Monday 12 August 2013

It's a Basic Human Right, right? Sex Workers Speakeasy

When I first started thinking about this project, I wasn't entirely clear about where my primary motivation was coming from. Was it personal healing, was it global politics, was it health and safety, workers rights, human rights or feminism? Was it appealing to my creative arts background?

Starting up the Indiegogo appeal to get myself to Las Vegas for the Desiree Alliance Conference in July of this year, the project emerged organically from that same appeal. With the help of an old friend, I made a short clip, my mouth, my words, speaking about why I needed crowd funding help to get to Vegas to present at this amazing conference, now integrating the full-circle journey I'd undertaken to go from delegate at ICOP sixteen years previously, to presenter at #DALV13 (the Desiree Alliance Twitter hashtag adopted for the duration of the event).

On arriving in Las Vegas, it soon became clear to me that the week ahead was likely to be a full one, in every possible way. It's not possible to listen to people's stories, hear about their lives and livelihoods, share motivational and inspirational workshops, and to engage with the current political and social key issues and remain unmoved.

My project, 'Sex Workers Speakeasy', was launched there - its primary intention to give sex workers a voice (a theme that has run through my life) allowing us to speak for ourselves, and to ensure that our diverse experience of the work is heard, recognised and respected. It took courage to launch my appeal, for in doing so I took the decision to out myself and to make public some aspects of my private life. Many cannot.

Whilst at the conference, a conversation with the very prolific blogger and truly engaging woman that is Maggie McNeil opened the door for me into why I do what I do. It's about social justice. Both Maggie and I share a very strong sense of social justice, and speaking for myself here, I know it's something I've carried through with me for most of my adult life and no doubt a fair bit of my childhood too. I remember being little and just knowing when something felt really wrong despite being told sometimes by the 'grown-ups' that 'that's the way it is' - for me, there would inevitably be a "why is that the way is?" retort. Every time.

So, in coming to this seedling of an idea, as I started connecting with contributors, as I heard their stories, I was left in no doubt that it had to happen. It's the thing I can give back to all I've ever been given by those who have inspired me, who light the way, to the brave and courageous activists who have changed things through sheer determination, a whole lot of courage and more than a fair bit of 'chutzpah'.

This contribution by Bella of the Rhode Island chapter of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) reminds me of the 'why'. Sex workers are dying as a result of being denied basic human and workers rights and as a result prejudice and stigma. In Scotland (UK) right now, brothels and saunas are being shut in what I can only see as a sadly regressive move. Those employees don't just stop selling sex, they simply get driven onto the streets or further underground where safety is even more eroded. And why? To satisfy someone else's view of what is 'moral' or not.

Help us to change things. Speak out! Stop allowing slut shaming. Challenge the language and please....above all, listen to the voices of those who know.

This post is dedicated to the lives, families and friends of Petite Jasmine and Dora Oezer who were both murdered in the last two months. May your spirits rest in peace and may your legacies create change.


  1. Pure reason and goodness comes from this lady! She is a rare person. A strong woman who is actually taking action in helping her marginalized sisters and brothers involved in a struggle for their integrity, dignity and sometimes their freedom and lives.

  2. Fantastic project, I think sex workers need more rights and have the freedom to not be confined to society's prejudice.

    Giving people the opportunity to come forward and acknowledge this will lower the risk of some many issues.