Pimp my ride, and also my escort

I like sex. I like talking about sex, I like learning about sex, I like watching sex and I like having sex. Everybody should like sex. It’s one of the important natural bodily functions, along with eating, sleeping, breathing and excreting.

However, the general mindset, particularly in Vancouver, is to be embarrassed and ashamed whenever the topic of real sexuality comes up. Women, especially, are still encouraged to hide their sexuality, lest they be thought of as some kind of dirty slut. Conversely, sex is everywhere. We are told to be sexy, but not sexual.

Just bringing up anything related to sex in conversation makes most people uncomfortable. Nobody will look me in the eye if I complain about my itchy pubic hair growing back in or my hormonal imbalances due to my birth control shot. I am not supposed to positively mention the huge hickey on my neck or the great night I had with my partner. I am also not allowed to openly show off my new vibrator in public or answer “sexually frustrated” when people ask me how I’m doing. This sort of talk is inappropriate and might scar children.

In last week’s issue of the West Ender, a reader attacked the Georgia Straight for their escort ads, calling them “Vancouver’s #1 pimp.” They advocated against supporting or reading the Straight, and commended the West Ender for not printing “sex ads.” This archaic view of sex work and sexuality is a perfect example of why Vancouver crucially needs to be more positive about sex: it is hurting people.

Escort ads in the back of the Straight provide a clear and safe route for clients to find sex workers. Indoor sex trade workers are much less likely to be assaulted or murdered than those who work on the street. Rather than standing out in public looking for clients, workers can make contact by phone and e-mail, which is much safer and more accountable. It is also an obviously more convenient and comfortable way of hiring an escort. Going through a newspaper gives everyone more legitimacy and eliminates the “street worker” stereotype.

Though prostitution is technically legal in Canada, there are so many restrictions that working safely as a prostitute is nearly impossible. Recent regulations implemented to prevent organized crime in BC have made the lives of sex workers even more dangerous. “Bawdy houses,” or any group of three or more prostitutes working in a place together, are considered to be an organized crime ring. Participating in one will result in a minimum of five years in prison, as well as having your assets seized and your children taken away.

Working in groups, however, is one of the best ways for workers to ensure their own safety. The new regulations will both isolate sex workers and make them more vulnerable to being taken advantage of and being hurt.

Sex workers exist. Prostitution isn’t called the world’s oldest profession for nothing – even monkeys trade each other for sex. Prostitution is not going to stop if we pretend it isn’t happening, and we need to make sure it is safer for the women who work in the trade. They are human beings, equal to you and I, and we need to treat them as such.

The stigma around sexuality, then, first needs to disappear. Everyone is horny, everyone wants to fuck. We need to not only stop judging people for being sexual, we need to acknowledge openly and casually that sex is a part of life. A great part of life.

This column is here to make you read about sex in public. I will address topics that will make you uncomfortable. I may unashamedly refer to myself. If you read this column all the way through, my goal is to make you at least the littlest bit more comfortable with the topic of sex, and more accepting of the ways sexuality is present in society.

//Sarah Vitet
Sarah Vitet has been writing about sex for the Courier for a long time, and has been reading about sex in the Courier for even longer. When she's not doing this, she's editing our arts section.

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