More Men at the Table
International laws are shifting, but where are male voices?
This summer, Canada has been debating a bill called C-36 which criminalizes the purchase of sexual services and the posting of advertisements through online platforms (like Rentboy or Backpage). The Globe and Mail has put together a great breakdown of the bill. There have been days of testimony from both sides over this bill from current and former (pro and anti) sex workers.
Notedly absent from this testimony at Canada’s Parliament were male sex workers.
— C.S. Roma (@cs_roma) July 18, 2014
I would like to hear from a former/current male sex worker. Why are there no former/current male sex workers. #c36
— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) July 9, 2014
I don’t believe anyone has yet brought up the existence of male sex workers, have they? #C36
— kady o’malley (@kady) July 8, 2014
This isn’t the only place we’re missing, either.
Recently, I attended a Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) meeting in NYC. Admittedly, I felt out of place for just a minute while I looked around the room of female-identified sex workers. But that feeling didn’t last for long. As they spoke and collaborated on everything from community support during recent NYC Pride celebrations to international proceedings like C-36 and the International AIDS Conference in Australia, I could see that they had a bigger picture in mind. Their purpose is to build a support network for current and former sex workers and trafficking survivors. There are SWOP chapters all over the world and they recognize that while male sex workers have different needs than our female counterparts, some of the basic resources and support (usually legal and medical) are universal. They are here for us when we need them. We just have to be there for them when it comes time to speak up.
I recently came across a tweet that read, “There is no such thing as escort solidarity.” While I respect an individual’s right to privacy and the practice of not getting involved in the politics surrounding a specific industry (whether it be sex work or mainstream work), I don’t believe this to be true.
So, this piece is a “call to arms” of sorts for male and male-identified persons in the sex trade.
I urge you to read about the sex work (aka “prostitution”) and human trafficking laws in your state. For example, I recently learned that New York law has tried to end demand of sexual services by “eliminating the distinction between trafficking and prostitution.” The ‘End Demand’ model has been written about extensively as doing more harm to sex workers and trafficked people than good.
I ask you to read about the the prostitution laws in New Zealand, New South Wales and Sweden and how they have affected lives of sex workers in those areas.
I recommend that you read this to-do list for sex worker rights activism from Scarlot Harlot’s “Unrepentant Whore”. At the very least, network with your fellow sex workers and stay up to date on issues both locally and internationally. In NYC, there are regular meet-and-greets, but you can host your own anywhere or reach out to a local SWOP chapter to volunteer or donate.
Most importantly: tell your stories! Write about your experience in the sex trade and share information.
However, we do have a place in this dialogue. And no organization one will turn down an extra voice, be it male, female or otherwise. The worst we can do for ourselves is to be absent during things as important as hearing on legislation that directly affects our livelihood.