Survivor Stories

No, decriminalisation of johns and pimps has not improved our safety or our lives.


By Chelsea Geddes

Chelsea has had many years’ experience in the legal brothels in New Zealand, whose fully decriminalised approach to the sex trade is often held up as the most enlightened solution to prostitution. In this article, she begs to disagree and explains that, on the contrary, it has made punters more demanding and entitled, and has done nothing to make conditions safer for the women like herself.

It used to be that men knew the sex they did to us was unwanted, that we just needed the money. This didn’t make them feel like helping us out with some money and leaving without raping us, but it did make them feel at least a little bit guilty about exploiting us, which made them treat us a little bit gentler, and they aimed to get their jollies and leave a little faster with a little less inconvenience to us.

Increasingly, with the current decriminalisation legislation and pro-sex work propaganda saturating the media, more men are convincing themselves that we are having consensual sex with them, and charging them, not for hard work or victim compensation, but only because we can. This makes men feel ripped off: “If we are two consenting adults why do us men have to pay while she just collects?” It makes them more angry, more violent.

They are expecting more and more, and willing to pay less and less.

Sorry, but no, we don’t want to have sex with you. We work our asses off catering to you, and we suffer all the same physical and mental consequences of rape as in any other rape case, only for us the trauma is repeated, again and again till we have rent money; again and again until we have food money; again and again until we have babysitter money; again and again until we can pay back our drug dealer for the substances we’ve learned to depend on to cope with the reality of enduring repeated sexual abuse. All the while knowing we need to come and endure it again next week, and the week after. Maybe the week after that we manage to afford some time off while we have our period, or maybe we shove a piece of sponge inside us and inconspicuously reach in to fish it out and give it a rinse every two hours while we get our already aching reproductive organs pounded by men who demand of us that we never let on we have any human function, such as menstruation or anything else; where smiles and compliments are the only self-expression allowed.

If we had decent careers which paid at minimum a living wage, free from sexual harassment, where we received equal pay for equal work to men, we would not be letting you touch us. If we lived in a society where we were treated as full human beings with full human rights, we would not be letting you touch us. If we were not oppressed through sexism and classism, and often racism as well, we would not be letting you touch us!

We would be having sex (or not having sex) with those people we are sexually attracted to and interested in, and only those people, for our pleasure and fulfilment not just theirs.

I don’t know any woman whose own personal sexuality drives her to be with a succession of strangers, catering to those strange men’s desires while struggling to uphold the very minimum of safety precautions, until we are sore, swollen, chaffing and torn.

This is not consent, this is coercion. This is not sex work, this is rape. This is economic exploitation. This is women’s oppression.

No, we are not ripping men off by charging them for consensual sex.

No, decriminalisation of johns and pimps has not improved our safety or lives.

No, we are not satisfied with a prostitutes’ collective that merely dispenses condoms. We need real support services. We deserve more from our country.

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