VICE: Sex Work Is Work—And Its Laborers Are Officially Unionizing

Understandably, it’s pretty difficult to start a union when parts of your industry have been criminalized by the state. But that hasn’t stopped British sex workers from unionizing in order to fight for their labor rights—even with the web of contradictory laws around sex work in the UK.

In England, it’s legal to exchange sex for money, but street-based workers are often criminalized through loitering and soliciting laws. Brothels are illegal, but an overly generous legal definition of a ‘brothel’ means that sex workers can be raided and persecuted for sharing premises—even if they’re doing so for their own protection. Campaign groups and collectives like Decrim Now and SWARMare calling for full decriminalization, but in the meantime strippers—whose work is entirely legal—are unionizing in the hopes of sparking industry-wide change.

The idea for a strippers’ union came at last year’s Women’s Strike, in which sex workers played an instrumental role. “It literally just started with a conversation,” Shiri Shalmy, a representative of trade union United Voices of the World (UVW), recalls. “We soon found that strippers are often misclassified as self-employed, but in reality they’re expected to be on time, to follow a shift pattern and to be told what they can earn—or, in some cases, lose.” She’s referring to the house fees that are commonplace in strip clubs. Dancers can also be fined for not showing up to shifts, and Shalmy says anecdotally that she knows of dancers who have been fired for trying to unionize.

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Sex Work is Work - and its laborers are officially unionizing by Jake Hall

April 17th, 2019


HUFF POST: Stacey Abrams Says Country Has ‘Obligation’ To Keep Sex Workers Safe

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams said sex workers deserve safety and support ― and that includes women who choose to work in the industry as well as those who are victims of trafficking.

“Women should not put their lives at risk because of sex, and whether it is seen as a commercial enterprise or it’s human trafficking our obligation is to create a safe space so that no woman risks her life because of sex,” the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial nominee told The Root in an interview published Monday.

Decriminalizing sex work has become a national conversation since President Donald Trump last year signed into law the controversial Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. The law targets sex trafficking by shutting down online platforms, like Craigslist’s personal ads and Backpage.com, which are rife with advertisements for sex work involving voluntary sex workers and trafficked victims.

Sex workers and advocates have criticized the law because it conflates voluntary sex work with trafficking victims forced into the industry. Critics also argue that the legislation will only push sex work further underground, putting voluntary workers and trafficking victims into even more danger.

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Stacey Abrams says country has 'obligation' to keep Sex Workers safe by Alanna Vagianos

April 16th, 2019


PSYCH CENTRAL: Lots of People Like a Little Kink

How Common are Kinks, Fetishes, and Paraphilic Disorders?

According to a recent study, paraphilic attractions (kinks and fetishes) are more common than most people might think.[i] The study surveyed 387 adult males about the presence and impact of paraphilic attractions and behaviors in their lives, with the following results:

  • 62.4% of survey participants reported some degree of paraphilic arousal.
  • 58.6% said paraphilic arousal was most frequent while fantasizing.
  • 47.7% used paraphilic arousal during masturbatory fantasies.
  • 44.4% said they’d engaged in some form of real-world paraphilic sexual activity.

The most common paraphilic arousal patterns were:

  • Voyeurism (38.7%)
  • Fetish (35.7%)
  • Sadism (24.8%)
  • Masochism (18.5%)
  • Frotteurism (15.0%)
  • Pedophilic (10.4%)
  • Cross-Dressing (7.4%)
  • Exhibitionism (4.1%)

Notably, paraphilic arousal patterns are not, per se, pathological. Criteria beyond paraphilic attraction must be met for a kink/fetish to qualify as pathology. For a paraphilic attraction or behavior to be diagnosed as a paraphilic disorder (a pathological condition), it must cause significant distress to the individual or harm (or risk of harm) to self or others. Thus, paraphilic arousal patterns are a necessary but not sufficient condition for diagnosing a paraphilic disorder.

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Lots of People like a little Kink by Robert Weiss PhD, MSW

April 16th, 2019


QUARTZ: Instagram will demote “inappropriate content”—and self-expression along the way

Instagram and its parent company Facebook are constantly waging a complex battle with bad content on their platforms. But the latest chapter of that fight involves them stepping onto the slippery slope to censorship, worrying artists, people with disabilities, consensual sex workers, and those who are in various ways body- and sex-positive.

As part of a wide-ranging series of updates from Facebook on its content policies, the company said this week that its algorithm would demote content that does not violate Instagram’s community standards, but is considered “inappropriate” or “borderline.”

This means the posts won’t be deleted or banned, but it will be harder to find them in the Explore tab, or through hashtag pages (so if you search for a given hashtag, the borderline content won’t show up or will be buried under all the other posts).

“We’re working to ensure that the content we recommend is both safe and appropriate for our community, and that means we are going to be stricter about what content is recommended to people on Explore and hashtag pages,” an Instagram spokesperson told Quartz. Some of this was foreshadowed by Mark Zuckerberg’s long blog post about content governance in November.

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Instagram will demote "inappropriate content" - and self-expression along the way by Hanna Kozlowska

April 13th, 2019


OUT: Netflix’s ‘Special’ Brings Disability and Gay Sex to the Forefront

A simple matter of budget ended up making one of the most revolutionary queer stories on television. Ryan O’Connell, Will & Grace writer and author of the memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, was not attached to star in the show he’d write and create when he first pitched it. But O’Connell, who is gay and living with cerebral palsy, ended up being the cheapest option to star in the show and, thus, Special, which just dropped on Netflix, was born: a show created, written by, and starring a queer person living with a disability based on his own life story.

Disability representation is still pretty abysmal on television. According to GLAAD, though over 13% of Americans are living with a disability, only 2.1% of characters on primetime broadcast shows live with a disability — 18 characters in all. That’s actually the highest percentage GLAAD has recorded in its nine years of tracking, which hopefully points to an upward trend. But there’s still so far to go, and Special not only a pushes the meter in the right direction, it also addresses how queerness intersects..

It’s a point that people like deaf activist and model Nyle DiMarco has made again and again: there is not enough disabled representation when it comes to everything from children’s shows to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In October, DiMarco posted an ad from the CW on his Twitter that touted the network’s commitment to racial, sexual, gender, and ethnic diversity but, as DiMarco pointed out, made no mention of disability representation.

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Netflix's 'Special' brings disability and gay sex to the forefront by Mathew Rodriguez

April 12th, 2019


GLOBAL COMMENT: Stop using kink as a defense for rape

A woman in Scotland was in an abusive relationship. She had been battered and beaten by her partner but, until one particular night, he had never sexually abused her. But he came home drunk in the early hours and forced her to have sex with him.

The woman, who is 24, somehow had the presence of mind to grab her phone and record the assault. A 16-minute recording demonstrates her “crying, screaming with pain, telling the man he is hurting her and begging him to stop.

“Several times during the recording she is clearly heard telling him “no” and to “let up” and to leave her alone.”

Imagining how frightened and distressed she was, to have been able to find her phone, find the recording app and hit record, during a brutal assault, is really quite something. She took herself and her recording to the police.

An officer who heard the recording described it as horrific but, after a trial (during which the recording was heard), the woman’s boyfriend was acquitted of the rape charge.

It seems impossible to imagine, but his defence was that this was “role play sex”, kinky sex where the idea was to pretend she was resisting and he could pretend he was raping her. The woman was described by the judge as “too successful” to be raped, according to her background.

This is not the first time that I have heard of kinky sex being used as a defense in a rape case. It was even used in the case of Natalie Connolly, after her death. After sex so “rough” that Connolly was so badly injured that she died at the bottom of the stairs afterwards, and after her boyfriend John Broadhurst left her there to die, he was only convicted of manslaughter because the rough sex was said to have been consensual.

The We Can’t Consent to This website has also found the cases of 42 women whose rapes were blamed on consensual rough sex. There are no doubt more.

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Stop using kink as a defense for rape by Philippa Willitts

April 12, 2019


ROLLING STONE: ‘Blowin’ Up’ Suggests We Treat Sex Workers as Humans, Not Criminals

Our country tends to treat sex workers like, for lack of a better term, trash. Because sex work is largely illegal in the United States (the one exception is a handful of counties in Nevada, where prostitution is highly regulated), women who sell sex are often arrested and subject to brutal treatment by cops, which forces them to conduct their business in the shadows and puts them at further risk of violence at the hands of pimps and clients. Furthermore, the legal system often disregards whether sex workers are forced to sell sex against their will or do so of their own volition, which leads to a cultural narrative that women who sell sex are desperate and in need of rescue. As a result, sex workers are usually either treated by the criminal justice system as outright criminals or as victims with no agency.

The Human Trafficking Intervention Court in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, New York, however, is different. Presided over by Judge Toko Serita, the court takes a revolutionary approach to sentencing women who are arrested on prostitution charges, offering women the option to have their charges dismissed and their records sealed in exchange for undergoing a counseling program. As depicted in the documentary Blowin’ Up (out in New York theaters April 5th), Serita’s court is an anomaly in the often rigid and uncompromising criminal justice system: instead of treating sex workers like criminals or helpless victims in need of salvation, she merely treats them like human beings.

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'Blowin up' suggests we treat Sex Workers as humans, not criminals by EJ Dickson

April 5th, 2019


VOX: Banning sex work will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now

In spring 2016, the human rights advocacy organization Amnesty International took a bold step: It officially endorsed sex work decriminalization as the most effective and humane political response to sex work. The decision was controversial — the summer before the policy paper’s release, a number of prominent feminist activists, including Gloria Steinem, signed an open letter warning the organization that if it supported decriminalization, its reputation would be “severely and irreparably tarnished.”

Yet there is good reason to believe that decades from now, we’ll see this time period as the beginning of the end of a long chapter of oppression, abuse, and the vilification of a highly misunderstood profession.

In many circles, sex work is seen as a social ill. For moralizers, the exchange of sex for money poses a threat to “family values” that emphasize the importance of sex within marriage and promote modesty among women. For some feminists, sex work amplifies the oppression of women, both by presenting female bodies and sexuality as commodities available for sale and through the exploitation of women sex workers, who are presumed to despise their jobs and only do them under duress.

But for many sex workers — in particular, the transgender, nonwhite, and other marginalized sex workers who often find themselves shut out of other employment opportunities — sex work is simply a job, and one that pays well enough to cover their bills while offering a flexible enough structure to accommodate caregiving duties, chronic illness, and other issues that might pose a problem at a typical 9-to-5 office job.

The decriminalization of sex work is not an endorsement of sex trafficking or any exploitation or abuse that sex workers experience on the job. To the contrary, decriminalization merely gives adults the freedom to choose this line of work, and makes it vastly easier for those who are victims of trafficking, or experiencing abuse within the workplace, to seek assistance without fear of being thrown into jail.

 

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Banning sex work will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now by Lux Alptraum

April 3rd, 2019


HUFFPOST: I Told My Mom I Hire Sex Workers And Her Response Changed Our Relationship

As a disabled queer man who uses a wheelchair and loves sex and getting naked with men, I have had to navigate the coming out process a number of times and in a number of different ways.

I first came out as gay when I was 16. At that time, I was struggling with the fact that I used a wheelchair and I was terrified that by opening up about my sexuality, I would only be adding another burden to my life as a disabled person.

After searching for a term that felt like it fit me more authentically, I came out as “queer” when I was 27. I didn’t feel comfortable using “gay” anymore. Because of my disability, I am not muscular, “masc4masc” or any of the things that are so often culturally associated with that word. Using the term “queer” felt safe. It meant that I didn’t have to subscribe to a narrative that conjured particular images or ideas that my disability didn’t or couldn’t fulfill.

At 30, I came out as a “queer cripple.” This was during my “Fuck you! I‘m disabled and if you can’t deal with it, get the fuck out” phase. I knew what people thought about disabled people and sex, and I wanted to take those misconceptions, turn them inside out and wear them like a badge of honor. If I reclaimed the word “cripple” and said it first, maybe the ableism and prejudice I encountered on a daily basis wouldn’t hurt as much, right?

Throughout my life, I’ve had to reveal my different identities to the personal care workers who help me with daily tasks like showering and using the bathroom. Each time I came out to one of them, I hoped my honesty wouldn’t offend them, as I am dependent upon their help. There were many times I hid who I am from them, so I wouldn’t lose my care.

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I told my Mom I hire Sex Workers and her response changed our relationship by Andrew Gurza

April 3rd, 2019


TRUTHOUT: Florida Sex Workers Demand Decriminalization After Massive Raids

Florida lawmakers want to do something about sex trafficking in the wake of high-profile raids on massage parlors across south Florida that led to 300 prostitution-related arrests in February. So, last week, a community organizer and two activists working in the sex trade showed up to a criminal justice committee hearing on a controversial anti-sex-trafficking bill and asked lawmakers to make sweeping changes to the legislation, which they say could further the criminalization of sex workers and do little to combat trafficking.

“Sex work does not equate to human trafficking,” said Kristen Cain, a sex worker and one of the activists who spoke during the public comment period of the hearing in the Florida House of Representatives last week. “Conflating the two is dangerous for both victims of human trafficking and sex workers. Listen to sex workers. We are here to help you.”

Sex workers are best positioned to identify victims of trafficking who are coerced into selling sexual services, the three activists told lawmakers, but fear of arrest can prevent them from making reports. They argued that criminalizing sex workers under anti-prostitution laws actually creates more space for trafficking and makes the entire sex trade more dangerous to begin with.

 

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Florida Sex Workers Demand Decriminalization After Massive Raids by Mike Ludwig