Argentina

AMMAR General Secretary Georgina Orellano and Maria Riot at a Women’s Strike event this month.

Maria Riot, a member of Argentine sex worker trade union AMMAR, contacted Tits and Sass after the Women’s Strike this month, eager to talk about how her organization participated in the event in their country. AMMAR has maintained a strong presence in Argentina for more than two decades, and its many bold campaigns have often made mainstream news internationally. I certainly had many questions saved up over the years to ask an AMMAR spokesperson. 

Riot is a 25-year-old porn performer, sex worker, and activist who joined AMMAR a year ago, after three years not speaking publicly about her sex work. “Now I do,” she wrote to me. “I realize[d] only some [representatives] of AMMAR were talking in the media, and [we] needed more voices telling their experiences and doing activism, so I started doing it.” English is not Riot’s first language. Tits and Sass is presenting her answers to the interview questions below as written as faithfully as possible, in order to preserve her meaning. 

Can you tell me about how AMMAR came to participate in protests on March 8th for the Women’s Strike? What sorts of reactions did you receive from local feminist organizers in response to your involvement?

AMMAR [has] a lot of presence in the women[‘s] rights movement. Since the last [few] years, we become really active at it so of course we participate in feminist events, marches, mobilizations, and debates. We believe that if we want women and feminism to listen to us, we have to be part of it and the most active we can [be].

In Argentina, we started organizing [for] the Women[‘s] Strike one month before it, in every city and province with assemblies where a lot of organizations participated. We did really intense and hard work because a lot of feminist[s] against sex work didn’t want us there. But the group that was organizing [the events] (Ni Una Menos) approved our asks to be part of the official document, so after lot of weeks of debates and discussions, we achieved having our voice in it and for the first time, our voice was [heard] on Women’s Day.

The fight was about the word “sex workers”: they wanted us to be “prostituted women” (that was [the language] in the document already), and we [spoke] up to have our identity and not the one they wanted to give to us. But the violence they used, calling us “pimps” and telling [us] that we don’t exist, made a lot of feminist[s] empathize and support us too. After all [that], [on the day of the strike], we participated with red umbrellas, lot of signs calling for a feminism that includes sex workers, and lot of women walking with us, and we [had] a lot of press and media reporting that it was the first time we officially were part of the 8th of March document and the [event].

You have been part of Argentinean Workers’ Central Trade Union since one year after the inception of your organization, in 1995. Internationally, sex workers often have trouble allying with traditional labor movements. Can you tell us how you’ve successfully maintained this alliance for decades?

AMMAR started in 1994, when sex workers working in the streets started to organize themselves to fight against the detentions and arrests [they] were facing just for working. They started [organizing] in the jail where they were arrested and then they started to [organize] in bars and restaurants near the places where they worked. When the police realized that, [they] started to arrest them [just for their political activity] and they were looking for them in the bars.

[So they were] [l]ooking for a place where they could do it without the presence of institutional violence, [and] a member from the CTA offered them a place. At the beginning it was not easy, mostly because of the opposition of women inside the union or others syndicates that were part of it, but the leadership of CTA gave them a big support because they wanted to include workers in the popular economy [and] workers that [didn’t have] their work recognized yet. It’s very important to be part of [the union] because without the government recognizing that our work is work yet, we [do have that acknowledgement] thanks to the Central Trade Union of Workers of Argentina, and that [creates] no place [for] debates about if our work is work or not.

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Sex work blogger, activist and T&S contributor Mistress Matisse subtley tells Pastor Brown how she feels.

Sex work blogger, activist and T&S contributor Mistress Matisse subtly tells Pastor Brown how she feels. (Photo via @mistressmatisse’s Twitter feed.)

Possibly cancelled A&E reality TV show 8 Minutes reneged on its promise to help sex workers. Some argue that their lives were made worse after filming. The subsequent backlash has attracted a lot of negative press for the show; representatives from the show don’t seem to be responding to any journalists’ inquiries, including our own at T&S. The good news: the controversy highlighted the endless strength of Whore Nation.

We covered sex worker activist Jill Brenneman’s life altering experience with an unhinged, violent client here. The rest of her life is pretty fascinating, too. Read about it in this poorly written but well-intentioned piece for Salon.

Journalists frequently rely on a sexy, sinister narrative when covering sex work; such is the case with Alix Tichelman, the sex worker that abandoned her client as he overdosed on heroin.

Is anyone surprised to learn that the biggest profiteers of Kiev’s sex industry are its police officers?

Will noted whorephobe and transphobe Megan Murphy get canned from rabble.ca? Probably not, but one can dream. [READ MORE]

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One of the images Red Umbrella Project used in their campaign against the use of condoms as evidence. (Art by kd diamond, image courtesy of Red Umbrella Project)

One of the images Red Umbrella Project used in their campaign against the use of condoms as evidence. (Art by kd diamond, image courtesy of Red Umbrella Project)

Go Audacia Ray and Red Umbrella Project!!! The big news this week is that the NYPD has finally ended the policy of confiscating condoms from suspected sex workers to use as evidence! The change still leaves a loophole, however: they can still seize and use condoms as evidence in sex trafficking and promotion of prostitution cases.

There were several really great pieces this week deconstructing the trafficking conversation and calling for labor and human rights for sex workers: Georgina Orellano, with the Argentine Sex Workers Association, “is adamant that women who choose the sector to make a living should be given the same labour [sic] rights as everybody else.” Orellano is consistently brilliant at shutting down the interviewer’s hand-wringing attempts to make sex work into some kind of metaphysical violation; especially gratifying is her distinction between men who pay to have sex with kidnapped women (criminals), and the clients of sex workers.

Also satisfying: Anne Elizabeth Moore takes apart the racism and imperialism of the anti-trafficking movement and Christian “anti-trafficking” organizations (shady as always). Like many of us recently, she needs clarification about the concept of women “trafficking themselves.” THANK YOU FOR ASKING ABOUT THIS! Also: “Arguing that, in an ideal world, no woman would willingly sell sex, abolitionists aim to eliminate the industry entirely. Sex workers, when asked, note the absence of this illusory world.” High five! [READ MORE]

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RIP London sex worker Maria Duque-Tanjano (photo by Scotland Yard, via the Metro)

RIP London sex worker Maria Duque-Tanjano (photo courtesy of Scotland Yard, via the Metro)

Trafficking survivor Jes Richardson offers a concise, helpful critique of most ‘rescue’ operations: “When someone is rescued the power, strength, courage, and control is placed in the hands of the rescuers, rather than empowering the person being rescued.”

Here are a few “no duh” sex tips from sex worker Siouxsie Q.

This guy read Melissa Gira Grant’s new book and now he gets it: sex work is labor, period.

Also, Melissa’s first interview for that book, Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work, came out in NY Magazine. But don’t worry, she promises her interview with us will be much juicier.

Police in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan reacted to a nationally televised exposé about local sex work with raids on February 9th against 2,000 entertainment venues and the arrests of more than 60 people…with the unintended consequence of opening up a nation wide debate about legalization of the industry.

Northern Ireland’s justice committee met a real, live sex worker and it looked and felt a bit like The Crucible.

There only seems to one growth industry in the communities surrounding Zimbabwe’s diamond mines: sex work. Unfortunately, even some children have entered this market, as a means to elevate their families out of poverty.

Somebody is killing sex workers in Kenya and they have very few people to turn to for help and protection. And this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

Police in Sonoma County are rethinking the way they handle sex crimes by—you guessed it—focusing on clients.  A decoy named “Amber” was used instead of a the traditional model of a police officer posing as a john. Gee, the trial sting they ran seemed awfully similar to a legitimate prostitution ring. HMMM. The first commenter hits the nail on the head: “‘Amber’ was not a victim of human trafficking. ‘She’ was a male cop. I think police should focus on helping actual human trafficking victims rather than creating opportunities for men to commit the world’s oldest crime.”

Paris Lees says what we wish we all could say to concern trollers, in response to some of the letters she got on her Vice piece last week about escorting to get through school: “Speaking from personal experience…I doubt any sex worker appreciates your disapproval hard-on—so why don’t you just take it, like any decent whore, and shove it up your ass?”

A manhunt has been launched in London to find Robert Richard Fraser, connected to the murder of one local sex worker, Maria Duque-Tanjano, and the attack of another.

Hey, Upworthy, pick a side. First you feature videos by industry abolitionists about how all migrant sex workers are duped trafficking victims, and then you post this video by Red Light District Chicago on how, as we all know, sex workers are best positioned to stop trafficking? As the sex workers in this video state themselves: “Conflating consensual sex work and sex trafficking is a disservice to both sex trafficking victims and sex workers.”

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Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of depressing sex worker news this week? Take a second and try to enjoy this .gif.

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of depressing sex worker news this week? Take a second and try to enjoy this .gif.

On Dec. 4 brothels, strip clubs and sex shops in Soho, London were raided by over 200 police officers. The officers arrived in  riot vans and were reinforced by a police helicopter. Think about that for a second: 200 police officers were deployed. That’s a literal army.  The English Collective of Prostitutes’ response to this event can be read here.

Botswana is ramping up its effort to target sex workers. Over 30 sex workers were arrested there over the weekend.

Police raided a brothel in the United Kingdom. The door was answered by someone who sort of looked like what a sex worker might look like when she’s working and then it becomes a headline because journalists are lazy.

The amazing members of the Association of Women Prostitutes of Argentina held a demonstration in front of the Congress building in Buenos Aires. The demonstrators “called for the government to recognize the violence sex workers suffer as a result of a non-existent legal structure for sex work.”

Actress Rashida Jones wrote an op-ed for Glamour about the “pornification” of culture. Highlights include “Men: WHERE ARE YOU??? Please talk to us about how all this makes you feel.” Yes, so true, where can we possibly hear a man’s opinion on women’s bodies and behavior?

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