Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights takes a global view of commercial sex and the legal regimes that govern it. Authors Juno Mac and Molly Smith bring the reader through Britain’s messy Victorian prostitution laws, the U.S. prison-industrial complex, the false promise of “utopian” Scandinavia, and finally conclude with a critical look at decriminalized New Zealand. In this interview, they discuss policing, borders and work as they relate to sex work.

Samantha Borek: An entire chapter of Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights is dedicated to the “Nordic model,” and how Scandinavia is held up by many liberals and feminists as being a beacon of socialist values. In reality, this “utopia” is borne of a lot of puritanical, racist values. How can such a “socialist” region lack the resources to address sex workers in a meaningful way?

Juno Mac and Molly Smith: The answer is sort of in the question – it’s not about lack of resources, it’s about the desire to punish certain groups of people. The Nordic countries have the resources to help sex workers if they wanted to do so; the problem is that they don’t want to help people who sell sex. In the book, we quote a policy maker in Sweden agreeing that, “of course the law has negative consequences for women in prostitution but that’s also some of the effect that we want to achieve with the law.” The Norwegian government sent a fact-finding mission to Sweden in 2004, which resulted in a report into the effects of the Swedish approach to prostitution. The report that found “the law on the Purchase of Sex has made working as a prostitute harder and more dangerous” – but a few years after that report, Norway implemented the Swedish model anyway. So, it’s not a mistake or a lack of resources that the law produces these harms for people who sell sex – policy makers know about the harms of the law going in. The harms are, at the very least, part of the point.

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Anything other than decriminalization leaves Sex Workers behind by Samantha Borek

May 5th, 2019