December 17th: Violence Against Sex Workers and Partying as Resistance
This weekend is December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. It’s an event that’s incredibly close to my heart, and one that I try to participate in every year one way or another. It’s terrifying, the way that sex workers are treated, here in the US and across the globe. Moving from the UK to the US really underlined that I *cannot afford* to not be an activist for sex worker rights. I am at risk, actively, as a woman, as a queer, and especially as a sex worker.
This year we’ve decided to have a jazz funeral instead of a completely somber affair. I am a firm believer in celebrations as a fierce form of fighting back, because it’s EXHAUSTING to be debating and protesting all the time. Parties can be self care, they can be a place to have some fun while still acknowledging the issues going on, and god knows how valuable that time is!
Some news around violence and sex workers this week:
–Google is donating $11.5 million to “fight modern day slavery”, including funding anti sex work organizations like Not For Sale and the Polaris Project. These anti sex work organizations are notorious for ignoring the voices of sex workers and infantalizing us by telling us what we need rather than asking us, additionally advocating for laws that make our lives LESS safe.
–Shannon Gilbert’s body may have been found at last. Her disappearance triggered awareness that a serial killer was working in New York, picking off sex workers- 10 have been confirmed dead so far. Every time her name is mentioned, they call her “prostitute Shannon Gilbert”.
–Students are considering sex work more than ever as a way to fund their studies, says the BBC– probably in part thanks to the increase in fees? Notably, the image accompanying the article is of a streetwalker, while I’ll guess that most of these students are escorting as independents or with an agency. This tendency to illustrate prostitution with one image- women in skanky clothes on the street- is hugely problematic for a proper discussion of sex work.
-The French Parliament is working to ban clients purchasing the services of sex workers. It’s based off the Swedish Model, a model that has not actually lessened demand for sex work, and in fact, it might well make it more dangerous, both for physical safety and STI-related. Yet the Swedish Model is often pointed to as a success.
-Closer to home, there are concerns that Berkeley High School students (girls, natch, no mention of boys) are engaging in underage prostitution. This comes after an article about an East Bay couple who have been charged with trafficking teenage girls into sex work.
I say to my friends a lot “please, seriously, support this, support sex worker rights, support me” and I think they kind of nod and smile and say “of course” without necessarily why it’s so important. Any day, I could get arrested for being a sex worker. Any day, those cops could decide to abuse and rape me. My case won’t hold up in court, in all likelihood, but I’ll be terrorized in the meantime. In some states, I would be forced to register as a sex offender and have that on my ID. In other states, my name and address might be published in the paper, giving me no privacy. As a sex worker, if I was attacked, raped or murdered, my case would not be considered a priority.
I live with that EVERY DAY.
So if you can, please come to this event, or one local to you (London’s is on the 15th).
It’s important to me, it’s important for sex workers, it’s important for society, it’s important for everyone who cares about human rights.
-Indulge in a moment of peace with the Om Shan Tea table.
-Watch performances by and about sex workers- speakers and performers will include Annie Sprinkle, Carol Queen, JDelicious, LadyMonster, and Mariko, with musical breaks by Siouxsie! Additionally, Tony’s Circus will be entertaining us with a short skit!
-Dance to live music and the New Orleans style tunes cranked out by skilled DJ DJT.
-Enjoy free drinks and snacks provided by Solace SF- we will also have a free bar available serving speakeasy-style cocktails!
-And of course, remember the sex workers who were killed this year at our Day-of-the-Dead themed altar- you’re welcome to create your own memorial to add.
Additionally, we will have three silent auction baskets filled with goodies from local companies such as Cleis Press,Vixen Creations, Femina Potens, Good Vibrations, Rodeoh, and Crashpad! Annie Sprinkle is also donating some goodies, and the money made will go directly back into activism to support sex workers.
There will be an ASL interpreter for the introduction to the event, and the space is mostly accessible for people with disabilities- however, the bathroom is not. If you have special accessibility needs, please contact us so we can accomodate you â™¥
Come join us as we honor our dead and fight for the living!