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December 30th

    Blunkett On the Game

By Alan Travis, home affairs editor of The Guardian

The first comprehensive overhaul of the laws on prostitution for 50 years is to be announced shortly by the home secretary, David Blunkett. Home Office ministers promise that the review will consider all the available options, no matter how radical.

The main focus is expected to concentrate on tackling the involvement of organised crime in prostitution, its links with heroin and crack cocaine abuse, and the public nuisance that it causes. It is expected to lead to a new clampdown on pimps and kerb crawlers as well as overhauling the laws on brothels and soliciting.

There is also expected to be a strong emphasis on finding new ways of helping women who are trapped in the vice trade to escape from the often-violent sex industry.

It will include new strategies to prevent young people being drawn into prostitution, support for those who find themselves involved in it, and measures to deal with its impact on communities.

A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that work on defining the scope of the cross-departmental review was nearly complete: We want to do a thorough job. It is the first time that these laws have been looked at for 50 years. We hope to publish as early as possible.

But ministers will also consider the growing pressure from senior police officers and some local authorities, such as Birmingham, to legalise "zones of toleration" where soliciting would be decriminalised as long as there was no public nuisance. An experiment in Edinburgh along these lines was recently abandoned.

Prostitution is not illegal in Britain but there are more than 35 offences, including some dating from the 1950s, such as soliciting and "living off immoral earnings" which criminalise the trade.

The Magistrates' Association has repeatedly called for an overhaul of the law, saying it is ineffective and unenforceable, with women appearing in court time and again.

The Sexual Offences Act, which has just reached the statute book, includes tougher penalties for those who engage in human trafficking for prostitution and those who sexually exploit children and adults for commercial purposes.

The Home Office has issued guidance stressing that those under 18 who are involved in prostitution should be treated as victims by the police and criminal justice system.

Ministers have also funded projects to look at helping women involved in prostitution to find an escape route from the vice trade.

A Home Office green paper published in 2000 acknowledged that the law on soliciting and loitering for women was archaic and the official description of a "common prostitute" was demeaning. It also recognised that there have been recent changes in the law around the world with the Netherlands and Germany allowing regulated prostitution, and Sweden changing the law to criminalise those who buy sex, rather than those who sell it.

It is suggested that regulating prostitution enables more effective action against trafficking and the exploitation of children, greater safety and less stigma for those sex workers who fully exercise their choice to do that work. Others argue such regulation increases the use of men and women as commodities of trade, that allowing a legal market merely increases the illegal activity and that selling sex is unacceptable in a civilised society. There was no consensus across a set of widely diverging views, the Home Office paper concluded.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, is supporting the moves to change the law, saying that his attitude to prostitution changed after he befriended a young teenage prostitute who is now a Church of England priest. She convinced him that the present laws work against women breaking free of the culture of violence that surrounds life on the game.

The last full-scale review of the law in this area was the 1954 Wolfenden committee on homosexual offences and prostitution. The legislation that followed is now widely seen as contradictory.


15th December

    Borough By Laws

From the IC Teeside

A nightspot owner who vowed not to open a lap dancing and strip club after council chiefs objected is opening the doors anyway in Middlesborough.

Bar owner Tony Spensley told the Gazette last month that he would not turn the first and second floors of Spensley's Emporium into the adult entertainment club called Secrets without, "the proper permissions of the council". He had applied to Middlesbrough council's licensing committee for a licence to do just that in November, but they turned down the club. Spensley said: We spoke with our legal team and the decision was made to go ahead. We have told the council and the police, who we have worked with since day one, and told them what we were doing. We were asked to make a voluntary undertaking to abide by special conditions and house rules we had put to the council during the committee meeting, and have agreed to that."

Under his current licence, Spensley can still open the club, which will have pole dancers, strippers and lap dancers, but he would not have to apply to strict "special conditions" that the council could have applied.

Pam Ross, Middlesbrough council's principle licensing offer said: We did know they were going to do this. The applicant came to us to advise the council that as they could operate under the terms of their current licence they made a commercial decision to do so. But they offered a voluntary undertaking to abide by the special conditions and house rules which were originally proposed by the council."

The "special conditions" include the performers must be over 18, there must be a minimum of four door-staff and performances must not be visible from the street.

But these conditions have not curbed nutter opposition to the club, which will be the third on Teesside, with similar clubs operating in Stockton and Redcar. Middlehaven councillor, John McPartland said: I am totally against this lap dancing club and I will oppose it at every opportunity. I believe that it will only exacerbate the prostitution problem in central Middlesbrough.

During November's meeting, Spensley said that the club, which is open until 2am six nights a week, would not have a website, but the flyers clearly show an Internet address to log on to - a website he insists will contain information about the club's rules, opening hours and prices only and would not contain images of any dancers.


8th December

    Nutter Free Zones

From the Mirror

It is the world's oldest profession. And according to many, the laws surrounding prostitution in Britain have been stuck in time too. Now police and pressure groups are arguing for change. They want to legalise prostitution - and the result could be "special zones" where people can openly buy sex within 10 years.

Metropolitan Police commander Andrew Baker added his voice to the campaign yesterday. Addressing a conference in Birmingham, the head of Scotland Yard's homicide squad said the UK could learn a lot from countries such as Holland where special zones are in operation.

In the wake of the Camden Ripper case, which saw three London prostitutes murdered by client Anthony Hardy, he argued for tighter rules to keep sex workers safe. There is a need now for an informed debate. We know that sex workers are vulnerable. I know that attacks, violence, drugs and criminal control are lower in tolerance zones. We can learn from the Dutch.

Sex workers, who generate 700million a year in Britain, have already moved to make themselves less vulnerable. Last year 150 workers were accepted as union members in an offshoot of the GMB general union. Now the union is adding its support to the campaign for legislation. Organiser Martin Smith says: I think we will definitely see some kind of legalised prostitution in Britain in the next 10 years. There are 36 types of legislation relating to prostitution and many of those are contradictory or nonsensical. Some date back as far as the 13th Century. At the moment it is illegal for two or more sex workers to work from a flat - it is considered 'a bawdy- house' - so women are forced to work singly. It would be much safer if people could work in groups. There are people who prefer to work in the streets, but most would rather work in a legal, controlled and regulated environment and they can't do that at the moment. We will need to look at how things are done in other countries - in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

The model we'd hope for would be something closer to the system in New Zealand or Australia, where they create 'safety zones' for workers to operate in. As well as making everything legal, they offer regular health checks for women.People would know where they could go - meaning the people who don't like seeing women on the streets wouldn't have to.

Smith is aware of the moral problems clouding decriminalisation. But he argues that society is becoming more relaxed in its attitude towards sex. He adds: Of course, there will always be people who object, but while we're debating the rights and wrongs, we argue we should be getting on with keeping people safe. And there is a changing attitude towards the sex industry as a whole. Things like lap-dancing clubs are now much more popular and have become much more acceptable It is all part of a wider trend towards greater openness - it's a move towards a more realistic, grown-up attitude. At the end of the day it's always going to be here, so let's deal with it. When Mayor Giuliani tried to close down the sex industry in New York it didn't work - it never will. He closed the brothels, so sex limousines appeared, cars to pick you up and where you could be with prostitutes. People will always find a way."

But Roger Smith, head of public policy at CARE, a Christian nutter group, completely opposes legalisation. He says: I have areas of concern with this - the dehumanising of the sex act itself, the act of prostitution and the impact so-called tolerance zones would have. We don't see that this separation of sex and relationships can be healthy. I am all for keeping people safe, but putting prostitutes away from the residential areas where most people live will put them more at risk, because they will be separated from society and the people that police it. It seems ridiculous to say we can suspend the normal criminal law in one geographical area - and who has the authority to do that? The local council? Decriminalising prostitution or creating special zones is a legal and moral minefield and we cannot take it lightly.


24th November

    Pandering to Scottish Nutters

Based on a biased article in the Edinburgh News   New controls over lapdancing in pubs and bars are being considered by the Scottish Executive. Council chiefs would be handed the power to decide which premises strippers can perform in under the crackdown.

The move would effectively close a loophole which has allowed Capital pubs to put on lapdancing without needing to refer to local nutters. City licensing chief Councillor Phil Attridge said the proposal would give councils the power to control all lapdancing establishments for the first time.

Cllr Attridge said: The problem with public houses offering lapdancing is that they don’t need a licence if it’s not their primary business and we just don’t have any control over them. What these proposals would mean is that we would have to licence anywhere that was putting it on."

The change in the law being considered by the Executive would force pubs and clubs to obtain a licence from the local authority before putting on strip shows. Only two of the seven premises currently offering lapdancing in Edinburgh city centre have entertainment licences.

Police chiefs urged the council to take action earlier this year amid fears about the lack of controls over lapdancing establishments, particularly pubs.

Protesters have also branded Lothian Road a "complete no-go area" due to the growing number of establishments in the area offering such entertainment.

It was thought it may be possible to ban "certain forms of physical contact" between lapdancers and customers and forbid the locking of cubicle doors in strip venues. But the council is now expected to shelve the idea of bylaws after being told of the Executive’s plans to amend the Civic Government Scotland Act.

In a report for next week’s licensing board, Robert Millar, senior licensing solicitor with the council, said: The Executive is examining proposals that lap dancing and similar activities be placed under the regulatory control of the local licensing authority through the designation of lap dancing and similar activities as an activity requiring a licence." The council has declared it believes lapdancing is unsuitable for pubs and wants to restrict the practice to specialist establishments.

But Catherine Harper, spokes-woman for Scottish Women Nutters Against Pornography, demanded the council introduce a blanket ban on all lapdancing premises. The council in Glasgow has a policy against all lapdancing premises and all sex shops," she said. "I don’t see why the council in Edinburgh can’t do the same.

A spokeswoman for the Executive said it would not be able to pre-empt the publication of the report by the group reviewing the 1982 act. She added: The group is expected to submit its final report to ministers at the end of the year.


4th November

    Wakey Wakey Wakefield

Based on an article from  Wakefield Today

Wakefield's first 'gentleman's club' is to open its doors two days after a decision is taken on whether to allow lap dancing in the Merrie City.

But the club, one of three looking to open in Wakefield, faces vociferous opposition from nutters of the religious establishment. One nutter priest labelled it "legalised prostitition".

The Blue Rooms, formerly H20, are set to be home to the biggest lap dancing club in West Yorkshire and the owners say they are targeting it at a very upmarket standard of clientele. The owners have spent a small fortune on refurbishing the club to include stages, poles, booths for 'private dance shows' and a number of bar areas.

Dancers could be performing for the paying public within seven days. A spokesman from The Blue Rooms confirmed: We are hoping to open on Smyth Street in Wakefield, subject to approval at the council's licensing meeting .

Wakefield Council's licensing and registration committee will also hear a bid on Tuesday by two other clubs – 20/20 and Shooters Pool and Lounge Bar – to get a ban on erotic dancing lifted. Technically The Blue Rooms could open now, because it already has a licence, but bosses want a decision. Licensing spokesman Kevin Straw confirmed a ban would not yet affect The Blue Rooms – but emphasised that if the ban was not lifted, lap dancing would have to end before Christmas. Straw explained that a ban was introduced in June, but this can only be imposed as a licensing condition when the licence comes up for renewal – in this case, in December. If The Blue Rooms get the licence bosses intend to open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Churchmen and a leading councillor hve already voiced their objections to The Blue Rooms. Father Michael McLaughlin, the nutter priest at St Austin's, said: " Sleazy is a good word to describe this. It is a step away from legalised prostitution. There are massive moral objections to women abusing their bodies in this way."

Fr Michael said he believed security was also an issue. What sort of message is it giving to people who come into Wakefield? . And the Dean of Wakefield, the Very Reverend Nutter George Nairn-Briggs, said: My objection is that it degrades women – and I also think that Wakefield as a city needs to have quality entertainment for people who visit.

The shameful Councillor Norman Hazell told the Express: It's an absolute disgrace. They may well have it in Leeds and Bradford – I would say to them 'let them have it there if they want it' because we certainly don't want it here. We have got to try to preserve the Christian ethos in the city. There are enough people coming into Wakefield for the clubs – people who see the need for lap dancing are not the sort of people we want to see coming into the city centre.


28th October

    Soft Demand for Soft Core

From What Satellite The pay-per-view adult channel broadcaster Erotika has removed three of its six channels from the Sky Digital lineip. The stations had been located between channels 771-776 on the Electronic Programme Guide but the remaining stations now appear between channels 771 and 773.


24th October

    Not in Nottingham

So even simple nudity is too much for Nottingham councillors.So what proof are they offering that nudity is harmful?

Based on an article from ThisIsNottingham

The first female stripshow for women in the city has been given the go-ahead. The New Foresters Pub in the city centre had applied for a licence to put on female strippers. And at yesterday's licensing committee meeting at the Council House the application was approved, although within ludicrously strict guidelines.

Debbie Law, landlady of the New Foresters, a predominantly lesbian pub, said: I'm relieved that all that money I've spent has been worthwhile.

Committee chairman Coun Derek Cresswell added: "There was only one objection and nothing from the police. She put up one hell of a presentation and the licence that has been granted has quite a number of restrictions. She appears to run a tight ship and we have asked her to put on extra security for these events."

The shows will be held once a month and for private female members only. And the strippers will not be completely nude - they will have to wear a non-transparent G-string at all times - and there must be a gap of at least five feet between dancers and customers.

City council leader Jon Collins, who represents the nutters of the area, had objected to the application on behalf of some of his constituents.

The licence has been originally granted for six months. The committee said there must be no lap dancing, table dancing, simulated sex or use of sex aids.


21st October

    Worthless Worthing Jobs Worth

It seems that there are some pretty mean minded people in Worthing. So what if there is a "simulated" sex act. What is the harm caused. These holier than thou types should prove the harm and if they can't,they should be put in prison for the abuse of human rights to free expression.

Based on an article from Rainbow Network

A gay pub is being investigated by police over allegations that an explicit sex act was performed by a stripper.

According to the Worthing Herald, the Jack Horner bar could be shut down if the authorities discover that licensing regulations had been breached at the event celebrating the pubs fourth birthday.

Pictures of the event were posted on the bar’s website and allegedly showed the stripper simulating oral sex with a customer. This would break the licensing laws if non-invited members of the public attended.

David Bowen, the borough council`s environmental health nutter told the local newspaper that, We are concerned about this matter and we will be meeting with our police colleagues to discuss it and decide what appropriate action to take. We need to establish with the police how we are going to jointly investigate this and take it forward.

However Nick Heryet, the pub’s manager said that they had done nothing wrong and that the party was only for invited regulars.

The door was locked with only regulars present. Everyone who entered was known to the management. It was a private party evening for people who have supported the pub for the last four years — lots of guys, girls, mums, dads and uncles. We did not advertise the event outside the pub beforehand. It was all over by 11pm , he told the paper.

He denied that the photograph on the website depicted a "sexual act", saying It was just a wind-up, with everyone laughing and clapping. It was just like a strippagram, really.

Chief Inspector Russ Whitfield, Worthing police district commander, told the Herald: We are permanently in liaison with the licensing department of the council over issues concerning offences inside pubs and clubs and licensing issues. We will be further liasing over the issues raised here and we will be investigating any offences committed.


18th October

    Greenwich's Good Image

From ic SouthLondon

Three venues in Greenwich have been granted licences for striptease or lap dancing, bringing the total in the borough to four.

The three latest licences are for: Meantime Nightclub, 338 Tunnel Avenue, Greenwich --music and dance/ striptease/lap dancing, Sundays to Thursdays until 4am and Fridays and Saturdays until 5am; Mermaid Club, 116/118 Woolwich High Street - music and dance/lap dancing/ striptease, every day until 2am; George and Dragon pub, 2/2a Blackheath Hill - music and dance/striptease, Sundays to Thursdays until 1am and Fridays and Saturdays until 3am.

The venues were granted licences by council officers under delegated powers because there were no written objections.

They are listed on the agenda of tonight's licensing sub-committee where councillors will be able to note these decisions.

The Horse and Groom pub in Plumstead High Street already has a striptease licence.


16th October

    Greenwich's Bad Image

Thanks to Stelios:

Piracy I seriously object to but porn is a different matter altogether and the council appears to be violating freedom of speech let alone human rights by using the police on people selling porn just to protect its so-called image. These nutters they will do anything to stop their fellow men and women from enjoying pornography regardless where they are selling.

Based on an article from ThisIsLocalLondon

A raid on two houses resulted in the seizure of more than 2,000 counterfeit and pornographic DVD films. Complaints from residents and traders about the DVDs being traded in Woolwich and Greenwich town centres led to the raids on two Plumstead houses. Around 10,000 worth of films were taken away for analysing although no arrests have been made.

The raids are part of an ongoing operation between Greenwich police and Greenwich Council to combat the sale of illegal goods.

Councillor Angela Cornforth, cabinet member for public services, said: The open display and sale of counterfeit and pornographic material is entirely unacceptable. It is unfair to other traders, it is totally wrong and it gives a bad image of our borough.


9th October

    Nutter MP objects to lap dancing

From the ic Northern Ireland

A south Belfast lapdancing club is facing closure after Belfast City Council refused to consider an application to renew its entertainments licence yesterday.

The decision by the council's health and environment committee on the application by the Movie Star Cafe was welcomed by the shameful MP for the area, Rev Martin Smyth.

This only confirms that our arguments against the Botanic Avenue club were right all along , the UUP member said. There are so many reasons for refusing this application and none that I can think of for allowing it. The people who run it should never have got the licence in the first place because it is just not the sort of thing people in south Belfast want, he said.

But Smyth recognised that the battle between councillors and club proprietor Kevin Bryson was not over yet.At the next council meeting on November 3, the applicant, Mr Bryson, the objectors, and their representatives will get a further opportunity to make representation and appeal the decision.

Smyth said: We will just have to wait and see but hopefully this is the end of the club and all its activities.


29th September

    Erotic Awards Winners


    • Axel (Seattle)
    • Julian Murphy (Bristol)
    • Winner Tom Sargent (London)



    • Emily Dubberley (London)
    • Julia Gash (Sheffield)
    • Winner Paul Tavener (Portsmouth)



    • Glasgay Festival (Glasgow)
    • La Chambre (Sheffield)
    • Winner The Whoopee Club (London)



    • Atsuko Kudo (London)
    • Kaisu (London)
    • Winner Miss Katie (London)



    • Le Parfum du Désir (France)
    • Winner Secretary (USA)
    • Urban Friction-A Modern Romance (USA)



    • Betony (Milan)
    • Winner International Workshop Festival 2002 (London)
    • The Oyster (Henley-on-Thames)



    • Charles Gatewood (San Francisco)
    • Winner Rockbitch (Luxemburg)
    • Simon Spencer (Manchester)



  • (reported from the Semi-Finals at Madame JoJo's in June)
    • Stud Bunnies (London)
    • Woolfgang
    • Winner Los Condilos (London)
    • Mouse (as Jesus) & Emma (London and Bristol)



    • Craig Morey (San Francisco)
    • Doralba Picerno (London)
    • Winner Mariano Vargas (Marbella)



    • Eros (Canberra)
    • Winner Kink! (London)
    • Sexcitement (London)



    (reported from the Semi-finals at Madame JoJo's in June)

    • Carmen
    • Fabulous at Forty (London)
    • Winner Immodesty Blaize (London)
    • Rosaleen (London)
    • Rosie Perez (London)
    • Samantha Valentine (Bath)
    • Solitaire (London)
    • Venise
    • Bobby (London)
    • Bill Lakes (Sheffield)
    • Mickey (London)
    • Silver Stallion (Birmingham)
    • Winner Adventures of Walter (London)



    • Winner Seb Cox (London)



    • literatesmut.shtml
    • swingingheaven.shtml
    • ukrudegirl.shtml



    • Astrid Fox (London)
    • Winner Susannah Indigo (Denver)
    • Catherine Millet (Paris)



    • Winner Ted O'Dwyer (London)


21st September

    Broadening the Appeal

Based on an article from ic Birmingham

Ludicrous, self benefiting whinges about the reputation of Birmingham’s entertainment district have been raised after it emerged that plans have been submitted for a second lap dancing club on Broad Street.

Legs Eleven boss Metin Yusuf has applied to take over the licence of the Merchant Stores pub on the city’s “golden mile” and intends to transform the venue into a lap dancing club.

Clive Ritchie, chairman of the Licensees of Broad Street Whingers Association, said yesterday that the road already had its fair share of lapdancing bars with the Rocket Club. He said Broad Street was still reeling from bad publicity after concerns of drunkenness were raised by police. (Hardly surprising as the upmarket bars there are only geared up for Friday/Saturday night young drinkers. A wider spread of visitors would surely help to calm things down) Ritchie said: There are enough lap dancing clubs in this city already and I really do not think it is what Broad Street really needs. We want to lift the area, not bring it down.

His concerns were shared by Gary Taylor, director of Argent, developers and managers of Brindleyplace. He said: We’re obviously concerned about these plans. While there is clearly a market for this type of club, we don’t feel that yet another lap dancing club is going to take this street anywhere forward and believe it will only make the area more sleazy and downmarket.

A spokeswoman for the council said that it was powerless to stop a pub with an entertainment license becoming a lap-dancing club.


17th September

    Escorted to Court

All very interesting but what is the crime?

From The BBC

A British woman on trial in Paris has denied running an international high-class prostitution ring. Margaret MacDonald looked calm as she appeared in a French court for the first time - a year after her arrest.

She says she was running an escort agency and was unaware of claims that some of her 450 employees sold sex. MacDonald, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, is said to have had business leaders, politicians and celebrities among her clients.

She was arrested in May 2002 in Paris. Investigators subsequently discovered what they believe to be a list of more than 450 prostitutes - including about 30 men - on her laptop computer. The prostitutes are said to have charged about 1,000 euros per hour (about 700), 40% of which allegedly went to Ms MacDonald.

MacDonald apparently operated from luxury hotels in France, the US, the UK, Austria and Italy, running her affairs from multiple mobile phones. She came to the attention of the police after being named as the overall boss by a 21-year-old German woman who ran a subsidiary network of prostitutes.

The BBC's Paris correspondent, Caroline Wyatt, said the case had fascinated the French public, with many people keen to know exactly who her high profile clients were. This in France is being compared to the last major case or a madam being put on trial, but that was back in the 70s...(it attracted) an awful lot of attention because the little black book did contain very well know names. "


16th September

    Lap Dancing Fly Posting Slap Down

Based on an article from Edinburgh News An Edinburgh strip club is facing action by environmental officials just weeks after opening. Large placards promoting the Fantasy Palace venue have appeared around the Capital, angering city nutters..

Lampposts and traffic lights have been targeted in the fly-posting blitz launched just weeks after the West End’s first lap- dancing club opened its doors amid a storm of controversy.

The Fantasy Palace has been billed by promoters as Edinburgh’s answer to London’s Stringfellows, and is being touted as "Scotland’s premier lap-dancing club".

The owners of the Shandwick Place premises claim the fly-posters are nothing to do with them. But they look set to be hit with a bill for several thousand pounds after the city’s 33-strong squad of environmental wardens were deployed to remove the bright orange posters. Angry council bosses have repeated calls for a tightening of the law over fly-posting, claiming it is too difficult to prosecute a firm at the moment. The police or council officials currently have to catch someone "red-handed" to secure enough evidence for a conviction. The council would also have to agree to leave the posters in place to give police time to gather evidence.

The Fantasy Palace became the eighth licensed premises in Edinburgh to offer lap-dancing when it opened early last month. Businessman Gino Di Ponio unveiled the "upmarket" venue just weeks after licensing chiefs were told he had no immediate plans to do so. Di Ponio insisted the first he knew about the fly-posters was when he spotted one himself at the weekend. He said: I honestly don’t know who put them up. It might be a rival operator trying to get me into trouble.


13th September

    Stripping Away Our Rights

Based on an article from The Express & Star

A Dudley nightclub which was blocked from introducing lap dancing is now planning to employ topless barmaids to help pull in customers. Millers nightclub in Wolverhampton Street was last month refused permission for lap dancing club following protests from people in the town, including the shameful MP Ross Cranston .

The councillors who blocked the application were branded "a bunch of old fogies" by several bar owners in the town, who said it would help revitalise the town at night. (I would brand them as corrupt human rights abusers who are denying freedom without adequate justification as required by law)

Millers co-owner Robert Firmstone said the club had hoped to hold its first topless barmaids night this weekend, but now feared he would not be able to find suitable staff in time. He said the club was also lining up a special party night featuring glamour models from the Sunday Sport newspaper. Millers held a similar event in May.

The topless barmaids is something we will do in the run-up to the evening with the Sunday Sport girls , he said. He also said the bar was planning to lodge a second application to host lap dancing evenings.

Dudley mayor Councillor Rosemary Tomkinson said she was saddened by the plans to introduce topless barmaids, which she felt were demeaning to women. I'm not very happy about this idea. My feeling is why should women have to do this to earn a living? (Well it's better than earning a living denying your fellow man their sexual pleasure).


25th  July

  Sex workers need a trade union and a decriminalised industry, not feminist pity

Based on an article from The Guardian by Ana Lopes and Callum Macrae

International Union of Sex WorkersWhen they prosecuted Paula for running a brothel last year they had to resort to a 450-year-old law (the charge called it a "bawdy house"). That says it all, really.

But if you ask Paula who she is really mad at, it isn't the legal ass which convicted her - it's the kind of people who read this newspaper. "There's people who think they're open-minded - people who don't accept racism, don't accept sexism, don't think of themselves as homophobic. They like to think they can accept all walks of life, but they can't. They have an 'ism', a 'prostitute-ism'."

Paula is right. Something strange happens to otherwise democratically-minded people when it comes to sex work. We too have seen this "ism" close-up.

One would have thought it self-evident that the best way to confront exploitation in the sex industry is to empower the women and men who work in it. Change happens when the oppressed themselves say enough is enough. It was black people who confronted racism; gender inequality was fought first and foremost by women; dreadful working conditions by workers selforganising through unions.

Yet when it comes to the sex industry, social reformers become moralists and certain strands of feminism lose the plot. Witness Julie Bindel, writing on these pages recently, who was enraged at the very idea of a sex workers' trade union.

The justification for this position is riddled with contradiction. It usually starts with a description of the misery of prostitutes who face daily victimisation and violence; it concludes that this abuse defines the industry and that allowing prostitutes a union would simply legitimise it. In other words, the greater the exploitation, the less justification there is for a union. What complete nonsense.

But there is something more sinister about this argument: why do these moralists want to portray all sex workers as degraded junkies with lives of unremitting misery? In fact, less than a third of prostitutes are street workers. Of these, not all are drug users, and it is insulting to assume they are. Of those who are, a chaotic lifestyle and drug use usually preceded their sex work and is not (as Bindel suggested) an inevitable consequence of it.

The problem is that in their hearts these concerned moralists regard all sex workers as by definition degraded; people who are somehow no longer capable of social self-determination. They may think they want labour rights, the argument goes, but in fact they are so debased by their circumstances that they don't know what they want. They need to be rescued. This is dangerous and condescending nonsense.

The other plank in the antiunion case is even weaker. The moralists argue that sex work is not work at all, but abuse - and therefore workplace safeguards like unions are not relevant. On what conceivable grounds is it not work? It is certainly an important economic activity. Prostitution generates in excess of £700m a year in Britain. The wider industry, including lap dancing and pornography, earns millions more and employs tens of thousands. For many women around the world sex work is not just work, it is the only available work; for many in this country it is the best of the available options. Better than working shifts in a fish processing factory, say. As one working woman put it: "When I become Jazz (her working name) I like myself better. I get less hassle and less aggro in here [the massage parlour] than I get at home. I get treated with more respect here than I did when I worked in a bar. Here I am liked."

Of course that says much about our society and the contempt in which many workers, and many women, are held. It says a lot about the hardship in Jazz's family life, too. But it also says something about sex work. A lot of sex work is dreadfully exploitative. But not necessarily all of it. The people able to say what is acceptable and what must be challenged are those who work in that industry. It is not up to outsiders to say to Jazz: "OK you can join a union - but only if you leave sex work and get a job in a bar."

Finally, in an attempt to silence sex workers altogether, liberal opponents of the union attempt to dismiss the sex worker activists in the GMB as "not typical". The same could be said of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, but their activism helped improve the lives of "typical" workers.

In the few months since the sex industry branch was formed it has attracted 150 members, and has signed recognition agreements with several table-dancing clubs, where working conditions have improved - codes of conduct and grievance procedures have been introduced, and union reps have been elected. It's a start.

Concerned hand-wringing over the morality of prostitution will neither remove nor reform the industry. And telling sex workers that what they do is so degrading that they are not entitled to a union helps perpetuate the stigma which encourages the violence from which so many sex workers suffer. Whether you like it or not, women such as Paula and Jazz don't want to be saved - they want the right to do their work in a decriminalised industry, they want labour rights and health and safety rights. They want dignity and respect.

Ana Lopes is a student, a sex worker and spokesperson for the sex workers' branch of the GMB; Callum Macrae is a journalist and filmmaker who directed My Body, My Business.

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