This is a report from a telephone conference with Amnesty International Australia members.
It is cringe-worthy to be part of a conference arguing international policy on prostitution with one of the largest human rights organizations in the world, and hearing them defer unanimously to pro-prostitution lobby speech.
It is like a stab in the guts to be asked to conform to sanitized etymology and use these terms to avoid upsetting “anyone”.
It is unbearable to know that someone has left the conference because while they define your experience for you as “sex work”, your use of the word “johns” is unacceptable to the point that they get a heartfelt apology from the Chair.
Yet we did bear it.
Many AI members who are survivors and many AI members who support the Nordic Model do not feel represented by this language and proceeding. They do not want to be presented like this by the drafters of this hideous policy created by the pimp lobby, and this is not what they joined Amnesty for.
The terms “sex work” and “sex worker” were coined and very successfully launched by the very organisations that seek to legalise all aspects of the sex industry, and mainly its enormous profits. The terms are sold off to us all as less stigmatizing and less insulting than “prostitution” and “prostitute”. What they do – and this is their intent – is to sanitize what the prostitution of women, of children, of people does to the prostituted. Our perception gets diverted from the ugly, physical and emotional realities of what being in prostitution means to an abstract idea of “work”, of prostitution as “work as any other”. The woman in prostitution is no longer recognized as a human being in an exploitative, violent and abusive situation that denies her fundamental rights. She becomes someone who just has “a bad day at work.” At the same time the term “sex worker” is deliberately blurred to include everybody in this industry, from the woman in prostitution to – what is now termed – “facilitators”, “receptionists”, “landlords”, “managers”, “body guards” and “drivers”. The correct word, in fact, is: pimp.
Making survivors of prostitution use these terms dreamed up for the marketing strategies of the pro-prostitution lobby is an attempt at silencing, at denying their right to define their own experiences in any meaningful way.
This is why survivors speak of themselves as “prostituted woman” or “woman in prostitution” when they inform others about what prostitution is.
These are very clear statements on this:
Prostitution is sexual abuse
Rachel Moran’s statement at a panel discussion in the Swedish Embassy in Brussels (excerpt)
“Your language is part of the problem”
both by Rebecca Mott