By Sandra Thomas, Vancouver CourierPublished: Friday, February 26, 2010
An exotic dancer who works in Vancouver says a group protesting the sex industry during the 2010 Olympic Games is putting dancers at risk and interfering with their ability to make a living.
Trina Ricketts, a Surrey resident, accused local group REED, "Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity," of using the Games to draw attention to their anti-sex work and abolition campaigns.
"What they're abolishing is dancers' incomes," said Ricketts, who recently returned to exotic dancing after taking several years off. "And people take risks when they're financially desperate."
Protesters have demonstrated outside strip bars and at popular Olympic-related events such as the Games opening ceremony.
(photo by Mike Howell)
Despite not performing in the past several years, Ricketts stayed involved with the exotic dance industry through the Internet site she founded, NakedTruth.ca, a resource website for adult entertainers.
REED has staged protests outside strip bars and popular Olympic events, such as the Canada and U.S. hockey game this past Sunday, as part of its "Buying Sex Is Not a Sport," campaign, which was created in response to the Winter Games. REED is organized and supported by a broad base of community members, including former prostitutes, feminists, religious organizations and women the group says are currently exploited in the sex industry.
Ricketts said when REED protests outside a strip club, both customers and dancers are reluctant to enter the bar. "It's a demeaning environment when you're trying to go to work with women shouting at you as you enter," said Ricketts. "Spreading the message that exotic dancers in Vancouver are sex slaves, as the protesters are doing, is spreading lies. Strip clubs in Vancouver are safe work spaces and very much appreciated by those employed by them."
Ricketts said she doesn't understand why so much time and money is being spent on actions sex industry workers don't want.
"The true oppressors are the ones who claim to have our best interest at heart, but refuse to listen to us and what our real needs are," she said. "They're threatening our incomes and our jobs and are further isolating sex workers."
REED spokesperson Mary-Lee Bouma said the reality of the sex industry is that it's based on gender inequality. "No one will debate that," she said.
She said REED supports women in the sex trade while targeting the male demand for sexual access to women and children, both boys and girls. Despite the lack of support from dancers like Ricketts, Bouma said the group stands in solidarity with the women working inside strip clubs.
According to Bouma, REED supports a three-pronged approach to the sex trade, including decriminalizing it for women, criminalizing it for customers and providing services and job training for sex workers.
She added there's been lots of interest from the people the protesters have encountered on the street since the Olympics began. REED also gave presentations to delegates from the UK and Russia, countries that will host the next Summer and Winter Olympic Games.