(you may click each to get sent directly to the article on this page)

Review of the documentary 'Buying Sex'

by: Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott / May 1, 2013

‘Buying Sex’ isn't the worst prohibitionist doc we've ever seen. At least ‘B.S.’ pays lip service to the idea of decriminalization, for the first few minutes.  Then the ominous music begins, as the camera pans Toronto's skyline, where innocents are bought and sold. The only hope is a few 'saved' sex workers.  This saving is done by court mandated diversion programs. Most rescue organizations are run by evangelicals, and "re-education" is a mixture of religion, and modern day psychobabble. The idea that we need to be forcibly saved is as galling to us as it was to lesbian and gay people.

The very few clients interviewed are not representative of the broad spectrum of men that we see. All but one were backlit and speak anonymously. The camera lingers on his stomach and crotch, to visually reinforce his baseness.

Anti-choice feminists and evangelicals have joined forces to “eradicate” sex work.  When we protest, they tell us that sex work has so damaged us that we can’t even understand what we are saying or what our experiences mean. This is a way to deny us our voice, our humanity. Much to their annoyance, they have been unable to shut down the global voice of sex workers who are demanding an end to prohibition.

‘Buying Sex’ visits Sweden, where buying sex is heavily criminalized. Most sex work in Sweden takes place indoors. The police cyber-stalk our indoor colleagues to discover the address, and with social workers in tow, arrest the clients arriving. Our colleagues are then harassed into “re-education”. The police physically stalk our outdoor colleagues to arrest their clients. Anti-choice feminists and their religious bedfellows video the near empty strolls and marvel at the 'success' of their new policy. All of this because Sweden has legislated the infantilization of sex workers by mandating that all sex work is violence against women.

‘B.S.’ went to New Zealand where sex work has been decriminalized since 2003. While Sweden was bright and sunny, New Zealand was portrayed as dark and dreary. Every rights movement has its publicity seekers, and our N.Z colleagues weren't wrong when they informed us that that is whom 'B.S'. would be interviewing. 'Buying Sex' gives so much time to an alarmingly bad brothel manager and whiny adult business owner that you barely notice the couple of minutes with Catherine Healy, one of the leading forces behind decriminalization in N.Z. No interviews with the many good people who operate brothels or the sex workers working in N.Z. No mention of the Occupational Health and Safety standards, workers compensation, pension plans, fair tax rates etc.  

Lastly, ‘Buying Sex’ ignores how our very lives depend on the communicating law being struck down. All three of the litigants in this case, Amy Lebovitch, Valerie Scott and Terri-Jean Bedford have worked on the street as have many of the case’s witnesses. The communicating law affects our street colleagues as a defacto death penalty. In fact, any mention of the communicating law in this documentary is used to further the divide of this debate.

The upshot of this doc is that sex work is bad, but titillating, at least for the makers of ‘B.S.’

Olympic Deception Disqualifies Dueck

by: Eve Anderson/ February 20, 2010

Lorna Dueck's Globe and Mail article "Sex For Sale is Hardly Sporting" is misguided and misleading. Click HERE to read the article.

Ms. Dueck fails to make a distinction between adult sex workers and child prostitutes. That she cites a youth exit program worker is specious, as only underage, victimized prostitutes would utilize such services. In "reading between the lines" of the advertisements on Craigslist, Dueck is actually fabricating a demand for underage prostitutes. 

The John Howard Society paper Dueck cites, focuses on street based sex work, a vulnerable minority of sex workers.  Further, the paper stipulates that treating them as criminals is ultimately unhelpful.  Indeed, it is the criminalization of bawdy houses and solicitation which force sex workers on to the streets and limit our colleagues' negotiating time with clients that make them vulnerable to violence.

Our charter challenge is for decriminalization, which would allow us to support our children and report crimes such as abuse, theft, extortion and rape, without fear of arrest.  Decriminalization would not exacerbate trafficking -- it would make sex work safer and less stigmatized.  Dueck also links trafficked persons with migrant workers, that is to say sex workers who travel to work in Vancouver during the Olympics by choice.  Trafficking must be separated from chosen adult sex work, and combated as part of global issues of gender disparity, slavery, child abuse and poverty.  

Craigslist's bans Erotic Service category

May, 2009

SPOC condemns Craigslist’s decision to ban its Erotic Services category. By capitulating to the recent bad publicity, the website is conceding that it played a part in the murder of our colleague. It did not. The murderer is the one who is fully responsible for his actions and we hope he is prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Craigslist is no more responsible than it would be had the advertiser been offering a babysitting service or selling a used car.

Craigslist has chosen to shield itself by limiting our choices. This only increases our vulnerability. A better approach for Craigslist would be to hold its ground and stand with sex workers and sex worker rights organizations.

15 ordinary things non sex workers never need to think about

by: Sarah Jasper / December 15, 2008

  1. I can be pretty sure that my neighbours, in any location I may want to live, will be neutral or pleasant to me, and that I will not be followed or harassed by them.

  2. I can be pretty sure of finding media, books, curricular material and other information that testifies to the existence and value of my work and colleagues.

  3. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only person working in my industry.

  4. I need not worry about my friends and family members facing discrimination for spending time with me.

  5. I can act badly, dress poorly, use drugs or make mistakes without it being attributed to the immorality, poverty, addiction or stupidity of my colleagues.

  6. I can be pretty sure that if I need legal or medical help, my profession will not be held against me.

  7. I can be fairly sure that most people would not advise me to accept a lower paying job or government assistance rather than work in my profession.

  8. I can choose to ignore sex workers many contributions to our culture and society, or disparage and ridicule them without facing any negative consequences.

  9. I can participate in social, creative, political and professional groups without asking whether someone in my profession will be allowed to participate.

  10. People do not assume that I'm so used to being mistreated at work that I won't mind if they mistreat me.

  11. I am not asked to justify the legal income I earn or the property that I may own.

  12. I am considered as or more credible a source of information about my work than someone who has never worked in my industry.

  13. I can expect that my fitness as a wife, woman, mother and pet owner will not be questioned solely based on my work. If my partner, children or pets are apprehended by the Crown, it will not be because of my profession.

  14. I can expect to not be denied a job, passport, education or to adopt or any other opportunity for which I am qualified because of my profession.

  15. I can usually expect not to be asked to provide professional services for free.

Think of how these kinds of daily prejudices would make you feel. Discrimination devalues sex works’ many contributions and prevents us from feeling like true members of your community.

Credit to Peggy McIntosh for the original idea of this kind of list

British Columbia's Ruling against sex worker legal challenge

December 15, 2008

The court has refused to hear a constitutional case that our B.C. colleagues have brought forward with PIVOT Legal Society.

SPOC vehemently rejects Justice William Ehrcke ruling. It is yet another insult to our colleagues’ valuable contributions. Simply because the plaintiff is no longer working does not mean that her knowledge and experience should be so casually dismissed by the court. As Katrina Pacey, lawyer for the plaintiffs said "This case is about how the laws marginalize sex workers, and it is ironic the court won't even let them through the door to make the argument."

For the details of the BC ruling click here.

SPOC's constitutional challenge which opened May 5th 2008, is still under way at the Ontario Superior Court level. For further information please contact us.

Sex Worker’s Lives Are Worth More Than This

By: Laurel Ronan & Valerie Scott / June 2008

The Canadian justice system still doesn’t get it.

There are so many things about this case including the testimony of Wayne Ryczak, sentenced to one day plus 14 months time served for the killing of 29-year-old Stephanie Beck, to make any thinking person shake their head in disbelief. His testimony is particularly suspicious when analyzed through the whore lens (read: logic coupled with common sense).

Stephanie’s killer claimed that a woman whom he did not know, though may have looked familiar, broke in to his trailer at about 3:30 in the morning. He testified that he acted in self-defense when he grabbed her by the throat. Ryczak claimed that he pushed her and she collapsed on his couch. {Official cause of death was strangulation.}

Yet, Ryczak used to work in the same area that he agreed he picked up other sex workers in. Ryczak is a client of sex workers. As well, when Stephanie’s body was found, she somehow ended up being half naked. This topped off with the fact that Ryczak admitted to dumping Stephanie’s body in the snow. Also, he cleaned things up and got rid of any of the evidence that he could. All this should’ve raised the eyebrows of anyone who has a few brain cells to rub together.

A scenario that seams more realistic is that of a bad date that went too far. But, as the Crown pointed out during the trial, there were only two people present, and luckily for Ryczak, the other one is conveniently dead. It certainly appears to SPOC that assistant Crown attorney Grace Pang and her office didn’t put much effort into this prosecution.

There is no doubt that if Stephanie Beck was a soccer mom, a preacher’s wife, or some other ‘good’ woman the courts would have paid attention to the facts in Ryczak’s story.

Instead, Judge Glithero noted Ryczak’s mother said he was a good son. Ryczak’s employer at Newman Brothers said he was a valued employee.

Judge Glithero stated, “ In my opinion, he presents as a person with many admirable qualities adding that Ryczak has values of family, community and hard work.

Once again it is obvious that Ontario Judge Stephen Glithero and by extension our government, have put yet another seal of approval on the murder of our colleagues.

Ryczak also received three years probation.

Some terms of Wayne Ryczak's probation: {verbatim from The Standard newspaper, St. Catharine’s, Ontario}

Cannot associate with anyone known to have a criminal record, with the exception of his son who received a suspended sentence for assaulting a sex-trade worker.

Must attend programs for alcohol and drug abuse and any required anger management.

Must stay out of the city's "hot zone" where crack houses and Prostitutes are known to be, unless he has to go to St. Catharine’s General Hospital.

UPDATE 2009: Ruling from Ontario Court of Appeal

Some people don't like our Bad Client Lists

December 21, 2007

The Globe and Mail article can be found on our news page, or by clicking HERE

On December 21, 1985, the communicating law, Section 213 of the Canadian Criminal Code came into existence. Shortly afterwards, our colleagues began disappearing. This law was a gift to sexual predators because it prevented sex workers from working together and sharing vital information. Bad clients soon realized that the federal government and police didn't care. Violence against indoor sex workers increased as well.

Many sex-worker organizations began doing whatever they could to try to keep women safe. Some began distributing bad client lists to street-based sex workers. The lists help, but because most sex work in Canada takes place indoors, the lists only reach a fraction of the people that need them.

Criminologists now know that murderers rarely start by murdering. They often progress from threats to assault and or sexual assault and beyond.

Several years ago, Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC) began publishing bad client information on this website. This information has helped prevent violence to sex workers throughout the country irrespective of their membership in SPOC.

While we try to ensure the correctness of all information that appears on our site, a recent article pointed out some potential weaknesses with our reporting procedures. The screening policy for the bad date list will be discussed and modified at our next meeting on January 9, 2008.

We believe our list is a valuable tool for sex workers in Canada and will continue to do what we can to help.

A Bittersweet Day of Reflection

On Sunday December 9th, Robert William Pickton was convicted by a jury of the second degree murder of six sex workers and now awaits trial for the murder of 20 more.

SPOC extends our heartfelt condolences to the families, loved ones and friends of our murdered colleagues.

We are relieved that Pickton will quite likely remain in prison for the rest of his life. The Vancouver police, policy makers and the Federal government, among others need to be held accountable. Until that is done, SPOC maintains that our murdered sisters and all other assaulted, missing and murdered sex workers have not truly been given justice.

Facebook group boasts about assaulting sex workers

November 2, 2007

The CBC article can be found on our news page, or by clicking HERE

Nicole's feeble attempt to rationalize her and the other members of the groups' actions with the excuse that it's just an " expression of anger " about the " disgusting " conditions of her city doesn't cut it.

In the recent past, residents' associations across Canada would hold demonstrations against sex workers in " their " neighbourhoods. Residents would band together to go out and yell and curse at prostitutes.

Politicians pandered to this by enacting more laws against prostitution.

My colleagues became everyone's convenient scapegoat. Reports of beatings and rapes skyrocketed. Across the country many sex workers went missing. The police in Vancouver couldn't be bothered to look into the disappearances in that city until the numbers became too many to ignore. The RCMP in Alberta now have over 80 active cases.

Sadly, I am not surprised that a group that brags about assaulting sex workers has surfaced in Winnipeg.

Sex workers are, for many Canadians, an object of contempt. Unstable people like the members of the group Nicole belongs to take this further. They identify a group of people to vent their anger on. Then they dress up their aggression as dissatisfaction. When criticized for assaulting those they disdain, they hide behind the free speech argument.

This behaviour must be nipped in the bud or it can escalate into worse violence quickly.

Winnipeg police need to recognize that Nicole and the rest of the group should be charged with promoting hatred as well as assault.

Valerie Scott

Sex Professionals of Canada

Open your eyes Canada

by: Laurel Ronan / January 26, 2007

More than sixty women have gone missing from Vancouver’s East Side the majority since the mid 1980's. Most were sex workers - many of them Aboriginal women.

This week the trial for Robert William Pickton began. Charged with killing six of those women, Pickton has pleaded not guilty to six counts of murder. This is only the beginning of legal proceedings against Pickton. He is apparently going to be tried for another twenty murders.

Some people speculate that the murders were not the work of one person; they claim there must have been others. It has even been rumoured that a crime ring was involved. I doubt we will ever get the whole story.

Regardless, what has happened is a microcosm of how sex workers are viewed and treated by society.

People will lose their appetites over dinner when they hear how body parts of some the women were found in Pickton’s freezer. Many will have a hard time sleeping when they see the tears of the victims’ families and loved ones.

Yet all too often, society treats sex workers as subhuman.

In the media we read how disgusting and appalling it is to be one of those girls. While walking down the street, people yell obscenities at those girls. At NIMBY meetings people quake with fury because those girls are in their neighbourhoods; they insist that the police arrest them because they are scared their property values will go down.

When the police come, too many times they mistreat those girls. They harass them, threaten them, rape them, and beat them. So when more than 60 go missing, it is no big deal.

After all, those girls are a symbol of a corrupt and wayward society.
Those girls are drug addicts. Those girls spread diseases. Those girls are WHORES.

I hope that this wakes Canadians up. I want my fellow Canadians to go beyond saying "those poor girls didn't deserve that." I want them to go beyond admitting that sex workers are human.

I want them to acknowledge that sex workers live in a climate that fosters hatred against us. I want them to acknowledge that the laws we have in place right now are de facto death sentences.

I want people to ACT on those acknowledgments and change. It's the only way can avoid tragedies like this from happening again.

Laurel Ronan

Pickton not the only one responsible

January 21, 2009

Our murdered colleagues in Vancouver.

Our hearts go out to all families and friends of our murdered sisters. Hearing the evidence from this trial will be one of the most difficult things for anyone connected to our profession, which is just about everyone. If Canadians do enough research into their family histories, a great many will discover there was or is currently a sex professional in their lineage.

Where is justice without voice? Whose democracy is it when women are murdered because they are denied a constitutional right by our legislators and our highest court? How can Canada be a just and democratic society if it sentences sex professionals to death simply for who they are?

If Robert Pickton is proven guilty, we hope he is declared a Dangerous Offender and remains behind bars for the rest of his life.
As for the federal governments that created this tragedy with their harsh laws against us and the Vancouver police and their cavalier attitude that allowed these murders to continue, we hope they will also have to face justice.

Surprise. Parliamentary Subcommittee recommends more studies

by: Valerie Scott / December 13, 2006

The Parliamentary Subcommittee Study on the Solicitation Laws was finally released December 13 / 06. SPOC presented to the Committee on March 15, 2005. Unfortunately our predictions of the Committee's recommendations came true. While our colleagues continue to be ostracized from society, raped, robbed and murdered, this study recommends more studies.

It rambles on about more protection for sex workers. Government " protection " is what got our profession in its current dangerous mess. What this profession needs to end the madness of violence against us is decriminalization. We know it & the Committee knows it too but they just don't have the vision or fortitude to actually say it. Recommendation 7 is their feeble attempt to placate sex professionals. ( page 89.) It states;

" The majority of the Subcommittee calls for concrete efforts to be made immediately to improve the safety of individuals selling sexual services and assist them in exiting prostitution if they are not there by choice." etc. & blah, blah.

Why doesn't this study just come out and say what " concrete efforts " they are talking about? What adult sex professionals who choose to be in this business need, and there are many of us, is the removal of the communicating, bawdy house and procuring laws. In order to achieve this we need politicians who can have a rational discussion about sex work as opposed a moralistic reaction which is what this study amounts to.

While we do not advocate youth or people being forced into this or any other business, we find the committee's attempt to confuse the issue by dwelling on this aspect disingenuous.

One wonders, if it were their spouses, sisters, daughters or colleagues being assaulted and murdered on a regular basis would they be satisfied with this Subcommittee's prattle about more studies needed?

Our profession is legitimate and necessary and is here to stay. It's about time the federal government deal with this in an intelligent and mature fashion. Its current atavistic stance only extends what has become a de-facto death penalty of sex workers.

Why a public Bad Client List?

There has been some discussion around the GTA recently about the content of the Bad Date List on this site. Some sex pro's, (from other sites), are concerned that by posting identifying info about bad dates so publicly, the guys may then change their M.O.'s, such as Internet handles, switch hotels they stay at or use different phone numbers etc.

On every other site we have been to in order to access bad date info, you must be a member of the site, with a password, confirmation e-mail and usually have to prove you are a sex pro.

On this site all you need to have access to any part of the site is a computer and Internet access.

We at spoc believe that info about violent or potentially violent clients should be available to all sex pro's, all the time. In fact this info should be available to anyone who may have any kind of relationship with these men.

Many sex pro's aren't interested in dealing with passwords etc., and many cannot "prove" they are in the business.

Permitting only a small number of escorts this potentially life saving info, ends up protecting bad dates.

Our goal is to protect as many sex pro's as possible. Bad date info is not about ownership of the people collecting it and no one should have to join a club in order to gain access to info about violent and potentially dangerous men.

As for bad dates changing their M.O's, they do that anyway. Just because the info is on a private site doesn't mean he won't try to deceive in new ways as a matter of course.

Also it is more difficult and time consuming for them to change real names, land line numbers, real addresses and appearance. Whenever we have a photo of a violent bad date we will post it on our Bad Client List.

We would like to encourage a lively, but civilized debate about this. Pro or con we'll post people's ideas on this page. Everyone's ideas will be posted anonymously of course. Please send your ideas to: welcome@spoc.ca