St. James Infirmary, the famed San Francisco clinic that specifically serves sex workers and their families, kicked off their new ad campaign this past week. After working (unsuccessfully) to advertise the clinic on billboards, the campaign found a home on the San Francisco Muni. Through November 11, 50 SF Muni buses will display their posters, with the tagline “Someone you know is a sex worker.”
(It’s true, by the way. It’s funny how many times, when I’ve shyly come clean about my deep, dirty secret career, the reaction has been not just apathy or curiosity, but a “me too.”)
CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Outdoor both rejected St. James as a billboard advertiser. According to an article in the Bay Citizen, Clear Channel was concerned about the rejected billboards’ conformity to “the standards of the local community”—which makes it all the more delightful that the ads were picked up by the public bus system. Meanwhile, CBS Outdoor senior account executive, Barbara Haux (whose last name I very sincerely hope is pronounced “ho”), found the term “sex worker” to not be family-friendly enough. Perhaps “Someone you know is a Haux” would have been more palatable?
Swaay.org had a similar problem finding a host for their billboard this month—check out Furry Girl’s analysis of the unpredictable moral compass of advertising companies.
The posters portray the diversity of the San Francisco sex worker community, in terms of age, gender and race. And unlike the Turn Off the Blue Light poster campaign in Ireland, the St. James posters don’t feature women that look suspiciously like stock photo models (we love you, TOTBL, but c’mon). I also appreciate how the public-bus-friendly St. James campaign doesn’t seek to sensationalize or titillate—though I can’t say I dislike the strategies other sex worker rights poster campaigns have used in the past.