Sex in the city: Controversial author Julie Bindel offends Bristol sex workers

Sex in the city: Controversial author Julie Bindel offends Bristol sex workers

A blacklisted, radical feminist journalist has angered sex workers and charities in Bristol after controversial comments at a Festival of Ideas event

Julie Bindel has been banned from universities and events across the world for her extreme views on trans culture and gender but was given a platform to speak about her new book ‘The Pimping of Prostitution’ at Waterstones Café in The Galleries.

Comments at the event have caused a backlash, with her ideas about sex work angering some in Bristol.

Her ideas have been called arrogant and one sex worker believes that what she says could be dangerous to those in the industry.

“The abolitionists are the progressives” says Julie. “What a horrendously old-fashioned view of women and of men and of sex that we have to maintain prostitution so that men don’t blow up. So that that they don’t go off raping ‘real women?’ So over sexed women can be satisfied by selling sex?

“These are crazy, old-fashioned views that have no place in a progressive society.”

After two years of research and interviews Bindel has come to the conclusion that the only way to ‘save’ those in the sex trade is blanket criminalisation but there are many that don’t share the same views.

During questions at the event one women called Julie “arrogant and patronising” and charity One25 believes that the answer is added support for those working.

Alice* is a sex worker in Bristol and strongly disagrees with almost everything that Julie had to say at the event.

“She basically referred to people like me, who are speaking out and pushing for decriminalisation, as silly little girls. I find that really offensive. I’m doing my masters, I’ve started an organisation, I just know more about it than she does,” she said.

“There are a lot of vulnerable groups that go into the sex industry because they can do it under the radar and they can do it without having much experience.

“Those people are vulnerable, but criminalising the industry further, adding to the stigmatisation of it is just going to push those groups further underground and give them less access to welfare and the police.”


The current laws on prostitution in the UK can be confusing. While exchanging and participating in sexual activities for money or goods is currently legal, many of the activities that surround the trade, including brothel keeping and solicitation, aren’t.

Despite its illegality, there are a number of functioning brothels in Bristol and police in the city hand conditional discharges to street sex workers, rather than arresting them. The aim of these tactics is to encourage support and recovery rather than immediate arrest.

Many critics of the industry believe that the only way to ensure the safety of sex workers is control through legalisation and condemn the idea that criminalisation is the best approach. Attacks on kerb-crawlers doubled in Scotland after laws were introduced that criminalised clients and 90% of sex workers said that they had additional health and safety rights after the industry was decriminalised in New Zealand.

Statics from One25 reveal the true story of sex work in the city
Statistics from One25 reveal the true story of sex worker in the city

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee

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