Not a job like any other
10th March 2017

Note from the creator of the bench in response to this article:

'I am very grateful to the Nottingham Women's Centre for displaying this bench created in memory of women in prostitution murdered by men.  

To be clear - I support the criminalisation of the buyers; pimps, traders and profiteers within the sex trade (this would include third party beneficiaries, such as any organisation that takes a stance supporting the sex trade which is seen to benefit from that decision).
I support fully funded, effective exit programmes for women within the sex trade.
I support the decriminalisation of the women within the sex trade
I support a world without patriarchy.

The five blank plaques will, I have no doubt, be filled in the coming months. It is time for the government to recognise prostitution as a form of violence against women and to legislate to end demand.'

Bench commemorating British sex workers murdered or gone missing on display in Nottingham
by Rachel Mlota

A bench commemorating hundreds of British sex workers who have been murdered or gone missing has come to Nottingham.

It is currently on display at the Nottingham Women’s Centre on Chaucer Street until the end of March as part of women’s history month.

Sian Steans, a trustee at the centre, said: “Their deaths were too soon and they need to be recognised, we remember the name of the murder but we don’t remember the woman he murdered.

“These are women, like any women that use our centre: mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, and they are a part of women’s history like the rest of us.

“Women who are at very high risk of male violence are women who are within the sex industry and this bench brings attention to this by highlighting and paying tributes to the women who have lost their lives to male violence while in the sex industry.

“Part of women’s history month is the joy of womanhood and celebrating sisterhood and community but it’s also working to challenge male violence.”

The centre’s partner charity, POW Nottingham Limited, work closely with sex workers offering an array of services such as sexual health services and drug treatment services.

Daniela Scotece, CEO of POW, said: “We want to make sure that the voices of the voiceless are heard and continue to be heard.”

POW recently published a book called ‘Hello I’m Here’ which expresses the experiences of Nottingham prostitutes and their accounts of male violence.

The original article and video clip can be seen on Notts TV HERE




It Should Be Self-Evident That Socialists Should Be Anti-Prostitution
by Frankie Green
8th March 2017

Leftwingers should be as outraged by women’s subjugation as they are about corporate capitalism’s treatment of workers, says FRANKIE GREEN

PROSTITUTION is at the heart of women’s oppression. The commercial sex trade is both cause and consequence of men’s greater economic, political and legal status — although it is absurd to refer to “sex” in the case of the sex trade when desire is not mutual and only money is the facilitator.

At the junction of patriarchy and capitalism the forces sustaining the global prostitution industry interlock, preying, as Pala Molisa says: “On women already marginalised by class and race … [feeding] off the despair, poverty and hopelessness that global capitalism is producing and that afflicts the lives of young people, especially indigenous women and people of colour.”

Prostitution’s underlying assumption is of men’s entitlement to demand sexual access, but is this an unquestionable right?

As Jeremy Seabrook writes: “‘Demand’ takes precedence in the seemingly neutral equation of supply and demand; demand is imperious and dominant; supply, submissively responsive.”

Those who condone prostitution effectively tell others it is acceptable to purchase women’s bodies, licensing a sexist, predatory masculinity.

They appear to have no problem with prostituted people being consigned to what Naomi Klein terms “sacrifice zones” — subsections of humanity accorded no value other than the profit extracted from them.

For socialists this should be anathema, yet the specious categorisation of prostitution as “work” has gained traction on the left.

Basic socialist tenets — such as that people are not things and should not be used instrumentally — align with the feminist principle that women are not objects, they are not for sale and do not exist for men’s use.

Belief that exploitation and oppression are not inevitable, coupled with an analysis of gender roles as social constructs, means prostitution is no more ineradicable than other entrenched wrongs.

Anti-prostitution campaigners — some within the Labour Party — advocate the Nordic Model’s threefold approach: decriminalising prostituted people, supporting those wishing to exit and criminalising demand for paid sexual access.

Aware of prostitution’s harm within a spectrum of misogynist abuse, they focus “on the root cause, the recognition that without men’s demand for and use of women and girls for sexual exploitation, the global prostitution industry would not be able to flourish and expand.”

Prostitution is inextricably intertwined with trafficking. SPACE International likens discussing sex trafficking without seeing how demand for prostitution drives it to “talking about slavery without mentioning the plantations.”

The Coalition Against Trafficking In Women says: “Cultural acceptance and normalisation of commercial sexual exploitation fuels the cycle of violence against women.”

The prostitution lobby is now seeking to expand the British market, using euphemisms like “sex work,” “sex industry” and “client” to sanitise prostitution.

Prostitution proponents engage in a kind of grooming, encouraging us to shut down conscience and empathy. The left should ask: who benefits? This should be axiomatic for activists who consider ethical treatment of others a cornerstone of their work.

Anti-Trident campaigners have mooted alternative employment for workers if Trident is not renewed — why not extend that to prostituted people?

The left has a distance to travel in taking on board feminist challenges to male supremacy. The transformed world envisaged by left-wing movements, where oppressive hierarchies of gender, racism and class are ended, is inconceivable without the abolition of prostitution.

Labour’s slogan “No-one and no community will be left behind” would be empty and pro-equality programmes rendered meaningless.

Can education focusing on “sexual health, healthy relationships and consent” succeed if kids know that men have state-sanctioned entitlement to (predominantly) women’s bodies?

In the better society we’d like to see, would men continue to have this right, making a mockery of women and girls’ right to equality and safety?

Positing use of prostitutes as a private matter is wrong-headed — transactions involving third-party profiteering can hardly be described as private, and only from a male punter’s perspective can be seen as such.

Individual lives, shaped by socioeconomic forces, are constructed to serve vested interests.

Legal changes regarding domestic violence and spousal rape acknowledge this, but politicians who have not caught up with the fact that this applies to prostitution too reveal their antediluvian bias by speaking from punters’ point of view.

Marge Piercy’s poetry comes to mind when prostitution is described as work. “The pitcher cries for water to carry/ and a person for work that is real,” she wrote.

But perhaps it is the logical extension of the purchase of labour, albeit not only people’s time and energy but their flesh, vagina, breasts, anus, mouth, whole bodies bought to be mauled and penetrated by endless strangers.

Just another job in an economy where low pay, slashed welfare, debt and global trafficking ensure supply of streams of bodies — venal, unregulated neoliberalism at its brutal extreme, callous in its unfettered greed, with training provided through childhood abuse. Suppose this is work? Would that make it OK?

What constitutes “real work,” with the satisfaction of socially useful, properly remunerated fulfilment of our potential? The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, endorsed by the International Labour Organisation, call for decent safe work for women.

The secretary-general’s Leave Noone Behind report defines decent work as “productive … conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.”

As prostitution in Britain is mostly controlled by organised crime — criminal gangs not being known for providing ideal working environments — prostitution clearly meets no such criteria.

With decriminalisation, gangs’ control increases under a legal veneer. The purchase of a human being’s depersonalised body for sexual use, power, control and contempt is an expression of contempt.

To understand the consequences of legalising this objectification, look no further than the horror of Germany’s brothels. Anyone seduced by industry lobbyists should educate themselves about this hellish scenario.

Isn’t it the left’s duty to demarcate types of employment, distinguishing the legitimate from the unacceptable? Labour movements and unions have a responsibility to protect people from the untrammelled ravages of the market, not just mitigate it, but say: “No, enough! You cannot use people this way.”

Labour promises to be interventionist when in power; this must include the prostitution industry, where, if decriminalisation prevails market forces can continue rampaging unhindered by ethics.

Wasted human potential is one reason for opposing grammar schools — rejecting selection and notions that children are destined for preordained places in the social hierarchy, a clearly unjust, immoral ideology. Yet similar logic is not applied to tolerance of prostitution, which writes off swathes of people, primarily women.

Why are they seen as fit for nothing more than use for men’s gratification? Is this not also an inhuman, rightwing and reprehensible waste?

Leftwingers should be as outraged by women’s subjugation as they are about corporate capitalism’s treatment of workers, but often seem as laissez-faire and indifferent as bosses are to employees, colonisers to the dispossessed, racists to refugees. They continue to lose credibility if they are not seen to be able or willing to join the dots.

This article appeared in the Morning Star HERE

A longer version of the same article can be seen on the Nordic Model Now website HERE

Emma Watson, Gloria Steinem, and My 10-year-old Daughter

Emma Watson, Gloria Steinem, and My 10-year-old Daughter
13th June 2016
by Leah Jewett (by special request)


It feels like a historic moment, 24 February 2016. Actor Emma Watson, at 25 a rising-star feminist, is set to interview the revolutionary Gloria Steinem, 85-year-old activist, campaigner, legend. Outspoken-celebrity Britain meets era-defining America. One has seen the light; the other has lit the way.

Here at the Emmanuel Centre in London’s Westminster, with a sell-out crowd of 1,000 plus another 250 in a video overflow hall, it seems as if there is one man for every 30 women and that every other woman is holding a copy of Steinem’s recent autobiography My Life On The Road. Though 90,000 copies have been sold in the US, here it is more like 7,600 - in January sales of the book shot up from 3,000 virtually overnight after Watson selected it to kickstart her new feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf.

Sinuously elegant, with a great warm confident smile, Gloria Steinem takes to the stage wearing a trademark low-slung belt which references her affinity with Native Americans, and a long-sleeved top pulled down over her fingers teenager-style. Then in strides Emma Watson, show-stopping in high heels, tight black trousers, a crisp white cropped shirt.

It’s significant, meaningful, this confluence of two champions of the feminist cause. Steinem has embodied the women’s movement since the 1960s, has made a political mark on the world and a personal impact on people’s lives. Now here she is standing strong with a trailblazing actor who has the courage to wear her heart, sincerity and curiosity on her sleeve, to use her fame as a platform. Fronting the HeForShe campaign Watson is sparking a conversation around gender issues for a whole new generation. Her declaration that she will take a year off acting and read a book a week to learn about equality is, Steinem tells her, “precious and unusual... People come to know you onscreen and they trust you. It is so great and important that you are taking that trust and putting it to work by giving out activism information.”

In turn Watson says: “The challenge at times seems insurmountable. We are climbing Everest and: can we see the peak? And you’ve been doing this almost your whole life. You’re so engaged and mad as hell and totally in it, but you have this amazing patience and kind of aerial view of it.”

No wonder this event has been billed as an “epic feminist bonding session” (Marie Claire), the “feminist chat of our dreams” (HuffingtonPost) and, as termed their collaboration: “life lessons from the jedis of feminism”.

For 90 minutes Steinem and Watson talk sexuality, sports, friendship, patriarchy, pornography versus erotica, violence against women, body image, self-worth, dehumanised and caring male role models, the pressures of self-improvement, Harry Potter, abortion, representation of women in politics, nervousness about public speaking.

Watson is captivating - increasingly animated into candid anecdotes, she comes across as clear, composed, authentic (her word), thoughtful. “It was a big revelation to realise that it was very profitable for me to feel really bad about myself as a woman,” she reflects. “Once I’d come to understand this idea I was able to shut down a lot of self-critiquing.”

Steinem is compelling - easygoing, good-humoured, zen (Watson’s word for her), and assured, she speaks in incantatory, eloquent sentences. She remarks: “I always say to audiences of men: cooperation beats domination - trust me”, then laughs. 

Both can’t help but command respect for their quiet fervour, and for the vulnerability and strength in their giving of themselves.

“I love crying. Crying is great,” says Watson. Gloria concurs: “Why is there shame around crying? People who watch a horrific event and don’t cry ought to explain why.”

When Steinem says: “We can’t control what happens, but we can use what happens”, Watson agrees: “You come to embrace these things. I now accept that I was like Hermione. It’s made me who I am.”

Later Watson wonders: “Would you say that a Gloria mantra would be: never, never, never, never give up?” Steinem replies: “Yes. And dance a little.”

• • • • • • •

The press coverage is minimal the day after their superwomen exchange. There’s just the odd article fixated on Watson’s ombré hair colour and a few making the obvious soundbite out of Watson’s reflection “I hated my strong eyebrows at age 9”. It’s the classic delight in female self-loathing and insecurities - and lost in the shuffle is Watson’s payoff line about her empowering mother (“She desperately tried to tell me that my strong eyebrows gave my face character”).

Some websites get the irony - “Emma Watson discusses feminism. Everyone gets excited about her hair,” points out the Telegraph; “C’mon. Surely this is a parody,” declared an article on Indy100; and the Refinery29 article “Why We Don’t Care About Emma Watson’s Eyebrows” goes on to exclaim: “What more does this woman have to do to be taken seriously? What have her highlights got to do with anything she was attempting to achieve yesterday?”

A few days later comes the delayed-reaction avalanche. Because in replying to a question from the audience, Watson had casually, as if among friends, - a website about women’s sexual pleasure recommended by a friend - the media zeroes in on it. More “reductionist commentary”, to quote Steinem, in action.

• • • • • • •

The day before their milestone talk I spend a calm half-hour with Steinem at Oneworld, her publishing house in Bloomsbury, doing a Q&A for the Guardian. Though I’m slightly overawed to meet the “mother of feminism”, a tireless radical maverick who has done so much to right social injustice, I immediately feel I’ve known her always. It’s something about the soft-spoken, measured way she talks; her being gracious, interested, at ease; the way she sometimes ends a sentence with a conciliatory “OK?” or “right?”; the laugh, maple-syrup rich and smooth, that prefaces some of her answers.

Growing up as a teenager in 1960s San Francisco, I tell her, I’d subscribed to Ms Magazine. She wants to know my story; suddenly she’s asking me questions. She makes a great listener. Time is running out, and I wonder if we can talk about a few more things. “Up to you,” Steinem says, “it’s up to you.”

I put to her a question from my 10-year-old daughter Dare: “Since when did you become a feminist, and how did you know you were one?”

Steinem does her gentle laugh, pauses: “It took an alarmingly long time because it wasn’t present in the culture when I was growing up. I thought I might be able to escape a female fate as an individual, but I didn’t understand it was possible to change the fate itself. That only became clear to me, thanks to other women, in the late 60s, when I was in my mid-30s. So your daughter’s going to do much more than I did, because she’s smart and independent younger.”

Steinem signs my copy of her book: “To Dare - who is our future!”

As I’m out the door, she says: “See you somewhere in the world again, I hope.”

The next night, after the talk with Emma Watson, Steinem sits signing books for a huge long queue of people. A 50-year-old American declares: “I’m starstruck!”; a young woman comments: “My mother made me read this book”; there’s even a father with a baby dressed in pink strapped to his chest.

I introduce my 10-year-old girl to Gloria Steinem. They say hi and smile at each other across the table.

Original article in Huffington Post HERE
Video of Gloria Steinem with Emma Watson HERE



PODCAST: From academia to pop culture to body hair, porn culture has permeated almost every aspect of our lives

PODCAST: From academia to pop culture to body hair, porn culture has permeated almost every aspect of our lives
22nd February 2017
With Heather Brunskell-Evans and Meghan Murphy

Today, pornography is inescapable. It shapes our self-image, our relationships, our sexualities — even our body hair removal practices. In academia, many media scholars have taken a non-critical approach to porn and third wave feminists have embraced it. If it feels like the pornographers have won, it’s because in many ways they have.

A new book edited by Dr. Heather Brunskell-Evans explores the impacts of the porn industry on critical media studies, popular discourse, and on our bodies and sexualities. Featuring chapters by feminist scholars like Julia Long, Sheila Jeffreys, Gail Dines, and Meagan Tyler, The Sexualized Body and the Medical Authority of Pornography offers a wide-ranging analysis of the various ways the propaganda of the porn industry has shaped our culture and lives.

Heather is a social theorist, philosopher, and Senior Research Fellow at King’s College in London. She is a National Spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party Policy on Ending Sexual Violence and co-founder of Resist Porn Culture. As a trustee of FiLia, a feminist charity that aims to bring about change for girls and women, Heather is helping to organize this year’sFeminism in London conference, which is taking place on October 14th and 15th.

In this episode, I speak with her about the book as well as about the way discourse around pornography has changed over the years.

The podcast can be heard on Feminist Current HERE

The Contemporary ‘Cult Of The ‘Sex-Worker’’

The Contemporary ‘Cult Of The ‘Sex-Worker’’
27th February 2017

In certain social circles praising sex-workers has become fashionable. How has prostitution - an out-dated, slavery-like industry - been made to look so modern?

In a YouTube video doing the rounds of social media at the moment a number of self-identified sex-workers who either work independently, or who profit from employing others, tell us prostitution is a job like any other. Prostitution is not about the violation of women’s rights it is a woman’s right. It is not socially harmful since it is merely a transaction between two consenting adults. If prostitution was decriminalised, negative features associated with it would soon disappear. Prostitutes enjoy sex with johns, so hey, what’s not to like about being paid for pleasure? We can even think of prostitutes as akin to social workers. The punters are harmless guys who merely seek a service. Indeed, more sexual servicing of men could contribute to “world peace”!

Prostitution, the video seeks to reassure, has nothing to do with gender politics, exploitation, trafficking or pimping. It is simply a personal business deal made by sassy women (and some men) who are brave enough not to give a shit about out-dated morality. Prostitutes are strong and independent entrepreneurs who quite frankly choose not to work at the local superstore for a fraction of the wage.

This narrative tells us the prostitution trade enhances the feminist cause. It goes hand in hand with the idea that pornography is sexually liberating. It was first conceived in the late 1960s by aspiring sex-industry moguls. These men cleverly stole the revolutionary idea of the women’s liberation movement that women, not men, should control women’s bodies. From that time to the present, the narrative of women’s liberation has been evoked by the sex-industry to advance its own interests, by men who defend buying sex, and by lobbyists invested in legalising the trade in women.

Critics of this narrative point out it renders many issues invisible: the capitalist industries that drive prostitution; the johns who lobby for the ‘right’ to pay for sexual consent; the prostitutes who are physically revolted and hurt by the sex; the abuse and violence of the johns (often enacting pornography scenarios); the voices of exited prostitutes raised in opposition; and the inextricable relationship between prostitution and trafficking.

Some tolerant, sophisticated and urbane folk, even those who bang the drum of human rights, can get angry if faced with empirical evidence that demonstrates prostitution is not harmless. Defenders of prostitution often attack ad hominem. On social media critics are variously described as ‘hairy legged-lesbians’ (apparently lesbians are only cool when pro sex-work), ‘whore-phobic’, ‘sex-negative’, ‘man-hating’, ‘fundamentalist feminists’.

Academia does not necessarily protect from vitriol. I attended a conference in 2014 at Middlesex University entitled Feminist Whores? Exploring Feminist Debates Around Violence, Sex Work and Pornography. The conference aim was “to present alternative ways of looking at women’s involvement in, and engagement with, both sex work and pornography, especially within the context of contemporary feminism”. However, I discovered to my cost, only certain feminist voices were acceptable.

Above the conference stage an iconic image from a pornography magazine of the 1970s loomed large. The 1970s was the hay day of the feminist fight back against the expanding sex industry and this image was analysed as misogynistic. In contrast, 40 years later, we were invited to see this pornographic representation of a woman’s body as harmless, even ironic. It is the earlier type of feminism, not pornography itself, which the conference organisers claimed is the real impediment to women’s sex equality. The new feminism allows us to get down and dirty with the lads; we too are permitted sexual arousal at watching ‘whores’ and we can playfully claim the term for ourselves.

But ‘whore’ isn’t a term like ‘gay’ which homosexual men have given themselves in order to define their own identity. ‘Whore’ is term given by men to women, and it is part of the old patriarchal morality. The idea that ‘whores’ actually exist functions to divide women into two groups - those who men can ‘legitimately’ sexually use without troubling their conscience, and those they can’t. However, there is no such thing as a ‘whore’. It is a male desire transformed into a female characteristic. What divides women is economics and social and personal circumstance. It is the lack of cultural recognition of the political conditions of prostitution which fosters the stigmatization and objectification of women.

The entire sex trade rests on this fantasy, that women can be ‘whores’. The contemporary ‘cult of the whore’, has done little to free women and girls. The internet buzzes with shaming girls and women for crossing the boundaries they’ve been incited to transgress. Despite the fact it is the man who drives the demand for prostitution and pornography, no such derogatory label adheres to him.

The cultural equivalent of ‘the cult of the whore’ is ‘sex-workers’ rights’. Prostitution is fetishised as transgressive. But it is the converse - prostitution endlessly erects the very patriarchal divisions between women that it allegedly destroys. It is the dissolution of boundaries which has real revolutionary potential.

The YouTube video asserts that decriminalisation renders prostitutes safe from abuse and violence, as if it is the law, not men, who hurt them. The legalisation of prostitution in Germany is testament to this misinformation. Decriminalization is not about women’s rights, but, as one social commentator argues, it about “ penis rights”. However, hope is on the horizon for growing European resistance to the dominant narrative. Mainstream media are beginning to document the scandal of German brothels. In February 2017 Ireland followed France (and the Nordic countries) in passing a Sex Buyer Law. It has done so because ‘sex-work’ isn’t a job like any other. The term ‘sex-work’ conveys neutrality, and in doing so it desensitises us to violence and disguises the exploitation of women in the UK and globally. As long as prostitution exists women and men will never be free from patriarchy. Prostitution should be abolished, for all our sakes.

Follow Heather Brunskell-Evans on Twitter:

The original article can be seen HERE

Sex and Relationship Education and porn

Sex and Relationship Education and porn
28th February 2017

Pornography is a form of violence against women and girls

The Department for Education is expected to make an announcement that sex and relationships education will be made a compulsory part of the curriculum for schools in England. We welcome this step and the efforts of the campaign groups and politicians that have built and sustained the momentum to make it happen.

Just this week Plan International UK published the results from its survey of parents, which found that three-quarters want teachers to address the harmful impact of porn and the trend of “sexting”, and that over 80% think sexual consent and domestic abuse and violence should be covered in the curriculum.

There seems to be a groundswell of public, social and political awareness that the tools and resources available to many parents and educators have not kept up with the world we live in. Maria Miller MP, head of the Women and Equalities Committee, was quoted in the Guardian as saying that children need to “better understand the signs of an abusive relationship, issues such as consent, and the harm that is done by sexting and underage viewing of pornography”.

We at FiLiA endorse this message – children and young people do need us adults to be able to give them the information and skills to negotiate an ever-changing world as the digital revolution continues at a pace they can keep up with better than many of us.

But is that enough? Is it enough to admit that we live in a world where what used to be viewed as soft porn is now mainstream culture; where Fifty Shades of Grey, a film about intimate partner violence and stalking, is released on Valentine’s Day as a romantic date film, and where all of us are two clicks away from violent body-punishing pornography portrayed as normal heterosexual sex?

Is it fair for us to accept that world but tell young people not to engage in it?

Parents and politicians are worried that young people believe pornography is an accurate representation of sex. But children and young people know something we adults are still kidding ourselves about: the online world is not distinct from the offline world – our lives both on- and offline are real, and our actions online continue offline.

When men troll and target women with misogynistic violent threats, those are real things that men really do. And “real-life sex” is increasingly replicating pornographic sex, which is increasingly violent and humiliating and always looking to pass the next threshold of acceptability in order to suck people in and keep them coming back for more.

We seem to live under a veneer of equal opportunity and progression, but under that veneer this huge industry based on inequality of every kind has exploded, with the majority of material being heterosexual male-dominant/female-submissive – at best aggressive and degrading, at worst… well, imagine it and it’s been done, with every racist stereotype reinforced along the way.

And once the industry has you hooked and looking for the next kick, because choking and anal tears just don’t get you off any more, then we do end up back to safeguarding children and young people, because that is where this profiteering international and hard-to-regulate industry will take you.

Britain’s most senior child protection police officer doesn’t want to keep prosecuting all the men who access child pornography anymore, because there are just too many for our police and criminal justice system to cope with. Unless we address the booming industry head on, any efforts to minimise its impact are just papering the cracks while the damp rises.

Pornography is a form of violence against women and girls, and boys. It is addictive, and it is harmful to the people engaged in its production, to its users and to the kind of society we want for all of us. It is time to start teaching ourselves the lessons we so desperately want someone else to teach our children.


[FiLiA is inviting its volunteers to contribute comments on current news and issues affecting women and girls. This is the first contribution]

Decriminalization and the Prostitution of British Law

Decriminalization and the Prostitution of British Law

By Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans

Although prostitution is legal in Britain there are a number of laws which regulate related activities, such as soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing a brothel, and pimping. These laws are both confused and confusing: regional police forces interpret them in different ways; and they do not comply with sexual equality and gender justice...



For many people – women, minorities, immigrants – the world is suddenly an even more hostile place than before. At the same time, our ability to seek refuge is being taken away, with less and less funding for vital social services. In this environment, we must join together to resist – and survive. 

Art is part of the battle...