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Actually, My Hand Feeds Me: A Message To Annie Sprinkle

Annie Sprinkle: a woman who needs to get back in touch with her movement rather than speaking over it (Photo by Creatrix Tlara, via her flickr and the Creative Commons)
Annie Sprinkle: a woman who needs to get back in touch with her movement rather than speaking over it (Photo by Creatrix Tlara, via her flickr and the Creative Commons)

As a general rule, I absolutely love being called “adorable.” It reaffirms a lifetime of well-intentioned cheek pinches and makes me feel like I still look youthful as I approach 30. But being an adorable person is a very different thing than being part of an adorable movement. So when Annie Sprinkle took to Facebook to chastise sex workers who decided to “act up” at a conference called “Fantasies that Matter–Images of Sex Work in Media and Art,” and used condescending terms like “adorable” and “well intentioned” to describe sex workers who seek a voice in discourses about them, well, I got just adorably incensed.

The Week in Links: May 27

A Stockholm sex worker was kicked out of school—meaning banned from taking classes, not banned from teaching—because of her (legal) work. This on top of the news that European students are increasingly entering into or considering entering into the sex industry.

Kristen Davis aka the Manhattan Madam is claiming that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the (former) IMF head recently charged with attempted rape, used her services in 2006. Meanwhile, the heinous defense lawyers for Strauss-Kahn have announced their intent to look for a history for sex work in the accuser’s past, based on the suspicion that she might be HIV positive.

Speaking of HIV, it looks like not all sex workers in the Philippines are infected with it which is a big shock to health officials: “This […] has shattered the traditional belief that HIV-AIDS only infects sex workers and homosexuals.”

Underneath this journalist’s cliched and banal opening (“selling her body”? Really?) is a very sweet story about sex workers helping one another receive sex education and health counseling.

“Lapdancing Nun” Ruins It for Everyone

Or so most of the reports read. One ex-stripper nun and her emphatic interpretive dancing has caused the monastery at the Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, a basilica built around 325, to be shut down by Pope Benedict XVI. I see how her performances could be considered inappropriate. She does roll around on the ground, looking like she’s sliding into home with the cross. (What’s the protocol there? Do they have to burn it like a desecrated flag?) But, I have a hard time believing Sister Anna Nobili is the most scandalous thing to happen within the confines of Santa Croce in 1,686 years. We’re talking about the Catholic Church here. What does everyone think? I find her performances to be heartfelt and enthusiastic, albeit vaguely sexual in nature and not the most nunlike. Judge for yourselves.

The 7th San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Fest

As a sex worker in San Francisco, I feel pretty spoiled by all the resources and community we have here—not to mention that the stigma feels a little more manageable when half the city is already queer polyamorous pot-smoking Burners. Or middle-age foreign tech nerds, who happen to make great customers.

If you’re a fellow Bay Area sex worker, please take advantage of the fact that we’re lucky enough to have a film and arts festival of our very own.

Tomorrow night marks the first event of the nine-day festival, with a kick-off cabaret show at the St. James Infirmary. Producer Erica Fabulous says that the festival’s main priorities are showcasing the diversity of sex workers and building community, though she hopes it will also open the minds of people who aren’t in the industry.

Visit the website to learn more about the various programs, which will run through May 29.

Activist Spotlight: Pye Jakobsson On the Amnesty International Vote and Holding Allies Accountable

(Photo via Amnesty International USA Flickr account)
(Photo via Amnesty International USA Flickr account)

As the vote this weekend at the Amnesty International General Council Meeting in Dublin approaches on whether the human rights organization will adopt a draft proposal supporting the decriminalization of prostitution as policy, I spoke, via e-mail, to Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) President Pye Jakobsson on NSWP’s petition to Amnesty urging them to vote in favor of it. Jakobsson is also the co-founder of Rose Alliance, Sweden’s sex workers’ rights organization, so she has key insight into the Swedish model of criminalizing sex workers’ clients championed by the the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the prohibitionist organization behind the petition asking Amnesty to vote against the proposal for decriminalization.

Can you comment on the notorious petition by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women urging Amnesty International members to vote against the decriminalization proposal when it’s submitted at the organization’s International Council Meeting in Dublin this weekend? It’s been signed by a gaggle of celebrities—Kate Winslet, Lena Dunham, Anne Hathaway, and Emma Thompson among them—and it received a lot of attention in the news last week. Why do you think so many in Hollywood are drawn to anti-sex worker anti-trafficking activism?

I find the whole thing revolting. actually. Right, so I get holding babies is getting kind of old, and animal rights is too mainstream to gain any real attention, so now they are hugging trafficking victims.

There are just so many problems with that, though:

1) Grown up women are neither children nor puppies.
2) People who are being exploited in the sex industry need rights, not hugs.
3) Just because you once played a hooker doesn’t give you any extra special insights [in]to what sex workers and/or people who experience exploitation in the sex industry need.

How can we fight back against that sort of star power to make our case in the court of public opinion?

I really want to answer [with] some fancy, clever version of “we have truth on our side,” but so far that hasn’t been enough.

Last weekend, me and a long-time activist looked at each other and said “Shit, we need to scramble up some celebrities.” Truth is, there are not many of those around. The actor Rupert Everett that supports ECP (English Collective of Prostitutes) is one. Rose Alliance has our own little celebrity if one is into kitsch European disco from the 80s, in our member (and yes, former sex worker) Alexander Bard. If you’ve never heard of his iconic group Army of Lovers, I dare you to look them up. But that’s it.

I am not really sure we want to go after celebrities unless they have actually worked as sex workers. I prefer sticking to sex workers themselves as the experts. I do think that it is time to hold all our so-called allies accountable. You say you are on our side? Now would be a really good time to prove it. This last week several people within the UNAIDS family, Amnesty, and other big organizations have been risking their own jobs trying to do what’s right. Now, that is commitment.

It is easy saying you are an ally because you feel all fluffy inside [on the] IAC (International AIDS Conference) when you walk around with a badge saying “Save us from saviours,” but what about the rest of the year? I know I am not very flexible on this—ask our allies in Sweden. We really don’t let them fuck around. There is no time for pretty words while people are dying.

I really think we need to demand more of our allies. It is time for some old school hardcore activism—either you are with us or you are against us. And no, owning a red umbrella does not count. We need our research spread, our petitions signed and more doors opened. We need to be included in decision making processes at all levels, and those who claim to be our allies should facilitate that. I got allergic to…buzz words of sympathy without any action or commitment the […] second [Swedish sex worker] Jasmine got murdered, and I haven’t changed since.