Looking empowered

So there was a book launch today in Townsville, Queensland in Australia of Prostitution Narratives, a compilation of sex trade survivor testimonies. The launch was disrupted by pro sex trade advocates.

Members of the public were invited to the book launch at a Townsville domestic violence service over three weeks ago, through advertising on social media.

The domestic violence service that offered the use of their conference room, as they do for many groups,  was contacted by a representative of local sex industry group RESPECT, a couple of weeks ago. They said they disagreed with the event and asked to leave their flyers at the venue.  The host service agreed to accept the flyers.

On Friday last week sex trade advocates visited the domestic violence service saying they had information to offer and asked to put up posters of partly naked women in the sex trade “looking empowered”.  While the host in no way discouraged their attendance at the event it was made clear that the posters would not be allowed because they would cause offence to survivors, and no offensive conduct would be tolerated.

They could have given a better “because” than that, I think. They could have simply said no, this is our event, and we’re not obliged to display your posters that take a view fundamentally opposed to our view.

That’s clear enough, isn’t it? An anti-racism event isn’t obliged to display racist posters just because someone asks. A feminist event isn’t obliged to display misogynist posters just because someone asks. That’s a perfectly legitimate reason, and there’s no need to get into the weeds of “offence” and “offensive.”

The book launch was subsequently held at another venue because the domestic violence service provider was not able to ensure attendees’ safety. 

The response from the sex trade advocates was extremely threatening. They said they would not be responsible for the behaviour of their group members at the event. At the launch itself, former president of the Scarlet Alliance, Elena Jeffreys ( HERE ), stood on a chair and interjected while survivors were speaking. She attempted to harass and, in my view, intimidate both survivors and other speakers at the event.

This type of harassment, and what I see as threats against survivors who give voice to their experiences is becoming increasingly common, in my view.  Sex trade advocates are perhaps alarmed at the rising tide of people who are coming to understand the reality of the sex trade, and the harms it causes, especially to women and children.

The sex trade lobby’s continuing aggressive attacks on survivors’ freedom of speech exposes it for the violent, abusive, manipulative and coercive trade it is, in my view as a survivor of this trade.  I also find the intimation of threat to a domestic violence service absolutely unconscionable.

And not really all that feminist, either.

5 Responses to “Looking empowered”