An apology for Monica Jones

SWOP-Seattle would like to apologize to activist Monica Jones, who attended SASS 2016 events as a guest speaker in early March. Before and during SASS, there were several instances of racism and oppression that Monica experienced, and while attempts were made to address these issues in a respectful and restorative manner, lack of training and wisdom resulted in worsening the experience, as opposed to healing. For the occurrences and mishandling of these situations, we are very sorry. We will be taking actions at a core level to help prevent this kind of harm from occurring in the future.

Monica Jones, we accept your experiences as valid, and we are sorry for any hurt you experienced during your time with us at SASS. We are also sorry that our attempt to create space for the voice of a powerful black trans activist such as yourself at SASS resulted in situations where you experienced the very oppression you speak out against, and we hold ourselves accountable for not being prepared to mitigate or properly handle this. We are aware of the work we need to do the create safer spaces for all, so we can continue on with integrity and balanced perspective. 

We are deeply sorry for the experiences that you had. We admire your work, we believe in you as an activist and organizer, and we hear you. Thank you for working with us on this.

 

SWOP-Seattle

monica

March 3rd – International Sex Worker Rights Day

Sex Worker Rights Day March

1PM MARCH FROM OCCIDENTAL SQUARE TO WESTLAKE CENTER
PLEASE JOIN US. YOUR SUPPORT COUNTS.

Sex workers in Seattle are speaking up for their right to work, to advocate for themselves, and to exist.

WE WILL BE MARCHING REGARDLESS OF WEATHER! Bring your red umbrella ; )

This march will start in Occidental Square, and will visit the Court House, City Hall, and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. At each stop, members of SWOP-Seattle will highlight ways in which the political climate towards prostitution in Seattle is damaging to sex workers, and what needs to change.

SWRDItinerary:

1:00 Gathering at Occidental Square
1:15 Begin March
1:30 Address at King County Superior Court to address TRB website hearings happening at that very moment, and to deliver a petition to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
2:00 Address at Seattle City Hall to City Council Members, to invite them to engage with the sex worker community, and to ask them to repeal the change of law from “patronizing a prostitute” to “sexual exploittaion”.
2:30 Westlake Center gathering and mailing of letters to WA policymakers.


AT THE END: All sex workers involved in the photoshoot will get in cabs and go to the studio. For details and more info, contact Savannah at msssavannahsly@gmail.com. 

Issues we will address:

– The problematic and continuous conflation of trafficking and sex work by Seattle Prosecuting Attorney’s office, and related prohibition-style “End Demand” tactics.

– Seattle City Councils’ decision to reclassify “patronizing a prostitute” to “sexual exploitation”. 
– Disproportionate amount of charges brought against Korean women in recent TRB adult website shutdown, and lack of any evidence of trafficking despite vehement insistence of it’s existance by law enforcement.
– Inability and refusal of WA policymakers to reach out or value input from the sex work community on initiatives that directly affect sex worker safety and welfare. 

This public demonstration is being held in honor of Sex Worker Rights Day, which began in 2001, when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to prevent it taking place by pressuring the government to revoke their permit. The sex worker rights movement is global, and will be honored in Seattle alongside other national happenings.

Sex worker protest in Maharashtra, India

Sex worker protest in Maharashtra, India

 

International Sex Worker Rights Day

This day began when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival organized by a Calcutta-based group called Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Unstoppable Women’s Synthesis Committee) despite protests pressuring the government to revoke the permit for the parade in 2001. SWOP-Seattle is recognizing this day by gathering and sharing some of our favorite articles, videos, and performances from the sex worker community.

Please explore and share these links with your peers, or better yet,
someone outside of the sex worker rights movement. Tweet it, blog it, Facebook it, email it to a friend…there’s a bounty of amazing material showcasing sex worker voices, so let’s share it!

http://www.hindustantimes.com/photos-news/photos-india/indiainpicsmarch4th2010/Article4-515106.aspx

2010 SWR Day March in Calcutta, hindustantimes.com

“Sex worker rights are human rights, and there can never be too many voices speaking up for them, nor too many occasions on which to speak.” — Maggie McNeill

 

WRITING:

International Sex Worker Rights Day
by Maggie McNeill
This excellent blog post explains what Sex Worker Rights Day is, why it’s important, and we can speak up about our experiences and inspire others to do the same.

Some Comments About Trafficking, and Links for Education
by Mistress Matisse
An overview of the anti-sex trafficking hysteria and how it impacts consenting sex workers, plus a slew of informative links to related articles.

The War on Sex Workers
by Melissa Gira Grant
A detailed article explaining how conservative feminism and anti-prostitution laws make sex workers more vulnerable to systemic and direct violence.

2013: The Best in Sex Work Writing
Compiled by Melissa Gira Grant
A long and comprehensive list of sex worker literature published in 2013, organized by topic and reflective of voices from around the globe. If you weren’t already informed, this list will certainly get you up to date.

Why the Women’s Rights Movement Must Listen to Sex Workers
by Chi Mgbako
An explanation of how sex workers around the world are rejecting the assumption that they are all victims.

PODCASTS:

Sex Workers Demand an End to “End Demand” – Episode 34
by The Whorecast with Siouxsie Q
Get your trench-coat and notepad ready, because Siouxsie Q, was spotted last week in front of the San Francisco Public Library…during an abolitionist Anti-Trafficking conference! WhoreCast takes you inside the breaking news of the Sex Worker Rights movement in San Francisco.

VIDEOS & PERFORMANCES:

Sex Worker Rights Day Video Playlist
Compiled by SWOP Michigan
A series of 8 selected videos showcasing different angles and opinions form various aspects of the sex industry. These selections are compiled by members of the Sex Worker Outreach Project in Michigan.

Last Rescue in Siam
by EMPOWER
A hilarious black and white movie inspired by the tradition of the old silent movies, which makes a farce of the very serious issue of “rescue” efforts in Thailand.

I Want You – Vote Yes on Prop K
by Sadie Lune
Sadie Lune presents this first person performance piece “I WANT YOU,” which won 1st Place at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on September 11, 2008.

A Rights-Based Perspective on Improving the Lives of People in the Sex Industry 
by Audacia Ray
A video keynote speech Audacia Ray produced to be shown at the LOVER magazine conversation on sex work in Utrecht, Holland on June 23, 2010

Sex Worker Rights Music Video
by Scarlot Harlot & Courtney Trouble
The San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival premieres this sex worker anthem, Courtney Trouble’s “The Burnout”.

EVERY HO I KNOW SAYS SO
by Lusty Day, Beef Jerky, & KK via Scarlet Alliance
EVERY HO I KNOW SAYS SO is a response to the total lack of accessible online resources for people looking for advice on how to be a good date or lover or partner to a sex worker.

 

"I Want You - Vote No on Prop K" by Sadie Lune

“I Want You – Vote No on Prop K” by Sadie Lune

Updates from ESPLERP

ESPLERP Updates for January 2016

2016 is off to a rip roaring start!

The big news is that three New Hampshire legislators have proposed legislation (NH House Bill 1614) to decriminalize prostitution. Our board member, Bella Robinson, provided invaluable help with their press conference and testimony at the very first hearing!  Here is the video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8Em_DIFa5o

If you have time to review the text and write a letter supporting it, here is the link to do so –  http://espu-ca.org/wp/the-initiative-title-and-summary-from-the-city-attorneys-office/continuing-support-needed-for-new-hampshire-house-bill-1614.

And MoveOn has a petition to sign http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/decriminilizelegalize.

With crafty wordsmithing from our new board member, Claire Alwyne, we released a series of press releases – http://esplerp.org/media/press-releases/.  One is about our finally released Policy Agenda for 2016, which provides a roadmap for legislators looking to understand the legislative consequences of decriminalizing sex work – http://esplerp.org/esplerp-2016-policy-agenda/. Of course, as soon as it was available, we sent the Policy Agenda to the New Hampshire legislators working on NH House Bill 1614.

 

Court Watch

Late last year, Federal Court Judge White asked us to write a supplemental brief based on Obergefell v Hodges, the historic June 2015 Supreme Court ruling that ruled unconstitutional states’ ban on same sex marriage, which occurred after we had filed out case in March 2015. We filed that on January 15, 2016 –  http://esplerp.org/supplemental-brief-based-on-obergefell-v-hodges/. The defendants filed their response on January 29, 2016 – http://esplerp.org/defendants-response-to-esplerp-supplemental-based-on-obergefell/. We are not lawyers – but these are both good reads.

As far as we know, Judge White will not require any further briefs, and will rule based on the submissions so far. So we are waiting for a decision. Unfortunately there is no schedule or deadline for a decision, so we will just have to wait.

But whether we win at this level or not, whichever party loses will almost certainly appeal to the Ninth Circuit of Appeals. The state has deep pockets but we need to build our legal war chest so that we can afford to pay our lawyers to represent us at the Ninth Circuit of Appeals.

 

2015 Year End Report

We produced our year end report for you – our wonderful supporters and donors. The highlights are:

  1. ESPLERP held 2 press conferences and sent out 6 press releases during 2015.  Our organization and court case received coverage in 25 pieces of media in print, audio and video at the local and national level.
  2. We had a series of matching fundraisers which not only succeeded in doubling the original donation but exceeded every matching goal.
  3. 350 donors raised $40,318.26 during 2015 with 94% going to court case costs. The rest went to legal education and overhead costs, which are low at this time because we have no paid staff yet.
  4. We ended the year with no outstanding invoices!

Read more here  http://esplerp.org/esplerp-year-end-report-2015/

 

About ESPLERP

The Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) is a diverse community-based non-profit of erotic service providers and community members who are working towards empowerment by advancing sexual privacy rights.

For more information on ESPLERP

Seattle’s rescue-raid approach to anti-trafficking

SWOP stands with all right thinking people in condemning the use of Force, Fraud Coercion or Abuse in any workplace.  We will continue building partnerships with groups and jurisdictions interested in helping victims out of such terrible situations.  SWOP-Seattle is committed to sex workers and their communities being a central part of the solution to abuses within our industry.

With this goal in mind, we condemn the “rescue/raid” approach to dealing with this problem, as it has been shown time and again to be a traumatic experience which harms actual victims, and deals tremendous collateral damage to victims and sex workers.  Just as in domestic violence situations, social workers and outreach workers should be prioritized as first responders to potentially violent or volatile situations.

The conflation of migration for work with human trafficking prevents us from having a real conversation about the human rights and labor rights pieces of either issue.  It harms people trying to work and it makes it immensely harder to identify and to help actual victims.

The futility and ineffectiveness of trying to end an entire industry in order to find a minority of abuses cannot be overstated.  Only in vice matters have we tried this approach – with disasterous effects seen historically with alcohol prohibition and the War on Drugs.  Our valuable and scarce resources are better served by actually focusing law enforcement efforts squarely where they belong – on finding and addressing abuses, force, fraud and coercion.

By keeping sex work illegal we force the practice underground, the dangers and damages multiply, organized crime flourishes.  When people do actual research into fixing the problems associated with sex work, they overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that we should decriminalize.

SWOP stands with Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, International Labour Organization, the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, Human Rights Watch, the Open Society Foundations, Anti-Slavery International and numerous Sex Worker rights groups around the world in supporting and calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

 

    What you can do:

   *Contact your elected officials.

http://www.seattle.gov/council/

http://www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/council_overview.htm

http://www.kingcounty.gov/council.aspx

http://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/

Tell them you want to help actual victims, and that the misguided approach of End Demand and Buyer Beware tactics – which include shutting down online forums – is ineffective at helping victims, while making work more dangerous for sex workers.  Ask them to listen to the proposals of Amnesty International, calling for decriminalization and sex worker involvement in all policies that affect them.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/08/sex-workers-rights-are-human-rights/
https://www.amnesty.org/en/qa-policy-to-protect-the-human-rights-of-sex-workers/

 

   *Contact news organizations. 

Tell the Seattle Times you want to hear sex worker voices represented alongside those of anti sex work groups like OPS.  Tell them OPS doesn’t represent sex workers.

*Contact news outlets like KIRO and thank them for balancing their reporting with the voices and views of actual sex workers.  Tell them to keep up the good work!

 

    *Ask all news outlets questions about what has actually happened

‘What’s happening with the women “rescued” in this raid?  Are they being connected with aid groups like API-Chaya?  Are they being given actual help?  What did they have to say for themselves?  Can you get an interview with a reporter who speaks Korean?  Are they now victims of state coercion, as they face the “options” of being deported and charged with crimes if they don’t declare themselves ‘victims’?  Are there any allegations of abuse – and if so why are there no charges on those allegations?

 

 Further reading:

**The rise of the Anti trafficking Machine:

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30060-the-american-rescue-industry-toward-an-anti-trafficking-paramilitary

https://reason.com/blog/2015/10/15/fbi-sponsors-operation-cross-country-ix

https://reason.com/blog/2015/09/08/caveats-about-farley-johns-study

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/27298-is-the-state-of-alaska-fighting-sex-trafficking-or-targeting-women

** The Special Award for Bad Facts goes to…
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/12/14/the-biggest-pinocchios-of-2015/

http://www.psmag.com/politics-and-law/government-christian-lobby-quashes-real-research-on-sex-workers

**What’s wrong with the “End Demand” or Nordic Model:

http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/stuart-chambers-the-nordic-model-for-prostitution-is-not-the-solution-its-the-problem

http://time.com/3005687/what-the-swedish-model-gets-wrong-about-prostitution/

http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/jesse-kline-the-wrong-way-to-deal-with-prostitution

**On Migrant Sex Workers

http://www.migrantsexworkers.com/report.html

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2011-10-13/what-i-learned-about-migrant-sex-workers-by-being-one-part-1-parrenas

http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/issues/migration/

Cosmopolitan Sex Workers: Women and Migration in a Global City.

SWOP Condemns Seizure of TheReviewBoard.net

trb

On Tuesday, January 5, several individuals connected with The Review Board [TRB], a Seattle discussion forum for clients and adult workers, were arrested by the Bellevue Police department and charged with promoting prostitution. On Wednesday afternoon, the website was seized as part of an investigation by the King County Sheriff’s Office, the Bellevue Police Department, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sex worker communities believe that the site may have been specifically targeted in connection with a raid on a massage parlor where non-native Asians worked or because non-Native Asian sex workers advertised through the website.

Sex Workers Outreach Project [SWOP] condemns the website seizure and shares local sex worker concerns about collateral damage the website’s closure will have on adult workers in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest–including non-native Asian sex workers. If the seizure was accompanied by a raid, we strongly condemn the raid and express concern over potential criminal penalties and how this will affect the women’s immigration status.

“Migrant sex workers, especially Asian migrant workers, are often inaccurately labeled as trafficking victims,” Savannah Sly, SWOP-USA Board President and former Seattle-based sex worker, said. “I don’t doubt that King County prosecutors will wave this is a victory against human trafficking, highlighting the presence of migrant Korean sex workers on TRB to indicate abuse. Just because a women came to the U.S. and works as an escort does not mean she did so involuntarily.  These assumptions are blatantly racist and xenophobic. Many migrant workers in the sex trade, domestic work and agriculture emigrate and work voluntarily. It’s criminalization and stigma of sex work and immigration status that makes these workers so vulnerable, not the work itself.”

Along with raids, attacks on web-based communities like TRB harm both native and non-native sex workers. In addition to a discussion forum, TRB functioned as a free advertising platform for adult workers. Many adult workers in the Northwest relied on the site as a low-barrier and free way to advertise and work without management, indoors, especially subsequent to MyRedbook’s closure new barriers for using Backpage to advertise.  “The site was valuable to a lot of sex workers,” Capri Sunshine, a local sex worker and the SWOP-Seattle media coordinator said. “It was free, undocumented workers without ID or credit cards could use it, and it was where most girls on the site got the majority of their work. This has a lot of negative ramifications for sex workers.”

The seizure of The Review Board follows a long patterns of attacks on the adult entertainment websites: the summer raid on Rentboy.com, the 2014 raid and seizure of My Redbook, and constant, relentless extra-legal pressure on advertising websites like Craigslist and Backpage.

“We already know that closing adult websites hurts sex workers and removes law enforcement’s ability to identify actual instances of trafficking” Savannah Sly, SWOP-USA Board President and former Seattle-based sex worker, said, pointing to research SWOP-Sacramento conducted following the closure of a similar website, MyRedbook. “It displaces sex workers. It jeopardizes the autonomy and safety of the most marginalized sex workers–especially non-native sex workers and sex workers of color, forcing them to rely on third parties or to engage in street-based sex work which is riskier. It disrupts communities. It increases the marginalization of an already marginalized group. And it doesn’t stop trafficking.”

According to Sunshine, Seattle sex workers are already experiencing ramifications of the seizure, Sunshine said. “Appointments are being canceled, the community is panicking–what are we going to do? Where are we going to advertise now? It’s created real paranoia.” 

Sex workers have been advocating for decades that criminalization and policing of the sex trade and those profiled put communities at risk of violence and exploitation. Laws against the sex trade have always been used to police the bodies of marginalized communities, especially LGBTQ and communities of color. When sex workers are prosecuted under these laws, it can become harder for them to find mainstream work because of their criminal record. SWOP believes the closure of The Review Board is the latest in a long history of abuses of people in the sex trade that puts these communities in more vulnerable and often more dangerous situations.

“Sex workers in Seattle have spoken directly to city prosecutors about their safety concerns over these kinds of tactics. The blatant disregard for that self-advocacy by city officials is beyond insensitive, it’s a form of silencing and violence”  Sly said. “Criminalized prohibition makes discrimination and violence possible, and this is a textbook example of how enforcement of laws criminalizing clients and third parties ultimately hurt sex workers the most.”

A day of mourning and solidarity.

We had a fantastic showing of dedicated people who came out to demand an End to Violence Against Sex Workers, and to remember the 160 that we have lost this year.

Things that always make me sad at these events:

  1. Knowing that these are just the names we know about, the incidence of murder is much higher… and knowing how much violence exists in our community which does not result in death.
  2. The numbers of “Name: Unknown” that are always on the list.Thank you for braving the traffic and the rain to show your solidarity!
    With so so so much love, Mary

Saturday Dec. 19th – Panel Discussion: Stigma Kills

4Free to the public – donations accepted at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/panel-discussion-stigma-kills-tickets-1973598586

STIGMA KILLS – The Harmful Impact of Stereotypes
Free Panel Discussion on Saturday Dec 19 1-3pm
Gay City Calamus Auditorium – 517 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122
Not fitting in with mainstream society can have severe repercussions, especially where sexual orientation, mental health, and drug use are concerned. Stigma is a form of societal judgement on a person’s situation, actions, or qualities, which can extend beyond individual circumstance to impact entire communities.
Stigma is a form of stereotyping that can negatively effect the way people are treated in the world. The harms of stigma can put people at severe disadvantages when trying to access health care, housing, employment, and fair judicial treatment.
This panel will feature…
Smitty Buckler – HIV/STI Tester at Gay City
Emi Koyama – Social justice activist and writer
Maggie McNeill – Sex worker, author, and public speaker
Edric Figueroa – NW Network Community Advocate
Moderator by Caroline McLoud
This event is hosted by the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Seattle, and is part of a series of events
honored December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
For more information, visit www.SWOP-Seattle.org.

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance

TDOR events and locations

TDOROn November 20, Sex Workers Outreach Project will join trans communities in recognizing Trans Day of Remembrance. The Day of Remembrance began in 1998 in Boston, as the trans community mobilized around the murder of activist and advocate Rita Hestler. The vigils and speak-outs held around the country are a moving and stark reminder that for millions of transgender people worldwide, the fight for survival continues.

This year, 12 of 41 sex workers murdered in the United States were trans women (29% of sex worker homicides), and 11 were trans women of color. This is a continuation of trends identified in 2012 Anti Violence Project (AVP) Report which found that 50% of GLBT homicide victims were trans women of color, and 23% homicides were connected to sex work. On this day, we stand in solidarity with trans communities and recognize that violence against trans women, especially trans women of color, is central to our fight to end violence against individuals involved in the sex trade. For us, TDOR is a call to end the discrimination and social isolation that pushes many trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, especially trans communities of color to engage in street economies, and which results in disproportionate violence, criminalization, and marginalization from helping services for trans women engaged in street economies and the sex trade.

As a movement, we recognize the daily violence that trans people, especially trans women and especially trans women of color face. When we look at the U.S. names this year, we see and call to end a chain of structural and interpersonal violence because of race, class, gender identity, and engagement in street-based economies and the sex trade.

We see a cycle where trans and gender-conforming individuals are pushed out of schools and removed from and kicked out of homes, are profiled, arrested and charged with petty crimes, and are discriminated against by the police, by employers, and by helping systems. Discrimination leads to (and is compounded by) lack of educational opportunity and criminal records, pushing trans women of color into the criminalized forms of work that they are so frequently profiled as engaging in.

In the sex trade, these individuals are often pushed into more dangerous environments because of gender identity, race, and education, and they are disproportionately discriminated against by helping systems, police, and corrections officers and face disproportionate violence compared to their cisgender peers.

For us, TDOR is a call to end systemic violence, criminalization and discrimination against black women, trans women, and sex workers. We need to fight things that push trans and gender non-conforming individuals, especially trans women of color into the sex trade: unequal treatment in schools, DCFS, and juvenile court systems, by helping systems. We need to end police profiling & criminalization of non-violence survival crimes like sex work. We need to halt discrimination by employers, case managers, educational institutions, police, and criminal justice systems. And rather than accepting the vulnerability of sex workers, we need to fight factors that make people who do engage in sex work vulnerable.

Trans Day of Remembrance Facts

  • 12 trans women who engaged in sex work were murdered in United States in 2015 and comprised 29% of all U.S. sex worker homicide victims. 10 of these trans women were black. One was Latina. 10 were 35 or younger, and 50% were 25 or younger.
  • 23% of 2012 GLBT homicides in the United States were connected to sex work, continuing a trend from 2011 and 2010 where 22% and 18% of homicides were connected to sex work.
  • 4 in 5 trans women in D.C. have been verbally, physically or sexually assaulted. 44% of D.C. trans women were denied a job they were qualified for, 45% were discriminated against at work, and 41% have worked in the sex industry.
  • 40 percent of transgender inmates in the United States reported sexual victimization compared to 4 percent of all inmates. Nearly one in six transgender people (16%) (including 21% of transgender women) have been incarcerated at some point, and 47% of black transgender people have been incarcerated.
  • Transgender people engage in sex work at a rate ten times that of cisgender women, and 13% of transgender people who experience family rejection have done sex work.
  • Black (53%) and Latino/a (34%) trans women have extremely high rates of underground work, likely related in part to structural exclusion from educational systems and dramatically higher rates of employment discrimination.
  • Trans women of color were more likely to have reported having done sex work: 44% of African-American and 28% of Latin/a transpersons reported engaging in the sex trade.
  • 33% of trans women without a high school diploma engaged in sex work, compared to only 7% with BA degrees.
  • Trans women who did sex work were almost four times as likely to have been incarcerated (48%) than trans women who did not engage in sex work (16%).
  • Trans women with sex trade experience were 25 times as likely to be HIV-positive (15.32%) than the general population (0.6%).
  • 60% of trans women with sex work experience had attempted suicide, a rate more than 37 times that of the general population (1.6%).
  • 29% of trans women who experienced domestic violence reported engaging in sex work for income.
  • Trans women who had experienced homelessness were 2.5 times more likely to have been incarcerated (34%) than those who had not (13%), and were more than four times more likely to have done sex work for income (33%) than those who had not (8%). They were more likely to be HIV-positive (7.12%) than those who had not (1.97%) and were much more likely to have attempted suicide (69%) than those who had not (38%).

Call to Action: Support Amnesty International!

DefendAmnestyOn August 11 2015, a crucial vote to protect the human rights of sex workers was passed at Amnesty International’s decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting (ICM). Delegates voted in favor of harm reduction practices as the best way to protect the human rights of sex workers. Before the vote took place, sex worker advocacy groups from around the world wrote in to support the new policy, and we were all overjoyed at the affirmative vote for the advance of human rights for all.

It has come to our attention that nationwide coordinated protests of Amnesty International are happening this month.  This includes prostitution prohibitionists conducting presentations at local Amnesty International meetings, possibly with the intent of trying to overturn the recent policy that was put forth on sex workers right. We need to show strong support for AI!

For information on how YOU can help, please visit this link:

http://www.swopusa.org/help-defend-the-amnesty-decision/

Male Sex Workers Condemn Raid on RentBoy.com

rentboyprotestLast week federal police in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security raided Rentboy, a male escort advertising website, arresting the CEO and 6 employees.

This shutdown comes just two weeks after Amnesty International voted to adopt a policy in favor of decriminalizing consensual adult sex work. Several global and national Human Rights and Harm Reduction organizations including UN AIDS, UN Women, The World Health Organization have also have also advocated for decriminalization of consensual sex work in the past. This week, in a joint statement, LGBTQ rights organizations Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National Center for Transgender Equality echoed and amplified Amnesty’s call in their own public announcement on the issue.

Sex workers & the LGBTQ community have been advocating for decades that criminalization and policing of the sex trade and those profiled put communities at risk of violence and exploitation. Laws against the sex trade have always been used to police the bodies of marginalized communities, especially LGBTQ and communities of color. When sex workers are prosecuted under these laws, it can become harder for them to find mainstream work because of their criminal record. The closure of Rentboy is the latest in a long history of abuses of people in the sex trade that puts these communities in more vulnerable and sometimes dangerous positions.

Rentboy was one of few websites male adult workers could use to find clients. Rather than the “worldwide prostitution ring” news articles have called it, Rentboy provided an opportunity for many to find economic security. Rentboy.com also helped form HOOK Online, a resource for men in the adult industry. This resource provides safety tips, an opportunity for a college fund, some legal advice and a way for adult male service providers to exchange ideas and keep each other safe from violence.

Several in the LGBT male sex work community spoke out against the closure of Rentboy.com:

“Rentboy has been a major component of the male sex worker community for years. It really brought male sex workers together. They even just recently started an escort scholarship fund. It’s sad that Homeland Security is spending time and money on bringing down an escort site where adults voluntarily post ads and hire consenting companions.”  – Derrick Hanson, Rentboy’s Mr. San Francisco 2011

Rentboy.com is more than just an ad site for adult entertainers. They put a lot of time, effort and resources into harm reduction and learning about rights and resources. I’ve advertised with them for 7 years. Thanks to rentboy, I’ve had a roof over my head and food in my belly because of work I consensually chose.”  -Danny Cruz, cis male sex worker and activist, Los Angeles

“I took up streetwork because I was unable to meet my basic living expenses through online advertising alone – after Rentboy, what next?”  – Timoshka Yakov, a trans male sex worker

“The Rentboy office raid greatly affects my ability to work safely and further enforces the stigma that already surrounds sex work in this country.”  -Israel, cis male sex worker, Seattle

“As a queer and trans person who is denied job opportunities because of my trans status, this industry has given me the opportunity to feed and help myself. I take several precautions to be safe, but at this point I don’t know how I can move forward in this safely. This community of sex workers is my family.”  -Viktor Belmont, trans male sex worker and activist, San Francisco

“The money has gone from being reinvested in our communities and from generating income for gay, bi, and trans men trying to make a living to being seized by law enforcement, while cutting off a critical income option for so many. With Rentboy gone, independent sex workers will need to take unacceptable risks to meet basic needs.”  – Alex S. Morgan, Trans male sex workers’ rights advocate

“Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse and these arrests are a perfect illustration of that”  -Govind Archarya, Deputy Treasurer, Amnesty International USA

 As advocates for the human rights of sex workers, SWOP-USA stands against attempts to forcibly eradicate the sex industry and advocate for the health and safety of all people in the sex industry. We condemn this abuse and intimidation by law enforcement, which will make our communities, friends, and families more vulnerable to violence and exploitation.

Petition Alaska’s Absurd “Anti Trafficking” Laws

Amber Batts Trial Follow-up

 A couple of links to follow up on the Amber Batts trial: there is a great article in Tits & Sass that goes into quite a bit of detail on the case and is an interesting read.

 Also, in related Alaska news, please take a moment to sign a petition: Protect Sex Workers: Repeal Alaska’s Failed “Anti-Sex Trafficking” Law!  Alaska redefined their anti-trafficking laws in 2012 to be so broad that they include a wide swath of sex workers. The law does not focus on people that have been forced through fraud or coercion into sex work. It does not seek to help exploited minors. Instead, it means that all prostitution is trafficking. There was even an instance where a woman was charged with trafficking herself (How meta is that?!? It would be funny if it weren’t true.). It only takes a moment to add your name to the 30,000+ people that have already signed.

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Petition to support Amnesty International

Thank you Amnesty!

ESPLERP commends Amnesty International for policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work.

San Francisco, CA, August 24, 2015 — The Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) today commended Amnesty International for passing a resolution that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.

Maxine Doogan, President of ESPLERP said “We join with sex worker organizations worldwide in welcoming Amnesty’s policy initiative. We are pursuing decriminalization through our ongoing case in US District Court that claims that California’s current anti-prostitution statute is unconstitutional. And we feel we have an excellent chance of a positive outcome through the courts. But support for decriminalization from a reputable body like Amnesty very much strengthens our position in the court of public opinion.”

“We appreciate Amnesty joining the World Health Organization, the Lancet, Human Rights Watch, the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law, and others in supporting full decriminalization of prostitution” said Sol Finer of SWOP-Seattle. “This is a human rights issue and we commend Amnesty doing the research necessary to make an informed decision that offers the best protection for all sex workers.”

ESPLERP have started a Care2 petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/861/383/661/thank-amnesty-international-for-standing-up-for-sex-workers-human-rights/ to thank Amnesty for modeling moral courage to include sex workers and our larger communities under the human rights umbrella.

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The Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) is a grassroots organization advancing sexual privacy rights through legal advocacy. It brought suit in March on behalf of several women and a man in U.S. District Court on the grounds that California’s anti-prostitution statute, Section 647(b) of the state Penal Code, violates fundamental Constitutional rights. Individuals can support that lawsuit at https://liberatetoemancipate.tilt.com/liberatetoemancipate.

AIyesAmnesty International votes YES in Support of Decriminalization!

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Amnesty’s Press Release on the Decision
http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/global-movement-votes-to-adopt-policy-to-protect-human-rights-of-sex-workers

Q&A on the Policy to Protect the Human Rights of Sex Workers
http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/qa-on-the-policy-to-protect-human-rights-of-sex-workers

Amnesty Policy on State Obligations to Sex Workers
http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/policy-on-state-obligations-to-respect-protect-and-fulfil-the-human-rights-of-sex-workers-internatio

Support Amnesty International’s proposed policy calling for the decriminalisation of sex work

 (SWOP-Seattle) and our allies take this opportunity to express our support for Amnesty International’s draft policy calling for the decriminalization of sex work, which is to be tabled for adoption at the International Council Meeting, August 6th-11th, 2015. THIS WEEK!!!  Amnesty International is facing a backlash from campaigners for proposing a policy that seeks to uphold the human rights of sex workers.

We ask the Amnesty International Council to stand firm and support decriminalization of sex work and protect the human rights of sex workers.

The draft policy is backed up by the findings of country-based research carried out by Amnesty International on the human rights impact of the criminalization of sex work and also on the 2014 consultation, which included input from many sex workers around the world – the community most affected by the proposals.

Please sign this petition to show support for the Amnesty International resolution to support decriminalization of sex work and ensure the human rights of sex workers are upheld.

Petition – Amnesty International

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Support Our Allies!! Gender Justice League Fundraiser

We love our allies and Gender Justice League (GJL) is most definitely one of them!  Thursday, August 6th GJL presents the Gender Justice Awards. The awards are hosted by Ian Harvie of the series Transparent.  From their Facebook page:

The 2015 Gender Justice Awards dinner will highlight and showcase the incredible activism of Trans and Allied Activists who have made incredible strides for Trans, Gender Queer, and Gender Non-Conforming people in the Pacific Northwest. These awards are a fundraiser for Trans* Pride Seattle 2015 – June 26th and Gender Justice League!

SWOP-Seattle been selected by the awards committee for the Gender Justice Awards to receive The Solidarity Award for your outstanding work on behalf of Trans & Sex Worker Communities. The Solidarity Award is given to groups or individuals who act in unity or mutual support with trans community.

Event is going to be held at the Melrose Market Studios, 1532 Minor Ave in Seattle. Tickets are $45 through http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1410276 or $55 at the door. The doors open at 6pm and dinner begins at 7pm. See you there!!

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Man Targeting Sex Workers for Murder is Shot by Escort

“Heather” is the only name she has been identified by but to sex workers across the United States, “hero” would be just as applicable. A gentleman contacted “Heather” through Backpage and set up a date. When she answered the door, the man held a gun to her midsection and asked her is she wanted to “live or die.” A struggle ensued and when she grabbed a nearby rake, the man, identified as Neal Falls, put the gun down in an attempt to get her to release the rake. “Heather” –who apparently, like most sex workers, thinks quickly on her feet-  grabbed the gun and shot her assailant before running out the door to get help. Police found hiking boots, axes, a shovel, and other gruesome items in the trunk of his car that made it clear the “live” part of his initial question to her was never really an option in his mind.  Neal Falls is now potentially being linked to up to a dozen unsolved cases involving murdered sex workers across the country.

These open cases beg the question: why are there so many unsolved murder cases involving sex workers?  In Chillicothe, OH, six sex workers have gone missing in recent months and police there scoffed at the notion of a serial killer until “Heather” shot Mr. Falls. Why? Since these were sex workers, the cases were quickly shelved.

One of the pitfalls of being a sex worker is that it can potentially be isolating. Don’t let it be. Talk to your peers, come to SWOP events, and get to know the other people that work in your area. In fact, SWOP hosts a quarterly self-defense class that is specifically geared toward sex workers. It is by donation, with no one is turned away for lack of funds.

Our thoughts and well wishes and gratitude are with “Heather”.

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July is Sex Worker Appreciation Day – Celebrate with us!

SWOP-Seattle hosts a variety of events, largely for the purpose of educating the public on sex worker issues, and for providing an advocacy platform for sex workers to speak from. SWOP-Seattle also works on community building via our sister organization, SEPIA, which is open to current and retired sex workers. The event descriptions below will indicate whether events are open to the public or just members of SEPIA.

July Events

 

July 21st is Sexworker Appreciation Day!

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 Sex Worker Appreciation Day Comedy and Variety Show                              

Sunday July 19th – 6pm doors, 8pm show!                                                        

Highway 99 Blues Club 1414 Alaskan Way                                                            

Join us for a raucous evening of entertainment featuring live stand up, burlesque, theater and more! $15 suggested donation to SWOP-Seattle.  

Donations and Tickets:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sex-worker-appreciation-day-comedy-variety-show-tickets-17433988529

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Networking meet for allied orgs and helping professionals

Monday July 20th – 1pm-3pm                                                                                    

Capitol Hill Library meeting room 425 Harvard Ave E                                               How can SWOP-Seattle volunteers assist in your efforts? How can you better serve sex workers? Let’s meet and greet, build some bridges, and make plans to work together to serve marginalized and vulnerable populations.

 

Sex Worker Roundtables and Spa Day                                                            

Tuesday July 21st, 10am-4pm – Sex Worker Roundtables and Spa Day              

Join your peers to chat about self-care, recognizing and prevening burn out, and our very own sex worker awards ceremony!  This event is for current and retired sex workers only! For info please use the SEPIA application at –                                 http://swop-seattle.org/get-involved/current-retired-sex-workers

 

Panel Discussion: Sex Workers in Society
The Unsung Wisdom & Societal Contributions of Erotic Services Providers
Monday July 20th, 7-9pm
Calamus Auditorium at Gay City – 517 E Pike St.

People with direct experience in the adult industry share perspectives on what sex workers bring to the world, both for clients and society at large.

SexWorkInSociety

Sex Workers Self-Defense Class!
A self-defense class for sex workers. We focus on practical and effective self-defense techniques that can also give you a great workout at the same time. For more information email MaryMagdalene@swop-seattle.org

Free Panel Discussion – Sex Work in Society

Monday July 20th 7-9pm
Calamus Auditorium at Gay City 
517 East Pike Street

In honor of Sex Worker Appreciation Day, SWOP-Seattle will be hosting a panel discussion to examine the ways in which sex workers contribute to the world. This panel will include written client testimonies, which will be read out loud by the panelists to prompt discussion.

Full panel description is provided at the bottom of this post.
SexWorkInSociety

PANELISTS:
There will most likely be one more current or retired sex worker on this panel, but we have yet to determine exactly who this will be. Stay tuned for updates. 

Jessie Sparkles is a lifestyle S/m practitioner and professional dominant. He’s been kinky for as long as he can remember and doing it professionally for the past 5 years. Much of this work has been as a pro-dom, but he’s also worked as a porn performer and erotic body worker.

Kristen Knapick, MA, LMHC, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Seattle. I specialize in working with those for whom kink/poly/sex work/queerness/gender variance are a part of life, whether the source of a problem or not. My lengthy experience as a member of all of these communities gives me a unique, non-judgmental perspective on mental health within them, and my professional training has sharpened my skills. Please visit http://kristenknapick.com for more info on my practice.

Blue describes himself as an accomplished professional in the Seattle area, father of two amazing children, and partner in two successful marriages & divorces over the past 30 years. He began seeking professional services from sex workers at the suggestion of a mentor during the beginning of his most recent spiritual, emotional, and physical transformations as a result of unexpected career change, marital status, and family dynamics. Hiring a sex worker had never been “part of his movie” yet at this point in his life he decided to put aside many of his societal mores and explore professional help for his personal need for companionship, intimacy, and fulfillment of erotic desires. The realization that his successful and needed services of other professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, therapists, and financial advisors similarly extended to the realm of sex workers.

Aidan Allgood (moderator) is a professional houseboy, stand-up comedian and bon vivant. He’s been a kinky little devil all of his life, and loves to share his experiences and love of BDSM and positive perversity with the public. He currently resides in that most emerald of cities, Seattle WA.

FULL PANEL DESCRIPTION:

Sex Workers in Society
The Unsung Wisdom & Societal Contributions of Erotic Services Providers
Subjected to the judgemental or paternalistic projections of forces outside of their industry, sex workers often operate in secrecy, engaging in a blackmarket economy where the risk for criminal punishment and extreme social shaming is high for both provider and client alike. Why do clients persist in soliciting sex workers when the risk is so high? What are sex workers offering their clients that the world doesn’t see or understand? In this panel discussion, people with direct experience in the adult industry will share perspectives on what sex workers bring to the world, and how they and their clients are effected by laws and social values pertaining to the trade.

Interview with ESPLERP Founder and Activist Maxine Doogan

Interview with ESPLERP Founder and Activist Maxine Doogan
By Sol Finer
We at SWOP-Seattle were incredibly lucky to have activist Maxine Doogan visit this week. To those unfamiliar with Maxine, she is one of the three erotic service providers along with one client that filed suited in Federal court against the DA in California and four counties for enforcing the laws that they feel are infringing on their Constitutional rights by allowing the exchange of money and erotic services (among other things) . Maxine has been a sex worker for over two decades and an activists for nearly as long. She was one of the initiators of Prop K back in the early aughts that looked to decriminalize prostitution in California. Before I get into too much detail, I’d rather let her tell her own story…. Please be sure to read to the bottom where links to to the ESPLERP, the court brief, twitter accounts and other important info. As Maxine so accurately says, it is time to take back the sex worker narrative. Read about Maxine’s story below and be sure to support her efforts by clicking on the liberate to emancipate link to make a donation!

·      Let’s start with some background for the folks that aren’t familiar with you. Who are you, where are you from, how’d you get into sex work?

 I have been working for 25 years. I always wanted to work in the business – I read “The Happy Hooker” when I was 12. I was lucky to find somebody who had worked in the Anchorage massage parlor. She was able to place me, you know, she wanted me to have the best situation. And so I did, I had a really good situation. I was trained by an old Nevada brothel worker.

I began working in Alaska, where I am from but in the late 1980s the price of oil dropped. The resulting massive budget cuts caused a mass exodus from the state. The jobs losses coincided with the Gulf War. Alaska is very much supported by military bases. We were getting military guys to coming into our massage parlors who were being deployed. They felt like they were going to their deaths in the Middle East. Coming to see us in the parlor was their hurrah. It wasn’t a good situation. I migrated to Seattle with everyone else and lived there for 5 years. Then onto California and have been there since. I lived for a year in San Francisco then a year in LA on Venice Beach (which was great!) and then moved back to San Francisco.

·      The internet has changed the industry at a fundamental level. It has brought the majority of women off the streets, increased safety/visibility; some would even say that things like Twitter have truly galvanized the community. As someone that has been in the sex industry for so long, how do you feel about these changes?

 Well, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with ideas that moving the population indoors is what has happened. We don’t have any in depth research. The statements you just made are statements made by white, mostly indoor workers who never worked before the internet. We don’t even have any idea what the facts are behind these statements. What part of the industry has moved indoors – we have no stats. We just don’t. I’ve worked the streets. There are a lot of changes, we don’t have any good research on our population. Part of Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education, and Research Project (ESPLERP), is we put together a research evaluation tool. Researchers are asked to look over and providers are asked to looked it over.  Those are the best practices. We have been trying to get good research. But there is no funding. The work we do is all unpaid labor. Some of the research that’s out there does not meet the most basic scientific standards. It is essentially just people’s opinions put forth as fact and we need to do better.  We need to organize Labor/Solidarity style to take control of our narrative. Regardless of the rubber stamping of “accredited institutions”, we need to do our own community-based research.

·      Using the non-profit, Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education, and Research Project (ESPLERP), you have filed suit with three other providers and a client against the state of California. Can you provide a bit of context, i.e., tell me about what prompted you to move forward with litigation and what you hope to gain from it?

 What prompted the litigation is that as a union organizer for our industry, we want to “do that ask.” Our bosses are our voters, essentially – voters who vote for the legislators who then implement these bad laws. With Prop K, we didn’t get the response we had hoped for. A good part of that is that we didn’t have the fundraising capacity. In America, money is speech. People were reluctant to donate because they were worried about having their info published under campaign finance laws. We were not able to raise funds.  The issue was to try to figure another mechanism to collect donations and provide anonymity. That was why we created the 501(c)3. That’s pretty typical.  In the failure of Prop K, I called Margo St. James and she said ‘ you are going to have to do a court case.’  We knew that legal actions is was what we had to do. It took a year of doing stuff with groups like the Free Speech Coalition which put me in contact with the attorney who filed our case, Louis Sirkin.

We are going to have the California prostitution law,647(b)  invalidated. We filed in federal court so any good ruling will have an affect on all the other similar laws in federal ninth circuit court district– Alaska to Hawaii. That way we will be able to invalidate the bad laws across the land because they violate our constitutional rights.  Right to free speech, right to associate, right to privacy-private sexual commerace. Hopefully we can get a good ruling. We are suing the state Attorney General. She is supposed to uphold the Constitution and we think this law is unconstitutional. We are suing four counties for enforcing the anti prostitution law. They are supposed to uphold the Constitution as well. Regardless, this is our opportunity to organize in a bigger way.

 My concern too is that Robyn Few, the founder of swop died when she was 57 years old. I’m close her. We need the next generation to step up and get some training.  The end game is organizing. The end game is having a highly organized work force that can promote the good values that we all hold as erotic services providers. We contribute to society and we want to be able to contribute without being discriminated against.

·      Filing a lawsuit means giving up your anonymity and facing the court, the press, the prohibitionists, the law, and so on under your real name. This is a tremendous risk to your practice… your life… how have things changed in since the filing?

Well, I was out way before the filing. I have been out for a long time. I was out in 2008 because I was the proponent of Prop K. I was out before that because I did a bunch of media at KPFA (A Berkeley radio station) as an out whore. I was organized and my mentor, Daisy Anarchy was out. I spent about 2 years with Daisy. I wanted to figure out why the sex workers rights movement was in the toilet. It was the late 1990s/early 2000s and there was no focused effort on decrim. Now I know why. It takes a tremendous amount of work and it’s all unpaid. It’s a lot of unpaid time. I learned from Daisy what was not working. And what was not working was the sex worker rights’ movement where everyone had their own agenda. They didn’t have a strategy or solidarity. One of the things I work on – is getting our members into labor school. The movement has missed so many opportunities, due to lack of teamwork- those are our problems. The only way around that is to get training.

 I started negotiating my anonymity a long, long time ago. I had already planned on being out when I made my first movie – Legalization Sucks. But I had kids. So I had to wait until my kids were on their way to college so that anything that happened to me wouldn’t impact them.  My kids understand criminialization can harm. Most of the women I run around with are mothers. If something were to happen to them, they and their children would be severely impacted financially. I wanted to make sure by the time I really put myself out there, my kids would not be impacted. I have already been to jail, I have really bad things happen to me so I wanted to minimize my risk in any way I could. There’s not much more they can do to me!

 ·      The press loves salacious, sensationalist stories. What has your experience with the mainstream media been like? Do reporters seem interested in decrim? Or has your experience been more along the lines of, “tell me all your dirty secrets”?

Nobody has in mainstream media has asked that question. As a result of social media there are tons of whore stories out there. I don’t feel like there has been much interest in any salacious aspects of my story. At least in the bay area when I did prop K, the media realized that wasn’t really what they wanted to report on. They could see that it was a serious ballot initiation. I feel really respected by the media, I have had training to deal with the media. We just had Reason TV come and they wanted to do a piece on client. We have a client who is part of our movement, who is not a plaintiff in our case, and he was able to tell his story. I am able to line the media up with our narrative. I can negotiate people’s anonymity for them and have the media respect them to get their stories out there.

We need to change the narrative for whore nation. The narrative is old and tired. Our job is to give the public a story and move them to action. I do enough unpaid work. I am not going to entertain media for shits and giggles. I am busy. I have to work really hard to support myself and have enough to do without more unpaid work. I am not going to be pissing around if there is no benefit. Is the activity I am involved in right now have any benefit? How is it going to benefit whore nation?? If you are just telling whore stories, you are repeating history. We already have notorious media whores that have been the face of our movement for decades and good on them but it hasn’t moved anyone to take action.

 ·      There has been a push over the last couple of years in WA state to move toward the “Nordic model” under “End Demand.” How do you feel about this model and what are the benefits/detractions of such a program?

 Well, you know, it’s a failed approach. And I think the makers of that policy feel that already. That they know the whole trafficking narrative was funded by big oil. Who’s behind all that is big oil. It is a distraction for the public, for activists in our movement, and it is a really good strategy. It is one that the bosses often employ to move the attention away from workers being in struggle of their rights. The reality is that anyone who is being forced, fraud or coerced to work as a whore is not going to benefit from being arrested for prostitution. If you really care about forced fraud and coercion, further criminalizing our clients isn’t the way to go. Clients are often times the first responders to people who are in bad situations. Clients and erotic service providers alike have provided the means by which folks are able to move on to their next right thing without expending police recourses.  That’s a good thing! We’ve used our resources in these situations over and over again because we know there are no real ‘services’ out there that don’t involve praising the lord.

 We included a client plaintiff in our case because we wanted to ensure that the primary transaction has as much dignity as possible.   All parties  must have the right to negotiate for services and safety.  And beyond that I really wanted to say that I know its hard to tear our attention away from that train wreck of the anti’s narrative but its what we have to do.  I know personally of the hardship of spending my unpaid time railing against their discriminatory legislation, but its an opportunity for us to put forward what we want.

 Everyone would stand to benefit from meaningful and accessible anti discrimination We need to educate legislators at the local, state and national level and demand that they enact the Obama administration statement that was included in the 2010 Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, “We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution” in, (http://www.state.gov/j/drl/upr/157986.htm).

 It would behoove us to move our legal sector sex industry brothers and sisters; adult film performers, webcammers, exotic dancers, pro doms/subs, to spend their social and political capital to demand meaningful and accessible anti discrimination legislation in housing, employment, education, child custody and access to financial instruments for themselves now.  This would go a long way to help lay the foundation of what equal protection under the law should look like for our whole industry.

Support Maxine and the legal effort by making a donation at: https://liberatetoemancipate.tilt.com/

 Read the legal brief here.Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational, and Research Project website is here.

Also, check out www.espu-ca.org for union info and Twitter accounts: @espunion, @esplerp

Whore Nation needs your support, your voice, and your financial donation (in whatever amount works for you). Show your support, use your voice, and make a donation. This matters.

IHeartASexWorker1-1

SWOP-Seattle participates in historic Trans*Pride and Pride

Did we really have to wait this long to hear the courts say that people are free to love and marry the person of their choosing?!  We are happy that such a fundamental right has been granted, and were excited to participate in the historic Pride Weekend in Seattle!

That said, we are in full support of Monica Jones’ most serious and scathing words of the weekend –  “The average income of a trans woman is around $10,000.  Why would I care about getting married if I am homeless and living under a bridge?”  Pointing out that murder, violence and economic inequality and discrimination are experienced regularly by trans women, and that all too often it seems as if the gay rights movement has let down the queer community, side stepped the social justice ideal of rights for all individuals, and fought for rights by saying  “Look, we are just like you!  We deserve rights too.”

Human rights are HUMAN RIGHTS.  Thank you Monica, for saying something that (judging from the reaction of participants who visited our booth afterwards) needed desperately to be said…

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Just a note:  We were all proud to be involved in this weekends events!  However we were unable to reach all individuals before posting, and defer to the face blurring out of respect for the potential security and privacy concerns of our volunteers.

Seeking: Perspective from Clients of Sex Workers

In recognition of Sex Worker Appreciation Day (July 21st), SWOP-Seattle will be hosting several events, one of which is a panel discussion entitled Sex Workers In Society: The Unsung Wisdom & Societal Contributions of Erotic Services Providers. It is critical to us that we share the perspectives of people who experience the services of sex workers, as a discussion on this topic is incomplete without this side of the story.

Clients of Sex Workers: We Want to Hear From You!
If you are currently or have been a client of strippers, webcam models, escorts, sensual touch providers, sacred intimates, Pro-Dommes, or other types of sex workers, we would like to invite you to share your perspectives in our upcoming panel. In a time when all clients are being painted as monstrous, abusive “Johns”, we are hoping to dispel harmful stereotypes, and shed the light of humanity on this misunderstood topic.

There are two ways you can participate:

1. In Person as a Panelist (panel will be July 20, 21, or 22…exact date TBD)
Ideally, we would have at least one client who will speak to their experience. We will do everything we can to make this a safe space for you, including forbidding recording of any kind, and planning questions or statements with you ahead of time. We are accustomed to protecting our sex worker community members who come out to speak, and we will do the same for you. If you would like to discuss this opportunity with us, please contact Savannah at events@swop-seattle.org,

2. With a Written Statement (deadline for submission July 19th)
To show the diversity of people and reasons why people solicit sex workers, we are accepting written statements from people, which will be read throughout the panel by the moderator. If you would like to send in an anonymous statement, please choose to answer one or several of the questions below, and email them to Savannah at events@swop-seattle.org.

If you choose to do a written statement, please make it no longer than 200 words. These will be read out loud, and we want to make sure to have time for everyone’s statements.

Questions (answer as many or as few as you like)

— What is your experience with sex workers, and how have these experiences effected you?
— What has been your motivation for seeing sex workers?
— How are you effected by the laws and societal views surrounding prostitution and other forms of adult entertainment?
— If you were not able to engage in the adult industry anymore, how do you think you would be effected?
— Tell us about yourself. What type of person are you? How do you identify?
— Is there anything else you would like to say?

Email your answers to to Savannah at events@swop-seattle.org

Thank you to everyone who chooses to participate in the project. Thank you to everyone who forwards this to a potential participant. Together, we can help change stereotypes, and educate the public on this complex issue.

About the Panel
The exact date of the panel has TBD, but will be on July 20, 21, or 22.
The time of the panel will hopefully be 7-9pm
The exact location of the panel is still being secured, but it will be in a public venue and advertised to the public. We accept donations at these events and sell books, hand out educational materials. All donations got to SWOP-Seattle.

The audience will likely be a mix of sex work supporters, college students, people seeking to expand their understanding of sex work, current and retired sex workers, and people who have overlapping interest in LBGTQ, labor, and human rights as well as sexuality. We will actively reach out to a handful of journalists who have been interested in covering sex work in their writing, as well as any civic officials who we think could benefit from the conversations.

Below is a working panel description, which may be tailored slightly depending on who the panelists end up being:

Sex Workers in Society
The Unsung Wisdom & Societal Contributions of Erotic Services Providers (working title)
Subjected to the judgemental or paternalistic projections of forces outside of their industry, sex workers often operate in secrecy, engaging in a blackmarket economy where the risk for criminal punishment and extreme social shaming is high for both provider and client alike. Why do clients persist in soliciting sex workers when the risk is so high? What are sex workers offering their clients that the world doesn’t see or understand? In this panel discussion, people with direct experience in the adult industry will share perspectives on what sex workers bring to the world, and how they and their clients are effected by laws and social values pertaining to the trade.

Sunday July 19th – Sex Worker Appreciation Day Comedy & Variety Show!

When we talk about sex work, it’s often in the context of labor rights, safety, and stigma, heavy topics which often eclipse the vibrant culture that sex workers have developed for themselves. Also overlooked is the wisdom and amazing goodness that sex workers can and do bring into the world each and every day. Time to let down our hair and celebrate our existence and value in society!

Please join us on Sunday July 19th at the Highway 99 Blues Club for our Sex Worker Appreciation Day Comedy & Variety Show, featuring a hot line up a knock out performers!

ADVANCE TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW – CLICK HERE

This show is a benefit for the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Seattle, a grassroots non-profits composed entirely of volunteers committed to the human rights and safety of sex workers. 

ComedyVariety.72

Comedian Kaitlyn Bailey – Kaytlin Bailey’s nothing-to-lose honesty and brazen comedic style is sure to make you laugh, or avoid eye contact with your significant other…and mom.
Burlesque Star Maggie McMuffin – Sometimes sultry, sometimes silly,  burlesque dancer extraordinaire Maggie McMuffin ALWAYS brings the sexy!
Jae the Bobcat Girl – Award winning  playwright, an acclaimed performance artist, ordained minster, and  birthday clown, Jae the Bobcat Girl is ready to ROCK YOU.
“The Honest Courtesan” Maggie McNeill – Taking the stage as MC for the evening is the one and only Maggie McNeill, one of the sharpest commentators around on all things sex work.

Selling Sex: Contradicting Violence with Choice

Dr. Jill McCracken is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in rhetoric; writing studies; gender & sexuality studies, and feminist theory. Her research interests include the rhetoric of marginalized communities, in particular sex work & sex trafficking; violence against girls and women; sexuality education; and ethnography & participatory research methods.

Sex worker and trans activist Monica Jones in Seattle!

Monica Jones will be speaking at this years Trans Pride.  Monica has been a prominent speaker, advocate and educator about laws that target Trans women of color, sex workers, and women of color. SWOP-Seattle is honored to co-presenting Monica with the Gender Justice League.

http://www.transprideseattle.org/ending-trans-profiling-monica-jones-sex-worker-trans-activist/

monica

 

We Support ESPLERP in calling for decriminalization!

The California advocacy group Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that California’s anti-prostitution law is unconstitutional.

According to their brief, California’s prostitution laws:

  • deprive individuals of the fundamental right to engage in consensual, private sexual activity;
  • deny individuals the right to choose for themselves how to earn a living and who to enter a contract with;
  • limit how and with whom and individual can associate in private;
  • discourage safe sex because the possession of condoms is used as evidence by prosecutors.

Read more and find out how to support this historic effort!

https://liberatetoemancipate.tilt.com/

lawsuit

Parking in ‘Designated Area of High Prostitution Activity’ Could Get Your Car Impounded in Spokane

We are disappointed to see the City of Spokane resorting to community policing, asset seizure, and shame tactics to deter street based sex work in the city. Not only do these types of apporaches drive sex workers to more desolate, unsafe areas, but they fail to address the root causes of street based and survival sex work, which include homelessness, race and gender discrimination, mental illness, and drug addiction. These policies also fail to go after people who are actually coercing others into the sex trade (sex traffickers or pimps), but rather places a siege on street based sex workers by reducing the market, which increases the stress and risk of the occupation and potentially exacerbates abusive relationships and coercion.

Click here to read a full article on this issue in Reason.

 

Until Washington can undertake a harm reduction approach to the sex trade, we will continue to see disproportionate systemic and direct violence directed towards sex workers, spurred by stigma and misguided policy enforcement.

SeeSomethingSaySomething

Summery of “Nothing About Us Without Us” Demonstration on #ISWRD

On International Sex Worker Rights Day, supporters from SWOP-Seattle amassed at the State House in Olympia to make the voices and concerns of sex workers known. Our goal today was to connect with Senators and Representatives who are either directly working on End Demand bills, or who we felt would be receptive to hearing our opinions as a community.

For a list of the bills we are concerned about, see this post.

Volunteers from SWOP-Seattle meet at the State House to express concerns over "End Demand" bills.

Volunteers from SWOP-Seattle meet at the State House to express concerns over “End Demand” bills.

 

Speaking with Policymakers:

On our way to the Legislative Building, we ran into Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who met with us a few weeks ago to discuss concerns over SB 5277 (increasing penalties for patronizing a prostitute to a gross misdemeanor). Kohl-Welles not only listened to us, but amended the bill to have the increased penalties go into effect only after a client’s third conviction. We thanked her today for this change, and she said she wasn’t sure if it would stick. We’ll try to follow up on this, to make sure it does.

Once we got into the Legislative Building, we met with Representative June Robinson, who graciously left the floor (The House of Representatives is in session this week) to meet us. We told her of our concerns over End Demand bills, and she listened. We thank Representative Robinson for her time, and hope to connect in the future about these issues, as she has a strong focus on Public health.

Next we intercepted Senator Joe Fein on his way back to the floor. Senator Fein is one of the sponsors of SB 5041 (concerning asset seizure) and SB 5277 (increasing penalties for patronizing a prostitute to a gross misdemeanor). We stated our concerns as a community, that these bills will harm more than help, and he gave us some time to hear us out. As Senator Fein is on the Rules Committee for at least one of these bills, we will be following up with his office to schedule a meeting, to explain our case more thoroughly.

In the hallway we ran into Senator Jeannie Darnielle, who was on the Law & Justice Committee hearing many of the End Demand bills we’re challenging. We talked to her for a few minutes, and during that time she stated that as a feminist, she felt very much against what we were standing for. She said that it was hard for her to see smart, articulate, beautiful girls like us in this line of work. We suggested that perhaps she was projecting some assumptions about what our line of work looks like, and we explained that the bills at hand would only hurt sex workers and trafficked people alike, disempowering an already marginalized and stigmatized community. We appreciate the Senator’s honesty an clear communication with us. We feel there is more to talk about here, and may contact Senator Darnielle for a deeper discussion.

A member of our group has a personal connection with Representative Frank Chopp, who was busy when we tried to gain his audience. His aids were very polite and said that we could follow up to make an appointment with him. We will be getting in touch with Representative Chopp, as we sense he will be receptive to our concerns as a community.

Lastly, we flooded the office of Senator Steve O’Ban, who is the sponsor of SB 5041 (concerning asset seizure) and SB 5277 (increasing penalties for patronizing a prostitute to a gross misdemeanor), and who was also on the Law & Justice Committee we have been recently testifying at. During our testimony, Mr. O’Ban’s language around sex work (insisting on calling everyone working in the industry as a “victim”, and disdainfully saying that the word “John” was too good for clients) and eye-rolling made it clear that he is in need of a conversation with our group. We were unable to pull him from the floor today, but we made an appointment for 3/17, during which we hope to make the concerns and realities of sex workers in Seattle plainly known to him. We look forward to sharing our perspectives, even with someone who seems as adamantly opposed to our views as Mr. O’Ban.

In Conclusion, a Successful Day!

Overall, today was a very empowering Sex Worker Rights Day! We made new connections with policymakers, and we got coverage from King 5 News and KOMO News, sharing with the broader public why we we are taking action against End Demand. We want to thank everyone who came out to support us, from the sex workers who took the risk to show their faces and speak out, to the friends, family members, and human rights activists who support our cause. Thank you!

One of the handouts we were distributing, which highlights the bills we are alarmed about.

One of the handouts we were distributing, which highlights the bills we are alarmed about.

Sex Workers in Alaska Taking Action

Our neighbors to the North in Alaska are contending with the same approach to sex-trafficking that we are seeing here in WA. A group of sex workers called CUSP has been working to speak out and take action against sex-trafficking bills that conflate sex work with sex trafficking, and which even result in sex workers being charged with “trafficking” themselves. You can read about the issues CUSP is addressing here, on their website. 

SWOP-Seattle stands with sex workers in Alaska, and calls for the state to address issues of poverty, police violence, discrimination, and homelessness as a means of reducing abuse, rather than using the police to try and “eradicate” prostitution.

Watch "More Harm than Good: Sex Trafficking Law in Anchorage, Alaska"

Watch “More Harm than Good: Sex Trafficking Law in Anchorage, Alaska”

Summery of Proposed “End Demand” Bills in WA

Updated Sunday Feb 28th, 2015

Members of the Sex Workers Outreach Project in Seattle are gravely concerned over the recently surge of bills being heard in the House and Senate to “End Demand” for prostitution. We are adamantly opposed to the increased criminalization of clients of sex workers (also referred to as the Swedish Model or End Demand), and the criminalization of the sex industry to begin with. There is no evidence to support the assertions that End Demand policies increase sex worker safety or reduces sex trafficking.  On the contrary, there is much evidence that these policies increase the risk of violence for everyone involved in sexual commerce, and have negative public health consequences.

The following is a summary of the multiple bills SWOP-Seattle members have been testifying against, and the reasons why we oppose these measures. If you are similarly concerned about these bills, please follow the links to the .gov pages where you can leave comments or contact the policymakers overseeing these bills.

Bills Discussed in this article:

  • HB 1558 & SB 5041Concerning Seizure & Forfeiture of Property for Patronizing a Prostitute/Sexual Exploitation
    HB 1651 & SB 5342: Concerning Definitions Related to Human Trafficking
    SB 5277: Concerning the Crime of Patronizing a Prostitute
    SB 5880: Enacting the Washington Human Trafficking Reporting Act

    • Civil Forfeiture•

    HB 1558 & SB 5041Concerning Seizure and Forfeiture of Property for Patronizing a Prostitute/Sexual Exploitation   

    Summary: HB 1588 & SB 5041 are two companion bills that will implement civil forfeiture punishments for patronizing a prostitute. The Senate Law & Justice committee recently changed the language of SB 5041 from “patronizing a prostitute” to “sexual exploitation.” Civil forfeiture allows police to take assets from a person suspected of purchasing sex without having to convict, let alone charge the owner with the wrongdoing. A recent amendment to the bill restricts asset seizure to those only with a prior “sexual exploitation” conviction and those present in areas deemed “high prostitution activity” zones. The police department and the prosecuting attorney appropriate the money gained from the assets, while only a small amount remains for potential victim services.

    *For the most up to date information on the status of the bills go to HB 1558 & SB 5041

    Our Concerns

     

    • Language: The language of both bills (SB 5041 especially) conflates consensual sexual commerce with sexual exploitation, human trafficking and “modern day slavery.” The bills make no differentiation between a person who purchases sex from a consenting individual and a person who sexually exploits a minor. Further, there is no empirical evidence that demonstrates a link between the demand for consensual sexual services and sexual exploitation.
    • Safety of Sex Workers: Both bills are part of a larger ‘End Demand’ campaign that is sweeping the nation. This campaign attempts to end the demand for sex work by further penalizing individuals who purchase sex. As we have seen with the ‘War on Drugs,’ the criminalization approach does not work and does far more harm than good. If passed, these bills would drive the market for sexual commerce further underground. Research compiled by the United Nations Development Fund and the Global Commission on HIV and the Law found that increasing penalties for demand puts the health and safety of both consensual sex workers and sexually exploited individuals at risk.
    • Policing for Profit: Civil forfeiture incentivizes policing for profit. Under these bills the police department and the prosecuting attorney’s office have exclusive access to all the profits gained from selling seized assets. NONE of the profits from selling these assets are made available to victims services. The only profits that would go toward victims services come from newly proposed vehicle recovery fines (separate from the impoundment and towing fees). Under this amendment, half of these proceeds would benefit law enforcement to further enforce this bill, and the other half is allotted for victim services and “john school.” This distribution of revenue prioritizes policing over rehabilitative services.
    • Violation of Constitution: The constitutionality of civil forfeiture has been heavily contested by many legal organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union. Civil forfeiture violates a person’s right to due process and assumption of innocence until proven guilty. The procedures for an innocent person to retrieve their seized assets—which could include, among other things, their home, car and cash—is intentionally difficult and unclear. UPDATE: An amendment has been made to this bill to to more clearly lay out the process to get the assets back, but there are still many hoops to jump through in order to repossess one’s property.
    • Disparate Impact on People of Color: A comprehensive study conducted on civil forfeiture found that these laws have a disparate impact on individuals of color. Further, the ramifications of these laws extend beyond the individual and have a negative impact on families and communities. UPDATE: The latest version of SB 5041 includes vehicle recovery fees of $500-$2,500, in addition to standard impoundment and towing fees. This would impact lower-income families who may not have the resources to recover their vehicle yet rely on it to get to school and work.  
    • UPDATE: Stigma of Being Present in Certain Neighborhoods. The most recent amendment restricts asset seizure to those with prior “sexual exploitation” convictions and those found in newly designated and clearly marked “high prostitution activity” zones (known also as SOAP – Stay Out of Area of Prostitution). This amendment paints entire regions with the heavy stigma of prostitution, which can be systemically and directly harmful to the inhabitants of that region. Also, this undesirable association with prostitution would decrease the property value of all homes (seizable assets) in these neighborhoods, as well as inhibit economic and business growth as people avoid frequenting these areas.

    Who to contact to voice your concern about this legislation

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/memberemail/Default.aspx

  • Senate Representatives Muri, Orwall, Stokesbary, Haler, Kilduff, Klippert, Riccelli, Ryu, Wylie
    • In the House: Senators O’Ban, Fain, Dammeier

     

 

    • HB 1651 & SB 5342: Concerning Definitions Related to Human Trafficking

      Summary: SB 1651 & SB 5342 expand the definition of human trafficking to mean—among other changes– “an act conducted for the purpose for exploitation, including forced labor, by particular means, for example threat of use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud or deceptive, abuse of power, or abuse of position of vulnerability.”

      * For the most up to date information on the status of the bills go to HB 1651 & SB 5342

      Our Concerns

      • Language: With the city of Seattle’s recent renaming of “patronizing a prostitute” to be “sexual exploitation” and the adoption of this language in Senate Bill 5041 it is clear how quickly patronizing a prostitute (“sexual exploitation”) can be defined as trafficking. These bills make no distinction between consenting sexual commerce and sexual exploitation. This language codifies the belief that patronizing a prostitute is inherently exploitative, creates confusion as to what sexual exploitation actually is, and reduces our ability to discern and address actual exploitation.
      • Harmful Redundancy: Sexual exploitation that involves underage persons or adults subjected to force, fraud, or coercion is a serious violation of human rights, and is already illegal under Washington state law. The proposed bills are not only redundant, but their expanded definition jeopardizes the safety of sex workers—the very population the bills purport to protect. Sex work by individuals who are choosing to sell sexual services and that does not include elements of force, fraud, or coercion is not inherently exploitative, and it is not trafficking.
      • Safety of Sex Workers: Both bills are part of a larger ‘End Demand’ campaign that is sweeping the nation. This campaign attempts to end the demand for sex work by further penalizing individuals who purchase sex. As we have seen with the ‘War on Drugs,’ the criminalization approach does not work and does far more harm than good. If passed, these bills would drive the market for sexual commerce further underground. Research compiled by the United Nations Development Fund and the Global Commission on HIV and the Law found that increasing penalties for demand puts the health and safety of both consensual sex workers and sexually exploited individuals at risk

      Find representative contact info here:

    • http://apps.leg.wa.gov/memberemail/Default.aspx
       

House: 

    Representatives Ryu, Goodman, Rodne, Griffey, Van Werven, Wylie, Moscoso, Ormsby, Santos

  • Senate:  Senators Hasegawa, Kohl-Welles,Padden, McAuliffe, Brown, Keiser, Roach, Chase, Conway
  • SB 5277: Concerning the Crime of Patronizing a Prostitute

    Summary: SB 5277 increases the penalties for patronizing a prostitute from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor. An amendment to the bill put forth by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the bill’s original sponsor, increases the penalties only after a second conviction. While we appreciate that the amendment is a step in the right direction, we still have grave concerns about the End Demand Approach the bill adopts.

    *For the most up to date information on the status of the bills go to SB 5277

    Our Concerns

    • Health and Safety Risks: Criminalization and the aggressive policing of sex work are shown to increase both consenting adult sex workers and trafficked victims vulnerability to violence, extortion, and health risks.  The criminalization of clients diminishes sex workers’ bargaining capacity, ability to screen out dangerous individuals, and the time and space necessary to negotiate safety practices such as condom usage.  Studies compiled by the UN Development Fund and the Global Commission on HIV and the Law show that the End Demand Approach puts sex workers at greater risk for exposure to HIV and other STIs.
    • Prohibition Begets Violence: Violence against both consenting adult sex workers and trafficked victims largely stems from the illegal nature of the market for sex. Many sex workers who may be experiencing abuses do not feel safe to come forward for fear of arrest or arrest of their non-abusive clients. An amnesty agreement to report abuses will go much further towards creating this safety, than a simple shift in enforcement. We feel that End Demand tactics are a form of criminal prohibition, and we would like to for policymakers to consider the unintended consequences of this approach. Criminal prohibition did not work in the war on drugs, why will it work now?
    • Incarceration of Nonviolent Individuals: The U.S. has come under repeated criticism from international human rights organizations for the mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders. SB5277 makes no distinction between abusive and non-abusive clients. A client who purchases sex from a consenting adult sex worker is subject to the same punishment as a client who purchases sex from a juvenile forced into providing sexual labor. We find the use of criminal punishment to penalize individuals conducting their private affairs to be moralistic and exacerbating of the harmful stigma already associated with the sex trade.
    • End Demand is Not Evidence Based: There is no evidence to support the End Demand Approach. Data compiled by the UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law and the UN Global Development Fund found that since Sweden enacted their policy to criminalize the demand for sex work the policy has not improved the lives of sex workers–in fact, it has worsened their situation.

    Who to contact to voice your concern about this legislation –

  • Find representative contact info here: 
  • http://apps.leg.wa.gov/memberemail/Default.aspx
  • Senate: Senators Kohl-Welles,Darneille, Padden, Pedersen, Fain, Frockt, Keiser, Chase, Fraser

 

  • SB 5880: Enacting the Washington Human Trafficking Reporting Act

    Summary: SB 5880 enacts mandatory training and reporting for individuals in fields and professions assumed to have contact with “those forced to engage in the sex trade.” This includes those in the hospitality or specialty industries, such as: spas, hotels, bars nightclubs, strip clubs, tattoo parlors, truck stops, restaurants, retail stores in malls, internet advertisements or dating services, and convenience stores. In addition, those who serve as first responders or in medical and public service, such as hospital staff, abortion clinics, schools, or child protective services. Individuals in these areas would receive training on how to identify potential victims. Under this bill any individual who knowingly fails to make or “cause to be made” a report pursuant with this law is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. This means up to a $5,000 dollar fine and one year in jail.

    *For the most up to date information on the status of the bills go to SB 5880

    Our Concerns

    • Not Evidence Based: Section (1) of the bill begins with a number of alarmist statistics about the number of children in the illicit sex trade. These statics are grossly inflated and empirically incorrect. Codifying statics that have been empirically disproven will only hurt, not help. Washington State prides itself in being an evidence-based legislature and it should continue to hold itself to that high standard.
    • Misreporting: The threat of severe punishment and the ambiguous language in the bill may lead to an influx of misreporting for fear of penalties. These false reports may inundate the already resource scarce criminal and legal system and detract from pursuing actual cases of exploitation and abuse. Washington State has recently come under scrutiny for its inability to processes backlogged rape kits. We fear that police and prosecutors will similarly mishandle mandatory reports of sexual exploitation.
    • Harmful Redundancy: Washington State law already requires individuals in service provider positions to report suspected abuse. Unlike bar tenders or tattoo artists, these individuals are trained by profession to recognize harm and abuse—and will most likely repeatedly come into contact with individuals suffering abuses. New legislation that increases penalties for not reporting, and includes unqualified individuals will not increase sound reports.
    • Health and Safety Risks: Increased reporting may actually deter individuals experiencing abuse from seeking assistance. We have seen this play out in the area of partner abuse. Abused individuals need safe spaces to seek assistance. These laws are not conducive to creating safe environments for victims and service providers.

    Who to contact to voice your concern about this legislation

Local Sex Workers Speak Out Against Proposed Legislation

 from KUOW
http://kuow.org/post/local-sex-workers-speak-out-against-proposed-legislation

Marcie Sillman speaks with Washington state Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, about the need for legislation which would crack down on people buying sex in an effort to stop human trafficking.

Also, Sillman speaks with local sex worker Mary about why some sex workers oppose the legislation. Mary is a pseudonym used to protect our guest’s identity.

Meet the Sex Workers Who Lawmakers Don’t Believe Exist

Before Mary became a sex worker, she was a corporate accountant. “My joke is that then I felt like the biggest whore of my life,” she says. KELLY O

Before Mary became a sex worker, she was a corporate accountant. “My joke is that then I felt like the biggest whore of my life,” she says. KELLY O

How a New Anti-Trafficking Push in Olympia Is Disrespecting and Endangering Consensual Sex Workers

Mary is doing God’s work. She takes between one and four appointments a week, scheduled 48 hours in advance. She subsidizes sessions for her disabled clients, one of whom is a 28-year-old with multiple sclerosis. She gets down on all fours and curls up into a ball to show me the only position he can use.

Mary isn’t her real name. But in her line of work, no one has real names.

Mary is beautiful. She’s 41 years old and has the nicest skin I’ve ever seen. She’s not wearing makeup when we go out for breakfast (eggs Benedict with fruit, no hash browns), and she’s pulled her hair up into a small bun that sits on the top of her head.

Before Mary became a sex worker, she was a corporate accountant. “My joke is that then I felt like the biggest whore of my life,” she says. Before that, she toured with the Grateful Dead, sold hair wraps and ganja goo balls, and stripped for a few months. Mary grew up in Tacoma at a time when dealers sold heroin at all-ages punk shows. She left home when she was 13, but stayed in school.

In her 30s, after discovering a community of sex-based spiritual healers, Mary came to sex work. Hers is not the stereotypical street-based prostitution horror story, but she’s far from the only person with a story like this. “One of the reasons we’re dismissed is that there’s this belief that we’re so out of touch with the harms of the industry,” Mary says. “And so it really can be a fine line to walk to say, ‘No, I am empowered, I am making choices, and not only am I making choices, but these choices have been the best decisions I have made in my life.'”

No one actually knows how many people like Mary are in Seattle. Nor is it easy to estimate the number of women, men, or children who are forced into sex work. But King County prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg argues that self-employed sex workers like Mary are a tiny minority. In January, at an anti-trafficking event held at Town Hall, he said that people like Mary make up just 1 percent of the sex-worker population: “If there is 1 percent of women who are being sold in prostitution who are happy with that life, if 1 percent—I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who is—but if there is 1 percent of them, that doesn’t mean we should turn our backs to the 99 percent of them who continue to be abused in our community.”

The fight over how to think about sex work is so old, it can fairly be described as ancient. But this year, that fight—and the search for numbers to use as rallying cries in the latest sex-work policy wars—has taken on specific urgency because of a bill in Olympia to increase penalties for buying sex. The bill is part of a wider campaign to “end demand” for paid sex, a campaign that rises from one particular side of the local sex-work debate—the side occupied by Satterberg and his view that “99 percent” of sex workers are forced, coerced, frauded, or unfairly primed for the trade.

“I’m assuming he didn’t cite where that research came from?” Meredith Dank asks when I tell her of Satterberg’s “99 percent” claim.

Dank is a sex-trafficking researcher and lead author of a Department of Justice–funded study published last year that looked at the sex industry across eight American cities, including Seattle. “There’s been no rigorous evidence to prove prevalence, how many victims actually exist,” she says. “That question has never been answered. You can’t just say 99 percent identify as a victim. Statements like that don’t help, because they’re not grounded in anything.”

When I follow up with Satterberg about his stats, he cites an opinionated essay from anti-prostitution activist and researcher Melissa Farley, published in Logos, a quarterly journal of “modern culture, politics, and society.” Farley’s piece reads: “Only a tiny percentage of all women in prostitution are there because they freely choose it. Most of the 1 percent who choose prostitution are privileged because of their ethnicity and class and they have escape options.”

The rest of the piece discusses how prostitution ought to be considered an inherent form of gender-based violence, and how liberals who acknowledge the existence of consensual sex work effectively deny the existence of sex trafficking.

This is one of the many constricting binaries of the current sex-work debate in Olympia: Either you’re with the anti-trafficking movement or you’re pro-gender-based violence. To keep this black-and-white view churning along, people like Mary—people who feel fulfilled by sex work—can’t be discussed. For example, when sex-worker activists drove to Olympia to testify before the legislature in late January, lawmakers shut down the public-comment session before the activists had a chance to speak. Five days later, when anti-trafficking groups spoke about ending demand at Satterberg’s Town Hall event, sex workers stood up in the audience and asked if their views could be considered, too. “No one is entitled to buy sex from another human being,” senior deputy prosecuting attorney Val Richey said at the event. “We shouldn’t give that act the credibility of official endorsement.”

This much is not debatable: Sex trafficking is a particularly vicious form of forced labor. Dank’s DOJ study found evidence of trafficking in all eight American cities studied, including Seattle, and concluded that gang involvement in Seattle sex-trafficking circuits had increased. It also noted that federal and local law enforcement—a group of people generally coming from the same perspective as Satterberg—felt like the underground commercial sex industry was much bigger than they had the resources to tackle, and that pimps felt like they had some kind of impunity.

But the underground market for commercial sex is bigger than trafficking alone. And contrary to Satterberg’s favored statistics, no one really knows what percentage of the industry’s workers are consensual and what percentage are sex slaves. Much of the problem comes down to a lack of funding to research an illegal trade. The other problem is the prevalence of studies that draw only on samples of street-based sex workers or people already connected to social workers—in other words, exactly the kind of people who are more likely to be trafficked or abused.

Though it’s easy to poke holes in Satterberg’s statistics, they’re also a major piece of the ammunition assembled to support three new “end demand” bills moving through the state legislature. One bill, SB 5277, increases the penalty for buying sex from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, which translates into a fine of up to $5,000 and up to a year of jail time. Another pair of bills, SB 5041 and HB 1558, allow law enforcement to seize the property of convicted johns.

Mary and other sex workers involved in the Sex Workers Outreach Project, Seattle (SWOP Seattle) say that harsher punishments and crackdowns on clients will only make their jobs more dangerous. On behalf of SWOP Seattle, Mary wrote a letter to lawmakers last month pointing out that a strategy to “end demand” for sex work often means that sex workers don’t receive enough information from jittery clients to screen them properly. When there’s less demand, sometimes sex workers are also forced to take work they wouldn’t normally go for—like condomless sex. Instead of continuing to criminalize the sex industry (even if it’s primarily on the demand side), SWOP would prefer a harm-reduction approach: more social services for vulnerable populations, amnesty for sex-trafficking victims and sex workers so they can report abuses, and inclusion in policy conversations that affect them.

“What UN AIDS and what UN Women say is that laws that target johns cause sex workers to have less time to negotiate for safe sex,” says Danielle Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League and a former sex worker herself. “Because johns are concerned with being arrested, they’re rushed in the negotiation, and it’s very difficult to negotiate condom usage.”

But even if the new legislation would adversely affect sex workers, anti-trafficking advocates say it’s no reason to change or kill the bills. In Seattle, trafficking survivor groups like the Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS) are enthusiastically pushing the “end demand” approach, and Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle), the main sponsor of SB 5277, points to research done by Debra Boyer, a cultural anthropologist and executive director of OPS, to support her “end demand” legislation.

“There really are no boundaries between free and coerced prostitution,” Boyer tells me. “Prostitution is gender violence. It is a product of the patriarchy; it is a product of men’s oppression of women.”

But what about the sex workers who say they’ve chosen their careers freely?

Boyer says if SWOP volunteers were smarter, they’d support the so-called “Nordic model,” which has become shorthand for the process of shifting criminalization away from the sex workers and toward their clientele. “The global trend is to get women [sex workers] into services,” Boyer says. “I think they should recognize that.”

Anti-trafficking groups in Washington do deserve credit for connecting victims of trafficking, as well as sex workers who want out of the life, with various social services. In addition to pushing “end demand” policies, organizations like OPS and Seattle Against Slavery are backing other state-level initiatives that would focus on preventing underage prostitution and fund help for victims.

But outside of those efforts, the Nordic model has hardly proved itself an effective strategy to cut down on the abuses of the sex trade. In Sweden, where the model first premiered in 1999, the National Board of Health and Welfare reported that street-based prostitution nearly disappeared after the country launched a ban on buying sex, but bounced back two-thirds by 2007. In 2010, the country’s official evaluation of the law claimed that it had reduced total prostitution, but also noted that no in-depth data existed on how the law had affected indoor sex work—which had been estimated to be twice or three times the size of the street-based sex market before the law had been implemented. Researchers who reported on prostitution while at the Nordic Gender Institute—now known as the Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK)—have commented that strategies to criminalize buying sex over selling sex often resulted in negative outcomes for sex workers, and authors of a 2014 article published in Criminology and Criminal Justicefound evidence of increased conflict among vulnerable Swedish sex workers, stealing, and the same kind of risky behavior highlighted by SWOP Seattle and the Gender Justice League. The NIKK researchers have also noted that the data that does exist on the Nordic model comes almost solely from street-based sex workers, or sex workers who are already connected to social workers or law enforcement—so, again, there’s the problem with the pool from which the statistics are drawn being more likely to include disempowered sex workers.

On top of this, for many sex workers—like those who work on the street or those who had limited options to begin with—creating higher penalties for buying takes away their only way of surviving. “For many of these individuals, getting at the demand is not going to solve the problem of how they entered into this in the first place,” Dank, the DOJ study researcher, says. “It has to do with basic needs, and the basic needs include love and support, in addition to shelter, food, clothing, et cetera. If you take away that, you’re not helping them. You’re actually making things a lot more difficult, because, you know, as morally repugnant as you find purchasing sex, it’s actually their source of income.”

Another complicated truth: Between the “carpet queens”—a term for indoor sex workers like Mary—and trafficking victims, lots of people occupy a gray area of limited choices and coercion. And not everyone who’s survived the gray area agrees with calling most sex workers victims and using that as reason to crack down on demand.

Karen—also not her real name—says she used to work as a street-based sex worker for years to feed her drug habit. When she first moved onto the street, she had a “boyfriend” who would demand dope money from her. She started working on her own after her drug dealer stopped her boyfriend—or pimp, really—from attacking her. “He freed me,” she says of the drug dealer.

Karen has been clean and out of the life for several years now. Still, she doesn’t think that lawmakers can arrest their way out of the violence faced by vulnerable sex workers. Nor does she like the idea, suggested by Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes, that johns should be listed on a sex-offender registry.

“Let me lay out a scenario when you make these guys register as sex offenders,” Karen says. “Married guy, low-income family. And they’re in low-income housing. And the guy decides to go out and buy some sex, and gets caught. The whole family will pay for that because you cannot be a registered sex offender in a federal housing program. It puts the whole family on the street. How’s that fair for going downtown and getting a little consensual sex?”

Other sex workers who got into the life because of constrained choices don’t necessarily agree with the “end demand” strategy, either. Sofia, 32, says she started working when she was 24 to pay off $6,000 of gambling and credit-card debt. (She also did not want her real name used.) As a trans woman and an immigrant, Sofia says she faced quite a bit of discrimination in the job market. The way Sofia explains it, sex work started out as a quick fix that stuck.

While Sofia’s glad that lawmakers are paying attention to ways to give sex workers alternative employment opportunities and crack down on trafficking, she also says that increased demand-side penalties could simply result in sex workers lowering their standards.

“Maybe they lower from $200 [an hour] to $50 just to get something,” she says. “The higher the money—it’s a screening process in some way.”

That said, Sofia adds that she wouldn’t necessarily encourage anyone to get into sex work in the first place. “It’s a hard life,” she says.

According to Senator Kohl-Welles, there’s another reason to lump trafficking victims and consensual sex workers together: the number of sex workers who have had traumatic sexual experiences as children. She asks: “Do we just put blinders on and say there’s no violence involved in this?”

Mary, as it happens, is a survivor of sexual violence as a teen. Of the 19 percent of women in the United States who are raped in their lifetimes, or the 44 percent who experience other kinds of sexual violence, more than half experience that violence before age 25, according to the most recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. (More than 40 percent of women in the first group are raped before they turn 18.)

But does that mean that sex workers who have had bad sexual experiences are in need of saving? Does it mean that their feeling of empowerment is, always and in every case, lingering psychological damage that needs fixing? The anti-trafficking debate has become so mired in absolutist thinking that it leaves little room for nuance or acknowledging the existence of multiple, complex truths.

“If someone has the happy hooker story, they have to stick with it,” Mary says. “The moment that I were to say something that is my truth, you know what that does? That gives people ammunition to say that the reason I’m choosing to do my work is because of that experience.”

To support the idea that adult sex workers simply extend or reenact the abuse they suffered as children, Kohl-Welles forwarded me a letter from Boyer—the local anthropologist and director of OPS—which itself cited the child-abuse connection from trauma expert Judith Lewis Herman’s 1997 book Trauma and Recovery. Herman, who is widely regarded as the foremost authority on the psychological effects of gender-based violence, noted in the book that traffickers can use psychological “seasoning” to ensnare victims. But it was in a separatebook authored by Melissa Farley that Herman wrote an introduction dealing with the link to child abuse. In it, Herman noted that survivors of child abuse are vulnerable to revictimization, which she demonstrated with clinical vignettes from sex workers already in trauma treatment.

There’s actually very little data to support the idea that most adult sex workers are working because they were trafficked or abused as children. Again, the problem comes down to studies that rely on samples of women living or working on the street—a sample slanted toward a particular statistical outcome.

A 2005 review of the scientific literature on the correlation between sex work and childhood sexual abuse published in the Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality concluded that lots of the studies that did make the link relied on flawed methodology and biased samples. And more recent research has cast doubt on the strength of the association between sexual abuse and sex work—it’s likely other factors, like poverty or dysfunctional home lives, that can create a bigger risk of going into sex work, said Jeffrey Parsons, founder of the Center for HIV Educational Studies & Training at Hunter College in New York. The landscape of the sex trade has changed in the last few decades, he adds. Almost no one studies internet-based sex work, which has dramatically reshaped the industry.

“Increasingly, the majority of sex workers feel that they have agency and that they’re choosing to engage in this,” Parsons says.

But in the framework created by Seattle lawmakers and their state legislature partners, you’re either a victim (of trafficking or abuse) or you don’t exist in numbers large enough to care about. That’s probably because it’s much easier to run with flimsy research under one sect’s vision of female empowerment than to acknowledge the humanity and diversity of people—including men and transgender people—voluntarily working in the sex industry.

After our initial interview, Kohl-Welles met with sex-worker activists in early February. She said she was impressed by their “candor and commitment,” and maintains that she doesn’t want to punish sex workers. She also now has an amendment that she says will increase the penalty for buying sex only after thethird conviction for a john.

Kohl-Welles’s meeting is an encouraging start. And if politicians continue a dialogue with sex workers, it would mark a radical shift away from the decades in which sex workers were rendered invisible or worthless.

Mary remembers those decades. “It’s been a long time since I got a stripper’s license, but you take your picture and they fingerprint you,” she explains, matter-of-factly, over breakfast. “I said, what is this about? And they said, it’s for when—not if—it’s for when you end up in the gutter, dead.” recommended

Sex Work Style Guide – Writing Accurately & Ethically about Sex Work

This Style Guide for journalists and reporters was written by Mistress Matisse, and can be found on her blog. Thank you Matisse, for writing this up!

Many journalists would like to write ethically and accurately about sex work, but don’t know the best terms to use. Here is a quick guide to current words and phrases to do with sex work for use in news reporting and journalism.

Problematic terms:  

These are terms that, unless you are directly quoting someone, or quoting from another piece of writing about sex work, should be avoided.

Hooker, whore, streetwalker, ho: Do not use these words, they are offensive. Sex workers sometimes use these words either in casual conversation or to make a certain point, but journalists (unless they ARE sex workers) should not.

Prostitute/Prostitution: These terms are generally considered to carry a negative connotation. But in many countries, they are legal terms, so it’s sometimes necessary to use them. But use them sparingly, and only if it is specifically in connection with someone being accused of a crime. Whenever possible, say sex work, or sex trade, or sex industry.

Courtesan and sugarbaby are marketing terms used by sex workers. However, in a news story, they come across as affected, and usually imply that the person speaking/being spoken of thinks they are “higher-class” and “different from” other sex workers. There may be certain times when the use of either of these terms is necessary – for example, if one is writing about sugardaddy/sugarbaby websites. But do not use them as general terms for sex workers.

The word pimp should generally not be used in current journalism about sex work. Its original meaning has been co-opted into other uses, and it is at best a glamorous description of someone who has an abusive/criminal/exploitative interaction with a sex worker. Anti-sex work activists use the term to bring about a confused emotional response in the reader that’s strongly rooted in racism. If you must speak of someone who has a business relationship with a sex worker, find out what that person actually does for her, and say manager,booker, driver, security, administrative assistant, etc. (The exception would be if someone is formally charged with a crime with the word pimping as part of the language of the law.)

The word madam is archaic and should not be used except in historical references.

Prostituted woman, prostitution survivor, sex slave: these are all inflammatory terms that objectify the person being spoken of, and both fetishize and disempower people who have done/are doing sex work.

Sexual surrogate: This is a very specific (and controversial) type of therapy, and many people do not consider sexual surrogates to be sex workers. Only use this term if you are completely clear that the specific person being discussed calls themselves that. Do not use any other sex worker terminology to refer to a sexual surrogate.

Do not use the term trafficking victim as a synonym for sex worker. Also, do not use the term self-trafficked,as it has no logical meaning.

Do not use the term child prostitute. 

Do not speak of men buying a sex worker, or using her. Say visiting her, seeing her, hiring her, having a session with her. Also, do not speak of someone selling her body. 

Do not use the word john. It is extremely dated and negative, and no one but anti-sex workers uses that term. Use the term clients or customers.

Better Terms To Use:

Sex work/Sex workers: this is the most general and the least judgmental term you can use. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses everyone in the sex industry; escorts, dancers, dominatrixes, porn models, cam girls (or boys), everyone. Those terms are all non-judgmental terms to use to describe specific jobs in the sex industry. (The term is also sometimes written as one word: sexwork, sexworker, especially on Twitter.)

The term call girl is not an offensive term, but it is rather dated, and not much used any more. Mistress(meaning: not a dominatrix, but the other kind of mistress) is rather vague, but not offensive per se.

Domme, dominatrix, pro domme, pro sub, Mistress: these are all acceptable terms for people who provide BDSM-related services.

There is no one generally accepted term for people who do massage or other bodywork with a sexual element, but sensual touch provider is probably the most polite. Sometimes the term Tantric touch provider is used.

Women who work in strip clubs can be either dancers or strippers. 

It is acceptable to refer to someone who does in-person sex work as a professional companion. 

Clients who frequent sex worker review boards will sometimes use the term hobbyist to refer to themselves. Also, some sex work review sites refer to sex workers as providers (as short for “adult services providers”), and sex workers occasionally use this term themselves.

To call someone a sex worker is to say that they have agency in their behavior, so it is contradictory to speak of “forced sex work”. However, if on occasion you need to strongly differentiate between people who are being victimized versus people who are not, you can speak of consensual adult sex work, or just adult sex work. To do so every time would be redundant and unnecessary. The opposite of sex work is criminal sexual exploitation, or simply rape, kidnapping, etc.

If you wish to speak of people who are the most vulnerable and marginalized in sex work, you can say street sex workers, or survival sex workers.

Anti-sex workers sometimes call themselves abolitionists, but sex workers often call them sex work prohibitionists.

Decriminalization of sex work is very very different from Legalization. Do not use the words interchangeably. Decriminalization means the repeal of all laws that impose any criminal penalty on the private, consensual and appropriate adult exchange of sex for money. Legalization means that the consensual adult exchange of sex for money remains mainly a crime, but the state creates a few strictly-controlled loopholes for situations in which it will be tolerated, although still heavily stigmatized.

(Note: I did not list what terms to use when talking about male sex workers, because I’m not one. If I get information about what terms male sex workers prefer, I will add that here.)

Seattle Sex Workers Speak Up at the State House

This past week, volunteers from SWOP-Seattle went twice to the State House to address concerns over several anti-sex trafficking bills that are being considered by policymakers. There are currently four bills going through the house that take an “End Demand” stance on prostitution.  Further, there are two that expand the legal definition of human trafficking, and three more trafficking related bills that we were just made aware of.  SWOP-Seattle is speaking up to halt the progression of these bills.  These bills will have devastating unintended consequences for sex workers, clients, and trafficking victims alike. The negative impact of the End Demand model has been well documented by leading health and human rights organizations (UN Global Commission on HIV and the Law and the UN Global Development Fund). Some of these bills have not yet made their way to the committee floor, but we’re keeping an eye on them. 

Thursday’s focus was on two in-person meetings (15 minutes each in length) with the following Senators:

  • Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36th District) and Senator Mike Padden (4th District) on HB 5277, which would make the crime of patronizing a prostitute a gross misdemeanor. And on HB5342, which expands the definition of “human trafficking to include vaguely worded “abuse of power, abuse of position of vulnerability.” Finally, we discussed HB5041 with Senator Padden, which would institute civil forfeiture for soliciting a prostitute.

Both Senators were gracious in meeting with SWOP volunteers. We felt that both Senators were listening to our concerns and we are pleased that the conversations are beginning to include sex workers. For us, this is the first step towards gaining a voice at the table when it comes to the design and implementation of policies pertaining to the sex trade. We now ask that the Senators consider the following points as they relate to the relevant bills:

– Consenting adult sex work is NOT the same as sex-trafficking.

– To understand that the data we present on behalf of our sex worker community is often contrary to the anti-sex trafficking discourse that’s been offered over the years, but that it is no less relevant and holds just as much weight for consideration.

– To understand that sex worker perspectives have been largely unheard until recently due to the stigma and vulnerability associated with “coming out” to stand up for one’s rights as a sex worker.

We assert that End Demand policies and tactics will not effectively reduce trafficking, but may in fact increase vulnerability and abuses, and make life considerably more dangerous for consenting adult sex workers, as well as for victims of trafficking. 

– We believe that increased social service to assist at risk individuals/populations will be far more effective in reducing human rights violations than increased penalization of clients. 

– We call for amnesty to sex workers and trafficking victims so that violations can be reported without fear of arrest.

We ask that sex worker advocacy organizations be included in the committees and processes when discussing and considering legislation about the sex industry, and that will directly impact consensual adult sex workers. Nothing about us without us.

-Allow sex workers themselves, and sex worker advocacy organizations to assist in being a part of the solution in identifying and addressing abuses that occur within the industry.

Friday’s focus was on testifying at the Senate hearing on HB 1558: relating to civil asset seizure for items related to the crime of “patronizing a prostitute.” Even the committee had questions about the civil forfeiture bill from the start. Three people testified in favor of the bill, five people testified against the bill (three from SWOP-Seattle). SWOP-Seattle’s testimonies carried messages of concern from the invisible sex worker community, as well as a detailed criticism of civil forfeiture laws. We felt as if the committee was paying attention, and over all it was a success in having our opinions heard. 

SWOP-Seattle handed out booklets of sex worker statistics and studies on the failures of End Demand models. Much of the data we present is contrary to what people have been told. Therefore, we felt it necessary to provide supporting evidence for our opinions on the issues of End Demand tactics.

NothingAboutUs

Dear Councilman Neilson – We Support SWOP-Philly

This just in from our SWOP peers in Philadelphia:

Legislation introduced by Councilman Ed Neilson on Thursday would ban Philadelphia hotels from renting by the hour and also require employees at all Philadelphia hotels to be trained to recognize signs of human trafficking. Information can be fond here from Philly.com and Councilman Neilson’s Website.

This legislation is part of the same push to “End Demand” for prostitution that we are currently seeing here in WA. SWOP-Seattle stands firmly against “End Demand” policies, as our studies show that this type of prohibition will in fact make working conditions for sex workers more dangerous, and will make victims of exploitation harder to identify and reach for assistance.

Please visit SWOP-Philly’s site and sign-on.
Also, please leave a comment on Councilman Neilson’s website. Share you’re views on this type of legislation.

San Francisco Sex Worker Film & Art Festival

Call for Movie Submissions
First submission deadline is March 1, 2015

The San Francisco Sex Workers Film and Arts Festival– Biennial, since 1999

SFSWFAF

The San Francisco Sex Workers Festival was established in 1999 to provide a forum for the accomplishments of sex worker film and video makers and to screen works about sex workers and the sex industries from around the world. The Sex Worker Festival provides an opportunity to recognize and honor prostitutes, dancers, porn performers and other sex workers, who have historically been a dynamic part of arts communities.
To date, the Sex Worker Festivals have screened nearly three hundred works and generated much interest in the media. In addition, the Festival presents performances and events. Performances include spoken word marathons, bus and bicycle tours highlighting San Francisco history, theatrical productions and cabarets featuring Bay Area performers. In 2005 Whore College was launched in conjunction with the Sex Worker Festival among other workshop formats including the Institute of Sex Workology in 2013. Films and videos for the Festival focus on sex workers’ rights; organizing efforts and working conditions for strippers; global sex work and sex work as a labor issue on the international agenda; sex workers as artists; queer sex workers; anti-racism anti-oppression in sex worker communities, sex work and gender identities; sex education, sex art, porn and erotica; portraits of strippers, prostitutes, doms, madams… We encourage diverse participation and diverse perspectives.

This is an incredible event! Check out the SFSWF&AF website for more info.

What do sex workers need?

SWOP-Seattle’s decision making council is composed entirely of unpaid,

current and retired sex worker volunteers.

Recently we’ve seen on-line and heard at a recent panel discussion an argument against sex worker advocacy organizations’ position on policy and law.  The argument has been that those who are involved in the sex workers’ rights movement have too much privilege to speak on behalf of others, and that we are a small minority of the population of sex workers.

We cannot deny that many of us (not all) do come from a place of privilege, which enables the ability to do the advocacy work that we do.  This makes us no less capable than other existing organizations to speak about issues within the sex industry.

We urge you to do as we do – listen to what sex workers themselves have been saying in masses on an international level.  How can we ignore events like this?

Thousands of sex workers march for rights in India

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2012/jul/25/sex-workers-rights-aids-kolkata-in-pictures

Alternative International AIDS Conference at Sonagachi

 

Nothing about us, without us!

Remembering Shannon Williams

It is with a heavy heart that we share news of the passing of Shannon Williams, sex worker rights activist extraordinaire, dedicated mother, bodacious babe, and beloved friend. Shannon passed away unexpectedly from a brain tumor on January 20, 2015.  She was 48 and is survived by her three sons (ages 21, 9, and 7), for whom there is now a fund to assist them in their future. Shannon’s life was thrust into the public spotlight in 2003 when her house was raided due to her occupation as a sex worker.

ShannonWilliams3

“Seventeen of Oakland’s Finest came crashing into my bedroom with their guns drawn,” she recalled. When the press found out that a Berkeley High School teacher had been arrested for prostitution, “it instantly became a national news story and blew my life to pieces,” Shannon added.

Shannon’s case was a catalyst for organizing in the Bay Area. Shannon became a fierce sex workers rights activist, and was a key contributing member to SWOP-Bay Area, right up until the time of her death. Shannon helped her peers in the sex trade by working at Saint James Infirmary, and serving on the Board of Directors for SWOP-USA.

Shannon was a powerful, inspiring, and exceptionally vibrant woman. We are devastated by the loss of her presence, but grateful for all of the energy she put towards creating a safer, less judgmental world for sex workers. We intend on carrying forth the important work that Shannon helped to champion, and will keep her lasting memory in our thoughts.

Shannon is survived by her 3 sons, two of whom are still children. Please consider donating to Shannon’s after-life fund to see that they are well cared for. 

ShannonWilliams

What have We Learned from the Drug War about Prohibition?

In a bold Ted Talk talk, drug policy reformist Ethan Nadelmann makes an impassioned plea to end the “backward, heartless, disastrous” movement to stamp out the drug trade. The similarities between criticism of the Drug War and the harms incurred by anti-sex trafficking initiatives are striking, and underline how prohibition and abolitionist movements ultimately do more harm than good. Sex worker advocates often point to failed prohibition measures (Drug war, ban on abortion, denial of gay rights, alcohol) as examples of how abolitionist stances on human behavior serve only to expand criminal black markets, increase harmful stigma, and feeding the prison industrial complex with otherwise non-violent offenders.

As you watch this video, swap out the references for the War on Drugs with the War on Sex Work. You will be surprised at the parallels drawn between the two.

 

#BlackLivesMatter Solidarity Statement

On December 17th, 2014 we will commemorate the 12th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. On this day we honor our dead and injured and raise awareness about the institutions and stigmatization that make sex workers vulnerable to violence.

Participants of our organization are in a struggle for labor rights and freedom from discrimination that denies us access to safe housing and living wage jobs. This struggle is confounded by racism and white supremacy. Racism and white supremacy contribute to the use of “No Human Involved” as a label for murder cases that will remain un-investigated because the victim is a sex worker. Racism and white supremacy contribute to the police brutality that some sex workers face on a daily basis. Racism and white supremacy contribute to the indifference that many Americans have toward the struggles of sex workers, poor people and people of color.

Women of color, including transgender women, number the highest among sex workers whose lives were taken by violence. We are declaring our support of the demands made by movements led by people of color who are struggling against police violence, economic injustice and institutionalized racism. We recognize that as an organization with more white than non-white representation, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and our participants about white supremacy and the oppression of people of color, immigrants and gender non-conforming individuals.

We recognize the struggle that is bravely led today by young black organizers in the wake of the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner. We are awake and we are listening.

Signed:
Stacey Swimme, Sex Workers Outreach Project of Sacramento
Savannah Sly, Sex Workers Outreach Project of Seattle
Jennifer Reed, Sex Workers Outreach Project of Las Vegas
Lisa Mellott, Sex Workers Outreach Project of Las Vegas
Katherine Koster, Sex Workers Outreach Project SWOP-USA / SWOP-Chicago
Maggie McNeill, the Honest Courtesan Blog

Dec 17th, The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Wed. Dec 17th — 6:30 meet up, 7pm procession, 8:30 vigil
Starts and ends at the Merchant Cafe – 109 Yesler Way, Seattle, WA 98104
Open to the Public. Allies, supporters, current and retired sex workers encouraged to join.

Every year on December 17th, sex workers and their supporters around the world observe the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, a holiday of remembrance created by Annie Sprinkle to honor the victims of the Green River Killer here in Seattle.

This year’s remembrance ritual will feature a procession line through Downtown Seattle, which will start and end at the Merchant Cafe in Pioneer Square. We will pass through the streets of Seattle in a line, holding signs, red umbrellas, votive candles (with eclectic tea lights), and passing out literature. As we walk, we will out the names of those from our sex worker community who have lost their lives, both in 2014 and beyond. We will walk to Westlake Center and back, returning to the Merchant Cafe to close out our ceremony and honor the day with libations.

If you would like to participate:
— Meet us at 6:30 at the Merchant Cafe in Pioneer Square
— Wear warm black and/or red clothing
— wear comfortable walking shoes (this is about a 2 mile walk)
Or, if you are shy or unable to walk the 2 miles, please feel free to help us document our journey with photographs or video. You may also opt to just meet us at the Merchant Cafe for the final segment of the ceremony.

IDEVASW

Fund International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Click here to view SWOP-USA’s IndieGoGo page to help raised funds for this important day of reflection and remembrance. December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers,  was created to call attention to crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. On December 17, sex workers  and allies stage protests, memorials, marches and vigils to raise awareness about systematic, widespread, often ignored violence against sex workers.

Learn More About 12/17 |  History of 12/17 | Event Locations | Organize an Event

Screen shot 2014-11-17 at 12.27.16 PM

Sex Workers Oppose the Mass Arrest of “Johns”

There have been several articles published in King County, highlighting the efforts of local law enforcement to “crack down” on the sex trade by arresting clients of sex workers en masse. According to this article in the Seattle Times, there were 105 arrests of clients in 3 months as a result of stings targeting men seeking consensual paid sex with an adult women. This recent article in the Kent Reporter states that 26 men were arrested in one day, amounting to a tidy sum of $46,500 in fines and penalties:

Council President Dana Ralph praised the work of the police department’s sting at the Nov. 4 council meeting. She said as a result of fees and fines in known areas of prostitution and other fees against the “johns,” the operation brought in $46,500 to the city. She said half of that money will go to programs to support victims of prostitution.” — Steve Hunter, Kent Reporter

SWOP-Seattle is opposed to the crackdown to “End Demand”, seeing this efforts as a criminal means of prohibition that will not only fail, but that will enforce racism, classism, and harmful stereotypes of those involved in the sex trade. SWOP-Seattle opposes the Nordic model of prostitution, which these police initiatives are taking inspiration from. For more information on problems with the Nordic Model and “End Demand” strategies, see this informative article by Charlie Glickman.

Transgender Day of Rememberance

On Thursday November 20th, members of SWOP will be attending an event in Ravenna to acknowledge members of the transgender community who have lost their lives due to prejudice and violence. We invite you to join us on this day of remembrance, by attending this event:

Seattle, Washington, United States
Transgender Day of Remembrance
Thursday, November 20th, 2014 1900 (7:00PM)
Ravenna United Methodist Church, 5751 33rd Ave. N.E., Seattle, Wa. 98105

For information on other TDOR events about the country and world, please visit http://tdor.info/

Join Us for SASS – Seattle Annual Sex Work Symposium!!

HeaderDecember 12-14 with a vigil on Dec 17th
Tickets Available NOW!
www.Seattle-SASS.org

For far too long, sex workers have been ignored and silenced when they speak up on the very issues that effect them directly, and we’ve had enough of it. We’re taking Seattle by storm for one solid weekend in December, sharing our sex worker culture and perspectives with the world, building our own stage from which to speak our truth. 

The Seattle Annual Sex Work Symposium is a 3 day event that will educate, entertain, and enlighten the public, strengthening our sex worker community in the process.

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE & LOCATIONS:

Allies Meeting
Fri. Dec 12, 10am-12noon
Location TBA in Seattle (depends on how many RSVPs we get)
SWOP-Seattle would like to invite representatives from other social justice and health organizations to network, share existing resources, and see where our efforts overlap. SWOP-Seattle would also like to discuss our current street outreach project plans, and the possibility of creating a Seattle PROS Network.  Join SWOP-Seattle’s Allies Mailing List by contacting us at MaryMagdalene@swop-seattle.org


SASS Speaks! 
Fri. Dec. 12, Doors 7pm, show runs 8-11pm
Factory Luxe 3100 Airport Way S, Seattle, WA 98134
Click here for full event page
MonologSiouxsieQ2ues about historical whores, singer songwriter sex workers, films about porn, courtesans, rescue stings, and more! This night has it all, folks. Expand your perspective while being thoroughly entertained! This show will feature cinematic, musical, theatrical, and literary performances created by sex workers who wish to share their perspective on the adult industry. Performances include selected songs from “Fish Girl” by Siousxie Q of the Whorecast, monologues showcasing historical sex workers as directed by Maggie Mayhem, readings from “Sex Workers Unite” by author Melinda Chateauvert, with films by activist porn maker Tobi Hill Meyer and Director/producer of “American Courtesans“, Kristen DiAngelo, director of American Courtesans. Intermission will include a silent auction where you can bid on burlesque show tickets, artisan kink gear, art, and signed sex worker memorabilia, every red cent of which goes to support SWOP-Seattle.org.

Sexy Circus Dance Party!
Click here for full event page
Sat. Dec 13, 8pm-1am
Little Red Day Spa 3200 Airport Way S. Building 12, Seattle, WA 98134
We’re proud of the work we do as sex workers, and it’s time to celebrate! We invite you to join us in an opulent atmosphere for an evening of carnival-inspired festivities that will include dancing, live suspension bondage and pole performances, and lot’s of sexy merry-making! Buy tokens for fortune telling, face painting, the SinSation Station kink sampling room, or games to win prizes from our amazing sponsors. Performers include Suspended AnimationPantera BlacksmithTwisted MonkMidnight Cirkus, go-go dancers, and acro-yogis!
MidnightCirkus

Panel Discussion 1:
Rights Not Rescue: Sex Workers Rights & The Anti-Sex Trafficking Movement

Sun. Dec 14, 10am-12noon
University of WA, exact location TBA
Click here for full event page
Sex workers want to end human trafficking. Sex workers also want to have their right to work in the erotic market recognized, respected, and endowed with labor rights – like any other industry. In this panel sex workers, professors, social workers and sex workers rights advocates will come together to discuss how anti-sex trafficking legislation and police initiatives are effecting consenting adult sex workers, and whether criminalization of the sex trade is indeed the best way to protect vulnerable people. Panelists include artist and activist Maggie Mayhem, author Melinda Chateauvert, and social justice activist Emi Koyama, moderated by Savannah Sly.  

Panel Discussion 2: Sex Workers Speak 
Sun. Dec 14, 1pm-3pm
University of WA, exact location TBA
Click here for full event page
More often than not, sex workers are not consulted about their opinions on issues that directly address them. Sex workers also endure a high degree of social stigma, and assumptions are made about them and their work all of the time, as a result of unbalanced culture perspective on the sex trade. On this panel, people with direct experience in the adult industry will offer their points of view on the criminalization of prostitution, stigma surrounding sex work, global sex work policies, and more.

The Sunday Show 
Sun. Dec. 14, Doors 6pm, 8pm Show 18+
Highway 99 Blues Club 1414 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101
Click here for full event page
Music and mischief for two good causes! Get gussied up and hit the Highway 99 Blues Club for a night of booty shaking and rockin’ music. Hosted by Siouxsie Q and Jesse james of the Whorecast,  this nigh features a knockout line up of performers: Sailor St. ClaireJesse Belle-JonesRandi RascalScarlet O’Hairdye, and Crystal Tassels. All of the funds raised at this exceptionally enchanting evening will go to support musical artist Candye Kane and SWOP-Seattle.

 

Strippers Sue Pierce Country to Protect Identities

Strippers in WA are being faced with the prospect of have their business licenses, which contain private information such as home address and phone number, being released to the public. Why? Because a guy named Dan A. Van Vleet wants the. Dan claims these licenses are public records, and if he wants to see them, he should be able to.

This is hugely problematic. 

While these documents are indeed technically public records, they contain the identities and personal information of sex workers, a population of people which is targeted for violence and harassment due to the stigma associated with their work.

In response to this threat to their safety, over 70 strippers have banned together and sued Pierce County to prevent the release of their business licensees. 

Some sex work, like stripping, is legal. Some sex work is illegal. Most of it exists in a grey area of the law that changes from state to state (or block to block). Regardless, sex workers of all kinds must protect themselves from the harm that can be caused by being outed, stalked, or discriminated against, and until our culture takes a more holistic stance on the adult industry, are entitled to keep their sensitive legal information private.

Exotic Dancing Tampa

SWOP Rocks! Monthly Drop-In Day for Volunteers

SWOP Rocks! 
Monthly Volunteer Drop In
Sunday Oct 5th 2-4pm
First Sunday of Each Month – 10/5, 11/2, 12/7
Center for Sex Positive Culture, Annex 1608 15th Ave. W. Seattle, WA 98119

During the first Sunday of each month, SWOP-Seattle will be welcoming volunteers and supporters to swing by and pitch in on current projects. We will be stuffing supply bags for our street outreach program (more info on that below), handing out awareness fliers for distribution, planning future events, and more. This is also a good time to come and get to know us, and see what SWOP is all about. Volunteers can commit to any level of help that suits them, and we welcome all contributions.
SWOP volunteers stuffing "goodie bags" for street outreach.
SWOP volunteers stuffing “goodie bags” for street outreach. A donation of street outreach supplies.
A donation of supplies for the SWOP-Seattle street outreach efforts. 

September Events for Sexy Professionals!

Monthly SEPIA Brunch
Sept 3rd 11:30-1:30
Location sent out a day before the event – RSVP Required
Our monthly brunches serve as an opportunity to get together and socialize with our peers, network, and blow off some steam. Sex workers are welcome to come to all or part of the event. This is a potluck brunch, so feel free to bring a nibble or drink to share. This event is open to SEPIA Members (currently active and retired sex workers).

SlutWalk Seattle!!!
Sun Sept 7th 12-2:30pm
Cal Anderson Park to Westlake Center
http://slutwalkseattle.com/2014
We’ll be marching AND presenting at SlutWalk Seattle this year. We are seeking anyone who would like to strut their stuff with SWOP-Seattle (sex workers, friends, allies, anyone!)

Topless Tapas
Post SlutWalk Friends & Family Social
Sun Sept 7th 7-10pm
*SEPIA Members & Friends/Family Only*

Training for Street Outreach Program
Sat Sept 20th between 10am-12noon
Our first set of street outreach trainings are underway, but there’s still time to get involved if you would like to be. Through this program, we are connecting with street-based sex workers to offer them essential items (socks, toothbrushes), information about our SWOP group and other helpful resources. This outreach program is in partnership with Eileen Corcoran at RASE (Rising Above Sexual Exploitation).

SWOP-Seattle Council Meeting
Sat Sept 20th 12-2:30
Do you enjoy the events that SWOP and SEPIA host every month? Consider attending our monthly Council meetings, where we make future plans and review how we can be more effective as a group. Any SEPIA member may join the Council, and can contribute to whatever degree they are able. Come join us!

SWOP-Seattle Annual Retreat
Sept 26-28th in Portland
2014 has been a big year for SWOP-Seattle, and it’s time to evaluate what we’ve done, and to plan for next year. The SWOP-Seattle annual retreat is where we gather to reflect, relax, and also dig into some of the heavier administrative topics. This weekend is meeting heavy, but a wonderful way to contribute and connect. Did we mention there’s a hot tub involved? The site for this year’s Retreat looks splendid, and we’re excited. We’re also hoping to connect with the Portland sex worker scene to have a social with them on Friday or Saturday night. It’ll be fun! It’ll be productive!

“You Might Think” Postcard Campaign

We completed a set of three “You Might Think…” postcards to hand out at events, and we’ve started distributing them to the public. Each card addresses a common misconception about sex workers, and dispels it, with a more comprehensive explanation on the back. These cards are currently linked to SWOP-Seattle, but if you or your organization would like these art files so you can print out your own set to hand out, we will gladly list your organization in a re-design. Contact us at info(at)swop-seattle.org to get the ball rolling.

YouMightThink1_ComboYouMightThink2_ComboYouMightThink3_Combo

Help Us Stuff Our Goodie Bags!

You know all of those little bottles of shampoo you keep hoisting from hotels? Well, we want them! SWOP-Seattle is seeking contributions for outreach supplies, which will be distributed to outdoor sex workers in the Seattle area.

On Saturday August 9th from 2-3pm, we will be at the Bedlam Cafe in Belltown, accepting donations for our street worker outreach goodie bags: travel sized toiletries, clean socks, gum, hair bands, instant soup packs, safer sex supplies…anything that could make life easier for someone living or working on the street. Drop off your supplies, or stick around and help us stuff the bags!

Rise Against Sexual Exploitation (RASE) is teaming up with SWOP-Seattle to deliver outreach services to outdoors sex workers.  Street workers are one of the most vulnerable sex worker populations, and we are seeking to connect with this part of our community to offer them services, resources, and support. This outreach is the start of a larger effort to eventually provide a consistent drop-in space for street workers.

Online Memoir Writing Class for Sex Workers! Free!

This just in from the @RedUPNYC Red Umbrella Project in NYC:

RedUmbWriting

The Red Umbrella Project Memoir Writing Workshop is a FREE eight-week long writing course for individuals with experience in the sex trades. The workshop is intended for both experienced and first-time writers. Writers who would like to work on shorter pieces or who have a longer work in progress are welcome to participate. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to be published in Issue 5 of our literary journal, Prose & Lore, and will be invited to participate in a Page to Stage workshop as well as in a public reading celebrating the writers.

Know Your Rights Manual for the Sex Worker Community: Criminal Law

This document recently came our way via contacts at the Sex Workers Project Urban Justice Center and The National Lawyers Guild Bay Area Chapter. While we have not personally verified the accuracy of this information, we know it has been directly worked on by SWOP members in the Bay Area who are working with the NLG. We have read the document and feel it provides a wealth of helpful information that all sex workers should consider relevant to their occupation.

Click the image or text below to download this PDF.

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 12.34.32 PM

 

 

 

Sex Worker KnowYour Rights

We have added this PDF to our Legal Resources page for Sex Workers. Please check out our resources pages for more information on heath, safety, legal, and community tips for our sex worker community. Contact us if there are resources you would like to see added to the site.

China sex-worker advocate ‘blocked’ from travel to AIDs Conference

Ye Haiyan, left, with dissident photojournalist Du Bin in Hong Kong

Ye Haiyan, left, with dissident photojournalist Du Bin in Hong Kong

Sex worker advocate Ye Haiyan has been barred from leaving China to attend the World AIDS Summit.  This is not the first time Haiyan has been persecuted by the government in her decade of sex work activism, but it is part of a new and larger crackdown against sex work.

The War On Sex Workers Escalates with FBI Shutdown of MyRedBook

Protesters mocking cops and their crackdown on sex work at a 2010 rally. Photo via Flickr user Steve Rhodes

Protesters mocking cops and their crackdown on sex work at a 2010 rally. Photo via Flickr user Steve Rhodes

This is a thorough and sobering article about what the FBI shutdown of sex worker review forum (and free advertising site) MyRedBook means. This article covers the recent Operation Cross Country raid on sex workers, which lead to a flood of arrests, as well as efforts being made to obliterate all online adult advertising.

July Events for Sexy Professionals

These events are open to members of SEPIA, the provider-specific sister site of SWOP-Seattle. If you are a sex worker who would like to be involved in our events and community, please contact us via the submission form found on our SEPIA page. 
Monthly SEPIA Brunch – TOMORROW!
Wed July 2nd 11:30-1:30
1st Wednesday of every month
Location sent out a day before the event – RSVP Required

Our monthly brunches serve as an opportunity to get together and socialize with our peers, network, and blow off some steam. Sex workers are welcome to come to all or part of the event. This is a potluck brunch, so feel free to bring a nibble or drink to share. This event is open to SEPIA Members (currently active and retired sex workers).
SEPIA Skill Share
Topic: Money, Money, Money! Strategies to Improve Your Financial Life

Sat. July 19th 2-4pm
Skill Shares are on the 3rd Saturday of every month
Location sent out a day before the event – RSVP Required

Join Sarah Nicole for a two hour discussion on how we can plan our finances, as sex workers. This conversation will involve day-to-day considerations, as well as crucial future planning. Come on by to find out more!
 
SWOP-Seattle Council Meeting
Sat July 26th 12-2:30
4th Saturday of every month
Location sent out a day before the event – RSVP Required 

Do you enjoy the events that SWOP and SEPIA host every month? Consider attending our monthly Council meetings, where we make future plans and review how we can be more effective as a group. Anyone can join the Council, and can contribute to whatever degree they are able. Come join us! And stick around afterwards for…
Kick Ass Class!
Sat July 26th 3:30-5:30
4th Saturday of every month
340 W. Nickerson St. – RSVP appreciated but not required
$0-$10 suggested donation, nobody turned away for lack of funds
Punch and kick your way to empowerment in this fun and informative class taught by professional martial arts instructor, Jay! Boost your confidence, break a sweat, and learn a thing or two about how to defend yourself in dicey situations. Be sure to wear clothing that is easy to move in. All levels of experience welcome. This is a SEPIA event, open to retired and current sex workers.

Pride Parade 2014 a Success!!!

We had a BLAST strutting our stuff at Pride Parade in Seattle! We smiled and waved to crowd while carrying signs that loudly stated our demand for the end of violence against sex workers.  We handed out postcards containing information on “How to Be an Ally to Sex Workers, and our new “You Might Think…” myth-busting info campaign.  We also gifted the crowds with “I Heart a Sex Worker” buttons, “SWOP-Seattle” stickers, and even red umbrella temporary tattoos!

Big thanks to the Center for Sex Positive Culture for inviting us to march with them, and for all of our allies who came to support us and take these photos. It feels good to be loud and PROUD!

Loud & Proud Sex Workers at Pride Parade 2014

Loud & Proud Sex Workers at Pride Parade 2014

Pride2 Pride3

Twitter Campaign: #sexworkers need #rightsnotrescue

Below is an email we received from Mistress Matisse, who is an avid writer on the topics of sex work and BDSM, as well as a career sex worker herself. We invite you to participate in this idea she’s had about spreading our voices online, specifically on Twitter:

Dear sex worker friends,

I am going to do a thing, and I was thinking perhaps you’d like to do this with me.

I’m quite pissed lately at the legal crackdown on sexworkers (I’m thinking of stuff in the US, but bad shit is happening everywhere.) And I’m tired of just linking to other people’s stories about it. I want to create some comment of my own. And people get bored of endless news stories, and they stop looking.

So I decided to do this. I am going to take a white tshirt, and I am going to write a message – a tweet – on it, in black sharpie. Very minimalist and iconic-looking. I have a number of possible phrases and hashtags, but I think I’m going to go with #rightsnotrescue, since that one already has some traction. 

And then I am going to put the shirt on and take a selfie in it. And yes, it’s going to be a sexy looking picture. Maybe I’ll dampen it, or cut it out so there’s a little sideboob, like that. Because I want people to look at it, and retweet it, and because yeah, I am a goddamn SEX WORKER. 

So, kinda like FEMEN, but not fake pretentious bullshit, and also not naked, because hey, I’m not GIVING titties pics away, right?

I’m thinking I’m going to do that every day for a week. See if I can get a lot of RTs, get a message into places it hasn’t reached yet. And then I thought: well, I should see if anyone else wants to do this too. I figure we could all write something about whatever is going on in whatever country we’re in, and do the #rightsnotrescue tag, and see if we can generate some good press.

I’m thinking I’m going to start this on Monday June 30th and do it every day for seven days. July 4th is a holiday in the states, which might affect twitter traffic, but I think by then it’ll either have some traction or not. Plus, drunk people like pictures of girls in thin tight white t-shirts, so there’s that.

So that’s my plan. Happy to have any else join in if they want to. Feel free to forward this to any other sexworker you know, or post it  to any sexworker lists/boards you wish.

best,

Matisse
https://twitter.com/mistressmatisse

HASH TAG IDEAS:
#sexworkers need #rightsnotrescue
Consensual sex is not a crime #sexwork
I sell my time not my body #sexworker rights
#sexworkers need #rightsnotrescue
Sex work is real work #sexwork
Decriminalize consensual adult #sexwork
Nothing about us without us, listen to #sexworkers
Don’t arrest me, don’t “rescue” me, decriminalize #sexwork

Pride Parade 2014!!!

We love Pride Parade!!! As a Sex Worker Rights organization, we can stand by Pride’s mission statement to “Create unity, honor diversity, and achieve equal human rights throughout our region and the world.

Join Us!
This year we’re joining up with the Center for Sex Positive Culture, and are #182 in the line up.
If you’d like to walk with us, plan to meet us on 6th Avenue between Cherry and James at 1:00pm. If previous years are any indication, we’ll step off around 2:00pm.

What to Bring
This is going to be a hot, sunny day, and we’re walking a fair distance. So…bring good walking shoes, a bottle of water to stay hydrated, sun block, and a fun festive outfit which won’t totally suffocate you.

See you there!

Women carrying a banner about sex workers' rights in the Capital Pride Parade on August 26, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario. (David P. Lewis / Shutterstock.com)

Women carrying a banner about sex workers’ rights in the Capital Pride Parade on August 26, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario. (David P. Lewis / Shutterstock.com)

 

“You Might Think” Postcard Campaign Needs Your Input

A lot of assumptions are made about sex workers, and a lot of those assumptions are based on stigma, prejudice, and misinformation. SWOP-Seattle is creating a series of 3 postcards that will serve as handouts to educate the public on commonly accepted myths about the sex worker population.

What Sex Worker Myth and Reality would you like to see on these postcards? Reply to this post or email us your ideas!

Here’s a sample of what the format will look like:

Front of postcard

Front of postcard (top) Back of postcard (below)Back of postcard

 

The Price of a Sex-Slave Rescue Fantasy

In this article publish in the New York Times, Melissa Gira Grant explains how organizations that claim to rescue victims of sex trafficking actually tend to do more harm than good to sex workers. This story outlines the fall of rescue patron-saint Somaly Mam, who recently stepped down from her organization after her stories of forced prostitution and trafficking were found to be largely fabricated.

Sex-Trafficking Crusader Somaly Mam resigns amidst allegations of fabricating stories of trafficking.

Sex-Trafficking Crusader Somaly Mam resigns amidst allegations of fabricating stories of trafficking.

 

Stop AB1575 in California

There is a bill on the table in California that would require adult performers to use condoms for all pornographic films. While this may seem like a good idea to someone who’s never done porn, there are a number of privacy and stigmatizing reasons why this bill is a bad idea:

— The Government has no business investigating the personal medical records of adult performers.

— Adult performers already have stringent testing protocols, and no contractions of HIV on set have been documents in CA.

— Adult performers are opposed to this bill, and their knowledge of how their occupation is best undertaken should be paramount considerations.

— The adult porn industry will move to other states or will go underground if this bill passes, which will make the testing protocols already in place less effective to protect performers.

For LOT’S more detailed information on this bill, and ways to prevent it, please visit http://www.ab1576.org/.

 

Click here to watch video

Click here to watch video

 

 

Screen shot 2014-05-20 at 3.45.35 PM

Chase Bank Shutting Down Accounts of Adult Performers

In response to the fact that Chase bank is actively and mercilessly closing the accounts of adult providers and entertainers, we are encouraging members of the adult industry to withdraw their funds from Chase and that their business elsewhere.

Layton Benton, who has worked as a porn performer, appears here on Fox News to discuss how having her bank account has effected her business. Benton hopes to file a class act law suit in response to her account being closed.

Porn star says Chase shut down account because it was ‘a risk,’ hopes to sue

 

 

May Events for SWOP & SEPIA

Happy spring everyone! This month we’re excited to announce a new monthly event we’re hosting, which we’re dubbing the Kick Ass Class. We also have an invitation to the monthly SWOP/SEPIA Council Meetings, and a fun volunteer opportunity. Read on for all the juicy details:

Monthly SEPIA Brunch
May 7th 11:30-1:30
1st Wednesday of every month
Location sent out a day before the event – RSVP Required
Our monthly brunches serve as an opportunity to get together and socialize with our peers, network, and blow off some steam. Sex workers are welcome to come to all or part of the event. This is a potluck brunch, so feel free to bring a nibble or drink to share. This event is open to SEPIA Members (currently active and retired sex workers).

SEPIA Skill Share
Using the Gift of Fear – Protecting Yourself with Intuition
Saturday May 10th 2-4pm
Location sent out a day before the event – RSVP Required
Have you ever felt a little tug of doubt in the pit of your stomach that made it seem like something wasn’t quite right when reading a message from someone? Perhaps you had a bad interaction with someone that you somehow, inexplicably, knew about beforehand? This is the gift of fear. In this crash course, Ruby Enraylles will teach you subtle ways that people reveal their true intentions and through that how to assess danger levels, avoid potentially harmful encounters and how to get out of dates gone wrong unscathed.

SWOP-Seattle Council Meeting
May 24th 12-2:30
4th Saturday of every month
Location sent out a day before the event – RSVP Required
Do you enjoy the events that SWOP and SEPIA host every month? Consider attending our monthly Council meetings, where we make future plans and review how we can be more effective as a group. Anyone can join the Council, and can contribute to whatever degree they are able. Come join us! And stick around afterwards for…

Kick Ass Class!
May 24th 3:30-5:30
4th Saturday of every month
340 W. Nickerson St. – RSVP appreciated but not required
$0-$10 suggested donation, nobody turned away for lack of funds
Punch and kick your way to empowerment in this fun and informative class taught by professional martial arts instructor, Jay! Boost your confidence, break a sweat, and learn a thing or two about how to defend yourself in dicey situations. Be sure to wear clothing that is easy to move in. All levels of experience welcome. This is a SEPIA event, open to retired and current sex workers.

Volunteer Opportunity: Beef up the Blog!
We’re seeking a few folks who would be interested in helping make the SWOP-Seattle website into a more comprehensive, engaging resource for sex workers and the public. If you’d like to contribute to the blog, check out this page and contact us to let us know how you’d like to be involved. Thanks!

April Events

Sex Worker Brunch

Wednesday April 9th, 11:30am-1:30pm
Address sent out a day prior, RSVP REQUIRED
This is a monthly social event where we get together to meet one another, talk shop, and blow off some steam. This is a potluck style brunch, so feel free to bring a nibble or drink to share. This event is held at rotating residential homes, so RSVP to receive the address the day before the event.

SWOP Skill Share – Self Defense with Jay

Saturday April 12 2-4pm
Hosted by Jay at his gym on 340 W. Nickerson St.

No RSVP is required for this event. Tell your sex worker friends and bring them!
Class Description:
As sex workers, we sometimes find ourselves in vulnerable physical situations. Learn how to react to physical threats with effective, easy-to-remember techniques, taught by martial artist and educator, Jay. Gain confidence and potentially life-saving skills during this invaluable skill share!
About the Instructor:
Jay is a career martial arts instructor and professional fighter, and has taught many women’s self defense courses in the past. Several SWOP-Seattle members have taken private and group lessons with him, and recommend him highly!
Location:
We will be doing this class at Jay’s gym on 340 W. Nickerson St., which is a few blocks west of the Fremont bridge. There is parking available on the street.
What to wear:
This is an active class, so wear clothes that are easy to move in. Shoes are not allowed on the mats, so wear toe socks or grippy socks if being barefooted is an issue for you. All fitness levels are welcome to this class, just go at your own pace and practice whichever moves appeal to you most!

Anti-Violence Demonstration – Details for Participants

SWOP-Seattle Anti-Violence Demonstration Poster

 

Sex Workers Anti-Violence Demonstration
Time: 8am-1pm Tuesday March 18th, 2014
Location: Seattle Municipal Court is at 600 5th Ave.

Join us at the courthouse to hand out fliers, hold signs, share stories about sex work, speak with the public, and sing songs about whores!

We’ve chosen this day specifically to host this demonstration because a specific bad apple (who shall remain publicly unnamed) is having his hearing that day for his domestic violence case. We’d like to make our presence known, and to inform the public that the prohibition on erotic services makes us more vulnerable to violence than not.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Swing by anytime between 8am-1pm. We will have red umbrellas and masks to conceal our identities. There may be press coverage of this, so please take that into consideration.

What we will do:

– Help hand out fliers, we will have at least two different kinds.

– Bring a favorite piece of sex worker literature to share with peers of anyone willing to listen on the street.

– talk to people on the streets about your experiences as a sex worker, and how being criminalized effects your work/life.

– Have a sing-a-long with Savannah Sly! She will bring her guitar and her oodles of sex-worker centric songs. She likes to belt it out…you’ve been warned…

– Twirl a red umbrella and make our presence known.

WANT TO ARRIVE WITH THE GROUP?: Show up at Starbucks on Yesler and 1st Ave in Pioneer Square. People will be showing up as early as 7am to get organized, and at 7:45am we’ll walk 4 blocks up to the courthouse. If you’d like to arrive with the group, show up before 7:45am.

BRING YOUR FRIENDS!: This event is open to the public! You do not need to be a sex worker to join us! Anyone who believes in the freedom to fuck and have autonomy over one’s body is encouraged to join.

PRIVACY CONCERNS: This is a public event. We will have masks, and you do not need to give anyone your name. It looks like we might get a little publicity coverage from this, and we will be documenting it to share with sex worker advocates online. If you feel that being in pubic in this capacity would jeopardize your welfare or safety, please do not come. You can help in other ways, simply ask!

SWOP-Seattle Anti-Violence Demonstration Poster

Seattle Sex Worker Anti-Violence Demonstration 3/19/14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sex Workers Anti-Violence Demonstration
Time: 8am-1pm Tuesday March 18th, 2014
Location: Seattle Municipal Court is at 600 5th Ave.

From: SWOP-Seattle
Sex Workers Outreach Project of Seattle
Contact: Mary Magdelene
Email: info@SWOP-Seattle.org
Website: www.SWOP-Seattle.org

Who We Are:
Sex Workers Outreach Project Seattle is a social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of consenting adult sex workers and their communities, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education, peer outreach, and advocacy.

Purpose of Our Demonstration:
 We are protesting the direct and systemic violence, which results from the criminalization of sex work, which forces sex workers to operate in an unregulated underground economy. Due to the dismissive and judgmental social stigma surrounding sex work, sex workers are often targets for physical violence. Afraid to come forward due to the fear of arrest, many victims of targeted violence have remained silent.

Why We Are Demonstrating Now: Several members of our local and national sex worker community have come forward stating that they were brutally assaulted by a man who is on trial on March 18th for domestic violence, and that this man has used aggressive silencing tactics to intimidate his sex worker victims and their allies from speaking out publicly against him. This man, who will remain unnamed at the time of this press release, is being represented in his domestic violence case by Eric W. Lindell who once defended Gary Ridgeway, “The Green River Killer”. We are demonstrating on the 18th to speak out on behalf of our community as united, peaceful human beings who will not tolerate being assaulted, ignored, threatened, or mistreated.

END RELEASE

SWOP-Seattle Anti-Violence Demonstration Poster

Click for full sized image.

International Sex Workers Rights Day 2014

International Sex Worker Rights Day

This day began when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival organized by a Calcutta-based group called Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Unstoppable Women’s Synthesis Committee) despite protests pressuring the government to revoke the permit for the parade in 2001. SWOP-Seattle is recognizing this day by gathering and sharing some of our favorite articles, videos, and performances from the sex worker community.

Please explore and share these links with your peers, or better yet,
someone outside of the sex worker rights movement. Tweet it, blog it, Facebook it, email it to a friend…there’s a bounty of amazing material showcasing sex worker voices, so let’s share it!

http://www.hindustantimes.com/photos-news/photos-india/indiainpicsmarch4th2010/Article4-515106.aspx

2010 SWR Day March in Calcutta, hindustantimes.com

“Sex worker rights are human rights, and there can never be too many voices speaking up for them, nor too many occasions on which to speak.” — Maggie McNeill

 

WRITING:

International Sex Worker Rights Day
by Maggie McNeill
This excellent blog post explains what Sex Worker Rights Day is, why it’s important, and we can speak up about our experiences and inspire others to do the same.

Some Comments About Trafficking, and Links for Education
by Mistress Matisse
An overview of the anti-sex trafficking hysteria and how it impacts consenting sex workers, plus a slew of informative links to related articles.

The War on Sex Workers
by Melissa Gira Grant
A detailed article explaining how conservative feminism and anti-prostitution laws make sex workers more vulnerable to systemic and direct violence.

2013: The Best in Sex Work Writing
Compiled by Melissa Gira Grant
A long and comprehensive list of sex worker literature published in 2013, organized by topic and reflective of voices from around the globe. If you weren’t already informed, this list will certainly get you up to date.

Why the Women’s Rights Movement Must Listen to Sex Workers
by Chi Mgbako
An explanation of how sex workers around the world are rejecting the assumption that they are all victims.

PODCASTS:

Sex Workers Demand an End to “End Demand” – Episode 34
by The Whorecast with Siouxsie Q
Get your trench-coat and notepad ready, because Siouxsie Q, was spotted last week in front of the San Francisco Public Library…during an abolitionist Anti-Trafficking conference! WhoreCast takes you inside the breaking news of the Sex Worker Rights movement in San Francisco.

VIDEOS & PERFORMANCES:

Sex Worker Rights Day Video Playlist
Compiled by SWOP Michigan
A series of 8 selected videos showcasing different angles and opinions form various aspects of the sex industry. These selections are compiled by members of the Sex Worker Outreach Project in Michigan. 

Last Rescue in Siam
by EMPOWER
A hilarious black and white movie inspired by the tradition of the old silent movies, which makes a farce of the very serious issue of “rescue” efforts in Thailand.

I Want You – Vote Yes on Prop K
by Sadie Lune
Sadie Lune presents this first person performance piece “I WANT YOU,” which won 1st Place at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on September 11, 2008.

A Rights-Based Perspective on Improving the Lives of People in the Sex Industry 
by Audacia Ray
A video keynote speech Audacia Ray produced to be shown at the LOVER magazine conversation on sex work in Utrecht, Holland on June 23, 2010

Sex Worker Rights Music Video
by Scarlot Harlot & Courtney Trouble
The San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival premieres this sex worker anthem, Courtney Trouble’s “The Burnout”.

EVERY HO I KNOW SAYS SO
by Lusty Day, Beef Jerky, & KK via Scarlet Alliance
EVERY HO I KNOW SAYS SO is a response to the total lack of accessible online resources for people looking for advice on how to be a good date or lover or partner to a sex worker.

 

"I Want You - Vote No on Prop K" by Sadie Lune

“I Want You – Vote No on Prop K” by Sadie Lune

 

We’re Still Here!

Even though we do not have the volunteer staff to keep our blog current, please know that we are still here!  Recent events have included a behind the scenes social with clothing donations to a local womens’ shelter, coordinating for a handful of representatives to attend the amazing Desiree Alliance Conference in Las Vegas this summer, and working on planning events for the second half of this year.

Sunday 6/30 Swop-Seattle will be marching in the Seattle Pride Parade… join us, look for us, and/or make some noise!

Upcoming event:

Saturday 8/3
SEPIA and SWOP Info and Future Planning Meeting

We’ve been talking about more coordination with direct outreach efforts, skill trade events for sex workers, more of the public panel discussions, and another Harm Reduction Allies meeting.  We’re asking you to be a part of planning the future of the organization! Are there events that you would like to see? Projects you seek support with? Causes that you feel should have our attention? Join us to plan the future!

RSVP:  info@swop-Seattle.org

 

Lap Dance Party!!!

Darlings! I have FABULOUS news…

Lap Dance Party Flier

click to view party flier

I’m throwing another Lap Dance Party on Saturday June 7th!!!!

8pm-Late Night at Savannah Sly’s Yoga Assram: 

211 1st Ave in Pioneer Square 
(There will be a bouncer, but the call box is #-2-0-3 in case they’re slacking off)
If you missed the first one, well…you simply missed it! The evening was so magical, so epic, that I’m doing it again in honor of our dear friend, Jae the Charming Woman (once a Charming Girl, oh, how she’s grown!). Won’t you join us? Pretty please?
Jae has been so kind as use this occasion as a platform to raise awareness and $$$ for the plight of Monica Jones (see this link and this link for info), and for SWOP-Seattle, which works to build community, resources, and social leverage for Seattle’s Sex Worker Community.
Darling, you look bewildered. Let me illuminate you…
 
What’s a Lap Dance Party?
The Lap Dance Party theme is a simple one…you can either give a lap dance, get a lap dance, or watch and shower the performers with money! When everyone throws their money all at once, you “Make It Rain”, which is very exciting!! All $$$ collected will go directly to SWOP-Seattle and Monica Jones (50/50 split). It’s a fabulously sexy soiree!
I Want to Give a Dance!
Fabulous, darling! Dances can be silly, sexy, weird, wild, naked, or not! Sign up to dance with the DJ, who will queue up your song via YouTube. Choose someone to give a dance to, or let Savannah Sly & Jae play match maker! After the dance, you get to crawl around on the floor and scoop up the billz, and put them in the Money Maker!
I Just Want To Watch…
Oh lovey dovey dear…If you’re too shy to shake your booty, that’s ok! Bring $$$ to help “Make It Rain” on the dancers. Bring a stack of 1’s or swap your bigger billz with the Ca$h Kitty! If you don’t feel the need to throw money at your sexy friends, feel free to stuff your cash in the Money Maker and call it a night! Donations small and large welcome from $1 to 1$Billion, every sexy red cent helps us work for equality.
Whats the “Money Maker”?
Darling…it’s a bucket, with a slot….where you can STUFF your HARD-earned CASH INSIDE!! (No checks please, we don’t know what to do with those…). All cash will go to SWOP-USA, who will cut checks to SWOP-Seattle and the chapter which is helping with the Monica Jones appeal, SWOP-Phoenix.
I’m Broke…How Else Can I Contribute?
We could use a few volunteers to help werk the door, keep the food and drinks tidy, and make signs and stuff. Contact Savannah if you want to volunteer. You can also just be an everyday advocate for sex workers, being intolerant of dead-hooker jokes and asserting that we are not all not abused junkies and trafficked Romanian children, but rather autonomous, essential, bomb-ass members of society!
This sounds crazy…Will there be cameras?…Will I fit in?
Cameras?? I think NOT! We want everyone to feel safe and respected. That said, please refrain from taking selfies of yourself grinding on someone’slap, or from snapping scrapbook shots of all the twerking and werking on the dance floor. There will be a chill room with downtempo music for anyone feeling overwhelmed by all the sexiness. Also, this is a party where all consenting adults from our various communities are welcome. Any dissing or eye-rolling about someone’s gender, orientation, awesome lap dance techniques, relationship to sex work, age, or anything of the kind will not be tolerated. Be sweet, darlings….
Great! What Should I Bring??

Well, it’s Jae’s birthday, so you should expect to give her lots of love, or make a donation to SWOP in her honor, or a customized lap dance dedicated to her glory! Other things to bring include beverages of your choice, yummy nibbles to share, $$$ for the Money Maker, friends, sexy outfits, and a stellar fucking attitude.
Contact me if you have questions! Ciao baby!
Savannah and Jae

Sunday 3/10 International Womens Day – Allies News

  • The Gender Equality Caucus of Occupy Seattle will be holding a rally including speakers, music, a speak-out, and arts on March 10th 2012 at Westlake Park for International Women’s Day, in solidarity with women and their struggles across the globe.

    This is a day to celebrate women, honor our diverse struggles and strengths. As there is no single “woman experience”, we find it imperative for women from all different backgrounds be empowered to tell their story and share their knowledge, experience and perspective.

    This will also be a day to fight back against the violations of women, fight back against the divide and conquer tactics that have kept us apart this long. A day to to come out with our stories and to say loudly that we refuse to live this way, a day to ask one and another “What would your liberation look like?” and learn how we can stand in solidarity with women from a multitude of backgrounds across the entire globe.

    We call on people on the days leading up to and on International Women’s Day itself to be a part of creating a powerful outpouring of music, speak-outs, spoken word, speeches, art and a march on International Women’s Day at Westlake Park.

    In standing up together, we will celebrate women here and all over the world who lift their heads up and resist.


If you are interested in speaking, tabling, performing or facilitating art projects please let us know. We hope to see you there!

Power to the People,
E. Rose Harriot
(206) 948-4548

3/3 Sex Worker Rights Day – panel discussion

Rights vs. Rescue: Sex Worker Rights, Harm Reduction and the Law

Date: Saturday, March 3, 2012
Time: 3-5pm
Location: Capitol Hill Library Branch, 425 Harvard Ave E, 98102
2nd floor meeting room

Note: This event is not sponsored by The Seattle Public Library

Panel description:
Human rights violations against sex workers– including violence, mistreatment, and/or misguided “help” from state and social service agents – are all too common. These violations have recently been recognized by the United Nations and US State Department. This panel, comprised of human rights and social justice workers/activists in Seattle, will discuss how people from the progressive community can work together for sex workers’ rights within a broader framework of social justice.

More information:
Sex workers—that is people who engage in sexual commerce for income and subsistence needs—are members of families and communities in all parts of the United States. Because of stigma and criminalization sex workers—and those profiled as such—are subjected to violence and discrimination, and are impeded from accessing critical services, such as healthcare, and the right to equal protection under the law. State agents themselves, specifically police officers, commit physical and sexual violence against sex workers. These abuses are particularly rampant in poor and working class, urban, majority African-American and immigrant communities and also greatly affect lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Globally, the U.S. federal anti-prostitution policies, such as the “anti-prostitution pledge,” have had dire consequences for international HIV/AIDS efforts. Globally, there is also a movement to reverse these trends. Come learn more about these issues on March 3.

**This description is borrowed from a policy brief delivered to the US State Department in Feb. 2011 by Human Rights for All: concerned advocates for the rights of sex workers and people in the sex trade.

12/17 – International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers –  Vigil and Procession

Saturday December 17th,  2011,  5-7pm, Cal Anderson Park

In the spirit of remembrance and healing, the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) and SWOP chapters from around the United States wish to join sex worker allies and advocates from around the world in recognizing December 17, the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. As we approach this day, we seek to come together to remember those who we have lost this year, and renew our commitment in the on-going struggle for empowerment, visibility, and rights for all sex workers.

The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was originally developed by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and SWOP founder Robyn Few to shine a spotlight on the epidemic of violence against sex workers happening globally. SWOP-USA began commemorating the Day as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington, who murdered at least 71 women, most of whom were sex workers from 1982 to 1998.

This candlelight vigil will be a space to show our love and respect for sex workers murdered due to maginalization, stigmatization and hatred.  We invite our allied community to mourn collectively.  Participants are more than welcome and encouraged to bring a poem, song, prayer, or loving words. This event is open to the public.

For more information on December 17th:

www.swopusa.org/dec17

redumbrella

Portland Women’s Crisis Line News

This year, in Portland, Oregon, we want to highlight the inordinate violence that transworkers face while in the sex industry. Please join us at the following events in solidarity against violence.


International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

We invite you to an evening of remembrance and healing. We will have community speakers, an open mic, and screening of the film A Safer Sex Trade. We will also make origami cranes to remember victims. Please bring new/used tents, sleeping bags and flashlights for Our Mother’s House. (December 17, Red and Black café, 400 SE 12th, 7-10PM)

Sex Worker’s Care Space

Yummy treats, pampering, art and goodie bags await you. This evening is reserved for current and former sex workers. Please RSVP for directions- swoc@pwcl.org or call Natalie 503.419.4355. (December 11, 5:30-8PM)
Our Mother’s House Tent Drive

Our Mother’s House is a drop-in center offering food, warm drinks, company, and resources to local mothers in the sex industry. They also provide sleeping bags and tents to their attendees who are houseless. To support their important work we are collecting new and gently used tents, sleeping bags, and flashlights. Find a location nearest you and donate! (November 17-December 17, US Outdoor Store, In Other Words,

November 20th, 2011 Transgender Day of Remembrance

Sunday, November 20th from 5-7pm in Cal Anderson Park

In honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Q Center will be joining the greater Seattle community, and SWOP Seattle (Sex Workers Outreach Project), in holding a candlelight vigil.  Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is a time set aside each year to memorialize those killed due to transgender hatred.  TDOR is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.  Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender, each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender and gender non-conforming people.

This candlelight vigil will be a space to show our love and respect for those murdered due to transgender hatred—this will be a space for our Seattle transgender and allied community to mourn collectively.  Participants are more than welcome and encouraged to bring a poem, song, prayer, or loving words. This event is open to the public.

For more information on the Q Center:
http://uwqcenter.wordpress.com/

For more information about the national Transgender Day of Remembrance please visit http://transgenderdor.org

TDOR

BREAKING:  U.S. ACKNOWLEDGES HUMAN RIGHTS NEEDS OF SEX WORKERS

BREAKING:  U.S. ACKNOWLEDGES HUMAN RIGHTS NEEDS OF SEX WORKERS

At UN, US Says No one Should Face Discrimination For Public Services, Including Sex Workers

March 9th, 2011- According to their statement in response to the UN’s human rights evaluation, the US agrees that “…no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution.” This marks a rare occasion in which the US is addressing the needs of sex workers as a distinct issue separate from human trafficking. Sex workers have unique needs that aren’t adequately addressed by federal trafficking policy. Sex workers are hopeful that this will present a new opportunity to work with anti-trafficking efforts to address mutual human rights concerns.

“People in the sex trade have been marginalized and stigmatized when seeking public services, including through law enforcement. This is a big step forward to acknowledging sex workers’ human rights.” Kelli Dorsey, Executive Director of Different Avenues said.

Over the past year sex workers and their families, sex workers’ rights groups, human rights advocates, and academic researchers have engaged in an unprecedented advocacy collaboration. “It has been crucial to bring together the perspectives of a wide range of communities including immigrant and LGBT groups in order to illustrate the depth of human rights violations experienced by sex workers in the United States,” says Penelope Saunders, Coordinator of the Best Practices Policy Project, who worked with the Desiree Alliance to send a shadow report to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). These initial efforts resulted in Recommendation 86 and the formation of a group called Human Rights For All: Concerned Advocates for the Rights of Sex Workers and People in the Sex Trade (HRA).

HRA had support from more than 125 organizations in urging law makers to accept Recommendation #86, part of the report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which called on the US to look into the special vulnerability of sex workers to violence and human rights abuses. “We were long overdue for the United States to take the needs of sex workers seriously, particularly the need to stem violence and discrimination,” says attorney Sienna Baskin, Co-Director of Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York.

“Human beings cannot be excluded from accesible services because they work in economies outside of society’s accepted norms,” explains Cristine Sardina, co-director, Desiree Alliance.  “The fact that the U.S. has acknowledged the recommendation in full speaks to the current administration’s willingness to recognize the abuses sex workers have been subjected to for too long.  We look forward to working with this administration”.

Sex workers say the issues they face are complex and more work will have to be done to protect against human rights abuses. “Sex workers who are transgender or people of color face the most violence and it’s important that we continue to realize and work towards ending that, this is a good first step.” Said Tara Sawyer, who sits on the Board of Directors of the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA.

On Friday March 18th Sex Workers will stage demonstrations in cities across the country to celebrate adoption of Recommendation #86. “The U.S. has finally acknowledged that sex workers face issues separate from those of human trafficking victms,” said Natalie Brewster Nguyen, an artist and member of the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Tucson who is organizing the demonstrations on the 18th, ”Now we need to demand that steps be taken to address the issues that will actually improve the daily lives of sex workers.”
For more information on this story or the upcoming March 18th demonstrations, please contact Stacey Swimme at Communications@StJamesInfirmary.org or (877) 776-2004 x. 2

December 17th – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. Originally thought of by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and started by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington, December 17th has empowered workers from over cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations will be staging actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against prostitutes.

http://www.swopusa.org/dec17/

SEATTLE

We will be meeting in Cal-Anderson Park at 7pm for a candle lit procession, leading to a cozy indoor venue for conversation, poetry readings,  story telling… and anything else which comes to mind to commemorate this important date.  Bring your red umbrella!

Umbrella_tiny_no_Text

Transgender Day of Remembrance covered by Seattle Gay News

On Saturday, November 20, about 125 people gathered for a candlelight vigil at Cal Anderson Park for the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day where Transgender people and Transgender allies alike gather to mourn and remember Transgender victims of violence who have died in the past year.

‘We wanted it to be also a celebration of sorts,’ said Sidney Lewis Friend, an organizer of the vigil and an organizer with the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP). ‘It was meant to be sort of this alchemical mix; ‘Yes, these people have been murdered, but we’re going to transform that energy into something positive.’

Put together by SWOP and the University of Washington’s Q Center, the vigil featured a static fire display, poetry, and a video project created by Lewis Friend, which is currently still in production as an ongoing project. An open mic was also available for anyone, and many came up to read their own poetry.

For the full article, please visit:

http://www.sgn.org/sgnnews38_48/page4.cfm

Uruguay recommendation to US: look at human rights violations!

In early November there was a Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations. The Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance, and the Sexual Rights Initiative wrote and presented a report that focuses on civil and human rights violations of those engaged, or perceived to be engaged, in sexual trade and sex work in the U.S. You can read that report online here: http://beatpracticespolicy.org/UPRreport2010.html.  At the review Uruguay made a recommendation for the United States to take a closer look at its human rights violations specifically toward sex workers and the LGBTQ communities.
The United Nations will meet again in March. In the meantime, sex work activists are organizing. So far we have a coalition of 40-some-odd individuals from Universities, the organizations that wrote the above report, and still many others. These folks are writing to the media, developing materials for dissemination (fact-based, academic and political pamphlets, and policy briefs), setting up meetings with people at the State Department and other politicians and policy makers, seeking organizational endorsements, procuring letters from experts in the field, media outreach, presenting issue in public forums, reaching out to finding community, and organizing still other actions.

The coalitions goals:

Our goals:

1. to get the United States government to say that they will adopt Uruguay’s recommendation to “ensure access to public services paying attention to the special vulnerability of sex workers to violence and human rights abuses.”

2. To include one or more of our coalition’s recommended strategies for addressing human rights violations.

3. To educate and raise awareness of sex worker issues in mainstream media, public forums, policy circles and funding communities.

4. To increase our capacity to create positive change for sex workers through coalition-building, media outreach and grass roots organizing.

Stay tuned for updates as they are available!

Nov. 20th – Transgender Day of Remembrance

This Nov. 20th, 7PM at Cal Anderson Park, join the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) and the Q Center at the University of Washington. During the calling out of the names for all of the transgender people murdered in 2010, fire dancers will somberly perform a unique and aesthetically pleasing visual. Various poets from around the country created a YouTube video of their poetry, which will play before and after the vigil. There will also be live poetry performers who will capture the celebration of what it means to be gender-variant in a very gender-binary culture.

SWOP and the Q Center wish to join gender advocates and sex worker allies from around the world in recognizing November 20th, the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. As we approach this day, we seek to come together to remember those who we have lost this year, and to renew our commitment in the on-going struggle for empowerment, visibility, and rights for all transgender people and their loved ones.

Transgender people are subjected to violence a on a daily basis in all countries around the globe. The term ‘transgender’ is an umbrella word used to describe all gender-variant people, although not everyone who is assaulted identifies as transgender — many of them use the terms transsexual, cross-dresser or are otherwise gender-non-specific.

* 33.2% of transgender youth have attempted suicide. Clements-Nolle K., Marx R., Katz M. (2006). Attempted suicide among transgender persons: The influence of gender-based discrimination and victimization. Journal of Homosexuality, 51(3): 53-69.)
* 55% of transgender youth report being physically attacked. (GLSEN. (2003). The 2003 national school climate survey: the school related experiences of our nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.)
* 74% of transgender youth reported being sexually harassed at school, and 90% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression. (GLSEN. (2001). The 2001 national school climate survey: the school related experiences of our nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.)
* In a survey of 403 transgender people, 78% reported having been verbally harassed and 48% reported having been victims of assault, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault or rape. (Wilchins, R., Lombardi, E., Priesing, D. and Malouf, D. (1997) First national survey of transgender violence. Gender Public Advocacy Coalition.)
* In 2002, a study was published that found that bisexual students in Massachusetts and Vermont were three to six times more likely to use cocaine than their straight classmates. (Robin, L., Brener, N., Donahue, S., Hack, T., Hale, K., Goodenow, C. Associations between health risk behaviors and opposite-, same-, and both-sex sexual partners in representative samples of Vermont and Massachusetts high school students. Archive of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. Apr;156(4): pp.349-55.)

The International Transgender Day of Remembrance was originally developed as a response to the murder of Rita Hester in 1998. Her murder still has yet to be solved, but what began as a tragedy now also serves as a day to remember the global violence that occurs against transgender people. SWOP-USA commemorates the Day as a memorial and vigil for the victims of gender-related hate-crimes.

During the week of November 20th, queer and sex worker rights organizations all over the world create public awareness and vigils to raise consciousness about violence that is commonly committed against transgender people. These events also often address the intersection of issues relating to stigma and discrimination that allows violence and oppression to occur with impunity. We seek to raise awareness about the barriers faced when attempting to report violence, and promote empowerment and change what has become an unacceptable status quo.

This year’s events include but are not limited to:

• The University of Washington’s Q Center and Ethnic Cultural Center organized a community conversation today 11-16 on the Transgender Day Of Remembrance, working towards justice from a place of grief/trauma and how to move forward with creating a more supportive community. This event will be open to the public.
• The University of Washington’s Q Center put on a “die-in” at Red Square, 11-17 11:00AM-11:30AM. They will mill around looking inconspicuous until the speaker gives the signal (prearranged, so they know what it is beforehand). Then everyone will collapse to the ground as if they had suddenly died. The speaker will then repeat, over and over in a forceful manner, that these represent the bodies of all of the victims of transphobia and hatred. After 10 minutes of this, the speaker will give the signal again and everyone will get up and leave.
• The University of Washington’s Q Center created an event on Friday, 11-19 at Parnassus (basement of Art Building at UW) from 5:30-7:30PM to share and appreciate how beautiful and amazing gender variance is. People will bring spoken word and other talents for their open mic. Gender is powerful, gorgeous, strong, delicate, silly, serious, complicated, shifting, and ours. They will encourage everyone to love their own gender and to celebrate non traditional gender expression! People of all genders are welcome to attend.
• On Nov. 20th, SWOP Seattle and the University of Washington’s Q Center will be hosting a candlelight vigil with fire performance and poetry from authors around the nation.
• Ingersoll invited Kate Bornstein — a well-known transgender author — to discuss her book, the iconic “Gender Outlaw: on Men, Women and the Rest of Us” challenging the prevailing thought on gender both inside and outside the “gender community.” She constantly pushes the envelope and challenges people to think hard and act out in ways that tweak sensibilities and keep people from getting too comfortable. Kate has published a new book: “Gender Outlaws: the next generation” with S. Bear Bergman. See the INgersoll website for more information.

Every year, the International Transgender Day of Remembrance becomes more embedded in our consciousness as a reminder to all people — allies and transgender people alike — that we are brothers and sisters with unique and brilliant identities. November 20th functions as a reminder about the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, colleagues, and allies who have been lost this year to violence. Please join us in our effort to make fundamental human rights accessible for transgender people and to end the silencing that they experience every day.

Sat. Nov 6th: NW-SWOP Visioning Meeting for practitioners & providers

The private group of providers and practitioners behind NW-SWOP would love to invite you to the upcoming Visioning and Organizing meeting. It’s an important meeting for us to come together to talk more about what the group is doing, what we can do in the future, and how you can be a part of it… From the ground floor, we want to discuss how we can operate as a safe, supportive, consensus-based collective of current and retired sex workers. What can we do for one another? What would you like done? How WILL it be done? This meeting is open only to verified current and retired self-identified sex workers.

Details
When: Saturday Nov. 6th – 1-3pm meeting; 3-5pm overflow and social time
Where: near Capitol Hill in Seattle

To RSVP
Please submit your formal SEPIA application with the link below, or by emailing the same information to marymagdalene@nw-swop.org. Even if you cannot attend the meeting, we will respond letting you know how you can participate in planning the meeting, and how you can share your visions, suggestions and ideas!

http://nw-swop.org/resources/other

For our NW-SWOP advocates who are not sex workers, the next open NW-SWOP event will be the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20th. Stay tuned!  Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you again soon!

An Evening Of Healing – Sex Worker Community Support

This event is a Bird Cage Collective event, in cooperation with NW-SWOP. To prevent confusion please know this was written by a sex worker under a pseudo name used for activist work. This was not written by a provider working with the name Jesse.

We hope to share heart space with you soon!
Love,
“Mary”
NW-SWOP

Hello Everyone,

I’m a local sex-worker/provider here in Seattle.  Last month I was scared and shocked when I received the news of the murder of Roxie.

This letter is an invite for a sex-worker only gathering where we can group together and just spend time, process a bit and share space with each other.

I did not know Roxie personally, but we both advertise on the same board and we’re the same age.  I’ve done activism around reducing the stigma of sex work–drawing links between this stigma and the violence it can lead to.  Roxie’s murder is the first time I’ve been directly confronted with this violence.

That same week John T. Williams was shot by the Seattle police.  I went that Friday to his vigil.  It was deeply moving, all those people coming together to honor his life… All I could think about on the way home however, was Roxie.  “Where’s her vigil?” I wondered.  It made me think deep about how the criminalization of our work makes it harder to publicly speak out against violence directed at us.  I felt stifled.  I wanted a vigil, I wanted something…but knew it would be so hard and potentially dangerous to speak out, as a sex worker.

Then I just wanted community.  I talked to the few people close to me who share our profession, and that helped a lot…but I wanted more, more community.

This is simply an invite for us to gather, and talk.  We could grieve, we could share stories, we could share food, we could chat.  We could strategize about safety, give each other advice.  Whatever, I just want to be in a group of people who know what it’s like to do this work, carrying on our backs the weight of stigma and real fear of violence.  I want some nourishment from my sex-worker family.

So yes, this is an invite for any other sex workers who are also seeking some community.  Sunday evening 6:30-9pm gathering on October 24th at a discreet location on Capitol Hill in Seattle.   (6:30 doors and then event from 7 to 9pm)  If you or any other current sex workers that you trust and believe would benefit in this gathering please write me at: jesse.xoxo@rocketmail.com I’ll then send you the location/directions to the meeting location.

I hope we can come together and set intentional space in honor of the life of Roxie, and in honor of ourselves — for continuing to do the work we do, in this crazy world we live in.

With a Full Heart and Solidarity,
Jesse.

I’ve organized this event along with enormous support from NW-SWOP.  Thank you SWOP!

PS. Again, this is a Past and Present Sex Worker Only gathering.
If you do currently do not identify as a sex worker please respect this space by not attending.

IHeartASexWorker1-1

NW-SWOP dinner party in Seattle, October 3rd

NW-SWOP wants YOU to get involved! Join us in our efforts. We need your knowledge, your talent and your participation.We are organizing a dinner party and we want you to come! It’s going to be fun. We hope to provide an opportunity for people to meet, have a great time, learn and get involved if they choose.

Please note: This is an open SWOP gathering. No assumptions are to be made whether attendees are clients, sex workers, volunteers or general allies. Everyone is welcome to use the name and affiliation they are most comfortable with. No cameras or media will be allowed.

When: Sunday, October 3rd, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Who can attend: Anyone 18 or older who is interested in social justice and freedom.
Where: A very nice ballroom near the Southcenter mall has been reserved for this event. There is ample free parking. The address will be e-mailed the day before the event to everyone who RSVPs.
Cost: $15 per person for dinner (this includes tax and gratuity). Proceeds go directly to the venue, this is not a fund raising event. A donation jar will be available for those who would like to contribute to the organization.
Menu: Lasagna, Caesar salad, garlic bread. (vegan plates can be made available with advance request.) Alcoholic beverages are not included though will be made available at the bar. Please know that we want this to be an accessible event to everyone including those who do not drink alcohol. It’s important to us that people be respectful of others regardless of their chosen beverage. If you do choose to drink, please remember to ask a designated driver to be present.

Please RSVP to swop.event@gmail.com by Wed., Sept 29th so that the food and staffing can be arranged. Please let me know of any last minute cancellations or additions if there are changes after the 29th.
Thank you so much!   We are looking forward to meeting you all

Sex 2.0 Supports NW-SWOP, May 22-23!

Sex 2.0 is a conference focusing on the intersection of social media,feminism and sexuality. Sex 2.0 welcomes and supports all sex positive groups, particularly the sex worker community. Many attendees are or were sex workers, including keynote speaker, discussion leader, and author of Sex Secrets of Escorts, Tips From a Pro, Veronica Monet. The conference will feature a variety of discussions and panels on the topic, including a SEPIA sponsored panel discussing the many ways in which the internet is bringing empowerment and safety to those involved in the adult industry.  Come learn about erotic professions who consider themselves empowered feminists, and hear how they are using technology to improve safety and overall working conditions in the industry.

Additionally, Sex 2.0 will donate most profits to the Northwest chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project. Support the conference and support SWOP!

Learn more at www.sex20con.com and register today!

$50 for the weekend. 18+ only.

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Call for Writing and Art Submissions

SEPIA is putting together a short collection of writings by local sex workers to
create a fund raising version of the NW-SWOP Resource Guide. We know that there are talented writers in our community, and as sex workers, we have important stories to tell.

You may submit 2 original pieces for consideration. Visual art in a black and white format may be submitted. For written work we ask that you limit your pieces to750 words. (Ask if this is a problem–we might be able to be flexible.) Please email your submissions or questions to marymagdalene@nw-swop.org and be sure to include the pen name you wish to use, if any, as well as your contact information should we need to reach you. Submissions are due no later than June 15.

Desiree Alliance Scholarships

The Desiree Alliance is a diverse, volunteer-based, sex worker-led network of
organizations, communities and individuals across the US working in harm reduction, direct services, political advocacy and health services for sex workers. Desiree Alliance provides leadership and create space for sex workers and supporters to come together to advocate for human, labour and civil rights for all workers in the sex industry.

NW-SWOP has set the goal of sending five representatives to the Desiree Alliance
Conference, “Working Sex: Power, Practice and Politics” in order to cover the five
concurrent tracks:
* Academic and Policy
* Activism
* Art, Entertainment and Media
* Business Development
* Harm Reduction and Outreach

Desiree Alliance is offering a very limited number of scholarships nationwide. Our
goal is to raise $1,500 to go directly to the flight, hotel and registration fees
for NW-SWOP’s attendance. At this time we are still not able to accept charity
donations other than via our website PayPal option. We are accepting gifts for this
purpose and will be discussing a fundraiser at the next SEPIA meeting.

If you are interested in donating in support of NW-SWOP’s attendance, or if you are
a current sex worker who would be willing to dedicate yourself to one of the
presentation tracks as a SWOP sponsored participant, please contact MaryMagdalene@nw-SWOP.org
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Projects

Priority: Resource Guide

We are hoping to have our Sex Workers’ Resource Guide compiled and ready for print by the end of April.  This guide will be used for outreach work, tabling events and general public awareness efforts.  It will be free to those who need it and “by donation” for those who are able to contribute.  We are looking for non-judgmental organizations and businesses that provide services applicable to sex workers – health care, transitional housing, crisis centers, victims’ rights organizations, legal representatives, sexy suppliers, self-defense training… who are we forgetting? Please send your submissions along with a brief description of the resource/s to MaryMagdalene@nw-swop.org.  Thank you!

Other Projects

* First quarter fliers and distribution

* Introduction letters to allied organizations

* Additional compilation and printing of the Resource Guide, sponsors?

* Creation of a discussion board for planning purposes

* Fundraiser for scholarships to the Desiree Alliance conference, July

If you have time or resources to devote to these projects, please let us know!

Let’s Do It!

A night of sex worker made media at Northwest Film Forum

Saturday, March 20th, 8:00 pm; 1515 12th Ave. E. Seattle

$9 general, $6.50 student, $6.00 Film Forum members

Please note this is a wheelchair accessible venue and a fragrance-free event

From the Sangli district in the rural south of India to the life of a New York City callboy, sex workers reach out through film and video to share their experiences. LET’S DO IT! a night of experimental and documentary shorts dedicated to human rights and advocacy for sex workers across the globe.  As misrepresentations of those who trade erotic labor proliferate the mainstream media, sex workers and sex worker activists help to reduce stigmatization by becoming their own authors, reporters, and organizers. The evening’s films will examine the unique challenges and joys of being a sex worker. Following the screening will be a panel discussion with past and present sex workers whose experience varies from peep show work, fetish & fantasy to erotic massage and more. Miss Indigo Blue (Academy of Burlesque), billie rain (dual power infamy) Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (Author of So Many Ways To Sleep Badly), local writer and sex worker Sophia J. Russel and other special guests will be in attendance.  Please join us to discuss individual experiences with advocacy, work and empowerment. There will be a reception with beverages, a DJ, food and copies of $pread magazines for donation, all to raise funds for a local ‘zine by & for sex workers.

Curated by the bird cage collective

Sponsored by the Central Coop

Thank you Uniondocs NYC

Progress Report

Some of you may know that our fall fundraiser was cancelled due to logistical issues with our set up as a formal chapter of SWOP-USA.  Essentially, the City of Seattle does not recognize us as a local entity.  Until future notice donations can only be accepted at our events, which will go to our direct expenses; or via the PayPal option on our website, which will be earmarked for NW-SWOP future use.  We are actively working to process all of the necessary paperwork to resolve this matter.

While all has been quiet on the web, we have not been fully inactive!  Over the past couple of months NW-SWOP has coordinated several sex worker events including a Seattle spa day, a Portland clothing exchange with donations for a local womens’ shelter, and a legal presentation by a criminal defense lawyer.

Additionally the December 17th vigil in Seattle was graced by the presence of more than thirty people in support of calling attention to the need to end violence against sex workers.

Thank you to those amazing allies who came out to share the night with us!


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December 17th, The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. This day was originally thought of by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and started by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial for the victims of the  Green River Killer in Seattle Washington.

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Seattle

A Vigil

7:30PM Thursday December 17th

Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill

Please join us in gathering to call attention to this day, it’s purpose and those who have been lost.  All participants are encouraged to wear masks to preserve anominity!  Bring a poem, a song, a few words to share in remembrance…

Portland

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Other Cities

Please follow the link for more information about December 17th and events in other cities:

http://www.swopusa.org/dec17/index.htm


An Anonymous Written Contribution

I Am A Sex Worker

I’d like to introduce myself to you. Well, it isn’t an introduction exactly because chances are you already know me. I am your neighbor, your co-worker, a friend of a friends, your best friend, your hairstylist, your sister, your brother, your cousin, aunt, mother, uncle. I am your girlfriend, your wife. I am beside you in your world on a daily basis, but you rarely notice me. I am a person, male or female, old or young, like any other person in your world. I am you under different circumstances, or maybe I simply am you. Who am I that I can be all of these things?

I am a sex worker.

I am the invisible stigma, all to often summed up by an array of judgment-laden stereotypes. I proudly choose my occupation as a sex worker, just as you choose your occupation. Alternatively I am forced into sex work either by coercion, physical force or cercumstance. I am many things, but I am not the nameless, faceless victim, without family or friends, portrayed by the media. I am not the vulnerable woman, discarded by others who goes unnoticed when missing. I am not a worthy victim of violence simply because of my work. And I hope, because you can see that I am a person, just like you, you will no longer allow the world to believe that I am disposable. You will not allow the myth to continue. The myth that violence, murder, torture and unspeakable harm against me, is somehow more acceptable when directed at me because I am a sex worker.

Each year numerous sex workers are murdered in the United States and in other countries around the world.  Many others are subject to violence such as rapes and beatings. A hard truth that we must face is that we are all culpable for the death of sex workers everywhere. By continuing to stigmatize sex work, we force victims of violence into silence due to fear of legal and social repercussions. This leads to the belief that all people who are involved in sex work are less wanted, less needed, less noticed and therefore more disposable.

Meet Jarniece Hargrove, age 31, a victim of murder. Missing for two months in N. Carolina before she was found, Jarnice’s family is distraught at the loss of their daughter. Jarnice’s father expresses that the person who killed Jarnice “took our love, our joy from us” http://www.ncwanted.com/ncwanted_home/story/5520849/.

Meet Shabana, a woman from Palestine and a celebrated traditional Palestinian “dancing girl.” Shabana was killed by members of the Taliban following their denouncement of the traditional dance as a form of prostitution. Shabana’s body was found in a public square, pierced through many times over with bullets and strewn with money and photographs from her personal albums and other emblems of her craft

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1112128/Dancing-girl-murdered-Taliban-refusing-traditional-performances-despite-death-threats.html.

Both Jarniece and Shabana were sex workers, although their life circumstances were undoubtedly very different. Both were victimized because of their occupations. Stand with me to protest these deaths, this senseless violence occurring everywhere. Stand with me to end the stigma of sex work and to end the fear of violence for sex workers everywhere. December 17th, 2009 is the intentional day to end violence against sex workers. Stand with me, a sex worker. Stand with me your neighbor, your friend, your daughter, your brother, your wife.

Would you like to participate?

We want to thank those friends who have stepped forward with your contributions, enthusiasm and support!  Cash and PayPal donations have covered the cost of our software and web expenses as well as a one-year banner ad on a relevant discussion board, thank you!!!  As we’ve moved forward we’ve been able to collect more concrete thoughts on how our friends might actively participate. Please let us know if you have good thoughts, ideas or resources to share with us!

For our fund raising event we are actively seeking friendly venues, performers and donations of goods or services for our silent auction. All monies raised at the fundraiser will be used for 2010 public awareness campaigns and events.

For December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sexworkers, we will be partnering with the Sex Workers Outreach Coalition to support three events: a movie screening, a candlelight vigil and a red umbrella march.  We are seeking donations of red umbrellas, masks and sign making supplies… we are also encouraging your participation and attendance!  More details will come of when/where as it is available.
More information can be found with the links below:

SWOCRed Umbrella

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We are looking for a graphic designer who can assist with detailing out our logo and promotional materials. Specifically, with the letters S & P we are hoping to find images that represent the tantra and BDSM communities, and we are looking for assistance creating fliers for our fund raising event.Do any of you own a print shop? Lol!

We are looking for a brave soul who is willing to be the representative link between the private practitioner SEPIA group and more public NW-SWOP meetings. It is our intention to host monthly meetings with our allies from human service organizations and from the general public. This cannot happen until we have someone who is willing to be out and public about their support of this group and is willing to attend and facilitate monthly meetings.

Monetary donations are currently being requested towards printing, promotion and production costs towards our fall fundraiser. And as always, we welcome your ideas for networking with other organizations and communities and your dreams for what we will become!

Thank you for helping us to manifest our mission!

With Love,
Mary

Looking for a few good allies!

We are actively looking for volunteers who can help us to grow.  If you have skills in non-profit organizing or fund-raising, or are a representative of an organization that offers (or would like to offer) your services to individuals in the sex industry  we would love to hear from you!

Volunteers are also actively being sought to make our fall fundraiser a success.  Please let us know in what capacity you are interested in participating.

Deep gratitude is waiting for you!

Email: Info(at)NW-SWOP.org

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And So It Begins!

Our small group has been very busy building this site, setting up our internal communications system, conversing about public and private group needs and privacy concerns, hunting down links for our resource guide, networking regarding our upcoming fundraisers, and much much more.  We are very excited to be here!

Please stay tuned here and/or via our newsletter for semi-regular progress reports.

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