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Meet the Dominatrix Standing Up for Canada's Prostitutes

She whipped the judge with her riding crop of justice.


Terri-Jean Bedford and her riding crop of justice.

Prostitution in Canada is legal. However, most things that make it possible are not. On Monday 26th March, a retired dominatrix and madame named Terri-Jean Bedford went to the Court of Appeals in Ontario to challenge three of the laws that make being a prostitute in Canada so tedious and difficult. She succeeded in overturning two of them, so now it's legal for men and women of the night to run their businesses out of brothels – or "bawdy houses", as they're known in Canadian law – and to hire security guards, chauffeurs and accountants to help those businesses run more easily. However, they're still not allowed to communicate the fact that those businesses exist, which means that street prostitution in particular is still very risky (and essentially illegal) business in Canada.

Some organisations, such as Maggie's: Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, have expressed disappointment at street workers still being in danger. Additionally, there has been vocal opposition from some sex-workers who express concern that glamourising the top end of prostitution doesn't address the prevalent abuse that takes place at the profession's lower rungs. However, for many prostitutes in Ontario, Monday was a day to crack out the Moet and celebrate the end of police getting all up in their shit. Terri-Jean described Monday 26th as "emancipation day" for prostitutes.

Alongside fellow litigants Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott, Terri Jean-Bedford has taken centre stage of the fight for prostitutes rights. Now retired, Terri-Jean – aka Madame deSade – was in the game for 30 years. Having been a madame, an escort and a prostitute (both on and off the street), she eventually settled into the more exclusive vocation of dominatrix, performing services for wealthy and powerful clients who fancied a bit of cock-and-ball torture.

I caught up with Ms. Bedford for a chat.

VICE: Hi Terri-Jean, how you doing?
Terri-Jean:
Good, how are you?

Great, thanks. Firstly, if so much involved with it is not allowed, how come prostitution itself isn't illegal?
Because the people who have money and mistresses need a dependency loophole. As long as they are able to put her up in an apartment and take care of her, they can write her off as "a dependent". 

So rich guys can write off their mistresses as a business expense?
That's why the prostitution law is legal, it only benefits rich men. These laws we have in Canada really are monstrous and do more harm than good to women in the sex trade industry.

Two of the three laws you challenged don't exist any more. What's next? What's the ultimate aim?
The ultimate aim is decriminalisation, and the introduction of by-laws and legislation that help people, not hurt them. To be able to call the police when they are being sexually assaulted, abused, robbed, beaten, tortured or whatever, and expect them to do something about it.

Do police in Canada not usually look out for sex workers?
The police in Canada refuse to look for serial killers that are killing prostitutes because they feel they are garbage and not worthy of attention. And the Federal Government sides with that. They abuse us, they want us in harm's way. Good for them, women are having sex all over the place every day, but the day one cent changes hands they're criminals and they deserve what they get. "Don't call the police: We won't help you..." Women in this country are no longer going to lay down and take the beatings.

Have you seen or experienced that kind of abuse before?
Of course. I've been in the sex trade industry for 30 years. I've been a street walker, an escort, a madame, I've done time in prison for it.


Terri-Jean's memoirs, Dominatrix on Trial.

Was there a tipping point when you decided you were going to do something about it?
In 1994, when I was raided for no reason, without a charge. They carted away my house, my belongings. The judge said the police had every right to do what they did because they were “good ol' boys”. He said my furniture could be carted off because men were cross-dressing and sitting on it with erections, even though they weren't having sex. Then, when they returned it, they fined me $3,000 for wasting the court's time.

Sounds a bit harsh. Every time you've been reprimanded, you've described the law as a male establishment. The one time it went your way it was instigated by a lone female judge, Justice Himel. Do you think that gender is central to the issue?
Yes. Justice Himel was sympathetic. Those good ol' boys have a club. All they do is laugh. Like the Vancouver police, when report after report comes in and all they can do is throw the missing women report in the garbage and laugh. Or when a woman shows up bleeding from all of her orifices because she's just been raped and the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mountain Police] just laugh and throw away the charges on Robert Pickton [a serial killer who preyed on prostitutes. An inquiry is being led into his case, due to conclude by June].


Terri-Jean brandishing her trademark riding-crop outside of court.

What about men who are convicted of soliciting prostitution?
They send them to "john school". Look, you have to castrate a man if you want to change him. He's got a cock and balls. It's gotta work or it goes big and blue. And men need female companionship, they need love and to feel cared for, even if it's just for an hour and they gotta pay for it. People who don't smoke want those that smoke to quit. People who don't have sex want those who are having sex and enjoying it to stop. 

Do you think a man can legitimately respect women and use a prostitute?
Yeah. Absolutely, he's respecting her by paying her. You're gonna pay her regardless. Either you're gonna marry her and go to work and support her house and home and buy all her clothes. It's all about money. All relationships are a currency exchange.


(Left to right) Nikki Thomas, Executive Director of Sex Professionals of Canada, Terri-Jean and fellow litigant Valerie Scott.

So, what does "living off the avails" mean? Prostitutes can now employ people, right?
Now, the men work for the women. If they want a body guard they can hire the guy at $20 an hour or get a home monitoring system. She has to write him a cheque and keep a file, go get a HST [Harmonized Sales Tax, similar to VAT] number. Whether it's as a stripper, masseuse, prostitute, escort, dominatrix, molly maid... They get a license, they pay their taxes.

You went to prison for running a brothel, right? What happened?
I went to prison in the 80s. I had a brothel in '86 and did 15 months in the penitentiary. I went from being a prostitute to a dominatrix, I don't sell my body for sex.

What was prison like?
Well, I had lots of girlfriends. One time, I remember, all the girls were lined up waiting for me to spank them and a prison official looked in through the window. She came in and shouted, “What's going on in here?!” I said: “These girls want to be spanked. Do you want me to stop correcting these girls?” She just walked out.

Haha. What made you change to being a dominatrix?
The law had a great deal to do with that. I made every mistake there is too make, except for human trafficking and entrapment and all those other appalling things people do to each other. I decided that enough is enough and I would take the route of the dominatrix.

For the record, what's the difference between dominatrices and prostitutes?
The police would like you to think that they're prostitutes but they don't take their clothes off, they don't communicate for sex. The only time they ever manipulate a penis is to tie it up. They usually abuse it with a riding crop. That's not sex, it's torture. I was looking for intelligence, so I went looking at the university. I sent out a notice for students who had a brain, could articulate and act.


One of Terri-Jean's clients, Sexy Suzy, taken from an excerpt from her book.

What was your house like at the time?
I had rooms that enhanced the scene. They were interchangeable, like the school room could also be changed into a nursery. My bedroom was also a place where I would receive them on my chaise longue for foot worship. The dungeon was in the basement and the living room was also a parlour.

Did you have any high-profile clients?
Oh yeah, all the time. One time I looked out my living room window and I had a Bentley and Rolls-Royce parked in the driveway.

Would you care to name any former clients?
No way. You'd have to torture me.

OK. What about occupations?
Tinker, tailor, cowboy, sailor, doctor, lawyer – [laughs]

Any politicians or judges?
Yes, both. A reverend as well. Some people very high in the police force. We were situated in a very well-off neighbourhood. I would vet clients before they had an official appointment. They would come in, have a tour of the facility, fill out a three-page application that details all the different things and paraphilias that they could engage in, whether legally or not.

“Legally or not”?
Because I could understand what level they were at by looking at the checks in the box. So this person is really advanced, he can take a licking and keep on picking! But this guy, he is a wimp, one strike and he's out!

Was the S&M scene something you were into before you became a dominatrix?
Yes, I've always been dominant. I didn't like being a prostitute. I like sex, but I don't like being submissive. You do what I want. I'm serious, if you want to get me in bed you'll do what I want, when I want and how I want it. And you better do it good, to my specifications or forget about it. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be? Women should be taught by birth to be dominant.


Terri-Jean showing some of her wares.

Some women might be more comfortable being submissive, just like some men are. Either way as long as it's their choice
It's better for the man to be submissive, he can do a better job at it. I think God is a woman and saw that Eve needed a helper because she couldn't lift that fricking rock. She made an Adam, someone big and burly that she could order around to do her bidding. Eve was the one who made the decisions. Eve said to Adam, “Eat that.”

Logically I guess I can't argue. Anything else you want to add?
The law shouldn't make people feel like criminals for doing something they enjoy. These laws are for men as well as women and to give sex industry workers dignity. They deserve it. The USA has a black president now, maybe one day Canada will have an ex-prostitute as a Prime Minister. If Stephen Harper [Prime Minister of Canada] handles this with dignity, he'll get the respect of the people. If he handles it like a buffoon, then he's going to get the wrath of the people. His majority is my majority; 75 percent of Canadians agree with me. I've got Stephen Harper by the balls. I'm gonna squeeze them until he begs for mercy.

Happy squeezing, thanks Terri-Jean.

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