Porn stars, prostitutes and strippers "do not need to be rescued" by anti-porn feminists. That was the rally cry at a London protest on Saturday, with a gathering of around 50 sex workers and industry figures calling for an end of the "demonisation" of pornographers.
The 'Don't Censor Me' demonstration was called by the Sex and Censorship campaign, in response to the UK launch of 'Stop Porn Culture', an anti-pornography feminist movement led by US academic Gail Dines.
Renee Richards, a former stripper and porn star, now heavily pregnant, told the crowd she had never encountered exploitation, rape or humiliation in the porn industry.
Porn stars Page Ashley and Renee Richards at the protest outside Stop Porn Culture
Edie, a striptease dancer, addresses the protest
"These people inside this building don't really care about the exploitation of women," she said, referring to the conference-goers. "They don't care about the women working in sweatshops for big corporations.
"This is all a guise, they don't like the porn industry because of the strange fear they have of sex. Sex, to them, should be shut away. We should go back to the Victorian times where it was sex only in dark, private rooms, preferably in the missionary position."
Jerry Barnett, the co-organiser of the Don't Censor Me protest denied claims conference organisers had made earlier that morning that he was in the pay of the porn industry. "If I'm being paid to be here, I'd like my cheque now. I'd like to know who Stop Porn Culture is being paid by too," he said.
"The anti-sex narrative, the view of a tiny minority, has been dominant for too long in the media, from the Daily Mail to the Guardian. Our message here is that we can make our own choices, we don't want to be rescued, and we never asked to be."
One of the attendees of the protest, which attracted around 50 people
Paige Ashley and Benedict Garrett, both current porn stars, also address the crowd. "Gail Dines thinks that her making money using her brain makes her better than you, making money using a vagina.
"This is capitalism, and you can make money however you want. If you want to make money using your body, then that should be your right," said Garrett, a former sex education teacher turned porn star.
"We need to reclaim feminism," said striptease dancer 'Edie'. "I think that feminism has a similar theory to radical Islam, there are a few extremists who give Muslims a bad name. It is the same with feminism. We need to stand up and say that pro-censorship, anti-sex women do not speak for all women."
One of the male sex workers attending the protest in London
Addressing the crowd, one of several women from the English Collective of Prostitutes, said that she feared for the safety of women if the trend toward further criminalisation was followed through. "We are closing down the safe spaces, like Soho, where women had a place to work," she said. "Women can no longer work in groups, because of the risk of arrest, and they can't look out for each other.
"We should be angry about benefit cuts, we should be angry about growing homelessness, the rise of soup kitchens. We should not be angry about women trying to feed their children.
"Most sex workers are mothers, and they do it because in these economic times they have no other choice, and they don't want to see their children go hungry."