Sex, Lies, and Statistics – The Laura Lee Blog

The title of this review should give you a good idea of what I’m going to be talking about with the following proviso; I enjoy sex and statistics, but I hate lies. For that reason I was very excited when Dr. Brooke Magnanti announced the release of her book, which addresses a lot of the common lies which are spun, quite deliberately, by prohibitionists against the sex industry. I’ve been a sex worker for a long time, so I know from first hand experience that a lot of the information which comes from prohibitionists is to put it kindly, erroneous in fact. Quite apart from the fact that Magnanti is herself a retired call girl, she’s also a scientist, kinda handy when it comes to statistical analyses.

woman covering herself up

There are several things you need to know about sex work prohibitionists, firstly they fight dirty, I can’t begin to describe what they’ve put “out” sex workers through. Defamation, throwing our legal names around the internet with the express intention of causing ourselves and our families harm, threats, tax investigations, calls to social services, gaslighting, not to mention allegations of being part of a massive “Pimp Lobby”. Incidentally, the Pimp Lobby doesn’t exist, but if I’ve just never found it, I wish they’d send me a cheque, because teenagers are expensive, as is travelling the length and breath of several countries to attend demos, conferences and meetings.

The second thing you need to know is that ironically, the anti-sex work squad is loaded. They get government grants, donations from well meaning people who think they’re helping, not to mention awards of money from the courts. The money from the courts originally comes from police raids, and has been taken from sex workers trying to make a living. So organisations which say they’re for the benefit of sex workers will take their money and attend court to watch those sex workers receive a criminal charge which sticks with them for life. This, by the way, is what they call “support”. Yes, really.

Prohibitionists Lie

The final and arguably the most important fact you need to know about prohibitionists is that they lie, constantly. It’s here that Magnanti’s book comes into it’s own. Apart from being very well written and witty, this book expertly takes down the most popular lies that are used. In some cases, studies which were thwarted at birth are used ad infinitum to represent an entire industry, in other cases they’re just plain made up. Recalling her time spent as a pathologist, Magnanti describes the horrifying sight of a murdered sex worker, prohibitionists would dismiss her death as inevitable. That’s a whole new level of callous, right there.

This book is not written with a science audience in mind, it’s easy to digest and understand. It’s also horrifying when you realise the lengths that prohibitionists will go to, to protect their precious funding, a real eye opener. It’s short and snappy, so if like me you have the attention span of a drunk goldfish, this book will suit you beautifully too.

I want you to go and read this book, because it goes to the very core of what has become a particularly nasty and vitriolic debate. The feminist perspective on sex work is deeply polarised, and bitterly fought out on every platform you can think of. As sex workers though, we know our own lives, that’s our field of expertise as a matter of fact, no matter how much we’re shouted down.

You know, just last weekend I was chatting with an old and very dear friend in Ireland about our time spent as hunt saboteurs. She was appalled to learn of the tactics employed by prohibitionists to stop us getting basic human rights and remarked, “at least in our day they just pushed us into a ditch”. The prohibitionist lobby? They’d send a group of hounds down into the ditch after you, cover you in sulfuric acid and then set that ditch on fire. No matter how thick skinned you are, that sulfuric acid is going to burn. So now you know.

If you have an interest in human rights, the debate on sex work, bad data or just damned good writing, this is the book for you.

Laura Lee

Laura Lee

Irish mother, writer, animal lover, perpetual student and sex workers' rights campaigner.
Laura Lee

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