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.