LONDON—As promised, a group of adult performers, prostitutes and exotic dancers gathered in London Saturday to protest a conference organized by Wheelock College Sociology Professor Gail Dines to bring attention to the opening of a U.K. branch of her anti-porn group, Stop Porn Culture.
Following a few weeks of back-and-forth accusations of mutual harassment by Dines and Jerry Barnett, who runs the UK-based Sex & Censorship group and helped organize yesterday’s "Don't Censor Me" protest, the day finally arrived and according to HuffPo UK, about 50 individuals took to the streets outside the building where the SPC conference was being held.
“Renee Richards, a former stripper and porn star, now heavily pregnant, told the crowd she had never encountered exploitation, rape or humiliation in the porn industry,” reported HuffPo.
Richards told the crowd, "These people inside this building don't really care about the exploitation of women. They don't care about the women working in sweatshops for big corporations.
"This is all a guise,” she continued. “They don't like the porn industry because of the strange fear they have of sex. Sex, to them, should be shut away. We should go back to the Victorian times where it was sex only in dark, private rooms, preferably in the missionary position."
Barnett also commented on the larger necessity for the protest, noting, "The anti-sex narrative, the view of a tiny minority, has been dominant for too long in the media, from the Daily Mail to the Guardian. Our message here is that we can make our own choices, we don't want to be rescued, and we never asked to be."
Although the participants in the London contretemps are British, including Dines—despite her insistence on continuing to merge her unorthodox form of academics with unabashed social activism in America—many of the issues raised by the sex worker protesters were global in nature.
"We need to reclaim feminism," HuffPo Uk quoted striptease dancer 'Edie' as sayng. "I think that feminism has a similar theory to radical Islam; there are a few extremists who give Muslims a bad name. It is the same with feminism. We need to stand up and say that pro-censorship, anti-sex women do not speak for all women."
Two current porn performers, Paige Ashley and Benedict Garrett, said of sex work in general, "Gail Dines thinks that her making money using her brain makes her better than you, making money using a vagina,” with Garrett elaborating, “This is capitalism, and you can make money however you want. If you want to make money using your body, then that should be your right.”
And yet the protest also included a local bent, with a participant from the English Collective of Prostitutes commenting on continuing trends to criminalize sex work: "We are closing down the safe spaces, like Soho, where women had a place to work. Women can no longer work in groups, because of the risk of arrest, and they can't look out for each other.
"We should be angry about benefit cuts, we should be angry about growing homelessness, the rise of soup kitchens. We should not be angry about women trying to feed their children. Most sex workers are mothers, and they do it because in these economic times they have no other choice, and they don't want to see their children go hungry."
All in all, the protest seemed to reinforce the concept that you don’t need a huge turnout to deliver a strong message.
Image, courtesy of Sex & Censorship.