On Wednesday I distributed an open letter to Mr. Harper asking 6 questions concerning the debate on possible new laws on prostitution. I called it “Prime Minister Harper’s Sexual Orientation” because it is precisely that which might determine his answers to the 6 questions posed in the letter. The questions were: (1) What is a sex act? (2) What is a prostitute or a sex worker? (3) What is a bawdy house? (4) What is an indecent act? (5) What is violence? (6) What is a conservative? He has not responded yet. Nor should he. He should for a change read what the judges of all the courts wrote. Most of those I heard from or whose comments I read or were conveyed to me agree that he must first specify exactly what private behaviours between consenting adults he might want to control. Most of the reaction said that should happen before any “model” is considered. Many noted that if he failed to specify, new laws might not be constitutional. I am glad I sent out the letter, because I was concerned that the debate might proceed without being clear on exactly what was at issue.
I am the Bedford in the Bedford Versus Canada case, in which the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s laws against prostitution once and for all. I am trying here to provide some thinking points to those who think new laws should be added to the criminal code to replace the ones struck down. All recipients may share or publish this article in whole or part. Terri-Jean Bedford.
Prime Minister Harper’s Sexual Orientation
6 Questions for the Prime Minister
By Terri-Jean Bedford
New prostitution laws may be on the way. Much will now depend on the sexual orientation of the Prime Minister: on his orientation towards restricting or not restricting what consenting adults do in private. He must answer questions for a change, questions a real leader would not evade.
Prostitution has always been legal in Canada. Yet, in 2010, in response to a motion I and others filed, the laws to restrict activities around prostitution were struck down by Justice Susan Himel. She said any new laws in the Criminal Code that may be put in their place, not that any are needed, should have some constructive purpose. The Ontario Court of Appeal basically agreed in 2012 and in December 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously agreed with the Himel decision. They also said the laws were too vague and arbitrary, and any new laws must not be.
All this time Mr. Harper and his then Justice Minister, Mr. Nicholson, insisted the laws were constitutional. Now 15 judges have once and for all put to rest their feckless handling of our constitutional challenge. Since Prime Minister Harper has a majority government and runs a tight ship, he is the one on the spot now. That means him telling you, yes you, what you can and cannot do in private and what happens if you break any new laws he may bring in.
That’s where I come in. I have 6 questions for him. If he evades any of them, or refuses to be specific and clear, he is a coward. I believe his sexual orientation, meaning what he thinks is proper between consenting adults, will guide him.
Question 1: What is a sex act?
Is it a sex act when a man gets an erection and inserts his penis into a woman or another man? Is orgasm an issue here? Is it a sex act if one stimulates a partner’s genitalia with one’s mouth? One’s hand? One’s foot? I won’t ask again whether having an orgasm changes the answer, but consider this an ongoing issue too in this and the other questions. Is it a sex act if a registered masseuse massages a naked man, without touching his genitals, and he has an erection? What if the masseuse is not registered? Say it’s me. Is it a sex act if I give a naked man a massage while he is fully restrained and I don’t touch his genitals? What about a woman? Can I touch her breasts? What type of restraint is legal? What kind of restraints may I use? What if, with his consent, I tickle him until he cries? Is it a sex act if, with his consent, I whip a man who is restrained and naked? Where can I strike him? How hard can I strike him? What implements may I use? What if he gets an erection during the whipping? What if he masturbates afterward in front of me? What if there is another man watching and masturbating during the whipping? Is it a sex act if I buy female clothing for a man and help him into it? What if he gets an erection during this time? Is it a sex act if a man grovels at my feet and kisses my boots while I humiliate him?
I could go on. I think you get the idea.
Question 2: What is a prostitute, or a sex worker?
Is a woman a prostitute or sex worker if she has sexual intercourse with a man in gratitude for a favour, such as home repairs? What if she just gets a promissory note? What if he just tells her she is pretty in return for intercourse? What if a man pays his wife or girlfriend for sex? Is a woman a prostitute or a sex worker if she is compensated to perform oral sex on or stimulation by hand of a man’s penis? What about if he just paid her to hold his hand? What if he pays her and just masturbates in front of her while she verbally humiliates him by calling him a lackey of the Prime Minister? Is a woman a prostitute or a sex worker if she is paid to tie up a man and tickle him? Whip him? Spank him? What if he remains fully dressed? Is a woman a prostitute or sex worker if she is paid to buy female clothing for a man? Is she a prostitute or sex worker if she is compensated for helping him into it? Is a woman a prostitute or sex worker if she is a stripper in a bar where there is no physical contact with the patrons?
I could go on. I think you get the idea.
Question 3: What is a bawdy-house?
Is it a bawdy-house if a woman, almost daily, stays home and has sexual intercourse for money or some other form of payment? What if she just sells oral sex or hand jobs? What if a man pays to just look at her as she washes dishes? Is it a bawdy-house when in this home or place of business there is no genital touching and just bondage and tickling? What if all customers are fully clothed? What about a cross-dressing service? Is it a bawdy-house if the woman sets up a dungeon with bondage and discipline equipment and rents the room to others who are not involved in any financial transaction – such as a married couple? What if she sells tickets to watch her and an employee do S&M sessions? Is an erection by one of the viewers an issue? Is it a bawdy- house if the woman advertises any of the services above and nothing at all happens in the house? Is it a bawdy-house if the woman advertises and delivers the above services for free? Is The House of Commons a bawdy-house if a female Member of Parliament flashes some thigh and an honourable member’s member becomes erect?
I could go on. I think you get the idea.
Question 4: What is an indecent act?
In response to my earlier questions I presume Mr. Harper has already defined and listed what sex acts are, what makes a woman a prostitute or a sex worker and what constitutes a bawdy-house. I presume he was specific and clear and left no room for non-elected officials to make up the rules as they went along. Unclear laws undermine enforcement of the law and may even lead to more crime.
Now let’s have a go at indecency. And let’s be clear about something yet again: this is about adults – consenting adults, in private. Let’s start with a basic question. Under the old laws, indecency was loosely defined as something that violated community standards in terms of harm to the community and how public that something was. Can the Prime Minister be more specific? I can’t. I repeat, I can’t. Me! If anyone knows about acts in private between consenting adults, it is yours truly. Yet, I can’t. Can he? Judge Susan Himel and the Ontario Court of Appeal basically struck down the old laws partially because they were too vague. In the legal services community a cottage industry has grown up of students writing papers on why the laws Judge Himel struck down are so at variance with fundamental justice. So it is important for the Prime Minister to be specific and clear. Oh, and one other little detail. He should tell us why in each case. That means that if he lists something as indecent or obscene, he will tell us what his rationale for this is.
I think you get the idea. I look forward to his lists and explanations.
Question 5: What is violence?
As a dominatrix, I enjoy controlling and punishing men. As a dominatrix I have never been charged with assault or unlawful confinement, despite significant acts of restraining, whipping, spanking, tickling and pinching of clients. When men play tackle football and get injured, is it violence? Is paying to get whipped by me where no injury results more violent or more abhorrent than being blindsided in a legal football tackle by a 300 pound lineman whose job it is to tackle an opponent hard? If so, why? If I put one of the Prime Minister’s lackeys into chains, and tickle him until he cries, is it as violent as one of those wrestling or mixed martial arts shows that are so popular? These are examples of men and women consenting to be injured. So, for the sake of my trade as a dominatrix, Mr. Harper must tell me if anything I do is illegal violence, and why.
Question 6: What is a conservative?
Here’s what I think a “small c” conservative stands for. He believes government should respect the privacy of the citizen. He respects the rights of consenting citizens to privacy in the bedroom or dungeon. He believes that these freedoms should extend to all segments of society. He believes they have the freedom to discuss what they will do there before they get there. He believes that citizens are entitled to have sex before marriage. He believes that they must not be legally required to have that sex for free and can accept money or other payment for it if they wish. He believes government should refrain from restricting citizens to arbitrary moral judgments. He does not lie. He does not evade, but rather answers questions. He takes positions. He is not a coward.
Now to a well-known “large c” Conservative, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. When I look at how he measures up to conservative values in dealing with the current decisions being made on the prostitution laws, I think he comes up short. He says prostitution is bad, yet he is not clear on what he means by prostitution. In any event, who gave him the right to tell you or me how to live our private lives? I think prostitution, whatever that is, is good. I think people should be free to decide this for themselves. I also know that prostitution is going on all over the place under his government, and that often women – get ready for this – are actually asking criminals to protect them from the authorities under the laws the Prime Minister has fought to retain.
Mr. Harper’s handling of this issue to date has been a blow against safety for women and in favour of organized crime. Going forward, he really must define his sexual orientation if he is serious about doing his job.