So. We just learned, a few days ago, that Charlie Sheen has HIV. And we learned today that the Backpage case was won - by Backpage. These may not seem like ideas that go together, but I promise you they do, in my mind at least.
In regards to Charlie Sheen, first of all I really want to applaud him for bringing this issue to light. It's a little-dealt with topic, and good for him. However, mainstream society (that is to say, pearl-clutchers) are very, very stigmatising about the sexworkers he's been with. "Oh, they must have given him the disease," "Imagine how infected they are," etc. etc. The interesting thing there, to my mind, is that while slut-shaming a man (which happens rarely) they've managed to bring in sexworkers and say, "Oh, it must be their fault."
I am not one to judge. I think open consent is the best way forward, as I say, I applaud Charlie Sheen for bringing awareness to this, and I think that frank discussions about this need to be had more often. People with HIV can have sex. However, society tends to ignore the fact that sexworkers get tested on a regular basis - so that members of the citizenry, people off the street, are more likely to have some form of STI than sexworkers. For us, this is our way of making a living. No way will we screw around with that.
The fact that the Backpage case was won by Backpage (woot woot!) is also big for the sexworker industry. I have followed this case, and the fact is, it violated the first amendment - the right to freedom of speech. This is a right held dear in all democracies, and rightly so. The fact that Sheriff Tom Dart, who tweets form @TomDart, wrote on official stationery using the full weight of his position but expressing an essentially private opinion, is what won this case. Essentially, his expressing an opinion on official stationery amounted to a cease-and-desist letter, with backup phone calls, etc. It is only right that Tom Dart should not be able to police the internet with his crusade. Oh and by the way, how were you all planning to do that, now that the page is owned by a Dutch company?
The point is, I think, very clear. We recognize the "rights" of sexworkers as abstract. We still stigmatize the profession. The dialogue needs to change. Sexwork is becoming more mainstream, yes...but only in the abstract, not in practice. Canada and our partner the US need to get our asses in gear and do that.