How Trials of the Sex Trade Was Made

By Andrew Sorfleet

Trials of the Sex Trade represents a tremendous amount of work. The project was first discussed in 1990, the first draft was prepared in 1992 and second, third and more drafts were written from September 1993 to August 1994, final editorial revisions were made right up until the very end of 1994. The text and images were proofread and commented on by over 40 volunteers before volunteer production and editorial co-ordinators delivered the book to the board of directors for Maggie's, the Toronto Prositutes' Community Service Project, at that time. Freedom Through Information began publishing it's version of sections of Trials of the Sex Trade in Vancouver early in 1995.

Layout and production of the paper version of Trials of the Sex Trade began at the beginning of October, 1994 and it took until December 1994 to edit, rewrite, design, illustrate, proof-read, correct, and paste up its six booklets and cover. Chris Bearchell and I estimate this process took about 1,000 hours of mostly unpaid, volunteer work. In addition, many people put in a total of hundreds of hours, over years, on the project. We hope that we acknowledged all of those who contributed.

Where Trials of the Sex Trade came from

On November 22, 1990 representatives of Maggie's (the Toronto Prostitutes' Community Service Project met with Parkdale Community Legal Services (Ray Kuszelewski, Diane Martin, and Diane Roberts from PCLS; Alexandra Highcrest, Laura Jacobs, and Will Pritchard from Maggie's) to discuss three specific problems with police: reporting assaults, sweeps and police harassment. That meeting determined four long-term objectives to begin dealing with these problems: a system for collecting "anecdotes," a prostitutes' legal primer, a process for helping prostitutes file affidavits and taking complaints to the Police Commission. This was one of the earliest events that helped initiate the Anonymous Police Complaints Project. Outlines were produced by Will Pritchard and Laura Jacobs at that time and then, due to staff turnover, the project sat.

On July 29, 1992, Maggie's was approached by the Students Working in the Public Interest Program (SWIP), a University of Toronto law school program where students get credit for doing legal projects with charitable organizations. Maggie's happily agreed to participate and was soon contacted by Sylvia Davis, a law student with an interest in doing research on prostitution-related legal issues who believed that criminalization led to many of the problems that prostitutes face. I involved Sylvia in the legal primer project and she researched and produced the first draft. That fall Anastasia Kuzyk and I sat down with Sylvia and provided feedback on an interim draft.

In November 1992, Sylvia's final draft was submitted to Maggie's and then passed around to staff, members and volunteers to identify gaps and adjust the wording.

Chris Bearchell submitted a proposal on December 1, 1992 to the Ontario Women's Directorate (OWD) for the only budgetTrials of the Sex Trade has received to date: a grant of $9,260 to Maggie's to pay printing costs only. Maggie's received the grant March 1, 1993 and the project was expected to be delivered by September 30, 1993. A year after that date the project was still not finished and Maggie's received notice that, if the project wasn't finalized by October 31, 1994, it could jeopardize future funding from the OWD for Maggie's. But these were busy years and in the meantime the size and scope of the project had changed.

No Bawdy's Business: 'Common house-keeping' is against the law!

On January 25, 1993, John Schmied of the Toronto Sun , ("Downtown sweep: 12 charged in massage parlour raids") reported that 45 bawdy-house charges had been laid against 12 individuals, with another 12 reportedly "under surveillance." The Sex Workers' Alliance of Toronto (SWAT) and Maggie's phoned all the ads in NOW and put up a poster at the NOW office to advertise a meeting. On February 17, 1993 at least 30 sex workers met with lawyer Peter Maloney to discuss the bawdy-house laws and police enforcement.

For many of the people there it was the first time they had connected with a pro-positive, let alone pro-operated, organization. Through sharing experiences pros concluded that the police were employing undercover entrapment tactics. The police had phoned NOW magazine's business personal ads offering massages, targetting women doing massages with extras out of their studios or homes. Their strategy to gain "evidence" with which to arrest the prostitute involved sending three or more plainclothes officers into the women's homes before making arrests. On at least three occasions officers participated in sexual activities. One of th women at that meeting was Kara Gillies who stayed on at Maggie's as a volunteer and eventually became a staff member.

Our original concept of the legal primer took into account the bawdy-house laws but until now we had little first-hand information about how these laws would be enforced. Kara Gillies researched and wrote the first drafts for the booklet on the bawdy-house laws.

Who's Jail Bait? What the law really says about sex for young people.

In September, 1993 Toronto Police and Project P began enforcing s. 163.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada, new legislation prohibiting "kiddie" porn — sexy pictures of people under the age of 18, or who look like they are under 18. "Operation Chicken" focused exclusively on an under-18 component of the Toronto hustling scene which eventually resulted in the arrest of Maggie's volunteer, Matthew McGowan.

Our first response was to produce the card If Cops Want to Talk to You — a short piece of straight-forward information about your rights when you are either being questioned by police or under arrest.

These events lead us to rush to research and produce a first draft of Who's Jail Bait? by October 1993. In November 1993 The London Free Press broke the story about "Operation Scoop," a more extensive and vicious version of "Operation Chicken" underway in London. In response we produced Wanna Be a Movie Star? It may be more than you bargained for, a card with legal information specifically about the perils of the youth porn law. By May 1994, a revised version of Who's Jail Bait? was produced and distributed in London. Matthew McGowan's active role in outreach and education in Toronto and London brought him onto staff at Maggie's.

The Bare Facts: How dancers get 'jerked' around by the law.

In September of 1993, the Supreme Court delivered a decision interpreting 'acts of indecency' for strip clubs as a result of a 1989 bawdy-house bust of the Pussy Cat Club in Montreal. 'Jerk dancing' had become legal.

Then, in February 1994, Cheaters Tavern in Toronto was found 'not guilty' of 'presentation of an indecent performance' for 'lap dancing' charges that had been laid in 1991. These decisions started a media flurry that caused lots of confusion and hysteria about the laws that affect strippers. Gwendolyn and other strippers, organized two meetings of dancers hosted at Maggie's.

Meetings on February 13th and 20th consisted of 70 dancers who worked in clubs in Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga, Brampton, Bramelea, Oakville, Scarborough, Oshawa and the all-over-Ontario circuit met. Around the same time, there was a bar owners meeting of owners from all over Ontario. Girls who attended these meetings went on to form the Strippers Alliance of Toronto, and Burlesque Entertainers Alliance of Toronto (BEAT).

Jöelle Carroll became a staff member of Maggie's as a result of her involvement in these meetings. The need health and legal information for strippers became acute. The first draft of The Bare Facts was written by Chris Bearchell and circulated in April 1994. Both and Jöelle and Beth Wolgemuth became involved in gathering feedback for The Bare Facts.

Trick or Trap: 'Dick'ering in public is against the law!

This section of Trials of the Sex Trade, which deals with busts on the street, relied heavily on Sylvia Davis' original research. Chris Bearchell produced a draft which Pauline Marianchuck tested with a number of the girls with whom she did street outreach. This draft, and the girls' questions, were also reviewed by Ray Kuszelewski at Parkdale, who eventually went over all of the sections. This process also prompted us to follow up on the If Cops Want to Talk to You experience and produce the information card Beware Entrapment: Dirty tricks from legal dicks.

Holding Court: harlots, strippers, hustlers and whores tour the halls of justice

This section on court procedure also drew extensively on Sylvia Davis' research and original draft. Kara Gillies and Julien Francisco prepared a version from it which wasn't focus tested until later in the production process. As testing put it into more and more hands, new sections were identified that needed to be added; chapters on pressing charges, family law, small claims courts, local resources, drug possession charges, perjury, and weapons — all things which at one time or other had been outlined in plans. Holding Court doubled in size from first draft to final version.

The production process

The first version ofWho's Jail Bait?, was thrown together with the help of many energetic volunteers in response to a crisis. It became a useful prototype for Trials of the Sex Trade for a number of reasons. We were aiming information for difficult-to-reach population that was under seige. We were attempting to do this in London, Ontario — a city we did not know and where we were not known.

We were able to develop and test ways to render complex text into an accessible form as well design, format and illustration ideas. We had to read and interpret this area of the law (which included a new section of The Criminal Code) , and check that interpretation. We had to find the people to help us do this. Volunteer editors and proofreaders, as well as lawyers and advisors, were invaluable in this and subsequent sections.

Lessons learned from Who's Jail Bait? went into the creation of the other booklets in Trials of the Sex Trade , into their editorial, design and production processes. By the time it came to the final three months of production, the other sections were more thorough and accurate, better designed and more appealing than were the first two small runs of Who's Jail Bait?.

To focus test Trials of the Sex Trade, several versions of the booklets were circulated for feedback with volunteers and others, anyone who had relevant experience who we could get to sit down and read them. Their suggestions, corrections, and comments were integrated into the editorial process.

Dealing with some short-comings

As the bawdy house, communicating, dancing and general sections of Trials of the Sex Trade came to completion, we became aware of a couple of short-comings. One was a logistical problem: there were things that were relevant to more than one of the booklets (like descriptions of a number of key provincial statutes) and there were technical terms that we had to use repeatedly and didn't want to have to define more than once (if at all). We conceived of a glossary where we could flesh out definitions and give more detailed, technical information about some things. Yet another section of Trials of the Sex Trade, Legal Ease, was born.

We learned about and corrected several short-comings, both about content and presentation, during the focus testing of Who's Jail Bait?.

Because we focused initially on the new youth porn law (s. 163.1) and the implications of how it was being enforced against hustlers and their tricks, we were less careful than we should have been in presenting information about pre-existing laws. So we inadvertently gave the impression that people over the age of 18 are not bound by the obscenity law (s. 163 — the one under which Matthew McGowan was actually charged!). We also gave an unnecessarily strict interpretation of the text provisions in s. 163.1.

Who's Jail Bait? did not give enough information about the laws themselves so it sounded "too much like the Voice of God." We didn't say what the laws against consenting sex were called, or even what sections of The Criminal Code they were. Because we hadn't used the names or numbers of the sections of the Code, we also made the decision to put the penalties for breaking the various age of consent laws in a separate section of the booklet, which was confusing. And we said very little about how other laws, especially child welfare laws and the institutions that enforce them, are used to control young people involved in sex work and, in so doing, routinely violate their rights.

When our materials were circulated in London during provincial outreach, the cards and pamphlets proved to be more likely to be picked up and taken away than Who's Jail Bait?. We suspected that the problem was at least partly due to the format (not easy to take or conceal discretely). But the newsletter is the same size, except thicker, and copies of that seemed to go quite quickly.

Chris and I began to get feedback that lots of people don't read much and need to have the meaning of the text made as clear as possible through illustration, others need to be seduced to read. We illustrated the subsequent sections of Trials of the Sex Trade as lavishly and as enticingly as we possibly could. When we were almost done with them, we began to worry about Who's Jail Bait? again.

We re-wrote the text to bring it up-to-date with our present understanding of the law and how it's being used and to correct the "Voice of God" and other logistical problems. Then we struggled to illustrate it so that it was consistent with the other sections of Trials of the Sex Trade without actually breaking any of the laws that it describes. We realize that this is a difficult and potentially controversial thing to do, especially because we were doing it under the pressure of impending deadlines (and at holiday time!), and given that, there would not be time to do extensive consultation. But we didn't feel that we could leave the project incomplete by not applying what we had learned through the production of Who's Jail Bait? and correcting its failings. Our revised version was four pages longer and more extensively illustrated than the initial version.

Struggles and set-backs

Chris and I had planned to leave for Vancouver and the west coast in October. What we had come to know as Maggie's was crumbling. As an organization we were under incredible pressure from vehement law enforcement affecting several sectors of the sex trade — lap dancing, the boys stroll and independent advertisers. Veteran Maggie's member and staff person, Gwendolyn, suddenly left the organization in a state of personal crisis early that year. Staff relationships had become difficult. And, there were money problems. By Christmas time Chris and I were just finishing up the project, still hoping to not be excluded from future Ontario Women's Directorate funding, even though we missed our final OWD deadline in October. We were finally winding up our consultations.

Relations with Danny Cockerline had become strained by the time Danny finally reviewed the booklets. Danny expressed grave concerns he had about Who's Jail Bait? He took offence to at least one cartoon illustration and felt we had gone too far. Chris and I were already under criticism for sullying the prostitutes' rights movement by entering the fray of the the "kiddie" porn scandals. He felt Who's Jail Bait? just went too far and claimed, "I wouldn't keep this in my apartment, hustlers could get busted for owning this!" He wanted us to take his name off of it.

Who's Jail Bait? had been th result of months of testing and reworking. Chris and I did take Danny's concerns seriously, but we were in no time to start re-illustrating the booklet. We decided to remove Maggie's name as the publisher and take the legal responsibility onto ourselves. We sought legal advise and wrote a disclaimer. Smoking like trains, we continued working day and night, trying to tidy these things up so we could leave.

We submitted the boards for Trials of the Sex Trade to the printer. We had enough money to print only 500 copies of the entire book. We decided to order only 100 copies of Who's Jail Bait? for further focus-testing. Chris and I rented a U-Haul and started to pack. Then the flu hit. First me and then Chris ended up in bed, sweating profusely, unable to eat with fevers of 104 degrees. This lasted well over a week.

By this time Danny's concerns were picked up by other staff members, in particular, Kara Gillies. She took her concerns to the board meeting. Individual board members heard a version of the story with a new twist. Chris and I were maliciously setting Maggie's up for a legal battle — a kind of going away present as we were leaving town. And there were other concerns too. What about copyright on the illustrations? There were concerns that this might jeopardize government funding. The board decided to call the project back from the printer and the wanted to approve the proofs.

As instructed, Chris and I picked up the boards from Ryerson Copy and ordered twelve photocopy proofs — one for each board member and copies for ourselves. We stroked out the illustrations with pink highlighter to prevent reproduction and delivered the proofs. On January 18th, 1995, we left for Vancouver in our 1981 Ford Econoline with U-haul in tow, filled with our worldly possessions (and the boards and computer files for Trials of the Sex Trade) and one screaming 18-year-old cat, Micah, on Chris's shoulder.

Communications with staff at Maggie's became exceedly confusing and difficult. I offered to make their changes and negotiate the printing from Vancouver. But, some board members apparently had differing ideas on how the booklets needed to be changed. Some staff were even calling to rewrite some of the material. There were hurt feelings that we did not just leave the project in their hands. But Chris and I felt just as legally vulnerable to legal repercussions from Maggie's handling of the project. We had talked to three different publishers who advised us not to leave the project with Maggie's. We conceded that Maggie's owned the text, with the condition that it would be free for groups to reproduce (as was always understood while the book was being written by a team of writers). But we contended that we could not deliver the computer files of all the illustrations given the board's copyright concerns. We provided the electronic files for the texts and demanded direct correspondence with the board. It was October 1995, one full year after the final deadline.

But before negotiations with the board got really underway, Maggie's experienced a hostile take-over of the board at their next annual general meeting. …

About the illustrations

Many of these sources were sex publications, prostitutes' newsletters, photocopy zines and street posters from all over the world that often had line art that had itself been lifted from a found photocopy. There were also commissioned and donated illustrations. I have tracked down source information on many of them for credits and historical information.

~ Andrew Sorfleet
  (First written August 27, 1995, revised September 1997)

Trials of the Sex Trade… [Legal tips]

Created: September 24, 1996
Last modified: December 29, 2000
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