Why stigma persists against women involved in prostitution in New Zealand

By Chelsea Geddes

In this post, Chelsea, who has had many years’ experience in the legal brothels in New Zealand (NZ), makes a searing critique of an article by Lynzi Armstrong that laments the ‘stigma’ that results in banks denying services to ‘sex workers,’ even though profiting from women’s prostitution is entirely legal in NZ. Chelsea argues that the ‘sex workers’ in question were in fact pimps, and the stigma against women involved in prostitution is intrinsic to the system of prostitution itself.

The people “starting a business” in Lynzi Armstrong’s article are pimps. The term ‘sex workers’ conflates prostitutes with pimps on purpose so that you can’t criticise pimps without being accused of discriminating against vulnerable marginalised people – prostitutes. That’s why I call myself a prostitute instead of a sex worker, even though ‘sex worker’ sounds more appealing.

When Lynzi Armstrong talks about how bad it is shutting down online advertisement platforms for sex workers, she’s referring to Backpage, which was shut down in the US because of sex trafficking. It included the sex trafficking of children. They pleaded guilty. This was not unjust ‘stigma’ in action.

Articles like this result in good, well meaning, lefty people supporting pimps and traffickers while thinking they’re supporting prostitutes.

I have a bank account. Every prostitute I know has a bank account. In fact my pimp/brothel owner has bank accounts too, business bank accounts. So it does make one wonder what these specific pimps who can’t get a business bank account are trying to do.

According to the [linked] article, “the bank said it can choose not to take any customers it felt might not be able to comply with the law or risks such as fraud.”

I would love to know more, because it sounds like they’re trying to do something illegal. Maybe the call centre they want to set up is located overseas? Maybe the concern is trafficking or money laundering? I don’t know for sure. BUT…

Phone sex lines were not illegal and weren’t part of the 2003 New Zealand Prostitution Reform Act that they seem to be referring to when they talk about ‘sex work’ being decriminalized. (This is another example of the problem with the term ‘sex work’ and how it conflates many different things together.)

I did a little googling and there already are a lot of phone sex business lines in New Zealand.
Presumably they have business banking.

There already are New Zealand businesses like ‘Dark Angel Escorts’ which sells women for prostitution as well as selling them on a phone-sex line. Presumably they have business banking.

So… I would not be so quick to trust these pimps with multiple headlines in New Zealand media at the moment, complaining that not a single New Zealand bank will give them business banking. It sounds like they are trying to do something different… It sounds like they are trying to drum up support without disclosing what they’re really doing…

Don’t let pimps confuse you with their conflations that to question them is to stigmatise prostituted people. More likely automatic support for pimps is going to further harm prostituted people.

To answer the article’s headline from a feminist prostitute’s perspective why are we still stigmatized despite the promise that deciminalization would de-stigmatise us?

Of course we’re still stigmatised when the men who pay to bypass sexual consent have been decriminalised and our pimps who financially exploit the situation are legitimized as just regular business operators and entrepreneurs. The only way to think it’s OK to abuse us this way is to dehumanise us and believe we deserve it. That it’s our ‘choice’ and therefore our fault.

We will never be de-stigmatised under NZ’s current prostitution policy.

If you wanted to know if a woman (or a male or transgender person, but 80% of us are women) genuinely consented to the sex you want to do to her, you would never pay her to do it. If she wouldn’t do it for free, she’s not driven to do it by her own sexual desire and sexual agency.

If you were to make the shittyist job you can think of, let’s say flipping burgers or street sweeping, pay the same as prostitution, you would see us all lining up for those jobs instead. Prostitution is worse than those jobs, we just need the money. Unwanted sex is not empowering or cool despite how the pimp lobby markets it with ‘pop feminism.’ It’s ultimately very damaging.

Prostitution is a product of women’s financial inequality. Patriarchy keeps women disempowered in relation to men, so that men can use women more easily as a wife who cooks, cleans and raises their kids for free, whether she really wanted to or not. And in order that men can more easily gain sexual access to women in the sex industry, whether she really wanted to have sex with them or not, whether she really wanted to be in that porn or not, whether she really wanted to get them off over the phone or not, etc. This is the whole purpose. This is why women aren’t paid the same as men or treated the same as men, it’s to keep us in our (subordinate) place.

2 thoughts on “Why stigma persists against women involved in prostitution in New Zealand

  1. Thank you from a NZ feminist. It is important to hear a woman’s perspective on this who is one of the people exploited by this system. Women like Libby and feminists who think payment=consent, pimps who lead research for Amnesty International, johns and those that profit from the abuse of women in a society set up to use us shouldn’t be the “experts” we listen to.

  2. “the men who pay to bypass sexual consent” – what a brilliantly succinct description. Says what everyone knows but sex-trade apologists don’t want to admit.

Leave a Reply