Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy, and Research on Sex Work in Canada by Emily van der Meulen, Elya M. Durisin, and Victoria Love (Eds.)

  Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy, and Research on Sex Work in Canada   by Emily van der Meulen, Elya M. Durisin, and Victoria Love (Eds.) ~ Completed March 4, 2015

Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy, and Research on Sex Work in Canada by Emily van der Meulen, Elya M. Durisin, and Victoria Love (Eds.) ~ Completed March 4, 2015

My feminism runs toward the more radical, in a lot of ways. Not Radical Feminism (TM) of the seventies and eighties, to clarify, but radical in the sense that I'm not middle ground. This informs my views on the legalization of same-sex marriage, for example - I'm certainly not going to protest against it, obviously. But I have a lot of reservations about a) the fact that "gay rights" and its spokespeople are white, middle to upper class, monogamous, cis lesbians and gay men and they've co-opted the discourse, b) that this (and repealing of DADT) have become the sole issue for mainstream "gay rights" movements, and c) that wanting to become part of institutions like the wedding-industrial and military-industrial complexes is leading to some serious homonormativity - the aforementioned white, middle to upper class, monogamous, cis lesbians and gays are trying to buy into the heteronormative system to prove that they're just like everyone else, they're not the freaks and scary (trans, non-white, polyamorous, kinky, poor, non-monosexual) queers in the corner over there.

So, with that in mind, I strive to educate myself about not only communities I'm part of (bisexual, childfree) but those that I am not - those that I want to be an ally to. Sex workers are one such community that run up against a lot of these homonormative forces that trouble me so much with regard to same-sex marriage. 

As with any ally work, the first step is to listen. I have never participated in sex work, so I'm sure not going to speak for people who have. That's where books like this come in. It includes essays from a huge variety of sources, and privileges the voices of those in the profession itself. It is also, uniquely, from a Canadian perspective. Canada has its own history of abysmal treatment of sex workers that is different from the situation in the US, and this book sheds some light on the barriers to safety, legitimacy, and a voice that Canadian sex workers experience from both right wingers and feminists alike. 

Appeal

Character (60%): This work centres the people involved in the Canadian sex work industry. Indeed, that is very much the point - all too often it's people who are not part of the marginalized population that end up speaking for them. This edited book very specifically brings together different people involved in the sex work industry in Canada (including activists, sex workers, strippers, academics, and lawyers) and empowers them to tell their own stories. As someone striving to be an ally, this was a major factor in why I read and enjoyed this work.

Setting (40%): Unlike many other non-fiction books I read, this book was specifically centred around the experiences of sex workers in Canada. While there are many parallels that can be drawn to the situation in the US and around the world, there are many factors (including legislation and legal precedents) that make Canadian sex workers' experiences unique. The Canadian perspective is an integral part of this work, and was one of the things that attracted me to it in the first place.

There is no culminating argument in this collection of essays to drive the story appeal element, and the language was not a driving appeal factor for me in this work.