Staying Alive, Staying Alive

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Wait what. What. I know. Who doesn’t love politics? I wasn’t sure I was going to make it that kind of blog, but whatever. You can read it, you can ignore it, or you can hate me for it.

But if you are concerned, SPOILERS: strong opinions ahead.



Here in Canada, the courts are currently debating whether prostitutes can hire security, conduct their business indoors, and/or keep a “badwdy” house (which is an awesome word). Some people are pleased. Some are not.

I’m no legal scholar so I can’t provide any sort of reasoned commentary on the laws in and of themselves. I can only parrot one of the Judges who (bless her heart) asked the lawyer for the Crown why prostitution, if legal, was the only sort of employment that had these draconian measures.

For the uninitiated, prostitutes in Canada are not allowed to keep a house dedicated to prostitution (or one that is too bawdy), they aren’t allowed to hire security or drivers (as that entails “living off the avails of prostitution), and they can’t talk to someone on the street to assess them before bringing them inside.

That is the equivalent to having a Best Buy that can’t advertise, can’t maintain a brick and mortar store, and can’t hire anyone to help them sell their stuff. Even though the selling of said stuff is perfectly legal. I know. Double-standard much?

I’m going to be upfront and say that, as a super-nerdy historian and writer, I’m not exactly the type of person to go to a prostitute. Hell, I don’t even agree with strip clubs. Nothing against strippers, but it’s not my thing. And I know prostitution is a difficult thing because aside from the institutional frowning-upon that makes it difficult, there are many reasons that it is bad, unhealthy, and depends on actual criminal activity. In a letter to the Toronto Star, Sherene Razack, Professor of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at UofT had a great, nuanced response. I’m not going to quote it in full (you can find it among other letters here), but I’m going to highlight some things she said, just as food for thought:

 “Reducing the matter to moral conservatism and choice is dangerous because it prevents us from confronting the tremendous violence that is prostitution and having a real conversation about legal and non-legal strategies.

Scholars agree that most prostitutes begin as 12-year-old girls fleeing other forms of violence (in foster homes, in their own homes, and so on). The rate of drug addiction is extremely high (some argue that this is how one gets through it). Women engaged in prostitution end up murdered more often than others (there are hundreds of “missing” women, many of whom are Aboriginal in this group).

Prostitution is also a billion dollar industry that requires the trafficking of women. Of course, on this global landscape, many adult women choose to enter prostitution as their best option. It is a supreme challenge to determine how best to legally protect women and girls amidst such organized violence.”

If the structural conditions of prostitution as an industry are not daunting enough, it is intrinsically hard to make prostitution safe when men are buying the right to do anything they want to the body of another. It’s not the sex that worries me but the power arrangements that underpin the idea of sex by contract and the violence this breeds.”

It’s a good response that raises lots of points to consider for the future. But in the here and now, do you want my opinion? Because of the presence of these laws that intend to criminalize a legal activity women die. 


Let’s say that again: these laws, that try to under-handedly criminalize a legal activity, put women (and certainly men, but the overwhelming majority are women, usually Aboriginal women) at risk of bodily harm.

Women. Die.

Yes, that’s dramatic because this is a dramatic thing. People dying is bad, and if you don’t agree, then I don’t think you’re human. There is good news here, though. Although the end result is unclear, as crime and criminal activity (including the horrifying, horrible practice of human trafficking) do not necessarily go down in areas that have legalized prostitution, the legal arguments seem to be leaning towards repealing the laws.

Just in closing though, there’s one argument that I’ve seen tossed around a lot. “We shouldn’t legalize prostitution (ignoring the Derp that forgets that prostitution is legal) because it’s immoral.” I’ve also seen it tossed around as a sort of religious argument. That God doesn’t want prostitutes to, well, prostitute.

To quote the great John Scalzi: Whatever. You know what’s immoral? Letting people die because you don’t like what they do. Letting people get hurt because you think they’re dirty and scummy and gross. Letting people suffer because some don’t want to acknowledge that it’s legal. I think that, in the grand scheme of things, God would be happier if you looked out for each other.

Let’s just all get along, and hopefully, a few more women will make it through the year.

Now it’s happy time. DISCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO CHASER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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