Image for Melbourne Writers’ Festival Panel Dispute Exposes Anti-Survivor Agenda

In the spirit of the popular ‘sex workers are under-represented’ stance, repeated by liberal media and prostitution advocates, ad-nauseum, Daily Life has published yet another article repeating the myth. The author, Kate Iselin, aside from being a self-described “sex worker” and published writer, is also “furious.”

This time, the article targets the Melbourne Writers Festival for not having a “sex worker” on the panel, “Invisible Women” — a panel about prostitution featuring Melinda Tankard Reist, Meagan Tyler, and Ruth Wykes.

“Sex Workers are not invisible. We’re just being ignored,” the headline reads.

No, you’re not.

Pro-sex trade voices are so ubiquitous that even calling prostituted children “sex workers” has become entrenched in the media and public psyche.

“Sex workers” are so far from being ignored that when writers who expose the dark side of the sex trade appear on a panel to talk about their work and research, a “sex worker voice” is published in Daily Life opposing it.

The pro-sex trade are so far from being ignored that Amnesty International is pressuring their membership of some four million people (and just about every so-called leftist I come in contact with) to support the full decriminalization of the sex trade.

Prostitution survivors constantly hear “Prostitution is just ‘sex work’ — a job like any other? Anyone who says different is just a pearl-clutcher,” from both the media and the public.

What Iselin really means is not that “sex workers” are being ignored, but that her particular voice and the voices of those who unequivocally support the full decriminalization of prostitution are not on this particular panel.

Scarlet Alliance, a pro-decriminalization lobby group, were, in fact, offered an entire session at the Melbourne Writers Festival but they declined. I guess unless there is an opportunity to attempt to discredit feminist authors, “sex worker voices” aren’t really worth their time. By comparison, as a prostitution survivor featured in the book, Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade, the festival declined to have me on the “Invisible Women” panel and I wanted to be there.

Iselin is not “furious” about there not being a “sex worker” on the “Invisible Women” panel, she is merely furious that feminists, Tankard Reist and Tyler are, and will be speaking to the harms of prostitution, rather than working to neutralize and normalize it .

Iselin is clever enough to pay some politically correct lip-service to the survivor testimonies inProstitution Narratives, going so far as to say she thinks our stories should be “believed, trusted and amplified.” But I wonder if Iselin would have a go at the festival because they declined to include me on the panel?

Iselin’s piece is manipulative and disingenuous, in my view. She says she doesn’t doubt the veracity of our testimonies, but dismisses us, taking aim instead at the women who actually did listen to survivors and amplify our voices, claiming they are just headline grabbers. By reducing Tankard Reist and Tyler’s exhaustive research, intelligence, and courage to “tragedy porn” or some evil “anti-sex worker” agenda, she erases the realities and voices of survivors as well.

Iselin may have paid survivor testimonies lip service, but because she goes on to paint us as sad but nonetheless unreliable dimwits who simply fell under the spell of dodgy anti-sex worker advocates, her efforts at displaying empathy fail.

The message Iselin sends is that voices of survivors and advocates who oppose the system of prostitution shouldn’t be “believed, trusted and amplified” after all. In fact, unless we highlight and include pro-industry voices, we are, apparently, unreliable narrators and our work is illegitimate. While certainly everyone has a right to an opinion, it doesn’t mean that all opinions must be heard at all times. The promotion of prostitution gets more than enough air time throughout the world, through media, pop culture, and in leftist and liberal discourse. The idea that Iselin’s perspective is “ignored” is nothing more than a tactical lie. Like so many liberal media outlets, Daily Life fell for this too. Quelle surprise.

This article is an extract from an article first published in Feminist Current. You can read the full article here:
http://www.feministcurrent.com/2016/08/01/idea-sex-worker-voices-ignored-media-joke/

*Simone Watson is an Indigenous woman living in Western Australia, and the Director of NorMAC (Nordic Model in Australia Coalition). She is a prostitution survivor and a contributor to the book Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade edited by Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist.

In TT Books: Flanagan at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival