Drama In America as Prostitutes seek recognition, say we also vote
Of the many, many impactful statements made onstage at the Women’s March Power to the Polls event in Las Vegas on Sunday, one stood out for the uniqueness of its voice in the largely mainstream political context: “I am a mother, I am a grandmother, and I am a s3x worker.”
Members of the national coalition of American s3x workers have drawn attention to their existence, warning the authorities that they deserve to be heard or recognised because they also cast votes during elections.
Of the many impactful statements made onstage at the Women’s March Power to the Polls event in Las Vegas on Sunday, one stood out for the uniqueness of its voice in the largely mainstream political context: “I am a mother, I am a grandmother, and I am a s3x worker.”
The statement was made by Cris Sardinia, head of Desiree Alliance, a national coalition of s3x workers and health professionals working toward harm reduction, advocacy, and education.
She was the only one of 30-plus onstage speakers to focus on the rights of prostitutes, adult-film stars, strippers, and other s3x workers as an issue.
But even as a lone voice in the day’s lineup, she symbolised a powerful shift — as did the noticeable presence of many s3x-worker rights activists, who turned out more forcefully than they did for last year’s main Women’s March event.
The issue remains a touchy one among women who equate all prostitution and sex work with s3x trafficking; activists, meanwhile, see a difference and defend their work as a freedom-of-choice issue.
“I want you to see the s3x-worker rights movement as part of the solution and not the problem,” Sardinia said to great applause from the stands of the Sam Boyd Stadium.
“We are a strong and fierce community made up of every colour, every race, every identity, every shape, every economy, every religion, and so much more,” Sardinia continued, before declaring, “I’m a s3x worker. And I have the right to be here.”
S3x workers were indeed just one of the many marginalised groups who found a welcoming space at Sunday’s rally. Others included black women, indigenous women, Latina women, poor women, immigrant women, migrant workers, domestic workers, s3x-trafficked women and girls, disabled women, Muslim women, abused women, incarcerated women, and LGBT women.
The issue of s3x workers and their rights is a particularly complex and hot-button issue, though, especially within feminist circles. That’s largely because many equate all pornography, prostitution, and other forms of s3x work with human trafficking, or the capture of women and children who are coerced into the trade or sold into it against their will.
But s3x-worker rights activists dispute that all forms of sex work are equal, arguing that they too want to fight trafficking — and that the most effective way to do so is through the decriminalization of s3x work, which would theoretically empower coerced s3x workers to come forward to authorities without fear of arrest.
They also argue that granting women full autonomy over their bodily choices is an essential freedom — no different than the right to use contraceptives or have an abortion (a belief countered by some feminists, who see sex work as inherently nonconsensual because of money throwing off the power balance).
Amnesty International favors the decriminalization of sex work — which “does not mean the removal of laws that criminalize exploitation, human trafficking, or violence against s3x workers. These laws must remain and can and should be strengthened,” its website explains. “It does mean the removal of laws and policies criminalizing or penalizing s3x work.”
The inclusion of s3x workers’ rights by this year’s Women’s March was particularly noteworthy to those in the business — especially after last year’s behind-the-scenes controversy was brought to light by author and activist Janet Mock in a January 2017 Tumblr post.
In it, she explained that she had helped march organizers write the mission statement, but that the line she wrote, about s3x workers, had been removed, repeatedly altered, and eventually reinstated, due to internal conflicts.