Partying and playing at Piggy’s Palace: Men’s silence about men’s violence

By Jacqueline Gullion

Jacqueline Guillion is a collective member at Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter.

This article was originally written for and published in Sister Outsiders, issue #4: What you won’t hear inside the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

 

Mainstream media like CBC, The Tyee, Vancouver Sun, and Seattle’s weekly, The Stranger, easily uncovered the fact that former Port Coquitlam Mayor, Scott Young, and hundreds of other people had attended events at Piggy’s Palace, the party venue operating for several years at Pickton’s pig farm. I asked some of those Vancouver rock/punk bands playing in the 1990s what they’d heard about Piggy’s Palace. I was relieved to hear my friends say they had refused to play there because, as one said “even though we’d played some shitty places, we’d heard Piggy’s was totally sketchy bikers, blow, you name it.”

Others describe Piggy’s Palace as “rough,” “very very badass.” One man interviewed in 2003 by The Stranger said: “There were lots of women, who looked like hookers…. The party spilled all over the grounds and there were people in the house and in the trailer doing the wild thing. I recall walking by a shack with a 40-watt light bulb hanging over the door and machinery was running inside. Here, I got a death chill. The hairs raised on the back of my neck and my feet froze to the ground. I didn’t want to be there anymore, so I left and walked home.”
This is what is most chilling to me: literally hundreds of people, from East Van rockers to off duty cops to the Mayor of Port Coquitlam, knew that Piggy’s Palace and its proprietors were trouble – specifically trouble for prostituted women. Yet the venue remained in operation for years without intervention by neighbours, police, or concerned members of the public.

Former Mayor Scott Young’s disregard for women is already public, evident in his guilty plea for an assault on his ex common-law partner and for breaching a no-contact order intended to protect her. But what about the bands who decided that, despite the “rough crowd” and the rule to “check your knives and other weapons at the door,” playing repeated gigs at Piggy’s Palace was worth it because the money was good? A few Lower Mainland bands’ websites still list their Piggy’s Palace gigs in their band bio. One even has the gall to highlight the notoriety of the Pickton case.

The media was able to find people willing to paint the grisly picture of what they witnessed before vowing never to visit Piggy’s Palace again. But where were those who saw what was happening and then vowed to help put the heat on local authorities to shut Pickton down? As a frontline rape crisis worker, I rejoice when I receive a call from someone wanting to help a woman who’s in danger. I am ready to rally my team and encourage the neighbour or friend to respond, to help the woman escape, and to fight back.

So yet another facet of the story is missing from the Missing Women’s Inquiry – the everyday men who partied and played at Piggy’s Palace and how their refusal to come forward early makes them complicit in this gruesome tragedy.

While the Missing Women’s Inquiry draws some public attention to the role of police procedures (and their failures) in the investigation, as a community we should be obliged by our humanity to really consider how Pickton was able to murder so many women over such a long time, and how the case ought to press us all toward progressive change.

Instead, the Pickton case has been used to promote the full decriminalization of prostitution. Prostituted women should never have been criminalized or put in the position of selling sex for money – but to call for the decriminalization of johns and pimps based on the Pickton case is completely illogical. Full decriminalization will not protect the women that johns like Pickton might pick up on the streets as is often argued. Pickton was a wealthy man and could very easily have ‘hired’ women openly operating as ‘adult entertainers’ or ‘escorts’ from the back pages of the Georgia Straight. Indeed, as Piggy’s Palace venue was operating as a registered non-profit agency, buying women’s bodies purchased through licensed escort agencies could have been written off as costs of doing business. But Pickton and those who co-hosted the parties purposely sought out the “unlicensed” and desperate women on the streets of the Downtown Eastside who would risk the sketchy trip to the PoCo pig farm. How will these women benefit from the decriminalization of johns and pimps? Surely we want no woman pressed into this?

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16 Comments on “Partying and playing at Piggy’s Palace: Men’s silence about men’s violence”

  • Brava Jacqueline! Thank you for writing this.

       2 likes

  • Thanks so much for writing this powerful and deeply disturbing post.
    Many men enjoy dancing over the pain and fear of the prostituted – whether they make the choice to consume the prostitutes.
    When I was prostituted, it was often sickening how many voyeuristic men would know that the prostitutes were in pain and or terror, and loved to watched, That is the mentality that allow men to have rock concerts and parties knowing the prostituted are being tortured and put into terror. It is just a joke to them.
    I still get nightmares from the “partying” I had to endure.
    When will men stop being so detached and callous?

       9 likes

  • Very disturbing but eye-opening post…i had no idea these types of parties were taking place…so crazy to think about…

       1 likes

  • Liz

    Rebecca, they will not stop being callous. It is their nature. They are machines.

       1 likes

    • I do not believe that men that makes the choice to buy the prostituted, or to “party” when the prostituted are being sexually tortured are “machines”. This is too simplistic, and also lets them off the hook by making out it their “nature” – which implies there is no point in doing anything about it, for some men were born that way. That is dangerous rubbish, for men who do those acts make the conscience choice to be callous and a conscience choice to framed prostituted women and girls as sub-humans.If you view as the men making a choice – then it becomes possible to build real change through making the act of buying the prostituted into a crime. In that possibility – many men who promote the lie that it is their “nature” to consumed the prostituted will suddenly find the threat of being made a criminal, they magically realised they can live fine without buying the prostituted. To believe it just their nature or they just a machine – is to give up hope for the prostituted class.

         6 likes

      • Hari B.

        Thank you for that, Rebecca. You are so right, we can’t stop remembering the choices involved–or the necessity to make real change through new choices.

           0 likes

  • My g-d!

       0 likes

  • marv wheale

    What wretched and dreadful acts of brutality against these women. Endless thanks to you Jacqueline for casting light in the darkness.

       0 likes

  • Hari B.

    Who can really say what is in anyone’s ‘nature’? We have managed, via socialization, and on all levels of our culture, to pervert life generally and ourselves as a species in particular. I don’t think we know who we might be, if our nature could unfold in other conditions. Our whole culture is built daily on the callousness required to objectify womyn and nature for power and profit. So-called ‘rational science’ works hard every day to prove that we are naught but machines…in men’s case, taking/killing/raping machines.

    But I agree, this story, and what it says about the men who stood by in silence–or even got off on watching, or knowing what was happening-it’s beyond sickening and horrifying.

       1 likes

  • It is important that the words of many exited women from the sex trade should be acknowledge – that they know that most punters who consume the prostituted, or men that party round when the prostituted are being seriously abused – do not do from “condition”, but can be seen as pre-planned and done in an organised way. The prostituted have lives for centuries with the knowledge that the violence constantly done is not some in-built nature, or that men are out of control of themselves. The most terrifying thing about the routine violence done to the prostituted, is that it is pre-planned sometimes for weeks or months. Most violence done to the prostituted is very cold and callous – for when the prostituted are known to be just goods to consumed, their is no surprise at the callousness is the norm. That is why many exited women would framed their experience in the language of torture and complete violation of human rights. Torturers are cold and do organise their violence without the inconvenient of a conscience. That is not a machine, or some out-of-order nature – it is just a normal who make the choice to be violence with or around the prostituted – for they view it as a non-crime and a non-event.

       2 likes

    • Hari B.

      Rebecca: “when the prostituted are known to be just goods to consumed, their is no surprise at the callousness is the norm.”

      When I say ‘condition’, I mean the social conditioning involved–people are taught that the prostituted are just goods to be consumed. We know this, and act in accordance with it, because this is what our society teaches us from earliest days of life. We are calloused because of life-long efforts made through our socialization to desensitize us. In a very real way, we are all taught that all of us, and every part of life, are just objects to-be-consumed or to-be-consumed-by. I think we are taught to believe that ‘this just *is* the way life is’ (can’t tell you how often I’ve heard just those words), there’s no other option.

      I do not make this any kind of excuse for torturous, violating behavior–nor an excuse for those who stand by while others do it. It’s only an explanation that allows me the possibility of hope–that by making different choices as a culture, by teaching our children to be fully human, sensitive to themselves and others, we can create a world in which torture and violation is no more.

         1 likes

      • I personally think if we see that the punters make a conscience choice to be violent to the prostituted – rather it is conditioning, there can be real hope for long-term change. For choices can be changes, especially if done with education and the use of punishment if men persist in consuming prostitution.I see it as a choice rather than conditioning – for I see how most punters are very careful how they pre-planned the violence that they do the prostituted.In most cases the punters that make the choice to be violent to the prostituted will wait until the alone and in private; these punters mostly will only violent to the prostituted, and will be the “decent man” to the non-prostituted women in his life.This shows how they make conscious decisions to abuse the prostituted, for they know there will little or no punishment for. or me, i we say it is conditioning is becomes yet another excuse for these violence to get away with no responsibility.

           1 likes

        • Hari B.

          Rebecca, I think I see why you would say all that in response to me. Believe me, I do not hold conditioning as an excuse for anyone. It explains where behaviors come from,socially–that is all. Humans can and do make choices, and I completely agree that we need to hold people responsible for their choices. Thank you for repeating this point so firmly. It is one that cannot be emphasized enough.

             1 likes

  • A silenced sex worker

    We know that the realy culprits were the H.A who auctioned off the type of torture the women would endure but these testimonies were deemed in admissible from the beginning. The real Perps are still out there Picton was the monster fall guy the real series killer are the bikers and those who party with them those of us who have been there before know this

       6 likes

    • Peter

      I recently read that Vancouver reporter James Keller was not allowed to conduct an interview with R Picton, which Picton had agreed to, because it was not part of Picton’s “treatment plan”. If Picton’s not allowed to talk, then the real story will have to come from people like you.

         0 likes

  • Good God! I lived up there for part of that time, and I never even knew about this.

       0 likes

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