Not a grudge fight? Speak for yourself…the last time I was objective about sex workers was when my spiteful, catty, using new neighbours told me my gentle, caring, giving old neighbours were disgusting.
That would have been about 1977. I was 19 and had never sold sex in my life, had a morbid dread of it, but then there are a lot of jobs I have never done, and a fair few I have a morbid dread of, but I am not about to accept the dismissal of all those who do those jobs to provide for themselves and their families as “disgusting” off the bat, against all evidence either.
By that time I had already learned, from hard experience, that social services were not only equipped to be ruthlessly corrupt but routinely adopted that mode for personal expediency without so much as a qualm of conscience or a moment’s thought, for the damage they would do or the harm they would cause, as long as their career was on track and they were getting enough in overtime and expenses.
(Me? I torture myself if I think something I have done will harm an innocent person…beat the crap out of myself if I think I have made a mistake that will do less good or more damage than it could, and no, I do not permit myself the luxury of making mistakes in the assessment. I swear to God I must be a different species.)
Nobody knows my whole life story and nobody ever will partly because I honestly cannot bear to relive it, partly because if word got out I was about to spill ALL the beans, along with just what “all the beans” added up to, there would be folk trampled in the crush to put a bullet in my brain. Mostly because you will, honest to god, live a far happier life without ever knowing half the things I have seen, fully understood in motivation and prognosis and could do nothing to stop, mitigate or repair.
When we lost Alan Shatter we lost all realistic hope of winning the fight to protect the rights of sex workers and their families. It was time for me to walk away, God knows I want to, even NEED to…but I can’t.
Because I am autistic it must be easy to see me as someone trapped and unable to move past one time in my life. But that is not actually the case.
For me the rights of sex workers were the first domino in what I hoped could be parlayed into a chain reaction. I understand the sex work issue and all that surrounds it, far better than most people, but then you could say that about a lot of issues, give me a week to do the homework and you could say that about most issues. What I like most about the sex work issue it that you can fight lobbies like “Turn Off the Red Light” with no inhibitions, because there is not the slightest risk of collateral damage to innocent people.
All a lobby like “Turn Off the Red Light” does is exploit the vulnerability of other people. They do not even bother to check if they have done any harm, because that is of no importance to them.
“It is not like a “pedophile conspiracy” or a “magdalene conspiracy” more of a “who gives a fuck what you are up to as long as you support my agenda” conspiracy.”
The pyramid scheme from hell. Sadistic pedophiles live their lives undiscovered because they are vocal and active in support of a more covert program of abuse, that will go undetected because it is vocal and active in support of a bigger and more covert form of abuse.
To give you a real life analogy, at the bottom of the pyramid you have a schoolmaster buggering the occasional terrified little boy, while at the apex you have Hitler fastidiously signing off on lawful requisition orders for Zyclon B…and every single person in that pyramid has all the reinforcement they need to tell themselves they were “only doing what they thought was best” and in every single case that assertation will be outright bullshit.
As powerful and noisy as they are, “Turn Off the Red Light” is only part of a bigger pyramid.
Like any game that pyramid follows certain basic patterns, let me give you a rough idea what they are.
You undermine and dehumanise your target group by accentuating any vulnerabilities in the common factors in their sense of self, not only to the wider society but also, and this is THE most important part, within themselves. You would be surprised how easy it is to do that unnoticed, because you are targeting specifics that the wider society is unaware of and your target group strive to deny (and that is good, one of the healthy core denials that keeps us sane and generally truckin’ on down the road, is the denial of our own vulnerability) you can say something apparently harmless like, for example:
“What makes you human is the capacity to speak to other humans. To read their eyes, to read their faces, to read their minds, to communicate your feelings.”
Cute throwaway…makes a person look all sensitive and philosophical, doesn’t it?
…unless you assert it from a position of respect, to an autistic like me who will never even experience the capacity to read eyes, faces, and minds or effectively identify, let alone communicate my feelings. When you do that you are conditioning me to perceive myself as unable to qualify as human in a way that I will never be able to shake.
Let me tell you about the first thing I noticed about Ruhama when they “stood in solidarity” with sex workers against the 1993 sexual offences act that criminalised 95% of the independent sex workers at that time.
They used a qualified psychotherapist, among others, to undermine the women’s faith in their ability to speak and make decisions for themselves. The more contact the women had with Ruhama (and the contact most of them had would be as distant and indirect as reading the papers or watching TV because they have good instincts for abuse) the more thoroughly undermined they were.
Roughly the same group of women who demanded to speak to the Justice Minister and used case law to decriminalise themselves a decade earlier were suddenly frightened to make the smallest decision without Ruhama, let alone to speak to the media on their own behalf. I saw them, I spoke with them. Women who twelve months earlier would have faced down a Panzer division were actually scared into believing it was better to let Ruhama speak for them.
Now I have given you the lens, look at “Turn Off the Red Light” (or any other NGO that pisses you off) with it.
See what I mean?
When you dehumanise and undermine someone to that extent you have effectively conditioned them to a prejudice against themselves they cannot shake unless they comply with whatever you demand in return for the antidote of validation.
The usual aim is to insert the pyramid between it’s target group and every resource it’s target group uses for survival, meanwhile inflating the price of that survival and minimising the true costs. The pyramid gets to keep the difference, not just in funding, but also in empowerment and influence.
Supported independent living for one adult, perceived to be vulnerable is priced at at least €55k pa. more likely €120k or more, which qualifies as service provision income not grant funding.
The same level of resources in a context of true independence costs about €18k pa…but of course it is cheaper still to factory farm those perceived to be vulnerable than to leave them free range.
The profits are staggering but even so, peanuts compared to the power and influence that goes with them. If you have done your job right many of the inmates you exploit are begging to be let in and will defend you with their life because you have made them too afraid to exist in any other terms.
Apply all of the above to the Magdalene Laundries.
But sex workers are not going to be “vulnerable adults” until you get a chance to condition them to a deep seated prejudice against themselves, and you are not going to condition them until you can corner and trap them, and you are not going to corner and trap them until you take away every independent means of survival they have.
Of course, I saved the best till last…every pyramid is just a brick in a bigger pyramid.
I have been fighting human trafficking since the 70s…I just prefer to fight the real trafficking, not any expedient fiction that will win friends and influence people.
I can’t win this fight, I know that, I have always known that, you cannot change the world, you cannot “tweak” human nature…but I can do the bastards one hell of a lot of damage before they take me down.
It’s better than hiding under the bedclothes, terrified of the day they manage to suck me in, as I have for far too much of my life.
There are no words for how deeply I loath them for the harm I have seen them do so casually.
You are damn right this is a grudge fight…
Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant!