Hot on craigslist??

13 07 2009

Okay, I’m not proposing a solution yet, but have you ever browsed craiglist for, say, sex? To be honest, I’ve only found out that craigslist has a section for advertising sex services. I mean, I do use craigslist a lot, for the sole purpose of finding stuff like iPods, cellphones, and a place to rent. That’s it. And a friend pointed out to me. I thought, great, then maybe I can say something about it in this blog. So there I went, a few clicks and there it was. A disclaimer page, asking me to confirm that I was 18 years of age, to understand that the section “may include adult content” and to agree to report any “suspected exploitation of minors”.
Another click to choose a category: w4m (women for male).

Voila! I’m on the ad page. That easy. Even if I weren’t 18, who would have known? And there they were pages after pages of ads. Offering all kinds of sex services, some with high price tag, and most just don’t name their price.
It is not an offense to advertise sex. And when it’s free, who wouldn’t use it, right? And it’s on the internet, which is virtually accessible wherever, whenever. And of course, new more complicated problems come along with the rise of craigslist.

Some argue that craigslist’s ads are actually a better ‘selling’ method than being on the streets. Some women on the ads offer prospect clients to come to their place. Which can make these sex workers safer than being on dark streets. Being in their own space means (hopefully) they know their surroundings, what to do in case of violent behaviour from their clients.

However, just a few days before I also saw a CBC report on the rise of teenage hooker ring, who posted ads on craigslist, offering sex for money. Teenagers? Who were not even 18? Here’s a video.

I think this is a big problem. These teenagers don’t seem to know what they were doing. Then who can protect them if their clients were violent or even predators? We need to act. Fast.

Education for them is definitely a must. Letting them know that there are many men out there, who can potentially be their clients, are violent. Some are simply predators. And there is a risk of STDs. According to the news excerpt, these teens have ‘special price’ for not wearing condoms. Yes, they maybe richer than the other teens, but if they caught serious illnesses like HIV/AIDS, which can lead to deaths, will it be worth it? Educating them AND the parents, so that both parties understand each other and able to help each other. Educate parents to be familiar with the internet, to constantly monitor their teen daughters, to be able to communicate to their children. It does seem like a small start, but hey, where else should it start if not from your own home?

So, is craigslist really a better selling method? Or is it just another means to an end? Read more on this article.


The business of sex and violence

10 07 2009

When we look at sex trade, we must admit, that it is a business. Whether it is organized or unorganized, from the streets or at higher-end places such as strip clubs or micro-brothels. From our interview with SFU’s own Chris Atchison, we’ve learned a lot about the business models.

On the streets, where survival sex trade workers are usually unorganized and work for their own,  business is simpler. Where there is a buyer, a seller, an agreeable price, sex trade will take place. Unfortunately though, street sex workers are more vulnerable to violence such as physical and verbal abuse, rape, robbery and even murder. Mainly because they sell sex on the streets. And they have little time to decide if it was safe or not to get into a client’s car. They only have little time too, to judge whether or not a client is safe to date.
A lot of times, violence against these women were induced by things as simple as a client refusing to wear a condom. And the chance of violence happening is that when a client take a sex worker to industrial area, where nobody is around.

On the higher levels, where the operations usually go under the radar, business is more complicated, even dysfunctional. With Canadian laws prohibiting brothels or “bawdy houses”, these operations are somewhat invisible. Operations such as escort services, massage parlours, and strip clubs often offer sex as part of the services. And they have legal business permits. Sex trade workers are more organized under these operations, in the sense they they work in a contained space, with people who decides which client to date or who can see a certain client. The other word: pimps. Some establishments though, run more loosely. Where the sex workers can choose whom to date or who is going to date a certain client.
Violence however, happens less in these businesses. Because of the contained space and the women have more time in judging whether or not a client is safe to date.
What makes the business complicated though, is the sex workers would have to pay a big cut to the business owners. Many of them are being economically exploited. And sometimes these women don’t even have access to their pay until a certain time. Then again, the sex trade workers are disadvantaged.

Some women though, are better-off from working through these kinds of businesses. High paying clients are not too difficult to find. And some micro-brothels, are well organized that they have sex workers who actually work by choice.

So can legalizing brothels actually be a good solution to reduce violence?

Teenage prostitution on the North Shore

10 07 2009

There is more evidence that no one is fully immune to the affects of the sex trade. No community can safely declare that they are not touched by prostitution or the violence that sometimes accompanies the sex trade.

A few days ago, the North Shore Outlook published an article about under-aged prostitution. According to this article and I am sure that our readers who are familiar with North Shore communities would concur, “The North Shore is so shiny and squeaky clean.”

North Shore

The article goes on to state that these girls (in this case, they are mainly teenage girls) were in relationships with young males who supplied them with drugs, expensive gifts and alcohol. Once, the young women were addicted, they needed a way to pay for their new dependency.

The article also mentioned that there were some initiatives that these communities are looking into to curb teenage prostitution and encourage the maintenance of safety among these girls. The points in the following list could be used in some communities to prevent or delay entry into the sex trade by teens.

  • Arrange for counseling (through Hollyburn Family Services or another accredited counseling center) teens already involved in the sex trade who have addictions and family problems.
  • Form partnerships between the RCMP and schools to develop education plans that reach students from kindergarten to grade 12.
  • Seminars and support groups directed by Children of the Street and SAFETEEN outreach workers can be held for high schools. These programs would need to remove the morality question and concentrate on myth-busting and safety. Otherwise, teens may find the seminars “preachy” and refuse to participate.
  • Start conversations between students, parents and educators (as a result of these programs).
  • Open more drug treatment facilities for youth. Teenage prostitution is often a way to pay for a new habit. If drugs were taken out of the question, former addicts would be able to choose more freely if they want to be in the sex trade.

It was also mentioned that these teens could easily end up on the DTES as this area is a “a dumping ground for a lot of women from other communities”. To abolish violence in the sex trade and provide more choices to youth so that if they do become  a sex trade worker, it is a more open choice, our education system needs to be addressed. Our teens need to know how to stay safe and what their rights are. They also need to know that there are alternative options to the sex trade and that there are programs to help wean them of their addictions, if that is their goal.


These programs, if administered properly, will provide young teens with more choices and more information. If they are still wanting to enter the sex trade, it will be a freer choice and one that is not coerced by a violent pimp or an illegal drug.

The effectiveness of the proposed solutions is yet unknown. The rate of education reform on this topic is very slow as it is a touchy topic with many parents and communities. There is also a sense of “that sort of thing does not happen here”. On a side note, because it DOES happen “here”, we must be even more vigilant on the eradication of violence against sex trade workers. An often overlooked but obvious fact is that these women are our daughters, sisters, friends, wives, mothers and aunts.

End The Violence

4 07 2009

Prostitutes are often blamed for the violence that is perpetrated against them. This is compounded by the fact that sex workers can be charged if they report having been assaulted or robbed while engaging in prostitution. With a woman working alone if she gets a bad client she’s terrified to report that to the police for fear that she’s the one that will be arrested and charged.  Many sex workers don’t report crimes against them for fear of being charged under laws that criminalize the business of prostitution.  Having sex for money in Canada isn’t illegal, nor is paying someone for sex yet there are laws that make it near impossible to engage in sex work both safely and legally.  Sex workers are caught in these terrible contradictions as a result of these laws.  There is the risk of facing persecution and violence.

“People realize the status quo is a complete failure and are looking for a different approach,” says NDP MP Libby Davies, “but you won’t get many elected representatives who want to take this on. It’s not seen as the most electable issue.”

Laws Surrounding Sex Work

While sex workers’ organizations across the country are campaigning to see sex work decriminalized, some states in the U.S. have gone the route of legalization instead. Legalizing sex work means instituting regulations that treat prostitution as a vice, as opposed to decriminalization which treats it like work. Under decriminalization sex workers are allowed all the labour-related rights and freedoms as any other worker. At present only New Zealand and the state of New South Wales in Australia have decriminalized sex work.  “A decriminalization position emphasizes the labour rights, health and safety rights, and human rights of sex workers,” says York sociology professor Deborah Brock who has published extensively on sex work. “It recognizes their ability to implement standards for the self-regulation of their trade, including forming professional associations governed by codes of conduct, rights and responsibilities, and to form or join trade unions so that they may collectively bargain the conditions under which they are prepared to work.”  In other words it takes the stigma out of sex work.

Safe Houses in Vancouver

In Vancouver, at least one serial killer had been murdering sex workers unchallenged for so long, there are several initiatives underway to keep sex workers safe – initiatives that include selective policing.

Vancouver is setting up a safe house that would be run by sex workers themselves, comparing the project to marijuana compassion clubs or Vancouver’s safe injection site where police know it’s there but don’t rush in and shut it down because they see it as preferable. The would-be safe house, or cooperative brothel, is a project of Vancouver’s Prostitutes Alternatives Counselling and Education Society.

Vancouver is in a unique situation.  With the 2010 Olympics around the corner, there’s a lot of pressure for gentrification of the downtown east side. Cooperative brothels could work all over the country. There is also a push in Vancouver for a moratorium on charges related to the communicating law, which makes it illegal for sex workers or their clients to discuss a transaction in public.

Rethink Sex Work

No other woman has to worry about being charged for reporting a rape. In Toronto there is a way for sex workers to report crimes against them without being charged.  Since January 2007 the special victims section within the sex crimes unit has worked exclusively on assaults against sex workers.  The section has its own 24-hour number as well as an anonymous bad date hot line, which has seen 9 convictions so far. If we could get police services across this country to give more man power and resources and education, to invest and dedicate to these services against assault against sex workers we wouldn’t have to devote so much to homicide.

source: 8 ways to revolutionalize the sex industry