The Week in Links–March 15th

by suzyhooker on March 15, 2013 · 13 comments

in The Week in Links

Courtesy of the Red Umbrella Project, art by Tanya Mensen, story told by a 20-year-old white Hispanic cisgender woman

Courtesy of the Red Umbrella Project, art by Tanya Mensen, story told by a 20-year-old white Hispanic cisgender woman

This week, the NYPD’s ridiculous and oppressive practice of using condoms continued to be written up in various venues. RH Reality Check weighed in, as did the Daily Mail, and Jezebel, while the Red Umbrella Project stepped up their campaign against the cops by creating postcards illustrated with victims’ stories that NYers can send to their representatives. Meanwhile, Washington made NYC look awful in comparison when D.C.’s police department clarified that carrying more than three condoms at a time was not against the law, distributing cards to both wayward police officers and (justifiably)wary sex workers reminding them of that fact.

Rabble in Canada ran one of the most genius anticapitalist takedowns of sex work abolitionist feminism we’ve ever read. Sadly, the sex worker who wrote it chooses to remain anonymous as “Sarah M”, so we can’t all make a pilgrimage to bask in her brilliance.

Two anonymous nuns from the religious orders that ran the Magdalene Laundries, where Irish sex workers and other women who defied heteronormative standards were sent by the state and then abused, exploited and buried in mass graves, attempted to justify the Laundrys’ existence as providing ‘shelter’ and ‘service.’ Another Irish newspaper printed an apologist opinion piece by a church flack, in which he claims that most Magdalene inmates were there ‘voluntarily.’ Meanwhile, an Irish Labour rep reminded the world that the orders profited quite a bit from the Laundries, and urged them to make a contribution to the survivors’ compensation fund. And Justice for Magdalenes, an advocacy group for Magdalene survivors, created an 800 page report of survivor testimony and evidence that weren’t included in the official government  inquiry. Brace yourselves for heartbreak reading it. The org also submitted a report to the UN Committee Against Torture on the Laundries.

The Scholar and Feminist Online interviewed Miss Major, an advocate of low income trans women’s rights since the Stonewall days. Miss Major had quite a lot to say about her own and other trans women’s experience doing street sex work.

Migrant stripppers and escorts will be offered English lessons with a focus on the vocabulary necessary to negotiate with their clients in a peer-taught new program in London.

Melissa Gira Grant hits it out of the park yet again talking anti-porn feminism, labor, and the disadvantages of feminist porn in the Guardian,  and unpacking the sex trafficking panic in Contemporary Sexuality. Surely this ability to be so prolific and yet so consistently on point must be the result of a deal with the Devil.

Thankfully, the push for an EU wide ban on porn has fizzled. An apropos opinion piece in the Guardian goes into the paternalism inherent in “protecting” women from pornography. (Would’ve been nice if the author knew of the existence of the wide world of feminist porn, though.)

Translate this Spanish news story into English to roll your eyes at the bafflement of state police, confronted by the fact that all 30 Romanian women they ‘rescued’ from a ‘pimp network’ at a local club returned to sex work and refused the ‘assistance programs’ offered.

Aspasia, a sex workers’ rights org in Australia, is working on a sex industry code of ethics written by workers. So far the content of the code is a bit too much unmitigated sex positivity, unicorns, and rainbows for us, but the nothing-about-us-without-us ethic of having sex workers write one is admirable.

Some compelling sex worker voices in this (poorly written) article about New Zealand street workers in post-earthquake Christchurch, if you can wade through the standard journalistic pearl-clutching. Seriously, is it a rule that every human interest story on prostitution needs to include the phrase ‘glazed over eyes’? Also worth noting that the NZPC is a sex worker run organisation, not one that ‘manages’ sex workers.

Here’s an interview with Senior Regional Manager of the Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, a Bangalore org which works for sex workers’ reproductive rights. We’re really starting to feel outclassed by the sheer breadth of the Indian sex workers’ rights movement.

This photo essay profiles South African sex workers’ rights org SWEAT‘s collaboration with the Women’s Legal Centre in Capetown. The project provides legal advice for sex workers, from sex worker peers who “understand the difficulties and obstacles that [they] encounter on a daily basis.” Sex work is criminalized in South Africa, and sex workers experience harassment and violence from police on a routine basis.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Nine March 15, 2013 at 11:37 am

Just a heads up, the Romanian news story is actually a Spanish news story, about Romanian sex workers.


Caty Simon March 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Yep, someone else noticed that and I changed it. Thanks for the correction, though.


Kathryn March 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Hi, Kathryn Day, Acting EO of ASPaSIA here.

Thank you for your including our proposed Code of Ethics in this blog. To provide context, I have to point out that firstly we are not a sex worker rights org. ASPaSIA (Australian Sex-Positive Sex Industry Association) is an association whose membership is diverse, and inclusive of those who choose to work – not only sex workers but a myriad of other occupations in the ‘sex’ industry. Given our aims and objectives (see sex work advocacy is important but not our sole focus. This, however, does detract from our passion, eligibility and ability to participate in promoting the rights of sex workers in the current law reform issues, for example.

I understand your reference to unicorns and rainbows in the context of activism, but as an occupational association whose purpose is to further the commercial interests of members, our involvement in community, government and business is broader than the specific fight for rights but none-the-less inclusive of them. I invite everyone to read about what we do as an association for clarity (

In projecting the Australian sex industry’s future we see the need for occupational associations. Professional / Occupational Associations provide a point of contact between members and a myriad of stakeholders including clients, the general public, the law, government, communities, financial resources, unions, other professional bodies and the list goes on and on and on. If we do not provide a professional body then we are at risk of having our self-determination as sex industry workers further eroded. It is well known that where government perceives the need for occupations taking responsibility for their services then legislation and regulation steps in. If there is no occupational representation then law-makers have the ability to ride roughshod over an industry. Although when it comes to sex worker rights ASPaSIA is on the same page as sex workers (ie decriminalisation being best practice) our Code of Ethics is far more further-reaching than that. It is written for now, and the future. It is written not only for the occupation of Sex Work, but for strippers, sexual surrogates, adult film actors; everyone whose occupation pertains to adult (sex/erotic/porn &etc) services. The Code is written with sex work treated as a legitimate occupation – which it is – not some dirty, time filler while an individual is desperate, down and dirty AS IS COMMONLY PROMOTED OR ASSUMED OR SOME WOULD HAVE THE PUBLIC BELIEVE.

So unicorns and rainbows aside, the Code’s authors are not only sex workers but erotic writers, strippers, fetishists, entertainers and advocates within the sex industry, for the sex industry. In the meantime ASPaSIA (whose membership has strength and diversity) has the passion and resolve to ensure sex work law reform reflects decriminalisation and best practice and the foresight to not only see sex work as a lawful occupation but to write a Code using that premise.

Thank you for linking our association in your post, and I hope after reading this and the links contained within, you will review your opinion as there IS a context to take into account when commenting.

kind regards and thanks

Kathryn Day


Caty Simon March 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Just as a clarification—“sex workers” includes everyone who works in the sex industry (some even include those in managerial positions in some cases.) Almost all the people you described above all fit into the definition, and all of them could have a case made for them. “Strippers, sexual surrogates, adult film actors” are all CERTAINLY sex workers. There’s a misconception going around that “sex worker” is a euphemism for full service worker—that misconception can hopefully be debunked in this conversation.

I totally agree with your logic that if you yourselves do not create regulations for your business, they will be created *for* you, which is why I wrote that you’re keeping admirably to the nothing-about-us-without-us ethic. I just think that you’re basically creating a standard for your labor, and thus perhaps there should be a bit more focus on the rights of the worker and less on the rights of the clients. My opinion doesn’t really matter all that much, though–it’s your marketplace and your labor, and the important thing is that your the ones creating the standard you want to be held to–self-determination at its finest.


story March 16, 2013 at 1:03 am

thanks for the link to “Sarah M”‘s article. definitely a beautiful doozy of a piece. she has her email at the bottom of the article. titsandsass contributor maybe?


Caty Simon March 16, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I was actually thinking about asking her to contribute myself! Your suggestion sort of seals the deal. Though, her writing, while immeasurably awesome, is a bit too academic and heavy for TAS. But I’d love to find out if she’s interested in adopting a lighter style/tone.


Andrew March 16, 2013 at 1:13 pm

SWEAT isn’t a sex workers Organisation. It works for sex workers rights and has helped to set up the sex workers’ Organisation in South Africa called Sisonke. It also helped start ASWA, African Sex Workers Alliance.
Not saying SWEAT is bad, they do great work. But they rarely correct articles or assumptions by donors and people who promote then that they aren’t actually sex worker run and employ mostly non sex workers…


Caty Simon March 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Thanks, Andrew, I rectified that. Johanna and I are sorry to have made two errors that astute readers had to correct this week.


story March 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

just my two cents as past contributor and consistent reader, i appreciate academic-y articles once in a while.


Caty Simon March 17, 2013 at 11:23 pm

I like them too, actually.


MM March 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hi there! Delighted to see you writing on Magdalene Laundries. You may already be aware of this, as I know the site has written about it in the past, but just in case I thought I’d write here:
The organisation Ruhama are behind the “Turn off the Red Light Campaign” which seeks to conflate sex work with trafficking and erase the voices of sex workers (going as far as to get a pimp (who has quite a strong interest in sex workers not having strong rights)) to pose as an ex-sex worker. Ruhama are run by two of the same orders who ran the Magdalene Laundries.
I first became aware of Ruhama when there was a gardai (irish police) bust at a brothel and the men visting the brothel were named and shamed (in a small community) and ordered to pay money to Ruhama. Which enrages me because the orders that ran the Magdalene Laundries refuse to pay out to the many victims of their horrible laundries.


Caty Simon March 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Yes, we are aware and appropriately disgusted by Ruhama, their role in the Laundries, and their role in advising the Irish gov to adopt the Swedish model of criminalizing full service workers’ clients. We’ve written about them in Week In Links past. But it’s good to keep on emphasizing the connection between them and the Laundries as often as possible, so thanks!


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