Rape, Abortion and Prostitution

22 Jun

It is such a common refrain that it no longer shocks me. Antis tell us all the time that a woman who has sex “asks to get pregnant” and as a result, should have to “live with the consequences,” meaning motherhood. In fact, when it comes to women, we pretty much ask for all the negative things that happen to us. Women are constantly told that if they don’t want to be raped they shouldn’t ask for it by dressing/walking/talking/looking/thinking…“slutty.”

Lawyers in Canada took this refrain to an entirely new low recently. For those of you who are unaware, 3 brave sex workers are in the process of challenging Canada’s antiquated, dangerous and totally useless prostitution laws. Here in Canada, prostitution isn’t illegal, but communicating about it is, so is “living off of the avails,” meaning sex workers can’t hire drivers or security staff, as is running a “bawdy house,” meaning women can’t work in groups for safety. The rules are insane. It forces women to size up their Johns in a matter of seconds before jumping into their cars. It puts countless women in dangerous situations because they can’t work together or hire security. In fact, Robert Pickton, a pig farmer in British Columbia, was recently convicted of murdering 6 sex workers, which doesn’t even scratch the surface of the dozens of women he was charged with murdering. Not many people even blink an eye when they hear of a missing sex-worker because society has just come to accept that that is what happens to “those” women.

The 3 women won their case at the lower court level and now they are fighting an appeal by the Federal and Provincial governments, conservative and religious groups and some misguided women’s groups. It’s been pretty tough going for the opposing groups so far. The panel of judges for the Court of Appeal has been asking some pointed questions of the government lawyers, noting,

“What the respondents are saying is that prostitutes can’t take the security steps anybody else would take in any other business,” Judge Doherty added. “To comply with the law, they have to take much greater risks than anybody else.”

They panel hasn’t been any easier on the lawyer for the conservative and religious groups, who suggested to the court that the risk to the sex workers might be justified,

While the physical risks prostitutes may face as a result of not being able to work in brothels with security staff is a “sad side effect” of the law, the legislation still serves the valid purpose of ridding Canadian society of a morally abhorrent practice, he argued.

Justice David Doherty asked Agarwal if he was suggesting Canada just has to put up with the risk of violence to sex workers as a kind of collateral damage.

“Are you somehow saying that could be justified by the criminal objective of trying to eradicate prostitution . . . . By saying we eradicated prostitution at the cost of ‘x’ number of lives?” the judge asked.

His thoughtful response?

“You’re dealing with complex considerations,” Agarwal responded.

I fail to see how this is a complex issue. Prostitution is a job choice. A choice that isn’t even illegal. But the government has gone above and beyond to ensure that the women who engage in such activities are forced to do so in the most dangerous manner possible. Because  “people” think it’s immoral. Well I think  raising chickens in tiny cages is immoral. That doesn’t mean I should get to make such jobs more dangerous, say by outlawing chicken farmers from using ventilation in their barns. You know, because they are asking to be poisoned. If you see the absurdity in that logic, you must be able to see the absurdity in the logic behind prostitution laws. And by logic I mean idiocy.

Sex workers are not asking the government to step in and regulate their profession to make it safer. They are asking the government to stop making it so dangerous. Abortion rights activists in the US want something very similar. Stop making abortion prohibitively expensive. Stop making women jump through ridiculous hoops to get their abortions. Stop making it so difficult for women to get a safe abortion. Just back the fuck off. We don’t need a nanny state telling us we might regret it one day.

This story leads to my next point: How can we ever expect society to stop telling women that they “ask to get pregnant” when they have sex if we still allow society to tell women they “ask” to get raped and “ask” to get murdered? In what way is it okay to insinuate that a woman who sells sex deserves to meet a violent death? We don’t tell pedestrians that they ask to get hit by a car if they walk beside a road. We don’t say that a woman who dies during childbirth asked to die (unless she got pregnant out of wedlock, then she deserved it). Why do we remove the blame from the real perpetrators when it comes to abortion and sex-work? Why can’t society give women responsibility for their own bodies and stop trying to interfere?

Because then we might stop relying on men and then who knows what will happen.


6 Responses to “Rape, Abortion and Prostitution”

  1. justlookingon June 22, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    Some interesting discussion here. The fact of the matter is, that intelligent people, who are reasonably educated in what happens when a male and a female have sexual intercourse, know that the potential exists for a woman to be impregnated by engaging in this activity. I don’t agree that women “ask to get pregnant”, but by design, pregnancy can result from sexual intercourse, and when you consent to that act you have essentially acknowledged the possibility of pregnancy (in the absence of failsafe birth control). Therefore those you refer to as “antis” believe that it is morally reprehensible to kill a human being that you knew might be created as a result of your actions. By the same token, prostitution is an inherently dangerous profession, mainly due to the moral composition of those who solicit prostitution (I also believe you are sadly mistaken if you think that all prostitutes “choose” their profession, at least initially). While no one asks to get dead, “sex workers” certainly must acknowledge the risk – and upon acknowledging that risk, if they choose to remain in that particular line of work, why should they not accept the consequences? Many jobs carry risk. Life carries risks. Should the government start enacting legislation to protect everyone from their own choices? I think you would be the first one to say not.

  2. carolynfromcanada June 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    All Canadian sex workers are asking is for the right to keep themselves safe. Doesn’t it seem a tad illogical that prostitution itself is legal, but taking measures like traveling in groups and hiring security are not? Sex work wouldn’t necessarily be an “inherently dangerous profession” if workers were allowed to take these protective measures. Why would a law need to exist to restrict people’s safety? To make a profession MORE dangerous?
    You also acknowledged that many sex-workers do not enter the profession voluntarily (ie: are coerced or its a result of a desperate situation) So are these individuals able to “acknowledge the risk and accept the consequences” as you say? Likely not.

  3. elburto June 23, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    JustLookingOn – I think you’re lost, Jill Stanek’s blog is that way –>

  4. Dee June 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm #


    It’s funny how antis are often apologists for violence against women.

    I use BC. I use it diligently. If I were to become pregnant, I would have an abortion. Why? B/c consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy, especially when BC is a big “Keep out” sign for potential fetuses.

    Secondly, in regards to sex workers, prostitution is NOT an inherently dangerous profession “due to the moral composition of those who solicit prostitution”; it is dangerous due to the self-righteous mores societies have enacted to keep prostitutes from reporting abuse. The “moral composition of those who solicit prostitution” is particularly amusing, since this group encompasses men from all walks of society: bankers, preachers, teachers, drug dealers, etc. You should read The Murder of Helen Jewett, about the real life murder of a prostitute in the 1800s. The book explains how before the religious awakening of that century, prostitutes had a friendly relationship with cops, and often reported and successfully presented cases against abusive johns. Historically, the more religious a society is, the more dangerous it is for sex workers. THAT is the danger, and these women deserve better.

  5. Not Guilty June 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    @justlookingon There are many dangerous jobs in this world. Miners, for example. Most legitimate governments try to make it safer. They certainly don’t try to make it more dangerous. All these sex workers want is for the government to stop making their job MORE dangerous than it is with stupid laws. Do you think miners should just accept the inherit danger of their work? Doubtful. YOU disapprove, along with parts of society, with the job choice of sex work.

    You also have zero faith in women. Absolutely, some women are forced into sex work. Some people are forced into the nunnery or into being doctors. Why do we punish the people who CHOOSE the profession? There are MANY women who ENJOY being a sex worker. But to your closed mind, you just assume that nobody would want that lifestyle. Don’t use your ignorance as an excuse to punish other people’s choices. Make your own choices.


  1. Guest Columnist: Norma Jean Almodovar (Part Two) « The Honest Courtesan - September 17, 2011

    […] are also told that prostitution should remain illegal because it is a dangerous profession and there are unhinged outcasts of society out there who murder them, but when a woman gets […]

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