“What they are abolishing is dancers’ incomes,” says Trina Ricketts, exotic dancer and founder of NakedTruth.ca – a resource and advocacy site for adult entertainers. “And people take risks when they’re financially desperate.”
Rene Ross, Executive Director of Stepping Stone, an outreach organization for sex workers agrees. “People need to realize that sex workers are people first. These are women who are making an income to feed their families and put a roof over their heads.”
Rhonda, a sex worker activist in Montreal where similar demonstrations have been held in the past, says protests outside of strip clubs cause more harm than just impacting dancers’ incomes.
“These anti-sex work feminists don’t consider the impact of their protests on the women and clients inside the clubs. Their protests create a level of anger and aggression that we don’t want anywhere near the industry,” she says. “It also shames a lot of clients into not going in, or keeps clients stuck inside with fear and anxiety for the angry crowd they may meet when exiting the club.”
Ricketts demands an end to the protests, encouraging the public to educate themselves about the sex industry and the women who earn a living through sex work instead.
“It’s a demeaning environment when you’re trying to go to work with women shouting at you as you enter” Ricketts adds. She refers to the many organizations in Vancouver that help sex industry workers directly, by providing services and programs that keep workers safe from the stigma that produces much of the violence—stigma created and reinforced through protests like the ones “Buying Sex is not a Sport.”
“Spreading the message that exotic dancers in Vancouver are sex slaves, as the protestors are doing, is spreading lies,” says Ricketts. “Strip clubs in Vancouver are safe work spaces and very much appreciated by those employed by them.”
Ricketts says she doesn’t understand why so much money and time is being spent on actions that sex industry workers do not want. “The true oppressors are those who claim to have our best interest at heart, but refuse to listen us, and what our real needs are.”