Monday, 9 June 2014

C36 = CONtempt for women and CONtempt for the law.

Last week Justice Minister Peter MacKay, channeling all the prurient lunacy of General Jack D. Ripper and the worst pearl-clutching clichés of a Victorian schoolmarm, presented Bill C36 in the House of Commons.

The language Petey used and repeated for emphasis was quite revealing.

Harper and MacKay's new bill - C36 The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, the latest CPC government crap legislation and named the opposite of what it actually does - offers in one venal and meretricious piece of legal flimflam the worst of Con bias, prejudice and hatred.

It is a loathsome pottage of spitefulness (directed at the Supreme Court of Canada), class prejudice, racism, misogyny and fundamentalist religiosity.

The reaction on Twitter ranged from pithy excoriations by sex workers, lawyers, non-abolitionist feminists, charter experts and human rights advocates, to PMO-issued speaking points barked by CPC trained seals and fatuous accolades by anti-prostitution organizations.

This perspective was odd and interesting, with a focus on the utilitarian and economic aspects of sex work which allows a detached evaluation of the Nordic and New Zealand models. However its breezy conclusion: 
«..because the government regulates the activities of industries in which workers are put at risk, but also because machines have replaced much of the dangerous work that was previously done by workers the current state of technology is such that machines will soon be capable of providing the same services currently provided by sex workers. You don’t have to be an economist to predict that while governments have failed to reduce participation in the sex trades, technology is very likely to succeed» 
doesn't address the very basic human needs this service industry meets - and that machinery would likely not.

The last decades have seen an expanded commercial development of dolls that replicate some aspect of human bodies; though some are crafted to resemble in minute details all physical details of known porn actors, they are essentially very expensive, static silicone sex toys.  There's a niche market for (mostly) men whose sexual proclivities are geared towards the forcible penetration of beautifully crafted, inert objets d'art with compliant orifices.  It's worth glancing at the NSFW websites of Real Doll, Doll Story and Fantasy Sex Dolls to get a sense of which traits are valued and deemed desirable.

This segues aptly into the most lucid, trenchant and fierce deconstruction of sex work that I have read.

«What is prostitution? Are women selling a service, or are they selling themselves, as a commodity?

Many supporters of the Nordic model, both in feminist and family-values circles, say it’s the latter. Prostitution, they say, is a commodity sale. It is inherently objectifying and exploitative, they argue. It is itself a harm, even if all the associated harms can be eliminated. A woman who believes she is freely choosing her job has to be wrong about that, they argue. She is a victim whether she knows it or not.

Conservative MP Joy Smith is one of the strongest voices on this side of the debate, who says she recognizes “prostitution as an industry that is inherently harmful to women and girls and therefore must be eliminated.” She favours the Nordic model.

If you believe that selling sex means selling women, you believe that a woman’s value equals her capacity to have sex.

Framing this as a gender-equality argument is ironic, because that same notion underpins many of the world’s most sexist ideas — including the idea, still in place in some parts of the world, that rape is a property crime.

We in Canada don’t generally talk about rape that way any more, but we still use that language when we talk about prostitution. We use phrases like “selling her body” or even “selling herself” — rather than “selling sex.”

To assume that prostitution commodifies women, we have to also think a certain way about heterosexual sex. We have to think of it as male access to a woman’s body — not as something a woman does with her body. This is the "why buy the cow when you’re getting the milk for free" way of seeing women’s sexuality. Again, not exactly a gender-equality argument.»

(I interrupt Kate Heartfield's thoughtful prose with a crude example that illustrates how a married woman, in this case a politician's wife, is subjected to that very degradation that so incensed MacKay. Juxtapose this with the passage here in which Rob Ford attempts to traffick Renata. Also, if sex-workers were to publish clients' names, all would see that putative "family-values" rightwing Con men make up the majority of their lists.) 

«There is another way of looking at sex: that a woman’s value as a human being has nothing to do with whom she chooses to have sex with or how often or what conditions she imposes on that choice. If this is our assumption, then a woman who sells sex is not selling herself. She isn’t turning herself into a commodity, and neither is anyone else. Sex is merely the service she sells.»

Registered and practical nurses, athletes, child care workers, lawyers, therapists, morticians: all provide professional services that sometimes require that they engage in a particular activity that some people might find repellant and disgusting. The specific *ickiness* of a task does not detract from the knowledge, respect and dignity they bring to their jobs

What is most disappointing to me in this whole debate is the participation of abolitionist feminists who give credence to Andrea Dworkin's pragmatic and ideological analysis of women's bodies as pornographed and fetishized commodities.  Believing this construct to be so deeply embedded in all institutions that it cannot be uprooted, they think that in order to limit the horrific harm that's done to women who are trafficked or trapped by poverty and many vulnerabilities in the "sex trade", they are obliged to align themselves with punitive and sex-phobic Reformatory Evangelical conservative legislation.

Whatever their expertise, critics of C36 agree that it will NOT keep women safe; it will probably endanger them MORE than the old law did.

And, just in case you know people who still don't get why C36 is so MASSIVELY WRONG, direct them to Tabatha Southey's splendid slam dunk.

ADDED: Money for sex, sex for money is a personal reflection on sex work that I posted in March this year.

MORE: Joyce Arthur deconstructs the toxic misogynist religious ideology at the core of C36.

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