Sex Worker Open University

Bibiane Bovet, Montreal municipal candidate and out trans woman and former escort (Photo courtesy of the Montreal Gazette)

Bibiane Bovet, Montreal municipal candidate and out trans woman and former escort (Photo courtesy of the Montreal Gazette)

Some British GLBT organizations and trade unions are taking the excellent example of their African counterparts, standing in solidarity with sex workers’ rights organizations like the English Collective of Prostitutes and the Sex Worker Open University in their campaign against proposals to institute the Swedish model of criminalizing clients. Sign the Collective’s petition against the End Demand model—Rupert Everett will thank you for it.

One of Montreal mayoral hopeful Mélanie Joly’s hand-picked candidates for a municipal position, Bibiane Bovet, is a trans woman who used to work as an escort in order to finance her bottom surgery. Joly knows about Bovet’s sex working past and—gasp!—doesn’t care. In fact, one of Bovet’s escorting clients, another municipal employee, advised her to run for the position in the first place, and Joly went on record praising Bovet’s integrity and saying she has her full support.

File under The Headline Says It All: “Groups ‘rescue’ Thai sex workers, whether they want it or not.

SWOP-Phoenix is protesting the Project ROSE Prostitution Diversion Initiative, in which Phoenix police and students from the ASU School of Social Work team up twice a year to arrest local sex workers and have them “choose” between a six month diversion program or criminal charges. SWOP-Phoenix’s position is that diversion programs “ignore the fact that many people who work in the sex industry are not victims in need of rescue, but consenting adults who should not be arrested, coerced into diversion, or incarcerated for working.”

While on a vacation in Thailand last month, Rihanna took in a “ping pong” strip show in Phuket, tweeting afterwards that she was “traumatized” by the “live bird, two turtles, razors, darts and ping pong [balls]” pulled from the performers’ vaginas. In a pretense of shock they’ll be sure to keep up till they get their next bribe, the Thai Police shut down the club and arrested the owner, no doubt also throwing a few of the club’s performers in jail along the way. Riri! Don’t make us sad. After “Pour it Up”, we thought you were Good for the Strippers. Now it turns out that you are (inadvertently?) Bad for the Strippers. Stop getting second world sex workers arrested, Rihanna, that’s a REAL faux pas. Next time just use your celebrity tweeting powers to get the Thai equivalent of a humane society to spirit away those birds and turtles from non consensual vaginal spelunking.

Melissa Petro tells the xojane reading public what escorts already know: “Most Dudes Have Probably Bought Sex At Least Once.”

With so many Tamil men dead or missing after three decades of civil war, with southern men filling up the jobs in the north’s building boom, and seeing as how widows are traditionally seen as inauspicious and unfit for remarriage, many women in female headed households in Sri Lanka’s North are engaging in survival sex work to subsist.

We covered SWOP-NYC’s letter to the Columbia Institutional Review Board reporting Dr. Sudhir Venkatesh’s wildly inaccurate and insulting research on New York sex workers in an earlier Week In Links.  (One blog entitled the fiasco “When Your Own Research Population Organizes Against You, New York Sex Worker Edition.”) Now, our own Tits and Sass founding editor Charlotte Shane eviscerates Venkatesh’s historical amnesia, insistence on reinventing the wheel without acknowledging the work of sex worker researchers before him, and his approval of police abuse of sex workers in The New Inquiry.

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Portland's vegan eatery turned strip club, Casa Diablo (Google street view)

Portland’s vegan eatery turned strip club, Casa Diablo (Google street view)

Equality Now and other abolitionist groups campaigned against the UN’s recommendation to decriminalize sex work. Don’t read the articles linked unless you have a strong stomach. Melissa Gira Grant documented a particularly exasperating twitter exchange with Equality Now’s Rachel Moran on her blog, in which Moran claimed that “‘sex workers’ don’t exist.” Scott Long also provides some valuable context.

The New York Times belatedly discovers camming. Sadly, the article feels the need to quote Kathryn Griffin. Luckily, Sienna Baskin of the Sex Workers Project is also on hand to lend some perspective.

Stoya gives her two cents about the Great Porn Condom Debate in Vice Magazine.

The law firm of Outten and Golden LLP just filed a lawsuit on behalf of dancers against the strip clubs New York Dolls, Flashdancers and Private Eyes. Dancers who have worked at these clubs and want to join the lawsuit should call Outten and Golden at 212-245-1000.

Of course you want to know how weird government regulations led to Portland’s vegan strip club.

Sex workers created a twitter phenomenon this week with the hashtag #banfreebies, satirizing societal attitudes about sex work by flipping them around and using them to moralize against non-transactional sex: “Freebies think being a freebie is empowering or it’s their choice. But that’s just false consciousness.”

African sex workers’ rights group SWEAT alerted local police that a group of about thirty five children, aged nine to twelve, were being kept in a brothel in Guateng.  But when the police finally decided to act on the report they went to the wrong house. By the time they figured out this blunder and went to the correct address, there were no children on site.

New York will establish a special court for sex trafficking and prostitution. Perhaps the court will offer better options than incarceration, but Lori Adorable responds on her tumblr, saying, “Providing more social services for individuals in the sex industry who are there by force, coercion, or choice would be fabulous, but that’s not what happening here…You mean to say that the criminal (in)justice system will FORCE those in the sex industry into treatment, rehab, and other lines of work while denying them any agency they do have. Doesn’t sound so compassionate anymore, does it? Sounds more like the fascist, racist ‘social hygiene’ shit that it is.”

A stripping history is apparently no obstacle to a security clearance.

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I’ve been a sex worker rights activist for going on a decade now, and I’ve lived in New York all that time. My focus in the early years was very local, meaning that I was concerned with what was happening in my own life and the lives of the people I worked with and cared about. I wanted us to stay safe, get rich, and not deal with douchebag clients – you know, all the dreams a girl could have. When I got involved with $pread magazine and became an editor in 2005, I started to pay more attention to what was happening outside of my little bubble. Being responsible for the news section of the magazine meant that I started to learn more about what was happening in sex worker communities not just across the country, but also across the world.

Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work more closely with sex worker rights activists globally, and I gotta say that it’s kind of blown my mind. In the fall of 2009 I spent a week in rural India, a few hours south of Mumbai, with SANGRAM and the sex workers at VAMP. We collaborated on a video about sex worker organizing in India, and it gave me immense respect for the work these activists have been doing. In India, there are sex worker unions, and hundreds of sex workers show up at events and rallies. They are loud, and they are a unified community struggling hard for their rights and getting some traction. During one conversation I had with an older woman about the differences in our activism, she said, “In America, you have everything. You have cameras. You use the internet. But you aren’t fighting the government together the way we are. You need to come together and collectivize. It’s the only way.” It really resonated with me. In a place where sex workers have to walk to one well that serves the neighborhood to get water for their huts, their community is infinitely stronger than ours, probably because there’s less obsession with individuality.

Since that fall, I’ve been seeking out other opportunities to learn more about the global situation of sex workers. This past month, I got the opportunity to go to London for Sex Worker Open University, a nearly weeklong event organized by a collective and held in the Arcola Theatre complex in Hackney. There were many sessions every day, an interesting blend of skill shares by and for sex workers, and presentations about policy and activism work. The event ran from Wednesday, October 12 through Sunday, October 16– you can see the full program here and feel envious – and on the Friday, we had an evening of conversation among activists from all over the world. [READ MORE]

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