MORE THAN CONDOMS AND SANDWICHES: A FEMINIST INVESTIGATION OF THE CONTRADICTORY PROMISES OF HARM REDUCTION APPROACHES TO PROSTITUTION by Erin Joan Graham B.A., University of Lethbridge, 1986 M.A., University of British Columbia, 2007 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULLFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF Doctor of Philosophy in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES (Educational Studies) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) August 2014 © Erin Joan Graham, 2014 ii Abstract This research explores the experiences and perspectives of women providing front-line service in organizations and agencies, both feminist and mainstream, whose mandate includes support for women experiencing violence, particularly women in prostitution. There is significant research into the experiences of women in prostitution, however, little is known about the experiences and perspectives of front-line workers employed in paid and unpaid positions in the social service industry who are providing support to women in prostitution. Their views of prostitution and the policy frameworks that inform their work are the focus of this inquiry drawing attention, in particular, to how policies framed as harm reduction shape what kinds of support women in prostitution are offered. Harm reduction is an approach initially used to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with the use of illicit drugs. Since the 2003 opening of Insite, North America’s first supervised injection facility (SIF), tactics called harm reduction have been applied to other social problems, including street-level prostitution. This study argues for an approach that goes beyond mere reduction of harm, and explicates and extends a feminist response to male violence in pursuit of good old-fashioned women’s liberation. Data for this inquiry included in-depth interviews with 16 women providing front line services. This study also examined key governmental reports on prostitution and recent court challenges regarding the legality of prostitution, including the 1985 Fraser Report on Pornography and Prostitution in Canada, the 2006 Federal report called The Challenge of Change: A Study of Canada’s Criminal Prostitution Laws, and affidavits gathered by Pivot Legal Society in 2003 from women engaged in prostitution in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Using a methodology informed by Dorothy Smith’s sociology for women and critical iii discourse analysis, the contemporary and historical contexts of Vancouver’s response to social inequality as it is expressed in public discourse about prostitution and harm reduction was examined. Smith’s approach also informs analysis of the study participants’ perspectives. This work challenges the de-politicizing and pathologizing discourses of harm reduction ideology in Vancouver, and provides a forum for women on the front-lines to offer alternatives that may move us to harm elimination. iv Preface This research has been approved by the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board (H10-02229). v Table of Contents Abstract ...................................................................................................................................... ii Preface ....................................................................................................................................... iv Table of Contents ..................................................................................................................... v List of Tables ............................................................................................................................ ix Acknowledgments ................................................................................................................... x Dedication ............................................................................................................................... xii Chapter One: This Story Begins in the Middle ................................................................ 1 The Problem ....................................................................................................................................... 1 Research Questions and Aims ....................................................................................................... 2 Three Broad Analyses of Prostitution ........................................................................................ 6 Research Problem and Perspective ......................................................................................... 13 Conceptual and Methodological Framework ........................................................................ 17 Key Thinkers .................................................................................................................................................. 19 Words About Wording .................................................................................................................. 21 Locating the Researcher .............................................................................................................. 25 Significance of this Study ............................................................................................................. 27 Summary and What Lies Ahead ................................................................................................. 28 Chapter Two: Prostitution in Vancouver and Harm Reduction ............................ 30 Part 1 -‐-‐ A Brief History of Prostitution in Vancouver and Canada ............................... 31 Part 2. Prostitution in Canada over Two Decades: Comparing the Fraser Report vi with The Challenge of Change ................................................................................................................... 46 Part 3. Harm Reduction in Vancouver: Health, History, Politics. .................................. 61 Part 4. Neoliberal Shifts at Home and Abroad ...................................................................... 71 Summary ........................................................................................................................................... 78 Chapter Three: Conceptual Framework ........................................................................ 80 Key Concepts .................................................................................................................................... 81 Evidence-‐Based Practice versus Dalectical-‐Materialist Praxis ...................................... 83 Hannah Arendt: Public and Private; Freedom and Responsibility ............................... 84 Identity—Competing Notions of Formation and Implications ....................................... 89 Bourdieu—Habitus, Reproduction, Symbolic Violence and Misrecognition ............. 92 Bourdieu’s Limitations ................................................................................................................. 98 Simone de Beauvoir and the Second Wave ............................................................................ 99 Nancy Fraser and Claims for Justice ...................................................................................... 104 Summary ......................................................................................................................................... 110 Chapter Four: Methodology ............................................................................................ 112 A Sociology for Women .............................................................................................................. 112 Research Design ........................................................................................................................... 116 Other Sources of Data—Pivot Affidavits ............................................................................... 125 Data Analysis ................................................................................................................................. 125 Social Science that Matters: Construction of Quality ....................................................... 128 Limitations and Delimitations ................................................................................................. 131 Summary ......................................................................................................................................... 132 Chapter Five: Pathways and Motivations ................................................................... 134 Making a Difference .................................................................................................................... 134 vii Women of the Diaspora .............................................................................................................. 140 Broadening Shared Horizons ................................................................................................... 147 Yearning for Connection ............................................................................................................ 150 Developing Relations of Solidarity ......................................................................................... 152 Summary and Discussion .......................................................................................................... 157 Chapter Six: Voices of Experience⎯Power and Work .......................................... 162 Perceptions of Prostitution ...................................................................................................... 162 Rewriting the Script: Rightlessness and Appearance ...................................................... 166 Incest and Victim Narratives .................................................................................................... 168 The Gravitational Pull of Prostitution ................................................................................... 172 Positional Suffering and Maxwell’s Demon ......................................................................... 174 Misrecognition and Representation ...................................................................................... 181 Expectations and the Victim as Avenger .............................................................................. 186 Harm Reduction and the “Hierarchy of Pain” ..................................................................... 189 The Limits of “Barrier-‐free” Service ...................................................................................... 200 Summary and Discussion .......................................................................................................... 203 Chapter Seven: Pivot Affidavits ..................................................................................... 205 Constitutional Challenges ......................................................................................................... 206 Pivot’s Sex Work Project ............................................................................................................ 208 The Process of Gathering Affidavits ....................................................................................... 209 Stories of Despair and Resilience ........................................................................................... 211 Symbolic Violence/Male Violence .......................................................................................... 212 Relations with Police .................................................................................................................. 218 Affiants’ Views of the Law .......................................................................................................... 222 viii A Public Health Problem ............................................................................................................ 230 Misrecognition and the “Expert Witnesses” ........................................................................ 233 Choice and Agency ....................................................................................................................... 237 Summary and Discussion .......................................................................................................... 246 Chapter Eight: Reflecting Back and Moving Forward ............................................ 250 My Route to the Research Problem ........................................................................................ 251 Research Questions Revisited ................................................................................................. 253 Findings and theoretical insights ........................................................................................... 254 Prostitution is the Oldest Oppression ................................................................................... 258 Limitations ..................................................................................................................................... 260 Implications for Future Research ........................................................................................... 261 Implications for Practice and Policy ...................................................................................... 263 The Debate Continues ................................................................................................................. 266 Final Reflections ........................................................................................................................... 268 References ............................................................................................................................ 272 Appendices ........................................................................................................................... 295 Appendix A: Recruitment and Consent Letter to Participants ...................................... 295 Appendix B: Study flyer .............................................................................................................. 298 Appendix C: Harm Reduction and Prostitution Interview Schedule .......................... 300 Appendix D: Table Two Pivot Affiant Demographic ......................................................... 302 List of Tables Table 1: Interview participants demographic …………………………………………122 Table 2: Criteria for quality interview analysis ……………………………………….129 x Acknowledgments Graduate school is a team sport. Which seems like a contradiction, given all the time we spend alone, beavering away at developing proposals, figuring out questions, reading reading reading, writing writing writing, thinking thinking thinking. There is no way I could have finished this dissertation, or enjoy the life I have without A LOT of help. Thank you to my patient, talented and brilliant committee—Shauna Butterwick who gracefully navigated all those fine lines between encouraging and pushing; thought with me, gave direction, room to move and boundaries, sent jobs and opportunities my way, and (apparently) never wavered in her belief that I could get this done; Janine Benedet, who explained the legal stuff (and so much else) in accessible language with dry wit and impeccable timing, and who also provided the title; and Jo-Anne Dillabough, who has always encouraged me, and consistently linked theory to theory to practice in a creative thoughtful way. Sixteen women agreed to talk to me about their lives, their work, their vision for the future—I am grateful to you for trusting me with your histories, memories and ideas. I hope I have represented you accurately. Each of you influenced my learning and inspired me. I hope I have done justice to your contribution, and that together we are part of the bridge from women’s oppression to women’s liberation. There are so many people who walk beside me, my loving family (the one I was born to and the one I chose), my political allies, my stalwart friends, including my buddies in the ivory tower and my PhD cohort (cooking together since 2007) and all of the Beautiful People who are trudging with me on the road of happy destiny—and to my mentors and comrades, in particular Annie Wise, the feminists of the Second Wave, and Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s xi Shelter, all of whom have both saved and improved my life and have not ever given up the fight for our shared liberation. Kathleen Piovesan read several drafts of Chapter Seven, and gave generously of her time and intelligent analysis to help me hone and nuance my arguments. Darlene Rigo read some early work and offered encouraging and insightful suggestions. Kelly Johnston transcribed half of the interviews, and only reluctantly agreed to let me pay for dinner, Jen Bodmer transcribed the other half at a bargain rate AND helped me excavate my apartment. Maren Elfert graciously edited a late draft with speed and exacting attention to detail. And more: my brother Shawn Graham, steady, responsible, creative and kind, Nora Randall, dear friend, provider of marching music and head of the finance committee; Polly Bak, artist, T’ai Chi and comfort food master; Trish LaNauze, wise and patient mentor; Kim Seary, forever friend and artistic collaborator, Shiho Mihami, who helped me ‘herd hamsters’ for a few terms; Louise Thauvette, my sister and haven; Deborah Knapp, from high school to now, far away and in my heart, my loyal long time pal and ally Danielle Cormier. Also Suzanne Hunt, a loving and tenacious sister, Andrea Stumpf, Isabeau Iqbal, Tara Gibb, Terry Middleton, Nora Timmerman, Maryam Nabavi, Gen Creighton, Ee-Seul Yoon, “comps coach” Sarah Mills, Hanae Tsukada, Stephanie Skourtes, Michelle Miller, Trisha Baptie, Jude Walker, Alison Walker, Stephanie Goodwin, Linh Tran, Wendy Graham, my uncle Tom Morgan, Marilyn Morgan, The Vikings of Roskilde University Adult Education Summer School 2010, and so many others, if I could name you all, this would be as long as the dissertation— And Hilla Kerner, my favourite Tzabra —I am grateful for our time together, and for what I’ve learned from and because of you—because of us. xii Dedication To the Women’s Liberation Movement, especially the current and former collective of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, and all the radical feminists who never give up. To Dr. Lee Lakeman, visionary feminist leader, with admiration and gratitude. For my mother, Edith Graham, who always believes in me, and is still there to say, “Breathe deep and relax, Erin”, before I even know that I’m not doing either, and my late father, John Graham, who would be really happy about this. I miss you, Dad. 1 Chapter One: This Story Begins in the Middle The Problem Prostitution in Canada is again on the radar of public awareness. Every few years, concern for or about “public women” emerges in the media and public discourse. Vancouver, BC is a flashpoint for this concern, especially in light of such high-profile cases as that of the “missing and murdered women” of the Downtown Eastside, the trial and conviction of Robert (Willie) Pickton for the murders of many of these women, and the resultant Missing Women Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Wally Oppal. The purpose of this dissertation is to critically examine the harm reduction approach currently informing provision of services to women in prostitution in order to reveal the ideology behind this policy framework and how it informs the understanding of social problems related to violence against women. Harm reduction is examined in more detail later both in this chapter and in chapter two. Briefly, harm reduction refers to an approach initially developed to reduce the harmful outcomes of drug addictions without requiring the cessation of drug use. The study involved a review of the history of harm reduction and of prostitution in Vancouver, as well as an examination of constitutional challenges and changes with respect to prostitution. Additionally, interviews were conducted with women who work in front-line women’s services and feminist activism revealing how their practice has been affected by harm reduction policy, or informed by a harm reduction orientation. The contributions of feminist front-line activists, organizers and service providers, whom I regard as social change agents and knowledge producers, can help to illuminate the discursive and practical strategies many of these women employ to counter the harm reduction framework presently found in social services, medical 2 interventions, or legalization initiatives. We can surely go beyond slender offerings of condoms and sandwiches to women in prostitution. I hope this project can contribute at least a spark of will and vision to do this. Research Questions and Aims An overarching goal of this study is to contribute to a deeper understanding of the essential contradictions between harm reduction and feminism (particularly for this project in regard to prostitution). Though not all women who work in women-serving or human services organizations are feminists, it was feminists who founded many of those services as part of the women’s liberation movement. These services were part of a political response to what feminists understood was a political problem. A central catalyst for the initial founding of rape crisis centres and transition houses was the model of the consciousness-raising group, wherein women told each other the truth about their lives (Hanisch, 1970). From the time of the first such anti-violence interventions, however, there was an equal and opposite reaction in the form of increasing pressure to abandon an agenda of feminist, pro-woman activism in favour of depoliticized social services delivery (Schecter, 1982; Lehrner & Allen, 2009). Harm reduction, while initially seeming to hold some promise for the humane treatment of people who were suffering, appears now to be a de-politicizing force. Never explicitly revolutionary, it has become a reformist measure, and often an end in itself —a social services strategy which undermines an activist agenda. Given the above standpoint, my research questions are: 1. In what ways do front-line workers understand and interact with harm reduction policies, popular apprehensions of the meanings of harm reduction, and the promotions of harm reduction by state bodies to which their workplaces may 3 be accountable? a) How did women find their way to working in these organizations, and in what ways did their path to that work affect their practices and analysis? b) What are their experiences of government influences on their workplace policies and practices, particularly their views on the relation between harm reduction and devolution of federal funding to women’s services and equality-seeking organizations? c) What are their views on how harm reduction impacts women in prostitution? 2. How can these understandings and negotiations contribute to feminist action, service provision and the relationships between public discourse and feminist praxis? Harm Reduction In order to situate this study, here I briefly describe a definition of harm reduction, and specific policy in use in Vancouver. I provide additional detail about the history of the ascendance of harm reduction policy in the next chapter. Harm reduction was a term initially identified and developed by medical professionals as a set of strategies along the continuum of addiction treatment1. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (n.d.), “harm reduction is any policy or program designed to reduce drug-related harm without requiring the cessation of drug use” (para 2). 1 See for example the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health website background paper on harm reduction at: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/influencing_public_policy/public_policy_submissions/harm_reduction/Pages/harmreductionbackground.aspx 4 Some harm reduction strategies for drug users include access to clean needles for injection drug use, methadone maintenance programs, health care providers giving instruction to drug users on “vein care”, and low-barrier or barrier-free2 drop-in centres and shelters. Harm reduction, as described in Vancouver’s Four Pillars Drug Policy, was meant to “reduce risk of harm to communities and drug users” (MacPherson, 2001, p. 60). These harms include public disorder, nuisance and litter, as well as morbidity and mortality. Since 2003, when Vancouver’s safe injection site for users of intravenous drugs opened, there have been a number of studies3 conducted that claim Vancouver’s harm reduction strategy is a success in terms of reducing public disorder and preventing overdose deaths at the site itself (for example, see Wood et al., 2007; Small et al., 2006). This research indicates that harm reduction as a medical intervention has achieved its aims. Indeed, harm reduction seems so successful that in the last dozen years, strategies labeled harm reduction have been taken up in other areas of social services, most notably in agencies that serve women. It is the application of harm reduction principles to front-line work with women in prostitution with which this study is concerned. On the face of it, harm reduction appears to be a set of practices that meet addicts4 (the initial targets of this approach) “with dignity and respect”, (MacPherson, 2001). However, it does not seek to get to the roots of harmful practices, to understand and ameliorate the sources of addiction. The aim of harm reduction is not to make deeper social transformations to achieve social inclusion or equality. 2 Low barrier and barrier free refer to resources that people can access whether or not they are sober or under the influence of drugs. 3 A number of these studies have come from the BC Center of Excellence on HIV/AIDS research http://cfenet.ubc.ca/ accessed July 18, 2014. 4 Most especially, people who are targets of harm reduction policies use injection drugs in urban areas of poverty and pathology (such as the DTES). As I describe later, one can discern a distinctly classist character to harm reduction interventions. 5 Harm reduction is now considered a useful approach to problems related to prostitution. Most harm reduction interventions and reforms aim to scrutinize and ‘reform’ activities of women in prostitution. I describe these measures later in this study. Harm reduction measures taken toward women in prostitution were initially meant to address HIV transmission and morbidity related to drug use, but now law reform, access to shelter and other ‘non-medical’ interventions are defined as harm reduction as well. In Canada, proponents of the total decriminalization of prostitution promote harm reduction for women engaged in street-level prostitution and consider legalization to be part of harm reduction. As noted, harm reduction has been taken up by social and medical service agencies, and in this study I address some of the effects of this promotion and women’s engagement with harm reduction. I argue here that, framed as services for women in prostitution, feminist anti-violence theory and action and harm reduction theory and practice are contradictory and oppositional approaches. Harm reduction was and is a concern of feminist anti-violence organizing, in that transition house workers and rape crisis centre workers will meet women (including prostituted women) where they are, help them assess their situations and plan for immediate safety and eventual escape or resistance against a violent man or men. This type of harm reduction is incremental and aims to eliminate the harms women experience from men’s violence. However, as framed by institutions of governance such as social services and medicine, harm reduction has become central to the establishment of state control of women in prostitution5 (particularly street prostitution). In the next section, I outline the positions taken up in the current debate about how to 5 Again, the targets of harm reduction in relation to prostitution are those women engaged in street-level prostitution; women who are clearly impoverished, and often also addicted. 6 respond to prostitution and then introduce the theoretical framework, methodology, my background experiences, and my standpoint as a researcher. Three Broad Analyses of Prostitution There are three main approaches to the issue of prostitution: abolition, decriminalization (and regulation6), and criminalization and prohibition. In the fractured feminist movement, these three positions are evident in the (often vitriolic) debate about how best to act in solidarity with women in prostitution. These three frameworks can be found worldwide in various legislative approaches. For example, in 1999 Sweden introduced legislation that criminalized the purchase of sex, but decriminalized the sale of sex. The Swedes built other aspects into this legislation including comprehensive supports to women who wished to leave prostitution. In 2003, New Zealand decriminalized all aspects of prostitution, and introduced regulations in terms of licensing and taxation. In Canada, two recent court cases have challenged the constitutionality of Canada’s prostitution laws. In 2010, Judge Susan Himel ruled in favour of the applicants in one of these cases, brought to the Ontario Supreme Court by a legal team headed by Alan Young of Osgood Hall Law School. In Bedford v. Canada, (2010 ONSC 4264), she found sections 210, 212(1)(j) and 213(1)(c) of the Criminal Code are inconsistent with Section 77 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) and declared them to be of no force or effect. The case was appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 20128 and then to the Supreme Court of 6 Though promoters of decriminalization do not explicitly call for regulation of prostitution and pimping, one of the Pivot Legal Society’s reports on prostitution and decriminalization, Beyond Decriminalization: Sex Work, Human Rights, and a New Framework for Law Reform (2006), includes many recommendations to reform existing laws in order to specifically regulate aspects of prostitution. 7 Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html accessed July 25, 2014). 8 This court upheld most of Himel J.’s decision, but found that section 213, the communicating law, did not violate the Charter rights of prostitutes and that the living on the avails law could be retained so long as the 7 Canada, 2013. On December 20, 2013, the panel of nine Supreme Court Justices ruled unanimously that the impugned sections did violate Section 7 of the Charter and were invalid (Canada v. Bedford, 2013). The Justices then suspended this declaration of invalidity and gave the Federal government one year to craft new legislation. These legislative actions, including the Ontario case, and reactions to them, bring to the fore conflicting ideologies and rhetoric that infuses the very workings of feminism as it relates to prostitution. Below I summarize the three approaches and their ideological positions and also reflect on some shared perspectives. Abolition: The goal of the radical feminist approach is the abolition of prostitution, a position that argues that prostitution is not inevitable or natural. In this analysis, prostitution is “the oldest oppression” rather than “the oldest profession”—and does not exist in societies in which women and men are equal9. Abolitionists do not believe that the majority of women in prostitution have freely chosen prostitution to make a living, and define it as a practice that men impose upon women, and, like slavery, must not be tolerated (Audet, 2009; Raymond, 2013). Prostitution, in this framework, is an exploitative, degrading, and deeply gendered (MacKinnon, 2010, p. 506) and racialized practice (Pierce, 2009, p. 10; Razack, 1998). Sherene Razack (1998) argues, “the regulation of female bodies in prostitution is as central to white supremacy and capitalism as it is to patriarchy” (p. 339), and this regulation certainly has been and remains central to the colonization of Indigenous women. Alexandra Pierce, in her 2009 study of Indigenous women in prostitution in Minnesota, wrote: prosecution proved that there was exploitation of the prostitute by the person profiting (Canada v. Bedford, ONCA March 26, 2012). 9 Indigenous languages of the Gikts’an and Wet’suewet’en, Navajo and Okanagan Nations do not have a word for ‘prostitution’ – the concept was unthinkable prior to European contact (personal communication, members of The Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN), March, 2009).. 8 Native women experience sexual assault, prostitution, and sex trafficking as a continuation of the colonization process, in which Native women’s sacred selves were routinely exploited for the gratification of a person who claimed the right to do so while ignoring or invalidating the impact on the woman herself. (p. 5) Using Indigenous women in prostitution is a common practice of colonizers, and this exploitation manifests in both domestic and international trafficking. Women will leave their impoverished homelands, whether they are the over-crowded reservations in the Canadian North or the colonized, heavily mined, and now storm-ravaged cities and towns of the Philippines, and seek ways to better their lot in a “promised land”. It is no coincidence that in countries where prostitution is legalized or decriminalized, the proportion of women of colour in prostitution has increased (Cauduro, et al., 2009; Farley et al., 2004). First Sweden in 1999, followed by Finland in 2006 (a modified version, wherein purchase of sex from trafficked or under-age persons is criminalized), Iceland in 2007, and Norway in 2009, adopted an abolitionist legal framework called “The Nordic Model” of prostitution law. The Nordic model decriminalizes the selling of sex and criminalizes those who purchase it. Sex sellers, almost always women, but also men and transsexuals in prostitution, are provided with comprehensive ‘exit’ services, including safe housing, addiction treatment if needed, livable income, and educational or job training opportunities. An essential component of the Nordic model is the development and delivery of comprehensive educational programs directed toward law enforcement, social service providers, and the public10 (Ekberg, 2004, p. 10 Ekberg notes that police in Sweden initially believed the law would be difficult to enforce, but provision to police of education and training programs to increase competence and knowledge of prostitution and trafficking in human beings was effective to dispel these reservations. One year after the beginning of this training program, arrests increased by 300% (Ekberg, 2004, p. 1195). 9 1195). Other countries, including Scotland, Bulgaria, and South Korea have adopted aspects of this model. Decriminalization: The ‘harm reduction’ approach to prostitution promotes a decriminalization and regulation scheme. The analysis of proponents of harm reduction tends to be informed by the work of such thinkers as Foucault, Derrida, and others generally regarded as post-structuralist and post-modern theorists (Phoenix, 1999; Ross, 2010; Brewis & Linstead, 2000). Acknowledging that women in prostitution give contradictory yet truthful accounts of their lives in prostitution (Phoenix, 1999), promoters of decriminalization advance arguments for prostituted women to maintain involvement in prostitution such that aspects they value11 are enhanced, while advising that regulations be implemented to ameliorate the more degrading and harmful features12. This approach, then, is inclined to frame prostitution as a service, the women thereby employed as health professionals and educators (Sanders, 2006); or as a form of labour that affords women autonomy over their working hours and better income than they could earn doing “straight” jobs and/or an expression of women’s sexuality (Ross, 2010; Weitzer, 2010; Brewis & Linstead, 2000). A number of these authors and others who promote decriminalization, including the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW), argue that stigmatization is one of the more harmful phenomenon associated with prostitution. Radical feminist abolitionists are viewed as contributing to this harmful stigma (Weitzer, 2005, 2010; Lowman, 2011, as are 11 In prostitution, unless under the control of a pimp, those engaged in prostitution say they enjoy the ability to choose the hours they work, they can make more money, tax-free, and in a shorter time than at the kind of low-level service jobs for which their education and experience usually qualifies them, and there is often a sense of both excitement and belonging afforded by the “outlaw” lifestyle (Brents & Hausbeck, 2001; Phoenix, 1999; Høigård & Finstad, 1992). 12 These harms include physical assault (up to and including murder), rape, theft or refusal of the john to pay, diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV, and criminalization. 10 religious conservatives and others whom anthropologist Laura Agustin (2013) refers to as “the rescue industry”. A decriminalization approach argues that if prostitution was legitimated as a form of labour, and women who sold sex would be able to freely migrate to work (as many other workers must do in the globalized economy13), they would no longer need to hide or take chances without supports such as the presence of workplace security guards, health care and other benefits. Making a distinction between “survival sex work” and “sex work” as a job, decriminalization proponents argue for a regulated, legitimized framework where neither the seller nor the buyer are criminalized. Such schemes are meant to reduce stigma for the prostituted people and institute working conditions that ensure safety. Nevertheless, they also argue that unemployed women in jurisdictions with legal prostitution should not be denied benefits if they refuse to engage in prostitution, indicating some recognition that prostitution is not like other work (Pivot, 2006, p. 31). Countries that have adopted a decriminalized or legalized framework include Germany, parts of Holland, New Zealand and parts of the United States and Australia. Regulation: The third approach is one usually associated with the (particularly Christian) religious right. Proponents of this approach would seek to criminalize all aspects of prostitution. Such a view, which certainly complicates the arguments for radical feminists, is foregrounded by a moral argument for a law-and-order approach: “The [impugned] laws are a reflection of society’s views, soundly rooted in interfaith morality, which is that prostitution is an act that offends the conscience of ordinary Canadian citizens” (Christian Legal Fellowship et al., 2013, 13 Agustin and other promoters of prostitution argue that while women and children are trafficked for sexual exploitation, a significant number of “women who sell sex” cross borders for the purpose of selling sex, and are not trafficked (Agustin, 2013; Scambler, 2007). 11 para. 2). Feminist abolitionists will agree that prostitution “perpetuates a fundamentally offensive and abusive gender imbalance” (Christian Legal Fellowship et al., 2013, para. 5). Similarly, they may agree with the view of the Federal Conservative party when, in The Challenge of Change (2006), they dissented from the other federal political parties, stating: “the commodification and invasive exploitation of a woman’s body…violates the dignity of women and undermines efforts to build a society in which all members are respected equally, regardless of gender” (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 90). However, these arguments are rooted in a patriarchal Christian ideal which often defines women, (particularly those women classed and racialized as middle- or upper-class and white), as defenders of men’s morality, even as they must be protected by men. This view does not depend upon an analysis that considers the current state of women’s substantive inequality with men, and they cannot reconcile an abolitionist argument with other claims rooted in women’s autonomy and equality (right to abortion, for example, or to lesbianism). Shared Beliefs: Critics of the abolitionist position often conflate the radical feminist abolition argument with a conservative, usually religious argument for across-the-board criminalization. In Chapter 2 I will address this criticism in more depth. At this juncture, I will suggest that those who argue for a harm reduction and decriminalizing approach may in fact share more views in common with the conservative and religious right than they will admit. In advancing the argument that women in prostitution operate with agency within often constrained circumstances, proponents of total decriminalization demonstrate a somewhat cynical and essentialist view of human sexuality. Instead of addressing the agency of men who purchase sexual access, and questioning the power imbalances operating within the institution of 12 prostitution, harm reduction proponents call for women in prostitution to consider themselves ‘professionals’ who make choices that must be respected. In a parallel analysis, conservatives who would criminalize both the purchaser and the prostituted argue that such an approach would punish the perpetrator (the pimp and the john) and protect the victim (the prostituted woman). In the case of both those who argue for harm reduction and those who argue for criminalization, the central argument is that the best that can be hoped for, for those engaged in prostitution, is some form of regulation or protection from the worst harms meted out to them by men who buy sex. There is a sense of hopelessness in both the decriminalization stance and the criminalization stances on prostitution. An example of parallel arguments from these seemingly opposing sides centres on the discomfort or nuisance presented by street-level or public prostitution. The Christian Legal Fellowship et al. (2013) argued to the Supreme Court of Canada in the most recent (and final) appeal in the case of Bedford v. Canada: “[The Intervenors] seek to ensure that prostitution is not a legitimate business…It may still exist, but nobody should be obliged to be confronted or exposed to it” (para. 6). The appellants in Bedford argued that prostitution is an occupation at risk”, but quotes several affiants who state that they were safer when they were prostituting indoors (Factum of Appellants, Bedford, Scott & Lebovitch. Bedford v. Canada, 2013, para. 25-35). Not safe, mind you, but safer14. When practiced indoors, their factum states, prostitution is less of a nuisance to the public (Factum of Appellants on cross-appeal, Bedford v. Canada, June, 2013, para. 8, 9), which seems to agree with the factum of the Christian Legal Fellowship. The Christian Legal Fellowship also argued in their factum that if prostitution laws are 14 Women who have exited prostitution, and who experienced prostitution in a wide range of venues including hotels, brothels, cars, parks, the street, or apartments say they were no safer inside. I know many women personally who have told me this (also see Jeffreys, 2009; Rachel Moran in Murphy, 2013; Raymond, 2013). 13 struck down, “it will send a signal to the vulnerable in society, particularly youth, that as a last resort, they can always make a living by selling their bodies” (para. 7). It appears that they accurately depict the argument of Bedford and others who argue for harm reduction measures in regard to prostitution. Bedford, Scott and Lebovitch state in their case that decriminalizing prostitution will enable those with limited options to make a living legally without fear of criminal sanction or stigma. The relevant question the courts should address, they assert, is not whether the woman in prostitution has chosen a “dangerous profession”, rather, “the relevant question for constitutional analysis is whether the sex worker's legal choice has been constrained and limited by state action (legislation) in a manner which affects her right to liberty and security” (Factum of Appellants on cross-appeal, Bedford v. Canada, June, 2013, p. 4, para 11). The appellants argue therefore that prostitution is one of a number of choices to which women might have access, and the main limitations imposed upon women who choose prostitution are those state actions that criminalize her. Left unspoken but implied by both those who argue for complete decriminalization and those who argue for increased criminalization, is that no matter what legal or regulatory framework emerges, options for women in prostitution, or at risk of prostitution cannot be expanded. Through this discussion of the different positions that fuel the debates regarding which might be the best approach to prostitution, I have sketched the political landscape within which this study is located. In the next section, I discuss my position and view of the problem. Research Problem and Perspective When I began my doctoral work, my intention was to engage in an ethnographic case study of one women’s organization as a site of political organizing, activism and education about feminist anti-violence politics. Initially, my goal for this research was twofold: In the first place, 14 I wanted to simply record the history of feminist anti-violence work since the 1970s by way of stories of women working within one of the oldest, continuously collectively organized, rape crisis centres in Canada. Canadian feminists have a rich and proud history of activism and organizing over the course of now five decades of the women’s liberation movement. Secondly, I wished to extend the critique of harm reduction I had begun in my MA thesis (Graham, 2007), and examine how harm reduction has been applied and promoted as an appropriate response to prostitution. I merged these broad interests and eventually focused my investigation on the (often conflicted) relationship between front-line feminist activism, social services provision, and harm reduction policies and practices in relation to prostitution. As my research proceeded, tactics and policies called harm reduction which include legal challenges that aim to decriminalize prostitution (including decriminalizing buying sex, “living off the avails” of prostitution, and aspects of procuring for the purposes of prostitution) gathered steam in Canada. In response to these developments, and as my questions and thinking became more sophisticated, my focus broadened from the work of one anti-violence organization to interrogating the ways in which a wider array of women in front-line work understood and engaged with harm reduction polices in relation to their work with women in prostitution. Eventually, I decided to politicize this investigation further by using the research data I gathered to address the parallels and contradictions between harm reduction and feminist anti-violence work, including the fundamental disjunctures facing practitioners as they meet the women with whom they work, and help them to navigate “the system”. I began to see that, although all of the interviewees practiced some form of harm reduction, for most of them, their analysis of formal, or institutional harm reduction policy was a critical one. As noted, my standpoint is that feminist anti-violence theory and action and harm 15 reduction theory and practice are deeply contradictory concepts. Harm reduction actually emerged as part of feminist anti-violence interventions, but it has been appropriated by law enforcement, medicalization and social services to assert state control of women in prostitution (particularly street prostitution). Medical professionals or public health researchers have conducted a significant body of recent local research about harm reduction approaches to women in prostitution. Topics of investigation include: conducting HIV research with “indoor sex workers” (Remple, Johnston, Patrick, Thyndall, & Jolly, 2007); environmental and structural barriers to condom use negotiation (Shannon et al., 2009a); and negotiating safety in indoor prostitution (Krüsi et al., 2012). For example, Krüsi et al. described as ‘harm reduction’ the practice of allowing men into women’s residences in order to buy sex during ‘guest hours’. Agency staff members provide some protection by registering “clients” as they come in (Krüsi et al, 2012, p. 1155). On the other hand, there is comparatively little research that addresses the experience, analysis and practices of women who provide services to women in prostitution and other women escaping violence (Lakeman, 2005; Pence, 2001; Lehrner & Allen, 2009; Beres, Crow, & Gotell, 2009). There is almost none that specifically discusses the experiences these workers have of harm reduction approaches to prostitution. Why Front Line Workers? The “jumping off” point of my research is my own work and activist experience, informed and extended through the experiences and understanding of women who provide front-line anti-violence interventions, advocacy, support and health care to women. The agents who develop policy for social and medical services to women in prostitution are, in general, not the same people who implement these policies. In the debate about what to do 16 about Vancouver’s sex industry, the voices of “experiential women15” are sought by activists, politicians, bureaucrats and journalists (Pivot, 2004; 2006; Hanger & Maloney, 2006). I sought the voices of another group of experiential women—those women who work in rape crisis centres, drop-in and resource centres for women, transition houses or health care centres. These are women who regularly provide support services, advocacy and organizing opportunities to women living in poverty, and women escaping violence, including prostitution. Their experiences of providing these interventions, and of collaborating with colleagues and allies to improve the chances of women in prostitution offer a layer of analysis and understanding to what we know about the conditions of women’s lives, and in turn can point to expanding horizons of opportunities for women. Women who work in front-line services are often in a position of implementing policies created by someone else, either government or funding bodies concerned with establishing professional standards which have the effect of reinforcing hegemonic power structures. In order to understand the political intentions and effects of social policies about women on women’s lives and opportunities, it is important that the thought and praxis developed by these front-line workers and activists is present in public discourse. Therefore it is helpful to explore disjunctures between the institutionalization of harm reduction and the actual practices and attendant analysis of women who provide anti-violence interventions, advocacy, health care, and other services to women. I have described what I mean by “front-line” in practice, but it is important at this point to note that this is also a politicized term that first came into use in the 1970s as feminists founded 15 “Experiential women” are women who are or have been engaged in prostitution or another aspect of the sex industry. 17 rape crisis centres and transition houses for battered women. The term “front-line” locates the work within a political frame of women’s activism against male violence, which is crucial to maintaining women in positions of subordination to men. In the decades between the heady activism of the 1970s and the neoliberal atomizing of social movements in the early 21st century, the term ‘front-line’ has been depoliticized and taken up to describe the work, not only of feminists or activists in social change movements, but that of social workers, medical practitioners and providers of charity. Some of the women who participated in my study did not claim to be feminists, or activists. Though they regarded their work as important and necessary including being respectful of and compassionate for the women to whom they provided support, they did not engage in systemic advocacy or activism in that sense. Nevertheless, it is in the spirit of resistance and in acknowledgment of the foundational work of the women who opened their homes and phone lines to women escaping male violence, and strategized together a vibrant feminist movement, that I use the term “front-line worker”. Conceptual and Methodological Framework Fundamentally, my theoretical framework is built upon a radical feminist politic which derives from front-line anti-violence and anti-poverty work and activism. For a fuller elaboration of this study’s conceptual framework see chapter three. Radical feminism is a branch of feminism which proposes that male domination of women is the root of oppression, from which stem other oppressions (class, race). That is to say, “the middle class [and White] studied from the same book as the men”16, and these systems of domination intertwine and uphold each other. All other conditions being equal, men in every political category dominate women who share their racialized and classed circumstances, with white, middle-and-upper class men at the 16 Bonnie Agnew, front-line anti-violence worker and feminist activist, personal communication, 1993. 18 pinnacle of dominion. Radical feminism began to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s in North America as women formed “consciousness-raising” groups in which they told each other about their lives. The phrase “the personal is political” became one of the foundational insights of the mid-late-twentieth century feminist movement (Hanisch, 1970). Through these discussions, women realized together that their individual problems were more often structural and based upon patriarchy (the normalized and structurally reinforced dominance of men as a class over women as a class). They rejected the idea that such groups were therapy, and instead used them to inform and plan feminist political actions – including rape crisis lines and transition houses. Though some academic researchers identify “male violence” rather than the more commonly used euphemism, “domestic violence”, and develop a gendered analysis of men’s violence against women and its effects, they often name the anti-violence sector of the women’s liberation movement “the battered women’s movement” (Dobash & Dobash, 1992), or the “domestic violence movement” (Lehrner & Allen, 2009). This separation of anti-violence activism and services from other feminist political work feeds into circulating populist ideals (and influences the analysis and practices of women who work in transition houses and women’s services) that this work is social service and therapeutic rather than political action (Beris, Crow & Gotell, 2009; Lehrner & Allen, 2009). The notion of praxis is central to feminist organizing and anti-violence work, as well as a fundamental component of the political and sociological thought of the theorists to whom I have turned to make meaning of my research. Paulo Freire called praxis “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (Freire, 1970, p. 33). I first learned the term when I was working in a feminist rape crisis centre. The women who trained me and beside whom I worked 19 described it as follows: When we do the work [of crisis intervention] with women who call us, the practice informs the theory, which in turn improves the practice. Early second-wave feminists built feminist theory from the stories women told of their experiences, and then put those theories into practice by advocating, demonstrating, organizing and educating themselves in a continual dialectical process of learning, acting, reflecting, revising, theorizing, and acting some more. Key Thinkers I rely primarily upon the thinking of Pierre Bourdieu and Hannah Arendt to analyze the research data and answer the key questions raised in this work. Both Bourdieu and Arendt offer concepts that provide me with a bigger picture and wide landscape for understanding the data collected in this study. They also help to open the space to consider in tandem conflicting or contradictory ideas (such as, for example, harm reduction and abolition). Of course radical feminist scholars and activists such as Andrea Dworkin (1998), Catherine MacKinnon (1993, 2010) and Sheila Jeffreys (1997, 2009) inform much of my own worldview and practice, and the legacy of ‘Second Wave’ feminists who revived the robust movement for women’s liberation continues to provide inspiration. Although the tide is out (the so-called ‘Third Wave’ is actually more like an undertow), I have no doubt we will rise again. I turn as well to contemporary scholars such as Nancy Fraser (1987, 2003), Beverley Skeggs (1997), Seyla Benhabib (1993), and Susan Bickford (1996), each of whom gracefully applies the original and imaginative ideas of Arendt and/or Bourdieu to contemporary political and sociological issues. Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, positional suffering and cultural or political capital and the reproduction thereof (Bourdieu, 1984, 1999, 2000) have provided the necessary concepts to examine the structures of society which shape us and our relations to each other and 20 to institutions and social constructs. This is particularly so in relation to power relations and the state. The agent engaged in practice knows the world…too well, without objectifying distance, takes it for granted, precisely because he [sic] is caught up in it, bound up within it; he [sic] inhabits it like a garment…he [sic] feels at home in the world because the world is also in him [sic], in the form of the habitus. (Bourdieu, 2000, p. 216) Hannah Arendt’s work contributes to this study important insights about political action “in the public space of appearance” and the nature and problematics of the concept of freedom (Arendt, 1954, 1958/1998). Her writing on the rise of totalitarianism, the state creation of “superfluous people” (Arendt, 1948/1994), and her concerns about responsibility and judgment (2003) are particularly trenchant in discussing the conditions of women’s lives and women’s resistance in the contemporary moment. Dorothy Smith’s (1987, 2005) ground breaking explorations of women’s lived experience and feminist discourse has informed the conceptualization as well as the methodological approach for this study. Smith draws attention to the particular ways in which women negotiate with “relations of ruling” and also describes how women’s discourses are erased or suffocated, even as they emerge (Smith, 1987). Feminist discourse, she writes, has been inexorably “integrated and quietly suffocated within the institutions”17. Much of my research data came from women doing work that is at once feminist (work that women take up and that interrogates the structures of power that shape and constrain opportunities and expectations of and for women) and feminine (that is, gendered and socially imposed as ‘natural’ dispositions of females—“women’s work”) in both paid and volunteer work. Research participants, and women 17 Teresa D. Lauretis (1986), quoted in Smith (1987, p. 220). 21 like them, have historically engaged in negotiation or struggle with the “relations of ruling” as represented by government-funded and produced discourses about women. Women’s work of providing physical and emotional support which seeks to alleviate suffering is a by-product of feminist anti-violence work, though it has, I argue, eclipsed the initial goals of women’s liberation. Front-line feminist work, on the other hand, while often incorporating aspects of support, necessarily includes developing collaborative systems of women’s self-organizing while at the same time seeking to reform or replace male-dominated or patriarchal structures and systems. Smith refers to policy documents, reports, and “action plans” as “boss texts” which reveal the dominant discourses of the time, and show at least some of the effects of policy, discourse, and the political climate and actions of the times in which they were produced. This study assumes that most women in front-line service work are acting in relation to the constraints or guidance of the boss texts of their workplaces, some of which they create together in collaboration with colleagues, others which are introduced or imposed in response to outside forces acting upon their organizations. Smith, Arendt and Bourdieu together show how individuals are caught up in webs of relations and structures of domination that are not of their own making. Taken together, and with a strong supporting cast, these thinkers provide a window of understanding into the dilemmas related to how individuals, acting in concert within these complex webs of relation, both accommodate and resist the conforming influences of the taken for granted social arrangements of power in contemporary times. Words About Wording Prostituted Women? Sex Workers? Throughout this dissertation, unless directly 22 quoting another source, I use the terms “women in prostitution” or “prostituted women”. The terms presently in common usage among some service providers and media, that is, “sex work” and “sex worker”, are meant to reduce stigma and frame prostitution as a form of labour. The primary function of such terms, however, serves to de-stigmatize the sex industry and exploiters of women, rather than the women themselves (Bindel & Adkins, 2008, p. 6). The terminology of sexwork/er hides systemic inequalities between women and men. “Prostitution” (though by no means an adequate term), names something that men demand of women—it is a form of exploitation and coercion, and a reflection of a patriarchal version of women’s sexuality. So to use the phrase, “prostituted woman” indicates that it is a condition of her life that is not of her choosing—though there are those who claim that “sex work” is a choice, even when at best it is a decision made under duress. I made the same criticism of this language in my Master’s thesis, an investigation and analysis of Vancouver’s drug policy (Graham, 2007). In her paper, Nothing less than Heroic, Betsy Alkenbrack (2007) confronts my criticism: I think Graham is making a very good point on one hand, but missing the point on the other. It is not university-based academics or social service workers who chose to call the women at WISH sex trade workers, but the women themselves. While I fully agree that their lives are full of contradictions, inequality and danger, they deserve to be able to name their own work. Using the word “prostitute” will not improve the situation and it doesn’t seem respectful – and respect is a foundation of both good Harm Reduction and good literacy work. (p. 31) The problem of naming or categorizing others is one that faces frontline workers and researchers (Alcoff,1991) The words we use and the meanings we ascribe to the people with whom we work, who participate in our research or whom we serve, and how we frame our 23 research and practices, have effects upon our relationships with the people, the problem and the frame we use. As Alcoff argues, who is speaking matters, as well as the words spoken: “a speaker's location … has an epistemically significant impact on that speaker's claims” (Alcoff, 1991, p. 7). In eschewing the use of the terminology “sex worker”, I do not then propose the label “prostitute” as a better concept, as Alkenbrack here assumes. I along with other abolitionists agree that using the word ‘prostitute’ as a categorizing term is problematic. I use the somewhat unwieldy term “women in prostitution” or “prostituted woman” to interrupt how prostitution has been assigned as a singular identity marker of women. Prostitution is, rather, an institution or system constructed and reinforced by other systems of domination. It is an institution that men have developed, and one that reproduces the longstanding colonial position of men’s political and social domination over women. Alkenbrack said that respect is a foundation of harm reduction. Implied in her paper is the notion that if front-line workers are to demonstrate respect for women in prostitution, we should use the words women in prostitution use to describe themselves. Though some women in prostitution refer to themselves as “sex workers”, I argue here that to follow this example is in fact to demonstrate a failure to listen. Bickford (1996) extends Arendt’s concept of political equality and respect to encompass the embodied and messy process of listening and “the exercise of common sense” (Bickford, 1996, p. 88). “Common sense”, writes Bickford, “allows me not merely to see from another’s location, but to evaluate my own judgments through considering the judgments of others, and then to make a decision that I can live with” (Bickford, 1996, p. 88). Both listening and speaking constitute action, or doing. When speaking about prostitution, then, to say “sex workers” instead of “prostituted women” hides the perpetrators and profiteers of prostitution, blames the victim 24 for her own exploitation and indicates a lack of the kind of common sense evaluation and consideration of judgments that Bickford describes. Speaking of “Choice”: Much of harm reduction and pro-decriminalization discourse about prostitution concerns the idea of choice: the choices women make, often “under constrained circumstances” and the importance of respecting the agency of the women making these choices (Pivot, 2004, p. 6). Choice is certainly an important component of feminist analysis and activism—feminists have agitated for more than a century for women to have choices in terms of educational opportunities, paid work, and (perhaps most politically contentious), reproductive capacities – the choices of whether and when to bear children. Women must, feminists argue, have bodily autonomy, including freedom to choose our lovers as well as how many babies we do or do not have. Radical feminists, however, go further than making a case for women’s ability to choose; this perspective calls for larger structural and societal transformation such that the options facing women in their act of choosing all contribute to respect for and fundamental freedom of women. In regard to prostitution, the concept of choice becomes more complicated. Choice is a noun—it describes a thing composed of other things or materials, which we could call opportunities or conditions. When men demand sexual access to women’s bodies in exchange for money, shelter, drugs, or other goods, the woman’s choices are more constrained than the choices made by the men. Of course women in prostitution make choices, but the key point here is that those who seek to act in solidarity with women in prostitution must consider the material conditions within which women make these decisions. I often encountered the words ‘choice’ and ‘agency’ in research articles, conversations and interviews. “Autonomy” may be a more accurate term to use in regard to capacity to choose. 25 Autonomy is the capacity of the rational being to make independent and un-coerced choice—self-governance (Mautner, 2000, p. 53). Autonomy is also used to refer to the self-governance of communities or nations. One may argue whether there is, for individual actors, such a thing as truly unfettered autonomy. Indeed, if a condition of absolute autonomy is an absence of constraint, then there can be no such thing. We are guided by our base physical needs, and shaped by social/political structures to which we are born and within which we are continually in negotiation. Autonomy, as well, is contradictory to a positive notion of freedom or the freedom to be connected to others (e.g., Hannah Arendt’s notion of inter-esse18) in ways that are supportive. Positive freedom of this sort is comprised of relations between actors, in the interests of each other’s well-being and contributions to the good of the whole. Negative freedom is referred to as such because it is free of interference or pressure from without (Mautner, 2000: 41819). Chapter three further explores the concepts of autonomy, will, action, and freedom, using the work of Hannah Arendt, Pierre Bourdieu, and Nancy Fraser, among others. Locating the Researcher During the years between my undergraduate degree and my PhD, I had quite a few jobs: treeplanter, roofer’s helper, short-order cook, waitress, general dogsbody—then I landed in Vancouver and found the feminists. From the late 1980s, I worked (paid and volunteer) at a rape crisis center and transition houses. I was an active feminist, contributing labour, time, ideas and money to anti-violence work, including activism, though primarily my paid employment was in the field of mental health as a drop-in centre staff member, outreach worker and advocate. I arrived at graduate school with over 15 years experience working in front line services. 18 “The reality of the world is its “being common”, its being between, literally, its interest (inter esse) for all those who, through their common sense, hold it in common” (Kohn, 2000, p 125). 19 Isaiah Berlin described negative liberty as “freedom from”, and positive liberty as “freedom to” in his 26 I wanted to step back from that work and try to figure out “the big picture”, to learn about methods and theories that could make sense of what I had experienced, and then to find a way to improve those practices. In most of my work places it felt like we were doing little more than stomping out fires and slapping on Band-Aids. We knew we were in a system that depended on classes of people dominating other classes, but we couldn’t figure out a way out. In both my feminist anti-violence work and “psychosocial rehabiliation” work, the learning curve was steep and the opportunities were many. Many women taught me, and we worked together, debated, made a million mistakes and tried to keep together a shared vision of women’s liberation. There were always a few women who were my colleagues in the feminist work who had also engaged in prostitution. Often, they came to the rape crisis centre to work already politicized by their experiences in prostitution. Others became politicized through providing support and opportunities to other women, and thereby developed a political analysis of prostitution as a form of male violence. My own analysis was formed in this way, from working with, beside and on behalf of many women who have been involved in the prostitution industry20. I am a feminist abolitionist. This standpoint is reflected in my thesis, and was integrated into the research design, archival investigations and interviews. I consulted other feminist standpoint theorists, most notably Dorothy Smith, as I further explain in the methodology chapter, and derive much of my theoretical views from colleagues and mentors such as the women I interviewed, among others. Certainly my political stance and lived experience 20 I use the term “prostitution industry” here and “sex industry” elsewhere because it is an industry that commodifies and markets women’s bodies in response to men’s demand for sexual access to women’s bodies. Industries also shape and create demand for commodities for consumption, as the sex industry does to women. This terminology includes other aspects of the commodification of women’s bodies such as pornographic movies and images, “exotic dancing”, massage, or women bought as escorts or for a “girlfriend experience” (GFE). 27 influenced my analysis and writing, as they do any researcher. This is not to say that I did not ask for, listen to, or consider other viewpoints or ways of considering these issues in the course of this research. My experience as a local activist and front-line worker may have worked equally in my favour and as well as against me as I sought participants. I describe these tensions more fully in subsequent chapters. Significance of this Study I offer this investigation about the troubled relationship between feminist anti-violence activism and harm reduction practices at a time when harm reduction ideology gains ascendance in social policy responses to women’s inequality, and at a crucial moment in the Canadian feminist movement. Feminists around the world are now debating and deciding how best to stand in solidarity and in collaboration with women in prostitution and other aspects of the sex industry (Gangoli & Westmarland, 2006; Audet, 2009; Graham, Gullion, & Piovesan, 2012). Within a feminist context of resistance against violence against women, this study offers an alternative way to historicize the anti-violence arm of the women’s liberation movement, and to promote the theoretical frameworks developed by these women through their work of providing day-to-day front-line support, intervention and resistance against male violence. I know that many people believe that prostitution is “the oldest profession”, and use this position in an attempt to reduce stigma against and improve safety for prostituted women without considering whether and how to decrease or end this practice. Most front-line workers, including proponents of harm reduction, want to provide the best service possible to women in difficult circumstances, and often they do good work. My ultimate aim for this project is to describe a broader horizon of expectations for women in general, and women in prostitution in particular, and to develop and strengthen potential alliances. Harm reduction approaches to street- 28 entrenched drug users, and to women in (mostly, again, street-level) prostitution, may have potential as part of a constellation of services, opportunities and approaches. Women who provide services, including the women who agreed to be interviewed for this project, are in an excellent position to offer education and recommendations for action. Though not all of the women who participated in this study would call themselves radical feminists, the work they do is historically located in feminism—the origins of these services were developed as a result of front-line feminist work. So far, it does not appear that their contributions are often recognized or taken up in social policy. My hope for this project is to contribute to the leadership of feminist anti-violence activists and workers to gain recognition and have influence in the public sphere in the interest of achieving women’s substantive equality including an end to prostitution. Summary and What Lies Ahead This introductory chapter outlined the problem, research questions, some background to the different political positions with respect to women in prostitution, my theoretical and methodological approach and provided clarification about my standpoint as a researcher. Chapter Two is a ‘map of the terrain’ of the last thirty years of harm reduction and prostitution research and discourse in Vancouver and includes a review of research literature as well as an historical tracing of the shifting geography of prostitution analysis, social services, and political reactions and interventions. It offers definitions and descriptions of harm reduction, prostitution, and legal, medical and social service research, as well as activist engagements regarding prostitution. Chapter Three outlines my conceptual framework, providing a detailed account of the contributions of the thought of Pierre Bourdieu, Hannah Arendt, Nancy Fraser, and Dorothy Smith which contributed to the analysis of the research data. These thinkers, and others, bring important concepts which were invaluable in “making meaning” of the rich, complex stories 29 which emerged from the research. Chapter Four describes the methodology I used and discusses the meaning and conditions of voice, listening, choice, freedom, and autonomy and some of the ethical dilemmas I encountered throughout the research process. Data from interviews with sixteen women who worked in front-line women’s services and/or feminist organizations provide a main source of information and point of departure for my analysis developed in Chapters Five and Six. In Chapter Seven, I engage in an alternative reading of 90 affidavits gathered by Pivot Legal Society from prostituted people in Vancouver. Pivot Legal Society gathered these affidavits in 2003-2004 for use as evidence in their Charter challenge case. Together, the interviews and affidavits form a kind of conversation between women inhabiting different locations in the same space. These chapters serve as a comparative study of the influences and structures within which women live, and reveal both convergent and divergent themes in the lives of women who could be allies and comrades. These parallel stories, I suggest, also show the forces that keep women apart from each other, and hide our shared interests. These examples of women’s experiences in relation to the patriarchal state, and each other, are supplemented with information from government reports, policy documents and other archival materials. Finally, in Chapter Eight I provide a summary of this study and offer ideas for further research and possible alternatives to the impasse in which we find ourselves in this noisy and painful debate about prostitution. 30 Chapter Two: Prostitution in Vancouver and Harm Reduction The key purpose of this chapter is to provide a context within which to interpret the narratives from women providing front-‐line services to women in prostitution and the affidavits of women involved in prostitution gathered by Pivot Legal Society in their challenge to the constitutionality of prostitution laws. There are four main sections in this chapter. The first part provides an historical overview of prostitution activities in Vancouver including key prostitution-‐related legislative reforms and the appearance of “prostitutes rights” and women’s advocacy groups, alongside an analysis of ‘stigma discourse’ as this is articulated in current research. In the second part of this chapter, I provide a comparative analysis of two Government-‐sponsored research reports on prostitution: that had significant impact on laws and provision of services. Those two reports are the Fraser Commission Report on Pornography and Prostitution in Canada (1985) and the Special Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Human Rights report on Canada’s Prostitution Laws, The Challenge of Change (2006). These documents illustrate shifts in Canadian governance, public discourse and policy about prostitution and women in prostitution. I give attention to them as they signal significant moments in the history of prostitution and related policies and laws. Furthermore, these reforms also illustrate an important period in the history of feminism, anti-‐poverty action, and political shifts toward neo-‐liberalism in Vancouver and Canada. In the third section, I turn my attention to the emergence of harm reduction as a key policy informing social and health services including services provided to women in prostitution. In this section I also discuss harm-‐reduction research into the matter of 31 prostitution from the fields of medicine, law, feminist theory, and cultural theory. In the fourth and final part of this chapter I locate this discussion of prostitution and related services and legislation within a broader neo-‐liberal framework. Part 1 -‐-‐ A Brief History of Prostitution in Vancouver and Canada In what follows I begin with an overview of the history of prostitution in Vancouver from its incorporation as a city in 1886 to the contemporary moment. For the purpose of this chapter, I have organized this review into different sections, recognizing, of course, that the ongoing debate and discussion about prostitution is not so easily divided, and that community related initiatives and legislative reforms are intricately intertwined.. In the section entitled “Public Women in the Colonial City”, I sketch an early history of prostitution in Vancouver. After this historical mapping, I turn my attention to the emergence from second-‐wave feminist anti-‐violence organizations of so-‐called “prostitutes’ rights” groups, exploring some of the ways in which these and other women’s groups influenced and were influenced by social and political forces up to the present time. 1.1 Public Women in the Colonial City: Vancouver was born as a colonial outpost of the British Empire in the 1880s. The original inhabitants of the land, several branches of Coast Salish peoples, never ceded the land to Europeans. Vancouver is a settlement built on illegally occupied territories. It was a brash idea of the colonial city, shaped by class divisions based on race, economic class and sex that fueled structures of domination and social dislocation, both reinforced by and reproducing prostitution and addiction (Alexander, 2008; Farley, Lynne & Cotton, 2005). These divisions essentially remain intact in present day Vancouver, BC (Farley et al., 2004. The Downtown Eastside of Vancouver (DTES) is notorious nationwide for its active 32 drug culture, public prostitution and devastating poverty. Throughout the life of the city, it has been an epicentre of prostitution. There were very few women in early Vancouver, and trafficking of women and girls for sex from China, Japan and Korea was (and remains) a common practice of settlers from Europe and Asia (Keller, 1986). Dupont Street, now the section of Pender Street between Cambie and Main in the Downtown Eastside, became the de-‐facto “red light district” (Keller, 1986) soon after Vancouver was rebuilt after the devastating June 13, 1886 fire. At the time, the city was not prosperous, and the fire might have been the ruin of it but for the manipulations of the city administrators of the time. According to Betty Keller’s book, On the shady side: Vancouver 1886-‐1914, the first known brothel-‐owner in Vancouver was Birdie Stewart (Keller, 1986, p. 26). When the city fathers went about the business of financing the rebuilding of the city, it was to Birdie and the other women in prostitution they turned “Every time the city got into a financial bind…the council remembered that it was possible to resolve that crisis…by rounding up the ladies and fining them for their trespasses”. As the women were marched to the courthouse, they set up dates with a variety of men, in order to pay the fines they were about to incur (p. 29). In Vancouver’s early years, laws governing prostitution were local city bylaws rather than territorial or federal legislation (Vancouver Archives, City by-‐laws, 1886). As the city’s fortunes warranted, the architects of these bylaws set both the description and penalties of crime. In essence, the city became a pimp, benefiting from the avails of prostitution. . 1.2 City By-‐Laws: Jumping forward to current day, laws governing prostitution are within federal jurisdiction, but by-‐laws determining property and business zoning and licensing fees are under municipal jurisdiction. It is through these by-‐laws that the city still 33 derives money from prostitution related activities. Indoor prostitution generally takes place in what are known as health enhancement centres, which pay a yearly business license fee of $248. “Health enhancement centre” is a euphemism for brothel, but because the term also applies to legitimate physiotherapy or massage services, they operate with impunity, unlike the slightly less euphemistically titled “body rub parlours” which pay a fee of $9,888 per annum (as of 2013)21. This fee is meant to act as a deterrent “but of course most brothel owners and operators opt for the ‘health enhancement centre’ option” (Bula, 2012, Sept 6, para. 8). Print media also reap financial reward from off-‐street prostitution. A survey by the Asian Women’s Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP) in the fall of 2008 of advertisements in three local Vancouver free newspapers revealed that the combined income of the Georgia Straight, the West Ender and the Vancouver Courier from ads for escort services, massage centres and “adult entertainment” services was $75,000 a month22. Many of the women in the massage parlours and health enhancement centres, as well as the women on the back pages of the newspapers, are trafficked from Asia and Eastern Europe. The women prostituted on the streets, on the other hand, are disproportionately Aboriginal women, many from impoverished reserves (Perrin, 2010, p. 92-‐98). Vancouver is no longer using fines derived from prostitution to shore up faltering 21 City of Vancouver (2013). Licence Bylaw no. 4450, Schedule A, p. ii. Retrieved from http://former.vancouver.ca/bylaws/4450c.PDF 22 Statistics compiled by members of ACWEP as part of “Flesh Mapping: Vancouver markets pacific women”, an artful political conversation between women of the pacific rim. This statistic was featured in an installation at the Gallery Gachet as part of the Flesh Mapping Project, which took place in Vancouver during the 16 days of action on violence against women, November 25-December 10, 2008. See http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/learn/resources/flesh-mapping-vancouver-markets-pacific-women-2008-inside-look-process 34 budgets. However through licensing costs, the City of Vancouver—and these newspapers—continues to profit from prostitution. In the next sub-‐section, I outline the different prostitute-‐related groups that formed since the 1980s, and evidence of discursive and political shifts from their mandates and activities. 1.3 Prostitutes Rights Groups from the late 20th to the 21st Century: In Vancouver, at least since the 1980s, women in prostitution organized to provide peer support, safety strategies, and encouragement to each other to exit prostitution. They worked in (sometimes tense) collaboration with feminist anti-violence groups, and sought also to provide opportunities to women in prostitution to organize with other women. The following section briefly describes some of these Vancouver groups and their activities from the early 1980s to the early 2010s. ASP and POWER: The 1980s saw the development of grassroots initiatives of feminist and prostitutes rights groups which can be understood as the beginnings of what we now know as harm reduction. Sally De Quadros and Marie Arrington organized a prostitutes’ rights group named The Alliance for the Safety of Prostitutes (ASP) when they were collective members of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter (lee et al., 1987). Initially the aim of ASP was to both assist women in prostitution and to help them get out (Fraser, 1985, p. 363). In the early 1980s, the founders of ASP met Margo St. James who founded a prostitute’s rights groups in the US which she named Call Off Your Tired Old Ethics—COYOTE. They maintained contact and shared ideas and tactics. DeQuadros and Arrington found St. James “fresh, energetic and brave, but Sally [DeQuadros] and Marie [Arrington] gradually rejected her tactic of ‘glamorizing’ prostitution” (lee et al., 1987, p. 16). In 1984, Sally and Marie left 35 Vancouver Rape Relief in order to focus on their work with ASP, and by 1986 changed their name to Prostitutes and Other Women for Equal Rights (POWER). When still with Rape Relief, they began the practice of walking “the stroll” a few nights a week to meet women in prostitution. This was the beginning of the “bad trick sheets”, and as they met with women and offered condoms, sandwiches and talking about the bad trick sheets, they also worked to engage with them in political organizing and activism with other feminist groups23 (lee et al., 1987, p. 16). PACE: In 1994 Paige Latin and other women frmerly engaged in prostitution founded Prostitution Alternatives, Counseling and Education (PACE) with the goal to “help women escape from—and avoid getting into—prostitution” (Durning, Dolan & Crowther, 1997, para 15). To this end, PACE made presentations to schools, non-‐profit organizations, youth detention centres, universities and civic groups, and ran a successful program called “PACE2”, a six-‐month program that provided prostituted women opportunity to finish high school, learn basic computer skills, build their resumes and gain practical employment experience through practicum placements24. Before a decade had turned, the founding members were gone, and PACE’s mission statement read: “By, with and for sex workers—PACE Society promotes safer working conditions by reducing harm and isolation through education and support” (PACE Society, n.d.). By 2011, PACE’s name was changed from “Prostitution Alternatives Counseling and Education” to “Providing Alternatives, 23 When I was a collective member of a feminist anti-violence organization in the late 1980s-early 1990s, we were still regularly in contact with these women, and received from them the bad trick sheets. 24 This program was in operation during the late 1990s when I was working at a drop-in centre in East Vancouver. A number of women did their practicum placements at my workplace, and went on to further education and employment. Funding for this initiative was cut in about 2000. There is no reference to this part of PACE’s history on the current website. 36 Counseling and Education” and the stated mandate of the organization had changed to “PACE is a sex worker led and driven organization offering low-‐barrier programming, support and safe respite for survival sex workers in Vancouver BC Canada” (PACE Society, 2014). PEERS: The shift in focus from helping women in prostitution to exit, to providing “low-‐barrier services” and harm reduction is not unique to PACE. Prostitution Empowerment Education Support Society (PEERS) began in Victoria BC in 1994, when “a couple of women from the trade got together and decided to start a group for others who had exited or wanted to exit the sex trade” (Rabinovitch & Lewis, 2001). In 2002, PEERS established a drop-‐in centre in the DTES. At present, PEERS “is dedicated to the empowerment, education and support of sex workers…working to improve their safety and working conditions, assisting those who desire to leave the sex industry, increasing public understanding…and promoting the experiential voice” (PEERS, n.d. 25). Most women who came to PEERS, regardless of their intentions in the beginning, left prostitution because they found peer support and self-‐confidence because of their involvement with this organization (Rabinovitch & Lewis, 2001, p. 15). PEERS stayed closer to their founders original aim to provide women in prostitution with the support and means to exit prostitution than did PACE. Nevertheless, PEERS has maintained that decriminalizing all aspects of prostitution⎯including pimping and buying sex⎯will make “sex work” safer (PEERS, n.d.). 25 The PEERS website—www.peers.bc.ca is no longer available, and that address redirects to http://safersexwork.ca. However, some content from the old website can be found through The Wayback Machine at http://web.archive.org/web/20130317094204/http://www.peers.bc.ca/. The safersexwork.ca site does not have the content or links previously housed at the peers website. 37 Until the fall of 2013, one of their most popular programs was “Elements”26, an employment alternatives program for people engaged in prostitution (much like PACE2 had been in Vancouver). Due to a series of funding cuts and government restructuring of BC social services, this program, as well as the PEERS drop-‐in centre closed. They maintain a night-‐time outreach program, and are looking for other funding sources in order to re-‐open (www.peers.bc.ca/home accessed November 25, 2013). PEERS in Vancouver was defunded due to the same social services restructuring, and closed in 2011. WISH Drop-‐in for Women: Women’s Information Safe House (WISH) first opened in 1987, with roots in St. Michael’s Anglican Church’s street ministry for youth27. The initial aim of WISH was to provide a safe place for women in prostitution to connect with each other and to have a meal and a bit of comfort in the evenings. Initially funded by short-‐term municipal grants and donations, WISH has become a service project supported by ministries of all three levels of government (Federal, Provincial and Municipal) and individual donations. A great proportion of their funding comes from Vancouver Coastal Health. Many of the services and programs provided by WISH, including the bad trick sheets, and the Mobile Access Project (MAP28) van, are now projects of social services and Vancouver Coastal Health (WISH, 2008-‐2009; 2010-‐2011). Presently, WISH provides many services and supports to women in prostitution – including literacy programs and other educational opportunities; meals and cooking classes; and the MAP van. These services are important and useful – and the women 26 Originally www.peers.bc.ca/home; now http://safersexwork.ca/ 27 wish.org/about 28 The MAP van operates from 10 pm to 8 am in the DTES and other nearby neighbourhoods. It is staffed by a nurse and an “experiential woman” who distribute “harm reduction” supplies, and some material supports such as food and blankets to women in the streets (WISH 2010-2011). 38 providing them have concern and respect for the women who access them. While WISH claims to take no public position in the public debate about whether to decriminalize or take steps to abolish prostitution, volunteers and staff of the centre are advised to not discuss exiting with the women who use the service29. To be sure, given the closure of PEERS and the steady dismantling of PACE, combined with ongoing cuts to other services for women, the already slender options to help women exit, or even imagine leaving prostitution, are becoming more scarce. It seems cruel to suggest to women in prostitution that prostitution is a form of violence or to tell them they deserve real, better alternatives, when those alternatives do not exist (or do not exist anymore). However, as much of the current research indicates, both women who have exited prostitution and women currently in prostitution have an analysis of the conditions of their lives, and say that prostitution is not something they would have chosen for themselves, given other options (see for example Raymond, 2013; Bindel et al., 2012; Rabinovitch & Lewis, 2001; Farley et al., 2003). Nor is it something they want for other women, and certainly not for their daughters or nieces30. Given the evidence from these women’s own stories, therefore, the persistence of service providers and activists promotion of harm reduction and decriminalization over exiting programs indicates a lack of solidarity or compassion for women in prostitution. Kate Gibson, the executive director of WISH, while expressing her regard for the women her agency serves, speaks about prostitution with a kind of hopelessness and 29 Personal communication, September, 2008, with former staff member of WISH. 30 Alexis Kennedy, university of Nevada, speaking of her research in the spring of 2009 at the University Women’s Club in Vancouver. 39 cynicism. “There is no way that some of these women will leave sex work” she asserted during a public forum in May of 201231. At the same meeting, she argued against a Nordic model of law, saying that Canada does not have adequate social programs to support comprehensive exiting programs, and besides, criminalizing johns would place women in more danger. The best that can be done, she said, is to reduce stigma and offer some material comforts to women on the streets. Though WISH claims to take no position on decriminalizing prostitution, such statements indicate that the leadership of WISH, if not the staff and volunteers, are settling for a version of “lesser evil”. The bad trick sheets, condoms and safety tips initially developed by women in street prostitution are now in the hands of the caregivers and professionals. Initially tools of mutual aid or peer support among women who are engaged in street prostitution, they are now techniques of governance, essentially making women accountable for the actions of men. Women who receive these bad trick sheets and lists of resources are then expected to make use of them; to recognize the “bad guy” from the description; to call the clinic or rape crisis line when they are attacked. This is consistent with state and media responses to other forms of male violence against women – women are advised to dress conservatively, travel in pairs or not go out at night, to carry noise makers or learn self-‐defense techniques. The onus to prevent attack is on the victims of men’s violence, not on the men who perpetrate the attacks. 1.4 Low-‐Barrier For Whom? Several agencies which provide services in the DTES 31 SAFE in Collingwood. Sex Work Awareness For Everyone held a public forum about sex work in Collingwood, sponsored by Living in Community and the Vancouver Police Department. May 5, 2012. Kate Gibson was one of the speakers. 40 describe their services and shelters as “low-‐or-‐no-‐barrier”. The internal structures of women-‐serving organizations in Vancouver have shifted considerably as the state has undergone a period of sustained retrenchment. As I described briefly in my discussion of prostitutes’ rights groups, the initial aim of these groups to provide peer support, some comfort, and opportunities to organize with others, gave way to services, programs and harm reduction. There are now, in Vancouver, a proliferation of “low-‐barrier” services and shelters (mostly in the DTES). “Low-‐barrier” means that the residents can invite johns into their rooms, and/or they can be in the drop-‐in or shelter while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol (some have a restriction that residents or members may not use drugs or alcohol on the premises, others allow some use on site). The current discourse of decriminalization and harm reduction argues that women in prostitution will be safer if they are allowed to prostitute off-‐street, in brothels or safe houses and when men who buy sex will not face criminal sanctions (Pivot, 2004; 2006; O'Doherty, 2011; Living in Community, 2007; Remple et al., 2007). Agencies in Vancouver which operate “low-‐barrier” shelters and harm reduction services include Atira Housing for Women and the Portland Hotel Society (PHS). There has been a flurry of research by medical professionals in Vancouver which conclude that harm reduction measures such as moving prostitution indoors increases women’s safety and meets their approval (Shannon et al., 2009; Krüsi et al., 2012). Shortly after Atira Resource Society for Women (Atira) opened a low barrier residence for women “in the sex trade”, one study “investigated the effects on women’s sense of safety when they lived in low-‐barrier, harm reduction−focused housing for women” (Krüsi et. al. 2012, p. 1154). The study argued that: 41 Despite the lack of formal legal and policy support for indoor sex work venues in Canada, the environmental-‐structural supports afforded by these unsanctioned indoor sex work environments, including surveillance cameras and support from staff or police in removing violent clients, were linked to improved police relationships and facilitated the institution of informal peer-‐safety mechanisms. (p. 1154) Proponents of full decriminalization assert that criminalizing men who buy sex will further jeopardize women in prostitution by driving prostitution “underground” (Shaver, February 2005). Others, however, describe a different view: There is no evidence that prostitution has ‘gone underground’ in the decade the law has been in place. Men who buy sex will not do so if it is inconvenient and if they will be arrested. They’ll stop on the way home for a blowjob, but they won’t cross the border into Denmark if they can’t buy a woman nearer32. Much of the evidence suggests that although women who reside in these low-‐barrier shelters are grateful for the increased surveillance, they still lived in fear, and did not trust the men who bought them: “I prefer the date in my place for safety reasons, you know. ‘Cause there’s cameras on each floor, they’re not allowed in unless they have ID, their name is written down, and, people have seen you with the guy, so he knows that he can’t go and try to do something to me and get away with it.” (Participant 29) (p. 1156). Though the harms of men’s violence may be reduced by increased surveillance within brothels, women 32 Gunilla Ekberg, former special advisor to the Swedish Government, on March 8, 2012 at the Vancouver Public Library. 42 still experience fear, uncertainty, and a resultant degree of trauma. The women in the Krüsi’s study of the Atira housing project were marginalized not only by sexism, but also by poverty, racism (30 of 39 study participants were Aboriginal), and often trauma-‐related mental and physical disabilities, including active addiction. The threat posed by men who buy sex was downplayed by the researchers’ focus on tactics of governance and surveillance imposed by the shelter as the means of reducing harm. Both recipients and providers of the services are expected to adjust and regulate their behaviour in relation to men who buy them for sex. Women are expected to familiarize themselves with the information on the ‘bad trick’ or ‘bad date’ lists posted at the entrance of the building, for example. And women are allowed to bring johns into the building during visiting hours. Therefore, women staffing the residence are in the position of acting as guards or bouncers, requiring men to register, (at one hotel men must surrender their identification for the duration of their visit), and monitoring the security cameras (Krusi, et al, 2012, p. 1156). In the event that a man becomes violent or threatening, the staff must ask him to leave or call the police. While women reported they judged they were safer in such living conditions, it remains true that women are still in the position of monitoring their behaviour and maintaining vigilance against potential attack. In other words, these low-‐or-‐minimal-‐barrier shelters and services still require women to adhere to a regime of self governance to become ‘ideal residents’, and effectively reduce barriers to men’s access to paid sex. 1.5 Prostitution as a public health concern. Other studies about women involved in street-‐level prostitution that recommend harm reduction focus on indicators of physical health, such as rates of HIV infection. These mention “violence” as a phenomenon rather 43 than naming the perpetrators of specific incidents of assault, threats or theft. Rather than finding problematic the demands and behaviours of men who buy sex, a study by Shannon et al. (2009) determined it is the “failings of legislation that criminalizes sex work on the health and safety of sex workers” (p. 664). While Shannon et al’s study does call for active criminalization of harassment and abuse by clients and third parties, they do not find prostitution, or men’s demand for paid sex problematic. Though Shannon’s study focuses on some of the health risks of prostitution and argue that prostitution laws and law enforcement practices may exacerbate these risks: “our findings offer important empirical evidence to suggest that the current sex-‐work laws and enforcement-‐based policies may be directly increasing women’s sexual HIV risk” (p. 664), the researchers do not address trauma-‐related mental health concerns which may be present because of the conditions with which women in prostitution operate. Indications of the trauma and fear with which prostituted women live, and the damage thereby caused are addressed in other studies, however. Brents and Hausbeck (2001 & 2005) noted that women prostituted in Nevada brothels, though they found the presence of cameras and bouncers somewhat relieving, nevertheless reported high levels of fear (Brents & Hausbeck, 2001, 2005). Norwegian criminologists Cecelia Høigård and Liv Finstad published one of the early studies of prostitution in 1992. Their book, Backstreets: Prostitution, money and love, was their attempt to gain “an understanding of the content of prostitution” in Oslo, Norway (p. 8). To their surprise, they found: The women’s reactions to prostitution have many similarities with the reactions of women who are survivors of incest and rape. […] Information about such types of emotional reactions to these forms of sexual assault has attained the status of 44 established facts. This is not true of prostitution research. This is new knowledge. …This is the most important discovery we’ve made in our research [emphasis added]…The idea that prostitution constitutes a gross form of violence was not even a vague impression before we began our research (p. 115-‐116). Hom and Woods (2013) conducted a qualitative research study with front-‐line workers which re-‐confirmed Høigård and Finstad’s findings, but from the point of view of front-‐line mental health professionals working with women trafficked into prostitution. “The findings from this study highlight the pervasiveness of PTSD, depression, and shame in women who have been commercially sexually exploited” (p. 80). Other research indicates that women count on the support and solidarity of peers in order to find their way out of prostitution, as well as to achieve a measure of safety while trapped within it (Hedin & Månsson 2003; Rabinovitch & Lewis, 2001). My research also confirmed the importance of mutual aid and peer support for women to leave prostitution, as well as to the well-‐being and efficacy of women in front-‐line work. 1.6 Affects of and challenges to stigma discourse: Numerous studies of women currently involved in prostitution report that “the stigmatisation of sex work is the main problem [emphasis added] interviewees experienced while working in the sex industry and this impacted negatively on both their private and professional lives” (Mai, 2009, Executive Summary, para. 4). Researchers who advocate for decriminalizing prostitution-related activities claim that this stigma is the main reason that women in prostitution do not go to the police or social service agencies for assistance when johns or pimps have further victimized them (Pivot, 2004; 2006; Shaver, February 7, 2005; Lowman, 2012). Brents and Hausbeck (2001), as well, focus more on the stigma that is imposed by legislative frameworks, and very little harms to women from johns 45 (including assault, harassment and theft as well as transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections): “In general, legalized prostitution across the world is not an expression of society’s acceptance of prostitution but functions to isolate, stigmatize, and render prostitutes invisible” (p. 310). Again, more than twenty years after Høigård and Finstad concluded that prostitution itself “constitutes a gross form of violence” (Høigård & Finstad, 1992, p. 116), studies such as Krüsi’s (2012), though recording women’s experiences of trauma from prostitution, recommended only what their research participants said they wanted: Our study documented that being able to conduct sexual transactions in safer indoor environments bolstered solidarity among women and allowed for informal peer support mechanisms, which are more difficult to advance in heavily policed and stigmatized street level sex and drug markets. (Krüsi et al., 2011, p. 1158) This persistent focus on stigmatization of prostituted women ignores the fact that stigma is a significant problem for women in general, (though more so for women in prostitution). The shame and degradation imposed upon prostituted women, through social sanctions and regulatory frameworks, certainly reinforce their marginalization. This stigma, however, is neither the main problem faced by prostituted people, nor a discrete problem of only women in prostitution. Effects of past trauma, poverty and the degrading and constant effects of systemic racism and sexism underlie and fuel stigmatization. The social censure women in prostitution endure is an extension of the pressure upon all women to live up to various versions of “ideal” femininity. Women in prostitution, then, in addition to dealing with the “normal” strain of “being woman” in patriarchy, also endure sustained trauma of having to engage in sexual acts at the behest of men (whether or not 46 individual men are additionally abusive). Then they must suppress this trauma in order to continue in prostitution (Farley, 2006; Høigård & Finstad, 1992; Brents & Hausbeck, 2001). Many women in prostitution express their feelings about prostitution in their attitudes toward johns. In my experience as a front-‐line worker, and evident in studies using interview data from women in prostitution, their disdain for men is palpable. I suggest they may express this disdain as a way of suppressing the trauma they endure. Stigma, they may think, can go both ways. The women Hoigard and Finstad (1992) interviewed often had opinions of men very like those held by Vancouver women in prostitution: “Make sure you say,” said “Jane”, a Norwegian prostitute to Cecelia Høigård, “that lots of women are prostitutes because they’ve lost respect for men” (p. 19). More than two decades later, this is consistent with more recent observations of my interview participants (and from other research data) of women’s attitudes toward abusive men. Women spoke the same way about men who used them in prostitution, and of men (husbands, fathers, boyfriends) who abused or exploited them, that is, with a poignant mixture of pity, disdain and fear (Graham, 2006). Part 2. Prostitution in Canada over Two Decades: Comparing the Fraser Report with The Challenge of Change In this section I focus on the 1986 Fraser Commission report on pornography and prostitution in Canada and the 2006 report by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, The Challenge of Change which investigated Canada’s prostitution laws. I describe each report separately, and then highlight particular features for contrast. The Fraser report, for example, was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice under a majority Liberal federal government. The Challenge of Change, on the other hand, was produced by a 47 Special Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 1). The scope of the latter report, therefore, was much narrower, as were the resources assigned to the Special Subcommittee, than those of Fraser. Each report reflects the political climate of the time in which it was produced, and in the following accounts, I compare some specific features that show some of these differences. These features include the structure and relative strength of Canada’s social services, (particularly as these structures pertain to women’s poverty and other markers of inequality), the analysis and influence of different women’s groups and women-‐serving organizations, and the discourse of choice and agency evident in each report. Both reports made recommendations for future action, and again, the Fraser Report is much more comprehensive than Challenge of Change in the range and detail of recommendations, and unlike Challenge, included draft legislation. 2.1 The Fraser Report, 1985. In 1983, the Canadian government struck a committee on pornography and prostitution, chaired by Paul Fraser, to report to the Minister of Justice (Fraser, 1985, p. 5). Over the next two years, the committee conducted research, accepted submissions and met with many individuals and groups across Canada as it researched problems related to pornography and prostitution. They held public hearings, publicized in advance, in 22 centres across the country. The final product was over 700 pages long in two volumes and contained 108 recommendations, each recommendation including draft legislation. It remains the most comprehensive study of these issues, and played a major role in how Canadian governments and agencies responded to prostitution. The Fraser report stated that the most egregious harms of prostitution come from 48 men who purchase sex: “Customers are the primary source of sexual violence against prostitutes” (Fraser, 1985, p. 388). The report stated that improving women’s status and eliminating economic disparity would “decrease the likelihood of prostitution being seen as the only viable career” (p. 526). The report recommended that “governments in Canada strengthen their moral and financial commitment to the removal of social inequalities between men and women” (Robertson, 2003, section 3). Other recommendations were that Canada either directly or indirectly provide funding for “community groups involved in the care and welfare of both practicing and reformed prostitutes, so that adequate social, health, employment, educational and counseling services are available to them” (Fraser, 1985, p. 530). Further to these, the committee made twelve recommendations specific to prostitution, including the addition of preventative educational curriculum in high schools as well as broad reforms to social services to youth and children (p. 665-‐668), wide-‐spread welfare reform to address women’s poverty (p. 527), more restrictions on street prostitution to reduce nuisance, and attendant relaxation of bawdy house laws in order to allow women to set up independent brothels and so stay off the streets (p. 538). The Committee argued that the current laws were unevenly applied, and made the observation that street prostitutes “are more likely to be arrested and convicted of prostitution-‐related crimes than any other category of person involved in the business”, whereas pimps and customers were least likely to be charged (p. 390). Twenty-‐one years later, the Special Subcommittee on Canada’s Prostitution Laws reported in The Challenge of Change they found the laws were still unevenly applied, and the primary targets of law enforcement still those women prostituted from the streets (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 49 86). Fraser described four basic categories into which the received briefs and representations from Canadian organizations and individuals fell (Fraser, 1985, p. 514). Placed on a continuum, at one end was the further criminalization of all prostitution-‐related activities and at the other end, complete decriminalization of prostitution. The latter representations advocated reliance on other categories of the criminal code to deal with exploitation and other forms of criminal activities. A third view recommended that prostitution-‐related activities be legalized and subjected to regulatory schemes including taxation and labour standards. “Furthermore,” the committee wrote, “…there was a conscious blending of the criminalization and decriminalization options which represents an additional [fourth] category” (Fraser, 1985, p. 514). The fourth category can be understood as an early version of what is now known as “The Nordic Model”. In a submission to the Fraser Committee, Professor Constance Backhouse and a team of female law students of the University of Western Ontario argued, “prostitution should not be accepted without question. The law should attempt to deal with the root cause, which is the demand by men for sexual services” (Fraser, 1985, p. 362)33. At the time of the Fraser Commission, the independent women’s movement was active and influential across Canada. At the time, equality-‐seeking women’s groups had considerably more influence on public policy, much of it through broad coalitions such as 33 It is this demand that Sweden addressed in 1999 with prostitution legislation which has since become known as The Nordic Model, to which I referred in Chapter one. This legislation is comprised of four aspects: decriminalization of the sale of sex; criminalization of the purchase of sex; comprehensive services to assist women to exit prostitution, (including welfare, housing, educational opportunities and drug and alcohol treatment options); and widespread public education about prostitution and prostitution-related harms. 50 the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres. The high activity of this movement is reflected in the breadth and depth of submissions contained in the final report, and in the language and recommendations the Commission used. Fraser strongly recommended the Canadian government bolster social programs and educational initiatives to improve the conditions of women, and work towards economic and social equality between women and men in Canada. He observed that in relation to equality , “…it is highly unlikely that significant results are going to be achieved overnight” (p. 529), Fraser’s commission argued that agencies which provide support to prostituted people be reinforced and supported with government funded research, education and material resources (p. 529). Some of these recommendations were carried out, but as I describe in the section “The Waning Social Contract”, the social welfare state has been dismantled over time. 2.1.1 The implementation of Section 213 of the Canadian Criminal Code. Because street prostitution was widely regarded as a public nuisance, and (to a lesser extent) out of concern for those engaged in prostitution, Fraser recommended section 171(1)(a) of the Criminal Code (public nuisance) be amended to include the use of sexually offensive language (p. 541) as an offence. This recommendation “represents a response to the feeling of anger and frustration which many women who live in or travel through areas affected by street prostitution feel at the verbal abuse to which they are subjected by prospective customers of prostitutes” (p. 541). This eventually became Section 213 of the criminal code, the “communicating law” which rendered any communication in a public place “for the 51 purpose of engaging in prostitution, or of obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute34”. On December 28, 1986, the Canadian Parliament passed Bill C-‐49, which had been introduced by the Minister of Justice that fall. This bill, a precursor to Section 213, was controversial. Some citizens’ groups, city governments, and law enforcement officials enthusiastically welcomed it (Robertson, 2003, section 2D). Others, including feminist groups, found it problematic, warning that it could potentially increase the power of pimps, give too much discretion to police and law enforcement, and serve merely to move prostitution-‐related problems elsewhere (Robertson, 2003, section 2D). The Communication Law, Section 213 of the Criminal Code, was implemented in January 1986 by the newly elected Conservative federal government (Robertson, 2003, section 3A). The implementation and enforcement of this law since that time indicates that Fraser’s analysis and recommendation was misinterpreted. The recommendation from the Fraser report for some form of communicating law came about because a significant number of women and women’s groups (including women in prostitution) stated their concerns about the harassing behaviour of johns. It seems that the initial intention of the recommendation as to interfere with men ‘trolling’ for paid sex (Fraser, 1985). However, since its inception, law enforcement has applied Section 213 disproportionately against prostituted women and only sporadically against johns. Feminists could see this coming. Shortly after Bill C-‐49 was tabled, feminist groups including prostitutes rights groups staged a “wave-‐in” on two corners of Downtown 34 Section 213, and Bill C-49 before it, made illegal the acts of a person who, in a public place, or in any place open to public view and for the purposes of engaging in prostitution or obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute: stops or attempts to stop any motor vehicle; impedes the free flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic to or from a public place; stops or attempts to stop any person or in any manner communicates or attempts to communicate with any person (Robertson, 2003, section 2D). 52 Vancouver. The organizers demanded the review and repeal of Bill C-‐49. They noted that prostituted women experienced additional harassment by police since the introduction of the bill, while johns and pimps were not facing negative sanctions (lee, regina, joni, & lyn, 1987, 19). At the time of the Fraser committee’s research, there was a great deal of conflict and tension about prostitution activities in the West End neighbourhood of Vancouver. It was (and is) the most densely populated residential area of Vancouver, and at the time heavily frequented by johns, pimps, and prostitutes (Fraser, 1985, p. 346). Gordon Price, a Vancouver city councilor, started a “citizen’s action group” in the early 1980s called Concerned Residents of the West End (CROWE), which launched a campaign to drive the prostitutes from the brightly-‐lit, well-‐frequented West End north east toward the light industrial area of the city (Price, 1981) . CROWE argued that “legitimate residents” of the West End were not safe because of the activities and disturbance related to prostitution. These disturbances included those caused by behaviours of the johns, who would drive slowly down the streets, tying up traffic and harassing all of the women in the neighbourhood (Price, 1981). It was, however, the women and not the pimps and johns, who were blamed for the nuisance and fears of the residence, and it was the women who were run out of the neighbourhood. In 1984, the Attorney General of BC passed an injunction banning prostitutes from the West End, and declared 30 prostituted people “public nuisances”, publishing their names in the newspaper, and posting their names on lamp posts in the West End (lee et al., 1987, p. 17). Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter (VRRWS) and The Alliance for the Safety of Prostitutes (ASP) declared themselves “Public Nuisance #31” and marched in protest, gathering the support of women in 53 prostitution and bystanders in the neighbourhood (p. 17). At this time, also, residents of the West End and Mount Pleasant neighbourhoods organized “Shame the Johns” campaigns. Although they claimed to target “the men who buy our children”, these campaigns did not result in negative sanctions against men who bought women or children, but instead harassed and punished the women in prostitution (p. 16). These injunctions and legislative reforms corresponded to the preparation for and opening of the 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver—Expo ’86—an event that precipitated a municipal initiative to “clean up” the city. All of these actions targeted the women rather than the buyers and effectively moved women—not out of prostitution, but merely into the more isolated light industrial area of East Vancouver, far from the densely populated West End. It was clear to feminists and to women in prostitution that these injunctions and other actions would result in more dangerous circumstances for women (p. 18-‐19). Other researchers have used the rise in the disappearances and murders of prostituted women since that time as arguments for decriminalizing prostitution (Lowman, 2004, p. 147), and continue to do so. Feminist anti-‐violence activists, however, while acknowledging that women in street-‐level prostitution are in great danger, argue that no matter where prostitution occurs, it is the actions of the men buying sex that poses the danger (Overall, 1992; Audet, 2009; Jeffreys, 2009). From the late 1980s, there was more documentation of women disappearing from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. In the late 1990s women’s groups, Aboriginal organizations and social service agencies began to put pressure on the police to take seriously and investigate these troubling cases of over 60 vanished women. Not all of these 54 women were involved in prostitution, but most of them had at some point turned a trick. The majority of these women were Aboriginal. They were confined and murdered, after the Fraser report, with all its recommendations and draft legislation was released, and the plight of these women eventually lead to another cross-‐Canada government-‐sponsored report on prostitution and prostitution laws. The next section discusses that report. 2.2 The Challenge of Change: In 2002, Willie Pickton, (a man well-‐known among prostituted women in the DTES) was arrested and charged with the murder of 26 of approximately 70 women who had gone missing since the mid 1980s. As it was twenty years before, the debate about what to do about prostitution heated up in Vancouver. Once again, the argument for moving women indoors hinged on safety. This time, however, (perhaps out of remorse for the deaths and disappearances of so many women), policy makers and “community members” claimed that the safety of “sex workers” should be the most important consideration, as well as reducing nuisance, litter of discarded condoms and needles, and public disorder35 (Living in Community, 2007, p. 19). The Canadian federal government, in response to a motion brought forward in 2003 by NDP MP Libby Davies, proposed “to review the solicitation laws in order to improve the safety of sex-‐trade workers and communities overall, and to recommend changes that will reduce the exploitation of and violence against sex-‐trade workers” (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 2). A Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as “the subcommittee”) was struck, and began conducting research in 2003, releasing the final report in December of 2006. 35 Living in Community’s 2007 self-titled report recommends enforcement of “no-go zones” around schools and parks (LIC, 2007, p 19). 55 Challenge was narrower in scope than the Fraser report, resources were fewer and the result was much less comprehensive. The subcommittee was comprised of representatives from each Federal party, the Conservatives and Liberals with two, and the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democrats with one each. Active for two years (the final report was delayed in 2005 when Parliament dissolved), they heard from almost 300 witnesses in seven cities across the country (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 2), a much-‐diminished sample from that of the Fraser Committee’s research two decades earlier. Even as the resources allotted to the subcommittee were more limited, the resources and infrastructure available to women’s groups to prepare submissions were diminished. The governments in the intervening decades had implemented several changes to tax transfer payments and social program funding schemes with the result that Canada’s social safety net, including funding for welfare, education and training, housing subsidies, and health care had been significantly eroded (Day & Brodsky, 2002; 2007). Women-‐serving organizations provided more services with fewer resources, and engaged in much less advocacy, certainly less systemic advocacy. The reduction in advocacy over twenty years was a result of funding requirements which imposed criteria for staff and agency mandate, and an emphasis on service provision over advocacy or political organizing (Bonisteel & Green, 2005). The constrained mandate of the subcommittee indicated not only a truncated definition of state responsibility and influence in public life, but also that public discourse shifted away from a feminist-‐influenced understanding of prostitution. While the Fraser report described, with quotes from submissions, the material conditions that shaped women’s entry and engagement in prostitution, the Subcommittee report was more 56 abstract. For example, the Fraser report concluded that women entered prostitution because of poverty, and because they were conditioned to “believe that their bodies are their only valued asset” (Fraser, 1985, p. 351). The Subcommittee report also related that poverty was still a significant contributor to women entering prostitution: “many witnesses agreed that a significant number of women are forced into prostitution by economic hardship” (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 10). Yet childhood sexual assault, social conditioning, and women’s oppression and inequality to men were minimally featured in Hanger and Maloney’s report of the subcommittee’s research. Perhaps the most striking difference between the two reports is the discussion of the “choice” of women to engage in prostitution (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 8). The second chapter of Challenge, “A profile of prostitution in Canada” (pp. 5-‐28), includes research and witness submissions that describe aspects of prostitution in Canada, and discusses firstly the question of consent. John Lowman, a criminologist whose testimony features throughout the report, suggests that most prostitution is an exchange “where both adults are consenting, albeit in a way that is shaped by their gender, occupation, ethnicity, socio-‐economic status and cultural values” (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 6, citing Lowman). In his submission to the subcommittee, Lowman acknowledged that “consent” is shaped by the actor’s social locations and life conditions. However his submission to the Subcommittee did not describe the ways in which consent is shaped, or the coercive forces constraining the possibilities for consent, nor does he acknowledge gendered power inequities in prostitution. In more recent writing, this failure to acknowledge inequities has become a passionate defense of prostituted women’s “agency” and a misrepresentation of feminist recognition of power imbalances and demand-‐focused proposals. He claims the 57 feminist abolition position infantilizes and ignores women in prostitution: By denying their agency, demand side prohibition36 effectively places sex workers in the same category as children and the mentally ill, i.e. persons who are unable to give consent. It creates a double jeopardy. Already denounced by society at large, sex workers who refuse to embrace the victim paradigm are cast out [by feminist anti-‐violence services]. Rape relief will not be extended to them. (Lowman, 2011, November 6). On the contrary, I argue that “the double jeopardy” here is not that women in prostitution who refuse “the victim paradigm” are then denied the support of feminist anti-‐violence services. Instead it is that, when these women take up prostitution in the absence of other ways to earn money, they are encouraged, even pressured, to frame their experience as free choice, an economic transaction, an expression of their agency. If they have unpleasant feelings or experiences about their “choice”, Lowman’s version of harm reduction ideology urges them to supplant those memories and feelings and accept their lot. The pro-‐prostitution advocates then disguise their abandonment of prostituted women as valorizing their choices. Challenge later features a section “The concept of choice” which offers an argument from Quebec writer and researcher Yolande Geadah who asserted, “We have to stop seeing it as an individual choice with no consequences. In fact, it is a choice that has terrible 36 The use by Lowman (and others) of the term “prohibition” in reference to demand-focused feminist abolition arguments also obscures the intention and analysis of these arguments. “Prohibition refers to restricting access, distribution and consumption of a substance. “Abolition”, on the other hand, refers to dismantling structures of oppression and inequality as a way to abolish inhumane and degrading practices such as slavery, prostitution, and human trafficking (Graham, 2012). 58 consequences…” (Geadah, quoted in Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 8). This statement serves as an echo, however faint, of the submission to the Fraser commission two decades earlier by Dr. Backhouse and her University of Windsor students. Challenge named prostitution “a dangerous activity” and found that “…in more than 85% of the cases, the people who committed the homicides [of prostituted persons] were clients” (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p.18). In the twenty-‐years between reports, it appears that little had changed. Women were still in danger mainly from the men who bought them; but unlike one of the conclusions reached by Fraser, Challenge did not conclude that women’s oppression and inequality were the most important (or even among the most important) issues to understand prostitution. A significant shift in the discourse in Challenge was that prostitution was characterized as primarily a health issue: “above all else, prostitution is a public health issue, more than a law enforcement issue” (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 89). A result of this categorical shift was that the report made no legal or social reform recommendations to alleviate the socio-‐economic concerns underlying prostitution (Taylor, 2010, p. 56). Both Fraser and the Subcommittee found that concern for women in prostitution was high among those groups and individuals who offered submissions. The overt hostility demonstrated in the mid-‐1980s by Vancouver neighbourhood groups such as CROWE and the “Shame the Johns” campaigns had much diminished by the mid-‐2000s. By 2006, possibly because of the high-‐profile Pickton trial and increased public awareness of the troubling disappearances and murders of women, especially Indigenous women, from areas known as sites of procurement of prostituted women, this hostility appeared to have shifted to more compassionate concern. In urban areas particularly marked by prostitution, 59 however, the concerns of business owners and residents still seemed to be less for the women than for the economic impact, stigma, litter and other nuisance harms associated with the sex industry (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 29; Living in Community, 2007, p. 17-‐19). In 1985, Fraser (1985) wrote: Canadian judges seem inclined to require a strong reason, such as involvement in other forms of criminal activity or the creation of a discernable public nuisance, for convicting prostitutes of criminal offenses. Whether this will translate into acceptance of the argument that prostitutes are, or can be, discriminated against as a group, remains to be seen. (p. 461) By 2006, a further shift was evident. ‘Prostitutes’ were considered a distinct group, and referred to as “sex-‐workers”, thereby referring them as separate from the political category “woman”. The new class of sex-‐worker were understood to face discrimination, not because they are women, but specifically because they sell sex: “First of all, the Subcommittee agrees that violence, discrimination and intimidation against individuals selling sexual services must never be tolerated” (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 85). This statement, while not directly contradicting Fraser’s conclusions, serves to reinforce an idea that people selling sexual services constitute a distinct group, separate from women as a political class. The 2006 subcommittee’s conclusions represent a significant shift away from Fraser’s, or a radical feminist analysis that the practice of prostitution itself constitutes discrimination and oppression of women, and that it is as much a gendered practice as it is classed and racialized. In both reports there is a message that prostitution is inevitable, although Fraser’s report addressed the vulnerability of impoverished and racialized women to involvement 60 in prostitution, and provided recommendations to relieve this vulnerability. Challenge, on the other hand, described prostitution as primarily a public health issue, and while the authors agreed that women living in poverty and racialized women are more likely to be criminalized, they did not seem to consider prostitution itself as indicative of women’s political and social inequality. Christine Overall (1992) engaged with arguments about what is (or is not) wrong with prostitution, and found that an argument to decriminalize and regulate prostitution as “sex work” amounts to essentializing: Prostitution is called "the oldest profession”, suggesting that women have always done it, will always do it, and will choose to do it, even if a full range of other options is made available. The implication is that there is something inherent in women and independent of sexist cultural conditions that makes us want to sell sexual services to men. (p. 719) She went on to argue: Prostitution epitomizes men's dominance: it is a practice that is constructed by and reinforces male supremacy, which both creates and legitimizes the "needs" that prostitution appears to satisfy as well as it perpetuates the systems and practices that permit sex work to flourish under capitalism. What is bad about prostitution, then, does not just reside in the sexual exchanges themselves, or in the circumstances in which they take place, but in capitalist patriarchy itself. (p. 724) To return to Challenge, the commission ultimately provided very little challenge to the status quo. However, the report did illustrate that little had changed in the conditions of 61 the lives of women in prostitution. For the most part, Challenge framed prostitution as within the remit of human rights discourse, detached from a structural analysis of women’s inequality. The majority view of the subcommittee was that, while rife with risks to the prostituted, prostitution is nevertheless a form of labour. The risks of violence and incidences of exploitation and trafficking, the majority proposed, could be (but were not) mitigated through general application of laws already in force. They were “unable to find an answer as to why [these laws] are rarely used to address such crimes” (Hanger & Maloney, 2006, p. 92), and in the end called for more research and discussion before changes could be made to the laws. The next section describe a brief history of harm reduction in Vancouver, and then how harm reduction has come to be applied to prostitution-‐related problems. Part 3. Harm Reduction in Vancouver: Health, History, Politics. Harm reduction, originally a set of policy and medical approaches problems related to drug addiction, is lately increasingly applied to prostitution-‐related problems. Vancouver officially adopted a harm reduction approach in 2000 with the implementation of a new municipal drug policy called A Framework for Action (MacPherson, 2001). I describe Vancouver’s practice of harm reduction earlier in this dissertation in regard to addiction, and engaged in a comprehensive critique in earlier work (Graham, 2007). Among the dramatic changes in Canada’s social and political infrastructure was the devolution of Federal support for social programs and welfare. In the contemporary moment, the language in the public discourse about prostitution, particularly in the DTES, frames prostitution not as a political or feminist issue, but as a public health problem. This framing is partly due to the relatively high incidence of drug addiction and sexually 62 transmitted diseases, (including HIV+) among women in prostitution compared to non-‐prostitute women (Shannon et al., 2009, p. 659). Political inequality of women to men is subsumed by the focus on health problems that harm reduction was developed to address, notably morbidity, mortality and social disorder (MacPherson, 2001). Thus, a focus on harm reduction is a reactive stance that offers some relief to individuals in the moment, but does not account for a longer-‐term goal of harm elimination. Vancouver has become a sort of petri dish for liberalized schemes of governance of the marginalized. Harm Reduction policy first emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Europe and the Netherlands as a medical response to the disorder, disease and the degradation of urban public spaces (particularly in urban concentrations of poverty) which were related to the use of illicit drugs, specifically heroin (Baker, Anderson, deVlaming, Hickey, & Ross, 1997; Inciardi & Harrison, 2000). In Vancouver, the first interventions were the introduction of methadone as a replacement for heroin, initiated in 1959 by Doctor Robert Halliday, and a needle exchange service initiated by John Turvey and the DTES Youth Activity Society in the late 1980s. In 1997, the City of Vancouver declared the DTES a “state of emergency” because of an alarming spike in HIV+ status and overdose deaths in the area. The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) formed and took action to draw public attention to the poverty and stigma which contributed to their social dislocation and consequent use of illicit drugs37 (MacPherson, 2001). The signing of the Vancouver Agreement in 2000 gave rise to the city’s Four Pillars Drug Policy38, which 37 Personal communication, Donald MacPherson, former Vancouver City Drug Policy Coordinator, Spring 2001. 38 “The Four Pillars” of Vancouver’s Drug policy are: Prevention and Education, Treatment, Law 63 focused first on the DTES, and set the policy scene for the establishment of Insite, which now supervises up to 800 injections a day. There are, broadly, two versions of harm reduction: the Dutch model and the Merseyside Model39. The Dutch Model, the one closest to Vancouver’s version of harm reduction, contends that drug use is inevitable; drug use itself is not harmful, but some activities and effects of drug use can be; and harm reduction is a set of strategies meant to reduce harmful or risky practices. Abstinence is not necessarily a goal of this model of harm reduction (MacPherson, 2001, p. 58). The Merseyside model, on the other hand, holds that drug use itself is harmful and utilizes harm reduction strategies as steps along a continuum toward eventual abstinence (O’Hare, 2007, p. 142). As in the Dutch model, Vancouver’s goals are to reduce public disorder, including public use of illicit drugs, and to reduce morbidity and mortality as a result of the use of illicit drugs. Abstinence is not necessarily a goal of Vancouver’s drug policies (MacPherson, 2001, p. 61). To these ends, then, interventions provided by medical bodies and social services agencies claimed to reduce harm caused by “the use and abuse of illicit narcotic drug use [sic]” (Baker et al., 1997), not the social and political causes of drug addiction. Like the western medical system upon which this approach is based, these techniques of harm reduction treat the immediate symptoms or consequences of addictive behaviours. These symptoms or consequences are named as: public disorder including litter of dirty needles Enforcement and Harm Reduction. Aspects of this policy were enacted from 2001 (MacPherson, 2001). I engaged in an extensive critique of this policy in my MA thesis (Graham, 2007). 39 Merseyside is a county in the Northwest of England, and includes the city of Liverpool. In the early 1990s, the local medical and law enforcement bodies, in response to increasing and devastating intravenous drug use, implemented a constellation of harm reduction interventions (www.addictioninfo.org/articles/256/1/Harm-Reduction-History-and-Definitions/Page1.Html). 64 and wrappers, property damage, theft, and public drug use; spread of blood-‐borne illness and disease; and overdose deaths (MacPherson, 2001, p. 53-‐54). In the spring of 2003, members of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, (VANDU) and neighbourhood allies opened an “illegal” injection site staffed voluntarily by VANDU members and a public health nurse. The municipal government of Mayor Larry Campbell (former City Coroner) and the Vancouver Police Department tolerated this temporary site for a few months, primarily because Insite was due to open in the fall of that year. The media of the time asserted that public opinion was strongly in favour of the establishment of a safe fix site for addicts. The supervised injection facility called “Insite”, was initially a four-‐year research project funded through Vancouver Coastal Health. The site , has renewed an exemption from Section 56 of the Controlled Substances Act40 and remains open as a health and research facility despite many attempts by the Federal Conservative government to force its closure. Research coming from Insite indicates that it has achieved some success in reducing morbidity and mortality, as well as decreasing public disorder (Kerr, Small, & Wood, 2005; Small, Palepu, & Tyndall, 2006; Wood, Mark, Zhang, Montaner, & Kerr, 2007; Strathdee & Pollini, 2007). This and some other state sanctioned harm reduction strategies seem to have also achieved some reduction of evidence of problematic public drug use. The popularity of harm reduction approaches in relation to drug users has sparked an interest in applying some of these tactics to work with prostituted women, and particularly those women involved in street-‐level 40 Section 56 of the Controlled Substances act prohibits activities pertaining to controlled substances (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/substancontrol/exemptions/index-eng.php July 20, 2014). Medical researchers may apply for an exemption for research purposes. 65 prostitution. Initially these women were targeted for harm reduction interventions because of problems related to their drug use (Boyd, 2004, 2008; Shannon, 2009). Clean needles and condoms remain an essential component of harm reduction supplies to women. In 1991, Susan Boyd of Simon Fraser University, along with service providers and women who lived in the DTES, founded “Drug and Alcohol Meeting Support” (DAMS) for women. This grassroots initiative was an early version of harm reduction, chiefly organized and operated by the women it was founded to serve—namely women, including new mothers, living with addictions (Boyd, 2008). DAMS initially operated as a volunteer-‐run initiative, providing meeting support and social connections for women. They struggled to obtain funding, and for a while had some help from the YWCA. By and by they partnered with Atira Housing for Women, and are presently funded by Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and operated out of the Three Bridges Community Health Centre. From the late 1990s through the 2000s, the drug of choice among drug users in the DTES shifted from heroin to crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine41. The term “crack whore” became an oft-‐heard pejorative in the service agencies and on the streets of the DTES. The proliferation of cheap potent stimulant drugs coupled with the rapid unraveling of Canada’s social safety net under a neoliberal regime created increasingly depraved conditions for the most marginalized citizens, particularly women42. Harm reduction seems to be the connective tissue between public health 41 Personal communication with former street nurse, January 2008; personal communication with long-time mental health advocate in DTES drop-in centre, November 2011. 42 Personal communication with former facilitator or women’s programs for VANDU, Nov. 2009; also, I have had recent conversations with a number of people who are residents or employees in the DTES, and they see this. 66 considerations of and approaches toward prostitution and law enforcement and legal considerations and approaches. Harm reduction is now part of the taken-‐for-‐granted discourse and action regarding drug use. Some activists and researchers still frame harm reduction as a form of systemic advocacy (for example, Osborn & Small, 2006), even though it is now firmly located and promoted by hegemonic institutions of power, particularly medicine and social services. There has been some criticism of both Insite and the ideology of harm reduction. Harm reduction has been analyzed as a form of social control and governmentality (Roe, 2005; Graham, 2007). Other researchers argue that harm reduction practices function essentially to “purify public spaces of drug users” (Fischer, Turnbull, Poland, & Haydon, 2004) and to contain their potential rebellion within a pathologized space of dependence (Roe, 2005). I have also argued that harm reduction participates in the reproduction of cultural and political structures of inequality (Graham, 2007), and by claiming to be “non-‐ideological” (Erickson, Riley, Cheung, & O’Hare, 1997; BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, 2004), harm reduction in fact promotes hegemonic demonizing (or at least patronizing) discourse about drug users and prostituted people. Specifically, one feature of my critique of harm reduction is that expectations of changing behaviours are placed on those who are most at risk of harm, rather than those who stand to profit materially from addiction or prostitution, namely, the dealers, johns, and traffickers. A parallel harm reduction approach to women in prostitution as to users of illicit drugs, would target the user (or the john). It would be he who would be expected to reduce his use of women; alter the manner in which he used women; consent to state or medical professional surveillance of his use of women; and accept alternatives to use in 67 place of women. People who use illicit drugs in public are expected to do all these things under a harm reduction regime. Of course, in the case of prostitution, it is the “commodity”, or the woman purchased for sex that is harmed, not the purchaser of the commodity Again, harm reduction demands that both the addict and the prostitute, those in danger or facing harm must change their behaviour, govern themselves, and submit to regimes of surveillance in order to benefit from harm reduction. In neither case are those who profit from, enforce or enable addiction or engagement in prostitution targeted or affected by harm reduction. 3.1 Harm Reduction and Health Research: Harm reduction is a model of intervention developed by medical professionals. It was always meant to curb mortality and morbidity, first from use of injection drugs, and now also from prostitution-‐related activities. Concerns about women’s health makes certain sense when thinking about harm reduction when applied to women in prostitution, as there are a number of illnesses and damages which occur as a result of activities involved in acts of prostitution. Melissa Farley’s research (2003a & b; 2004; 2005) reveals widespread incidence of post-‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among people engaged in prostitution. Her findings are reinforced by Jannit Rabinovitch’s (2004) observations of women who were members of PEERS: A number of medical problems have been connected to prostitution (Rechsteiner, 1999). Most of those who have been in prostitution for some time experience symptoms of sexual trauma. Mental health problems include depression, suicide attempts, panic attacks, traumatic stress, sleep disorders, flashbacks, and migraines (Smith, 1996; Rechsteiner, 1999; Benoit & Millar, 2001). People in prostitution commonly feel isolated, alienated, suicidal, are 68 alcohol or drug dependent, have eating disorders, self-‐mutilate, have difficulty concentrating, have gynecological problems, and sexual dysfunction. Many addicted prostitutes were not involved in substance abuse before entering prostitution. (p. 240) For some of these problems, harm reduction principles are appropriate, and the practice of “meeting women where they are at” with generosity and respect is a fundamental characteristic of both harm reduction and feminist anti-‐violence interventions. Beyond that, these two perspectives part ways ideologically and practically. Much health research attends to “social determinates of health”, and takes into account the particular barriers to health care and safety of racialized and impoverished women. However, researchers come to the DTES with hypothesis to prove, which may not be the same as the mission of the people or organizations they study. VANDU, for example, depends primarily on health research funding. VANDU initially had a class analysis, and their goals were to achieve not only access to health care, housing and social support for drug users, but recognition and respect for their humanity. Health research projects are much more narrowly focused, and often take focus away from the original mandate of the organization.43 A former employee of VANDU remembered an example of this kind of disconnect: A PhD candidate in UBC Nursing conducted research with the women of VANDU about the use of filters in crack pipes, and tried to promote the use of a filter other than steel wool. Women who were members of VANDU were hired as research assistants to hand out crack 43 Personal communication with former women’s program coordinator, VANDU, December 2009. 69 kits (a glass tube to use as a pipe and a filter) and to ask other women drug users what kinds of filters they used. The research assistants then encouraged them to use something other than steel wool (particles of which are inhaled when used as a filter). In the process of the research, women provided lots and lots of other stories about the relationship between incest and sexual violence as a passage to drug use, about internal immigration within Canada, [and] current patterns of violence against women. They exposed all this with their stories, but there was no use of these womens’ experiences…The facts they told of their lives was just a way to create a sociological map, it wasn't the bottom line of the research. It reinforced what I knew about violence against women, about prostitution, and about drug use44. The information these women provided about their experiences, then, about their path to drug use, their victimization by men, the effects of poverty and racism on their lives, was rich and compelling. Had these dimensions of their narratives been understood by the researcher as more than merely contextual data, these stories might have provided a spark for women to organize together to create interventions helpful to reduce their drug use, or make more opportunities for education, work or housing. The researchers had simultaneously given voice to and suppressed the experiences of the participants – enacting a “politics of containment in which visibility can bring increased surveillance” (Collins cited in Naples, 2003, p. 166). The material reality of their lives was not the focus of the research—the focus of the 44 Personal communication, former women’s program coordinator with VANDU, December 2009. 70 research was how to promote use of filters for crack pipes. Stable operational funding for support services is scarce, however, so VANDU and other community organizations in the DTES depend on funding derived by cooperating with studies framed as health interventions. This financial support comes with conditions and in effect redirects the mandate of the organizations and the energies of staff and members to match the aims of the research projects which provide funding. At present, many shelters and services in Vancouver now claim a harm reduction approach to their service provision, in collaboration with medical research entities. To some extent, the services agencies have become governmental. That is, they receive funding from bodies which operate at arm’s length from the state, but in so doing are diverted toward the agenda of the research (and funding) body, and away from an agenda of political critique and structural challenge. Harm reduction, because it claims a ‘non-‐judgmental’ stance in regard to drug use and prostitution, can be understood as a technique enacting a liberal or negative conception of freedom. A negative conception of freedom understands freedom as the individual being unrestrained in their choices and activities (Quincy, n.d.; Day & Brodsky, 2002). This liberal understanding of freedom fits with the laissez-‐faire libertarian economic and social and fiscal policies of both BC provincial Liberal government and the Federal Conservatives. In the next section I shift focus to a wider policy context that is being shaped by neoliberal45 ideologies of which harm reduction and legalization of 45 Neoliberalism is “a loosely-knit body of ideas which became very influential during the 1980s and which were premised on a (slight) rethinking and a (substantial) reassertion of classical liberalism” (Marshall, 1998, p. 445). It promotes the idea of the autonomous individual, laissez-faire capitalism, and in general, negative (without 71 prostitution are a part. I begin with a brief note about the deterioration of the Canadian welfare state and take note of policy orientations of transnational organizations such as the United Nations and the International Labour Organization (ILO) that reflect the rise of neoliberal ideology. Part 4. Neoliberal Shifts at Home and Abroad As was noted earlier, in 1995, the Federal government repealed the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) and replaced it with the Health and Social Transfer (Day, 2006). The CAP was the mechanism by which federal revenue was distributed to the provinces as both cash and tax points,. A certain amount of the tax transfer was allocated to welfare, health, and social programs, and Provincial governments were required to meet a set of conditions of distribution in order to qualify for receipt of these funds. After 1995, these conditions were relaxed. Provinces received less money, over all, and the conditions to use a defined proportion for social programs were no longer in force. As a result, social assistance and civil legal aid experienced a sharp decline in federal funding with devastating effects, particularly for impoverished women (Day & Brodsky, 2007, p. viii). In 2003, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women found that the cuts to Canada’s social programs as a result of the repeal of the CAP contravened the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and since that time, Canada has come under sharp criticism from the United Nations (Day & Brodsky, 2006, 2009). The resulting increase in “feminization of poverty” has contributed to conditions that force women into prostitution (Day, 2008, p. restraints) conceptions of freedom. 72 13). West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) released their CEDAW report card on the BC Government in October of 201346, indicating that little had changed in this regard. The repeal of CAP and subsequent federal and provincial tax and social program reforms indicate a shift from the post-‐war social welfare state to a free-‐market laissez-‐faire approach to economic and social development. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms articulates substantive rights and of citizens that are, or were, made possible through a comprehensive “social safety net”. Formerly, Canada’s social programs, while certainly not perfect, nevertheless provided a limited measure of security that (even if only partially) enabled historically disadvantaged groups to gain access to the means to achieve equality rights. Jurisprudence under The Charter’s section 15 expresses a commitment to substantive equality, which recognizes that “inequality is disproportionately experienced by groups in society that are vulnerable to marginalization and discrimination…” (Day, 2008, p. 11). In the face of an increasingly globalized economy, “free-‐trade” agreements and other liberalized approaches to economic and social policies, women disadvantaged by structural class and racialized discrimination find themselves teetering on the edge of ever-‐widening cracks in the social infrastructure. As government fiscal conservatism advanced in North America, labour markets were deregulated, and social responsibilities shifted from the government to the individual (Griffin & Pulkingham, 2009). As women’s resources centres, anti-‐poverty organizations and feminist anti-‐violence centres faced increased demands by 46 October 18, 2013: http://www.westcoastleaf.org/index.php?newsid=241&pageID=1 73 the government to professionalize and adhere to state-‐imposed sanctions, they became increasingly restricted in their ability to mobilize for political action and systemic advocacy (Bonisteel & Green, 2005). Globally, both corporate and military imperialism operate in tandem with market liberalization, and women are placed in increasingly tenuous economic conditions rendering them increasingly vulnerable to forced migration and trafficking. Those who think of prostitution as a form of labour do not directly address these forces, but describe these indirect forms of trafficking as “migration”, and argue that women who leave their home countries in search of paid work, including “sex work” are in fact exercising agency and enjoying the freedom to explore the world (for example Lim, 1998; Agustin, 2007; Brewis & Linstead, 2000). In 1998, for example, the International Labour Organization (ILO) released a report about prostitution in Southeast Asia (Lim, 1998). Studies represented in the report recommended that prostitution be recognized as a form of labour and that policy makers develop schemes for states to regulate, monitor and tax the prostitution industry (Lim, 1998). Noting that prostitution “is a survival mechanism for coping with poverty and a method of compensating for lack of social welfare and income maintenance programs in South East Asian countries” (Karandikar, 2008, p. 2) the ILO maintains that dispassionate legislative and policy approaches to legitimate prostitution as “sex work” would reduce the stigma those in prostitution face, and provide mechanisms to increase safety and health outcomes for them. Though the ILO agrees that 98% of all those who are trafficked for prostitution are girls and women, they note that trafficking for prostitution accounts for only 43% of all forms of trafficking (Lim, 2007). Lim decries the abolitionist “approach to 74 end demand in the sex market”, and claims that such an approach does not adequately address human rights concerns. Lim, speaking as the ILO, agrees with abolitionist assertions that “we need to address the areas of vulnerability [and] the reasons why people migrate and are trafficked and the reasons why other people are able to traffic them” (p. 1). However, she conversely posits that some women enter prostitution voluntarily, and argues that “morality-‐based prohibitionist arguments” do not account for a human rights discourse (p. 3). Such arguments illustrate a neo-‐liberal approach to problems related to economic globalization. Though there is some acknowledgement that patterns of immigration and migration are responses to structural forces of domination – the ILO’s proposed solution targets the individual and argues that reducing stigma and legitimating sexual exploitation as a form of labour will improve safety for these individuals. By contrast, other researchers perceive these patterns of migrations and immigration as indicative of increased domination of the south by the global north, and call into question the increased visibility in prostitution zones of migrant and immigrant women, or women who have clearly been trafficked for prostitution (Farley, 2006; Perrin, 2010). Vanwesenbeeck (1994) wrote, “Development of increasing mobility and migration of women in prostitution is worldwide” (p.10), and this trend seems not to have abated (Agustin, 2007; Malarek, 2009). This increased migration presents states that have legalized prostitution with particular challenges. Acknowledging that prostitution generated a great deal of income unavailable to states as part of the gross domestic product (GDP), the ILO report also called for labour rights and benefits to sex workers, including improved working conditions through regulatory schemes (Lim, 1998; Raymond, 1999). These recommendations, however, 75 cannot be met consistently even in jurisdictions which have legalized prostitution (including Australia, new Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, and 11 counties in Nevada, US). In these areas, the state is in the uncomfortable position of normalizing prostitution while dealing with the attendant flourishing of illegal brothels, and rise in trafficking and procuring activities of organized crime (Raymond, 2013; Jeffreys, 2009; Brents & Hausbeck, 2001). Revenue from prostitution still accounts for an enormous unrecognized contribution to the GDP of many developing countries (Raymond, 1999; Lim, 2007). Women from Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe move to developed nations where prostitution is legalized, and send money to family in their home countries. Once they enter prostitution, their ability to get out is extremely constrained: As more women worldwide find themselves in dead-‐end situations and migration because of economic necessity becomes more and more common for prostitution all over the world, the exploitive and often abusive grip of traders on prostitution becomes stronger. (Vanwesenbeeck, 1994, p. 11) The United Nations Palermo Protocol (2000) advised states to adopt strong measures to interfere with the demand for prostitution: States Parties shall take or strengthen legislative or other measures, such as educational, social or cultural measures, including through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of person, especially women and children, that leads to trafficking. (cited in Jeffreys, 2009, p.170) 76 In 1999, the Netherlands further liberalized prostitution laws in a bid to legitimate the prostitution industry, and to contain its operations such that the influence of organized crime could be reduced or eliminated. In an attempt to regulate and control criminal activity associated with prostitution, then, they adopted a legalization scheme that applied the recommendations put forward in the 1998 ILO report. The Dutch approach was initially touted as an effective way to legitimate prostitution as work, reduce stigma and improve safety for women in prostitution: [I]n October 1999 the Netherlands legalized brothels [with the] stated aims…to control child prostitution, to guarantee cleaner and safer working conditions for their thirty thousand prostitutes, and to control the recent increase in illegal immigrants (Deutsch, 1999).…New standards will set permits, locations, and working conditions. Amsterdam has allowed window prostitution, a quasi-‐ decriminalized form of prostitution whereby independent prostitutes can rent window space in a certain district and advertise in newspapers and fliers. Its regulations have long been cited by decriminalization proponents as a successful model. (Brents & Hausbeck, 2001, p. 310) Within 10 years, however, it became apparent that the Dutch model was a failure. Amsterdam, and other prostitution zones in the Netherlands became overwhelmed by an exponential increase in illegal brothels, on-‐street prostitution, and trafficking. Organized crime has a strong grip on the supply side [of prostitution]. Huge amounts of profit go into the hands of the mafia, criminals who either reinvest by enslaving more people or sustain other illegal markets…the goal 77 is now to restrict and reduce prostitution as much as possible in order to cut the financial supply for other criminal activities. (Kovari & Pruyt, 2012, p. 3) Recently, Amsterdam city council took steps to dismantle this “successful model”: In Amsterdam—where the spectacle of half-‐naked women pouting behind shopfront windows is a city trademark—the link between prostitution and organised crime has proved durable. Efforts to break it have been a “complete failure”, says Lodewijk Asscher, a deputy mayor who has led the city hall’s effort to buy up and transform much of the red-‐light district. (The Economist, 2008, October 30, para. 5; see also Jeffreys, 2009; Foster, 2011, December 16; Bindel, 2013, February 2) In light of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision to strike down Canada’s prostitution laws, Canada is now in a position to learn from the experiences of jurisdictions which have adopted a variety of legislative approaches to prostitution. Representatives of the Federal Conservative government claim to agree with the Nordic Model, but the social welfare policies and punitive state regulations imposed on women’s advocacy groups indicate otherwise. Increased illegal prostitution activity has occurred everywhere prostitution has been decriminalized, except for those states which have provided adequate social and housing supports for prostituted people to leave prostitution. Contemporary promoters of decriminalization and harm reduction approaches to prostitution and pimping claim to eschew regulatory schemes or legislative reforms, yet nevertheless advance recommendations for fairly complex regulatory schemes and legislative reforms (Pivot, 2006; Benoit & Shaver, 2006: Jeffrey & Sullivan, 2009). The repeal of CAP is a symptom of the liberalization of international trade and 78 attendant devolution of Canada’s commitment to social programs. Even as social supports are diminishing, responsibility for services to impoverished and marginalized women is off-‐loaded from the state to private interests. In the absence of adequate welfare, housing, and health care options, women will turn to prostitution in order to bridge the gap. Fraser’s report acknowledged this trend, and advised the state to devote more resources to education, housing, social supports and health care. The Conservative government that came to power shortly after Fraser’s report was released took the decision to implement only those recommendations that were inexpensive in the immediate. Over time, fiscal conservatism and liberalization of trade policies combined, with the result that the state eschewed responsibility for social supports, offloading these burdens gradually to the individual. Thus, instead of recommending increased government responsibility for provision adequate services and funding to marginalized women, the 2006 Challenge report promoted harm reduction. From the bad trick sheets, free condoms, drop-‐in centres for women in impoverished neighbourhoods, to dramatically reduced arrests for prostitution-‐related offences, and now the repeal of Canada’s prostitution laws, these actions (and inactions) have the effect of essentially handing responsibility back to the victims of social retrenchment. Summary This chapter offered a context for the problem this research addresses. I began with a brief history of prostitution and reviewed some of the key legislative reforms and attendant activities that contributed to the writing of the 1985 Fraser Report and the 2006 Challenge for Change document. Prostitution-‐related groups emerged during this time of significant policy activity and these groups are introduced as well as some related research, 79 particularly into the issue of stigmatization. I then considered how harm reduction as a key social services policy came into being and discussed some of the attendant research associated with harm reduction. I concluded the chapter by locating these shifts in discourse and policy as part of broader neoliberal agenda. In the next chapter, I discuss the conceptual framework for analyzing and understanding this history, interviews with front-‐line workers, and other sources of data. 80 Chapter Three: Conceptual Framework The theoretical orientation I have adopted in this chapter is largely premised on a radical feminist approach. This approach is informed by many years of front-line work and activism, and the particular political education from my membership in a radical feminist anti-violence collective47. I interrogate my research questions with a conceptual frame that relies on theoretical ideas about freedom, choice, social construction, agency, political thought and action. The thinkers upon whom I particularly rely are Hannah Arendt and Pierre Bourdieu, as well as contributions from other theorists including Nancy Fraser (1987, 1997, 2009), Susan Bickford (1993, 1996), Beverley Skeggs (1997) and Naomi Zack (2005). I also look to Simone de Beauvoir’s phenomenological study The Second Sex (1948, 2009; and Rigo, 2003) and to the feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith (1987). I do so to better understand women’s critical analysis of the influences on their work by the patriarchal, capitalist and colonial state. In this chapter, then, I describe a theoretical terrain of the particularly gendered type of workplace learning engaged in through anti-violence work, social advocacy and (in some cases) political organizing and activism. In the first part of this chapter I sketch out the concepts I used to make sense of interview and documentary data, in relation to social policies of harm reduction and the analysis and understandings of women in front-line work. My aim was to reveal some of the main convergences and contradictions between these harm reduction and women’s services or feminist 47 The importance of this collective to the formation my political analysis and intellectual development cannot be overstated. 81 anti-violence work. This chapter also described the path (and some of the politics) by which harm reduction developed from grassroots activist groups into social service and medical schemes of regulation. Key Concepts I use Arendt, Bourdieu and other thinkers’ ideas for the key theoretical concepts of this study: freedom (Arendt, 1954/1968; Beauvoir, 1948/2009), choice and reproduction (Arendt, 1954/1968; Skeggs,1997; Bourdieu, 2000; Naples, 2003), political action, dichotomies of public and private, personal and political (Arendt, 1958/1998; Hanisch,1970; Benhabib, 1993) and Bourdieu’s notion of positional suffering (Bourdieu, 2000). All of these concepts are woven together and help me to interpret the data of this study: the interviewees’ narratives, the spare, poignant stories found in the Pivot affidavits, and government reports and policies. In the current moment, harm reduction is held up as the most benevolent and humane approach to many social problems, and proponents claim that this approach respects the choices and agency of those who are its targets. The medical model of addiction treatment claims harm reduction is one of the “best practices” for the most marginalized residents of the pathologized urban space. Following a brief definition of “evidence-based practice” in comparison to praxis (concerning the treatment of addiction), I then discuss how harm reduction practices may relate to Arendt’s work on freedom and action. These ideas help to understand the current forms and functions of identity politics in operation in the discourse of prostitution or sex work. Seyla Benhabib (1993) shows how Arendt’s work can inform a feminist critique of the formation of “identity” and of human rights discourse. I also turn to Susan Bickford (1996) to further examine the Arendtian notion of “action” as speaking and acting in “the public space of appearance” (Arendt, 1958/1998), the corollary action of listening, and the nature of “dissonant democracy” 82 (Bickford, 1996). Some forms of feminist discourse assert the notion that one can “self-identify” in order to claim membership in particular political categories. The act of claiming an identity, in this analysis, is enough to confer upon the claimant the characteristics of those categories, and of being in solidarity with others who share membership. While claiming, (or rather, not denying) membership of an oppressed category to which one does not belong can be a courageous political act, at other times such an act can serve to render invisible those whose lives are defined by their class48. The political categories within which we are born, and to which our families, education, and cultural milieu further shape us, determine in large measure how we understand others and ourselves. Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, reproduction, and positional suffering helpfully reveal and define processes by which different capitals are taken up as bodily dispositions and reproduced. Simone de Beauvoir’s foundational work The Second Sex provides further evidence and theoretical grounding for these reproductive social processes as they pertain specifically to females. This chapter, then interrogates different meanings of “identity” and “the self”, seeks to use different but collaborative ideas of freedom, agency, choice, action, reproduction, the public and democracy in order to construct a way to hear the research data as a conversation between actors—these women on the front lines, and the women in prostitution who are not always, (or not yet), but may yet become allies. 48 A common tactic to silence, dismiss, or threaten women is to use the label “dyke” as a pejorative. If a heterosexual woman says, “so what if I am? My argument is still sound”, or something like that, she is acting in alliance with lesbians. If, on the other hand, a man claims to be a feminist, and insists on access to feminist events, this is an adversarial act. It is not enough to proclaim oneself an ally of an oppressed group – one must be invited. 83 Evidence-Based Practice versus Dalectical-Materialist Praxis I discussed praxis briefly in Chapter One—broadly, it is the process by which a theory is realized (and enhanced) through practice. Arendt (1958) revived Aristotle’s notion of praxis— action that humans do to establish and sustain the realm of human affairs (p.13). It is by speaking and acting together, she wrote, that we produce (and are entangled in) the web of human relations—the product of humanity’s capacity for freedom (Arendt, 1958, pp. 233-234). Paulo Freire (1970) implemented praxis somewhat differently, calling it the only means by which the oppressed can achieve liberation (p. 33), and using it as a pivotal concept in the development of his pedagogical approach. Can harm reduction be understood as a form of praxis? It may seem so, at first, but I argue that the process of developing harm reduction policies as “evidence-based practice” is different from praxis. Proponents of harm reduction describe it as pragmatic, non-ideological and “value-free” (Duff, 2004; Erikson et al.,1997), and evidence-based. Evidence-based medicine is “the use of mathematical estimates of the risk of benefit and harm, derived from high-quality research on population samples, to inform clinical decision-making in the diagnosis, investigation of management of individual patients” (Greenhalgh, 2010). Harm reduction, then, is enacted upon principles derived from medical and academic research. Researchers begin with a hypothesis or a question for which they seek proof or answers, and then apply those proofs to the situation or problem they study. Praxis, on the other hand, follows a different logic. It might be also phrased as “practice-based evidence”. Effective anti-violence programs and interventions (and addiction recovery programs, for that matter) are based in peer-support and mutual aid, the kind of praxis which Freire discussed and promoted in his teaching. In short, those who are most affected by the social 84 problem work together to develop theories that they then practice. It is, then, those who are most affected by the social problem who seek collectively to develop theory and practices about their own lives, rather than researchers or other professionals seeking to prove an hypothesis from a vantage point outside of (above, often) that class. This is not to say that evidence-based practice is necessarily the opposite of praxis, but I do think there is a failure of academics and other researchers to fully listen and attend to the subjects of their research. I turn now to Arendt to illustrate how her thinking can be useful to understand how harm reduction and prostitution operate to constrain women’s freedom. Arendt’s thinking about constraint as a necessary condition for freedom, the web of human relations, and the public space of appearance as political have relevance to my study. Hannah Arendt: Public and Private; Freedom and Responsibility In The Human Condition, (1958/1998) Arendt developed her thinking about the Aristotelian notion of praxis to examine further the idea of freedom as action in “the public space of appearance”. For Arendt, the three components of the vita activa were autonomous, but linked. Labour is about sustaining life, work is the fabrication of the structures that maintain worldliness, and action is the activity that “discloses the identity of the agent, affirms the reality of the world, and actualizes our capacity for freedom” (p. 49). Action was synonymous in Arendt’s thought with praxis, in that it depended upon human plurality—each person, acting in the space of public appearance, contributed something unique to the political public sphere, and their contribution was important to the attainment of freedom. “Action, as distinguished from fabrication, is never possible in isolation; to be isolated is to be deprived of the capacity to act” (p. 188). Therefore, no one is inessential, each actor contributes to the whole public. Each 49 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/ 85 person in the public sphere shares common conditions and characteristics—and common cause, though each is unique in their perspective and contributions. For her, praxis, or public action, is the highest and most important level of public life. Freedom, though achieved in relation to others, is bound to natality, which is a capacity of each individual: “as an inner capacity of man [sic] is identical with the capacity to begin, just as freedom as a political reality is identical with a space of movement between men [sic]” (Arendt, 1948/1994, p. 473). Arendt determined that it is our human capacity for renewal and beginning again that enables us to rise above historical forces, institutions and practices that humans have created—and that only in taking action, each unique individual together with others, can we achieve freedom. In Arendt’s considerations, too, “fences of laws” and our negotiations or relations with them are essential to freedom (Arendt, 1948/1994, p. 466). Restraints, in an Arendtian conception of freedom, are essential to the experience of freedom. Feminist anti-violence work is a significant enactment of politicizing the personal, exposing the false dichotomy of public and private. This approach seems contradictory to some aspects of Arendt’s philosophical framework. In The Human Condition (1958/1998) in particular, but as well in Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought (1954), Arendt makes and maintains space between the political—the public space of appearance and action, and the personal—the private sphere of necessary labour—and claims action in this public space is chiefly what separates us from the animals, who also labour for survival. Feminists, especially “second-wave” feminists, have leveled criticism against this division, and the obstacles such divisions place between women: [Feminist historian Gerda Lerner] showed that the division of women into private and public has been fundamental to the patriarchy; the latter being prostitutes; 86 women that, like so many public men, although much less freely than them, exchange being for money. (Garretas, n.d., para. 2) As Garretas mentions, an old-fashioned term for women in prostitution is “public women”. Such a designation speaks not of her capacity to engage in action in Arendt’s public space of appearance. Rather it indicates that in public, she “exchange[s] being for money”. The notion of prostituted women as public women, and the married woman as chiefly (or solely) responsible for the private sphere is parallel to the dichotomous idealized woman—the “Madonna-whore”. Prostituted women, then, are not identified as “public” because they are part of the public realm as actors, but because they are there for the consumption of the public man. A “public house”, or a pub was open only to men; the only women allowed in the pubs (in Quebec up until the 80s!) were those women who were, like whiskey, there for the consumption of men. Women in prostitution then, appear in some cases in public space, but only insofar as they are commodities to be consumed in men’s space, which men design to their ends and their politic. Patriarchal capitalism culturally reinforces and structures men’s sense of entitlement to sexual access to women’s bodies. Arendt’s thinking about politics, freedom, the “web of human relations” and her clear distinction between public and private seems contrary, even oppositional to the sociological50 and feminist politicizing of personal or private spheres. However, Benhabib (1993) argues that while Arendt may indeed have been less than sympathetic to feminism, “a critical exchange between Hannah Arendt’s political philosophy and contemporary feminist theory may be illuminating on both sides” (p. 98). Many thinkers at all points along the political spectrum, 50 In The Sociological Imagination (1959), sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote: “Neither the life of an individual, nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both” (p. 3). 87 writes Benhabib, maintain that some boundaries between public and private spheres are essential to preserving human freedom (p. 99). Our private lives, intimate relationships, and self-understanding are conditioned by the political structures within which we live. Arendt separated the condition of labour from the condition of work, with labour being that which was devoted to bodily functions—and in the ancient world, done for the master by slaves and women (Arendt, 1958/1994, p. 72). Though they were not free, that is, acting in public, the freedom of others depended upon their labour, so in that sense, the private sphere of the household was also a place of politics. Then again, the master himself was not free, either. His ability to appear in public in relation to others was made possible and protected by the labours of his slaves, or wife. The insistence of feminists to reveal how structures of power and domination are repeated and reinforced in private life may not be inconsistent with Arendt’s distinction between public and private. She maintained that the public sphere was one of association and collaboration, and the private sphere of the household was one of inequality reinforced by violence. Investigations into the forces that constrain women’s activities in public serve to reveal some of the more subtle ways in which democratic participation is still withheld from some people who may (or may not) be citizens, but are in effect stateless. Women in prostitution in Vancouver, while their voices are sought, and their stories revealed, are still not listened to, and the web of human relations for them is, in the current political moment, much more of a trap than a safety net. In the Greek polis, there was difference and diversity, but not hierarchy, so much, because it was men who were out in public, not women or slaves. Even though there are, in the Western world, more public and political actors who are female, of colour, and working-class, the possibility to engage politically in public is still no guarantee of equality. In some ways, 88 however, there may now be greater potential for dominated groups to gain emancipation when acting and speaking together in public (Moynagh, 1997). The political “public space of appearance” for Arendt, is not just the physical space where people are together, like a sidewalk or a shopping mall51 (though it may come into existence there). The public realm is created when people gather together for the purpose of acting (Benhabib, 1997). Even though they are not open for just anyone to come, then, the transition house or the advocate’s office are public spaces of appearance, in that they are places where women come together and “make themselves present to each other”, through speech and action (Bickford, 1996, p. 64). The kitchen of the transition house is a public space, because it is where women appear to each other, share their stories and engage in collaborative action— sometimes as domestic as planning the chores for the week or cooking together or as daring as telling the truth about the male violence they have experienced, going to a woman’s former home to retrieve some of her belongings, or planning a public action. On the other hand, the line-up at the food bank or the drop-in center donation room is not quite public, for the same reason that the shopping mall is not a public space—the uniqueness of each person’s humanity and potential for action has been erased. They are together, but isolated from each other, not in communication together so much as they are in competition for access to meagre resources. Arendt drew a distinction between types of public and private space as well, which may be useful to consider in recognizing the relevance of her thought with feminist theory. She warned that the political-public was a different type of space than the social-public (Benhabib, 1993, p. 106). Central to Arendt’s thought was the notion that plurality is a characteristic all 51 Shauna Butterwick, (personal communication, February, 2014) reminded me that shopping malls are privately owned, so not strictly public. Though they are places where people, strangers to each other, are together, merely being a place where people are together does not constitute a public space, in the Arendtian sense. 89 humans shared. It is this “unique distinctness” that we disclose to each other through action and speech “in order to live as citizens” (Moynagh, 1997, p. 29). Plurality is different from “individuality”, for Arendt. For her, it was important that actors seek not only to reveal themselves, but to seek to recognize and understand the perspectives of others. So, though humans are distinct from each other Arendt had little patience for the “cult of individuality” (Benhabib, 1993, 106). She considered the liberal ideal of the lone individual to represent disengagement. And to Arendt, disengagement from the world, from rules, from interaction with others, is not freedom. The next section looks at identity and competing notions of identity formation in order to further understand distinctions between political and social, private and intimate. Identity—Competing Notions of Formation and Implications Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside (DTES), though not the focus of this study, nevertheless serves as a backdrop for the interventions and activism familiar to several of the women who participated in my research. In some ways, it is a city-state of its own, functioning as part-but-not-part of Vancouver, and governed within itself. The DTES is home to a handful of organizations that now operate the bulk of the social and housing services available to the most impoverished and pathologized residents of the city. These residents are variously identified by such labels as “hard to house”, “intravenous drug users (IDUs)”, “mental health consumers”, and/or “sex-trade workers”. Once someone is connected to one of these organizations, they access any number of services and programs that essentially shape the recipient into a citizen of that nation-within-the-inner-city. These organizations provide services to people known not by their membership in a political class, such as women, Indigenous, and/or working-class or impoverished communities. 90 Rather, they are identified by (and as) current conditions of their lives. Political categories are neutralized, and they are known by identities such as “sex worker”, “intravenous drug users” or person with HIV/AIDS, (or more efficiently, they are SWs, IDUs, or PWAs). This process of atomizing or “separating out” people from the larger political categories to which they belong has the effect of also hiding or dismissing the points of solidarity they might share with the women working in the services they are accessing. Though I do not for a minute believe it is the intent of the agencies to do so, this process is not only one of division and separation, but also of dehumanizing. Those who are in need of support are perpetually in a state of dependence without responsibility, or, “innocence”, as Arendt wrote of European refugees (including Jews) in the inter-war years of the last century: “Innocence, in the sense of a complete lack of responsibility was the mark of their rightslessness as it was the seal of their loss of political status” (1994, p. 295). Arendt might well have been writing about the internally displaced persons52 now residing in the DTES, maintained by the plethora of social services and soup kitchens. Of the conditions she described prior to the grip attained by totalitarian governments, Arendt noted that “[S]ociety was pervaded by a liberal individualism which wrongly believed that the state ruled over mere individuals” (Arendt, 1994, p 231). In fact, she continued, the state ruled over classes, but sought to maintain power by keeping the nation in a “state of social atomization” (p. 231). A similar state of social atomization, I argue, is manifest in the provision of harm reduction services, and other social and legal policies targeted toward prostituted women and 52 By “internally displaced”, I refer mainly to Aboriginal people, who make up perhaps 30% of the population of the DTES, and account for only 3% of the population of Canada as a whole. Many come to the neighbourhood from impoverished reserves, so many, in fact, that the neighbourhood is referred to as “the urban reservation” (CS, political activist and Aboriginal youth support worker. Personal communication, February, 2010). 91 people addicted to illicit drugs. Harm reduction ideology constructs the notion that “individuals choose” to use drugs, or to sell sex—even if society finds those activities troubling or distasteful—and should be accorded respect and dignity for their “choices”. There is no social context for how their choices have been configured, or which regimes of power operate to normalize the constrained conditions within which the ‘service recipients’ must exist. It is a difficult place for a front-line worker to be, having concern for the well-being of the people who use these services, yet under harm reduction, having to accept a certain (undefined) level of harm as the inevitable lot of the type people they serve. These people are the de-politicised sex worker, the drug addict, the “mental health consumer”. They are defined by the activities they take up to contend with the pain of oppression, not by their (economic, racial or sex) class locations. The individual activity-based identifying labels (drug user, sex worker, mental health consumer) hide the potential solidarity that could be shared by the women needing help and the women providing services. All of the women providing services shared with the women to whom they provided service membership in the sex class ‘female’, and attendant experiences based on their membership to that political category. Were that common life condition emphasized, the potential for collective shared analysis and action might be greater than it seems currently to be. “Identity” is often thought of as something that individuals take up. It is common to see that individuals “self-identify”, as a member of a group or as an individual. Identity is something that someone may define for themself, based on their observations or ‘feelings’, and then ‘perform’ or enact as an individual. This conception of identity does not account for social forces and structures which define identities or differentiate between identities. Nor does it account for power inequalities that are accorded to members of identified classes. Naomi Zack (2005) suggests instead this understanding of identity: 92 For a feminist social theorist, identities are not things in theorists or other women, insofar as the identities are oppressive (and critical theory is about what is oppressive) but circumstances and situations that theorists try to understand, with goals of changing them. (p. 73) Zack goes on to say that only when we understand identities as “external and situational”, that it becomes possible for individuals to change their identities (pp. 74-75), not by merely choosing another, but by engaging with the external and situational conditions within which identity is formed, and undertaking to change those. It is important to also note that these conditions, because they are in the material, political and social world, must be changed by means of collective action. This is where Bourdieu comes in. In the following section, I discuss Bourdieu’s concepts of the habitus, social reproduction and symbolic violence in order to more clearly reveal what I mean by the contradictory promises of harm reduction. His thinking was helpful in order to understand the similarities and differences between my interview respondents and Pivot’s affiants, and how to listen to the conversation in which their stories engaged. Bourdieu—Habitus, Reproduction, Symbolic Violence and Misrecognition Arendt defines power as “acting together” (Moynagh, 1997, p. 33). It is achieved, like freedom, by acting in concert with each other, and is different from force: “While violence can destroy power, it can never become a substitute for it” (Arendt, 1958/1994, p. 202). Her theories about what she saw as uniquely human characteristics of plurality and capacity to “start over” (natality) offer a way to understand and interpret the perceptions and actions of others in relation to ourselves. A limitation of Arendt’s thought is that she does not acknowledge that differences between people are also hierarchically organized. Even when acting together in the public space 93 of appearance, there are differentials between individuals based upon the political categories to which they belong, and the hierarchy is consistent in that white, middle-class males occupy the top spot, and wield the most power, which they can maintain by force. Therefore, I find that Bourdieu’s structural materialist analysis of class structure and reproduction adds a helpful dimension to Arendt’s important understanding of the ways political resistance and action arises and grows. Bourdieu’s concept of the habitus helps us see how structures of domination are continually reproduced, and how dominant classes maintain power. Bourdieu’s argument that we live within the parameters of our habitus, as our habitus is also in us, offers a challenge for us to question dispositions and values we take for granted. Habitus is neither a result of free will, nor determined by structures, but created by a kind of interplay between the two over time: dispositions that are both shaped by past events and structures, and that shape current practices and structures and also, importantly, that condition our very perceptions of these. (Bourdieu, 1984, p. 170, cited in “Bourdieu and Habitus” n.d.) The habitus, then, seems self-evident, and through it, durable forms of classism, sexism and racism are “inscribed in the objectivity of institutions” (Bourdieu, 2000, p. 108). It is because they are so deeply inscribed—in fact, “normal”—that we mistakenly assume they are “natural”. Bourdieu sought to reveal the naturalizing processes of class reproduction (Bourdieu, 1984). Not content to reveal systems of domination, he also exhorted those who have more cultural capital and influence, to act in the interests of interfering with inequality and reproductive domination (Bourdieu, 2000). In so doing, he offered criticism not only of the structures of domination themselves, but of those who critiqued these structures in ways that 94 were problematic in themselves: One kind of feminist critique which tends to make the female body, the female condition, or women’s lower status a pure product of performative social construction and which, forgetting that it is not sufficient to change language or theory to change reality (the typical illusion of the lector) uncritically attributes political efficacy to textual critique. While it never does harm to point out that gender or race are social constructs, it is naïve, even dangerous, to suppose and suggest that one only has to ‘deconstruct’ these social artifacts, in a purely performative celebration of resistance, in order to destroy them. (p. 108) In this passage, Bourdieu offers a criticism of the postmodern convention of “deconstruction” as an appropriate response to social inequality. He agrees that gender and race are social constructs, rather than innate or essential traits, and that revealing them as constructed is an important part of achieving equality. However, he is critical of the belief that textual analysis or theoretical critique is sufficient to change structures of inequality. Bourdieu, in fact, particularly near the end of his life, urged those with some measure of power and influence (including journalists, teachers, academics) to use that influence to “throw grains of sand into the well-oiled machinery of complicity” (Bourdieu, 2003 p. 68). In other words, “speaking truth to power does not topple it” (Gershon, cited in Naples, 2003, p. 166). In order to change social constructs and processes of domination and inequality, then, it is not enough for individuals to ‘begin again’, but also to understand that identities—which are both socially constructed, externally imposed and taken up by individuals—are inscribed in institutions. Reproductive features of powerful institutions (education, medicine, media, and so on) are rendered invisible by general acceptance of them as natural—but Bourdieu’s work 95 consistently attended to these “big picture” orthodoxies and placed next to them the heterodoxies of art and sociological critique. He went from the macro, the taken-for-granted assumptions of the dominating classes (which reproduce behaviours, dispositions and tastes and so entrench hierarchies of inequality), to the micro, the habitus, or “structuring structure” within which we live and which lives in us. I found particularly resonant the concept of “positional suffering”, the tendency of the dispossessed to “match their expectations to their objective chances” (Bourdieu, 2000a, p. 213). Bourdieu said that this tendency is reinforced in the dominated by the dominating class who, by a form of “class chauvinism”, reinforce that they choose these deplorable conditions. Positional suffering also refers to that felt by those who occupy “an inferior, obscure position in a prestigious and privileged universe” (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 4). In both cases, the consolation for their suffering is something like “it could be worse, you could be like them”, or a base for criticism, “You shouldn’t complain” (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 4). Bourdieu cautioned against this response to the positional suffering of “the professions whose mission is to deal with poverty or talk about it” (Bourdieu, 1999, p. 5), because using material poverty as the only measure of suffering keeps us from seeing and understanding a particular view of it, and increases the social/political divisions between dominating and dominated groups (Bourdieu, 1999, pp. 3-5). In effect, processes of positional suffering are set in motion by various forms of “misrecognition”. The term misrecognition describes a form of forgetting, or taking the social world within which we live as normal, “the way things are supposed to be” (Webb, Schirato, & Danaher, 2002, p. xiv). It does not mean “unrecognized”, or “misunderstood” so much as it means a way of knowing others, and the world, in a sense, “too well, without objectifying distance” (Bourdieu, 2000, pp. 142-143). Those who promote a decriminalized and regulated 96 prostitution industry may be reasonably suspected of misrecognizing the phenomenon of prostitution as normal—indeed, it is sanitized and normalized by media, popular culture and the relentless marketing of harm reduction. An example of this normalization is the redefinition and “whitewashing” of the word “pimp”. A few days ago, I noticed a truck with a logo on the door advertising the services of a landscaping company called “Pimp My Lawn”. The word used to refer to a shadowy, menacing (usually racialized) man who exploited women, and sold them to other men who would sexually exploit them. Now it means to dress-up, enhance, or render a product desirable. Women in prostitution are, like the lawn, (or the cars in the reality TV show “Pimp my Ride”), passive objects upon which the pimp acts. He is the actor, they are the object of consumption to be dressed, defined and displayed for sale. No matter what she is called, no matter if her sex or race are covered over by the title “sex worker”, the categorizations of sex, race and class are still inscribed within the institution of prostitution, which operates to satisfy male demands for sexual access to women’s (and “feminized” men’s53) bodies. It is difficult indeed to perceive the prostituted women and the institution “with objectifying distance” —much less apprehending the conditions of their lives without the chauvinism that accepts positional suffering as inevitable and necessary, especially considering all the promotion of prostitution as a form of women’s agency, and at the same time an inevitable phenomenon—“the oldest profession”. Of course when one defines prostitution as inevitable, the idea of choice becomes moot. I discuss this contradiction in the following section. Benevolent Dominion over the “Fallen Women”: Bourdieu describes ways in which 53 Most prostituted people are women, but there are some men who are prostituted, as well. These men are usually young men and boys; sometimes they are cross-dressers or male-to-female transsexuals. They are “feminized” or seen as subordinate, just as women are. The overwhelming majority of sex buyers are men, whether the prostituted person is female or male. 97 historically marginalized or powerless groups are maintained in positions of subordination, by people who are members of the dominating class, and particularly those who would describe themselves as sympathetic or allies. The promotion by the dominating classes of a libertarian version of “choice” can be seen as a way of constraining choices and limiting agency. Conservative or religious discourse often demonizes or pathologizes women in prostitution as “fallen women” or morally degraded or dangerous54, a discourse that proponents of decriminalization and harm reduction reject. The progressive left, too, fall into marginalizing and often pathologizing discourse, in their insistence that women in prostitution make “real choices” (Pivot, 2004, p. 6). This rhetoric indicates a form of chauvinism—as Bourdieu (2000) says: [An] inversion of the class racism which reduces working-class practices to barbarism or vulgarity…which, under the guise of exalting the working class, helps to enclose it in what it is by converting privation into a choice or an elective accomplishment. (p. 76) This process of converting (or perverting) conditions of deprivation into a choice is rationalized by framing prostitution as form of freedom, or empowerment for women in prostitution. This process is symbolic violence; “the coercion which is set up…through the consent that the dominated cannot fail to give to the dominator” -- and depends upon “shared conceptions that make the relations of domination seem natural” (Bourdieu, 2000, p. 170). The misrecognition that results from these obscure yet profoundly durable relations of domination serve to reproduce these effects of social and political inequality. 54 Which categorization I also find harmful and distasteful, by the way. Such attitudes are present not only among the religious right, but fragments seem to be held in assumptions among people all along the political spectrum. I am thinking of the somewhat frantic “reclamation” of the word “slut” by some of the organizers and participants of “slut walk”, a mass demonstration in 2012 against the words of a Toronto city police officer. He suggested that women provoked men to rape them by dressing provocatively. 98 Symbolic power is exerted only with the collaboration of those who undergo it because they help to construct it as such. But nothing would be more dangerous than to stop short at this observation….This submission is in no way a ‘voluntary servitude’ and this complicity is not granted a conscious, deliberate act’ it is itself the effect of a power, which is durably inscribed in the bodies of the dominated… . (p. 171) Bourdieu described the operation of political domination of classes as a cycle of expectations and chances—a cycle that it is possible to interrupt and reverse. In Chapter five, I explore some insights of interview participants about successful interventions in this downward cycle. In general, Bourdieu’s class analysis is useful in its application to women. Certainly many choices for women, such as marriage or prostitution, especially for impoverished or working class women, are forms of constraint; the kinds of expectations that women are conditioned to accept as the limit of their chances. Subordinated classes, the women who have “served the nation”, will have expectations for themselves, but only so far as they perceive are their objective chances. Thus, they are encouraged by the structures of domination and the promotion of harm reduction to regard the decisions made within the limits of their exploited conditions as choices, even valuable choices. Bourdieu’s Limitations Though I found Bourdieu’s theoretical frame most helpful and challenging, I note he was also caught in complicity. While he called on academics, journalists, “cultural workers” and others who have a bit of influence to use it to affect change, he himself “misrecognized” prostitution as a choice women make, a choice he blamed the law, religious taboo or moral code 99 for interfering with: It is obviously because the vagina continues to be constituted as a fetish and treated as sacred, secret and taboo that trade in sex remains stigmatized both in the ordinary consciousness and in the letter of the law which denies women the choice of working as prostitutes. (Bourdieu, 2001, p. 16) How disappointed I was to read this. There he was, mistaking the effects of power and coercion as “voluntary servitude”—a mistake he had strenuously warned was dangerous in earlier work. He nearly redeemed himself, however, by the next line, wherein he writes: “By involving money, some male eroticism associates the search for pleasure with the brutal exercise of power over bodies reduced to the state of objects…” (Bourdieu, 2001, p. 16), and further asserts that “the masculine representation can condemn the feminine capacities or incapacities that it demands or helps to produce” (p. 16, fn. 26). In other words, male desire and demand for sexual access to women’s bodies has the combined effect of producing and reinforcing women’s subordination and denying women’s sexuality. Simone de Beauvoir tackled that very dynamic in her powerful and influential 1948 book, The Second Sex. I turn now to her work therein, and show how her ideas combine with Arendt and Bourdieu to contribute to my theoretical approach. Simone de Beauvoir and the Second Wave Simone de Beauvoir’s germinal55 work The Second Sex was more influential in France 55 I know the usual word used to describe work as influential as Beauvoir’s is “seminal”, but I find it distasteful, frankly. Also, it is not an accurate descriptor. In the first place, Beauvoir was a woman, writing about what it meant to be and become woman. Of course, the root of “seminal” is “semen”, which I’ve always found especially vexatious when referring to the significant influence of women’s work. The closely related word, 100 than North America, possibly because the first (and until 2008, the only) English translation was quite flawed (Dietz, 2002, pp. 90-91). Nevertheless, it is widely regarded as one of the foundational texts of the so-called second wave of feminism. For the purposes of this study, I chose to focus on two of her contributions, first, her concept of women’s identity formation “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman” (Beauvoir, 1948/2010, p. 283) and second, her conception of freedom, which “must be achieved by reaching out to other freedoms, and can be compromised by oppression” (Rigo, 2003, p. 278). The process of becoming woman that Beauvoir described in her book, The Second Sex, is a process of becoming “other” in relation to “the first sex”—male. “Beauvoir is insistent that woman is neither an irreducible given nor a social/mythical product, but a “becoming [un devenir], an unending ‘quest of values in a world of values’” (Rigo, 2003, citing Beauvoir, p. 147). Beauvoir describes the “coming of object/age” of the [middle-class, European] girl as a process that is both fundamentally biological and fundamentally externally enforced by male domination. The girl learns to disguise herself, to deny her body—she tries to stop or hide her periods, she “experiences herself as an uncertain, dispersed existence, knowing her failings” (Beauvoir, 1948/2009, p. 369). As she becomes woman, she also learns to “become object”—“one’s eyes no longer perceive, they reflect; one’s body no longer lives; it waits; every gesture and smile becomes an appeal; disarmed, available, the girl is nothing but a flower offered, a fruit to be picked” (p. 270). The structuring-structure, or habitus of womanhood is a process defined also by the habitus of race and class. Depending upon women’s experiences as racialized and classed “disseminate” is also inaccurate in terms of the reach and influence of this theorist’s work. She did not, in fact, scatter her seed widely, but well, gestated a central concept, which developed and became one of the root texts of feminism. 101 persons, experiences and processes of becoming woman vary. Women whose class and race afford them more credibility, power, and opportunity for autonomous action are also in dominant positions in relation to women of colour and Indigenous women, impoverished and working-class women, but they may be more subordinated to the individual men with whom they live. Women are set up, not by their biology, but by the political and social structures of various forms of men’s domination, to dominate and compete with each other in order that we may be rescued from a life of labour and/or inessence. In achieving a “good marriage” or a place of relative power within patriarchal capitalist structures women will still be “other”, but will at least be something. This division (often also competitiveness between women) is foregrounded in the institution of prostitution, and the surrounding human services industries that provide services to women in street prostitution. There is between individual women and agencies subtle and overt competition for territory, resources and the attention of men to achieve the power and economic security they represent. This competition illustrates that systems of male domination still operate to constrain and define women. In the process of becoming that all women undertake (and within which all women are produced), the intricacies of sex, race and class hierarchies can reinforce competition between women, or women can use these interlocking conditions to bridge difference and build solidarity. The prostituted woman, whom Beauvoir describes in Volume Two of The Second Sex, may be the ultimate end (if not the goal) of men’s domination over women. “The existence of a caste of ‘lost women’ makes it possible to treat ‘the virtuous woman’ with the most chivalric respect” (p. 599). Women in prostitution, Beauvoir contends, are constructed by men to be “participants in men’s immoderate appetites”, a scapegoat upon which “he unloads his turpitude” (p. 599). One of the arguments of American slaveholders and defenders of slavery is that, 102 released from slavish drudgery, Southern whites could establish the most democratic and refined relations with each other; likewise, the existence of a caste of “lost women” makes it possible to treat “the virtuous woman” with the most chivalrous respect….Whether a legal status puts her under police surveillance or she works clandestinely she is in any case treated as a pariah. (p. 599) It appears that this mythology of “the sacrificial whore” has some contemporary currency. Harm r
UBC Theses and Dissertations
More than condoms and sandwiches : a feminist investigation of the contradictory promises of harm reduction… Graham, Erin Joan 2014
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