In the wake of the murder of a sex worker activist in Sweden, stripper Edie Lamort writes about the stigma faced by women who choose sex work.
Last week a Swedish sex worker named Petite Jasmine was allegedly murdered by her violent ex-husband. A victim of an unbalanced man but also of the draconian Swedish sex laws, the so-called Nordic Model, that so many of our politicians here seem to idolise. Mainstream media did not report this angle, as they too seem to be in favour of the Nordic Model. However last weeks events show the consequences of such laws that feed the terrible stigma around anyone involved in sex work. Despite being an articulate and obviously intelligent campaigner her job as a sex worker meant the courts saw her as an unfit mother so placed her children with their violent father. The man who then went on to kill her by stabbing her 27 times. She reported his violence to the police but was not believed due to her job. Here are some links:
There are rallies this Friday in various cities throughout the world to show support for Jasmine and a murdered transgender sex worker called Dora, and to protest against criminalisation. The organisers of the event have said,
“We are calling all our friends and families to protest the Swedish model that took away the children of Jasmine and gave the custody to her violent ex-husband who finally murdered her. Social workers and the Swedish state refused to listen to Jasmine. Why listening to a sex worker who doesn’t know what is good for her? That criminal system cost Jasmine her life.”
This reminded me of a changing room conversation one day in an East End strip pub. A dancer had told me once that her goal was in order to ensure she could get the best IVF treatment. She’d been told several years previously by her doctor that she would struggle to conceive naturally so her savings plan had focused around ensuring she had a family. Her husband worked as a builder and she as a stripper. A stereotypical working class couple making good, working towards creating a nice family home in the suburbs. After many years of trying and buying the best IVF treatment they were unsuccessful and decided to adopt. They began the procedure but were eventually refused because of her job. As an erotic dancer she was viewed as an unfit mother despite them being a perfectly decent couple who’d worked hard for decent home. So a child was denied a good home due to social prejudice and a patronising narrative against ‘the fallen woman’. They had worked for years to achieve their goal but this stigma prevented them opening their home to a child in need.
Another example of the effects of stigma is the story of ‘Luanna’. She was a Brazilian dancer who worked for many years in London and also trained to be a pharmacist. She met and fell in love with a handsome Australian and eventually moved to the other side of the world to be with him. It all began well with her getting that pharmaceutical job, having a child and building a new life. Then the marriage broke down and a messy divorce ensued. Her husband then turned and showed his true colours and hypocrisy by using her former job against her as a way of gain full custody of their son. She was devastated.
Whilst living in London he had not once complained about her job as a dancer and was very happy to go to the fancy parties, the expensive restaurants, enjoy the 5 star holidays and get a nice new motor cycle. In fact he would tell her she was beautiful and it was a great job, he had no problems with her dancing. So she carried on under a false sense of security as he merrily spent her money. But hey, they were building a life together, or so she thought, there would be a point when he had to take care of her so it would all balance out surely?
Yet when they went to court, whether he believed in the authenticity of the argument or not, he knew he could throw the stigma of being an erotic dancer at her. This was to discredit her and humiliate her out of anger and spite but he was fully aware that he could use the uninformed prejudices in society to win his argument. He knew what buttons to push despite the fact that he had lived off of her earnings, had been quite happy with it at the time, and that she had achieved an education and career out of it. The court ruled in his favour.
Eventually after a long fight she managed to start seeing her son again at weekends and is slowly rebuilding their relationship. Yet in this act of vengeance, his and society’s punishment of the immoral woman, did he think of the consequences for the child? The fact that his son was denied a relationship with his own mother and that he caused his son distress? Or maybe that he may have been damaging his son’s future ability to relate to women due to the fact that his own mother had been denounced? Would the child grow up hating women because of this? The only thing that was considered was that at some point she had been the ‘wrong type of woman’.
All these attitudes and laws have their roots in centuries old church morality, which simply doesn’t work in the modern world. Yet these prejudices can be thrown at women at any time. Find yourself outside of the norm and wait for the onslaught. There has been a growing cacophony, a white noise of ignorance, over the past few years from journalists and lobbying groups who label themselves feminists to increase this stigma and further alienate anyone who works in the erotic industries. What they fail to realise is that this stigma is dangerous and damaging to all women. It narrows the confines of what a ‘good’ woman is and will have consequences on all women as it encourages slut-shaming. God help you if you fall outside the narrowing perimeters of what is ‘good’.
Those who work in the erotic industries are the outer limits, the final rings around planet ‘what is acceptable’. We are taking the flack and therefore those who exist further in can do as they please. As long as we remain the definition of slut the rest of you are relatively safe. However if we are driven underground and the world becomes a more judgemental and puritanical place then ‘normal’ women will also become targets. Holly Willoughby showing too much cleavage on The Voice to the closing of Burlesque venues. This is why I find Radical Feminism so bizarrely anti-women. They would like to close the walls around women and narrow the definition of what is acceptable for a woman to be. Not allowing space for individuality or creativity. Woman have spent decades fighting to have a wider range of choices yet one group feels it has the right to impose it’s way of life upon another. Stigma kills.