Author Archives: sarah m

Mann, S.E. (2014). More-than-survival strategies: Sex workers’ unhappy stories. (Unpublished MA major research project). Athabasca University. Athabasca, AB. 


This essay examines the contributions of unhappy autobiographical narratives to the sex workers’ rights movement. Dominating sex worker advocacy discourse is a “happy hooker” image that eschews “negative” and “stereotypical” characterizations of prostitutes and other sex workers. But as the internet becomes more and more a site for sex work activism, some unhappy whores are using online autobiographical practices to resist this disavowal of negative experience. While reluctant or coerced engagements in sex work are often referred to as “survival sex work,” unhappy sex workers’ online writing practices function as a more-than-survival strategy, politicizing and resisting rather than disavowing the harms they experience in sex work. After reviewing literary and geographical scholarship on the political disenfranchisement of sex workers and situating this disenfranchisement in Judith Butler’s analysis of “the bad life,” this paper presents two close readings of sex workers’ online autobiographical practices. The first analyzes the discourse of disavowal of unhappy experience in sex worker advocacy and its harmful effects on unhappy sex workers. The second close reading discusses sex workers’ stories about exiting the sex industry, highlighting sex workers’ use of metaphors of space and place to elucidate their experiences. The essay concludes on sex workers’ strategies for more-than-surviving: using the three politicizing tactics identified by Butler to resist their expulsion to the bad life.


Author: Vancouver Police Department (assisted by WISH, Pivot, BC Coalition of Experiential Communities, PEERS, PACE)

Citation (APA): Vancouver Police Department (n.d.). Sex Work Enforcement Guidelines. Retrieved from


The VPD has engaged in a variety of strategies to reduce crime and improve the safety of all
Vancouver residents. However, these strategies can sometimes come into conflict with each
other. For example, enforcement action is sometimes at odds with relationship building, though
both are necessary as part of a comprehensive approach to policing. These conflicts are
particularly frequent when dealing with individuals involved in the sex industry as a result of
inconsistent public attitudes, community complaints, and messaging from the courts on sex
industry related cases. For example, indiscriminate enforcement of the prostitution laws can
undermine sex workers’ relationships with police and decrease their ability to reach out to police
for help.

As a police agency, the VPD is obligated to enforce the laws of Canada, although police also
have considerable discretion in deciding when and how to enforce laws. Given that some
sections of the Criminal Code related to the sex industry are the subject of several constitutional
challenges, the VPD recognizes that these guidelines may need to be amended when the courts
issue their rulings.



When responding to sex work-related calls or situations, the Vancouver Police
Department’s priority is to ensure the safety and security of sex workers. Police calls
regarding violence against sex workers are a priority for assessment and response. Read More

Author: Beverley McLachlin C.J. (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, 2013)

Citation (APA): Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72.


B, L and S, current or former prostitutes, brought an application seeking declarations that three provisions of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C‑46, which criminalize various activities related to prostitution, infringe their rights under s. 7 of the Charter:  s. 210 makes it an offence to keep or be in a bawdy‑house; s. 212(1)(j) prohibits living on the avails of prostitution; and, s. 213(1)(c) prohibits communicating in public for the purposes of prostitution.  They argued that these restrictions on prostitution put the safety and lives of prostitutes at risk, by preventing them from implementing certain safety measures — such as hiring security guards or “screening” potential clients — that could protect them from violence.  B, L and S also alleged that s. 213(1)(c) infringes the freedom of expression guarantee under s. 2(b) of the Charter, and that none of the provisions are saved under s. 1.


Held:  The appeals should be dismissed and the cross‑appeal allowed.  Sections 210, 212(1)(j) and 213(1)(c) of the Criminal Code are declared to be inconsistent with the Charter.  The declaration of invalidity should be suspended for one year.


The three impugned provisions, primarily concerned with preventing public nuisance as well as the exploitation of prostitutes, do not pass Charter muster: they infringe the s. 7 rights of prostitutes by depriving them of security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.  It is not necessary to determine whether this Court should depart from or revisit its conclusion in the Prostitution Referencethat s. 213(1)(c) does not violate s. 2(b) since it is possible to resolve this case entirely on s. 7 grounds.


The impugned laws negatively impact security of the person rights of prostitutes and thus engage s. 7.  The proper standard of causation is a flexible “sufficient causal connection” standard, as correctly adopted by the application judge.  The prohibitions all heighten the risks the applicants face in prostitution — itself a legal activity.  They do not merely impose conditions on how prostitutes operate.  They go a critical step further, by imposingdangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaged in a risky — but legal — activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks.  That causal connection is not negated by the actions of third‑party johns and pimps, or prostitutes’ so‑called choice to engage in prostitution.  While some prostitutes may fit the description of persons who freely choose (or at one time chose) to engage in the risky economic activity of prostitution, many prostitutes have no meaningful choice but to do so.  Moreover, it makes no difference that the conduct of pimps and johns is the immediate source of the harms suffered by prostitutes.  The violence of a john does not diminish the role of the state in making a prostitute more vulnerable to that violence.

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Author: Shawna Ferris

Citation (APA): Ferris, S. (2007). Dangerous order: Globalization, Canadian cities, and street-involved sex work. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Digital Commons @ McMaster. (UMI No. AAINR36033).


My dissertation considers the effects of transnational free market economics, urbanization, and growing concerns regarding home and homeland security on contemporary representations of and responses to street-involved sex work in Canada. Foregrounding the current legality of prostitution in Canada, as well as the growing number of serial kidnap and murder cases involving sex workers nationwide, the project brings together two broader cultural debates regarding the moral and cultural legitimacy of prostitution, and the growing socioeconomic “disposability” of the poor and other culturally marginalized populations in an emergent global order. The project thus explores how contemporary Canadian culture registers the changing role of the human/e and of the urban under global capitalism. ^ Considering current responses to the disappearance of sixty-eight women—many of whom were street sex workers—from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Chapter One argues that sex workers’ traditional synecdochic relationship with the modern metropolis has become, in contemporary contexts, dangerously fraught. The gradual disintegration of such synecdoche, I argue, signifies the ongoing dissolution of socio-political ties between the nation-state and its citizenry. Chapter Two considers two imagistic tropes in sex work-related media reports, then analyzes urban anti-prostitution initiatives growing out of the Vancouver case and others. I argue that such tropes and actions further reify emerging discourses of street sex workers as cultural “waste.” Chapter Three examines sex worker activists’ interventions in such mainstream narrations. I discuss the political initiatives promoted on the websites of three major activist organizations, and explore the ways that online activism simultaneously expands and limits the cultural influence of these groups. Noting the over-representation of First Nations women among the victims in the Vancouver case and others, Chapter Four examines intersections between and resistance to Canada’s violent colonial history, racist public policies, and whore stigma in contemporary culture as they converge around Aboriginal women in Canada’s inner-city sex trade.

Full Document:

Author: John Lowman

Citation (APA): Lowman, J. (2000). “Violence and the Outlaw Status of (Street) Prostitution in Canada.” Violence Against Women, 6(9), 987-1011.


This article constructs a profile of murders of sex workers in British Columbia from 1964 to 1998. The analysis reveals the relationships among media, law, political hypocrisy, and violence against street prostitutes. In particular, the article examines how the “discourse of disposal”—that is, media descriptions of the ongoing attempts of politicians, police, and residents’ groups to get rid of street prostitution from residential areas—contributed to a sharp increase in murders of street prostitutes in British Columbia after 1980.

Full Article:

Author: Jodi Beniuk

Citation (MLA): Beniuk, Jodi. “Indigenous Women as the Other: An Analysis of the Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry.” The Arbutus Review 3. 2 (2012): 80-97.


In this paper, I discuss the ways in which Indigenous women are Othered by the proceedings of the Missing Women‘s Commission of Inquiry (MWCI). First, I give a basic overview of Beauvoir’s theory of women as Others, followed by Memmi’s analysis of the relationship between the colonized and the colonizer. I use these two theories to describe the way Indigenous women are Othered both as Indigenous peoples and as women, focusing on the context of the twenty-six who were murdered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The original murders were the result of the cultural reduction of Indigenous Women to their bodies. The negligent police investigations, as well as the misogynistic attitudes of the police, also demonstrate how Othering can operate within these institutions. I claim that the violence against women in the DTES was due to their status as Other. Notably, the MWCI, which is supposed to be a process that addresses the Othering-based negligence of the police, also includes instances of Othering in its structure and practice. From this, I conclude that we cannot rely on Othering institutions or legal processes to correct Othering as a practice. In the context of the MWCI, I suggest building alliances that support those who face this Othering as violence in their everyday lives.

Key terms: Othering; Indigenous Women; Downtown Eastside Vancouver

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Author: Becki L. Ross, 2010

Citation (APA): Ross, B. L. (2010). Sex and (Evacuation from) the City: The Moral and Legal Regulation of Sex Workers in Vancouver’s West End, 1975—1985. Sexualities, 13(2), 197-218.


For more than a century, prostitution in Vancouver, British Columbia has been at the centre of legal and political debate, policing, media coverage, and policy-making. From 1975 to 1985, a heterogeneous, pimp-free community of sex workers lived and worked on and around Davie Street in the city’s emerging ‘gay’ West End. Their presence sparked a vigorous backlash, including vigilante action, from multiple stake-holders intent on transforming the port town into a ‘world class city’ and venerable host of the World’s Fair, ‘Expo 1986’. In this article, drawing from interviews and archival material, I examine the abolitionist strategies adopted by Vancouver’s residents’ groups, business owners, politicians, and police to criminalize street solicitation and evacuate prostitutes who, in small numbers, ‘whorganized’ to fight back. The collective disavowal of sex workers as citizens was premised on the ‘cleansing’ of the zone under siege, which became whitened and made safe for bourgeois (queer) capitalism, with lethal consequences for outdoor sex workers in the city.

Keywords: expulsion, homonormative, moral regulation, neo-liberalism, sex work

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