Are You Experienced?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Question

I'm a 22-year-old sex worker, and I've been in this line of work for about four years.

These days, more and more clients are demanding GFE and PSE services, which require, of course, the use of no condoms. I personally use condoms to avoid infection or other diseases (duh), but the other girls out there are more accepting of this growing trend.

What makes a client want this kind of service, knowing the risk of infection? And how do I survive in this industry without changing my ways?

Answer

For the sex-work acronym greenhorn: GFE means Girlfriend Experience and PSE means Porn Star Experience. Of course, the parameters of these terms are simplistic fantasies contrived by hobbyists. Sex workers I know joke that a GFE would entail going to a client's house in blood-smeared granny panties and complaining about cramps, and a PSE would involve cripplingly painful sex positions to get the best angle for the camera.

Do these same clients demand that their dentists not wear gloves? Do they watch a barista sneeze all over their hands and then accept a snotte from them? Do they march onto job sites with no hard hat on? I understand that condoms compromise sensation to some extent, but what it boils down to on one level, WSW, is that because you are not perceived as a legitimate worker, your clients are less inclined to acknowledge and respect the realities involved in transactions with you.

Clients also get to demand unsafe practices because sex work continues to be criminalized, and that will remain the case until our bloody politicians and lawmakers stop sitting on their fucking hands and officially decriminalize prostitution. The stay requested on the recent ruling that struck down several prostitution laws has been extended to the end of April. This means that sex workers still need to worry about arcane and dangerous laws that seriously impair their ability to negotiate their health and safety. It is nothing but a steaming pile of turd. 

Let's look at New Zealand, where sex work is decriminalized and laws have been enacted to protect the health and human rights of sex workers. Under the Prostitution Reform Act of 2003, all people involved in the commercial sex industry (and this includes clients) are required to adopt safer sex practices. This section specifies that a person is prohibited from implying or stating outright that there is limited chance of infection because they have recently been tested for STIs. Brothel owners must also provide health information to both workers and clients and display this information prominently in their place of business.
In New Zealand, women have successfully sued clients for secretly removing condoms during sex acts, because the law is on their side.

Because the law is not on your side, clients get to barter over your health – and theirs, though this concern seems secondary to the thrill of getting someone to compromise their own out of desperation. Workers have some agency, of course, but until the law stands behind them on matters of health and safety, this agency will always be tenuous.

How hard would it be for Canada to enact equivalent laws? The current ones have been deemed a violation of our Charter, plain and simple. If other workers whose lives have been so patently endangered had made a similar bid based on equally compelling evidence (rape, murder, hundreds of missing women, largely First Nations), would the federal and provincial governments mock their human rights so brazenly? Embedded in our laws – and religious institutions – is the idea that that sex is sacred, but assumption fosters arrogant, irrational principles that put morality above health and life.

New Zealand offers a shining example of simple, comprehensive laws that work. What is the fucking problem, Canadian lawmakers? Go to this page: legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2003/0028/latest/DLM197815.html and cut and paste! And when you're done, how about spending the next four months looking into the deaths and disappearances of those hundreds of women instead of building a case based on fundamentalist bullshit?

WSW, until the law is on your side and supports you instead of hindering and endangering you, it's up to you to set your standards and stick by them. And make sure that when it's time to speak up for sex worker rights, you are there in whatever capacity you feel safe and comfortable: sign petitions and polls, attend rallies and support the grassroots organizations that for years have been working tirelessly in favour of decriminalization.

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