NorMAC nastiness in Hobart

Trigger warning – the two links contain descriptions of sexual abuse


Last week I attended an event at the Tasmanian Parliament held by NorMAC – Nordic Model Australia Coalition. The Nordic, or Swedish Model, criminalises clients of sex workers, with the aim of abolishing sex work, and NorMAC’s agenda is to have the Nordic Model introduced in Australia. This is despite the fact that the UN, the WHO, the Kirby Institute, Amnesty International, the Lancet, and the majority of sex workers, agree that the Nordic Model would cause more harm than good.


NorMAC is notorious for its vicious attacks against sex workers who don’t agree with them. Why then would I, as a sex worker, choose to put myself in the traumatising environment of a NorMAC public meeting?


I wanted to know more about why they seem to hate us so much. By us I mean sex workers who don’t want to be “saved” and who have the gall to want some basic human rights. I wanted to understand why Simone Watson, the director of NorMAC, is so angered by sex workers who want to make the world a better place for our community, when she herself claims to want the same thing.


Here are a few of the things Simone Watson and I have in common:


  • we’ve both had sex with men for money
  • we both identify as feminists and believe that our patriarchal society needs to be challenged.
  • Neither of us wants to see sex workers harmed or working against their will.
  • We both support exit strategies for people wishing to leave the sex industry.


So why can’t we be friends? Why does NorMAC seem to want to place itself so fiercely in diametric opposition to sex workers who lobby for work place rights?


Watson doesn’t believe that sex workers are able to make informed choices about our lives. In her mind you’re either too traumatised and suffering from false consciousness to be able to make decisions or you’re a part of a tiny minority of privileged white women for whom sex work isn’t harmful. Watson identifies as a “sex trade survivor” who feels deeply traumatised by her experiences. It’s interesting how she uses the idea of trauma to both try to silence sex workers, and to give her own voice legitimacy.


Although sex work isn’t inherently violent, there are factors which are associated with violence against sex workers, including criminalisation and stigmatisation. Increasingly, sex workers who are sexual abuse survivors are speaking out in favour of decriminalisation.


NorMAC believes that they are helping sex workers by lobbying to criminalise clients. The fact that they are not seeking to criminalise sex workers, they say, is proof that they mean us no harm. Yet they are in denial about how the Nordic Model adversely affects sex workers.


In her talk Watson made repeated reference to the idea that most sex workers are “poor”, choosing to ignore the diversity of people who engage in commercial sex. We are from all socio economic backgrounds, all genders and sexualities and are diverse in our cultural backgrounds and ages. I found it particularly offensive that it was implied that “poor people” and drug users are too stupid to make informed choices.


Other offensive assertions that Watson made included:

  • sex work is comparable to domestic violence and slavery
  • sex workers sell their bodies
  • all sex workers are “prostituted”
  • sex work is anathema to feminism
  • only 2% of sex workers have a voice and the rest suffer in silence
  • sex work is paid rape
  • 68% of all “prostituted women” have PTSD


But the thing that upset me the most was the notion that sex workers who lobby for workplace rights are evil. That we are pimps, misogynists, people who enable rapists. To add insult to injury, NorMAC proudly supports a system that would cause harm to sex workers.


If the Nordic Model were to be introduced into Tasmania this is how it would affect me personally:


  • My family and I would be at risk of homelessness since under the Nordic Model it’s illegal to rent a premise to a sex worker.
  • My partner would be seen by law to be a pimp and living off the earnings since she lives with me and we share resources.
  • I wouldn’t be able to openly negotiate boundaries with clients before agreeing to take the booking, as any sort of communication like this could be used as evidence against the client.
  • The fact that my clientele were criminalised would reinforce the stigma against me, as someone who either enables criminals, or is a victim.
  • I wouldn’t have access to peer outreach, as the focus would be on getting me out of the sex industry, rather than allowing me to talk to an understanding community worker who is also a sex worker.
  • I wouldn’t have any OH&S and other industrial rights as my work would not be considered “real work”.
  • I wouldn’t stop sex working but I would be driven underground, trying to be as invisible as possible. This would severely affect my ability to access services or report any crimes against myself.
  • My clients currently understand that I am a person who has rights. At worst they are still more respectful than people who hospitality staff have to serve. Under the Nordic Model these well behaved citizens wouldn’t risk getting a criminal record so I would be more at risk of seeing people who have no regard for the law and nothing to lose.


I genuinely feel for Simone Watson and believe her when she says she’s had bad experiences in the sex industry. Even though she says she got into sex work for the “edginess”, while most of us treat it like serious work, all sex workers should have the right to feel respected at work. In a better world she would have felt more empowered to have boundaries she was comfortable with. We all want that. However if Watson actually cared about the rights of other sex workers, she and NorMAC would look at the evidence and support decriminalisation.




15 thoughts on “NorMAC nastiness in Hobart

  1. Great blog. Of course the Nordic model is offensive to women by asserting that women aren’t able to make their own decisions and need rescuing from their weakness and mistakes. It is also offensive to men who pay for intimacy by asserting they are rapists and don’t care about the sexworker. There are all sorts of legitimate reasons why men purchase sex. Most punters would not go anywhere near a dodgy situation where there was any coercion, trafficking, underage girls, drugs or doubt about consent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Most punters would not go anywhere near a dodgy situation where there was any coercion, trafficking, underage girls, drugs or doubt about consent” – really? how do you explain the behaviour of all the ‘punters’ who rape women and girls in prostitution across the globe, women and girls who are quite clearly there because of conditions of poverty?


      1. Rapists and shit bags rape, are you saying that all men that pay for sex are rapists, ergo all men that take women out to dinner do so with the intention of raping them. Some men want to skip the games and just pay for sex or are too scared or intimidated to go on dates with non sexworkers. Sexwork is the one industry anyone can enter, it can raise people form poverty to a life of relative comfort. Am I saying that trafficking doesnt exist of course not! But sex trafficking and sexWORK are two completely different things.


      2. The vulnerability of sex workers to rape is exacerbated by paternalistic narratives framing them as being victims with no agency or ability to consent. A sex worker is someone who chooses to sell sexual services. A client of a sex worker is someone who wants to negotiate for a service and pay for it. A person who wants to rape or hurt a sex worker may masquerade as a client but never intended to be one. A discussion about sex work is not a discussion about rape.


      3. In countries where sex workers are affected by both poverty and the criminalisation of their work, it’s extremely common for sex workers to be sexually assaulted by police. In some countries more than half of sex workers report being raped and beaten by authorities. (USAID, “Violence and exposure to HiV among sex Workers in Phnom Penh, cambodia,” (2006). and Rhodes et al., and “Police violence and sexual risk among female and transvestite sex workers in serbia: qualitative study,” British Medical Journal337(7669), (2008): 560 – 566.)
        The most effective way to reduce violence against women is full decriminalisation of the sex industry, giving sex workers industrial rights and a safe environment in which to report crimes against themselves. Decriminalisation does not involve legalising sex with children, rather it increases the access abused children have to welfare workers and non threatening police.


  2. “NorMAC is notorious for its vicious attacks against sex workers”. These are unsubstantiated claims. In fact, all the evidence points to the sex industry making vicious attacks on those who support the Nordic Model. This piece written attacking Watson is a case in point.

    “UN, the WHO, the Kirby Institute, Amnesty International, the Lancet”. With most of these organisations it is a case of ‘the piper calls the tune’. And the piper is George Soros, founder of Open Society, who spends billions every year funding NGOs that purpose to support sex worker rights, when in fact they are just fronts to spread Soros’s vision of a world without borders, where the free market reigns, where there are no support mechanisms for the marginalised and the vulnerable, and where everything and everyone are simply commodities to be traded.

    Your piece is highly emotive and short on facts. The majority of sex workers would rather be doing something else. That a few happen to ‘choose’ it is not reason enough to leave the majority at the whim of an open market.


    1. Anna,
      It would seem your reply is also rather emotive and short on facts.
      I know PLENTY of happy hookers- because I am one! My colleagues and I just want a little respect from the outside world- we’re not all miserable victims.
      Just because it’s not your cup of tea, don’t pour it down the sink. How very rude!


    2. Conspiracy theories aside, it’s concerning that Anna is willing to ignore the findings of the peak medical bodies both in Australia and globally that decriminalisation has the best health outcomes for sex workers.
      And I absolutely defend the right of sex workers to be part of the conversation about our work. If wanting to have a say about our lives, rather than being spoken for by people who don’t consult us is emotive, then so be it. How many sex workers have to say “we choose to work” before we are believed? It doesn’t surprise me that anti sex worker organisations don’t listen when we say this because it doesn’t fit their agenda.


  3. I’m not a sex worker, so of course I can’t speak to that experience, but as a survivor of PTSD I find NorMAC’s statistic on PTSD rates questionable. How could they possibly know, without surveying a representative and current sample of sex workers from all backgrounds, from every country all around the world, rural and urban and everyone in between, and only recording people who have been professionally diagnosed? At best, it’s speculation. It also means nothing if not compared to an accurate representation of PTSD rates in other professions, and the general population. Frankly, throwing unsupportable figures like that around is manipulative and very disrespectful towards people with the condition (I don’t like the word “victim” either!) Kudos for a wonderfully written, pertinent post. Will reblog 🙂


      1. a) 130 individuals who share a common location is not a representative sample for the whole worldwide community, and depending on selection criteria quite possibly not representative of San Fransisco b) We don’t know by which perimeters they were selected or what methodologies were used in the research c) Your source is 18 years old. Its data reached its half life 13 years ago d) Even if it were current, a single peer-reviewed source is in no way definitive nor comprehensive e) The careful way in which the researchers state that interviewees met the criteria for PTSD according to the DSM, indicates that they haven’t necessarily been diagnosed although they anecdotally display symptoms in the view of the researchers. PTSD is not the flu. A person has to be diagnosed by a mental health professional specialising in trauma, in the sole interest of treating the person and helping them become well. Not in the interest of a study that sets out to prove a hypothesis. It’s also important to recognise that confronting an affected person’s trauma outside of a controlled therapeutic setting retraumatises the person and is incredibly damaging f) The study doesn’t specify women as its subject base g) Again, these statistics mean nothing if not compared to other sectors of the population – how many paramedics and ER nurses are assaulted at work, for example? What percentage of the population as a whole has experienced sexual assault? h) A developed country does not mean a middle-classed background or adult life. Also, in what basis are you claiming that women in San Fransisco “have it better”? This is a colonial assumption i) It would also need to be established that the traumatic injury leading to PTSD occurred at work, through the nature of the work j) In the absence of such proof, the counter argument could conceivably be put that traumatised people are drawn to sex work because their trauma makes other forms of work inaccessible to them and harder to cope with – you can make statistics say anything k) We don’t know what fields the researchers work in, what possible polemic political agendas they may have, in what manner the work was peer reviewed l) All the different percentages given in findings don’t represent discrete sections of the whole. There is most probably significant overlap m) Do you really want me to keep going with this?


  4. This debate is not about personal choice. Neither is it about personal attacks. It is about ideology and patriarchy. Prostitution harms all women. It involves the sexual objectification of women – women who are bought and sold as sex objects for men’s right to own and control women and make use of them as they please. As a woman I strongly object to the patriarchal trafficking and slavery of women which constitutes prostitution


    1. So you are saying that the only people that do sex work are women and that everyone doing sex work is a victim? Have you ever done sexwork or are you like the men that object to abortions and female reproductive rights because YOU think its morally wrong? Respect people’s right to choose and get the fuck off of your high horse!


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