Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Naked Truth: Susan Davis on the life of a migrant sex worker

Photo of Susan Davis from the
Naked Truth website
There's few better ways to start to understand sex work than reading the writing of sex workers. I'm grateful for The Naked Truth for its efforts to bring those pieces to a broad audience, most especially this fascinating piece by long-time warrior Susan Davis.

Susan is a Vancouver entrepreneur, activist and sex worker who has played such an important role in bringing the issues of BC sex workers into the spotlight, and challenging the tired trope of broken victims in need of rescue. 

Her account here of making her way across Canada as a young sex worker, and the frightening challenges of settling into a new scene when you're in the sex industry, makes for a gripping read.

It will also make for an uncomfortable one for some people, as violence can be a routine part of a sex worker's life due to laws that keep the work in the shadows and make it virtually impossible for workers to avail themselves of police protection. (Reading Sue's many futile attempts to sound the alarm on serial killer Robert Pickton certainly gave me the chills.)

I haven't met many issues as capable of polarizing a conversation as sex work. I've listened to decades of those conversations and once upon a time, used to play way nicer and try to convince people of why it was important to decriminalize sex work to increase worker safety. Not so much anymore on the playing nice. When people literally have their lives on the line because we can't get past our moral objections and uninformed opinions, there's no room for "nice."

Canada has had bad law around sex work for its entire history, and arguably worse law since the former Harper government criminalized the purchase of sexual services for the first time ever in 2014.  The Liberal government made mumbly sounds of "considering the issue" when they first came into office, but never acted (one of the reasons why I have mixed feelings about Jody Raybould-Wilson, who never lifted a finger for sex workers in her time as Attorney General).

While police attitudes in certain Canadian cities have shifted significantly over time, that's still not the case in many communities across the country, where sex workers continue to work in extremely dangerous conditions with no hope that the police officer they approach will be prepared to help them.

You don't have to approve of the existence of sex work to get that criminalizing it is just about the worst way to oversee the industry. All our laws do is increase danger for people in the industry, the majority of whom are women. And yet here we are 152 years on, still doing the same old same old.

Add it to the list of Things That Make Me Weep. Or scream.


e.a.f. said...

agree. there is no need to criminalize the sex industry.. it never solves anything. we just have to look at booze and weed. people need to keep their moral outrage or what ever, to themselves. Its an industry. Its not going away. Lets make it safe.

the knowledge network had a t.v. series about a Danish P.M. one segment dealt with sex workers and it was interesting to note the main speaker for the women who worked in the sex industry was a married person, who lived a very normal life. people make money doing all sorts of things. We don't need more people dying while trying to make a living.

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