University of Windsor Speech, Part 1 of 3

How many of you saw me on television last month? One of the things I said was that Prime Minister Harper offered me an appointment to the Senate, as a government whip. Well, today, here in my home town of Windsor, I am declining his offer. You see, it seems Senators are always in trouble with the police, and I’ve had enough of that.

It’s exciting to be back in my old home town again. The university certainly has grown. One part of that growth I am told has been the womens’ studies and social justice areas of study. I am also told that the legal battles that I and so many other women have been fighting these past two decades have received considerable attention in various departments here, and for that I am grateful. The Associate Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Eleanor Maticka-Tindale was an expert witness in 2009, supporting our motion to strike down the so called prostitution laws in Ontario. In 1998 Daryl Hill of the Department of Psychology here was an expert witness at my trial, testifying about cross-dressing, and whether it was sex. Julie Fraser, a PHD candidate in that same department spoke at my fund-raiser in 2000; and both graduate and undergraduate students have visited me in person, spoke to me over the phone, e-mailed, and sent me their papers over the years. Thank you all again.

And I have also spoken here. In 2009 Professor Young, Val Scott and I spoke at the law school about our Charter Challenge, then just beginning. Now I have the pleasure to be here just after it has ended, and WE have won. I want to talk about that word – WE. We are thousands, at varying levels of involvement.

The first person to mention, in my view, is Madam Justice Susan Himel. She won too because her decision was reviewed by 14 judges, first at the Ontario Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court. In the end everything she decided was upheld.

There are of course the 3 plaintiffs, or as some would call us, affiants – Myself, Val Scott and Amy Lebovitch. Val Scott has publicly advocated for the rights of sex workers for over 20 years. Amy Lebovitch is younger than Val and I. Her participation was most critical of all because she is not retired like Val and I are and her standing was not subject to challenge.

Then there is Professor Young, who deserves the Order of Canada, and his fellow lawyers and the rest of the legal team. About 10 lawyers represented the matter through 3 levels of court. About 20 students worked on the matter.

Then there were the expert witnesses. About a dozen of them, on our side, who came to Toronto and testified for us – Eleanor included.

There were the activists and sex workers across the country who spoke to the matter and marched in the streets. One of the most prominent women in Canada is beside me today, Chanelle Gallant. She is one of the leaders of such women.

There were as well the vast number of citizens who informed themselves at universities, community colleges, high schools and informally.


Read the Decisions

In my last blog I wrote about some things that occurred to me when I read articles and comments posted on the Internet about the Supreme Court decision striking down the existing prostitution related laws once and for all. In this blog I want to mention one thing I held back on mentioning then. That is, simply, how rare it was for those commenting to say that they had read the decisions (there were 3 decisions by 3 courts). When I spoke in the lobby of the Supreme Court on December 20, 2013, and was asked about other countries, I said that any comment about other countries should be a comment about what the decision of the trial judge said. She looked at the evidence, trial tested, about other countries. Two years of hearings and tens of thousands of pages of trial tested evidence were the basis of her decision. That was part of the basis for striking down the laws. The same is true about the judge’s findings about any negative impacts on society if the laws remained struck down (none), and the negative aspects if they remain in place (many). Again, trial tested. So, if people have an opinion, it is good to know if it is informed. I don’t expect many people to read these documents of course, but it would be nice if they started their comments by saying either: “I have read the decisions” or “I have not read the decisions”. If someone says “I don’t need to read the decisions to comment on the decision of the Supreme Court, or the lower courts”, that someone is a fool.

Surfing the Internet About Our Canadian Prostitution Debate

Over the last several days I have spent several hours reading articles and comments posted on the Internet relating to our Supreme Court victory striking down Canada’s laws intended to restrict prostitution, whatever that is. The first thing that had me shaking my head was that when critics of our position point to the negative aspects of sex work, they often completely fail to realize that when something (or related activities) is illegal, those negative aspects arise largely because of the very fact it is not legal. They also fail to point out that women are victims in many conventional workplaces. In the Canadian and American military sexual harassment and rape are almost systemic, as are the cover-ups. Even in offices women are subjected to it. Domestic household servants are trafficked in illegally and sexually abused, yet we don’t outlaw nannies. Many factory workers in Canada are trafficked in illegally and sexually abused, and we don’t close factories. They also fail to point out, and this is critical, that in the future many women who come from advantaged backgrounds, or who have choices, will enter the sex trade. They did not do so before because of fear of the authorities and the negative aspects created by the laws that were struck down. I know a number of such women who earn good livings now, love their work and are free from the sexual harassment, low wages and long hours that are the lot of so many women. If the government does not bring in any laws to replace the ones struck down, and for a change enforces the immigration and other laws, I have no doubt that the people who look into the sex trade will find fewer members who were forced into it and fewer who want to exit.

Reactions to My Letter to Prime Minister Harper

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.

Historic Supreme Court Victory

It was a victory in all respects. I have examined the decision. I have now read many media reports and heard and read a number of commentators. You can also get my early comments that way. I want to add a few things here. In the first place, the fifteen judges have made it very clear that Mr. Harper and his government, and the provinces, must bring in laws that are clear, specific and do not discriminate against or endanger people. Second, if people point to some prostitutes as victims they should realize, as the judges did, that the very laws in place were much of the cause of that: which is why I keep saying that the prime minister is doing what organized crime wants him to do. Third, when people point to other countries, they should first look at the decision of Judge Himel, who had weeks of testimony and cross-examinations of experts about other countries and what their experiences teach us. In other words, as Rosie Dimanno of the Toronto Star said: “Read the damn decision”. Fourth, anyone who says prostitution (assuming their definition is clear) is always bad, is making a moral judgement and is a fool. I say that because we allow people to smoke, drink, overeat, not exercise, and so forth. We also allow promiscuous, anonymous pre-marital sex and fantasy role-play for free. Fifth, let the people who want laws against prostitution tell us how to enforce such laws and whether there are better uses of public resources than to interfere in the private behaviour of consenting adults when those adults are permitted to take precautions. And sixth, all prostitutes are someone’s daughter. My daughter has worked for me and if you want your daughter to be a soldier or be sexually harassed in the RCMP or in an office or to work for the minimum wage while having sex for free I would rather she do what she wanted and not what you wanted. And finally, seventh, if Mr. Harper is really interested in getting tough on crime let him crack down on wife beaters and dads who don’t pay their child support. Have you heard him talk about that? Anyway, enough for today. The debate is beginning and I look forward to being part of it and am so very grateful to my fellow plaintiffs and Professor Young and his legal team, and all the activists who are too numerous to mention. Truly a great day for Canada.

How the Laws and Courts Have Treated Me

I have had a few experiences with the law and the courts. The public has been very sympathetic on the whole. For example they keep asking, about my previous trials: “What was the crime if there was no sex?” They have also been very supportive of my tenacity in fighting the laws which are so unfair and dangerous. However up until recently the courts have not been fair. Judge Himel’s ruling in 2010 striking down the prostitution laws finally recognized the unfairness of the laws. Before that the judges, in the main, were not only unsympathetic, but unfair bordering on corrupt.

Terri-Jean Bedford

Feeling Empowered as a Dominatrix

I went into a great deal of detail on those things in my book: Dominatrix on Trial. I ask you to buy it, not only to increase sales, but to get my full views on that. You can go to for information on how to get it. But to answer the question of whether being a dominatrix gives a woman a feeling of empowerment as best I can now, I would say a few things. Sex work (in the conventional sense) let me survive, and if you do sex work from a secure location and in a clean environment it is much better than being forced underground the way the laws do to us now, despite prostitution being legal. People are having sex, often anonymously, all over the place now, so these millions don’t seem to think they are degrading themselves. High end prostitutes are making good livings for short hours and many love what they do and endure no sexual harassment the way secretaries, waitresses and other poorly paid women do. As a dominatrix I felt even better than a high end sex worker, except that it was a more costly and burdensome business to run. But I can tell you that nothing beats having men who occupy positions of power being at your mercy and worshipping you. For a woman to have that kind of power is intoxicating and must be experienced to be believed. It is not just the physical control over and power to inflict punishment on a big man who is helpless, it is also the experience of him wishing to be in that position for me. Of course I felt empowered. I had concerns when running my establishment too. I was concerned about the police raiding. I was concerned about making enough money to continue on. I was concerned about losing the premises, which I did not own. But I was never concerned about violence against me or my staff. Girls who work in traditional occupations or in male dominated occupations endure sexual harassment and bullying all the time.

Terri-Jean Bedford

Crimes on Campus that Target Women

I don’t want to sound racist but the colleges and universities in Toronto have many students that come from, or whose parents come from traditional cultures, where men’s pride can be more easily hurt by women than is the case with, say, third generation North Americans. Also women, like the elderly, are a safer target for attackers than able-bodied young men and most college students today are women, so they will be the main victims of crime. So I don’t think misogyny is the only reason for the targeting of women on campus. To change any misogyny that does exist will take time, cultural changes and also women fighting back by reporting incidents and there being supports to encourage more women to come forward.

Terri-Jean Bedford

My Definition of a Feminist – Terri-Jean Bedford

I was recently asked how I defined a feminist and whether I see myself as a feminist. I believe a feminist is a woman, or man for that matter, who believes in maximizing the equality of the sexes in every respect and minimizing discrimination of any type based on gender. I see myself as a feminist in terms of supporting equality of opportunity in the workplace, but I do not believe in equality in relationships. I believe that one partner should dominate the other. For example, as a dominatrix I see this desire of men to submit to women all the time, not to be equal. They want to revel in female superiority and worship a woman as a goddess, at least when they are role playing with them. I don’t think that describes feminism in relationships.


Good to be Back

Thanks to so many who have sent kind messages while I recovered from my surgery. I am much better now and am going to resume my blogs.

We are approaching the release of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision about Justice Susan Himel’s decision of September 2010. She struck down the laws which supposedly restricted prostitution in Ontario, and Canada. The government’s appeal was heard in June 2011. No matter what the higher court says in its decision a huge national debate on the issues involved will begin.

I was a panellist at a major conference at Toronto’s Upper Canada College debating the issue of whether prostitution should be decriminalized. My remarks were about the opposition to Judge Himel’s decision. Over the next couple of weeks I will share a text of those remarks with you, and after that have further comments about the issues about to come before the country. You can see a video of me delivering my remarks on my web sites, and you can get background on the Himel decision in my book Dominatrix on Trial.

Terri-Jean Bedford