An Open Letter to my MSP

Dear Sandra

I’m one of your constituents. I’ve actually reached out to your office for help before; help that I gratefully received. I voted for you. I believe you want the best for your community, your city and your country. I thought you would speak for me and my interests. However, this time I have to reach out to ask you not to help. Please, don’t try to help people you clearly don’t understand.

The most simplistic way to look at stripping is to see it as pure male gaze objectification. The women on stage, in private rooms and on laps are victims. It’s easy to think that and not look deeper into it. It hits all the important socio-political points of today; the #metoo movement, equality, human trafficking, women’ rights, exploitation, mental health, and sex work. It gets to claim that being against stripping is to be a champion for women, to protect against potential violence and crime against them.

A lifetime lived is enough to know that it is dangerous to look at anything that simply and set a law around that simplicity.

Let me change the subject slightly. When I was a kid, my neighbourhood relied on the local community centre. It was a cafe, a meeting point, after school care, a place for various different classes, for people of all ages. It was a hub of society in an area otherwise afflicted by poverty, sub standard education and below average quality of life. Despite being vitally needed, the centre eventually closed down, not least of all because of the ‘bad elements’ that also used the facilities. Some dodgy deals were arranged and done in those halls; everyone knew but dealt with it the best they could in order to protect the very real good the centre provided overall. When that community centre was closed down by well meaning but oblivious councillors, we lost a crucial part of our community. The criminal element moved someplace else and we were left without a place to rely on for those classes, the after school care disappeared, and the cafe; so affordable to those on very low incomes, had no local equal. The community as a whole suffered. We became more insular, further education and hobbies stagnated and probably most ironically, crime soared. It soared because a lot of the kids lately involved in classes, hobbies and a place to go no longer had that, angry and isolated not to mention disillusioned, turned to petty crime and violence. From public nuisance, destruction of property to gang violence, the closure of that little centre caused far worse than it sought to avoid. More than 20 years on, I still feel massive sorrow for everyone who suffered the unintended consequences of closing our community centre.

Why do I mention this? Apart from knowing this is just one of many similar tales about the closures of community centres around poverty stricken areas, I see the same sort of unintended predicaments that threaten our city following the banning of SEVs. I see that trying to eliminate the very real issues surrounding regulations in SEVs will instead shatter all the good they do, and rather than stop the negative aspects, it will drive those deeper in the shadows; not gone, but that much more difficult to fight against. Such a simple solution is never simple. Sex work will continue as it has since the beginning of time, and those who prey on the vunerable will be empowered to do so since there will be no protections in place for the people who rely on or simply enjoy sex work as a career.

It is not for anyone, even elected officials, to judge people in sex work. Morals against a career simply don’t apply the same way they don’t apply to someone who has a career in shelf stacking or selling cars. There is no moral outrage necessary to accept that sex work is and always will be a valuable commodity in society. The old adage ‘sex sells’ is jokingly referred to in aspects of every single industry in the world, but only in the actual sex industry is it so tightly restricted by the moral outrage of those not actively involved in it.

That is not to say there is not room for improvement. Of course there is. Sex workers should be better protected in ways that make sense for them, a collobrative effort between their expertise and comman sense laws. This includes creating and maintaining safe places for them to work. It includes a mutual conversation between who make laws and who needs them to do their jobs. A conversation, not one side dictating to the other. Sex work needs regulation, sure – but to tar all sex workers as victims is to demean those who make an active choice to make this their career. They are not asking you to babysit them. They are asking you to look upon them as equals, with real insight and knowledge of how to create a safer workspace for all involved in the industry. To remove them from the conversation is to create victims of the people you are purporting to help. You are not helping them, you are telling them they are worthless, and isn’t that what you’re saying you want to stop?

Simple is never simple.

Involve those people, empower them to create their own solutions and remember you are on the outside looking in. Do not ban the places they can do their work safely. Do not do it in my name, or for my sake. I did not ask you to, and neither did any of the 700. Ask them what to do, instead of imposing your well meaning, but ultimately ill informed views on them.

I hope you see the sense in this. I hope I can feel good about voting for you again.


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