GUEST BLOG: Kate Davis – An Old and Honourable Profession



When Dirty Politics started to reference an ex-prostitute I began to get antsy. My first response was “come on Nicky, we decriminalised in 2003. Its sex worker.” My second response was “Ah oh. Who was it and what did they reveal? ”

There is and always has been an un-written code. The whores code of silence. The business relies on it. In an industry as discriminated against as the sex industry a mutual dependance on discretion is crucial. The clients are hardly going to point you out at the pub without implicating themselves.You can see how that works to everyone’s advantage.

As a person who has a long and public association with the sex industry my response to seeing someone implicated in feeding info to Whale Oil was visceral. Literally gut wrenching. Immediately I wanted to stand up and shout “It’s just one bad apple!”

The name of the ex-sex worker was disclosed last week in the NZ Herald. I wasn’t surprised. Disappointed but not surprised. I first had contact with her…but wait. That would be indiscrete. As it happens, it appears from what was printed that there was a lot of talk with little result. At one point she recommended that someone go to Mustangs and sit at the bar trying to illicit information. I know both owner and management at Mustangs. I used to work there. I am not surprised she had no ‘ in.’

We achieved Law Reform without outing anyone. When MPs talked trash, called us names and ran us down we said nothing. When opposition stigmatised us, patronised us and denigrated all women who ever participated in the sex industry we never once retaliated by dropping to the lowest common denominator and start slinging mud. The whores of NZ ( and I use the word whore in the spirit of reclamation ) never engaged in Dirty Politics.

So here I am. Jumping up and down and shouting. This is not “us” this is not how we behave I am distancing myself from this kind of abhorrent behaviour.

Which begs the question. Where are the Nats that are distancing themselves from the Dirty Politics of Slater, Collins and Co? Where are the offended and the appalled politicians ? Where are those that still have integrity and conviction of belief, to a degree where they will buck the party line, where they will distance themselves from this abhorrent behaviour. When will someone stop the spin.

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I want better. While I may be an out and out Lefty, I’m not so parochial as to think that no one on the right has any virtue. The problem is if we want to stop this behaviour I want to see someone stand up and shout “It’s just a few bad apples!” I don’t want us to beat them at their game, with their dirty tricks. I want to see a change the game. Actually I want people to stop referring to it as game full stop. Dirty politics is not just a book, it is a behaviour, it is PR, spin and bullshit. It is not a game.

Kate Davis is completing her B.A English & politics. Previously she has worked for the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective & currently volunteers as an advocate for Auckland Action Against Poverty.










  1. One bad apple left in barrel eventually rots all the apples – I’m not referring to sex workers here but the National Party. For the past six years the National government has been an amalgam of politicians, employers, fed farmers etc who have been happy to work together but with different objectives in mind. Some have behaved more badly than others, but they have all been in it together. I think it is impossible for the National Party to turn back to what it once was.

    • Surely there must be some within the party that entered the party because of conviction in their ideals? I can’t believe that it is simple as left V right, good V evil, we V me. Okay the we V me is undeniable but surely there is someone in National who had not had a selfie with Cameron Slater?

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head, treating peoples lives like a game is low and disgusting. But it appears, the apple cart is rotten to the core. That said, I know some members of national who are really shocked, and disgusted by the turn of events. But, the majority I talk to, defend this mind set or defend John Key – which is one in the same now.

    Oh and Kate – please keep blogging here, I enjoyed reading your blog this morning.

  3. I think the trick is that all the people who should be speaking out at the dirty politics are also guilty of it.

    As a sex worker you’re actually standing up for the groups ethical norm: code of privacy/silence because you actually followed it. It becomes really difficult to advocate against dodgy conduct when you’re also guilty of it. Unless one’s a hypocrite and/or terrible human being.

    • Hmmm. I have been pondering this since it was posted. Ethical norms and / or code of practice aren’t necessarily a negative. In the case of dirty politics they are, in the case of sex work they include not just discretion but also safe practice.
      I see the dichotomy you are referring to but I think you might be using a different moral compass to align your argument that I am.
      My point is very simple. I believe while I was involved in the sex industry I was conscience of ‘best practice’. I dislike, even now, years later seeing that practice maligned. Where are the politicians from the right that feel the same about the practices of their colleagues?

      • I don’t know of any ethical norms or codes of practice are ever negative, otherwise they’d be “unethical norms.”

        The Sex worker the code of practice of discretion was an ethical one and benefited both client and worker positively.

        The problem as I see it is that until it was exposed acting unethically was a net good for the politicians involved and like the Sex Worker involved in feeding Slater. Important to note that the unethical conduct by the Sex Worker and right wing operatives and politicians only benefit themselves, which is frankly why it was unethical.

        Note the sex worker in question was cool with ratting out other workers clients but terrified of being exposed herself. But she was willing to compromise clients other workers and damage the reputation of the industry itself. This imbalance of secrecy also goes to the heart of dirty politics the ratfucking is seen to be done by persons other than the direct benefactors of attack politics.

        Sorry if I was obtuse but I fully agree with your stand and ethical outlook, I just think your question why there are none on the right wing that will stand up for “clean politics” is inherently and darkly rhetorical.

        I am ignoring (unfairly) that Hargar himself notes it’s a Right wing staffer that got him started, which indicates that there are National party persons that are horrified at the twisting of “their” party. But it is telling that they remain anonymous indicating that they are in the minority.

    • Thanks Louisa, be my proof reader?
      I just can’t believe that they are all complicit. I think the book clearly indicates who was but without some idealism getting out of bed becomes less attractive.

  4. Well done Kate: if you think of sex workers and parliamentarians in terms of transactions I can guess as to which of the two professions would leave you feeling dissatisfied and short changed.

  5. I’m not so parochial as to think that no one on the right has any virtue. The problem is if we want to stop this behaviour I want to see someone stand up and shout “It’s just a few bad apples!”.

    Kate Davis

    I agree with your first premise, and salute your non parochial attitude to the right.

    Unfortunately the line the Right are spinning and have for many decades is that they are all bad apples, that all politicians, left or right are all untrustworthy. You hear it on hate radio all the time. Trying to explain the failings of some politician or political party to live up to their principals. Right wing radio hosts always use such occasions to rant on ad nauseum about the despicable nature of all politicians. These rants are usually accompanied by some dodgy poll denigrating sex workers and politicians as being equally untrustworthy, usually just above or below second hand car dealers.

    The low ranking of sex workers and politicians, both, is undeserved. In the case of politicians the purpose of drawing a veil of iniquity over all politicians is because the "Right" which is shorthand for those who favour the rich and powerful, hate democracy. If the right can turn people off democracy the better. Rather than democracy, the right favour autocracy. Money autocracy, has replaced feudal autocracy. Money autocracy disempowers everyone who doesn't have it. But in the polling booth this doesn't apply, rich or poor, all are equal.

    This is why the rich and powerful fought so long and hard to prevent universal suffrage.

    This war has taken on new forms, and its success can be seen in the fact that over a million registered voters stayed away from the polls at the last election. It is not those who vote for John Key who keep him in power, it is all those who don't vote at all.

    As to the matter of why sex workers are also believed to be untrustworthy, I can't say. I will have to leave that question to others. But I do know that in some past cultures it was not always the case.

    Maybe because like politicians, prostitutes also have a power over those with money, and so like politicians are also regarded with suspicion in this culture.

    • You rock! Spectacular and insightful. In truth I had not considered the synchronisity in public perception or considered the power dynamic you added to the discourse. It’s that damn Foucault! Whose interests are served by framing both sex workers and politicians in this way? Good point Jenny. Thank you

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