Sex work, media, activism, and privilege

audaciaray's picture

I've got three different pieces of media swirling around in my head, making me think thoughts that maybe aren't perfectly developed, but definitely a good jumping-off point for conversation: Kerwin Kaye's post on Class, Race, and sex worker activism , the recent conversations about Susanah Breslin's working girl and john blogs, and a book I recently read, and had my ass kicked by - Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (you can watch the Live Girl Review video about it here).

For the last bunch of years, I've been devoting my life/work to creating and enabling media about sex, and in my work with $pread magazine , the goal has specifically been to empower sex workers to write about their experiences as well as the news and politics that affect people in the sex industry. I think a lot about inclusivity and diversity and how to improve on these issues - as Kerwin said in his post a few days ago, these things are issues we should look at seriously.

While reading Sex At the Margins, there was a paragraph that really struck a chord with me (there were lots really, but this one is relevant to this issue). When writing about the "rescue industry" and government-supported programs (specifically in Europe) that give assistance to sex workers, especially those perceived as being trafficked, Agustin writes: "...But many of the marginalized find the margins easier to live in; their friends are there; or they don't like the center. Tellings one's story, going to protests and marches, chatting with outreach workers and a host of other projects are simply not interesting to many people, whether they are maltreated by society or not."

I've been thinking about the ability of sex workers to tell stories, do activism, and seek out services as privileges that should be rights. I firmly believe in the push to make all those things possible for the sex workers who want these things - and those that aren't interested have the choice to engage or not. At any rate, this is something I've been struggling with and pondering a lot: what about the sex workers who aren't being heard or considered in the movement and surrounding research? Is there a way to be more inclusive? How do we respect people who aren't interested in participating? Is it right to represent their interests (or their assumed interests) if they aren't interested in being interviewed/surveyed/studied?