September 4th, 2007

The would-be madam of Victoria Jody Paterson used to write about prostitutes; now she plans to build a brothel, run by its workers. Former journalist plans to open Victoria brothel
She's run a newsroom at a daily newspaper but now she wants to build a co-op brothel, run by and for prostitutes. Jody Paterson chuckles when she considers the career change from managing editor to madame of Victoria. But she says it was the people and stories she encountered on the news beat that ultimately led her to help the people she considers society's classic underdogs, sex workers. Paterson, who also wrote a regular column for the the Victoria Times-Colonist, admits many of the stories she wrote, especially ones about sex trade workers, touched her personally -- a journalistic no-no, where reporters seek the heart of stories but attempt to keep the emotion from sinking into their own skin. "If you're a journalist you are meeting different people," she said. "You're learning things you didn't know. You're hearing things that you hadn't expected to hear that your life previously hadn't exposed you to." "And if you can just ignore all of that, you're a different person than I am." So she quit her city column at the newspaper and joined a prostitute support group in Victoria. It was during her time as executive director at the Prostitutes Empowerment Education and Resource Society -- PEERS -- that the idea to open a brothel was hatched. "Initially, I was against prostitution," said Paterson, 50, and the mother of three grown children. "I was in favour of eliminating it. I felt it was exploitative of women." But after working with women at PEERS she said she discovered many prostitutes are more interested in safe and healthy workplaces than debating putting an end to prostitution, she said. "I met people who challenged my assumptions and I learned that I was wrong," Paterson said. It was then that she and a colleague at PEERS, Lauren Casey, decided to tackle the brothel project.