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From 'exotic' to 'erotic': Edmonton mulls renaming adult industry, other business licence changes

The term ‘exotic’ has racist undertones and doesn't reflect current language, city says

Natasha Riebe · CBC News · Posted: Apr 03, 2024 7:00 AM CDT | Last Updated: April 3

Businesses and workers offering sexual entertainment services in Edmonton may be called by a different name if city council agrees to amend its business licence bylaw. 

The City of Edmonton proposes to change the word "exotic" to '"erotic" in three adult industry categories in the bylaw: exotic entertainer, exotic entertainment venue and exotic entertainment agency. 

The switch stems from concerns from workers in the adult services industry that the term "exotic" has racist undertones and does not reflect language currently being used in the industry, a new report from the city's urban planning and economy department says. 

Celena Campbell is a sex trade worker in Edmonton who volunteers at the Advocacy Normalizing Sex Work through Education and Resources Society (ANSWERS).

"We're not ashamed of the work that we do," Campbell said in an interview with CBC News Tuesday. "We believe that sex work is work and we are not afraid of using the term erotic because it's accurate."

Campbell said "exotic" has been used to veil the reality of the trade. 

"Having a term such as exotic in the past was perhaps a tool to kind of say, 'Hey, this isn't what you think it is,' but the term has kind of run its course in its use." 

The city issues business licences to escort services, body rub practitioners and exotic entertainers after they take a mandatory course. 

Coun. Keren Tang agrees the current language has racialized undertones and "exotic" is typically used to describe people from foreign countries. 

"It's often used to describe women, in particular Asian women, it's very much a way to sexualize Asian women, so I find it very uncomfortable, very racist and very sexist in a lot of ways." 

Tang said she agrees with changing the term to erotic.

"I think it's a positive change, quite frankly, to be more culturally sensitive and then using inclusive language," Tang said Tuesday. "And to actually describe what the business is."

The city also says changing the name helps advance the anti-racism strategy by ensuring that policies do not stigmatize people of colour.

The name change is one of several proposed amendments to the business licence bylaw, which city council's urban planning committee is scheduled to discuss on April 9

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