One of the most persuasive myths about prostitution is that it is “the oldest profession”. Feminist abolitionists, who wish to see an end to the sex trade, call it “the oldest oppression” and resist the notion that prostitution is merely “a job like any other”.
Now it would appear that the New Zealand immigration service has added “sex work” (as prostitution is increasingly described) to the list of “employment skills” for those wishing to migrate. According to information on Immigration NZ’s (INZ) website, prostitution appears on the “skilled employment” list, but not the “skill shortage” list. My research on the sex trade has taken me to a number of countries around the world, including New Zealand. Its sex trade was decriminalised in 2003, and has since been hailed by pro-prostitution campaigners as the gold standard model in regulating prostitution.
The promises from the government – that decriminalisation would result in less violence, regular inspections of brothels and no increase of the sex trade – have not materialised. The opposite has happened. Trafficking of women into New Zealand into legal and illegal brothels is a serious problem, and for every licensed brothel there are, on average, four times the number that operate illegally. Violent attacks on women in the brothels are as common as ever. “The men feel even more entitled when the law tells them it is OK to buy us,” says Sabrinna Valisce, who was prostituted in New Zealand brothels both before and after decriminalisation. Under legalisation, women are still murdered by pimps and punters.
When prostituted women become “employees”, and part of the “labour market”, pimps become “managers” and “business entrepreneurs”, and the punters are merely clients. Services helping people to exit are irrelevant because who needs support to get out of a regular job? Effectively, governments wash their hands of women under legalisation because, according to the mantra, “It is better than working at McDonald’s.” As one sex-trade survivor told me, “At least when you work at McDonald’s you’re not the meat.”
The decision to include prostitution as an “employment skill” is a green light for pimps to populate brothels to meet the increased male demand for the prostitution of the most vulnerable women.
The practice of using human bodies as a marketplace has been normalised under the neoliberal economic system. Supporting the notion that prostitution is “labour” is not a progressive or female-friendly point of view. I have investigated the breast milk trade in Cambodia, where wealthy American businessmen recruit pregnant women and pay them a pittance for their milk. I have seen desperately hungry men outside hospital blood banks in India, offering to sell their blood in exchange for food. Girls in the Ukraine sell “virgin” blonde hair for use as extensions in western salons. It is increasingly common to “rent a womb” from women in the global south to carry a baby on behalf of privileged westerners.
In the Netherlands, which legalised its sex trade in 2000, it is perfectly legal for driving instructors to offer lessons in return for sex, as long as the learner drivers are over the age of 18.
Under legalisation in Germany, one government-funded NGO, described on its website as a “counselling centre for sex workers”, offers training for women to become “sexual assistant surrogate partnerships” when they decide to leave prostitution. The training focuses on how “sex workers” can help disabled people to explore their sexuality. Providing prostitution services, which is what it is, to men who are ill or disabled is a bit like the “meals on wheels” service, and clearly considered to be a public service. In other legalised regimes, such as Denmark and Australia, prostitution is available for men on the public health system. Perhaps an inevitable conclusion is that carers working with physically disabled couples, where there is a medium to severe level of mobility impairment, are asked to facilitate sex between them – for example, the carer may be expected to insert the penis of one into an orifice of the other.
Any government that allows the decriminalisation of pimping and sex-buying sends a message to its citizens that women are vessels for male sexual consumption. If prostitution is “work”, will states create training programmes for girls to perform the “best oral sex” for sex buyers? Instead of including prostitution as a so-called option in its immigration policies, New Zealand should investigate the harms, including sexual violence, that women in prostitution endure.
If prostitution is “sex work”, then by its own logic, rape is merely theft. The inside of a woman’s body should never be viewed as a workplace.
I think we need to boost Catherine Bennett, for making the connection, in a mainstream newspaper, between the male violence of MRAs and ‘incels’ and the male violence of trans activists (This article is published in the Observer, which is editorially independent from the genderist trash-heap that is the Guardian).
In the days since the Canadian man murdered 10 people, a good deal of attention, including glossaries of special terms, has focused on the peculiarities of “incel” online behaviour. Here, the standard misogynistic repertoire – “you deserve to be raped”, etc – is ornamented, a bit, with coinages such as femoids. But actually, so what? To many social media users, neither the language nor the sentiments expressed in posts such as the one above, however far along the woman-hating continuum, are likely to look radically out of the ordinary.
Apart from anything, Jack the Ripper, who would now be the toast of angry celibates, had the disembowelling idea 130 years ago. And further demonstrating that misogynistic tropes are by no means the monopoly of resentful male virgins, curators at San Francisco library are currently staging an exhibition featuring a display of dissident-silencing weaponry (axes and bats) and other hate-advertising artefacts.
Photographs of one vitrine, featuring a red bespattered T-shirt reading: “I punch terfs!” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists/women who disagree with me), may have struck a chord with anyone following the current UK debate about the government’s self-ID proposals. To date, threats, from one side, which echo, inescapably, some of those in the pro-Rodger playbook (“die in a fire terf scum”) have yet to generate comparably widespread concern, even after a woman was punched. Her assailant had earlier expressed the wish to “fuck up some terfs”.
For many prominent women, the violence threatened by Rodger fans must sound especially familiar. Caroline Criado-Perez, to whom we owe the new statue of Millicent Fawcett, is just one brilliant woman to have been rewarded, on Twitter, with sexualised menaces (”choke you with my dick” etc), which attracted nowhere near the appalled interest that now surrounds “incels”, as we should surely agree not to call these men, and not only because it implies that involuntary celibacy represents a special condition. It’s often called, for instance, “being single” and is what dating websites were invented for.
To agree to use the lads’ pet terminology, is, moreover, to suggest that something distinguishes them from legions of other threatening men expressing a similar wish to control, punish or just silence women and, critically, in similar language. Such as, to non-compliant sexual targets, “choke on my dick”. A glance at Twitter confirms how generously such abuse has been accommodated, even as the repetitive insults and threats indicate gendered hostility to women in general.
If sexism does not explain how rapidly the language employed against dissenting women (including some trans women) in the UK self-ID debate, degenerated, in some quarters, into generic-sounding obscenities (eg, to unco-operative lesbians, “choke on my ladydick”), perhaps it’s because social media has for so long facilitated the delusion that hate speech, as applied to women, is simply part of the landscape.
The very odiousness of the misogynist language that has become, according (pre-Rodger) to one academic, Emma Alice Jane, “a lingua franca in many sectors of the cybersphere”, may help explain, she argues, why the “ethical and material implications” of this form of hate speech have been so under-studied. Hate speech that persists unchallenged, by both – for their different reasons – reactionaries and progressives, is unlikely, anyway, to be corrected.
Maybe women should skim the Elliot Rodger plan for subjugating their sex, if only to appreciate that, once non-subservient women are expected to live with obscene online threats – and axe exhibitions and punching – at least some elements of his vision have surely been realised.
Unsurprisingly, language, for Adichie, is a feminist issue, at its most insidious when it comes to pregnancy and parenting, a verb she dislikes. She rages against terms such as “baby bump” as “diminishing”, preventing proper discussion of serious issues such as the gender pay gap and maternity leave. “There are so many women for whom pregnancy is the thing that pushed them down, and we need to account for that. We need to have a clause in every job that a woman who gets pregnant gets her job back in exactly the same way. It’s wrong!” For her, gender is a social construction: “I don’t think I’m more inherently likely to do domestic work, or childcare … It doesn’t come pre-programmed in your vagina, right?”
Although she put on “the feminist hat” quite happily, she never intended to become a voice for feminism, “then it happened”. She expected a degree of hostility – “Feminist is a bad word, everywhere in the world, let’s not kid ourselves, but particularly where I come from.” But she was not prepared for the furore that followed an interview on Channel 4 last year when she sparked controversy by arguing that the experiences of trans women are distinct from those of women born female, which was interpreted by some as “creating a hierarchy” and implying that “trans women were ‘less than’, which I was not … I don’t think that way.”
She was “genuinely surprised” by the outcry, “because I thought I was saying something that was obvious”, she says and remains defiant on the importance of acknowledging difference (the final, heartfelt message of Dear Ijeawele): “The vileness that trans women face is because they are trans women – there are things trans women go through that women who are born female will never have to go through … If we are going pretend that everything is the same, how do we address that?” She compares this well meaning wish to be inclusive with claims of colour blindness: blackness and whiteness are different, she told the audience to huge cheers at the event with Eddo-Lodge. “Yes, we are all of the human race but there are differences and those differences affect our experiences, our opportunities,” she says now. “There’s something about it that I find inherently dishonest.”
She was accused of “killing trans women with her words” and, she says, there were calls to burn her books; she was particularly hurt by the online response from some of her former students on her creative writing workshop in Lagos, where trying to break down taboos about gay rights and women is as important to her as the teaching. “I was told, ‘you’re being shamed’,” she gestures the inverted commas of internet shaming. “When somebody is shaming you, you also have to feel ashamed. I just didn’t. I was upset. I was disappointed.” She feels her “tribe”, those “generally of the left, who believe in equal rights for everyone”, let her down: “I thought surely they know me and what I stand for.”
Looking back, she thinks her “major sin” was that she “didn’t abide by the language orthodoxy”. At the Southbank event the author, who is not on Twitter (“there’s an ugliness about it”), expressed her reservations about “a certain kind of youthful, social-media savvy feminism that is not my home”. She is wary of the term “intersectionality”, but is clear as to what it does not mean, recalling an interview with a white actor who, in her anxiety to acknowledge the sometimes racist history of western feminism, claimed it was not about her, but about black women who had been oppressed. “Of course feminism is about her,” Adichie says with exasperation. “I wish she’d said: ‘Here is all the shit I get because I’m a woman, but I think about all those other women who don’t have the white privilege I have, I can’t imagine what that must be like.’ That for me would be perfect.”
While she is frustrated with what she identifies as a “quickness to outrage” among young people – “it’s boring” – her real anger is reserved for the progressive left, especially in America, which she believes is fostering this unforgiving atmosphere, closing in on itself and closing down essential conversations (“Shut up, you are wrong” ) in its haste to assume ill will. Displaying a “fundamental lack of compassion”, it goes against her credo as a storyteller, in which all human beings are flawed: “There’s no room to be righteous.”
My husband and I have been together for six years. I married him when he was 18 and I was 24. I discovered, after we got married, that he had had sexual intercourse only with me; he’d had sexual encounters with other women, but hadn’t felt ready for intercourse. At first this wasn’t a problem, but now his younger brothers are sexually active and have had multiple sexual partners, he has started to feel jealous.
I felt that this jealousy was only going to grow, and I didn’t want him to develop feelings of resentment towards me and cheat on me. I also didn’t want him to think he had missed out, and get into his 30s or 40s and leave me so he could experience what it feels like to sleep with other people, as his stepdad did to his mum.
So I booked a holiday to Amsterdam with the intention of paying for a prostitute for him. I felt this would be a safe option as it is a job and no feelings could develop. Plus he would know he had slept with someone other than me.
I didn’t know exactly how we would feel afterwards, but I was willing to take the risk to save the future of our marriage. But now it has happened and he wasn’t happy or fulfilled. He said he felt nothing at all and it was very different and strange. He was deflated afterwards and now he won’t talk to me about it because he says it hurts him. I am scared it has upset him, and worried I shouldn’t have done this.
There were a few things which struck me about your letter. First: how few times it said “we”; even when you talk about marriage, a union, you say I: “I married him”. You seem to have a very immature attitude to love. People who have had multiple sexual partners can still be unfaithful: you can’t vaccinate your husband against infidelity by making him have sex with someone else.
I would like you to read your letter back to yourself with the roles reversed, as if you were reading about a man booking a prostitute for his wife, seemingly without her knowledge or consent: it seems altogether more controlling, doesn’t it?
This was one of the first things couples psychotherapist Damian McCann asked: “Was this something you shared? Organised, booked, talked about together?”
Because if you had, this would take on a different flavour. But if you went ahead and booked a prostitute for your husband without asking him (and if so, at what point did you tell him? As you were shoving him through the door?) then I see this as a violation. Presumably him saying no was an option?
McCann wondered, “What’s going on with you two as a couple? Perhaps there is a shared sense of insecurity, although you seem to be trying to secure the relationship by means of control.”
I also wondered if the prostitute was for you or for him? Are you frustrated with your husband’s lack of experience? If he waited for the right person to have sex with (you) and for marriage, that hints at someone with a particular attitude to sex which may not be one you share, but it should be respected. If you were hoping to “add to” his repertoire or experience, you will have failed. “Sex with a prostitute,” McCann said, “seems very contrived.” It has none of the elements of a real relationship – or an affair, for that matter.
So to answer your question, have you done the right thing? Well, clearly, not. While I’m sure some will snigger and be facile and say things like “lucky husband”, I don’t see it like this. Your husband is hurt and upset; if you don’t talk about this now and resolve it, his hurt will change to anger, and anger is a fantastically fertile bed for infidelity to grow in. Sex isn’t the same as intimacy. It’s not unusual for couples who get together young and have only one sexual partner to wonder what sex might be like with someone else, but the only way to help prevent this is communication.
“You need,” McCann said, “to start thinking about how to be together. At the moment the relationship seems very driven by one of you.”
In other words, you need to learn how to be a couple, not your husband’s booker.
Mumsnet has reported itself to the UK data regulator after a former employee published the IP addresses of forum users in a dispute over transgender rights.
The parenting site confirmed it had contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and informed the police after the recently departed intern had made a series of posts on Twitter criticising Mumsnet’s stance on trans rights, accompanied by screengrabs apparently taken while she worked at the company that included private information only visible to staff.
In a series of now-deleted posts on Twitter, Emma Healey, who was a paid intern in the site’s press office for six months, claimed that the “vast majority” of discussion of trans issues on Mumsnet “descends into scaremongering and hate speech”.
“Whilst I was at MN [Mumsnet] (Sept 17-Mar 18), there was really no attempt to keep this discussion civil or polite,” she wrote. “Misgendering and deadnaming were completely tolerated, and the internal moderation policy would change pretty much every day.
“There were many staff members, me included, who raised concerns about what was being said on site – but it was never taken on board. Any criticism has been dismissed as a smear attempt by ‘trans activists’ rather than actually thinking about what was being said.”
Healey had had limited access to the personal information of registered users that was not visible to the general public.
IP addresses are assigned to users by internet service providers and can used to ascertain the approximate location of an internet user. Although it is difficult to precisely identify an individual from their IP address without the cooperation of an internet provider, the information can be used to monitor other online activity and to corroborate other identifying information.
Mumsnet has recently been under pressure from trans rights activists over the content on its forums, with some campaigners contacting the site’s advertisers to complain about the tone of discussions on the issue. Justine Roberts, Mumsnet’s founder and chief executive, has publicly criticised the “thought police” attitude to trans rights in the UK and said she believed it was the “right thing to do to allow this discussion to take place” on her site.
A spokesperson for Mumsnet said Healey had now promised to delete all other Mumsnet-related material. The spokesperson said the company believed the former intern had not intended to publish the three IP addresses of forum users and had done so accidentally.
Justine Roberts, Mumsnet’s chief executive, said: “For us this is about civilised debate and free speech. As an organisation we absolutely believe in the rights of transgender people to be safe, happy and supported. However there are parents (including some trans parents) on Mumsnet who also believe that there are some issues – such as the prescription of hormone-altering medication to young children, and the impact of gender self-identification on women-only refuges and other ‘safe’ spaces – that merit discussion.
“We at Mumsnet have always strongly believe that robust, civilised debate is the best way to reach resolution on difficult issues. Some activists disagree with us on the merits of even having of debate and view it as transphobic in its own right.
“Transphobia is against our guidelines and we delete and ban users who are repeat offenders; we’ve also proactively reminded our users of the importance of abiding by our rules, and will continue to do so.”
Healey later issued a statement via Mumsnet apologising for her decision: “I was just mistakenly trying to do what I thought was the right thing as someone with very strong feelings on LGBTQ+ rights – and in doing so, I did something very misguided and frankly awful.
“I have definitely learnt my lesson: not only about not tweeting in anger but about the language I use, being careful what I say, the power of social media and thinking about all the potential outcomes of my actions (not just the outcomes I intend). As such, I am taking some time away from social media and will return with a hopefully more mature attitude.
“I’d like to also apologise to any users who have felt hurt, attacked or vulnerable due to my actions. I recognise that we do not agree on this issue, but I know the impact that my actions may have had on them and their mental health.”
An ICO spokesperson said: “We are aware of a possible incident involving Mumsnet and will be looking into the details.”
The parents of a southern Alberta autistic girl are warning other parents that had Bill 24 been the law over the past two years, their 14-year-old daughter very likely could have committed suicide.
The parents, who have asked that their names be changed and their identities hidden to protect their daughter’s privacy, are pleading with Rachel Notley’s NDP government to “not shut parents out of their children’s lives” and “to bring some nuance” into Bill 24, which became law in Alberta on Nov. 15.
Bill 24 makes it illegal for educators to tell parents if their child has joined a GSA, or gay-straight alliance, at their school. But this couple — who are going by the names Sarah and Stephen for the purposes of this article — say their Grade 9 daughter fell into a “dark place” after joining her school’s GSA.
“I believe this law is going to endanger kids, which is the opposite of what Premier Notley is trying to achieve,” said Stephen, a scientist who works in the energy industry and who says he is very much in favour of GSAs, as is the entire family.
The couple’s daughter started Grade 7 at her middle school in the fall of 2015 at the age of 12. It was around that time that she reached puberty — something that upset her. The girl, who will be called Jane in this article, has body dysmorphia, a condition the Mayo Clinic describes as “a mental disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance.”
During elementary school, Jane suffered from anorexia, something she overcame through the help of her parents, counselling and attending eating disorder clinics.
Early into the 2015 school year, the parents noticed that Jane was more anxious than usual. The worried parents were eventually told by a teacher that Jane had joined the school’s GSA and they were “completely fine with it. We thought it would be a safe place for her to meet new friends, stand up against bullying and learn about how everyone is different,” said Stephen.
Eventually, however, the school wrote the couple a letter recommending that they take Jane — who was still 12 years old — to a gender clinic.
By very gently talking with Jane away from the stress of peer pressure, they learned that Jane was being called a boy’s name at school and addressed with male pronouns. At home, she’d be called by her real name and female pronouns.
“To live a double life, where she’s keeping this huge secret from her family, including her siblings, is exceedingly stressful, especially for someone with autism and body dysmorphia,” explained Sarah.
“(Jane) was adamant that she did not want to be a boy, and prior to puberty, she was fine with being a girl,” said Sarah. “A psychiatrist asked her if she wanted a penis and she recoiled at the thought and reiterated that she doesn’t want to be a boy.”
As Stephen said: “Thirty or 40 years ago, she’d have been described as a Tomboy.”
It was decided, with the help of mental health professionals, that the safest way to proceed for Jane was to stop living a double life and be referred to only as a girl. The school agreed but, apparently, many of her school peers continued to call her by her male name.
As Christmas 2016 approached, Sarah received a panicked call from the school to pick Jane up, as she was threatening to commit suicide.
“She was super anxious, she had suicidal ideations. She was in a very dangerous place,” recalled Sarah. Within a week of being kept at home and seeing her counsellor every chance they could, Jane improved immensely. Still, she was never left alone for a moment.
“I’m a very accepting person,” said Stephen. “I love people for who they are. I have many LGBTQ friends. I love all people, I seriously do, but they’re promoting the idea on kids who normally would not have gone there.
“They were facilitating and going out of their way to transition her into becoming a boy without our knowledge. But what training do they have about children with autism?” asked Stephen.
“The school undermined us and that led (Jane) to that point of suicide. We could have helped our daughter, but they didn’t give us that opportunity.”
For two months, Jane was kept at home while the family searched in vain for a new school for their daughter, even considering moving out of the province. Eventually, the school’s principal became more involved and Jane returned to her school.
“He apologized to us for what the school did to Jane and promised that they would work with us and not violate what’s in the best interest of our daughter,” said Stephen, who reached out for help from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
They also approached Jason Kenney, now the United Conservative Party leader, who has mentioned their story on several occasions as a reason why more discretion is needed in the GSA legislation, to empower teachers to not necessarily keep information from loving, safe parents.
Education Minister David Eggen was given three days to respond to repeated requests for an interview to discuss this family’s experience, however, he refused and issued the following statement:
“This legislation will make sure that students are the ones who decide when and how to have these deeply personal and important conversations with their parents and loved ones. If a student’s safety is at risk, parents will be notified. One of our government’s top priorities is ensuring students’ safety and that is why GSAs are so important. For some students, GSAs are the only place they have where they feel safe and accepted. GSAs literally save lives.”
Sarah and Stephen worry that the new law will cause teachers to hesitate to inform parents, for fear of breaking the law, and that hesitation could spell lead to the death of children.
Ashleigh Yule, a registered Calgary psychologist specializing in autism and gender diversity, says the research is clear that “we see a convergence between Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and gender diversity that makes the issue more complex.”
However, Yule is adamant that no exemptions in Bill 24 should be made.
“Students with ASD, just as students without ASD, may have unsupportive or abusive parents. Notifying parents that a student has attended a GSA may be unsafe for that student, regardless of the student’s ASD status,” said Yule.
“Nuance in the law is not about ‘outing’ children,” said Sarah, who has family members who were murdered in the Holocaust for being Jewish. “It’s about recognizing the uniqueness of each person and each family.”
“I’m very suspicious of the state wanting control over our children. We’ve seen where that has led in the past,” added Sarah.
“Most families are the safest places for their children,” said Stephen. “We love our children, more than Rachel Notley or David Eggen do.”
Both parents hope by telling their story, pressure will force the province to make some provision for safe, open-minded parents, especially of children with special needs, to be told very early on if behavioural changes begin after joining a GSA.
“We saved our daughter’s life, only because we knew what was going on with her,” said Stephen. “We shudder to think what might have happened to her if Bill 24 had been the law two years ago.”
A hotel chain has apologised after linking a gender campaign group to “bigotry”.
The Mercure Cardiff Holland House had said that a tweet about a women’s group debate was “unauthorised” and did not reflect the hotel’s position.
On Thursday the hotel took to social media to announce it would no longer host a debate organised by campaign group A Woman’s Place.
The event, advertised online for Thursday evening, had been arranged to discuss proposed changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act to make the process of legally changing gender more simple.
Posting on Twitter the hotel said it did not tolerate “any form of racist, sexist or bigoted behaviour”.
But the Tweet was later deleted.
At the time a speaker booked to attend the event accused the hotel of defamation.
Union organiser Ruth Serwotka wrote: “I am an advertised speaker at the meeting tonight. That is a seriously defamatory tweet and I request you remove it immediately.”
The announcement followed after calls on social media from trans women support groups to cancel the event.
A demonstration was also held on Thursday night in response to the debate.
Contacting the Mercure Cardiff Hotel one Twitter used said: “Please can you explain why you are hosting the Woman’s Place meeting this evening when it is a transphobic hate group, and nothing at all to do with womens’ rights. It goes against your LGBTQ policy.”
Despite the change in venue the women’s group reported more than 140 attendees at last night’s event.
Speaking on Thursday speaker and former AM for Mid and West Wales Helen Mary Jones said: “I think that the hotel’s decision is very unfortunate as A Woman’s Place is not an organisation that supports bigots or discrimination.
“I have fought against prejudice and discrimination all my life.
“The idea that I or any other speakers would have anything to do with a hate group is ridiculous.”
On Friday a spokesperson for the Mercure hotel said the decision to cancel the event was taken in the interests of guest and staff safety due to “potential” protests.
He said: “The decision to cancel an event on Thursday, April 12, at the Mercure Cardiff Holland House was taken in the best interests of hotel guests and staff after concerns were raised about their safety, which is our priority, due to potential disruption and protests.
“The decision in no way implied any judgement on the views of those organising the event, or those protesting against it. While we are a leader in encouraging diversity and inclusion in all its forms, it is not our policy to pass comment on the view of others.
“Regrettably an unauthorised tweet was posted on behalf of the hotel which did not accurately reflect the position of the hotel, the Mercure brand or AccorHotels, and which has since been removed. We have taken action to ensure this can’t be repeated and are reviewing our processes. We apologise unreservedly for any offence caused by this miscommunication.”