My human rights should not be selectively applied based on whether or not I love my job. Really think about how absurd that is. When I worked all night at a sandwich shop making subs for drunks, I hated my job. I felt degraded, devalued, and regularly taken advantage of. Yet no one suggested an all-out ban on fast food restaurants, or that no healthy young woman would freely consent to making sandwiches all night long for minimum wage. Labouring under capitalism, our choices are always constrained. I had to pay my rent, had to eat. Life isn't free. It was understood that I needed that lousy job. And when my boss tried to tell me I wasn't allowed to mark down the overtime I worked, I understood that was wrong, that I had rights as a worker under the law. I had recourse. Think about that.
I began my career as an escort at 26, when my then- boyfriend spent all the rent money and I faced being evicted if I couldn't come up with $800 in a little less than a week. Although my initial choice to escort was out of dire financial necessity, and was intended to be a short term stopgap, I found I loved the work. The boyfriend was history and nearly a decade later I'm still loving my job. I love my co- workers, a powerful sisterhood of strong, funny women. I love my clients, most of the time. No one ever comes to me upset and cranky, resentful. People are happy when they have sex, when they can open themselves, makes themselves vulnerable to another human being who will cherish them for an hour or two. Happy people have good energy and I love to be surrounded by that all day. I love the good money and the flexible hours, the freedom to pursue my passions on the side and still be able to pay my bills. I'm still laboring under capitalism, after all.
I choose to work at an escort agency, the kind of “commercial enterprise” under C36 that is also known as a bawdy house under the old laws. I'm neither the high class call girl, star of cable shows, nor the poor streetwalker whose death propels an episode of CSI. Like most Canadians, I'm just working, just trying to pay my bills and put a little away.
C36 will decidedly not improve my life or the lives of my coworkers at the escort agency. Some critics may assume that we are being exploited, as though every employer is not exploiting her employees' labour for wages. Hello, capitalism. We all choose to be there for one reason or another. For most of us, that reason is we need a job. One that pays a living wage, thank you very much. Under C36 a sex worker can work independently, out of her own home. Sure. That works if someone can afford to live without roommates, doesn't have a nosy landlord, and is not raising children. This is a tenable option only for the most privileged sex workers. For the rest of us, we need a safe place to work, with phone staff to schedule appointments, drivers and security, and each other. What happens to the women employed at escort agencies if their workplaces are forced out of business? These women who are currently employed and supporting themselves will then struggle to make ends meet for themselves and their families. Demand for social services will increase. Many will not leave sex work but will be forced to work outside on the street- because not only will our safe workplace have been shut down, but we will be prohibited from advertising to find clients. That leaves only the most dangerous options left for those who will choose to pursue sex work.
We do not need paternalistic, moralistic legislation that further constrains women's choices. What we need is recognition that sex work is work, and we demand our goddamn rights. I demand the same labour rights as any other citizen working in this country. If necessary you may hear from me again, as a plaintiff in yet another expensive challenge to unconstitutional legislation that is doomed to fail. What a waste.