contact as a postive, healthy, (even necessary) part of being human, then delivery of such a service seems perfectly acceptable to me.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 95 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I can't help but think that most of the problems of prostitution are really problems of an unequal society. It's not exactly the only industry where the less privileged are exploited by the more privileged even if the intimate and stigmatised nature of the work seem to mark prostitution as a 'special case'.

    In my utopia I'm pretty sure there would be a sex industry but it would probably look very different to the one we have today.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Which I suppose would lead us into a debate on what we mean by "work"...

    Hmmm....Ok.... maybe we could have a discussion on what "work satisfaction" might mean then.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    My guess would be a fairly low percentage of the population, but I am only basing that on those that I know.

    Well we know what rest home operators think don't we. Remember the bloke who wanted a bit on the side and the operators tut tutted and (I think) stopped him getting it.

    He won't be counted then.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    * 39% of survey participants enjoyed the sex.

    Boy, wouldn't it be nice to ask that question to all workers across all industries and compare the results.

    There are surveys for that. Statistics New Zealand 2008 Survey of Working Life:

    Satisfaction with main job:

    Of all employed people, 84.1 percent reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their main job. At the other end of the scale, 4.8 percent reported being dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their main job, while 10.8 percent were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their main job.

    Those employed people who reported that they had often or always found work stressful over the last 12 months were more likely to be dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their main job (13.7 percent), compared with 2.3 percent of those who were hardly ever or never stressed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

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