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

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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.)

Many of you have asked me how you could get involved.  Thank you!  The "disclaimer":

While I am not interested in forming a collective, I will need some wonderful collaborators and help with SWAAY, mostly from sex workers.  Frankly, I want to establish right now that SWAAY is a benevolent dictatorship - if you don't have a very similar vision to mine, I wish you the best of luck starting your own project instead.  The whole point of me starting SWAAY this way is so I don't have to get bogged down in process, meetings, infighting, and consensus.  I want to work with people who are responsible, knowledgeable, and also don't want to waste time bullshitting around with "being a part of a group."

A vast amount of effort gets wasted within many political groups because people can't even agree on the most basic stuff like the group's goals and strategy, and participants lack the common sense to just form multiple projects that better suit their needs.  It's one thing to be able to network with people who are different from you and come together on larger campaigns and coalitions, but it's another to try and constantly force square pegs into round holes - at the expense of anyone actually getting useful things accomplished.  In my experience, too much of any group's energy gets spent on squabbling over who's in charge - whether that squabbling takes the form of deciding who's on the board/steering committee in a democratic group, or the majority regularly trying to appease the sole irritating obstructionist (and power-wielder) in a consensus-based group.  I truly feel like having one person who is definitely the one delegating and making final calls is the most pragmatic way to operate most group projects.  (And I say that not as someone who's only happy if I'm the person in charge, but also totally happy if I understand what task I am supposed to be doing that has been assigned to me.  I just don't want to waste energy fighting about it.)  This is just how I roll with my loathing of group dynamics, so take it or leave it.

I have some stuff I'll post about needing help with in the near future, but for now, there are two main things I need, which are open to everyone, sex worker or not.

I need money!

Yes, yes, everyone needs money.  And I know it's a recession.  I need about $1400 right now to get things rolling in the right direction.  That money will go towards printing pro- sex worker stickers and shirts to serve as campaign materials/fundraising items to get the project self-sustaining.  I'd rather not have to pay for everything myself, since I'm already investing a lot of time in this.

If you'd like to contribute, I can only do money orders in the mail right now, made out to "SWAAY."  I'll have a Paypal account set up for online donations in the next week or two.  The mailing address is:

SWAAY
2311 N 45th Street #300
Seattle, WA 98102

SWAAY will not be a tax-deductible 501c(3) organization, since that's a ton of work, requires a number of people to make their personal information public and sit on a board, and there's not going to be so much money flowing through it that it will matter to most donors.  Hassle, privacy, and ROI fail.

I also need survey participants: sex workers, already-interested allies, and complete outsiders.

As I decide how to structure the educational web site and put a lot of thought into what most needs to be conveyed (and how), I need to do some market research.  I'm looking for people who can give me 15-20 minutes of their time during the month of February.  Could this be you?  Awesome!  I would like this group to mostly be Americans, but you don't have to be.  [UPDATE: SURVEY CLOSED, THANK YOU!]

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