The 03rd issue of Zi Teng Newsletter
Zi Teng organized a seminar on the study of sex workers in September. Ten people joined the seminar. In the beginning, one of the core volunteers of Zi Teng, Ms Yim Kit Sum an Mphil student in CUHK, briefed on how she started her thesis project. She also shared her personal experience of dealing with "Jie Jie" (sex workers) and discussed her views about the marital system in connection with sex work. Later, the participants also discussed the difficulties and problems when students, social workers, organizers, researchers try to establish relations with Jie Jie. They criticized that when the above groups are establishing a "researcher and research subject" relationship with Jie Jie, they will easily ignore that a kind of power relationship between them and Jie Jie exists.

In order to understand more about her study, Ms Yim has written an introduction for her project: The introductory principle of sociological study is requesting readers not to accept without judging the so-called the "commonsense". It is because the "commonsense" is usually constructed by people with a certain angle of view. It cannot reflect the full picture as one my think, even though it is known that it is impossible to comprehend the whole truth of anything. But sociology emphasizes that we cannot accept the commonsense as someone usually says. We should not take the presented "truth" without questions. WE should be maintaining a critical attitude and endeavor to find a clear picture as far as we can. Using the same logic, when most people regard sex industry as sinful, a deviant act, or condemn sex work as a chaotic, undisciplined means to earn money without efforts, we should jump out from those frames and perceive sex industry from a different angle. Perhaps we should see sex work as a kind of job and a strategy for survival, and to discover its differences and similarities with the so-called "normal" industry.

From my experiences of talking to the sex workers in the streets, I feel that they are more or less the same as other workers in any other fields. Inside their unique working environment and conditions, they have consistent working schedules, patterns and procedures. They also have to put in efforts and labor into their jobs, unlike what people may think of their work as easy and effortless. They are situated in all kinds of human dynamics in the working environment (e.g. dynamics with clients, people in the same field and the host of the motels.) Amongst them, there is coordination as well as competitions as other services do. They need to tackle them all. Besides, although the sex workers organization may be less tightly-bound compared with others, they do have structures and stratification. They have a set of guidelines when dealing with the public, the police, harassment of clients, health security, etc. They will also communicate with each other and develop their own working culture.

These kinds of discussion sessions aims to enrich the participants’ perception of the job on one hand, and to redefine sex industry on the other. This is to prove that jobs not classified as "normal" do no necessarily mean they are immoral or deviant. They should also be incorporated under the "job" definition. In addition, the study is also a response to the discussion of some conservative feminists. Some feminist theories of the west tend to focus on the oppression and exploitation of women by men when discusing the issu of sex work. They will treat it as a perpetuation of class division between men and women. Those conservative feminists see the bannin go of prostituiom as the only way to reach gender equality. These feminists seldom see sex work as a means for women to get economic independence. Moreover, through their work, sex workers can retain their right to their body and erode the sytem of unequal gender relation. Thus, legalization should be put forth in the agenda. However, even we carryout this belief and initiate a discussion about sex work in Hong Kong, we must first network with sex workers, and understand their perception of sex work. All these have to be carried out through realistic and personal contacts with sex workers.

  ▶  The 03rd issue of Zi Teng Newsletter