Sex Worker Voices
'Nothing About Us, Without Us'
An Open Letter to the BBC and Louis Theroux from the Participants Filmed for the Upcoming Documentary, Selling Sex
Georgina Tyson and Ashleigh Williams, are practising 'full sex' sex workers that live together, care for each other, study together and make art as Babeworld. Recently commissioned by the ICA for work about sex work and accepted at the RCA to develop their practice, they welcomed a chance to share their individual stories of sex work and to show the world what sex work looks like for two mentally ill/disabled, working class artists in 2019. I mean who could say no to Louis Theroux? With the best intentions we fought to show an accurate representation of sex work - speaking only from our own experiences and learned knowledge. Things did not pan out in a way that added value to conversations around sex work. So in an attempt to control our own narrative where the BBC failed, we have documented it and shared it online.
In 1981 Peter Sutcliffe was arrested and charged with murdering thirteen women and attacking seven more, some of his victims were street sex workers in Yorkshire, including some in Leeds. In a police statement in February 1981 he said, 'It was my intention to get rid of prostitutes at any cost'. When Sutcliffe was later asked by his brother Carl why he had committed such awful crimes he replied, "I were just cleaning up the streets, our kid”.
Sex workers, historians and social researchers have long evidenced how people who sell sexual services are stigmatised, discriminated against, socially marginalised, and treated as ‘other’. In her 1994 historical studies of sex work, Nickie Roberts directly linked what she called ‘whore stigma’, to violence against sex workers, and the tendency for law enforcement not to take violence against sex workers seriously. Jon Lowman coined the term ‘discourse of disposability’ after studying the media coverage of sex worker murders in Canada. Lowman drew attention to the language used around sex work in the media, as well as in political, policing and resident discussions on how to ‘get rid’ of street prostitution from residential areas. Lowman observed that such campaigns often focused on ‘clearing up’ and so cast street sex workers as, ‘throwaway people’ who made the world dirtier simply by being in it. Once sex workers are being discussed in terms of social cleansing, a ‘social milieu in which violence against prostitutes could flourish’ is enabled (: 1003). Simply put, there is a link between media, political, and residential campaigns to ‘clear up’ street sex work and violence being enacted against sex workers.
Brandi Campbell is a long time strip club worker and advocate for stripper labor rights. She writes about it on http://StripperLaborRights.com .
In August of 2017, I began working at a strip club called Shakers. When I was hired, Shakers classified dancers as “lease holders.” By the end of my time at the club in December of 2017, they decided to start classifying dancers as employees, starting January 1st. While Shakers will never admit that my pressure had anything to do with the switch, my newest series on StripperLaborRights.com will discuss circumstances surrounding the switch, during the period of time that I worked there. This series will explore each Economic Realities factor of interest at Shakers, and each person of interest within this time frame.
K.J. Kingsley is a writer by Day, pro Domme by night. Sometimes, it's the other way around. In her spare time, she has discovered a knack at writing poetry. You can read her posts on sex worker's rights, advocacy, & advice, as well as kink/fetish/BDSM on her blog www.sexworkerextraoridinaire.com or read her published works at www.kjkingsley.com
Find her at Twitter @KatieJKingsley or for the more risqué @CuntressKate
In the Whoredom, a magical kingdom filled with whores of all kinds, exists a distinct and insidious social pecking order. I like to refer to it as the totem pole of hos. But there is a much more intellectual sounding term for it and it's "Whorearchy". You will not find a definition for this word in Merriam-Webster or the Oxford English Dictionary. No, you certainly won’t! Although, you may find a meaning on Urban Dictionary or other sites where people can arbitrarily add words with their meanings for our society’s burgeoning lexicon.
Yet, maybe going to these resources to find the meaning of the word is not so much of a stretch. Because the truth is, while everyone can agree that a Whorearchy does exist, no one seems to agree on what the term actually means. For the purposes of explaining the current landscape of sex work, I will go with a basic definition: Whorearchy is a hierarchy that exists against and amongst sex workers.
Brandi Campbell campaigns for better working environment for strippers. In 2015, Brandi filed a lawsuit against Larry Flint’s Hustler Club in Las Vegas, saying her supervisors ignored her complaints against customers and even engaged in harassing behavior themselves. Campbell filed a federal lawsuit alleging the club misclassified her as a contractor, a strategy that is working out for strippers across the nation who believe they have been unfairly treated by their employers.
You can follow her here @StripperRights
Annie’s note: California Lawyer magazine invited me to write an article for them. I was delighted to reach a new audience, and to get to tell war stories of my legal battles, in both my sex work and my performance art work. Also, I was dating a lawyer at the time and I wanted to impress her. I wrote this piece during the heat of the O.J. Simpson trial.
"Annie Sprinkle was a NYC prostitute and porn star for twenty years, then morphed into an artist and sexologist. She has passionately explored sexuality for over forty years, sharing her experiences through making her own unique brand of feminist sex films, writing books and articles, visual art making, creating theater performances, and teaching. Annie has consistently championed sex worker rights and health care and was one of the pivotal players of the Sex Positive Movement of the 1980's. She got her BFA at School of Visual Arts in NYC was the first porn star to earn a Ph.D.. She’s a popular lecturer whose work is studied in many colleges and Universities. For the past 12 years she has been collaborating on art projects with her partner, an artist and UCSC professor, Elizabeth Stephens. They are movers and shakers in the new “ecosex movement,” committed to making environmentalism more sexy, fun and diverse. In 2013, Sprinkle proudly received the Artist/Activist/Scholar Award from Performance Studies International at Stanford, and was awarded the Acker Award for Excellence in the Avant Garde. Click here for Annie Sprinkle's more detailed CV." (http://anniesprinkle.org/mini-biography/)
Laura is a dedicated campaigner for sex workers' rights. She is challenging the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. She argues that the recent law passed in Northern Ireland which criminalizes the purchase of sex is an infringement on her human rights, her labour rights and her ability to keep herself safe in her work.
'Not About the Heart of Darkness; Whoring as a Profession at the End of Capitalism' By Clio Magnum Rossi
You don’t come to sex work at the age of 55 without a story, so here in brief is mine. For 26 years I was a social worker and for the last ten I worked in emergency psychiatry. I also have some history of activism, in the peace and women’s movements of the 1980’s, through to Occupy and environmentalist support currently. In 2014 I developed a close friendship with an ex client who had a significant criminal justice history. I lost my career, left my marriage, and ended up in a new town in an unaffordable house, with my expensive and addicted friend, and with no means of support. And so Clio put on heels for the first time in her life, and in March of 2015 she came tottering into my new Whoring Room. I am now retired, after working on my own, in brothels and developing my own Domme practice. This is an article I wrote a few months into my whoring, once it began to perturb me that I didn’t feel oppressed.
You can read more of Clio's work at AmberOHara.com. You may also follow her on Fetlife under Astarte37x18.
Eva graduated with a degree in politics and philosophy in 2010 and began sex work shortly after. She has since gained a Masters in Sexual Dissidence and continues to work in the sex industry. She is an outspoken social activist around sex worker rights and in her spare time enjoys minimal techno, marathon running and Reece Shearsmith.
You can follow her at @BeauvoirFetish
I’ve been working in the sex industry coming up for seven years now, and in that time I’ve faced many many prejudices, preconceptions and ideas around who buys sexual services and who pays for them. My opinions and thoughts around this has changed dramatically as I’ve come to know other providers and clientele, and as narratives around sex work have opened up. The media perpetuates stereotypes of a lonely, misogynist male violently and hatefully purchasing the body of a woman might be hegemonic, but is based on false assumptions. Hopefully, as more people dispel the taboo notions of sex work the diverse range of punters, each of whom bringing their own story, needs and vulnerability can be better understood. Over time, as the stigma I once assumed around sex work has shifted, my own boundaries and ideas have as well. I once thought that the only women who paid for sex were lonely older successful types who desired the company and attention of younger men with whom they shared an intimacy inside and outside the bedroom, yet when I ask any male sex worker if that’s their typical client, they roll their eyes at the baseless narrative.
'International Woman's Day: A Sex Worker's Perspective (or, A Story about my Grandmother') by Rosie Heart
Rosie Heart is a Dutch sex worker, who travels the world teaching kink workshops and doing private sessions. Over the years, she has worked as an escort, in brothels, and now runs her own business. She loves her job, and is a passionate advocate for sex worker's right. You can follow her at @_Rosie_Heart_
Today is my grandmother’s birthday.
‘Oma’ was one of the most powerful and loving women I have ever known. She was the first in her village (in the Netherlands) to start wearing trousers, raised a family on her own, took care of several male family members, worked a whole bunch of different jobs, and somehow found time to be a loving mother and grandmother too. She died 28 years ago. I was very young when she passed over, but my memories of her have always stayed with me. She used to call me ‘schaapje’ (little sheep).
Today is also International Women’s Day, and like every year, I am reminded of Oma. My mum always told us Oma was sitting on a cloud watching us, and that is still how I imagine her. What does she see from that vantage point? What does she think?