Info on Dutch union for prostitutes

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Info on Dutch union for prostitutes

Postby delphyne » Sun Oct 22, 2006 8:51 am

It's called the Red Thread


and it doesn't appear to have many members (they are supported by a larger union, FNV)


Dutch prostitution: from sex trade to trade unionism

Though Prostitution was legalised in October 2000, Dutch call-girls enjoy little social recognition
Maril, 34, has just left her job at the psychiatric hospital. Today she turns to prostitution in the red light district and earn a much better crust. A big blonde woman with an easy smile, Maril seems to like her new job. She states that, “it’s very easy to become a prostitute. In fact, it’s a bit like setting up your own business”.

Just like a fair few of her ‘colleagues’, Maril shakes her stuff in bra and G-string in her glass “office” with pink lights, facing the incessant coming and going of curious tourists. Some laugh amongst themselves. Others, embarrassed, look away and hurry up. Whatever happens, no one is indifferent.

Since October 1, 2000, when prostitution was legalised in the Netherlands, prostitution is strictly regulated. As in Denmark, they can pay contributions for their pension or health insurance; they pay income tax and more than 19% VAT on each client. Very few of them, however, can show an invoice!

Legalisation = protection?

Mariska Majoor manages the Prostitute Information Centre (PIC), in the heart of the red light district. A former prostitute herself, she criticises the fact that prostitution is seen as a problem and not a profession. “The government thinks that prostitutes are stupid and need to be protected against themselves. However, most of these women are strong, very strong. We need to stop victimizing them”.

Majoor explains that most call-girls are young and want to make lots of money quickly to spend on other things, like paying for their studies or holidays. “I don’t lie to anyone,” says Maril. “Not to my friends or family, nor anyone who comes through my door”. Maril works alone and is her own boss, renting her office and paying her own taxes.

<Temping prostitutes

Proof that the oldest profession in the world is here banal is not lacking. The 250 brothels in Amsterdam have become businesses like any other and can ask temping agencies to help them out when they need more female staff. However, these agencies are not allowed to post “racy” adverts. “This is one of the aberrations of the law. Prostitution should be completely legal or completely illegal. You can’t have both,” Majoor snaps.

Since legalisation, women working in brothels are, in theory, able to refuse to work in certain conditions. In practice, if they refuse to obey the rules fixed by establishments, they are fired. However, should the prostitutes disagree with their employers, they can turn to the prostitutes trade union, “De Rode Draad”, or “Red Thread”.

A nascent trade union

The offices of ‘De Rode Draad’, the prostitute headquarters, can be found in the basement of a building which faces one of the canals of the Dutch Venice. Squashed between her coffee maker and tons of paperwork, Metje Blaak, the union’s spokesperson, points out that they won several cases of discrimination. Indeed a bank refused to open an account for a prostitute and a child who was dismissed from nursery school because of his mother’s profession.

Today, the organisation focuses on working conditions for prostitutes. Some of them work as many as 17 hours a day. “We need to install air conditioning in the stifling cabins of the red light district,” Blaak explains. “Women should also be exempted from work when they are menstruating,” Blaak adds.

Vulnerable individualists

In the long term, however, the viability of ‘De Rode Draad’ seems uncertain given that they need 3000 people to sign up in order to join the FNV, a powerful trade union network in the Netherlands. It is estimated that there are 25,000 prostitutes working in the Netherlands, and only a few regularly paid their membership dues in 2003. It also seems that the discreet and individualist environment in which the profession operates does not really lend itself to this type of organisation. Since legalisation, only 4% of Dutch prostitutes are legally registered with the tax authorities.

“I don’t care about this union, I can manage perfectly well by myself,” says Jessie, 25. She shares a double booth with another prostitute, originally from Surinam, just like her. “Most prostitutes want to sort out their own stuff without any help. I’ve never had a problem”.

Mariska Majoor is expecting a change in mentality in the years to come, but she criticises the media for “not being interested in prostitution until there is a murder or a woman finds herself on the edge”.

Despite all the measures implemented to better define the sex market in the Netherlands, some people, like the NGO for women’s rights, Sisyphe, says that the situation of women has worsened since October 2000.

According to Richard Poulin, a sociologist and author of the work “The Globalisation of the sex industry”, the number of “legal” prostitutes has dropped in favour of clandestine prostitution. As for the number of under-age prostitutes, this has risen from 4000 in 1996 to 15000 in 2001, with 5000 of these coming from abroad. This means that the situation is far from rosy in the red light district.

In collaboration with Thijs Lammers, from Amsterdam local team.
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Postby delphyne » Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:01 am

Another article on prostitutes' unions -


"De Rode Draad (Red Thread), which was founded as an advocacy group in 1985, recognized this distinction when it separated its advocacy and union functions following the legalization of prostitution in the Netherlands in October 2000. In June 2002, the union Vakwerk De Rode Draad was established; it is now part of Bondgenoten FNV, which is the largest union within the FNV trade union confederation, itself the largest central trade union organization in the country. The Foundation De Rode Draad continues as an advocacy and support group.

Although De Rode Draad (DRD) first contacted the union in 1991, these first contacts remained inconclusive because of a dilemma which is familiar to others involved in organizing workers in the informal economy: the union would not accept members that were not in a clear employer-employee relationship whereas sex workers were, and mostly still are, self-employed. In addition, DRD was reluctant to accept any form of labour contract that would not fully safeguard the anonymity of its members. Eventually, however, DRD began to accept the idea of employment with a labour contract and, more importantly, the Bondgenoten FNV established a department for own-account workers.

The second round of discussions took place shortly before legalization of brothels. At that point, the Bondgenoten Executive decided that sex workers could become members.

How does DRD work with the union? Sietske Altink, spokesperson of the DRD Foundation, describes it as follows:

"They support us in making a union for sex workers, in our own office that is associated with the big union. So we do the intake. And women don’t have to state their names, etc. in a rather official setting of a regular trade union. We can use their expertise in concrete cases. Time will tell if it has to stay this way or if we’ll become fully integrated. Self employed sex workers can also become members."

"The FNV gives us full support in case of labour conflicts in brothels, whether individually or collectively."

"They also support us in political action and they pull all their force because they are fully recognized by the government as a social partner in our ‘poldermodel’ (the Dutch social model)."

"Besides they are developing a tailor made training program for sex workers so they can become fully fledged shop stewards."

"And they made us some materials."

"And last but not least, they are entitled to make a collective labour contract that should be valid nation-wide for those sex workers who want to enter the employer-employee relationship."

We see working with a regular trade union as a great step forward:

first and foremost: official recognition

expertise in the case of labour conflicts

weighty partner in political issues.

Altink, further describing the co-operation of DRD with Bondgenoten FNV, writes:

“Now we are debating about exploitation of undocumented sex workers. We want to know if there is some kind of action possible in parallel with exploitation of people in garment sweatshops, domestic work in conditions of slavery. We are trying to work out something for those sex workers, so they have a means of redress, which should be better than just deportation. But ... there is this sensitive issue about undocumented women: we want more women to be documented but you should not make exceptions. Our view is: migrant sex workers should enjoy the same rights and be subject to the same restrictions as migrants in other professions. Of course you can denounce national immigration policies as too limited. But then you should address it as a matter of immigration policy that concerns people in ALL professions.

“And that brings me to the 50,000 euro question: what are the advantages (of the union) for a sex worker who won’t or can’t associate? E.g. the undocumented women? Or for sex workers who don’t perceive themselves as sex workers and have taken up the work ‘just for a couple of days’ to get some temporary financial relief? The answer should be plain and simple: they should be able to apply for support even if we don’t know their names and legal status. We as a union are not the police, we don’t check on residence permits or whatever. We don’t do the work of the police.”

“But how do brothel owners react? They didn’t exactly send us a box of cigars to celebrate. We encouraged the existing organizations of brothel owners to take their next historically important step and become a member of the official organizations for employers. Some of them had come across that idea themselves. Some are willing to take their seat at the negotiating table. But on the whole, they sort of reacted scared and aggressive, not unlike the great captains of industry in the nineteenth century when workers got organized. In practice, this means we get kicked out of brothels often. There is a long way to go. We don’t expect we will succeed within the next year.

“But let me conclude: there is one thing worse than fighting brothel owners and that is not fighting brothel owners. There is one thing worse than fighting exploitation, and that is not fighting exploiting. And there is one thing worse than organizing and that is not organizing. And there is one thing worse than just a small group of organized sex workers and that is no group at all.”

In July, DRD reported that the brothel owners were now prepared to enter negotiations for a national collective agreement and had a formal representative in the employers' organization.

The International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW) is a London-based organization which, despite of its name, only covers the London area although its membership includes persons of many nationalities.

In the editorial of the first issue of its journal in July 2000, the IUSW explained its decision to form a union as follows:

“The sex industry has gone global, making vast profits for a small number of individuals, few of whom are women. ... Sex workers may have been forced into their employment, or may freely have chosen such work. Either way, they have no union which - even in principle - they can join. Marginalised throughout society, they are ignored or shunned by the official trades union movement. We aim to change all that.

“As in all workers’ struggles, emancipation can only be achieved through self-organisation. But above all, this struggle begins with pride and respect. ... The way to combat criminal abuse of peoples’ bodies for profit is to bring the whole industry out. When the oldest profession comes out, pimps and capitalists beware! ... Whatever your sex or sexual situation, if you feel you need a union, you are welcome to join!”

On March 2, 2002 IUSW members voted to become affiliated to the GMB, Britain’s fourth largest union. IUSW secretary Ana Lopes said that joining the GMB will strengthen the IUSW’s voice on such issues as the decriminalisation of prostitution in the UK:

“We’re trying to remove the stigma against sex work and sex workers. We think that changing the law - decriminalising sex work - is one of the steps towards it and it’s a very important one. The same happened with gay rights: when they removed the laws that actually helped social attitudes to change as well.”

A GMB spokeswoman, Lisa Venes, said:

“There are lots of areas where we could improve conditions for sex industry workers. For a start, the hours many people in the sex industry work are totally erratic. We are also talking about telephone-sex operators working from call centres, and people who work in factories manufacturing sex toys on minimum wages.”

The GMB has offered its newly recruited sex workers self-defence classes, free legal advice and exit training for those who feel they might like to change their jobs. It also offered help with issues such as a prostitutes’ right to insist clients wear condoms and campaigning for statutory health checks.

De Rode Draad and the IUSW are numerically quite small. DRD has only about one hundred regular dues-paying members, out of an estimated potential ranging from 25,000 (EU estimate) to 50,000 (DRD estimate). IUSW now has 150 members out of a potential of 80,000 (EU estimate, almost certainly understated by half). This is due to the specific difficulties sex workers’ unions encounter when organizing (the distrust of sex workers of any authority, a concern to protect privacy and, indeed, anonymity, the high proportion of undocumented workers) in addition to the “normal” difficulties any union faces when organizing.

It should be noted that unionized sex workers are an elite group. Becoming a union activist in this environment requires an exceptionally strong personality, and a very high degree of intelligence and commitment. It may be said that such are the qualities required for any union organizing anywhere, but it is clear that in sex work the demands and the pressures on the person are unlike any other normally encountered in union organizing. It should also be noted that the influence of even small sex workers’ unions goes far beyond their regular membership. DRD literature, for example, gets distributed to about 10,000 persons.

The small membership base means, however, that such organizations cannot be financially self-supporting. Membership dues are symbolic (in the case of Vakwerk DRD, EUR40 per year). External funding comes from the mainstream unions (Bondgenoten FNV and GMB); other income comes from fund drives, sponsoring events, donations, etc. NGOs dealing with sex work issues are typically funded by foundations, governments and inter-governmental organizations. Some claim to be self-supporting through the sale of souvenirs and donations.

DRD and IUSW are currently the only two sex workers’ unions in Europe which are part of the mainstream trade union movement. This is likely to change as sex work becomes decriminalized in other European countries. In May, a delegation from the Vereinigte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft (Ver.di) (United Service Workers’ Union), the largest union in Germany, visited DRD to get information about the Dutch situation and declared the interest of their union to take on the cause of sex workers in view of the legalization of sex work in Germany.

The membership situation can be very different in other regions. For example, the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta-based sex workers’ organization, claims 60,000 members in Bengal.

Asociación de las Mujeres Meretrices de Argentina (AMMAR) (Association of Women Sex Workers of Argentina), founded on March 20, 2002, has its headquarters in Buenos Aires, where it is known as AMMAR Capital. The national Executive Committee (Comisión Directiva), elected by the first National Assembly of Sex Workers in March 2000, is composed of eight sex workers and its work in Buenos Aires is supported by three social psychologists, a (woman) lawyer, neighbours (voluntary workers) and a district delegate in each of the eight city districts where most of its members work. The Executive Committee members include a legal representative, a treasurer, a member responsible for human rights work, a member responsible for social action and a secretary. AMMAR describes itself as “a flat structure, democratic and pluralist.”

AMMAR is affiliated to the Central de los Trabajadores Argentinos (CTA), a national trade union confederation formed a few years ago in opposition to the larger Confederación General de Trabajadores (CGT).

The objectives of AMMAR are “to strengthen, transmit and implement to our comrades (compañeras) policies of self-respect, managing their own lives and autonomy, and above all make them conscious of gender and identity issues.”

This is carried out through informal and participative workshops, where information is conveyed on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, human rights, among other issues. These workshops are conducted in cooperation with the AIDS Coordination of the municipal government of Buenos Aires. Another aspect of this cooperation is the distribution of condoms through dispensers in the neighbourhoods where its members are working. AMMAR Capital also distributes condoms from its office.

AMMAR Capital has reached an agreement with the city hospitals for the provision of health services to its members, including pap tests, mammography, hepatitis vaccinations, HIV tests.

Since April 2002, AMMAR Capital is a partner of the social services of the municipal government in distributing food parcels (from its office) as part of the municipality’s Food Policy Program. Last year it distributed 200 parcels and 200 bags of fruit and vegetables a month, this year it distributes 400 of each (a food parcel contains vegetable oil, flour, pasta, milk, rice, maté tea, sugar, lentils, cocoa, canned fish; a bag of produce contains 9 kg of potatoes, pumpkin, onions, carrots, oranges, apples). AMMAR Capital also runs a clothes dispensary for its more needy members.

Through the CTA, AMMAR has reached agreement with the national register of inhabitants, to provide identity papers for its Argentine members who lost theirs, or had them stolen, or never had any. It has now included friendly NGOs in this service and in five months distributed 450 identity cards.

AMMAR has also gained access to the Women’s Commission of Parliament, where it meets once a week with men and women deputies to discuss women’s issues.

Together with another organization, AMMAR has secured an agreement with the Ministry of Labour for payment of unemployment benefits under a plan covering own-account workers.

In 2002, AMMAR has also been asked by LUSIDA (the national anti-AIDS program) to run workshops in the provinces of Chaco and Corrientes. After these workshops, a branch of AMMAR was established in Chaco.

This is, in summary, the report on activities of AMMAR for the year 2002. They conclude:

“We are promoting work in groups, empowerment through knowledge, the exercise of power and decision making. We are building social networks because we have realized that united we can achieve more, that is why we are supporting all the struggles of our fellow workers. Ourselves, through our organization, have recognized ourselves as real citizens, capable of exercising our rights responsibly and to carrying out our duties faithfully and effectively.”

Zi Teng (18) is a NGO in Hong Kong that describes itself as a sex workers concern organization. It is formed by social workers, labour activists, researchers specializing in women’s studies, church workers and others. It is a membership organization: any person who supports and practices its aims is eligible to join. There are “basic members” who have the right to vote in the general assembly, the right of nomination and election, and “contact members” who do not have these rights but share other membership rights such as participating in all activities, use the services, resources and data bank and take part in deciding the work, activities and direction of the organization. The annual membership fee is HKD100 for basic members and HKD50 for contact members. Zi Teng activities are also supported by the Dutch development funding agency NOVIB, Bread for the World and others.

Its partners are women from Hong Kong and China who work as sex workers. Zi Teng provides them with information on their legal rights, occupational safety and health and other social resources, by means of publications (pamphlets, handouts) and direct contact. It also helps them in networking and building up a mutual support system.

To improve communications between sex workers, concerned organizations and society at large, Zi Teng publishes newsletters, stories and oral histories and videos, aiming at providing a better understanding of sex workers, as well as their work and their situation. The objective is to change the attitude of the public to sex workers and eventually eliminate discrimination against them.

Zi Teng also monitors government policies and legislation, and reacts to the possible impact these may have on the situation of sex workers. It also lobbies health authorities to respond to the health care needs of sex workers.

It conducts research on various issues concerning the situation and needs of sex workers, sex work related law and policies of Hong Kong and other countries, occupational safety and health of sex workers, etc.

Its publications include:

a Research Report on Mainland Chinese Sex Workers, in Hong Kong, Macau and “Town B” in the Pearl River Delta (144 p., February 2000). Zi Teng also organized a conference in Zhuhai in early 2000.

a report on the conference organized together with the Asia Monitor Resource Center (AMRC) on Building an Effective Network in the Service of Migrant Sex Workers in East and South East Asia (Hong Kong, June 27-29, 2001), 176 p., August 2001. This conference involved participation and reports from twelve Asian countries and territories as well as from Australia, Germany and the Netherlands. It was addressed by representatives of the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

“Things to Know Before You Go”: a handbook for migrant sex workers in Asia, with basic legal information on the sex industry and immigration (prostitution laws, immigration laws, public health control), general work contracts and working conditions within the sex services sector and basic information on local organizations or institutions that would provide help to migrant sex workers. It covers thirteen countries and territories in Asia. (64 p., n.d.).

The Exotic Dancers’ Union represents strippers in San Francisco. It is a chapter of the Service Workers’ International Union, Local 790. In January this year it negotiated a two-year contract with the Lusty Lady strip club which restores a pay cut made almost two years ago back to a top scale of USD27 per hour, gradually raises pay by USD3 per hour, adds USD2 per shift in the first year and USD4 per shift in the second year for preparation time (hair do and makeup) and increases sick pay to one-and-a-half days. It also establishes a hiring level ensuring that all strippers can get the shifts they are asking for. The agreement was reached following a demonstration by the strippers in San Francisco’s North Beach neighbourhood. The Lusty Lady is so far the only unionized strip club in the US. (19)"
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Postby delphyne » Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:02 am

double post
Last edited by delphyne on Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Nieves » Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:54 am

While on the subject of the International Union of Sex Workers (the name is misleading: according to the article above, they only operate in London), here are their thoughts on prostitution (

1 Prostitutes can make the world safer for women
Rather than encourage rape, prostitutes are there for people who have a strong sex drive and cannot find anyone to have sex with. They cope with all those with confused and repressed sexualities, removing the risk of attack they cause to other women.

2 Prostitutes can relieve those who cannot masturbate
People with weak, short or no arms may live in perpetual sexual frustration unless they have a toe that reaches, somebody who will help them out or the money to pay a prostitute. Denying them the opportunity to pay for what other people take for granted is denying them absolute human rights.

3 Prostitutes provide orgasms
Some people find it impossible to have an orgasm without expert stimulation, be this physical or mental. Women may be so inhibited that only visiting a prostitute will work for her. Men might have fetishes which need to be enacted before they can reach a really great orgasm.

4 Prostitutes become experts who can offer high quality sex.
If there was not such a stigma, everyone would want to visit prostitutes for erotic inspiration and self indulgence. They provide the chance for new experiences without entering a new relationship which many people find of enormous value at certain stages of their lives.
In some cultures, it is customary for all young men to learn about sex from the local prostitutes before they have sex with other women.

5 Prostitution is the oldest profession and should be respected
Like any other profession - there are the experts, the specialists, the all-rounders, the scoundrels and the bad people who need hounding out. Bad people ruin the reputation of the industry and must be eliminated - this is where the law should contribute.
Whores in the temples of ancient civilisations were regarded as goddesses. In more recent times, Christians promoting chastity and feminists warning women that men are up to no good, prostitutes have become monsters in the eyes of society, with all the men who frequent them mysteriously coming from the other side of the track.
In reality, most prostitutes are mothers too. Their clients are fathers too. Today's whores are still providing the same holy nourishment, but society refuses to recognise their power, wisdom, skills and spirituality. One woman wrote:

"At the age of forty-two, I became a prostitute. The immediate impetus was unemployment and dis-gust at the women's labor market, but my deeper motivation was the continuation of my quest for wholeness and meaning. My inspirations were the Qadeshet, the "Sacred Prostitutes" of our ancestors' temples. This seven-year experiment has paid off magnificently. By using pre-patriarchal models of female sexuality as a noble, even divine power, I have constructed a life that is extraordinarily sweet, to say nothing of confounding most of this culture's preconceptions around both female and male sexuality."

Prostitutes call themselves all kinds of names, from whore to therapist; slut to Tantric teacher; hostess to surrogate. Each have their own style but when you listen to what they actually do, most provide approximately the same range of services. They act as listeners (to everyone in pain, including sufferers of child sexual abuse), pacifiers (often of the same), substitute mothers, sisters and brothers, they enact fantasies, dominate to force those who are normally in control in their work and social lives to play submissive; whores may also play sub.
Prostitutes fulfil all kinds of role: from a quick hand-job behind a carrier bag in the park, to dinner and all night bed companion to "girlfriend" for a month's holiday. Depending where and who they are, they may get paid anything from 50p round the back of the shed, to £10,000 for a night in the Sultan's palace.
Some do this with grace and love, others with one eye on the clock and the other eye on his wallet, hoping to steal it. There are sex workers who can actually adapt their mind sets to "fall in love" with each client, in order to give them maximum benefit of the time spent. There are others who despise all clients and play tricks to make them come fast.

6 It can be a satisfying Job
The fact is that a growing number of women are switching to work in sex rather than in other jobs because they find it gives them more freedom and job satisfaction. You chose your hours, you make more money per hour than most of your friends and you spend your time giving pleasure (and often receiving it too).
Some women who may once have opted for a career in nursing find it more satisfying offering a caring "hands on" service caring for people's personal needs. So many people in society have never been touched caringly or had their emotional needs catered for. Sex work allows caring individuals to offer such services and they often just advertise as a prostitute because this is the easiest way to make a living.

7 Many Men Need Teaching
Sociologists recognise that many men pay for sexual gratification and emotional solace because they have not yet learned to find either elsewhere. Many shy, socially phobic and disabled men rely on prostitutes to teach them how to gain a positive body image, seduce and make love. The book Shadow Syndromes by John J Ratey and Catherine Johnson identifies a high incidence of minor forms of Aspergers Syndrome in males in Western cultures, which means that they can't respond to normal invitations of emotional bonding and socialisation.

8 Prostitution enables many women to liberate themselves
It is not uncommon for women to enter the sex industry in order to establish their own sexual identity. Belle du Jour was a classic. There are many situations where women decide to enter sex work because it seems to be the only way they can throw their sexual repressive background to the wall. They usually have to keep quiet about it and never identify themselves publicly.

9 Prostitution provides a better alternative to starving or stealing
When a woman is desperate to feed herself and her children (or a drug habit) and has no other income, prostitution is often the best option for her. One woman is quoted as saying that working as a street worker to provide the money to buy heroin for herself and her partner is better than him going out thieving because he might get a long prison sentence. (Mckeganey, Neil and Barnard, Marina 1996 Sex Work on the Streets)

10 Prostitutes may be subversive
Many women feel that offering pleasure in a situation which is against the law, in an environment where most of society would be shocked, to be a subversive act. Most keep quiet about their little secret but International Sex Workers Union activist Rona is supported by her company director husband Barry, and was crowned Bonk of England during the City of London J18 riots.

11 Prostitutes Educate
Prostitutes provide a service where people can learn. A young person can learn about their orientation and how to become a good lover. A couple can experiment with group sex. Isolated people can learn how to become intimate, people can learn about S/M and explore their submissive or dominant sides.

12 Prostitutes provide fun
They offer a service of pleasure. In countries where women are allowed to work together, there are clubs where people go along for an orgy: sex parties with several prostitutes and a group of clients. People enjoy visiting prostitutes for light hearted yet intensely erotic experiences, which may be very difficult to find elsewhere.

13 Prostitution is good for mental health
Comforting sex without ties is excellent for mental health, soothing the nervous system, and helping the client improve their sense of well being.

14 Prostitution can cure problems
People with social disabilities such as stammerers can be helped to overcome their problems by loving attention and uncovering anxieties. People who have been sexually abused as children often need a lot of patient body work to overcome sexual difficulties and prostitutes are invaluable in this work.

15 Sex Work can be empowering
People gain personal strength from selling their bodies because their clients worship and admire them, they have as much sex as they want and the defy traditional mores and roles imposed on them. Often prostitutes are extremely healthy, playful, creative, adventurous and independent women.
Last edited by Nieves on Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

Postby Nieves » Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:01 am

The IUSW also have a few things to say about pornography (

1 Porn acts as a safety valve
Masturbating over porn relieves tension and lessens frustration. Thus people are less likely to commit sex crimes.

2 It's useful in sex therapy. Looking at porn reduces sexual anxiety.
Showing a picture of a pretty pussy isn't going to turn a homosexual into a heterosexual. Nor should it. But porn is used to educate and help people accept sexual activities better. Most men know that cocks vary a lot in size and shape and so don't worry about being weird, but women often worry, especially nervous that they played with themselves and made the labia become weird shapes. By looking at photos of all the various kinds of vulva, women learn to relax about themselves.
Showing couples how blow-jobs look helps them feel less nervous; showing pictures of masturbation helps lessen the guilt. Once couples find out it's OK to masturbate together, sex therapy proceeds quickly and successfully.

3 Porn spices up the sex-lives of millions of couples who've been together for a long time. They look at the porn together, get turned on and have hot sex.
Most people have fantasies about having group sex or doing wild things that are difficult to organise or realise. So porn allows you to witness the scenes of your longings, without all the worries of jealousy, breaking friendships - your neighbours might not speak to you again if you invite them round for an orgy - or breaking the law.

4 Porn provides spicy fantasy lives for people without a partner or who are in a dull relationship. Women tend to read novels and men look at top-shelf mags, films and videos, or satellite TV.

5 Porno is very popular. When the photographic process was discovered it was used to create porn before anything else. It has become the main use for the Internet.
The reverend Chad Varah, founder of The Samaritans, relates a story that in the 1960s, Sight and Sound magazine did a survey of West End cinemas during the afternoon. They found there were four times as many viewers squashed on uncomfortable seats in tiny basement porno theatres than in the plush cinemas showing big movies! People love porn!

6 Porn provides orgasms which are beneficial for people's health, strengthening the heart and lungs, circulation and leaving them with a feeling of well-being.

7 Porn is beneficial to many of its stars. You may find this hard to believe but being sexual in front of a camera can have a profound effect - especially on women - they blossom sexually. Porn is a fun job for those who are good at performing in front of the camera. It's a myth that women are drugged and dragged into pornography.

8 Porn can be amusing and lots of people watch it at parties or show it around in the pub, which lowers inhibitions so that people feel less worried about discussing their sex lives.
Laughter and sex go together happily as both are joyful.

9 Porn can be shocking. People love to be shocked. Seeing something shocking challenges everyday standards, helps people put things into perspective, makes life less grey, and is cathartic - bringing all your repressed emotions to the surface and thus refreshing you.

10 Porn can be educational. This is especially true in fetish and S/M porn, where it's sometimes difficult to find out how to give an enema, put someone in bondage or whip them without damaging them. Once it becomes legal and socially acceptable, it has the capacity to be more so, teaching shy people how to make sexual approaches, and educating society that disabled people can be great lovers. People can learn about safer sex from books and films that show it graphically.

11 Porn can be enjoyed by everyone whatever their education and class (unlike the media which provides different messages to each). The rich and sophisticated can enjoy their erotic art and when that gets taken to court, the judge is in a dilemma because it breaks the rule that the refined don't show their sexual feelings, and how can he ban a work of a great artist?

12 Porn is subversive. It's an insult to British adults to ban us seeing hard porn. It's a way of nannying and controlling us. It's a very clever device - because to control the people's sexuality, you control the people. Porno is thus subversive. Subversion of a police totalitarian state is very a important benefit to society.
Pornographers often have political motivation - and use it to discredit careerists, embarrass hypocrites and make political statements.
The last three are reasons why banning porn is harmful to society:

13 Banning porn is an insult to people - if we can see pictures of everything else, why not sex?
Sex is beautiful, not shameful.

14 Banning porn means that the authorities get to see it all, and we don't. If it depraves and corrupts that means we have depraved and corrupt authorities, and if it doesn't, then what's the point of the ban?

15 Finally, Banning porn means that in society we are not free to make our own choices.
We don't need someone else to decide what we may and may not read and view and most people would agree that adults shouldn't be reduced to only seeing things suitable for a five year old!

Postby Nieves » Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:13 am

The IUSW are based in the UK. They are regularly invited to speak at feminist events. Those of you in the UK, please read the above to familiarise yourself with the values of this organisation. You may also want to think about the motivations of organisations that invite the IUSW to speak at their events.
Last edited by Nieves on Sun Oct 22, 2006 11:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

Postby delphyne » Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:37 am

I've come across them - they are actually part of the GMB, supposedly the "Sex and Fantasy" Branch :shock: but looking on GMB London's website, there doesn't appear to be a mention of them. (Dr) Ana Lopez (sex worker and anthropologist) is the person behind the whole thing and she's written a book about it.

They've organised one workplace so far: ... 28,00.html

"The pinnacle of the GMB's achievements so far has been the recognition it has won at Majingos, a lap dancing club that opened in London's Docklands this month. Manager Alan Whitehead is a great believer in unions and had encouraged Equity, the actors' union, to represent the workers in other clubs he has run.

He believes that the treatment of most lap dancers in the UK's 60 or so clubs comes from an ambivalence to sex in general: 'The English try to make anything to do with sex seem nasty, sleazy and dangerous. So it goes against the grain for them to think that a club could be bright and friendly. The girls get treated accordingly, as less than second-class citizens.'

When he selected the 40 women who work at Majingos from the 250 who applied, he interviewed them rather than auditioned them - surprising them by allowing them to keep their clothes on. He encouraged them to sign up to the GMB and about 30 are now members (including two shop stewards). A grievance procedure has been set up to iron out problems - unlike the situation in many clubs, where women who complain are often shown the door. A code of conduct has been introduced which may sound very basic to people outside the sex industry but which is at the forefront of practices in the UK."
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Postby Nieves » Sun Oct 22, 2006 11:47 am

When Ana Lopez says she used to be a sex-worker, what she is actually referring to is having worked as a phone-sex operator.

As you said Delphyne, she is the president of the sex workers branch of the GMB union and she is university educated. She is white too.

Postby deedle » Sun Oct 22, 2006 12:38 pm

This is very timely. Gregor Gall is doing a follow up to his "Is Sex Work, Work" lecture on 22 November at the same university near me. This one's called ‘Sex work and sex worker union organising: retrospect and prospect’ and is a day long event with other speakers.

Unlike his lecture, where any question/comment that wasn't about statistics and ridiculously complicated mathematical formulas was brushed aside as "not related to the body of the lecture", I notice that there's time allocated for "discussion and debate".

The programme is as follows:
10.45am to 12.45pm Sex Work: implications for the representation of sex workers’ interests
Dr Teela Sanders - University of Leeds and author of Sex Work: a risky business
Rosie Cambell - joint editor of Sex Work Now
The speakers will be followed by discussion and debate.

1.45pm to 3.45pm Sex Worker Union Organising: the experience of Britain and abroad
Chris Student, International Union of Sex Workers/GMB sex workers’ branch
Professor Gregor Gall, author of Sex Worker Union Organising: an international study
The speakers will be followed by discussion and debate.

It costs £40 to attend. I'm sorely tempted even though it's a work day. Anyone else fancy it?
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Postby delphyne » Sun Oct 22, 2006 4:15 pm

An interview with Jenn Clamen another spokeswoman for the union. She must represent the "International" in IUSW, as she's actually Canadian and set up the Guild of Erotic Labour there, which attempted to gain support from a large Canadian union CUPE (who decided not to organise sex workers although they support decriminalisation of prostiutes, pimps and johns) -


This article sets out some of the main problems faced by sex workers in their
relationship with the State, and concludes with a brief interview with Jenn Clamen of the International Union of Sex Workers.

You're self-employed, running a legal small business on a tight budget and
want to advertise your services. For most, a card in the local shop window
or phone box might be just the ticket. But not if you're a sex worker, it seems.

Clamp down

Though prostitution is legal, soliciting on the streets isn't. Until the Criminal
Justice & Police Act came into force in 2001, the prostitute's tactic of
advertising sex by putting cards in phone boxes was legal too ? not anymore. It's estimated that 13m cards are distributed across Britain each year and in 2001 BT removed 150,000 from phone boxes in central London alone ? though it didn't stop schoolboys swapping cards in playgrounds when the Pokemon craze died down! Apart from the waste of money, carding is now attracting severe penalties as the police and local councils clamp down.The police pose as clients and get the addresses of people selling sex. They are visited, warned, often the landlord is informed. With most landlords afraid of being charged with abetting prostitution, such a warning usually ends in
eviction. The woman (and it usually is a woman, sometimes with children) is
moved on again and again. Their livelihoods are lost as it takes time to re-build your client base. Immigration officials often accompany police, and women working illegally are issued a deportation order and dumped at the
nearest airport. Sometimes the only way they can raise the airfare is to head back into town and go back on the streets. If they have been trafficked (smuggled into the country) they may still owe the traffickers their fare and be in immediate danger here and in their home countries. Cards at
flats are confiscated and the card boys, if caught, face heavy fines, up to £1,000, or 28 days in jail.

One operation in the area covered by right-wing Westminster Council (all-part of its family-friendly tourist strategy) led to 60 card boys being charged, though none of the women were. As Jenn Clamen says: "The real agenda is not getting rid of the cards, but getting rid of the women.

Prohibition is unlikely to drive sex workers into convents but harassment
will force them underground where there is less access to support networks and where they risk more violence."

Organise!: When was the union formed, what are its main policies, how many members does it have and what do they see as the main benefits
of membership?

Jenn: The IUSW was formed in 2000 and now has 100 members. It has
recently affiliated to the GMB and its Sex Work & Fantasy Branch has 40 members.

The main demands of the IUSW are: decriminalisation of all aspects of sex
work involving consenting adults; the right to form and join professional
associations or unions; zero tolerance of coercion, violence, sexual abuse,
child labour, rape and racism; legal support for sex workers who want to
sue those who exploit their labour; the right to travel across national
boundaries and obtain work permits wherever we live; clean and safe
places to work; the right to choose whether to work on our own or co-
operatively with other sex workers; the absolute right to say no; access to
training ? our jobs require very special skills and professional standards;
access to health clinics where we do not feel stigmatised; re-training
programmes for sex workers who want to leave the industry; an end to social
attitudes which stigmatise those who are or have been sex workers.

O: What are the main benefits of membership?

Jenn: The main benefits of membership are that being part of a collective group that is ostracised and generally doesn't get to enjoy all of the
benefits of a free society, gives power and confidence to people in the sex
trade. Being part of the GMB has the usual practical benefits: discounted
travel insurance, free legal advice, compensation for injuries at work
(although this only applies to people working in wholly `legal' aspects of
the trade i.e. massage parlours or dance clubs).

O: What are the main forms of discrimination faced by sex workers?

Jenn: Because the law around sex work is so contradictory and
ambiguous, it is very difficult to ensure that sex workers can be safe and healthy in their jobs. This in itself is discrimination. The Government has
set up the law to feign approval of sex work, by making it `legal'. However,
none of the activities around sex work (including living off the money earned)
is legal. This too is discrimination. On a more practical level, sex work is not
considered a real job, so people who sex work cannot enjoy the benefits of
working in a `real' job i.e. compensation if hurt, health benefits, etc.

O: Is sex work dangerous?

Jenn: There is a lot of danger in sex work because of the lack of proper laws. Sex workers are exposed to a lot of violence from punters and pimps, if
they have a pimp, because there are no laws to protect them. If raped or
assaulted, proving it is difficult because generally the population thinks it's part of the job: many women who work on the street will tell you that this is exactly what police called to the scene will say.

A lot of women are forced to work underground because they must remain out of sight so as not to get a fine for soliciting. This puts them in more danger, as they are not always familiar with the working area and the punters in that area.

O: To what extent are sex workers able to control their transactions with
clients and their employers (if any)?

Jenn: Sex Workers are usually in control of the transaction. For women
who work in flats, it's a simple transaction. There is usually a maid, who answers the phone and keeps the money, and a working girl. The punter
comes in, requests a service, woman gives a price, money is exchanged ?
simple. Where a woman has a pimp, a lot of her money goes over to him or
her, resulting in a lack of control. With regards to services, however, most
women determine what services they offer, and how they offer them, bar
none. If people are new to the industry, it obviously takes time for them to devise their own working regime, so they may not be in as much
control as they would like to be. In some massage parlours and escort
agencies, and even flats, the owner will demand the girl see a particular
client she may not want to see, or perform certain services like oral sex
without a condom. However, the answer to this dilemma is simple,
move to another sex working job. If a woman wants control over her
business, she will seize it.

O: What is the general attitude of officialdom ? police, social workers, local councils and so on?

Jenn: The general attitude is that sex work is a pest. Most councils will deny
that it exists in their area (very typical of posh suburban areas). At the same
time they are beginning to use anti-social behaviour orders (introduced
originally to deal with `neighbours from hell') against street women ? if
breached they face up to five years in jail. A lot of the police and general
public think it should be decriminalised but still maintain a `not on my doorstep' attitude. There are a lot of people in favour of a `red-light
district' where sex work would be `contained': fair enough, at least they
are aiming for a decriminalised area.

O: And the Government?

Jenn: The Government will not make any efforts to change the law; this is
the main problem. The current laws themselves are the real problem, the
nuisance. I think there is a general attitude that if the law made more
sense, there wouldn't be so many problems. In the meantime, while the
laws don't make sense, people think that visible sex work (I stress visible
because a lot of it is indoors) is a pest ? even though many of the people
with this attitude are punters themselves.

O: What are the main other ways by which sex workers are controlled by

Jenn: The lack of structure in the law controls the lives of sex workers. They
cannot go public. They must live double lives. They must always be on
guard because of a lack of safety. They must suffer with the stigma attached
to sex working. They are not controlled as other people can be: most are confident and self-assured. But in general, it's the law that gets you down.

O: Some people argue that street prostitution attracts kerb crawlers who
accost women not interested in selling sex and are perceived as a menace to
children. The trade seems to attract crime ? especially drug-related crime ?
and can be a nuisance, affecting the whole neighbourhood. Are sex workers to blame for this and should they ply their trade indoors?

Jenn: No. Street sex workers are not to blame for drugs or menacing
punters. Many street workers are homeless and can't trade indoors. I have been to residents' meetings where this is suggested, but it's ridiculous: where would they go? They don't have homes. The main problem with street sex work (aside from complaints about mere visibility) is condoms and syringes around parks and schools. This is why needle exchanges and sex work projects exist, to help people dispose of them safely. The councils also have to train rubbish collectors to handle these things (with gloves, sterilizing equipment etc). Safety is the biggest issue in street sex work but I wouldn't blame the women themselves for a lack of it. The social context around street sex work does not allow for a dialogue between residents and working women.

O: What are the IUSW's proposals for addressing these issues of perceived
and actual nuisance, crime and safety?

Jenn: The anti-kerb crawling campaign being mounted currently in some areas is not a safe or effective way of targeting punters or sex workers; it makes sex work more dangerous by pushing the women further underground and into working areas they are not familiar with. With regards to punters approaching women who aren't sex workers, there is danger because some punters can get
rude and intimidating. A designated working area may solve that problem.
Educating residents and council members so that they do not need to feel against the women is one way.

Decriminalising an area where sex workers can work, shower, and see
punters is another. Residents need to acknowledge sex workers as residents
and come to an understanding together about safety in the neighbourhood.

O: What change in the status of sex workers and society's attitudes to sex
workers would you like to see?

Jenn: Society, and especially Government, needs to pay attention to what is going on in the world, the fact that London is laden with sex and sex
work, that there is a demand for it. That people need to feel protected. It
would help if the double standard that most Britons have about sex was dumped, that the stereotypes of sleazy, broke sex workers was forgotten or changed for good.

O: What are the means by which this could come about?

Jenn: Decriminalisation of all aspects of adult sex work involving consenting
adults. Accepting sex work as a profession and a choice. Legislation needs to be changed."
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Postby delphyne » Sun Oct 22, 2006 4:23 pm

It seems to be a strategy with these sex-work activists to approach existing trade unions to attempt to achieve recognition and legitimacy under their banner. They've now tried it in Canada, the Netherlands and the UK.

It's very rare for groups of workers to approach trade unions to join en masse. It usually takes a huge amount of work on the part of the union to recruit and then organise workforces.

Clamen also ignores the main benefit of union membership which is collective bargaining, something that would not be applicable to prostitutes and which was the reason given by CUPE when they decided not to go down the route of recruiting and organising sex workers.

That's interesting you say that Lopez was a phone sex operator, Nieves. It's hardly the coal-face of sex work. Although it probably does someone's head in just the same.
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Re: Info on Dutch union for prostitutes

Postby sam » Mon Dec 08, 2008 11:52 am

Boosterini for some IUSW data thought lost but actually preserved here. I hereby toot the collective horn of this forum's members.
"Your orgasm can no longer dictate my oppression"

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