About Sex Work Awareness
Sex Work Awareness (SWA) was founded by a group of sex workers and their allies who, after working with $pread Magazine for several years, saw a need for deeper support and advocacy than a magazine can offer. The organization was created around the core belief that all sex workers have a right to self-determination; to choose how they make a living and what they do with their bodies.
The four co-founders of SWA –Audacia Ray, Eliyanna Kaiser, Kevicha Echols, and Susan Rowher- hosted the organization’s first fundraising event the week that the Eliot Spitzer scandal broke last March. The media frenzy that week served as a fantastic, though exhausting, illustration of why Sex Work Awareness is needed in the world. We strive to reduce the stigma faced by sex workers and increase understanding of the challenges faced by sex workers on both personal and human rights scales. Through public education, research, advocacy, and support for sex workers themselves, SWA hopes to create space for constructive dialogue about the sex industry and the issues it presents.
What projects has SWA done so far?
Sex Work Awareness has developed a media skills training workshop called Speak Up! The impetus for developing the seminar was based on a real need expressed by members of the sex worker community for more resources and skills training on how to (a) respond to media requests effectively and safely, (b) engage with the mainstream media in order to get a particular message out, and (c) create our own media products.
Last spring, Sex Work Awareness launched SexWork101.com, a public education project for people who are curious about issues affecting sex workers but might not know where to start. The project was inspired by conversations that took place at the Women, Action and the Media conference in March 2008, where journalists and other interested members of the public expressed a need for basic information about sex work. Here is the definition of “sex worker” from the website.
What is a sex worker?
A sex worker is a person who does erotic labor in exchange for an agreed upon exchange of money, goods or services.
Sound vague? It’s meant to be!
It’s often assumed that “sex worker” is a euphemism for “prostitute” – but actually it’s an umbrella term for many different kinds of jobs within the sex industry. A sex worker might be a prostitute, porn performer, phone sex operator, exotic dancer, sensual masseuse, dominatrix, hustler, or many other kinds of jobs. His or her “erotic labor” may or may not include physical contact with a client. Some forms of sex work include “sex,” or some kind of genital touching, but many kinds of sex work don’t include sex at all.
The phrase was coined by Scarlot Harlot, also known as Carol Leigh, more than 30 years ago when she got fed up with the fact that the only words available to describe this kind of work were slang.
What will SWA do with the funds raised by the 2009 NYC SexBloggers Calendar?
SWA plans to use funds from the calendar sales to do Speak Up! for sex workers in New York and another city on the east coast. We will use the money to pay the workshops presenters, rent space and provide snacks, as well as provide a small stipend for workshop participants who might not otherwise be able to afford to take time out to take the day long seminar.
SWA will also allocate some funds to the development of a new media project, an alternative audioguide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 19th and 20th century European paintings. The audioguide, Red Light Met, will feature will be available as a podcast on iTunes and will be chock full of information about prostitution and the arts.