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Sex workers, their organisations and the Scarlet Alliance condemn Canberra brothel owner’s disrespectful and deceptive behaviour

Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, our member organisations and individual sex workers publicly condemn this week’s malicious, self-serving and ignorant commentary (Canberra Times, 18 August) by Canberra brothel owner Aaron Jones.

Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, our member organisations and individual sex workers publicly condemn this week’s malicious, self-serving and ignorant commentary (Canberra Times, 18 August) by Canberra brothel owner Aaron Jones.

Sex workers are all too familiar with lies told about us being weaponised as media fuel for political gain or click bait, but it is particularly insidious when a brothel owner spreads dangerous, stigmatising, and inflammatory misinformation for a moment of media fame and self promotion.

All sex workers throughout this public health crisis, including independent and brothel-based sex workers, have demonstrated the ability to navigate the ever-changing CHO directives, adapt work practices to incorporate COVID Safety Plans and mitigate risk, expand on usual contact tracing and record-keeping systems, and use networks to organise and support other workers in our work for our collective health and safety. Sex workers have complied with state, territory and federal directives. The result and the reality is sex work businesses whether independent, micro or large have not featured as locations of transmission. This is because of the actions of sex workers.

Sex worker organisations across the country have been contacted by sex workers, angry and frustrated, many of whom have previously worked at Langtrees. Jones' claims of providing a “safe and secure” workplace are at odds with the practices that workers have reportedly experienced in his establishment.

Jones admits to directing his staff to deceitfully undertake targeted entrapment by pretending to be clients, harassing independent sex workers and making fake bookings, turning Langtrees into what we call in the industry a major ‘time waster’.

Attempts to delegitimise and demonise sex workers are an unfortunate long-term practice of some brothel owners. Some are known for involving police and other regulatory authorities in anti-competitive behaviour for personal financial benefit, using unfair restrictions on independent sex work in an attempt to 'shut down' sex workers not attached to their own particular brothel business.

Deliberately blaming independent sex workers for the spread of COVID is the latest version of this. Jones has relied on baseless stereotypes that feed into the development of harmful laws and policies to frame sex workers as ‘vectors of disease’ with his nonsensical comparison to hardware, stating sex work is ‘riskier from a public health perspective than browsing at a hardware store’. The claim is inaccurate, demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of public health, and it displays a willingness to heighten stigma and instigate harassment of the entire industry for the self promotion of one sex industry business model over another.

This and other spiteful strategies employed by some brothel owners only serve to stigmatise all sex workers, including those whom they employ. Indeed, many independent sex workers across the country have at times worked for larger sex industry businesses. Most business owners know how important maintaining respect is in order to retain the workforce they need to line their pockets.

Sex workers from across the industry and sex worker organisations are cooperating to help each other through this difficult time, including by donating any spare funds to the Scarlet Alliance Emergency Fund.

Signed:
Scarlet Alliance

SWOPACT

SWOPNSW

SWOPNT

SIN, South Australia

VIXEN

Respect Inc Queensland

Scarlet Tasmania

SWEAR WA