PORN, Sexual Exploitation and why people are trying to silence the voice of survivors.
November 14, 2016 Danielle Strickland
I sat down with this global advocate and asked about her latest project, global prostitution, porn, the sex industry and why they hate her AND her latest book Prostitution Narratives… Melinda Tankard Reist is an author, speaker, media commentator, blogger and advocate for women and girls. She is best known for her work addressing sexualisation, objectification, harms of pornography, sexual exploitation, trafficking and violence against women.
Tasmanian Labor’s agenda for its conference in Queenstown this weekend has promised an opportunity for ‘robust and spirited debate’.
While the decriminalisation of brothels and the legalisation of some illicit drugs are being proposed by two separate branches of the party, the coupling of both proposals is difficult to avoid.
A more cynical person would thank members of the Labor party for at least acknowledging that ‘working’ in brothels requires chemical support in order to dissociate to survive the reality of the sex-trade.
I challenge Young Labor to cite research behind their claim that decriminalising brothels results in further autonomy and protections for ‘sex workers’, and could give them the power to ‘unionise’ and ‘collectively organise’.
If Young Labor had done their homework, they would know that brothels are the means of keeping violence against ‘sex workers’ behind closed doors. Those selling sex in brothels have less negotiating power, are forced to adhere to conditions imposed by the brothel-keeper and any bargaining power becomes increasingly hypothetical, with the sex-buyer dictating with his wallet, which sex acts a woman must perform.
Young Labor’s naive assumption that ‘sex workers’ will unionise independently of third party profiteers, male and female pimps now ‘managers’, drivers and landlords, under the obfuscating title of the ‘operational aspects of sex work’ is staggering.
While it is already legal to buy and sell sex under Tasmanian law, extending this decriminalisation to pimping and other forms of third party profiteering leave those selling sex at high risk of imposed control, including fines for lack of adherence to clothing policy, fines for tardiness, and, most obviously, having a large percentage of their income taken from them. As for other ‘protections’, in a decriminalised brothel in NZ recently, a woman who over-dosed on ‘illicit drugs’ was removed unconscious from the premises in order for the brothel not to come under scrutiny. In fact, in-house knowledge of violent assaults, theft of personal items and money from ‘sex workers’ in decriminalised brothels are rife, but hidden, both by the prostituted who fear losing their livelihoods and scoring a black mark against their name, and the brothel owners themselves.
States with decriminalised legislature are target destinations for sex-traffickers, whereas countries in which buying, pimping and procuring sex is illegal, and those selling sex are completely decriminalised themselves, such as in Sweden, are a turn-off for these same traffickers (*intercepted call via Swedish police). Increased sex-trafficking is evidenced with the international and domestic trafficking of women and girls in both decriminalised New Zealand and NSW.
Putting aside the innate horror of sex-trafficking, an influx of brothel ‘workers’ increases survival competition and women’s livelihoods are substantially reduced. Women are more vulnerable, not less, to endure added sexual violations they otherwise would not.
While it is appreciated that this proposal comes from the ‘rank and file’ of party members, is it also understood that any advice from so called ‘sex worker organisations’ such as Scarlet Alliance, comes not from the ‘rank and file’ of the majority in the sex-trade? These are a minority of those in the sex-trade, often in positions of ‘management’ and/or wholly independent of brothel ‘work’ themselves!
Why take advice from government funded groups in these positions who also minimise the need for exiting strategies for those who want to leave prostitution?
And what ‘union’ worth it’s salt argues for a model of legislation which empowers pimps over ‘workers’?
Perhaps it is understandable that Young Labor has produced an ill conceived policy based on old notions about the politics of prohibition. After all, if high profile human rights organisations such as Amnesty International can be infiltrated by pimps, drafting it’s policy on ‘sex work’ on the basis of brothel-owner Douglas Fox in the UK, brothel owners Escort Ireland, and convicted sex-traffickers such as Alejandra Gil, Mexico, why wouldn’t others?
I encourage a dialogue with Young Labor as it is likely their motivation comes from an ethos of ‘worker’s rights’, but it has been misled by those with a vested interest in opening up opportunities for profiteering from brothel owners and keeping the status quo of pimps over the prostituted. As we know decriminalisation leads to an expansion of the sex-trade from which the majority simply want to get out.
One hopes in the predicted ‘spirited debate’ fiction does not obscure fact, although it seems unlikely. Meanwhile, hundreds of women are trafficked into decriminalised NSW, and a ‘sex worker’ bound and raped in legalised Victoria is remunerated with a phone and money that was stolen from her wallet (rape as theft?)- cases which the Scarlet Alliance vehemently ignore . One wonders which ‘sex workers’ are considered, by them, to be worth fighting for.
Young Labor’s challenge should be to fight the global humanitarian crisis of the 21st century, not cater to the mutli-billion dollar sex-trade and further cement in to the GDP money taxed off the sexually exploited.
*Simone Watson is an Indigenous woman living in Western Australia, and the Director of NorMAC (Nordic Model in Australia Coalition). She is a prostitution survivor and a contributor to the book Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade edited by Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist
• Andrew Minney in Comments HERE: … The correct approach to male violence is obvious. To identify it and to repudiate it. The commercialization of exploitation is absolutely the antithesis of Labor principles. Please lead the way forward for a better, safer, respectful future for women and girls by condemning the men who harm them.
The Courier-Mail is to be commended for its series on the hypersexualisation of our young people — especially the impacts on children by allowing them to be exposed to porn even before their first kiss.
What has been documented here in the Generation Sext campaign is what I’m hearing everywhere I go.
Educators, child welfare groups, childcare workers, mental health bodies, medicos and parents are reeling.
All are struggling to deal with the proliferation of hypersexualised imagery and its impacts on the most vulnerable — children who think what they see in porn is what real sex looks like.
They tell me about children using sexual language, children touching other children inappropriately, children playing “sex games” in the schoolyard, children requesting sexual favours, children showing other children porn on their devices, children distressed by explicit images they came across while searching an innocent term, children exposed to porn “pop ups” on sites featuring their favourite cartoon characters or while playing online games.
The website PornHub is in the top five favourite sites of boys aged 11-16 according to ChildWise UK. The biggest selling genres of porn are those eroticising violence.
Boys are viewing violent depictions of sex, torture, rape and incest. They are having their sexual arousal conditioned by depictions of extreme cruelty, seeing women being assaulted for sexual pleasure — all while their sexuality is under construction.
In Australia there has been a significant increase in reports of child on child sexual assault — identified as “copycat sexual predators”.
AMA vice-president Stephen Parnis says the internet is exposing children to sexually explicit content teaching them that sex is about “use and abuse”.
“There are increasing levels of aggression and the physical harm resulting from sexual acts is becoming more apparent,” he says.
The Australian Psychological Association has seen the problem first hand.
“Over the past decade, we have seen a growing trend of younger children engaging in problem sexual and sexually abusive behaviours generally aimed at younger children — in other words, children sexually assaulting children,” their Senate inquiry submission said.
“Pornography is providing too many 10-year-olds with the mechanical knowledge to anally, orally and/or vaginally penetrate younger siblings, cousins and acquaintances.”
Girls especially are bearing the brunt of porn-inspired boys who have imbibed a sense of entitlement to the bodies of women and girls.
We continue to hear the cry “Boys aren’t treating girls with respect!”. But there’s no mystery as to the reason.
Girls tell me about boys demanding sexual favours, demanding sex acts they don’t like, pressured to provide naked images (including girls as young as 11 and 12), being ranked compared to the bodies of porn stars.
One young woman told the South East Centre Against Sexual Assault: “When you have sex with a guy they want it to be like a porno. They want anal and oral right away. Oral is, like, the new kissing.”
There is a growing body of global literature testifying to how boys who take their sexual cues from porn develop sexist attitudes and aggressive behaviours — which has a trickle-down effect on women and girls.
For too many boys, the debasement they see on screen becomes real life debasement of girls.
In 2012, the UK Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection found that exposure to porn has a negative impact on children’s attitudes to sex, relationships and body image.
A 2012 review of research on the Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents found that adolescent consumption of internet pornography was linked to attitudinal changes, including acceptance of male dominance and female submission, with women viewed as “sexual playthings eager to fulfil male sexual desires”.
The authors found that “adolescents who are intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed”.
In Australia, one in four young men think it is OK to pressure women to have sex.
Pornography normalises and eroticises violence against women as sexy. We have more than enough warnings by frontline service agencies about a public health emergency involving near-saturation rates of pornography consumption among men and boys.
This assault on the healthy sexual development of children has to stop if we want our children to engage in healthy sexual exploration and respect-based relationships, to know what real intimacy feels like.
The problem is so big and so vast it requires a whole of community approach. Parents, schools, educators, the medical profession, welfare groups, governments and regulatory bodies have to take action.
Fortunately there are signs that young people want something better. This is a message I received from a young woman who heard me speak.
“Hi Melinda. I was really touched by what you had to say and you opened my eyes to what sort of world we live in and at 16 I’m disgusted and amazed at what girls my age have to go through.
“You said something about being asked for nudes and that and personally I didn’t know what you meant by that as I haven’t been asked to do that … until today.
“To tell you the truth I wouldn’t have known what to do about it if you didn’t speak about it and I’m very grateful to you. The boy asked me for a photo or video and I said no — that’s when he called me “lame”. But I immediately told him I am more than just my body and you shouldn’t treat me like a piece of meat and instantly blocked him.
“Thank you for telling me that and I hope I have done the right thing and myself and other girls are taking action and we want to make a difference.
“I want to help girls feel like they are worth something. So thanks again you are an inspiration to us all and I hope to join your cause — Tiffany, 16.”
Rape, humiliation and sick fantasies: Baby-faced ex-prostitute whose clients paid her to ‘act like a little girl’ reveals what REALLY goes on inside Australia’s sex industry
By Belinda Grant Geary For Daily Mail Australia
A former sex worker has lifted the lid on the secret world of prostitution and claims violence, child sex fantasies and rape are commonplace for the women who sell their bodies in the industry.
Alice started working as a prostitute in Queensland at the age of 22 when she lost her job and could not find employment while she studied a law degree.
But the 28-year-old said she learned to use her body at a much younger age after being sexually assaulted at the tender age of five.
Alice said the profession slowly stripped her of her humanity and has spoken out against the industry that allowed her to be verbally abused, beaten, degraded and raped in the hopes she can stop other women being lured into prostitution.
Alice said her descent into the world of sex work started when she would trade sexual favours for cash, mobile phone credit or alcohol as a teenager.
‘People, including myself, had been using my body to make money since I was five so [prostitution] wasn’t a new idea to me and wasn’t something that shocked me,’ she told Daily Mail Australia. Read more
Our new ambassador in her first media interview in the role
The hypersexual world and its impact on young girls and boys
In the two weeks since you heard Donald Trump’s confessions – unintended – of groping women, the strongest response has come from US First Lady Michelle Obama. You may have heard her say that Trumps’ words shook her to the core.
Well, this culture has also shaken, and motivated, Kerryn Baird, who’s the wife of New South Wales premier Mike Baird. This week, Kerryn Baird became the new ambassador for Collective Shout, an advocacy group for women and girls.
Listen to the interview below:
I was honoured to be invited to deliver the biennial Bishop Manning lecture hosted by the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations at the Kirribilli Club recently. Bob Hawke and Noel Pearson preceeded me and I was the first woman to be asked. I spoke to our new book Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the sex trade to support my thesis that sex was not work. The Commission has published this summary:
Tankard Reist challenges Bishop Manning audience
This biennial Bishop Manning Lecture was delivered on Tuesday night by author, commentator and advocate for women and girls, Melinda Tankard Reist.
We host the Bishop Manning Lecture as a way of acknowledging and celebrating workplaces that champion justice, human dignity, productivity and fairness. It is also an opportunity to honour the work of a Church leader who has in his life, borne witness to the pursuit of fairness in workplaces wherever they might be.
Bishop Manning is known for his commitment to these and many other important social justice issues including Aboriginal people, migrants, refugees, women and families. He has been described as having a passion for the “battlers” and a genuine interest in people no matter who they are. And of course, behind all these achievements, he is a humble man of God and a good shepherd.
Our lecture series focuses on principles of the common good, community, human dignity, justice and their practical application in society. But we are not afraid to have uncomfortable conversations.
Melinda Tankard Reist is best known for her work addressing sexualisation, objectification, harms of pornography, sexual exploitation, trafficking and violence against women.
Ms Tankard Reist delivered a powerful lecture that sought to demolish the claim that prostitution is ‘just work’, a ‘job like any other’.
Step by step, the 2016 Bishop Manning lecturer went through confronting characteristics that define the industry in great detail. Ms Tankard Reist challenged our audience with stories of violence against women, health impacts and criminal trafficking.
We were asked to consider the heavily gendered nature of the sex industry. Without men, argued Ms Tankard Reist, without male demand and entitlement, there would be no prostitution industry.
Ms Tankard Reist argued that the global experiences of women show that even where the sex industry enjoys the legalisation and protection of the government, the violence, degradation, abuse, and trauma are common experiences.
Ms Tankard Reist also rang alarm bells about sexual trafficking here in Australia citing Australian Federal Police commander Glen McEwen who told the NSW state inquiry into the regulation of brothels that the AFP’s investigations into sexual servitude were just the tip of the iceberg, that the problem is ‘wide and vast’.
The nub of Ms Tankard Reist’s primary message is that mainstreaming prostitution gives permission to men to believe that buying women is legitimate. Any form of prostitution undermines all women’s safety and dignity by entrenching the commodification of women and by sending a message to men and boys that they have a right to be sexually serviced anytime. There is a deep connection here between the sexualisation of women and girls and the attitude of men.
How should we respond? Tankard Reist is an abolitionist and envisions ‘a world without prostitution’. To achieve that she believes an important part of the solution is the Nordic Model, a framework for addressing demand for prostitution.
As Ms Tankard Reist stated on Tuesday night:
“The Nordic Model completely decriminalises women whose bodies are bought. It provides exit services for women to escape prostitution and make a new life. And it criminalises those men who buy women, and the pimps who sell them.
In 1999 Sweden changed the law to decriminalise women and criminalise the buyers, to tackle demand as the basis of the prostitution system. The Nordic model offers high quality services for those in prostitution: housing, legal advice, addiction services, long-term emotional and psychological support, education and training, childcare, and addresses all factors that drive people into prostitution (for example, minimum wage levels).
Norway, Northern Ireland, Canada, South Korea, Iceland and mostly recently France, have introduced a version of the Nordic Model“.
Ms Tankard-Reist also champions the importance of exit services for women who feel trapped in the industry and education to teach children about boundaries, self-respect and self-worth.
“Identify the girls who are at risk and mentor them, inspire them, value them. Teach them about good relationships, and how to spot someone who is trying to exploit them. Show them how to get help. Catholic agencies are specially placed to be able to discern risk factors in teenage girls. And of course we need to do more to educate boys about healthy sexuality and respect for women.”
Our lecturer wanted to make it clear that women mostly enter the industry because of vulnerabilities and lack of choice. She concluded by speaking to Catholic Social Teaching
“… the exploitation of prostitution does injury to the dignity of the person (woman) who is prostituted by reducing that person to a thing to be used for the ends of another.
Abolitionists are also calling on governments to structure society and the economy on this basis, so that we can build a world without prostitution.
We want justice for women who have been trapped in prostitution, for women hurt by prostitution.
Justice for women who are living in poverty, giving them the dignity of a proper job that they can enjoy and develop their professional skills.
Laws and social policies affirming the dignity of every woman.”
Collective Shout, the grassroots campaign movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls, announces Kerryn Baird as its new Ambassador.
The announcement was made at a fundraising event for the movement held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney last night for International Day of the Girl Child. Addressing the event was Ms Baird’s first function as Ambassador.
Attending the event with her was her husband and NSW Premier Mike Baird.
In her speech, Ms Baird said she decided to accept the invitation to become an Ambassador because she believed children were at risk of losing their childhood.
“I want more for our girls. And boys,” she said.
“Like many of you in the room, I have daughters. I have hopes for them. I want them to fulfil their potential. To be able to contribute.
“I want a world where words to describe girls not as sexy, and hot, but as worthy, strong, healthy, active, imaginative”.
Co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist, who also spoke at the function, said she was delighted to welcome Ms Baird as Ambassador.
“Kerryn heard me speak at a private girls’ school in Sydney recently. She asked what she could do to help the cause. I asked if she would consider becoming an Ambassador. She said yes!” Ms Tankard Reist said.
“We look forward to achieving more in future with her support.”
Great show of support for Collective Shout at MCA
MTR shares the work of Collective Shout
Our new ambassador Kerryn Baird addresses the crowd
CS volunteer Suzanne Spence, Chair Sarah McMahon, Kerryn and Mike Baird and National Operations Manager Coralie Alison
The latest affront in an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment of Prostitution Narratives contributors and survivors
Prostitution Narratives: Stories of survival in the sex trade was released by Spinifex Press in April. Since then, all connected with the book have been subjected to abuse, insults, vilification and threats. Our survivors have been endured torrents of verbal aggression, forced to run a gauntlet of sex industry representatives at book launches and book related events around the country. While testifying to the violence they lived with in the industry, they now confront intimidation outside it. We have had to line up security at a number of events. I was provided a security escort out of the ACMI venue at the Melbourne Writers Festival two weeks ago due to a protest organised by the Australian Sex Party (consider this – protesting two books, between them documenting the lives of 85 women, 65 of them murdered). The worst demonstration of the industry’s determination to protect its vested interests was on show in Townsville last month, when the local prostitution lobby forced the domestic violence service to cancel the conference room booking for our launch, then turned up at the new venue to harass and disrupt our event. I’ve seen a lot in more than two decades of activism, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Well known former head of Scarlet Alliance, Elena Jeffreys, approached our youngest and most recently exited survivor Alice (‘Charlotte’ in the book) and tried to re-recruit her into the industry. Brisbane writer Jas Rawlinson has written this account.
Sex industry survivor told to ‘give sex work another go’
By Jas Rawlinson
For 28-year-old trafficking survivor Alice, the last thing she expected when publicly sharing her story was to be encouraged by a prominent sex-industry figure into returning to a life that had almost killed her.
Attending the recent Townsville book launch of Prostitution Narratives, a collection of autobiographical stories from survivors of sex-industry abuse (edited by Dr Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist), Alice says that she and another fellow survivor were bullied and disrespected by members of sex industry group RESPECT.
“Some of the women deliberately chose to sit with their backs to me while I was speaking, and as another survivor spoke, they continually called out over the top of her,” said Alice (known as ‘Charlotte’ in Prostitution Narratives).
At the end of her speech, Alice says she was singled out by Scarlet Alliance representative Elena Jeffreys, and encouraged to return to prostitution.
“She said to me: ‘’I'll admit the Queensland girls have it really rough up here, but I’d really encourage you to give sex work another go down in New South Wales where the [working] conditions are a lot better.’
“I couldn’t believe that not even 10 minutes after speaking about the trauma I went through – and have been left with as a result of working in the industry – here was this person suggesting I go back!”, Alice said.
“I thought it was completely disrespectful towards me – she doesn’t know anything about where I am now in life. I have no need to go back and never would.”
In a series of tweets, Alice shared her disgust at being encouraged to return to prostitution
Women’s rights activist and Prostitution Narratives co-editor Ms Tankard Reist, was also shocked.
“That was definitely the worst element of the day, it surprised even me,” she said. “To see Alice told to just ‘give it another go’ after she had just described the multiple levels of trauma she had been through was deeply disturbing.”
Alice, who was sold to pedophile rings by her own father at just five years old, and had suffered serious trauma from her time in the Australian sex industry as a young woman, says the ‘immature behaviour’ of the sex industry group was extremely disappointing.
“I am just disappointed that they aren’t interested in listening to what anyone with an opposing view has to say, and concurrently, that they want to silence our voices so no-one else can hear us either.”
Initially the event had been scheduled to take place at a northern Queensland Domestic Violence centre, however, the location was changed after members of RESPECT approached the service expressing disappointment with the centre for allowing the book launch to be held in their venue – even though it is used by a diverse number of other groups.
Several attendees, including Ms Tankard Reist, and Collective Shout Coordinator Angela Burrows, revealed that the venue was warned against providing their space to the ex-industry survivors.
“Members of RESPECT told the Domestic Violence service that their group ‘could not be held responsible for the actions of some of their more radical members, should they allow us to use the space,” said Ms Burrows.
Ms Tankard Reist said it was ‘ironic’ that the lobby group would react in this way toward a service that aims to support women fleeing abuse.
Forced to change venues at the last minute, the survivors and event coordinators attempted to go ahead with the book launch at a new location.
“Because we had to move the venue, we ended up jammed into a corner of a bar, with a live band right next door, where people could barely hear us. It was terrible for the survivors to have to tell their stories in this kind of environment,” says Ms Tankard Reist.
However, despite the less than ideal location, the women’s rights activist said it was the ongoing intimidation and bullying from sex worker activists that was most disturbing.
“At one point Elena Jeffreys got up on a stool and stood over us, just raining down abuse; booing, hissing, calling out…”
Despite claiming to support current and former sex workers voices, various Australian sex-worker groups have in recent months, made several attempts to de-platform trafficking and sex-trade survivor events.
In April, pro-sex industry activists targeted survivors at ‘The world’s oldest oppression’ conference held at RMIT University, where panel speakers included Irish prostitution survivor and author Rachel Moran.
Ms Tankard Reist says it is horrible the way survivors of trafficking and sexual abuse are treated, given that such groups claim to support former sex worker voices.
“This is really just part of a broader campaign against prostitution survivors,” she said.
For survivors such as Alice, sharing her story of abuse and survival was not an easy decision to make, but one that she felt important.
“Speaking at the Townsville book launch was honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was shaking the whole time but I am very proud that I didn’t let anyone stop me from speaking about my truth and my experiences,” she said.
“This was not the first time people have tried to silence me and it will not be the last either. But I am stronger than that, and I am not going to be quiet and go away.
“I will continue to speak out and pull back the glamorous and glitzy facade the sex industry likes to maintain, because it is an important message.
“There are people out there who want to hear what survivors like me have to say.”
Note: Several attempts were made to contact Ms Jules Kim (Scarlet Alliance CEO) and Ms Elena Jeffreys for comment, however no response was given.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
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