Sexual safety and stereotypes

Prostitutes and other readers want to tackle the root causes of the sex trade

Evelyn Burch
Vancouver Sun

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Re: High time Vancouver helped its sex-trade workers, mayor says, Sept. 15

Rather than individually pathologizing sex trade workers, perpetuating the maintenance of myths around the sex trade, and blaming and shaming sex trade workers for the circumstances they are in, it is time to critically examine how and why the system has failed.

CREDIT: Sun files

Poverty, addiction and abuse are some of the causes leading people, mail and female, into the sex trade.

In fact, Mayor Larry Campbell's comment that "the first step towards a safer sex trade is for sex workers to make sure that they take better care of themselves" is a clear example of blaming sex workers for the harmful social policies and laws that are created by our political systems.

Over the past 30 years, we, sex workers (former and current) have consistently advocated that the sex trade issue is "urgent," "pressing" and "critical" only to find our voices falling lemming-like into the political abyss.

Perhaps society has been addressing the wrong issue. Predominantly, the public still sees sex work as a nuisance issue and, now it seems that our local politicians are only viewing sex work through an addictions lens.

The real issues are poverty, racism, classism, sexism, abuse, etc. These are the catalysts for addiction, lack of education, homelessness -- and the list goes on.

These root causes promote the marginalization of sex trade workers. Thus, as opposed to blaming sex trade workers, moralizing the issue, and re-victimizing us, it is time to get to know us as real citizens and help us eradicate the conditions that are the breeding ground for violence and oppression.

Sex work has been a consistent part of society since the beginning of time and will inevitably be a part of society until the end of time, like it or not. So, we, the members of Prostitution Alternatives Counselling & Education Society's peer education program, would like to see how politicians and the law enforcement community propose to legitimize our voices, through the city's proposed community forums.

Society can carry on perpetuating stereotypes and ignoring the root of the issue. Or we can implement realistic and positive ways of changing the dangerous landscape that unfortunately exists for sex trade workers in the Downtown Eastside, as well as in the greater community of Canada.

We ask not just to be listened to but to be heard.

Marika Sandrelli

On behalf of nine other members of PACE

(Prostitution Alternatives Counselling & Education Society)

What's always overlooked -- or intentionally ignored -- no matter what the current issue is about the sex trade, is a really basic one about supply and demand. As with most businesses, if there were no demand, there would be no supply.

The sex trade exists because there is a demand. Why is it that no one -- especially men -- ever discusses why there's a demand? Why is it necessary for men to buy sex?

What would happen if men took responsibility for this question and decided that they'd encourage each other to satisfy themselves with self-pleasure or sex with friends and partners, instead of buying it from women (and men) in desperate straits?

If there were no demand then perhaps the rest of us could, as a society, really address the issues of poverty and addiction that put women (and some men) on the streets and in "escort" services in the first place.

Heather MacAndrew


The media pounced on the ill-considered decision (and subsequent waffling) by Vancouver city council to further the opportunity for downtown residents to work where they live, by including that right for escort agencies, massage parlours and exotic dance agencies.

Talk radio found considerable amusement with the antics of this municipal clown show, which also brought the downtown area safe- injection sites. Who should be surprised then by council's advocacy for improved commercial possibilities for safe erection sites?

The tendency of the media to see this issue as part of the "leftist" agenda of a predominantly COPE council overlooks councillors' poorly prepared, insufficiently researched and unenlightened approach to their responsibilities. But the left is not the only tenant in the land of great stupidity.

Those citizens who are in despair about prostitution occurring in the gentrified downtown where they live or collect the rental profits might not grasp the more significant problem here either. Why would any "socialistic" government subscribe to the furthering of a practice that continues to victimize those women "working" in the sex trade industry? Could city hall please advise us how many of the proprietors of these businesses would be anyone other than the pimps who bring in the cash?

This is an extension of the oldest "profession" known throughout the worldwide web of commerce: living off the avails of prostitution and promoting the exploitation of women in the interests of piling up the cash.

Evelyn Burch


 Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun



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