Some people have sex for money, some people pay for sex and some people run establishments where this transaction can occur. These facts shouldn’t be too difficult to accept, but sensationalist commentary regarding the world’s oldest profession continues to say otherwise.
In her piece ‘Sexual slavery is not an acceptable business model‘ Kathleen Maltzahn opportunistically uses recent revelations about the connection between a Victorian brothel and Crown Resorts to spout her biased opinion about the Victorian sex industry (whilst also promoting her not-for-profit and book).
Without knowing anything about the brothel at the heart of the scandal, its history or its connection to Crown Resorts it would be inappropriate to comment. However, speaking from my experience as the General Manager of Australia’s adult industry association, who regularly meets with Victorian brothel owners, sex workers and clients – Maltzahn’s depiction of our industry as a hot spot for sex slavery is a complete fabrication.
Sex work in Victoria is highly regulated, some would say over-regulated. Brothel owners pay double the fees of any other business licensed by state authorities and get very little in return for it. Strict conditions are placed on where a brothel can operate, how it can be advertised and what can be done on the premises.
Indeed, Victoria’s licensed brothels are regularly inspected by Victoria Police, Worksafe, the Business Licensing Authority and health inspectors to ensure workers are treated well.
There is no evidence of widespread issues of trafficking within the Australian sex industry and anti-industry activists such as Maltzahn rely heavily on overseas estimates which incorrectly conflate migrant sex workers with victims of trafficking.
Maltzahn’s organisation Project Respect is explicitly opposed to the sex industry on the basis of an outdated ‘radical feminist’ perspective on sexuality. This view is not compatible with feminist values of bodily autonomy and sexual freedom.
Moreover, Maltzahn endorses the ‘Nordic’ or ‘Swedish model’ of sex work which attempts to abolish the industry entirely and has received widespread criticism from global sex worker and human rights organisations.
Victoria’s current regulatory model isn’t perfect and there is room for improvement, just not in the way Maltzahn advocates.
The Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic) hasn’t been reformed in decades and the licensed brothel industry is currently having to battle the growth of unlicensed brothels, partially caused by the high fees and inefficiencies in the current system.
Little is known about the underground segment of the industry, an issue frequently raised, not by wowsers intent on abolishing the industry, but by brothel owners and sex workers themselves.
The business of sex is here to stay, and for those who work within it, it is just like any other job. Constructive conversations about improving the sex industry in Victoria are welcome, but sensationalist rhetoric helps no-one.
Rachel Payne is the General Manager of the Eros Association, Australia’s industry association for adult retail, wholesale, media and entertainment.
Ph 03 9670 7345| Melbourne 3000 Victoria | www.eros.org.au