March 3 – International Sex Workers Rights Day Picnic

7 Mar

The 3rd of March is International Sex Worker Rights Day. The day originated in 2001 when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a sex worker festival. The organizers, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group whose membership consists of somewhere upwards of 50,000 sex workers and members of their communities. Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3 March as International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.

History of March 3rd, International Sex Worker Rights Day http://www.swopusa.org/March3/

SWOP-LA member Lindsey enjoying a hot dog fresh off the grill

March 3rd, 2012 was a perfect day for a picnic. Los Angeles is beautiful in the spring, and this past Saturday it was 85 degrees and sunny down in MacArthur Park. Throughout the afternoon about 35 sex workers, partners, and allies came down to celebrate the struggle for sex workers’ rights with donuts, hot dogs, and good company. It is a day where we not only recognize our local achievements as a community, but also stand in solidarity with sex workers and sex work activists across the world.

While there was political talk and coalition building, there was also a lot of discussion about professional development among the sex workers present. Resources were traded, industry tips were shared, and it was a great opportunity for people to meet new colleagues and friends. But above all, we had fun hanging out with each other in a casual and friendly environment.

It is our firm belief that building a strong community is at the heart of our activist efforts. And that means celebrating our lives, struggles, and triumphs. It was thrilling to see everyone come out and connect with each other on Saturday afternoon, and we are happy and proud to contribute to the movement for sex workers rights.

Serene Sin, Anthony, and Jessie Nicole proudly wear their SWOP-LA t-shirts at the picnic

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Wodka

13 Feb

When I first saw this ad for Wodka Vodka via Audacia Ray I was pretty irritated. For those uninterested in clicking over, the ad reads “Escort Quality. Hooker Pricing.” and for some reason has a lamb wearing a sombrero on it. But I took it in stride, reminded myself that I can’t in fact police all of the internet or pop culture for anti-sex worker messaging. Really, that’s not our job as activists either. Because it’s impossible. I was going to Re-tweet Dacia’s post and leave it at that.

But then I saw this retweet from the official Wodka twitter account:

Earlier this year they had another billboard that read “Christmas Quality. Hanukkah Pricing.” After coming under pressure from the ADL and general public for anti-Semitism they quickly took down the ad but the marketing company explained that they didn’t MEAN to be offensive and people just misunderstood the message behind it.

I’m incredibly happy that they responded to the criticism, and proud of everyone who called them on their anti-Semitism. I’m impressed with how quickly it was organized, and how quick the subsequent response was. But I am utterly baffled as to why a company would publicly post “christ, jews r touchy!” right after such public criticism for their offensive language. Aside from being grossly insensitive, it’s just stupid. It would be difficult for Wodka to appear any less apologetic. They’re flimsy reasoning behind the ad was bad enough, but in case there was any doubt of their anti-Semetic sentiments as a company I think they cleared that up nicely for everyone.

It was also motivation to get up in arms. I’m not the first sex worker to complain, and neither was Audacia Ray for that matter. But Wodka clearly doesn’t listen to sex worker voices. They believe that it’s OK to offend sex workers while it’s not ok to offend the Jewish community. The implication that sex workers, like vodka, are consumable products is disturbing. But what is even more disturbing to me is the casual classism, judging the “value” and “quality” of a sex worker based on their socio-economic status. Billboard advertisements rarely use nuanced or thoughtful language, let alone about sex work (with one obvious exception I can think of). But this strongly implies that escorts are people of a better quality than hookers. It plays into the language of selling yourself that is so prevalent and so problematic when discussing sex work. And it suggests that AS PEOPLE escorts have quality, while hookers have low prices. And that is disgusting on many levels to me.

Putting the lamb in a sombrero was both a racist and absurd addition that seems to have even less of a connection to the quality of their product. I can’t decide if they’re inferring that people who drink vodka and party in Mexico or predominantly Mexican areas are more likely to visit prostitutes or if they’re so out of touch that they don’t realize sombreros actually have cultural resonance and are not just party accessories that white people use as a racist joke. Either way it’s unacceptable.

I’m sure Wodka didn’t mean to be offensive. I’m sure they only meant to be irreverent and hilarious. But oppression isn’t funny. Poverty isn’t funny. Racial stereotypes are not funny. They are simply oppressive and racist. Wodka needs to learn that.

Please, reblog, repost, steal these graphics, improve upon them, and bug the shit out of Wodka. We may not have the influence that ADL does (yet!), but we can let them know that this was not only in extremely poor taste, but horribly offensive on a number of levels.

To reach their marketing:

Twitter – @RealWodkaVodka

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/farmerbobwodka

Email: farmerbob@welovewodka.com

-Jessie Nicole

 

Update:

For those who are curious, here’s the entirety of Wodka’s response to the criticisms via their twitter, including a conversation with the poster they retweeted above:

Gross.

DC Hearing on Prostitution Free Zones

24 Jan

For everyone who missed this morning’s live twitter extravaganza from the hearing over “Prostitution Free Zones” in Washington DC, here is some of the commentary that you missed.

We think that it’s important to watch how these debates play out in other cities, as these ideas are often contagious. We saw it with End Demand campaigns, and PFZ is set in a long tradition of “drug free zones” and the like that historically either simply displace the problem being addressed, increase racial and gender profiling, and don’t actually address any underlying issues. But they also sound enticing to the public, and enjoy enormous popularity. Sadly, this could become a trend that sex workers rights organizations have to face across the country.

More info:

Article explaining a bit about the DC situation: http://wamu.org/programs/metro_connection/12/01/13/dc_cracks_down_on_prostitution

Short documentary about how “Prostitution Free” zones affected sex workers and trans communities from 3 years ago http://vimeo.com/4652102

Excerpts from the DC Trans Coalition (@theDCTC)’s testimony against Prostitution Free Zones http://dctranscoalition.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/our-testimony-in-opposition-to-permanent-prostitution-free-zones/

The “Move Along” report from the Alliance for a Safe and Diverse DC, which shows some of the direct impacts of the enforcement of DC’s commercial sex policies (both new and longstanding) on people involved, or perceived to be involved, in the sex trade http://dctranscoalition.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/movealongreport.pdf

Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance petition against PFZ http://www.glaaforum.org/glaa_forum/2012/01/please-sign-petition-opposing-prostitution-free-zones.html

DCist Report from December: http://dcist.com/2011/11/dc_now_more_prostitution_free.php

Rheality Check from January 2010 about how bad these policies are: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/01/03/washington-dc%E2%80%99s-punitive-sex-work-laws-endanger-women%E2%80%99s-health-safety

Here are the tweets from a couple different people who were live-tweeting the hearing today. The only editing I’ve done is to put them in more of a paragraph format, clean a couple typos, and did not include some of their tweets that were direct responses to other people (or retweets of each other). I also removed the hashtag #PFZ because I figured if you’re reading this, you know what they’re talking about already. While these are interesting, and helpful to read, I wanted to keep this recap as straightforward as possible. I definitely recommend spending some time sifting through the links and ongoing conversations though!

Also – this will undoubtedly be updated as this debate rages on. So keep your eyes out. More to come!

*Important note. You’ll see a lot of tweets directed @CMYMA. That’s the twitter handle for Yvette Alexander, the Council Member for Ward 7 who introduced the bill to make “Prostitution Free” zones stronger

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Help Out Cucci!

23 Jan

One of the best parts about organizing for sex workers rights is meeting and working with other groups concerned with sexual health and social justice. Cucci partnered with us last year to help produce our Sex Toy Fashion Show + Film Screening for International Sex Workers Rights Day. What most people probably don’t know  is that Cucci’s agenda is far more comprehensive than just selling sex toys. Cucci aims to:

 

 

 to facilitate sex-positive, body-positive, honest dialogue about sex; to build knowledge and excitement about our bodies and pleasure physiology, and promote sexual wellness; to leverage the best of the sex industry and bring it to a safe space – out of the local xxx outlet and into our communities

This takes shape in a myriad of different ways. It can include workshops for people to explore their sexuality in a safe space and with new tools. Honestly, this is radical enough for just about any population. But Cucci takes it further, emphasizing the need for resources and sex education for low-income, people of color, and queer and trans communities. It can also include workshops about sexuality and pleasure for survivors of sexual abuse and/or assault.

Right now Cucci is fundraising for their latest round of training for a new class of sex educators.

Access to sex education and a safe space for sexual expression is extremely important, and this training will greatly benefit the Los Angeles community.

Learn more about Cucci: http://www.ilovecucci.com

Go HERE to donate: http://www.indiegogo.com/House-of-Cucci-Extravaganza#_=

In The Business of Community Building

17 Jan

I wrote this months ago, intending to submit it to Tits and Sass. They (rightly) asked me to expand the topic to include other ad companies because this comes off kinda sounding like an ad for Eros. Unfortunately for everyone, I got busy and kept putting it on the back burner until it was far too late and I got incredibly caught up in other projects. But I stand by what I wrote. The folks from Eros will be back in LA in February (more details of future events to come) and will be hosting a Meet & Greet for sex workers and vendors to discuss their business needs. I’m pretty excited for it. One thing I forgot to mention is that Eros has been extremely responsive to feedback from sex workers, and goes out of their way to solicit opinions from their customers. The “what are your needs and what can we do to help you?” model is one that I think all allies (ourselves included) should follow.

-Jessie Nicole

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SWOP-LA at OccupyLA – Huffington Post Interview

12 Oct

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/10/intimate-look-occupy-la_n_1004342.html

Check out the video of Jessie Nicole interviewed by the Huffington Post at OccupyLA.

eBay Store Is Up!

28 Sep

http://stores.ebay.com/Sex-Workers-Outreach-Project-LA

Finally, after 2 months, we have an eBay store! After a lot of hassle and a lot of paperwork I ended up deciding it was going to take far too long to set it up through their official channels of a non-profit, so it’s going through my (Jessie Nicole’s) personal eBay account. I promise you that every cent of the profits is going straight to SWOP-LA though, and will have the records saying so available for anyone who wants to see them.

Let me tell you about some of the awesome things you’re going to find in there.

First and foremost, SWOP-LA gear. We have our buttons and t-shirts up! We’ve had requests for a way to buy our merch online

Secondly, all the wonderful leftovers from Swap & Swab 4 SWOP-LA. We have bags full of shoes, lingerie, jackets, and other gently used clothing. It’s going to take a good while to get all of it photographed and documented, so check back often (or subscribe to our store newsletter!) to find out when we update!

And yes, you may have noticed that there is a slight markup when you buy shirts and buttons online. That’s because it costs us to run the store. It’s always cheaper to come to our events and pick up the items you want there (no shipping either!). I promise we’re not hustling here, just trying to run a non-profit, which is a surprisingly expensive endeavor. And we use flat-rate priority mail envelopes to save time and for simplicity. And to support the post office!

http://stores.ebay.com/Sex-Workers-Outreach-Project-LA

SWOP-LA T-shirts

18 Aug

We’ve been asked about t-shirts, and I am proud to announce that they are finally coming! Here is the mock up of the design, and when we have them in our hands we’ll post some pictures of our members and allies modeling them!

Swing by our booth at Exxxotica for the first chance to buy one! They’re printed on American Apparel Baby Blue T-shirts in sizes S-XL. $20 each.

Declare your support for sex workers in California and help out a good cause! Start some conversations and tell the world you support sex workers rights!

Village Voice vs. Ashton Kutcher

1 Jul

In case you missed it over the past few days, the Village Voice has written an article attacking Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s numbers that they use in their campaign against child trafficking. Here’s the article. It’s long, but well worth the read, especially because of all the attention it’s getting now. But if you’re looking for a more accessible, and I think more thorough, examination of the same issue I would HIGHLY recommend checking out Emi Koyama’s zine : War on Terror and War on Trafficking: A Sex Worker Activists Confronts the Anti-Trafficking Movement. You can read it online, but please support this amazing work and buy a copy too!

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll have a more official response in the coming days, but I wanted to give people who don’t have time to delve through all the twitter nonsense and all the articles a quick roundup of what I found to be the most helpful information and viewpoints that I think need to be taken into consideration. Since people are both still watching, researching, and writing, this will be updated throughout the next week or so, but here’s a start.

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SWOP-LA on TSRnetwork.com

28 Jun

Watch Serene Sin and Jessie Nicole talk about Sex Workers Outreach Project, and Swap & Swab 4 SWOP-LA specifically!