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Sex Worker/Social Worker: An Ethics Roundtable

via soulkreations on Etsy
via soulkreations on Etsy

Monica Jones was both a student in and a target of the Arizona State School of Social Work when she was arrested in a sweep that was part of Project ROSE, the prostitution diversion program that’s a partnership between the school and the Phoenix PD. We asked sex workers who, like Monica, are students in or graduates of social work programs, to talk with moderator Tara Burns about the ethical and professional intersections of sex work and social work. The participants are:

Serpent: I’m a longtime sex worker, an active board member of SWOP-Chicago and one of the people behind AIT Research, a research project on trafficking in the sex trade. I’m also currently enrolled in a MSW program in Chicago. Find my websites at sexpros.net, redlightdistrictchicago.com, and AdultIndustryTruth.com, and my tweets at @redlightchicago and @AITResearch.

Katie: I have been a dancer for about 18 months, and I recently entered and withdrew from a Masters of Counseling in Marriage, Couples, & Family Therapy program. I currently work full time as a domestic violence advocate and work with our local sex worker outreach coalition. I write at sexualityreclaimed.com.

Cyan: I danced and also did the more private variety of sex work from age 21 to age 27 in Los Angeles and in Vegas. Now I am in my second year of a Masters in Clinical Counseling program. I’m currently too busy with school, work, and single parenting to write in it very much lately, but I have a blog called snapshots of a spiral path.

Annie: I have been involved off and on in sex work for about the last seven years, mostly escorting, some massage. I’m currently in a Social Work Ph.D program, and finished my MSW in 2010. I also work as the program coordinator for an LGBTQ IPV program. Before starting my Ph.D program, I coordinated a harm reduction program for folks working on the street. Right now, I’m doing a lot of education with a colleague, to various organizations and university programs, on students working in the sex industry. Annie is one of my working names.

Tara: I’ve done all kinds of sex work off and on for well over a decade, and I recently had a brush with an MSW program. I blog at ecowhore.com.

What is/was your experience with a social work/counseling program? Did they know you were a sex worker?

Louisianan Justice

Deon Haywood

The end of June saw some big, wonderful news coming out of Louisiana that hasn’t yet gotten a mention here on T&S. (I blame Kutcher. It’s always his fault!)

Until two weeks ago, prostitutes arrested in Louisiana could be charged under an ancient “Solicitation of Crimes of Nature” law which would, if convicted, give them the status of felon and registered sex offender. Trans women and women of color were disproportionately targeted; other sex workers might be lucky enough to receive misdemeanor charges under the (separate) prostitution law. Superstar activist Deon Haywood was instrumental in overturning this archaic POS, and she’s guiding her group, Women With A Vision, to now pressure the state to remove 40% of New Orleans sex offenders from the registry, where they were placed after Crimes Against Nature convictions.

But not all is well in The Bayou State. Hypocrisy and, worse, police harassment of sex workers continue unabated. On the same day SCAN was overturned, police announced an (apparently new) policy of targeting clients as vigorously as they do prostitutes. Then two days after the news about the overturn of SCAN, police officers arrested one of their own in a sting operation. And any discussion of Louisiana’s sex work laws isn’t complete with a nod to current state Senator David Vitter, a confirmed, successful solicitor of prostitutes, who hasn’t faced any legal consequences for participating in the illegal industry. He remains fully, unapologetically entrenched in (conservative) politics.

Quote of the Week

There are only two kinds of whores in the media and in the minds of most feminists; the gorgeous rich glamazon and the beaten-down junkie whore. Hilariously, you can be both. You can also be neither. In fact, I’d say that most sex workers in the developed world fall along the axis somewhere in the middle and shift up and down depending on their circumstances. This binarist thinking is largely due to feminists appropriating sex worker’s experiences for their own selfish ends; the good whore supports the sex posi agenda and the bad whore supports the radfem agenda.

from “10 Tips on How To Be A Feminist Ally To Sex Workers” by Olive Seraphim on her new blog. Such a primer has never been more desperately needed.

 

A Nation of Sex Workers: An Interview with Tracy Quan

photo taken by Stanton Wong
photo taken by Stanton Wong

I’ve been reading Tracy Quan since before I was a sex worker, when a prequel to Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl was serialized on Salon.com, and I’ve been chummy with her online since 2003, when she graciously replied to my e-mails. I’ve learned so much from Tracy, her callgirl comedy-of-manners novels, and the quirky takes on sex work, relationships, and public figures in her articles. I imagine many of us have.

One of the first of the sex worker literati, Tracy was also one of the first to successfully transition from out sex worker and sex workers’ rights activist to in-demand freelance writer, modeling a career trajectory that helped bring our voices to the mainstream. Yet, her street cred as part of the sex workers’ rights movement is unimpeachable.  After reading about the history of PONY (Prostitutes of New York) collaborating with ACT-UP in the 90s, I asked Tracy to talk about her involvement with PONY’s work during that era, as well as many other things.

You started working quite young, at 14 years old, as a way to gain financial independence from your live-in older boyfriend and your parents. Nowadays, there’s a whole lot of tangled discourse about youth sex workers, from a law in NY state that may be able to retroactively erase youth convictions , while another NY State law  diverts those now arrested into “state protection”, to anti-sex work feminists shrieking fallaciously that the average age of entry into prostitution is 13, to the sex workers’ rights movement trying to figure out a way to help homeless queer and trans youth who subsist on survival sex. As a former teenage sex worker, what do you have to say about all this?

A Sex Worker’s Open Letter to the Australian Media

Victorian sex workers at a December 17th event (photo courtesy of Jane Green)
Participants at the Red Umbrella Rally, Festival of Sex Work, Melbourne 2013 (photo courtesy of the Scarlet Alliance Archives)

After the Sydney Morning Herald published an editorial promoting the Swedish model of criminalizing sex workers’ clients, exploiting the murder of Australian street sex worker Tracy Connelly to further an anti-sex worker agenda, many sex workers responded to the piece by writing to the news outlets that printed or re-printed it. Jane Green wrote a version of the editorial that appears below and sent it to both the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. The Sydney Morning Herald didn’t respond or return phone calls. The Age did, eventually, but after two and a half weeks of discussions decided against running an edited version, indicating they’d provide better access to sex workers “next time.” We at Tits and Sass thank Jane for allowing us to post the what other outlets declined to publish.

As a Victorian sex worker, I looked on in horror at the article seeking to exploit the death of sex worker Tracy Connelly, published in the Sydney Morning Herald days before the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

It is horrifying and traumatizing to the sex worker community to have an article proposing the Nordic Model of criminalizing sex workers’ clients—proven to have devastating effects on sex workers’ health and safety—released on a day used to protest violence against sex workers. Horrifying, but not surprising.

Looking back on the month of sex worker Tracy Connelly’s death, July 2013, which encompassed four high profile sex worker deaths internationally, I am struck not just by the tone of the writing, but by what it highlights to me as a sex worker regarding what the media are willing to, or interested in, discussing. It tells me what is newsworthy about our lives.