December 17, 2009 marks the seventh annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Events are being planned in over two dozen countries and in dozens of cities. In San Francisco, sex workers Annie Sprinkle and Kimberlee Cline will host a remembrance ritual and a solidarity stroll down Market Street. In Phoenix, Arizona, sex workers and allies are coming together for a protest rally in honor of Marcia Powell at the Arizona Department of Corrections. Ms. Powell was a prisoner of the State of Arizona who collapsed and died from heatstroke last May after being locked in an outdoor cage and ignored for four hours in 107 degree heat.
The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was created in 2003 in response to the trial of Gary Ridgway (a.k.a. the Green River Killer) and his brutal statements about choosing prostitutes because he could “get away with it.” Many believe that the Green River Killer did in fact get away with it in the Seattle area for over 20 years because of law enforcement’s disinterest in solving the murders of prostitutes, and society’s general acceptance of violence against sex workers.
From Annie Sprinkle's press release:
"If the victims had been teachers, nurses or secretaries or other women, I suspect--as Ridgway did-- that the killer would have been caught much sooner,” says Annie Sprinkle, Ph.D. a former prostitute and adult film star of twenty years, turned sexologist and artist. “While I personally feel that I came out of the sex industry a winner, I’m aware that there are those that aren’t as lucky as I was and are real victims of bad laws, whore-phobic hate crimes, rape and worse. It’s so important to remember those people, and to let the public know we care and we need and deserve safer working conditions.------
I think I have already noted that I am not a sex worker. But I am a supporter of civil and worker rights. All workers deserve the right to be safe in their work. All people deserve to be seen as PEOPLE, not as labeled objects. Modern Hooker's latest post puts it out there simply and powerfully.
As a non-sex worker, what can you do? Become aware of those things around you (and maybe in you) that contribute to the marginalization and dehumanization of sex workers - or heck, anybody else! Here are just two suggestions from SWOP's printed handout for allies:
Watch Your Language. Cracking jokes or using derogatory terms such as "hooker", "whore", "slut", or "ho" is not acceptable. While some sex workers have "taken back" these words and use them among themselves, they are usually used to demean sex workers when spoken by outsiders.
Address Your Prejudices. If you have a deep bias or underlying fear that all sex workers are bad people and/or full of diseases, then perhaps these are issues within yourself that you need to address. In fact, the majority of sex workers practice safer sex than their peers and get tested regularly.Thanks for reading about this event, and please follow the links - SWOP et al. have great information out there, much more organized and articulate than I can express here (hence the heavy use of quoted material in this post!!).