Op-Ed: Canada should not adopt the Swedish approach to sex work

Jan 4, 2014
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By Stuart Chambers, Ottawa Citizen

It would be a foolish mistake to embrace the Swedish approach, endorsed by Jimmy Carter in a recent Citizen op-ed, in an attempt to resolve any social concerns surrounding sex work. First of all, the Swedish Sex Purchase Act is based on an ideological approach known as the oppression model. In a nutshell, the idea that selling sex for money is intrinsically wrong irrespective of context. It was introduced by radical feminist policy-makers who argued that prostitution is a form of male violence against women, that it is physically and psychologically damaging to sell sex, and that no woman would sell sex voluntarily. However, any support for the so-called success of the Swedish model should be met with great skepticism.

Those feminists who support the Act claim that if one wants to achieve a gender-equal society and a true democracy, then prostitution must cease to exist. In other words, women are objectified as long as men think they can “buy women’s bodies.”


As the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged, criminalizing prostitution harms out-call sex workers who are not permitted to hire bodyguards, managers, or drivers, all of which would enhance their safety and security. Moreover, since it is illegal to communicate the sale of sex for money, prostitutes are forced to screen clients under duress, in insolation, on dark streets, in alleys, cars, or industrial areas that benefit the perpetrators of violence. Basically, sex workers are forced into the shadows. Moreover, the Swedish model suffers from a serious methodological flaw: heterosexual women, homosexuals, and transgender/queer persons who buy sex are ignored in the research. The Swedish model assumes that heterosexual women provide sex services for heterosexual men, but heterosexual women — God forbid — would never themselves purchase sex. Likewise, gay/lesbian, transgender, and queer expressions of sexuality are considered an afterthought in the larger agenda, that being, to stop heterosexual men from purchasing sex.

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10 years ago

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Canada is where good Americans go when they die.

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