news.com.au: THE AUSTRALIAN sex work industry has fought back against claims that most sex workers are abused and forced to enter the industry against their own will.
The hashtag #FacesOfProstitution started trending on social media on Monday, as hundreds of sex workers here and around the world shared positive images and stories from their industry.
On Friday, women’s website Mamamia republished a blog post from Exodus Cry, which argues the film Pretty Woman glorifies prostitution and “lured [women] into the sex industry by leading them to believe that prostitution was glamorous and romantic.”
The article, entitled ‘The tragic reality behind the inspiration for Pretty Woman’, also claims 75 per cent of women in prostitution have been raped, 95 per cent have been “seriously abused and battered”, 68 per cent “suffer from post traumatic stress disorder” and most enter the industry after being sexually abused as children.
None of these statistics are attributed to an official source.
In response to the Mamamia article, Sydney sex worker Tilly Lawless started the #FacesOfProstitution hashtag on Sunday.
“Roberts’ ‘toothy smile is not the true face of prostitution’ because all sex workers are drug-addled victims & Pretty Woman is a damaging film that leads girls into a life of abuse. There is no singular story or person to represent the varied and complex experiences of all sex workers, but here is one face of prostitution among a myriad,” Lawless posted on Instagram, accompanied with a photo of herself.
Lucie Bee* is a Sydney-based escort who has been in the industry for five years and defended her profession via the #FacesOfProstitution hashtag on Monday.
The 25-year-old says she loves her job. “It’s my choice to be here,” she toldnews.com.au.
“The prevailing attitude regarding sex work in Australia is this doom and gloom type scenario.
“People don’t understand how you could possibly go into the industry by choice. They say ‘How could you do this? How could you interact on this level with people you don’t know?’ It implies we don’t have any agency over our minds and bodies.”
Lucie says she understands not all sex workers are as fortunate.
“As soon as someone like me comes out and says, ‘My experience is good’, we’re accused of trying to deny that these negative things do happen. We’re not at all.
“I’d be lying if I said to some degree if I didn’t understand the concern. We do face risk in our day-to-day lives that others don’t. And there are some women who do have bad experiences.”
Jackie Parker*, from Griffith in NSW, also defended her industry on Twitter. The 36-year-old has worked in brothels, massage parlours and as an escort.
“I’ve been in the industry for 14 years and I’ve never met someone who was forced into this job,” she said.
“The peple who are doing it tough make up a small percentage — that is not the norm for sex work in Australia.
“If you look at the faces of the women on the Twitter hashtag, we’re all smiling. Implying we are victims is condescending and makes us feel like we don’t have a voice. It makes me feel like I’m not living the right stereotype and it’s really harmful.
“I’ve never had an STI, I’ve only had to call the police once in 14 years. I’m treated with respect and like a normal person.”
Christian Vega is a male sex worker from Tasmania. The 32-year-old says the discussion over whether or not sex workers choose to enter the industry is based on the perception that sex work is fundamentally different to other forms of work.
“Nobody asks, ‘Did you choose to become a truck driver or a janitor or did you just fall into that job?’ They’re not examined with the same scrutiny that sex work is. Sex workers are just normal members of the community.
“When people say things like, ‘Sex workers need to be rescued’ or ‘They don’t choose that career path’ or ‘Sex workers do lots of drugs’, then legislators start overreacting and start to make decisions that impact all sex workers.”
Lucie says stigmatising the industry only makes it harder for sex workers to come forward to police when bad things do happen.
“When people send the industry further underground, we lose the capacity to stay connected with women who do need help and track down people who are doing the wrong thing and combat sex trafficking.
“It makes it less likely for victims to come forward or for them to be treated fairly by the justice system. These women need support. They feel bad enough already without feeling like society has turned its back on them.”
A spokeswoman from the Victorian Sex Workers Organisation, Jane Green, says the conversation around the sex work should always involve actually talking to sex workers.
“When you’re talking about other people’s lives and you don’t have knowledge of those people’s lives, it can turn into pity-porn. It’s unhelpful and it’s putting us inside a box.”