By Raven R. Bowen
Q: So, what do you do?
A: At the moment I’m a researcher at Leicester University on the Beyond the Gaze research project that is running until September 2018 and in a voluntary capacity, I’m the Chair of National Ugly Mugs and a board member of the fabulous Sex Work Research Hub.
Q: And your favorite color?
A: Well I do like color. This is a hard one Rave because I have a favorite color for clothes, for eye make-up etc [Laughter]. Well, I love the sea and the sky so a whole range of blues and greens.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: Various things here, from a work/advocacy angle, I’m proud of being involved for many years in the UK Network of Sex Work Projects (UKNSWP) and with some very inspiring people establishing that as a charity, then I’m proud of with others advocating for a National Ugly Mugs scheme as part of UKNSWP, which is now NUM. I’m proud to have been involved in Liverpool working with some fabulous people to get the policy of treating crimes against sex workers as a hate crime in place. I still think it’s an approach that could be developed and progressed further elsewhere, but I’m very proud of what that represents as a rights-based approaches to justice for sex workers. Q: And I was flipping through your PhD… for inspiration [laughter] and it’s about all of that. A: Yeah, in the PhD it was really about reflecting on the antecedents, the history development, the elements to it. And where could it be enhanced and all that. Also evidencing the academic case for why crimes against sex workers can be conceptualized as hate crime. It was great getting that written down because as we know in policy, things shift all the time and the things that have impact don’t often ensure. So, the legacy and it’s great to get that captured at this point in time. There are very amazing people in Liverpool…sex workers, some officers in Merseyside police, health and outreach workers. That’s the thing that energizes you, to work with all of those amazing people. I’m really proud of stuff in Leeds as well, having been the CEO of Basis and working with the great people there, proud of being part of shaping policy for the managed area and the change in policing indoor sex work. Then there is having been involved in some participatory research projects which try to make an impact and being co founder of the sex work research hub with people I respect so much. It’s hard to say what I’m most proud of because it’s all interconnected and feeds into wider stuff.
Q: What drew you to sex industry related work?
A: It was in 1995, I was in Liverpool a sociologist and researcher doing work with socially excluded groups and then got involved in a piece of participatory action research on sex work in inner city Liverpool. It was at a time when the city had been hit hard by recession but was then going through regeneration but so many groups were being left out of that, including street-based sex workers. Since then I’ve been involved in research and also outreach services.
Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A: I like to laugh; I think it’s really important in life. I had a proper hysterical laugh touching base with an old friend over the phone yesterday.
Q: What’s your favourite food?
A: Well I’ve been a vegan for 29 years. So I’d say, for savoury it’s bean curd, tofu!! And on the sweet front, it’s chocolate.
Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A: We’re in the absolute throws of gearing up to launching the findings from Beyond the Gaze participatory action research. So as a full-time researcher in this amazing team, I’m working with loads of people feeding into the launch and we just had a book published ‘Internet Sex Work’ that’s based on some of the findings. We are producing briefings, journal articles, practice guidance for working with internet-based sex workers and a short film, so I’m involved in supporting those outcomes at the moment. We have the launch in January and then till September we’ll be sharing learning in range of ways. Also as Chair of NUM with other dedicated members of the board of trustees we’re supporting the work of NUM on an ongoing basis.
Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A: I wish I could say none as life is not for regrets but living, but that said and to be honest I think I always regret not spending enough time with loved ones, especially those not with us. I’m now very much about valuing the time we have and it’s balancing the time demands of life and all the various things you want to do.
Q: Facebook or Twitter?
A: Twitter is great for work and sharing so much research and activism. I am on Facebook privately, but much less active.
Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work related work?
A: The frustration about the problematic law we have in the UK and enduring stigma, discrimination and hate crime, which undermine sex worker safety. We have to stay positive because we see change in other countries, progress and evidence-based stuff and approaches that allow rights to be claimed like in New Zealand. Also I’ve been frustrated with some feminists. I’ve come through the 80’s and taught women and gender studies, I’ve been frustrated and disappointed by reductionist radical feminist analysis of sex work and how that translate into policies that endanger sex workers you know.
Q: Favourite Movie?
A: So many but I’ll go for Letter to Brezhnev, was made in the mid-80’s set in Liverpool when things were tough with recession, the screenplay is by Frank Clarke. So it’s a mix of romantic comedy and social realism, two working class women go out for a night on the town and they meet some Russian sailors! It resonates with me because of Liverpool in the 80s, 90’s and beyond nights out with the girls, love the scene with the friends chatting and doing make-up in the washroom. Margi Clark is wearing a red dress, I had one very like it! Love the scene filmed in the nightclub ‘The State’, had some great nights there. I love the movie for the humour, the resilience of Liverpool, reminder of great nights out with friends and resonates for me, as years later I met my partner who is Russian and a seafarer.
Q: And the last time you cried?
A: Oh the other day, associated with grieving.
Q: Cat or dog person?
A: I’m totally on the fence there. I have a cat and I love dogs but I don’t get a dog because I’m away quite a bit so it wouldn’t be practical or fair on the dog.
Q: Who understands you?
A: I would say several close friends and family members.
Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A: Well, fictional book…I was just reading, The Power by Naomi Alderman, highly recommend it. On the academic front, I have just reviewed drafts of a book by colleagues Dr Ivana Radačić (Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences, Zagreb) & Mojca Pajnik (The Peace Institute & University of Ljubljana) based on their studies of sex work in Croatia and Slovenia. I’ve found it a very informative read and I feel a connection because I’ve spent time in Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia and there are very few studies of sex work in the Balkans, a post socialist and post conflict context.
Q: Childhood Fear?
Q: What did your last text say?
A: ‘Happy Birthday’ to my nephew.
Q: One thing that your work or existence is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A: It’s all part of a goal for decrim, but we’re not there yet, but guess when you look at the stuff I’ve been involved with it’s about getting policies that enable safer working conditions and better policing responses to crimes against people in the industry informed by a rights based approach.
Q: The meaning of life in one word?
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Oh gosh at one point I wanted to be a vet. Now I wouldn’t mind having a go at being a fashion designer, spending time with fabrics and being more creative.
Q: Three portable items you would have with you while stranded on a desert island?
A: Do we assume that we have an endless supply of fresh water? Q: Sure, Rosie [laughter]. A: And I guess I can’t bring loads of friends and family? Q: [Laughter] No, Rosie! A: Ok 1) A tablet with loads of e-books and audio books pre-loaded and downloaded music and photos of friends, family and colleagues; 2) a glamping tent or a beach chalet. Q: Okay, let’s go with the glamping tent…it’s portable; 3) I would have to go with factor 50 tinted moisturiser because I’d have to abandon all me make-up and the moisturiser will double-up as a sunscreen!