Whether we choose to admit it or not, violence against women is an endemic part of Australian culture. In Peta Brady's play, 'Ugly Mugs', she has portrayed the violence to women in the sex industry much to the annoyance of sex industry proponents who do not want this dark side of the industry so openly exposed on stage.
Scarlet Alliance treasurer, Jane Green, has attacked Ms Brady for:
...speaking on sex workers' behalf in a form of 'entertainment' that preys on sex workers' stories...We have a long history of people and organisations seeking to save and rescue sex workers from their work. I, personally, don't need to be rescued from my job. Peta Brady doesn't speak for me or my community. The play presents us as singular, one-dimensional characters, as victims without agency. That's not who we are.
But it seems Ms Green is doing the very thing she accuses Brady of - speaking on behalf of the sex worker community. She criticises Peta Brady for showing sex workers as vulnerable, and at the same time refuses to recognise the violence faced by women involved in the street sex trade.
And Ms Green is not the only one attacking Brady - there seems to be a co-ordinated response from others closely associated with the Scarlet Alliance. Mistress Lux, an Australian dominatrix and follower of Jane Green, has stated, 'Peta Brady I would think is certainly breaching confidentiality clause in her work contract so should be grounds 4 instant dismal'. Unsurprisingly, this comment has been favourited and retweeted in social media by Scarlet Alliance vice-president Elena Jeffreys.
Freedom of speech is surfacing as the most common casualty in the ongoing debate over human rights for prostituted people in Australia. As well as seeking to silence the experience of street sex workers in St Kilda, and gloss over the violence they suffer, it seems the Scarlet Alliance is also willing to ensure that those working with and supporting people involved in street prostitution are also silenced through loss of employment.
In discussing 'Ugly Mugs', Brady asserts that her play is not just about sex workers. Rather, it's about the pervasive culture of abuse of women in Australia:
It's about violence against women generally...men are the perpetrators in the overwhelming majority of cases... So I think men really need to have the discussion. Women are talking about it all the time – but I don't see men discussing it, beyond the token publicity shot and empty declarations from some politician every now and then. If we're going to see any change, it must start with men.
Claims that Ms Brady is a rescuer addicted to 'pity porn' or that she is profiting from the confidential stories of sex workers is disingenuous. Like many outreach workers in St Kilda, Brady is there to offer comfort and help pick up the pieces when those involved in the sex trade face violence from punters. She has every right to name this violence as observed at the coal face of her job.
The targeting of people speaking out against punter violence appears to be both systemic and ideologically driven within the culture of the Scarlet Alliance. The organisation struggles to balance the often opposing interests of sex workers and 'sex work', and, unfortunately, it has consistently opted to defend the concept of 'sex work as just work'. Persons such as Ms Brady are portrayed as enemies of the cause for daring to highlight punter violence towards women in prostitution.
This failure to acknowledge punter violence can be seen in the Scarlet Alliance response to the death of St Kilda street prostitute Tracy Connelly in July 2013. They said:
Tracy did not deserve to die, no sex worker should be put in danger at work due to laws that do not recognise our profession. Sex workers and supporters will continue to remember her life and strive for a time when violence against sex workers is a thing of the past.
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