I was supposed to write a recap of the Ghost Adventures episode where the GA Crew did a lockdown (an overnight ghost hunt) at Sheri’s Ranch, a brothel out in Nevada, way back in October. In typical Aspasia fashion, it was not done. That said, I will mention the episode again in passing.
I’ve covered this date, which is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers previously here and here. Read those two posts to get an understanding of the history of the date. This year’s post is going to be short because to be perfectly honest, I’m feeling exhausted with activism and some activists. Burn-out, if you will. I have experienced more burn-out with activism than I ever do with working mostly because with activism it can feel like no progress is ever being made as far as laws and that too often things are becoming regressive. Since the regressive laws are mostly championed loudly and publicly by feminists, even those calling themselves “progressive” and “liberal” a lot of people only vaguely aware of the issues sign-on in support because of course feminists always have other women’s concerns at heart. Could you hear the sound of my eyes rolling? Hilariously, Vice magazine allowed Meghan “there’s no feminist war against sex work” and “marriage is patriarchal oppression unless you’re my twin sister then it’s totes okay and ooh my bridesmaid’s dress is purty” Murphy to pen an article about the “innate exploitation” of prostitution and how it’s wrong to call it sex work, even though the workers themselves created and use that term, because feminists like her are supposed to define our reality. Really. If you’ve been paying attention, France is heading into a full-on Puritanical swing of their sexual rights pendulum: an end-demand scheme was passed in the National Assembly and awaits approval in the Senate, probably some time in January. Oh France, you’re breaking my heart!
And yet, there are these glimmers of hope and it’s those little threads that are worth fighting for and worth all the frustrations. Denmark has a form of decriminalized prostitution and a recent debate on adopting the so-called Nordic Model was respectfully portrayed in the very popular political drama series, Borgen. There are voices piping up from outside of sex worker rights’ activist circles questioning the effectiveness of the Nordic Model and even traditionally ultra-conservative groups who hide their anti-sex work stance behind hysterical “concern” for the children are acknowledging the existence of methodologically sound, objective studies that debunk many of the hysterics around child sex trafficking (even if the group is still dry heaving over the results); even a year ago this group wouldn’t have acknowledged such a study that proves what many sex worker rights activists have known for years and have tried to inform people about (instead labeled as “pimps” and “pro-trafficking” among other slurs). I mentioned the Ghost Adventures episode, and though undoubtedly done partially for the ratings, I didn’t detect any anti-sex worker bias on the part of the GA Crew or their associates. They were, overall, very respectful of the workers there. If I recall correctly, Ghost Adventures also did an investigation at a strip club once and in that episode as well, I don’t think there were any jokes made at the workers’ expense.
But still, we have a long way to go. Obviously the laws need to change sooner rather than later, so that actual exploitation, not loosely-defined exploitation that also happens to reflect the observer’s discomfort around the “wrong” type of adult sex, can be publicly identified and rooted out. The violence that can be visited upon a sex worker because of the stigmatization leads to situations such as the one experienced by Shannon Leighton who, luckily, survived this brutal attack from a client. And the murder of Swedish sex worker and activist with Rose Alliance known as Petite Jasmine. Stigmatization depends on the laws and the laws, most importantly, depend on stigmatization to remain in place.
There are many sex worker rights organizations across the country and around the world that have or are holding 12/17 events. I want to bring particular attention to the event being held by SWOP-Chicago as the organization is also holding a clothing drive at the event. If you are not in Chicago, you can still help donate to the drive as it is part of a larger fundraising effort for an upcoming outreach campaign to Garfield Park.