Last week, GMB member Irene Everett won the first ever unfair dismissal case for a sex worker, against Essex-based Datapro Service Limited.She had worked on their live adult chat lines for eight years.The GMB, following its merger with the International Union of Sex Workers in 2002, has been trying to organise in the UK, and this was their first victory.
This underlines the difficulties for sex workers in organising and the ambivalent nature of state intervention, although it does point to new mainstream interest in the subject.
Research by Sophie Day has shown the diversity of approaches to self-organisation or legal reform amongst prostitutes.
Some view their work very much as a small business and wary of legislation - which although it might mean better work conditions may also mean more regulation, less autonomy and more difficulties in remaining self-employed, and some are involved in public campaigns for legal recognition and work rights.
However, the sex industry should not be seen as limited to prostitution, as Irene Everett's case shows. The company I worked for went by the ever so pleasant and subtle name of 'box-69'.
With this in mind, spoke to Jack, a libertarian socialist who worked for a sex-texting company during 2005. The company did 'sex texting' - basically people would text sexual messages in to you (which you recieved on a computer, in a chat room type interface), and you would respond - the messages going directly to their mobiles.
Obviously, in all but exceptional circumstances, these messages were of an extreme sexual nature.The company got most of its clientelle from a daily advert in the Daily Sport, but traded under various different names - such as 'Local Girls 4 U'. I was pretty depressed and had been out of work for a few months, and got told about it by one of my friends.I lacked staying power, and only stuck at it for about 3 months full time before it started giving me serious problems, and I had to give it up. Obviously, at first it sounded hilarious - I got to sit at home, pretending to be a girl, and getting guys off, and for (what looked like) not too bad money.So I searched about for a few companies on the internet, sat a 'test' (basically responding in a 'sexy' manner to a few form questions), and got offered the job.Probably more down to my ability to type quickly and accurately than any ability to be particularly sexy!I provided a scan of a (female) friends passport to 'prove' I was over 18 - I thought I would have to pretend to be female, although in retrospect I very much doubt they cared.