April 14, in the evening, I went to a screening of Buying Sex, a recent Canadian documentary by Teresa MacInnes and Kent Nashon that describes the recent Bedford case, wherein Canada’s prostitution laws were struck down after a challenge brought by Alan Young and appeals through Ontario and Canada Supreme Court. Anyway, the filmmakers follow the case as it ambles through the courts from the original Ontario court decision to the first appeal, leading to the final appeal of Canada to the Supreme court. They interviewed lawyers, women who have left prostitution, academics, policy makers and men who
rape women for money buy sex. There were disturbing bits, especially the footage from a German brothel, you could hear a woman moaning in pain and saying, “that hurts…”, there was a bit in there featuring a woman who ran a brothel in New Zealand, where she pimped out young women–“I just said two days ago, ‘i need a blonde, younger than 20, size 6′, and then you came!” she said, crowing about her newest acquisition– and the interviews with the johns was uniformly awful “men need sex, if we don’t get it at home, we’ll pay for it. it’s human nature” which is ridiculous of course–they were so … entitled yet shut down and cynical. ugh. But there was a lot of hopeful footage, too–Swedish men talking about how they reject that, and one guy (the guy who made the movie about the German brothel) talking about how important it is for men to care for their children, and to see women as their peers — and the women, the women who were lawyers and the women who were once prostituted and the women who were front-line workers (though we didn’t see much of them, and heard very little–I know they were interviewed, though–I know they are front and centre in this fight–but marginalized in the media. sigh).
Then we heard from a panel of women, all of them part of women’s groups, active feminists — and all of them affected by the prostitution and pornography industry, as are we all. Each of them talked about prostitution as a particularly vicious form of male violence against women, a practice of colonial rule, and each of them talked about their hopes for a future that has no prostitution in it — where women and men will be equal to each other, politically, economically, socially. It will take a revolution, this equality, and it will take a long time, too. But we’ve been a long time with men’s boot on our neck, these things take a while to correct. Don’t know when it all went sideways, but we can straighten things out if we want to. And enough of us want to, seems to me. Look at the crowd there for the film screening–the room was pretty full. nearly two hundred people, i think. There was one guy there who was one of the johns in the movie. he went to the mic to ask a question. He has a disability, travels in a wheelchair, and introduced himself by saying, “I am a client of sex workers” — that was kind of brave in a fucked-up way. And then he asked a question about how to prevent people from entering prostitution — that was weird. He didn’t seem at all apologetic or self-reflective, couldn’t see the contradiction, it seemed. One of the panel members said, “stop buying women, stop using pornography”. Everyone said that at one time or another. The guy wasn’t defensive, anyway, seemed to me. Then again, even if he was, he wouldn’t get a lot of sympathy about the whole buying sex thing. People asked thoughtful interesting questions. Of course mostly men came to the mic, it’s always mostly men.
Then i went to a late night twelve-step meeting. and sitting right across from me was a young man with a t-shirt from Amsterdam’s red light district. silhouette of a naked woman right there, in the shape of a capital A, the second one in the name of the city. I couldn’t stop staring at it, and frowning at him. of course he didn’t notice me. I didn’t go up to him after the meeting to tell him he’s an asshole for wearing that shirt, and he has some amends to make to ALL the women in his life for promoting pimping and prostituting women like that, and … but i didn’t. because i was tired, and angry and disappointed — just ’cause you get into recovery doesn’t mean you don’t stop lovin’ the bullshit patriarchy feeds ya. And i was second-guessing myself, too, there’s that whole singleness of purpose thing going on — but really, sexism DOES interfere with women’s recovery — a few weeks ago, i was at that same meeting, and another young man, when he shared, he said, “I want to tell all the men here to not hit on the women in the rooms. I heard that about 1/3rd of our membership is female, and when i was out there, it looked a lot like 50/50 to me–maybe women aren’t coming here because men put the moves on them, and that’s wrong–women are dying out there, we have to really look at our behaviour and stop preying on them” — he did speak in terms that strong. I was grateful to him, and other men said after, “thank you for saying that”. None of the women speaking after thanked him, but that’s fine, he did the right thing, and that should be thanks enough, and the acknowledgment from other men that he spoke a true thing they needed to hear. We don’t owe him any cookies. But still. I am grateful to him. I hope he keeps that up. i hope he meets buddy with the porny t-shirt and takes some care of him.