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Sex Work

Sex workers fight against ‘dangerous’ laws

Recent prostitution laws crack down on buyers but add risk for sellers

4 min read
caption Over 200 people have been charged for buying sex after Canada introduced new laws
Payge Woodard
Over 200 people have been charged for buying sex after Canada introduced new laws
caption Over 200 people have been charged for buying sex after Canada introduced new laws
Payge Woodard

Valerie Scott wanted to be a saloon girl, not a cowboy’s wife.

“I wanted music, I wanted dancing, I wanted business, I wanted to be my own person,” she says.

It was this desire, inspired by the TV westerns she grew up watching, that led Scott to the sex industry.

There is freedom in selling sex.

Scott set her own hours and fees and decides what she’ll do.

“Wow, this is actually a good job,” Scott thought when her career began.

But soon public perception caught up with her.

“The constant stigma, pressure from just about every facet of society that I was doing something wrong, that it was immoral” Scott says.

Watch the video below to hear Valerie explain how saloon girls inspired her

A ‘slaughtering’ from the government

That stigma is hard to shake.

After the Supreme Court of Canada struck down laws surrounding sex work in 2013 for being unconstitutional, the former Conservative government introduced the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act a year later.

The new law cracks down on the buying, rather than the selling of sexual services.

According to an analysis of crime data from Statistics Canada, 284 people were charged with purchasing sex in 2015, a large jump from the one person charged the year before.

The laws also target pimps and traffickers.

Since the new laws were put into place, eight people have been charged for profiting from someone’s sexual services and 23 people faced charges after advertising for someone else.

Andrea Mrozek, program director of Cardus Family, a non-profit group that conducts research into family-related issues, says 99 per cent of sex workers are being taken advantage of.

Mrozek says the sex workers who suggest the work is empowering are the one per cent.

In a 2014 report on sex work, the Canadian Public Health Association concludes 81 per cent of surveyed sex workers said they feel empowered to set the terms of service with a client.

According to the department of justice, the new law treats “prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation” and is meant to protect those who sell their own sexual services.
However, Scott disagrees, arguing that the laws make sex work more dangerous.

Fear of being caught

Now everyone wants to stay underground.

Internet advertisements are discreet and there’s no room left in the newspaper classifieds.

The fear of being caught is leading sex workers to take risks.

“Everyone is terrified to call the police,” says Scott. “If the police know where you, are they will harass you to death, the whole idea is stress people out of the business.”

‘We’re everyone’

Kept quiet, the sex industry endures. But Scott says images sex workers, as crack-addicted victims aren’t reality.

“We’re everyone, we’re university students we’re single moms,” says Scott. “We shop at the same grocery stores that you do.”

And their bodies aren’t for sale

“We provide sexual services, it’s like a masseuse doesn’t sell her hands, a surgeon doesn’t sell her brain,” Scott says. “Sex workers don’t sell their bodies, my god, there’d be nothing left of mine if I did.”
Scott says the buyers “don’t come from mars at night,” they’re ordinary men.

‘Nothing wrong with that’

Happy with her career, Scott is tired of people trying to save her.

“We’re all considered to be victims, which is a nice way of saying stupid, too stupid to make up our own minds,” she says.

But Scott is fighting back.

Working as the legal coordinator for Sex Professionals of Canada, she lobbies for the decriminalization of adult sex work.

The group has prepared a report for the justice minster, outlining “what makes sense” for the sex industry.

“I’m very hopeful that the Trudeau Liberals will actually listen to sex workers,” she says.

Despite the stigma, Scott says consensual sex work is a straightforward and honest exchange.

“Sex can just be friendly and compassionate and fun,” says Scott. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

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About the author

Payge Woodard

Payge is a master of journalism student at the University of King's College. She's interned for Bangor Daily News in Maine and freelanced for...

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  1. P

    Pauline Dakin

    Nice job of putting a new spin on a story that's had lots of coverage.
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