Were whores to fail to remember our dead, they would be forgotten entirely…and we refuse to let that happen. – “On December Seventeenth”
Though this is the thirteenth annual Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, it is the first one I’ve been able to spend in the company of my sisters; tonight I’ll join the vigil procession with the members of SWOP Seattle, which like many others in cities around the world is intended as a memorial to our dead, 160 of them so far this year. Some of the violence which claimed those lives was the direct result of stigma which portrays us as subhuman; some of it is due to the fact that evil men recognize that cops aren’t likely to care about (or even believe) sex workers who have been attacked. But nowadays, most of it is a direct result of prohibition and prohibitionist propaganda:
Some prohibitionists say we bring violence upon ourselves by our choice to live outside of the sexual restrictions that repressive cultural norms have imposed on women for the past several millennia; others try to rob us of our agency, claiming that the violence comes from imaginary “pimps” and demonized clients. But the truth these would-be social engineers don’t want you to know is that the majority of violence against whores is inflicted by the police, either with the blessings of the state (in the name of “fighting prostitution” or “rescuing victims”) or in the shadow created by the state’s definition of harlots as creatures outside the bounds of humane treatment. The state, Western religions, and carceral “feminists” teach that a woman who has sex for practical reasons rather than emotional ones is robbed of her “purity”, and that an “impure” woman would be better off dead. Furthermore, since they only value women for our sexual characteristics, they teach that a woman who sells sex “sells her body” or even “sells herself”; a person without a body is a ghost, and a person without a self is nothing at all. Given these beliefs, is it any wonder those who adhere to them think dead hookers are of no great import? As far as they’re concerned we were dead already, or worse than dead. And if we are, is it any surprise that violent, weak-minded thugs in or out of uniform believe they can rape, rob, brutalize or even kill us with impunity?
Until our society grows up and stops believing in ridiculous fairy tales about magical sex acts and ritual purity, sex workers will continue to be treated as disposable. And until the day that sex work is universally recognized as work and sex workers recognized as fully human, we must never stop reminding our society that it has our blood on its collective hands.