Women practicing the worlds oldest profession, sex work, has almost always been a taboo subject in mainstream society. But, Stella, a non-profit organization in Montreal run by ex-sex workers and sex workers strives to empower women sex workers. This means prostitutes, escorts, erotic dancers, massage parlour employees, sex phone line operators, porn actresses and models, by defending their rights and by bringing awareness to the discriminations they face in order to fight the stigma surrounding sex work.
Kathryn Delaney and Jenn Clamen, both from Stella, were invited by the women’s studies student association (WSSA) as part of the Bringing Feminism to the Table workshops to discuss the organization’s goals and decriminalizing prostitution during a talk at the Hall building last week.
“I do street work. I work one on one with the sex workers….I’m there to be a witness not to save anyone,” explained Delaney, who’s been working at Stella for the past three years, handing out condoms, giving out information and acting as a liason between sex workers and police officers when out on the streets.
Clamen, who’s worked on a special HIV/AIDS prevention program, discussed the sex worker discourse within the feminist movement. She argued against the abolitionist-feminists who claim that sex work is degrading to all women and is to blame for many of society’s ills (poverty, HIV, trafficking in women…etc).
People usually think that all sex workers are drug users but “there are many different types of sex workers,” emphasized Delaney. Not all are inherently junkies and poor. Some women work in the trade because they enjoy it.
“I know a 65-year-old woman who’s doing sex work because she finally found something she enjoys. She said ‘I just love giving blow-jobs,'” claimed Clamen, although she stated this is a rather rare example. Police repression is a welcome call to violence, says Delaney because it pushes women in the sex business to go in places like alleyways where they are not as safe.