2 min

Under the red light

Discussion event aims to demystify sex work

For the third time, Ottawa University campus group Students for Sex Workers’ Rights will be holding a community discussion on sex work called Ask Me About My Day.
“The most important goal of the event, and our organization, is to humanize and de-stigmatize sex workers,” says Tuulia Law, who is the founder of both the event and the campus group. “This event does that pretty well because it’s not a formal presentation. It’s more interactive.”
Ask Me About My Day seeks to demystify sex work and to remind people that sex workers are everyday people who are part of the community.
“I thought Ask Me About My Day would . . . give people a chance to ask questions they might think are kind of silly or ask sex workers about whatever it is that they do — about work and how work intersects with their personal lives,” Law says.
The discussion, moderated by Law, allows audience members to ask questions of sex workers from various sectors, from stripping to escorting to porn.
“Of course, we give some guidelines about respectful questions at the beginning, but we haven’t had anyone be disrespectful,” Law says. “Sometimes, people are a little bit hesitant or there are pauses. Last time, since there were five of us from very different sectors, we asked each other questions during the pauses. It depends on the group. Sometimes, people get into it right away.”
Law says the organizers generally try to keep discussion to questions about individual experience rather than structural issues.
“Questions like, ‘What is the rate of trafficking?’ One person talking about their day at work couldn’t possibly answer that,” Law says. “Last year was a bit more formal because we were worried that people might ask things like, ‘Have you ever been raped at work?’ which is not a question that you should ask someone that you don’t know, regardless of their occupation.”
Olivia Sparks has fielded questions at the last two Ask Me About My Day events.
“I was kind of surprised by the maturity of the questions,” Sparks says. “When I presented, I was talking about my experience in a massage parlour in Ottawa and with an escort agency. They have different legal issues — one is bylaw, one is federal. People were really interested in that and the whole Supreme Court process.”
The first two events attracted about 30 people. Both times, the group was made up of mostly students, with a few community members in the mix.
“It’s always nice to have a handful of people from the larger community, not just from campus,” Law says. “I hope that we continue to attract people to come to the event to ask questions and also a variety of people to volunteer as answerers. I’m hoping that, like last time, people will be open and respectful and curious.”