Sex work

Today I am a pimp

Feds target sex workers and the people that love them
Photo: Neil Conway

Last week, I was a law-abiding citizen. (Alright, I customarily jaywalk, but that's it.)

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Today, I am a pimp. That's right, I'm "living off the avails of prostitution," and this is my confession.

Perhaps I should clarify.

My beloved partner "Isabelle" (who consented to me publishing this article) is a sex worker in Toronto. That's been her chosen profession far longer than we've known each other, and it's not likely to change any time soon.

It's not a choice I would make for myself, but it's her choice. I respect it, and I respect her.

I didn't understand it at first. I assumed she had been forced into it by economic circumstance and life experience, and while those factors may have played a part, I understand now that she's proud of how she earns her living, and that she's made a self-actualized decision to continue in her line of work.

I've also experienced firsthand how she's empowered enough to give strong correction to anyone who might try painting her as a victim. (In fact, she is an activist for sex workers' human rights. A sexy, sexy activist.)

My work is, by contrast, mundane. I'm a writer and a web developer.

Oh, and I guess now, a pimp! At least, according to the newly amended Criminal Code of Canada. The much maligned Bill C-36 passed last week, with a fancy name about protecting victims, but cloaking a sinister Conservative agenda to curtail the rights of grown adults to consent to sex on their own (commercial) terms. But it did much more than that.

You see, Isabelle lives in my home about half of the time. It's an exploratory domestic arrangement; we're sort of testing the waters in preparation for the possibility of officially moving in together full-time.

We occasionally buy things together. We sometimes pool money for grocery trips. Occasionally, one of us picks up something for the other at the corner store. We also go out on dates together often, and we usually split the bill.

A couple months ago, I had some unanticipated emergency expenses resulting in negative cash flow. Isabelle jumped right in to save me, contributing her money to my monthly housing expense. I have similarly helped her out when times were tough.

In short, we're partners. We love each other, and we're learning to live cooperatively. It's kind of adorable.

It's also against the law as of Dec. 6.

Section 286.2 subsection 1 of the code specifically criminalizes "everyone who receives a financial or other material benefit, knowing that it is obtained by or derived directly or indirectly from (sex work)." It's an indictable offence, subject to a prison term of up to 10 years.

I confess: I know damn well how Isabelle makes her money, yet still I love her, and we go on dates anyway. She even bought me a birthday present this year (with her dirty, dirty money).

Oh wait, my confession's not even necessary. Check out subsection 3: "Evidence that a person lives with or is habitually in the company of (a sex worker) is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, proof that the person received a financial or other material benefit from those services." Well daaaamn.

But wait. Perhaps I'm off the hook. Along comes subsection 4, which provides exceptions. Turns out it's not a crime after all, if I received the benefit "in the context of a legitimate living arrangement."

Well we don't legally live together; she's here only part-time. So I don't know if that constitutes a "legitimate" living arrangement. It's a Conservative bill, though, so perhaps it's hetero marriage only? In any case, it doesn't make a difference, since she gave me that (criminal) birthday present before we started habitually sharing space in my home.

And then there's section 286.3. Depending on how they define "everyone who harbours a person . . . for the purpose of facilitating (a sex work) offence," they might be able to get me for letting her spend the night in my arms, when I happen to know she's going to work nearby on the following day.

Today, I am a criminal, because I live, love and rise in solidarity with a criminal.

Last week, we were law-abiding citizens.

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