Academic clarifies objections to sex work

Caroline Norma of RMIT University responded to some questions about sex work and brothel safety put to her by SafetyAtWorkBlog in response to her recently published opinion piece.  This article is a companion piece to an earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog article on sex work and safety.

SAWB: What action do you recommend that brothel owners should take, beyond the current legislative and licensing requirements, to ensure that only safe sex occurs on their premises?

CN: “Brothel owners are currently commissioning violence against women by operating prostitution businesses.  Prostitution is inherently a practice of violence against women, and can’t be made ‘safe’ for women by any action by pimps.  In fact, brothel owners have a financial conflict of interest with regards to ensuring the safety of women in their venues, because clients will pay more for unprotected sex acts, violent sex, body punishing sex acts like anal penetration, sex with younger women, etc.”

SAWB: Are there additional control measures that owners should apply to prevent clients entering brothels with guns or other weapons, such as knives?

CN: “Brothel owners should be required by government to employ expensive security guards, buy high-quality monitoring technology, and take other measures that will make their businesses unviable.  The currently viability of prostitution businesses rests wholly on women’s sexual insecurity.”

SAWB: What safety measures would you recommend brothel owners install within the rooms?

CN: “No physical contact should take place between women and clients–just like an any other workplace where sexual harassment is outlawed.”

SAWB: What training would you recommend for women choosing to enter sex work in licensed brothels?

CN: “Re-training for alternative income generating activity that values their inherent dignity and worth as full human beings. Training in self-defence, assertiveness and self-confidence so that women might evade the predatory behaviour of ‘brothel owners’ or pimps.”

SAWB: Should there be an alternative mediation strategy on OHS issues for sex workers to pursue instead of needing to involve lawyers?

CN: “No, women in prostitution should be supported to the fullest extent to pursue civil action against brothel owners and clients.”

SAWB: What safety lessons could Australian brothels learn from comparable licensed sex industries in other countries, such as those in Nevada?

CN: “Melissa Farley has documented the violence of the Nevada brothels, which is perhaps even worse than here.”

SAWB: Do you think that the new nationally harmonised OHS laws to be introduced in 2012 will have any impact on sex workers and brothel owners?

CN: “I have not familiarised myself with these laws yet.

To provide further background to Caroline Norma’s responses, readers may wish to read some of the work of Melissa Farley.  A good overview of the brothel situation in Nevada is available through Wikipedia.

In 2000, Magdalene Meretrix, author of  “Turning Pro: A Guide to Sex Work for the Ambitious and the Intrigued” wrote for the SafetyATWORK magazine about workplace safety in Nevada brothels. The article is accessible by clicking the image on the right.

SafetyAtWorkBlog thanks Caroline Norma for responding so promptly.

Kevin Jones

9 thoughts on “Academic clarifies objections to sex work”

  1. Say you interviewed an academic about how to improve forklift safety, and they responded only with vitriol about how forklifts are inherently unsafe and any action other than total prohibition was condoning forklift-related accidents. Would you have printed that here? Or would you at least have considered that person wasn\’t totally unbiased and seek a more balanced viewpoint?

    1. One of the intentions of this blog is to generate discussion. This post has certainly done that both here and elsewhere.

      On the matter of balance, not every article needs to be balanced in itself. Sometimes comments provide a balance, sometimes a thread of articles can do this. I think the articles on quad bike safety illustrate this a little.

      Also this blog is not a definitive encyclopaedia of safety. Blogs provide commentary and opinion that is, usually, not expressed elsewhere. And this is what has occurred in this article.

  2. Wow that was some real vitriol from her mouth (keyboard)! She failed to answer virtually a single question and instead towed what appears to be a party line.

    I understand some women are forced into prostitution, but there also seems to be many who choose it as a means of high income, like exotic dancing or stripping. I don\’t see how it \”is violence\” against a women, anymore than having consensual sex is a violent act.

    Her logic could feasibly extend to a wife who does not work, but is supported by her husband, having consensual sex with him. Is he violently raping her? He effectively pays her for this \”service\” amongst other things. I know this is taking it a step far, but then so is this crazy lady.

  3. I was not interviewing a CATWA representative but an academic who had researched the licensed brothel industry and who offered commentary on brothels and safety to the media following the publication of the The Age article about the sexworker\’s legal action. (http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=5qez09fehd5lz)
    I have read some of Sheila Jeffreys\’ work and have heard her speak at a sex work and sexual health conference in Melbourne but the SafetyAtWorkBlog is concerned with workplace safety, predominantly, and will continue to write about OHS-related topics. The debate about the legitimacy of sex work will not be pursued in this blog but we will be discussing any OHS issues that occur in that industry.

  4. No workplace is \”inherently unsafe\”. If people believe that nothing can be done to improve safety at work, nothing will be done, and people will continue to be injured and killed.

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