You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Support the decriminalization of sex work.
Feminism has an unfortunate and harmful rift when it comes to sex work. While activists and talking heads will all come out to defend bodily autonomy when it relates to pregnancy and abortion, a frustrating few show up to acknowledge the agency of sex workers. Despite sex workers risking stigma, future employment and even harm to speak out and tell their stories and debunk myths, many still see them as victims to be rescued or as complicit in the subjugation of women.
Amnesty International's decision to listen to the 237 organizations in 71 countries that make up the Global Network of Sex Work Projects rather than the “rescue” industry and support decriminalization has sparked a new round of public discussion on the issue. This means right now is an important moment for allies to learn and get involved.
If you’re new or have reservations, there’s no one better than Melissa Gira Grant on the topic. She has the personal and activist history as well as an accessible style for explaining the intersection of issues that make decriminalization — and ultimately legalization — important and sensible.
From her piece at The Nation on Amnesty’s policy shift:
"Using the criminal law to control sex work means police are pitted against sex workers, and sex workers can pay the price with their lives. Sex workers who are also migrants, transgender, and/or people of color or ethnic minorities are intensely subject to this kind of criminalization and exclusion...Criminal laws only add to the challenges—poverty, marginalization, access to health care—that many sex workers already face.”
Basically — as we see with almost every other thing that’s been criminalized in this country, making sex work illegal only intensifies existing hardships and marginalization while propping up private prison profits. The only way to fix it is to change prohibition laws and that starts with changing public perception — which means we need to be better allies.
The Sex Workers Outreach Project is a great starting point for becoming an ally in your personal and professional spaces. At SWOPusa.org they have basic language tips for medical professionals, advice for academics and teachers, ways to get involved in your community, support for the partners and friends of sex workers, and links to other organizations’ resources.
Their community support line — 877-776-2044 — is national and open to current and former sex workers, allies and grassroots organizers for general advice, crisis counseling, referrals, and legal information. Their resources page also has safety and screening tips for sex workers — increasingly important as sex worker-controlled avenues like MyRedbook & Rentboy are shut down.
Follow & amplify: #SexWorkIsWork
Q&A on the Policy to Protect Human Rights of Sex Workers — Amnesty International
"A Sex Worker Shows Why Her Job Shouldn't Be Illegal” via Refinery29
Hear the segment in context:
Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich