Celine Bisette: Why criminalizing sex work will just harm more women

Jun 17, 2014
Legal
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In last week’s Toronto Star, sex worker Vanessa D’Alessio wrote about her job as an escort. She spoke fondly of her regular clients, describing their prestigious careers and divulging their sexual proclivities. D’Alessio attempted to explain how “normal” her patrons are to those who might hold the stereotypical view that all clients of sex workers are perverts or predators. D’Alessio also preemptively defended herself against those who would say that she is “not representative” of sex workers and that prostitution policy shouldn’t be based on (what critics would argue are) her unusually positive experiences in the sex trade.

As an escort myself, I identify with much of what D’Alessio described. I’ve had some truly wonderful clients during my time in this profession. They’ve done everything from treat me to manicures at high-end spas, to fly me to my favourite cities around the world, to give me business advice on my future career. I’ve been lucky to have some incredibly kind, interesting, and fun men as clients.

Celine Bisette: Why criminalizing sex work will just harm more women

ILLUSTRATION BY AINSLEY ASHBY-SNYDER

As fun as this job can be, though, it’s not all glamour and glitz. I’ve had some bad experiences in the industry. I’ve written previously about my experiences of being sexually assaulted at work, and about my fear of contacting the police when appointments have gone awry. Due to the criminalized aspects of my work, I did not feel like the same rights and protections that are afforded workers in other industries were available to me.

When the prostitution laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in the Bedford case last year, I was ecstatic. Finally, sex workers are being recognized as human beings who have the right to safety and security of the person, just like everybody else in this country – or so I thought.

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