“What you call pimps, we call managers.”
Posted on February 7, 2014
That quote comes courtesy of Douglas Fox:
Amnesty are obviously desperate to distance themselves from Fox, in fact they’re so desperate to distance themselves from him they’ve now put out two separate statements explaining his lack of involvement in anything to do with the new policy, sorry, consultation:
Fox meanwhile has admitted that in 2008 he was busy urging his supporters in the ‘sex trade’ to join Amnesty and lobby from within to get the policy on ‘sex work’ he was after.
Fox’s name has also come in up in relation to his input into the Amnesty policy, sorry, consultation, at Stormont, where the Justice Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly have been hearing evidence for a bill which aims to reduce human trafficking by criminalising the purchase of sex.
So, in light of all this recent interest in Fox I thought it was probably high time I got myself organised and did something with the nearly 2 hours of recorded interview that I’ve had sitting in a file on my computer for the past three and a half years. An interview that Julie Bindel and I did with Fox back in June 2010 that helped inform Julie’s recent exposé of the IUSW – An Unlikely Union – and that Fox himself wrote about on Harlot’s Parlour under the charming heading Julie Bindel is my Bitch.
The interview took place over lunch in a restaurant, so my apologies for the poor quality of some of the recording and for the awful soundtrack in the background: those were definitely not our musical choices! Fox brought a colleague with him to the interview, ostensibly to take notes (even though he too was recording the whole thing) and I suspect to protect him from the awful rad fems, so sometimes in the recording you can hear a 4th voice butting in. As she wasn’t actually part of the interview and to protect her identity I’ve referred to Fox’s colleague in the transcript simply as ‘R’.
I’ve separated out what I think are the most interesting/pertinent bits of the interview, and under each section I’ve also provided a transcript, but there are also links to the full interview and full transcript at the end for anyone who wants to plough through it all. The only bits that have been cut out are the parts where we’re either ordering or talking about food, because I suspect no one really wants to hear all that.
So anyway, without further ado here goes:
First off here’s Fox trying to explain the difference between the IUSW and the GMB/IUSW London Adult Entertainment Branch, and claiming he is not a representative, spokesperson or post holder in either organisation:
JULIE BINDEL: My opinion is that the campaigning wing of the IUSW isn’t a union as we understand unions, it’s a campaigning and lobbying group. So I wondered how many people on hearing say Catherine Stephens speak or Thierry or you would be swayed by your arguments because of it being about protecting workers, if you’re not actually a union.
DOUGLAS FOX: Well there’s two sides to the IUSW. There’s the IUSW activism group. And there’s the IUSW London Adult Entertainment Branch. Um, which is the GMB. They are two very distinct groups.
CATH ELLIOTT: But, they are but they’re not.
DOUGLAS FOX: They are very distinct groups. We have our own, the IUSW has its own constitution, whereas the GMB Adult Entertainment Branch is governed by the rules of the GMB and is a branch of the GMB.
CATH ELLIOTT: But is it not the same people that are involved in both?
DOUGLAS FOX: Oh, there is a crossover of core people who are involved in both. But I think, I mean I’m very very careful if I speak as an activist from the IUSW I speak as an activist from the IUSW and not for the GMB branch. Thierry is very much into the GMB and very much into unionisation, so he tends to speak more for the GMB. I think if you’ve spoken to him he speaks more for the GMB. Cath I know is very, she’s the Branch Secretary of the GMB branch, I think she’s very careful to point out that when she speaks for the IUSW she speaks as an activist for the IUSW and not as a GMB branch secretary, unless there’s a specific reason for her to do so, such as when letters were recently sent to David Cameron et cetera, then obviously it’s sent as a branch. So they are very separate things.
JULIE BINDEL: But people who hear you talk, because of your name and some of the things that are said will believe you are a union like any other union when you’re actually the campaigning and lobbying group. And it I suppose begs the question why did you have the word union in? Why not the sex workers rep.. I don’t know what kinds of things you could call yourself.
DOUGLAS FOX: Well that’s, the IUSW was formed long before I ever became involved in it. And though I’m an activist, I’m not a representative. I have no position within the IUSW or within the GMB branch.
JULIE BINDEL: But you’re seen as the face of it a lot, aren’t you, by your profile on Comment is Free
CATH ELLIOTT: You’re seen as a spokesperson.
DOUGLAS FOX: Well that’s basically because anyone who stands up and speaks, there’s not many of us who actually stand up and speak for sex workers rights. Obviously we are going to be seen as spokespeople whether we represent the group or not. And when I speak I speak as an individual not as a representative of the IUSW.
CATH ELLIOTT: But the stuff you wrote on Comment is Free, your profile was…
DOUGLAS FOX: Well, comment is free, yes, I was asked specifically to speak from an IUSW perspective on that occasion, but most of the things I do, such as Harlot’s Parlour et cetera, I speak as myself not as a representative of the IUSW. I have no position in the IUSW. So I can’t.
CATH ELLIOTT: Have you had though? Have you had in the past? I mean is that a recent thing or have you never had?
DOUGLAS FOX: In the IUSW?
CATH ELLIOTT: Yeah. Have you never had a position?
DOUGLAS FOX: The only position I have, I’m the treasurer and that’s all.
CATH ELLIOTT: Right.
Here’s Fox later in the interview again claiming not to be any kind of representative or spokesperson – despite signing off his comments on this blog as Douglas Fox (IUSW and Amnesty International activist) – and again claiming not to hold a position in the IUSW:
JULIE BINDEL: But what was the actual ruck about within the IUSW? Was it the usual kind of power struggles or was it more about how it would look if you were spokesperson for an industry that is, you know full of people not like you?
DOUGLAS FOX: I never have spoken for the IUSW apart from perhaps that one article I was asked to write for Comment if Free. I always speak as an individual.
JULIE BINDEL: I thought there’d been a number of times when you’d…
DOUGLAS FOX: I’ve written pro-IUSW pieces but from an individual perspective and not from any authority from within the IUSW.
CATH ELLIOTT: Didn’t you speak at an Amnesty International conference?
DOUGLAS FOX: No, as an individual sex worker. I have no position and so I don’t, I’ve never spoken as a representative of IUSW apart from that one occasion when I was asked to write a short piece for Comment is Free.
JULIE BINDEL: So are you still a member of the GMB and the IUSW?
DOUGLAS FOX: Um, I’m still a part of the IUSW as an activist. And I’m still a member of the GMB, yes.
And here he is again claiming to be independent:
CATH ELLIOTT: Are you saying that you don’t hold a position apart from that you’re treasurer and you’re not a spokesperson, but you’ve been interviewed saying, when you were first setting up I think, saying that you wanted to set up a trade union branch for your escorts.
DOUGLAS FOX: Not for my escorts, I said for the agency, that we would have liked to have set up a branch, a separate IUSW branch, an IUSW GMB branch yeah.
CATH ELLIOTT: The agency?
DOUGLAS FOX: Well through the agency but as a separate branch for sex workers in the north east, yes. That would have been the ideal.
CATH ELLIOTT: So did you manage to recruit any people to the IUSW? Any escorts?
DOUGLAS FOX: I think there’s quite a few have joined, yes.
CATH ELLIOTT: So do you have a branch?
DOUGLAS FOX: Its not a branch. The GMB at the moment, as far as I understand it, won’t allow any other branch at the moment apart from the London branch. So I think we’re all members of the London GMB branch.
CATH ELLIOTT: But you said you’re also not a spokesperson or representative of the IUSW, and yet you go onto, you’ve been on Punternet and Northern Pleasures and all those other punter forums, asking for donations, giving advice, trying to recruit people to join the IUSW. How is that if you’re not any kind of representative or…
DOUGLAS FOX: Because I’m an activist. You know, as an activist I want as many people as possible to be involved with us.
CATH ELLIOTT: But do you see how it comes across as, because you’re so vocal and you and Catherine Stephens are the two, and now Thierry obviously, but like, I think we do understand that Thierry’s GMB, but how it comes across you know that people automatically associate you now with the IUSW. See you as a spokesperson.
DOUGLAS FOX: I think it’s inevitable, yes I agree, but there’s a difference between being thought to be something and actually being something.
JULIE BINDEL: But if you’re such an activist for the IUSW, why don’t you have a position? Because you put a lot of work and time into it.
DOUGLAS FOX: Because I’ve already explained that. I want to be totally independent. And if I at some time want to criticise the IUSW or the GMB branch, I want to be able to criticise them.
And now here’s Fox admitting that he is in fact the only person in the IUSW to hold any kind of official position. And attempting to explain the difference between the IUSW and the GMB Adult Entertainment Branch. Again.
CATH ELLIOTT: But the IUSW, how it’s set up now, you say you don’t hold a position, but there are positions aren’t there, there’s something some sort of ruling cabal, a shared leadership. Isn’t it run by a committee?
DOUGLAS FOX: The constitution has set up a committee. So there’s a committee that deals with the daily organisation, and there’s a treasurer.
CATH ELLIOTT: Are you on the committee?
DOUGLAS FOX: No I’m not.
CATH ELLIOTT: Were you?
DOUGLAS FOX: People wanted me to stand, but I refused. So I didn’t. Seeing as Thierry isn’t on the IUSW committee either, he thought there would a conflict of interest between him being president of the GMB branch and of the IUSW.
CATH ELLIOTT: So there’s a committee, sorry I get really technical and nerdy about stuff like this, so there’s a committee of 6,7,8, no idea, I’m plucking numbers from the air, and then there’s the treasurer, but those the only positions?
DOUGLAS FOX: Yes.
CATH ELLIOTT: So you are actually the only person in the IUSW who holds a position?
DOUGLAS FOX: I suppose you could argue that! (Laughs).
JULIE BINDEL: Didn’t think of that did you?
DOUGLAS FOX: Um, yes, I hold the purse strings. Not that there’s much money.
JULIE BINDEL: Presumably your donations is how you survive, membership and donations?
DOUGLAS FOX: On donations basically, there’s no membership.
JULIE BINDEL: Membership goes to the GMB of course.
DOUGLAS FOX: Membership goes to GMB. Most people who are members of the GMB like myself, we pay a monthly subscription like all union members do and that goes to GMB branch. The IUSW raises money through fundraising, through the odd donation here and there. We survive on a shoestring.
CATH ELLIOTT: Cause then there’s that whole, if you’re a member of the GMB, we had this discussion at the beginning, that membership tends to be across both, that lots of people are members of both.
DOUGLAS FOX: Not everyone is. Not everyone is, but a lot of people are members of both.
CATH ELLIOTT: Now you’re saying that there isn’t membership of the IUSW.
DOUGLAS FOX: No, the GMB branch.
JULIE BINDEL: (Laughs) You just made it worse Cath. I thought you’d got it.
CATH ELLIOTT: I thought I had, now I haven’t, I’ve lost it again.
DOUGLAS FOX: It’s very simple. For GMB branch there’s a membership of, which is membership to the GMB. The IUSW is the activism list which is by activists who are on the list…
JULIE BINDEL: It’s a list not a membership as such.
DOUGLAS FOX: Yes, and who support the principles of the IUSW.
It’s about as clear as mud by this point isn’t it.
But back to that quote at the beginning: here’s Fox again on unionising pimps:
DOUGLAS FOX: But you asked about the unionisation of the GMB. I mean, from a personal view, I support the position that they give representation to anyone who is stigmatised and criminalised. For me, part of unions is to give representation to people who are oppressed and people who are stigmatised and people who are outside the community. That’s always been part of the philosophy behind unionisation as far as I understand it, certainly from a human rights perspective.
JULIE BINDEL: Well except I can think of people who are stigmatised and criminalised like child abusers who we really shouldn’t be giving representation to or concerning ourselves with human rights arguments about why they shouldn’t criminalised.
DOUGLAS FOX: But we’re talking about sex workers who as consenting adults…
JULIE BINDEL: But pimps are criminalised and stigmatised, there’s no question about that, but what does that mean?
CATH ELLIOTT: Do you think they IUSW should be representing them?
DOUGLAS FOX: Anyone who is stigmatised and criminalised should be given representation and I think unionised.
JULIE BINDEL: Well you just said yes then. You think we should unionise pimps.
DOUGLAS FOX: What you call pimps, we call managers.
JULIE BINDEL: So you don’t think pimping exists, or you think they have to be black wearing a fur fedora or?
DOUGLAS FOX: Could you define what pimp is?
JULIE BINDEL: Making a profit from women selling sex.
DOUGLAS FOX: That’s a definition same as prostitution. As far as we’re concerned, anyone who works in this industry should be given representation. And that includes people who are managers. And who make a living for giving representation to adults who choose to ask them to represent them.
And here he is refusing to acknowledge that pimping is even a thing:
JULIE BINDEL: I think prostitution can be an ugly experience for many, many women, and I think the word pimp should be ugly because it is a very, very ugly activity. I don’t have a problem with it, I mean what I do hate about the word pimp is it being used to apply to coffee and cars and that kind of thing. That’s when I hate it, but do you think there is pimping? Even by your definition in the industry?
DOUGLAS FOX: I’ve already answered that.
JULIE BINDEL: You haven’t.
DOUGLAS FOX: I have answered that question. I have said that there’s a variety of experiences within the industry. Some people have good experiences. Some people may have not such good experiences. How else can I answer it?
JULIE BINDEL: You could just say yes or no.
DOUGLAS FOX: Well I’m not going to do that.
But whether he believes pimping exists or not, Douglas Fox believes that anyone involved in making money out of prostitution, including his escort agency owning civil partner, is a ‘sex worker’, and presumably therefore eligible for GMB trade union membership:
JULIE BINDEL: But why would you be more reticent about actually saying that you are a proud sex worker than you were about proudly being associated with what many of us would see as selling women, pimping, and running a prostitution racket?
DOUGLAS FOX: Well it’s not selling women and it’s not pimping, it’s management.
JULIE BINDEL: Yeah, but you knew that’s how a lot of viewers would see it because you have the kerfuffle within the making of the program where you, where John is called an internet pimp, and where there had been a sting. So you knew that’s what many viewers would say. You obviously don’t think that. But I just can’t understand why it was such a kind of secret or hidden that you were a sex worker. Because I personally don’t think you are a sex worker. I think that just gives you a validation to speak for people who are actively selling it rather than managing, if you see what I mean.
DOUGLAS FOX: Well, I can assure you I am a sex worker, I do sell sex. I don’t manage sex workers. My partner does, and that’s his job. I’m not involved in it. If I was coming out, coming out as anything like this is very difficult. We’d already been in the newspapers locally for 18 months. Everyone knew what we did. Um, my family knew what I did. Um, but, I had not at that time come out as being an actual, if you like, I mean, I think John’s a sex worker as much as I’m a sex worker, but I had not come out as being a front line sex worker, i.e speaking with and seeing clients.
JULIE BINDEL: Right.
CATH ELLIOTT: Why do you think John’s a sex worker?
DOUGLAS FOX: I think anyone who makes money from selling sex is a sex worker.
Shamefully it would appear that the GMB agrees with him:
DOUGLAS FOX: It covers a whole spectrum of people. Dancers, as you say strippers, people who work in porn, prostitution, it covers everybody who works in what’s generally considered the adult industry.
JULIE BINDEL: But you would accept a porn director for example, because it’s the same as an escort agency owner or manager, and would you accept a sex shop owner?
DOUGLAS FOX: To the GMB branch? Well as far as I understand the membership presently of the GMB, it’s the GMB rules, not our rules, it’s the GMB.
JULIE BINDEL: It strikes me as absolutely mad. This is just not like any other union I have heard of. We’re onto the GMB now, not the IUSW, which I accept as the campaigning…
CATH ELLIOTT: I still don’t
JULIE BINDEL: Don’t you?
JULIE BINDEL: I’ve never known unions organise like that. The membership, it really surprised me in that you would be able to include, and we went through this earlier, the owner of a sex shop., the owner of a strip club, the owner of an escort agency, a porn director, and then academics, punters, how mad is that, punters?
DOUGLAS FOX: But this isn’t our fault. You’ll have to speak to the GMB about their rules of who can join and who can’t join.
JULIE BINDEL: But you are so closely connected that you obviously…
DOUGLAS FOX: The IUSW in the GMB is one small branch in, what is it, the third biggest union in the…
Here’s the full interview -
Click here for the full transcript - Fox interview
Interestingly, if you watch the first few minutes of this news item you’ll see that according to Laura Lee, the IUSW, which according to Fox is allegedly a list not a membership organisation, apparently has a membership now of 10 people. Yes that’s right, ten people – Committee is briefed on trafficking bill.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who now has a number of questions to ask not just of Amnesty UK but of the GMB. So for example, Amnesty have claimed on Twitter that they’ll be consulting with ‘sex worker’ organisations in the UK to help inform their new policy: will that consultation involve the IUSW and its membership of 10 academics/activists/any-interested-parties-who-aren’t-actually-sex-workers, or the GMB Adult Entertainment Branch which Fox has admitted could include anyone and everyone with an interest in the sex industry from porn directors to punters?
And for the GMB the question has to be, how many members are there in the London Adult Entertainment Branch, and who exactly do they represent in the industry, the workers the bosses or the Johns?
For some background and more from me on Fox, the IUSW, the GMB and the prostitution debate see: