In the National Post Posted Toronto article titled “Ad agency hires prostitutes for talk-radio stunt” by Melissa Leong it tells how a new ad campaign by the zig Ad Agency in Toronto for radio station CFRB 1010 had two women on the “corner of Jarvis and Carlton streets…” holding “signs with a question: ‘Should prostitution be legal?’…they paid sex workers the ‘normal fee that they would get for a job’ to carry the placards for an hour…zig executive creative director Martin Beauvais said…the women were happy to participate.”
The article continues that:
As well, the article quotes Valerie Scott, executive director of Sex Professionals of Canada, who also took issue with the ad campaign. She said
“Here [CFRB is] paying them for one hour to hold up a sign in order to get publicity for their radio station. I don’t want to hear [anything] on that station about how women should not be working on the street after this. Now they have zero moral authority to complain.”
Now don’t worry I’m not going to get into a moral discussion about prostitution – although that is the conversation zig and CFRB would apparently like to spark – what I wanted to post about was whether or not Wendy Babcock’s concerns were legitimate and whether or not I agree with Valerie Scott.
My simple answer is no, they are both being ridiculous.
My longer answer is that Wendy Babcock, unless she was out there herself that night and knew the women personally has no way of knowing that those women were actually sex workers. Anyone who has driven certain streets in downtown Toronto at night has seen people loitering on the corners or at the curbside who we all assume to be sex workers. However, who is to say they are? Do I personally actually know that these people are sex workers? No, I do not, I have never conversed with them and any information I have about them and their trade is based on hearsay and assumption. That being said who is to say the women that CFRB and zig hired to be out there that night were actually sex workers? For all I know they could have been interns or employees or volunteers of zig or CFRB dressed in a certain manner to make everyone assume that they were sex workers. Maybe they were York U. Fine Arts Theatre students who, with the CUPE strike then in its 10th week, went out looking for roles to perform just to keep themselves in fine acting form.
So as long as they were not soliciting sex work on the streets as they held those signs no one really has any proof that they are sex workers and they were not under any threat of police action or criminal prosecution. When I was working for retail chains in malls I would often be told to stand outside the store and hand out fliers to drum up interest in the current sale and bring customers into the store. Same thing here, these people were being paid to hold up signs on a street corner. Granted, the mall was probably a lot warmer but the job is very much the same and they were being paid for their time doing it – and probably a lot more than your average retail sales associate or any variety of barker is paid too!
Were they in any actual danger from predators? I don’t know because I am not overly familiar with the crime statistics of that particular street corner but I would assume that (1) the people being paid to hold these signs were told in advance where, when, and for how long they would be expected to stand holding the signs and that (2) zig ad agency had people on hand watching out for those in their employ.
Also, in answering this question of danger let us assume for a second that these people were sex workers. If they were sex workers and were standing out on that or another corner anyway isn’t Wendy Babcock’s argument really against plying the sex trade on the streets in general? Actually, isn’t the argument against the sex trade as a whole? Maybe she is in the wrong line of work with arguments like hers! I would think that two women standing together on a well trafficked street corner in downtown Toronto on a Saturday night would be fairly safe from predators just by virtue of the fact that there are two of them and they are standing out in public on a well trafficked street corner. Assuming they were actual sex workers if they were soliciting business and plying their trade they would probably be separated from each other when they found a customer, go with that customer to a car or room somewhere where they are no longer in full view of the public and passerby or solicit an undercover police officer and end up in a jail cell.
Further, zig executive creative director Martin Beauvais did say that they were paid ‘normal fee that they would get for a job’ for the time they were carrying the placards. So they weren’t doing anything illegal, were being paid for their time as if they were performing those acts which are risky in terms of legality and health and were probably being observed by the company that hired them and members of the public, and definitely members of the news media as otherwise how would the National Post have known to write an article about them and get a picture to put up on their website with the article.
Ya, really dangerous work that ad agency hired them for!
As to Valerie Scott’s assertions, all I have to say is: Come on? Really? Have you never watched a talk show or listened to talk radio or read the opinion section of a newspaper? Just because a station or newspaper’s ownership has one opinion does not necessarily mean that all of the writers or on-air personalities share those views and it actually makes for better radio/ television/reading if they DON’T! Further, even if from now on every time they decided to have a talk show about the subject of prostitution on CFRB the host(s) took the stance that it should be totally legal do you want them to only have guests on the show who agree with that position and to screen all people calling in with a dissenting opinion? Ya, that will really help to further the debate.
But that’s just my $0.02, as always your comments are appreciated!