Friday, May 20, 2011

the prosecution of sex workers

I was looking at the Harlot's Parlour site and I read about the English Collective of Prostitutes' campaign to stop the prosecution of Sheila Farmer. This was of interest to me because I have said on this blog that the laws about prostitution make women unsafe and should be changed. Her case graphically illustrates what I and many others have been saying.

There are many women up and down the country who make a good living from prostitution working on their own from their own flats without ever coming into contact with the police. What they do is legal. Sheila Farmer was apparently one of these. However, it is often not safe. She was viciously attacked by a man who raped her repeatedly, tried to strangle her and kept her tied up for hours.

After this she decided to work only with other women. Her flat was raided by the police, she was arrested and faces up to seven years in prison. This has happened to a number of women, and apparently they are often also often accused of 'money laundering'.

Also found on the Harlot's Parlour site is a discussion of the recent case of Hanna Morris. Hanna called the police when violent men brandishing shotguns raided one of the flats she operated threatening the women inside by throwing petrol around with the intention of setting fire to the premises with the women present. Hanna called the police with the expectation that they would pursue, capture and hopefully convict the violent men that had attacked the women whom she represented. The police chose to close Hanna’s business and begin a prosecution against Hanna that could have put her in prison for seven years.

Sheila Farmer's case doesn't seem to have made it into the newspapers, but not long ago Claire Finch's did. The police raided her house and charged her with brothel-keeping. This article in the Times is about Claire and Hanna's cases.

Street prostitution is a very different kind of prostitution, but here also the law makes women unsafe. This article in the Guardian shows this. A raft of new legislation has served only to shunt thousands of women out of well-lit, residential locales and into desolate, semi-industrial wastelands. David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, has suggested managed zones where sex workers can work safely, decriminalisation, or even full legislation. Some women's groups, however, decry these measures as 'legitimising the abuse of women'.

I think that these feminists have got it completely wrong. It is current legislation which 'legitimizes' the abuse of women. They should support changes in the law that will result in fewer women being killed, injured and raped. Women know what they need to do to keep themselves safe, and feminists should listen to them instead of ignoring them or shouting them down.

The Harlot's Parlour site has information about the ideas of two radical feminists, Andrea Dworkin and Catharine Mackinnon. Despite their extremism they have had a lot of influence on feminism and attitudes to laws on prostitution.

I don't believe that sex workers are doing anything wrong, but I'm not so sure about people who aren't sex workers but make money out of sex workers. I don't know if Sheila Farmer, Hanna Morris or Claire Finch are in that category. I have nothing against prostitution, but the best type of prostitution is where the women take the profits and are not told what to do by anyone else.

In Soho the sex workers in the walk ups are not breaking the law because they work alone. Most sex workers who work from flats on their own would I guess rent from a landlord who has no idea that prostitution is occurring on the premises, or if they do know turn a blind eye. Or maybe they have a mortgage or have paid outright for the flat.

I thought maybe a similar arrangement worked in Soho. I know that the granddaughter of Paul Raymond owns a lot of property in Soho. However, I have been becoming increasingly aware that there are people who organize the women and would be taking much of the profit.

I was told recently that all of the women at my favourite walk up in Soho have been told not to do oral sex without a condom. Probably a good thing, but I didn't realize that they are all told what to do. Someone else said that the reason one of the flats in Old Compton Street was not used for a while was because of a 'change of management'. A couple of the women have talked about their 'bosses' (in both cases a woman).

The sooner we get sensible changes in legislation the better. Then not only will women be safer but they will be better able to organize themselves and keep the profits from their work.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

looking for Angela

In my last post I mentioned how I tried to find Angela in Peter Street. I couldn't find her, and on Wednesday I decided to try again. Re-reading the Soho Walk-Up Thread on the PunterNet Forum I found the location of her flat. It is on the top floor of 28 Peter Street. She isn't normally the sort of woman that I would go for, just the opposite in fact, but I thought it would be an interesting experience. She is apparently quite wild.

When the maid opened the door I asked her the name of the woman there that day. In Peter Street, unlike most other places in Soho, they don't put the name of the woman up outside the flat. She wouldn't say but kept inviting me in to talk to the woman. When I was inside the flat I saw quite an attractive Italian-looking woman, with long black hair. She looked about 40. I asked her if she is Angela and she said yes.

The bedroom was pleasant enough and had big mirrors. I asked her if I could spend ten minutes with her for £20. I said I would like a hand job. While she was wanking me she asked me how I knew about her. I said that I had found out about her on the internet. She asked what they were saying about her and I replied that they said she looked liked a porn star and was horny.

It was quite a pleasant experience but afterwards I couldn't help thinking that maybe this woman isn't Angela. She wasn't quite what I was expecting. I started re-reading the Soho Walk-Up Thread more carefully and also the field reports for Soho. Angela is in fact a blonde! So the woman I saw wan't being honest with me. Unless she's had a change of hair colour which could have happened but I don't think so.

When she had been asking me about what they were saying about her, she really wanted to know what they were saying about Angela. Probably she knows Angela, maybe she thinks of Angela as a rival. Or she wants to know how Angela has got herself lots of publicity.

Anyway, apparently I might not be the only one who has been looking for Angela. I saw a news report on TV about four Police Community Support Officers who have left their jobs in disgrace after being caught visiting a 'brothel' while on duty. I could recognize Peter Street and I wondered if it was the same flat I had been to.

I googled it and came up with two news stories in The Telegraph and The Daily Mail. The Mail story has a photo of the doorway. The PCSOs had asked after a particular Eastern European woman (Angela is Lithuanian). She wan't there, and they had a cup of tea with the maid. It is defininitely 28 Peter Street. So maybe they had been reading the PunterNet Forum and decided to check out 'fab looking horny filthy talking porn star lookalike' Angela. All they got was a cup of tea.