September 25, 2009

Prostitutes peeved at Salvation Army over “Truth Isn’t Sexy” posters

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Judging by the way Kelly Sinoski’s story in the Vancouver Sun is written today, it must now be PC to call prostitutes “sex workers.” But we’re going to continue to call them prostitutes, which is the plain English most people understand, as we muse about Sinoski’s story saying that these women who perform sex for money are really, really ticked off at the Salvation Army.

It seems that the Army has put up a number of posters in Vancouver, particularly in bar bathrooms on Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, with the theme “The Truth Isn’t Sexy.” They show women who are supposedly prostitutes being brutalized in various ways. The Salvation Army says Vancouver is a major port of entry for prostitutes brought in from overseas, and that many of the prostitutes in the Downtown Eastside are effectively in bondage to gangs or pimps.

And the Army says the number of prostitutes in Vancouver is sure to swell as the 2010 Winter Olympics draws near.

Comes now a group known as the Sex Industry Worker Safety Action Group to protest the Army’s campaign. Said SIWSAG spokeswoman Tamara O’Doherty:

[Sex workers] are raising some concerns over the fact the campaign perpetuates the myth of sex workers being slaves.

The she goes on to say something that sounds at least a little contradictory:

They’re traumatized. … For some of these people who work on the streets, they do experience violence. 

Hmmm… now we see that Stuart Hunter’s story in The Province also uses the “sex worker” nomenclature. His reference to a “Sally Ann spokesman” almost made us miss the fact that he had in fact talked to the Salvation Army.  There, spokesman Johnny Michel also said something that seems to contradict the general theme of the campaign:

We were not targeting sex-trade workers. The focus is not on the general sex trade, it is focused on the women being forced to have sex against their will.

We were curious enough about SIWSAG, the sex-workers’ safety group, that we Googled them. We got lots of hits, but none of the top ones, at least, revealed a website for the group. We did find out, though, that there is a thriving marketplace, apparently, in protecting the rights of prostitutes.

Witness websites such as the Sex Workers Outreach Project (they’re mad about the undercover filming in the ACORN scandal. No, really), or SWOP, and Prostitutes of New York. PONY for short.

— Robert McClure

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