This is our truth, tell us yours
We don’t plan things, not in an editorial sense, we both write about what catches our eye, or makes the fires of rage burn. So there is nothing but a strange synchronicity that means both of our first posts about listening to the victims.
One of the beauties of twitter is you encounter people you never would have under any other circumstances @jasminepetite was one such person. A swedish sex worker she fought with every breath in her body against the laws that criminalized her work and the stigma that refused to listen to sex workers. She had suffered hugely from this stigma, a victim of domestic violence, not only was she not believed, but she was directly told that her real problem was being a sex worker. She is dead, lying in a morgue somewhere, murdered by the partner she reported, the partner who was given custody of her children, because sex workers cannot know their own lives, cannot be active agents, cannot choose sex work in whorephobic Sweden.
“Our board member, fierce activist and friend Petite Jasmine got brutually murdered yesterday. Several years ago she lost custody of her children as she was considered to be an unfit parent due to being a sex worker. The children were placed with their father regardless of him being abusive towards Jasmine. They told her she didn’t know what was good for her and that she was “romantisizing” prostitution, they said she lacked insight and didn’t realise sex work was a form of self-harm. He threatened and stalked her on numerous occations, she was never offered any protection. She fought the system through four trials and had finally started seeing her children again. Yesterday the father of her children killed her. She always said “Even if I can’t get my kids back I will make sure this never happens to any other sex worker”. We will continue her fight. Justice for Jasmine!
What did Carter write this morning while I was sleeping after a late night of tears and anger? We have to listen to the victims, even those we might not like. Sweden not only refused to listen, they decided what the story really was. They decided that because of a job choice they morally disapprove of that a sex worker must be self harming, that a sex worker who doesn’t spout the anti line is deluded, I wonder if the term false consciousness was also trotted out?
Which is where the tears turn to rage, because of course Jasmine could have been listened too, could have had custody of her kids, could have been flying off to international conferences and doing TV shows, instead of being prepared for burial, all she had to do was lie. There is a whole industry around survivors, be the sort of victim people want, swallow the crap about not really choosing sex work, tell a few stories about bad clients and pray with the fervour of a convert at the altar of end demand and all the support you want is there, on their terms.
Those opposed to sex work have constructed a narrative that only allows sex workers to parrot theory, be good little puppets who trot out the party line like defendants at a Stalin era Russianshow trial and then the doors of rape crisis centers, domestic refuges and conferences open wide to you. Dare to say no, I have choices and I choose sex work, but this bad thing happened to me because bad things can happen to anyone and you are “romantacising sex work”
It is the radfems who claim all men are potential rapists, it is feminism as a whole that says a woman does not invite assault by her dress or behaviour, except it seems when she chooses sex work, then she is simply a faceless, mindless, cipher whose own story is not worth listening too. Listening to the victims means throwing out your beliefs and prejudices about who can be a victim and how a victim should behave, not demanding they fit into your box of acceptability.
A woman, Eve Marie, lies dead today because Sweden is a feminist country. Yes, her ex was the one who directed the fatal blow, but the guiding hand was that of the Swedish state, a state that wants to make sex work so intolerable no “sane” woman would choose it. A state that sees not a victim of domestic violence but a dirty whore who can be ignored, a state that prefers dead sex workers to live, campaigning ones. A state that sees the death of a woman as a price worth paying.
The last words go to that woman, that mother, that sex worker, who refused to be a victim, who refused to give up, and in whose name the fight will continue. On her blog Jasmine wrote about seeing her children;
After one year and three months finally see her standing in front of me. The feeling when she runs into my arms and hug me, to get sniff her hair immediately becomes soaking wet of my tears, drag your finger along her small nose and chin, stroking her little hand and hold on her tiny body hard in my embrace and kiss her eleven thousand times in the forehead. To finally get to see her in the eye and say seventeen thousand times how missed and loved she is. And never want to let go again, but must. Created by my body when we two have been and we are part of each other forever. The love for my children is indescribable. (And justice system as said joint custody and half the time, where were you when everything was going on?)