The English Collective of Prostitutes, via the International Prostitutes Collective website, give an urgent alert that MPs are trying to criminalise clients of sexworkers. In particular, this is by means of adding a clause to the Modern Slavery Bill to be discussed on Tuesday 4 November.
Anyone who pays any attention at all to sex workers’ own accounts and experience, their needs and wishes, knows that the so-called “End Demand”, “Swedish Model”, or “Nordic Model”, is Bad News. It’s not just sex workers who say this. The World Health Organisation, for example, has reported that decriminalisation of sex work (which term is generally used to indicate putting any regulatory structures on a par with those governing other areas of work) is the most effective method of handling a range of issues; the linked briefing above also cites the Royal College of Nursing and Lancet.
Twitter campaign/collective action group Everyday Whorephobia quotes from the proposals:
Let’s just look at that again.
“A person commits an offence.. if he or she procures sexual intercourse or any other sexual act…, in return for payment.”
“provision of non-financial benefits, including, but not limited to, drugs or alcohol.”
Here’s a few ways in which a person can, or could be regarded as having, “procured sexual intercourse or any other sexual act … in return for payment”:
As mentioned by Everyday Whorephobia: anyone producing porn of any variety would technically be committing an offence. Even if it’s amateur, if you say, “I’ll cook you dinner afterwards”, or offer any kind of gift for helping out, then bingo: you’re guilty of an offence.
Again, as mentioned by Everyday Whorephobia: webcam performers’ clients, through paying and requesting a “sexual act”, would appear to be guilty of an offence under this legislation.
What about going to a fetish club with an entry fee? I am sure that it would defeat the object of the legislation if a client could say, “I never handed that woman any money, I gave it to her pimp, therefore I’m not guilty.” So handing over money to the event organisers rather than a fellow attendee who then performs a “sexual act” with you, would appear to be an offence.
What, then, is a “sexual act”? There’s some controversy over this, in that many proDommes insist that the service they provide is not “sex work” (a disappointing attitude in my opinion, and unlikely to protect pro BDSM service providers in the long run).
Here’s why it’s likely they’re wrong: the Crown Prosecution Service legal advice page (it’s odd what a writer needs to have bookmarked!) defines “sexual” as:
A definition of ‘sexual’ is set out in section 78 and applies to all the offences in Part 1, with the exception of section 71 (sexual activity in a public lavatory).
- In deciding whether an activity is sexual, look first at the nature of the activity. If the activity is by its nature sexual (e.g. sexual intercourse, masturbation), then it is sexual.
- Where the nature of the activity may or may not be sexual, prosecutors should consider the circumstances or purpose (or both) of the defendant in deciding whether it is sexual (e.g. R v Price The Times 20 August 2003, where stroking a woman’s leg over trousers and below the knee was capable of amounting to an indecent assault).
Remember that the defendant here is the one paying for the service.
But so far all we’ve talked about is “perverts” and “johns” (to use the language that, sadly, many may think in terms of) and the average folks may think it doesn’t apply to them. But millions of people use dating websites, and most of these require members to pay in order to be able to contact other members. So, you paid the subscription, you connected with someone, and arranged a date. Did you kiss at the start of the date? Did you “stroke your date’s leg over their trousers and below the knee”? Did you (heaven forfend!) have sex on a first date? Well, congratulations, you just broke the law, it looks like. That’s if the amendment goes through, of course.
As Everyday Whorephobia points out, if you follow the standard dating script where the guy pays for everything and eventually the woman decides he’s serious, and invites him in for “coffee” (spelt “hot, dirty fucking but we can’t call it that”), then he’s become her “client” and she (apparently) is some kind of sex slave because of it, and need protecting from him by locking him up.
If this had been law when I met my last partner, then SHE would be guilty of an offence. She paid for my train tickets to go back to hers after our date, paid to get me into an art exhibition, and drove me home the next morning (that’s “non-financial benefits”) and thus procured from me several sexual acts.
It’s a bad law because it is not decriminalisation. But these points show it’s even worse than that. And maybe they will get some people to think again about sex work, and listening to the voices that matter: those of actual sex workers.
Please: write to your MP. The ECP article linked at the top of the page has a form letter you can use by adding your own observations and comments. You can send an email via WriteToThem. (Remember you can’t add an attachment there, so you may need to insert the link to the briefing.)
Laura Agustin tweeted that:
So even if (like mine) your MP is slow to respond to messages, it is still worthwhile writing.