capitalism

We Don’t Need Rescuing, Not Even By Organized Labor

A great article Labor Intensive: In Defense of Sex Work is an anonymous angry rant along the lines of ‘we sex workers are tired and we’re not going to take it anymore’! Its got some great analogies like this one in talking about how simulated violence in adult films isn’t real violence but how the response to a recent adult film performer is blamed for actual domestic violence acts she suffers; ‘We wouldn’t blame a stuntman, after all, for getting hit by a car in real life just because he sometimes gets hit by a car during work hours.’

When discussing our position in the current climate of extremist capitalism, they say ‘We understand that our work is negotiated in different, complex ways and in the context of the most oppressive economic system the world has ever known’. As a prostitute, I am proud to be associated with that statement.

Its good to know that some of us are well aware of our precarious position and demand to be fully enfranchised in the economy. However the authors’ critique of the broad based criticism we all receive for working in the oldest profession seems to not quit demonstrate how its up to the collective ‘us’ to grasp and then leverage the common economies matter to us as a means to organize ourselves. Oh well, I imagine we’ll get there someday.

I do love how the authors take on everything and every body. My favorite line is ‘We make this world turn, and we make this world cum. Respect us’. Lets make that a tag line or # for a good long while!

With all that said, it seems they’re waiting on the labor movement to organize us when in fact that’s not how organized labor works, at least not in Amerika. The authors ask ‘how about the labor movement stop ignoring the oldest profession, and start organizing us? That’s a fair question for those who haven’t spent any time with us in organized labor. It is often the misconception that labor happens like everything else happens to us. Its worth our time to learn about the history of organizing labor and our own sex workers rights struggles in addition to learning what it would take to organize the sex worker rights movement into organized labor.

carharts1

My experience in organizing sex industry workers and organizing with organized labor is that you have to show up and do it face to face. Its cannot be done over a blog. Organizing labor style means you have to show up for your own issues because you have issues. You have to be willing to show up and stand in solidarity with others who might be from different social/economic/race/gender/sexual orientation back grounds or who might be doing different types of sex worker than what you might consider…safe or politically correct….but who share your issues.

The authors also call for allies to be in solidarity with sexworkers ‘for union representation, free speech, improved working conditions and decriminalization’ but the fact is sex workers in general lack a significant amount of solidarity amongst ourselves in these areas too. Given the authors own feelings of ‘fear of reprisals’ if their identities were known for writing this article, I would say that solidarity has a long way to go within the sw rights movement. And given that solidarity is a prerequisite to unionizing; gaining access to our right to negotiate for our own labor and safe work conditions and decrim, we need to be finding a way to be in discussions with each other that would be productive towards these ends.

Having said that, I’m concerned about our ability to come together upon reading recently public critiques of sex worker rights activists by other sex worker rights activist. There is a great need for face to face space to create real solidarity amongst ourselves. Coming together ought to be prefaced with different types of trainings. Some of the much needed trainings would be labor specific like exercises to inform each other of the economy that matters to us. But before we get to that point, we need to get some violence de-escalation training. We could use some non violent communication training. We could use some respectful confrontation training and some conflict resolution training with the goal of standing in solidarity with each others work publicly, not to fortify the currently existing fiefdoms.

I love that the authors of this article are using the labor word, but writing it is no replacement for action. A good place to start to practice solidarity is to find other workers at your nearest labor rally who too are in struggle for their rights and join them.

And finally get some training! If we all had what it takes to change our status in this world, we’d not be in the situation we’re in so get some training-any training then make yourself and your skills available to your nearest sex worker, sex worker rights activist and sex worker rights based organization.

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Mutual AID

Wow, I just saw a non sex worker tell the 2 presenters who led the sex worker panel at the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair that they cannot call themselves Gender Dentata as they were putting forwards ideas of names for their newly forming group. They are currently calling themselves Vagina Dentata. http://bayareaanarchistbookfair.wordpress.com/2014-program-schedule/

The non sex worker said that vagina was too exclusive a term and went on to say that because they were white women, they couldn’t be leaders in the movement. Let us first acknowledge how brave these white women were to identify themselves and secondly out themselves in a public space as outlaw anarchist sex workers. Thirdly; to travel to the bay and lead a sex worker panel. They were told they weren’t good enough to name themselves or had any right to organize.

I cannot think of anything that would have been more antithetical to say at an anarchist book fair!
In my mind, these 2 women are already leaders in our movement and rightfully so.

This same non sex worker, who identified herself as being in association with the San Francisco Sex Worker Film Festival as her cred, spoke all about Prop 35 and how scary it was now that its passed because our friends can be arrested as sex traffickers. This struck me as odd because our group was the statewide opposition and we couldn’t get enough people to respond to all the voters’ requests for information during that election no matter how many times I asked people in our industry to do so. Apparently there are degrees of comfort in being ‘out’ even for non sex workers who support sex workers.

I totally support former and non-sex workers speaking out for the rights and well-being of sex workers as allies. I just have a huge problem when individuals of this group dismiss the voices of actual prostitutes when advocating for ourselves about what to call ourselves, in what manner we advocate for ourselves, what rights we advocate for and telling us our skin and gender aren’t the right ones. I believe there are studies that say most prostitutes are white and women so I am not sure why the 2 presenters were being dissuaded for standing up. I believe more people of color are in jails but that doesn’t mean white women in the sex industry don’t get arrested, or don’t go to jail or get fucked for free less. To say that only people of color who are non gender conforming are the only one’s who can stand up for sex worker rights is counter productive. These oppression qualifiers that non sex workers have put on our movement are counter productive. Its a type of red hearing or is it oppression/privilege baiting? This behavior is really akin to being a counter organizer.

But back to the other related topic, the Freedom Network U.S.A. conference being held in San Francisco March 31 from 8 to 10 pm at the downtown Hilton. When I asked them who was going to be on the panel, they listed off the usual suspects except not any actual direct service providers who’ve “had their lives directly impacted by the anti trafficking policies and laws”. So I offered to connect them with actual women who’ve been arrested for prostitution under the guise of being rescued as sex trafficked victims. They’ve not responded to me.

Only one speaker I saw on their list, before it was removed from the fb page event, identifies as a actual working sw, which is great but I didn’t see anyone who’s been arrested for prostitution under the guise of being arrested for being a sex trafficked victim.

So this begs the question, why would an anti trafficking group invite non prostitutes to lead such a ‘dialog’? I mean, isn’t that what their types do everyday anyway? And why do they need to come to San Francisco to host their $315 a person tariff (at a hotel that took Local 2 years to get a collectively bargained contract)?

I too find it really essential to expand the dialogue about the human, civil and labor rights violations that are occurring under the guise of fighting trafficking. I’m glad to see that others like Veg Vix are taking issue with former and non-sex workers who treat policies like criminalization of us as if that don’t matter. It makes me wonder what polices are good enough? What skin color is the right color? What gender is the right gender?

I can see the Freedom Network U.S.A. is not addressing the harms of policies that conflate all prostitution with trafficking: http://freedomnetworkusa.org/more-penalties-for-prostitution-wont-help-victims-of-human-trafficking/. Freedom Network U.S.A. is only stating that more penalties for prostitution won’t help victims while ignoring one of our key values: including actual workers being affected by the policies.

Any anti-trafficking groups that seriously wanted to address the harms of policies and rhetoric conflating all prostitution with trafficking would put decrim including our customers in their legislative packages, training sessions and raising awareness campaigns and they’re not. None of them have called me up to say, ‘hey we’re going to visit legislators in your state to talk to them about trafficking, wanna come along?’ Have they called you?

They haven’t showed that kind of respect because they don’t really want us in the room with them at legislator visiting time. But who they do want at their high priced Hilton Hotel Conference? Those who lack the political will and skill to hold them accountable for their hollow policy.

Veg Vix said “Though the sex workers’ rights movement has been at the forefront of addressing the harms of such misguided and oppressive policies for years, the movement shouldn’t have to do this alone and it can be very powerful when some anti-trafficking groups also denounce such harms.” And I agree but denouncing these harms isn’t good enough.

Anti trafficking/prostitution have to join prostitutes activist to be demanding decrim as the primary means to reducing these harms. It has to be stated clearly on their websites not just whispered at conferences or assumed. Its especially essential that anti trafficking/prostitution groups take this step because the anti trafficking policy was created primarily as an anti prostitution policy and we ought not let them get away from that fact. Freedom Network USA’s funding, just like the funding for all the other anti trafficking/prostitution orgs are at our expense, or at least those of us who are still working.

They should be made to take responsibility for invading us when they repeat as in brow beat us with their ideas of us in public, in the media, on our chat boards, text messages, advertising spaces and our work spaces. (California passed a law that mandates sex worker spaces post state sanctioned anti trafficking/prostitution baby girl being abducted eyes photos). Not to mention that special surveillance we, (those of us who are actual workers) are all under here in California thanks to the illegal use of the sting boxes and the tracking systems the silicon valley partners have installed for the them on us. These are all ways current workers’ human, civil and labor rights are being violated every single day.

I believe in aligning on common ground. Building alliances could strengthen our movement overall and is important for ending such oppressive policies against sex workers under the guise of fighting trafficking. It’s really essential that anti-trafficking groups have at the top of their list complete decriminalization across the board to even be considered allies, as a starter. And with so many non prostitutes on this NOG’s panel, I am concerned about having the sw rights movement looking like its been co-oped. They’re going to be able to say, “we had a sex worker panel” and while never actually have done anything for us.

Co-oping us is part of their agenda. I wonder what form the carrot will take. What will they put forward towards this end? What monies or positions or projects will they offer whom?

If they were really concerned, they would have invited the actual women who have had their lives directly negatively impacted by the anti trafficking/prostitution laws and they didn’t.

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