My contribution to Yoko Ono’s ”Add Colour Painting (Refugee Boat).” This participatory installation is currently on display at the “Catastrophe and the Power of Art” exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Matt Lemon Photography (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)*
Sex Workers Are Part Of Your Community
Post for the upcoming International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW) on December 17
“Sex workers – those who put a price tag on sexual labour – have thought long and hard about the line between consent and nonconsent. So listen to sex workers (…) When they call out abuse, the #MeToo movement must listen. When they tell #MeToo that criminalisation makes sex workers’ jobs more dangerous, listen. Sex workers are part of your community, part of any feminist movement.”
“Sex workers are members of our communities, whether they are local or national communities. In law, mainstream media representations, and research sex workers are positioned as outside of or in opposition to communities. Even within marginalized communities sex workers are excluded when appeals to respectability politics are made. (…) My findings suggest that sex workers are being positioned and understood as outside of communities in ways that contribute to violence against sex workers. (…)
[P]eople who speak in the name of communities—communities in the sense of local neighborhood communities, activist communities, and national communities—need to recognize that sex workers are part of their communities and be accountable to ensuring they are treated as members. Researchers who conduct research on sex work and sex workers need to be accountable to their participants and the impacts their research may have on laws and policies. Sex workers are an over-researched population yet their voices are largely misappropriated or silenced in popular research and policy debates.”
– Megan Danielle Lonergan in her thesis Governmentality gone wild: How the separation of sex workers from ‘communities’ contributes to violence against sex workers
Meg Lonergan is a PhD candidate in the Legal Studies program at Carleton University. Lonergan’s activism and research focuses on the intersections of sexual identities, sexual practices and the law. Lonergan is an interdisciplinary feminist scholar who is interested in law, sex, popular culture, prison abolition, and decriminalizing sex work.
Photo by DecrimQLD
Support Sex Workers
There are many ways in which you can support sex workers, and not all of them involve donating money.
You can simply stop reading and sharing clickbait. More often than not, media reports about exploitative situations in the sex industry are poorly researched and merely serve to increase site traffic and ad revenue.
“The majority of articles on sex work are sensationalistic in nature and emphasise salaciousness and lewdness over the more mundane aspects of sex work. Few journalists or writers go to the trouble of interviewing sex workers or asking for their input into articles or investigations, while generally privileging the voices of authorities, residents or the general public.” – Marlise Richter. Ntokozo Yingwana, Lesego Tlhwale and Ruvimbo Tenga in A guide to respectful reporting and writing on sex work (For info about the authors, please visit the link.)
Media reports like described above contribute to a climate that enables the enactment of criminal laws and ordinances targeting sex workers, their clients and non-exploitative third parties. If you have a genuine interest in learning more about sex work, forced labour and human trafficking, start by reading openDemocracy’s series Beyond Trafficking and Slavery (BTS), which uses evidence-based advocacy to unveil structural political, economic and social root causes of global exploitation, and the sub-series Sex Workers Speak. Who Listens?, which addresses the violence, exploitation, abuse and trafficking present in the sex industries from the perspective of sex workers themselves.
Throughout the year, the global sex worker community commemorates several dates, including International Sex Workers’ Rights Day on March 3, the International Whores’ Day on June 2, and the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW) on December 17 (Deutsch | Français | Español | Pусский | 中文).
“The majority of violence against sex workers is not just violence against sex works—it’s also violence against transwomen, against women of color, against drug users, against immigrants. We cannot end the marginalization and victimization of all sex workers without also fighting transphobia, racism, stigma and criminalization of drug use, and xenophobia.
During the week of December 17th, sex worker communities and social justice organizations stage actions and vigils and work to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Racism, economic inequality, systems of colonialist and state violence and oppression must end. The stigma and discrimination and criminalization that makes violence against us acceptable must end.” – December17.org, Sex Worker Outreach Project USA
On December 17, you can join sex workers around the world and stand against the criminalisation and violence committed against their communities. In many countries, it may be cold, but if you genuinely care, please join them anyway. You can find many events on the map below, or you can leave a comment below and ask about events in your area. (You can do so anonymously by entering a fake email address.) You can also submit a song, poem, text or visual piece to show your solidarity.
Help Sexelancen survive! [Fundraiser completed]
Unlike an abundance of organisations working to raise awareness about human trafficking (more often than not by using faux data) but offering no services whatsoever, there are many sex worker-led or -supporting organisations who offer crucial services to people selling sex, including those wishing to stop doing so, or produce important research. One of them is Sexelancen, an intiative by Danish social entrepreneur Michael Lodberg Olsen.
Sexelancen, a portmanteau of ‘sex’ and ‘ambulance’, is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is a mobile space where street-based sex workers can take their clients and sell their services in clean and safe conditions. The project is entirely run by dedicated volunteers and they currently run a fundraiser to keep the converted ambulance running and rocking. At the time of writing, they have yet to reach 20 percent of the funds they need so please consider donating today to help street-based sex workers stay safe. (By the way, Chuffed, the crowdfunding platform Sexelancen uses, charges zero fees, which is why I encourage you to donate a few krones to them. (5 kr are less than €0.70)
If you wish to support another initiative or organisation but don’t know of any in your region, feel free to leave a question below. (Again, you can do so anonymously by entering a fake email address.)**
“The sterility of the experience is off-putting. It’s not as if the sex workers want it that way. They’d prefer for the Sexelance to be more cozy and ‘sexy’, but laws make that easier said than done. One of the reasons behind the clinical looking interior is that the Sexelance runs the risk of being accused by police, critics, and the judicial system of encouraging prostitution. That’s illegal in Denmark, even though prostitution itself is not. It’s a distinction rooted in the moral discussion over prostitution that keeps many good ideas for protecting sex workers from really getting off the ground.” – Dr. Sine Plambech and Dy Plambeck in The Sexelance: red lights on wheels
Dr. Sine Plambech is a Senior Researcher and Anthropologist at the Danish Institute for International Studies. She works on irregular migration, human trafficking, sex work, and documentary filmmaking in Thailand, Nigeria, Sicily and Denmark. Dy Plambeck is an award-winning Danish author.
December 17 Events in 2018
Support sex workers in your community!
For further tips, please read Dimmie Danielewski’s article Practical ways to support sex workers in your community.
“Our views as a society against sex workers, and the violence perpetrated against them, means that lenient sentences (…) are given without complaint from the community. If you have concerns about lenient sentences given to people who are violent towards sex workers then speak out by writing to your local government. Let your voice and anger at this injustice be heard.”
Dimmie Danielewski is a queer artist from New Zealand who supports the the full decriminalisation of sex work, including for migrant workers, who remain criminalised under New Zealand’s Prostitution Reform Act of 2003. One of her works about the decriminalisation of sex work will be featured in “I Am Woman”, a special exhibition at the Percy Thompson Gallery in Stratford which celebrates the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.
*Upon request of the Mori Art Museum, all photographs visitors take at the exhibition are to be licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 4.0 International. You are free to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format – but: you must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.
**Recommended reading: Platforms which Discriminate Against Sex Workers is a living document about the companies, institutions and discrete products (like Skype or Youtube) that in some way discriminate or ban sex work or adult products OR have been shut down completely following increased anti-sex work legislation.