sex work

arvan's picture

Indigenous Peoples In the Sex Trade – Speaking For Ourselves

(I saw this today and felt it needed as much exposure as possible)

We as Indigenous peoples who have current and/or former life experience in the sex trade and sex industries met on unceeded Coast Salish Territory in Vancouver on Monday April 11th 2011. In a talking circle organized by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network we wish to share the following points about our collective discussion so that we may speak FOR ourselves and life experiences:

-We recognize that many of us have multiple identities and communities that we belong to – some of us take up the title of “sex worker” while others do not see themselves this way.  We have a myriad of experiences in the sex trade, everything from violence, coercion, to survival, getting by, empowerment, and everything in between.   We want to give voice to these issues so that those who are CURRENTLY involved in sex work and the sex industries feel supported and are the primary place where decisions surrounding our lives are made.  We should not be made to feel judged, blamed, or shunned from ANY of the communities we belong to or are coming from. We are the best deciders of what we want our lives to be.

furrygirl's picture

Announcing SWAAY: Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You (with stuff you can do to help!)

Originally posted at Feminisnt.com

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I'm going to be starting a new sex workers rights project.  The name I've chosen for it is SWAAY, which stands for Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You.  Of all the names I considered, I picked this one because it best explains what I want to do in two ways: outreach for normalizing sex worker politics into people outside the ho bubble, and SWAAY also works as a descriptive for what the aim is - swaying public perceptions.  (My original idea of "SWAY" was cock-blocked because sway.org was already taken, so I'm just adding an extra "a" and going with SWAAY/swaay.org.)

The aim of the project is accessible outreach to American audiences.  As it says on the "coming soon" page on swaay.org, the (tentative) tagline is,

Advocating for respect, understanding, and change by bridging the information gap between sex workers and the public.

I truly believe that the most important thing that the sex workers rights movement in the US fails to do is to real public outreach.  Before we can get to changing laws and decriminalize all of our professions, we need to start with simply humanizing ourselves and giving regular people the basic tools for understanding our issues.  Most people don't even know the term "sex worker," and many who do think that's just the PC way to say "hooker."  My goal with SWAAY is to create digestible, informative outreach for people with little or no previous experience in radical sexuality, labor, immigration, gender, or feminist issues.  (And, just to be extra ambitious, the accent colors I've chosen are grey and teal with pink highlights.  At last!  A sex worker web site that's not done in pink and red!)

Since I work full time, and also try to have a private life and eat and sleep, I can't just crank this out in a couple of weeks.  I don't want to crank it out in a couple of weeks, since it is very important to me, and I'm spending plenty of time just pondering how to structure things and how to set the tone.  I'm shooting for May 1st, but don't say that I promised, because I could well run out of time between now and then and delay the launch.  (This is why there's an activist class and a "working" class with sex work - lots of people are occupied with being full-time sex workers so we don't have tons of leftover energy for saving the world.)

arvan's picture

Call for presenters: Workshops at the San Francisco Sex Workers Festival

The San Francisco Sex Workers Festival was established in 1998 to provide a forum for the accomplishments of sex worker film and video makers and to screen works about sex workers and the sex industries from around the world. The Sex Worker Festival provides an opportunity to recognize and honor prostitutes, dancers, porn performers and other sex workers, who have historically been a dynamic part of arts communities.

This year, the San Francisco Sex Workers Festival will include a day of workshops, on Friday, May 27th, sponsored by SWAAY (Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You).  The general theme will be sex workers learning from each other on topics focused on their personal lives, self-care, skills that apply to all areas of sex work, and activism at the individual level.  Since most of the festival centers on the arts, we are prioritizing non-art submissions for these workshops.

The length of this day's event, as well as the session length, are yet to be determined, and will be finalized after submissions are selected.  However, session lengths will likely be either 60 or 45 minutes, depending on the number of accepted proposals, so please keep that limit in mind with the scope of your session idea.

This event takes place in San Francisco, and you must have your own means to travel to the event, as there is not a budget to pay for speakers.  However, if you are coming from outside the area, you'll get a lot of bang for your buck with being able to attend the week-long festival and network with other sex workers.

Your proposal should include:

* A title.
* Your name, affiliation, and a little bit about your background or interest in sex work.
* The style of your proposed session: lecture, group discussion, panel, etc.
* Have you presented on this topic previously?  When and where?
* A more detailed abstract of what you would like to cover, less than 500 words.

The deadline for these proposals is April 1st, 2011.  You will be notified whether or not your proposal was accepted by April 5th, 2011.

There will also be time for short, 5-10 minute lightning talks during the lunch hour.  (Lightning talks are breif lecture-format presentations for people who don't need a full session to cover their material, but would like to quickly get it out there to the audience.)  These slots are on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you know you want to do a lightning talk and have a topic in mind, please submit a proposal so we can try to guarantee you a spot.  It may also be possible to sign up for a lightning talk shortly before the event or on the spot.

Send your proposals to furrygirl@furrygirl.com with the subject line "Workshop proposal for the Sex Workers Festival"

Mercedes Allen's picture

Cruel and Unusual Punishment On Planet New Orleans

I'm going to repost an article from DBM about how a law dating back to 1805 that criminalizes "unnatural copulation" (often taken to include oral and anal sex) is being used to force sex workers

Clarisse Thorn's picture

[litquote] S&M stereotypes, parenting, and community action

Originally posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism

 

The following quotation is from an essay that doesn’t just tear apart some awful BDSM stereotypes, but also makes a great case for coming together as a community and living our lives without shame … all in the context of parenting. It’s called “S/M Fetish People Who Choose To Parent”, and was printed in the anthology Speaking Sex To Power by one of my all-time heroes: the brilliant and inimitable Patrick Califia.

The state does seem to have a vested interest in preventing anyone who is sexually different from raising a child. Over the years, I’ve heard many stories of custody battles involving polyamorous people, pagans, transsexuals, sex workers, and members of the BDSM-fetish community, not just lesbians and gay men. The people who go through these battles usually do it alone, and they usually lose. But that story can change when there is enough publicity to generate community support.

In early 1995, members of the BDSM-fetish community in the US and Canada were appalled to learn that a couple in the scene had had their children taken away. The Canadian fetish magazine “Boudoir Noir” established a defense fund for the unlucky pair, known as the Houghtons. As we had for the Spanner defendants, the community banded together and raised enough money to allow Steve and Selina Houghton to hire a decent defense attorney. Selina ultimately pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge, and her husband to one count of endangering the welfare of a minor, a Class E misdemeanor. They were also ordered to continue to receive family counseling …. Although they did not receive jail sentences, their privacy and home life had been badly damaged by the intrusive actions of the police. When the Houghtons got their kids back, they moved suddenly, disappearing from the scene, probably to protect themselves from further persecution.

Bekhsoos's picture

Dirty Mouth: The Politics of Sex Talk in Public Spaces

I am a dirty mouth who needs to be silenced.

This is what constitutes my parents’ most profound struggle when, before our family Sundays, they remind me every time to “watch it”, keep my mouth shut, and smile. It also must be what my college teachers think of me in the back of their heads when they shake it in reprobation, calling me twisted and other equally dismissive verdicts that always start with: “You need help”. Even among my lesbian friends, I’m always “too much”. Putting aside the fact that I might be too intense, I am a dirty mouth not because I curse a lot or lose myself in interminable gossip sessions – far from that. I am a dirty mouth because I am vocal about sex.

So how do people talk about sex? In medical terms, of course, where sex becomes a necessitous act leading to reproduction for the perpetuation of the species, therefore a post-marital worry. When not explicit, it is hidden and normalized under masks of broader manifests of sexuality, such as inappropriate compliments in the work place and pick-up lines in the streets, otherwise known as “toltish”. However, when the “dirty” side of sex is tackled – that type of sex which only belongs to sheer, “immoral pleasure”, sex talkers find innovative ways to express themselves in complex, poetic terms. The use of extensive metaphors in order to avoid a direct statement suddenly becomes a piece of cake: We did “it”. She wanted to “eat me” but I said no. She still made me “happy” with her “tools”.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

The Alt Sex Anti-Abuse Dream Team

Originally posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism

This was originally posted on September 28, 2010 over at Feministe, where it picked up a fair number of comments. I’m posting it here today partly because I’ve been reflecting on my identity as a feminist and partly because there is an upcoming Chicago workshop on abuse in the BDSM community, to be held at a local dungeon and facilitated by Sarah Sloane. The workshop will take place on February 12, 2011; feel free to email me for more information, or keep track of my Time Out Chicago “Love Bites” blog, where I will post a wide-release public description once it’s available.

* * *

BDSMers face a lot of stigma around our sexuality, and this can be a major problem when BDSMers are trying to deal with abusive situations. I’ve written before about generally negative conceptions of BDSM — they can briefly be summarized as:

* S&M is wicked,
* abnormal,
* a sign of mental or emotional instability,
* inherently abusive,
* or even antifeminist.

Given this climate, it’s not surprising that two things almost always happen when BDSM and abuse come up:

1) People of all genders who are abused are often unwilling to report. People of all genders who are abused within BDSM relationships tend to be particularly unwilling to report. Victim-blaming is already rampant in mainstream society — just imagine what happens to, for example, a woman who has admitted that she enjoys being consensually slapped across the face, if she attempts to report being raped. And that’s assuming the abuse survivor is willing to report in the first place; ze may prefer not to negotiate the minefield of anti-SM stereotypes ze will be up against, ze may be afraid of being outed, etc.

2) Members of the BDSM community sometimes push back against real or perceived anti-SM stigma by talking about how abuse is rare within the BDSM community. This BDSM blog post and comments claim that not only is abuse within the community rare, but abusive BDSM relationships seem more likely to happen outside the community. In fact, if you look then you can find posts from submissive women who found that getting into the BDSM community, being exposed to its ideals and concepts, helped them escape or understand their past abusive relationships.

I tend to think that #2 is a really good point — particularly the bit about how abusive BDSM relationships are more likely to happen outside the community, due in part to lack of resources and support for survivors. For this reason, I tend to stress the role of the community in positive BDSM experiences, and I encourage newcomers to seek out their local community. But lots of people don’t have access to a local community at all, especially if they’re not in a big city. Plus, lots of people have trouble enjoying their local community for whatever reason, perhaps because they have nothing in common with local S&Mers aside from sexuality, or because they don’t have time to integrate into a whole new subculture.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

[litquote] Sex workers and whore stigma in southern Africa

I read a lot when I was in Africa. One of the most interesting books available was Catherine Campbell’s Letting Them Die. (Another of my favorite books, Elizabeth Pisani’s The Wisdom Of Whores, is available for free download during the month of December 2010. I encourage you to grab it while it’s available for free! But this post is about Campbell’s book, not Pisani’s book.)

Letting Them Die describes a community HIV/AIDS project that took place in a South African community called Summertown (not the community’s real name). It is really an exceptional description of the difficulties inherent in the promotion of sexual health. It’s also got a lot of interesting discussion and commentary on sex work and whore stigma, and the experience of sex workers who were interviewed for the study.

I want to emphasize right now that I don’t always agree with the writer’s approach, though I always find it interesting. This is a loaded topic, and I am very aware that there are issues with the following quotations. However, I think there is a lot of wisdom as well. Quotations follow:



A key reason why people agreed to discuss their stigmatized work so openly in the baseline interview study lay not only in their growing fear about the epidemic, but also because, in setting up the interviews, much emphasis was laid on the fact that the interviewers regarded sex work as a profession like any other, and had no desire to criticize or judge anyone for their choice of work. [page 81]



How do people deal with having a spoiled identity, the stigma of a shameful profession? … One way was through a series of justificatory discourses. Predominant among these was the discourse of “having no option”.

S: “I give my clients respect by telling them I don’t like doing this job. I tell them I only do it due to poverty.”

W: “This is a job that lowers our dignity. We discuss this often, that we should look for other jobs. But the truth is that there are no alternatives.”

Virtually every woman said she had been “tricked” into starting the job. They all spoke of having been recruited by friends, who tempted them away from their rural homes with stories about jobs in Johannesburg, without telling them the nature of the work. They spoke of arriving and initially refusing to sell sex. Eventually they had been forced into it by a combination of hunger and the lack of transport money to return home.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

News Flash, Pay Attention: HIV Is About Sex

Today is World AIDS Day. I don’t think about HIV as much as I did a few months ago, when I was still in Africa and my job was to help with the epidemic. But today, I’m thinking about it, and I have something very simple to say:

HIV is about sex.

One of the big lessons I learned about HIV in Africa is that many, many people will do amazing mental and rhetorical backflips to avoid talking about how HIV is actually spread. It’s astonishing. You’d think that when talking about HIV, you’d have to talk about sex; you’d be wrong.

In the areas where I worked, a massive percentage of people were infected with HIV. In a number of places it was about 25%. In some populations, it was more like 40%. Think about those numbers for a second — and remember that many people who had contracted HIV had already died. In other words, uncountable numbers of people had already died of AIDS-related causes, and among the people who remained alive, the percentages still got as high as 25% and 40%.

And yet I got the message over and over and over that we mustn’t talk about sex! For example, I was told by some school authorities that I could not give safer sex information to their students because that might “encourage the students to have sex”. In other words: God forbid we tell students where to get condoms and how to use them, because that might encourage them to think sex isn’t wrong and dirty. What the authorities were really telling me is that it’s more important that we continue to stigmatize sexuality, than it is to protect people from HIV.

arvan's picture

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers - Vigil & Speak Out

Friday, December 17 · 7:30pm - 9:30pm

Metropolitan Community Church of New York

446 West 36th Street,

Second Floor Sanctuary

New York, NY

This event is free and open to the public.

Map: http://bit.ly/dUenDt

Join us in remembering those we've lost to violence, oppression and hate, whether perpetrated by clients, partners, police or the state.

We stand against the cycle of violence experienced by sex workers around the world. Recently in Geneva, the United Nations Human Rights Council reviewed the human rights record of the United States during their Universal Periodic Review. Uruguay's recommendation to the Obama Administration – to address “the special vulnerability of sexual workers to violence and human rights abuses” - is the moral leadership we have been waiting for!

Join us in solidarity to fight the criminalization, oppression, assault, rape and murder of sex workers – and of folks perceived as sex workers.

December 17, 2003 was our first annual day to honor the sex workers who were murdered by serial killer Gary Ridgway. In Ridgway's own words, "I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught." (BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3245301.stm)

We come together each year to show the world that the lives of marginalized people, including those of sex workers, are valuable.

SPEAKERS

* Audacia Ray, Red Umbrella Project & Sex Work Awareness

* Chelsea Johnson-Long, Safe OUTside the System Collective of the Audre Lorde Project

* Michael J. Miller, The Counterpublic Collective and PROS Network

* Andrea Ritchie, Peter Cicchino Youth Project and Streetwise & Safe (SAS)

READINGS

* Reading of the names of sex workers we have lost this past year

* Memorial for Catherine Lique by her daughter Stephanie Thompson and read by Sarah Jenny Bleviss

* Speak out: Bring poetry, writings or just speak your truth.

Light snacks, beverages, and metrocards will be provided.

The red umbrella has become an important symbol for Sex Workers' Rights and is increasingly used on December 17: "First adopted by Venetian sex workers for an anti-violence march in 2002, red umbrellas have come to symbolize resistance against discrimination for sex workers worldwide."

This event is co-sponsored by: Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE, MADRE, Peter Cicchino Youth Project, PONY (Prostitutes of New York), The Queer Commons, Red Umbrella Project, SAFER, Sex Work Awareness, Sex Workers Project, SWANK (Sex Workers Action New yorK), SWOP-NYC (Sex Workers Outreach Project), the Space at Tompkins, and Third Wave Foundation.

Babeland is also sponsoring our event and wants folks to know that they offer 10% off for Sex Workers always - ask for the "Professional Discount."

For more information, visit: http://www.swop-nyc.org/

For events outside of New York, visit: http://www.swop-usa.org/dec17

Syndicate content