December 17th Vigil at Center For Sex And Culture in San Francisco

On December 17, 2008, about forty-five of us (sex workers, allies, a few Johns, and some others) gathered to remember sex workers who have been (or will become)victims of violence of various kinds; rape, murder, arrests, police brutality, suicide when facing jail time, robbery… and hate crimes. The Center for Sex and Culture was a lovely, safe, and comfortable environment for our ritual—- sexy even– with all its velvety couches and an exhibit of lively paintings of Madison Young in bondage! It felt like a sex worker safe house.

Half the folks that attended had marched up from the jail a few blocks away doing a “politically focused peaceful action” carrying signs and lit candles with photos of our dead on them. They had the most beautiful signs and candles I’ve ever seen at such a march. When the marchers got to the CSC they placed their signs around an altar-like table we had created with calla lilies, photos, candles, sage, and other items of meaning. It was a powerful visual, and the energy in the room was palpable.

For about an hour and a half, we passed ’round a microphone to share our thoughts, feelings, realizations, memories, writings, ideas, stories, and more. There were several musical interludes from music Lady Monster had picked out. There were some tears, laughs, some anger, fears released, hope given, ideas bandied, and more. Reverend Jen did a lovely closing.

It was a wonderful group of folks, and I felt really great about having done this event. Many of us have never been victims of violence, but its good to once a year acknowledge the sad truth is that some of us are. It felt good to feel connected with all the other vigils and events on this International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I was a bit worried that some of the working whores might get scared and paranoid from the readings of the names of the dead–it was heavy. But perhaps its good to have a reality check. And as Dolores French once said, “Working in a convenience store or as a taxi driver is more dangerous than being a whore.”

Attached is a photo taken of a few of us just after our memorial; Kirk Read, Madison Young, Carol Queen, Reverend Jen, Mistress Minax, myself and others. As far as I know, there wasn’t any press. But that’s OK. We didn’t push for it either.

Next year I’ll be happy to facilitate something happening again. (The Christmas caroling idea is a good one.) Observing this annual event warms my heart and soul and ultimately makes me feel happy and well balanced. Hope it was good for you too.

In whore solidarity,
Annie Sprinkle
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3 Responses

  1. Congratulations to all those who do the good work organizing events that call attention to the ending the violence against us.

    As the proponent of Prop k, I have to say that is was a privilege and pleasure to be out in public educating folks out of the use of negative stereo types that permeates our industry.
    I specifically had to challenge how these stereo types as I was confronted with them, are used as the excuse to continue to deny us the right to negotiate for our labor and safe work conditions.

    At many times during the signature gathering stage as well as during the campaign, I had to constantly educate folks about why use the word ‘john’ to refer to our clients was inappropriate and inaccurate. The use of this word only institutionalizes further really bad ideas about our clients of which the opposers of prostitution rights, like SAGE, capitalize on by putting on the ‘Saturday men’s program, the diversion program for those men who are arrested for solicitation of prostitution.
    Additionally, I had to explain how the criminalization of prostitution deterred many sex workers who were injured and assaulted on our jobs from reporting crimes against us. This is our on going battle cry as sex worker activist.

    I won’t be the only one, the contraction of hosting an event calling for the end of violence against sex workers by quoting a sex workers saying that our industry is safer than being a cab driver or a convenience store worker, isn’t lost on.
    The District Attorney, Kamala Harris, justified voting no on K because mandating equal protection to sex workers wasn’t warranted because 65% of the sexual assault cases that are adjudicated in by the city and county of District Attorney’s office were on behalf of sex workers! 65%.

    So which is it? Are we calling for the end of violence against sex workers by demanding decriminalizing prostitution and equal protection under the law because we don’t have equal access to equal protection under the law, because of the criminalization of our occupation? Or are we saying we have the safer industry as compared to others, we just don’t have documentation of it.

    I need sex workers and supporters to be aware of how the use of these stereo types and statements can be counter productive and in direct conflict with what sex worker activist are using as the basis for demanding rights! When we call for the city and county of San Francisco to discontinue the use of the word ‘john’ in any legislation, it is because it is a gender epithet. We need the sex worker nation and our supporters to be in complete support of that concept on principal and in action. When we call for the equal protection under the law by mandating vigorous investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of crimes of rape, robbery, theft, coercion, fraud, and force, regardless of our status as sex workers, it is because we know that while the DA’s office is prosecuting sexual assault crimes of which 65% are committed against sex workers, there are other crimes against sex workers that are not being reported and when they are reported to the police and DA, they have not investigating or prosecuting them. In some cases, the police are committing the violence. The role that arbitrary enforcement of prostitution and equal protection laws plays in the criminalization of prostitution allows sex industry workers to become targets of violence and precludes many of us from reporting crimes against us and getting justice! That has to be our universal position.

    Though DF’s statement maybe true for some, it promotes classism. By comparing the experience of hookerdom as being more safe than a taxi cab driver or convenience store worker, it doesn’t work to move our political agenda!

    We know we have the best business in the world, to bring erotic pleasure. It is a gift. No matter how fancy or not, or upscale or not, or clean or not, or drug free or not, or compassionate or not, we provide our services; the criminalization of our occupation by the tax payers and the enforcers of those bad laws make all of us targets for violence and we have to stop that.

  2. Kamala Harris made the claim that 65% or was it 85% of assault cases that the DA prosecutes are assaults against sex workers. That is total bullshit and a total fabrication. I am sure this declaration made all the liberals, church goers and other do gooders who want to keep throwing sex workers in jail all warm and fuzzy inside. Men and women who work in the industry or have worked in the industry know that we don’t go to the police. Period. Listen, I worked in the industry, I never knew one worker who reported and that would be not ever, not even once.

    65% percent, my ass.

  3. I will be asking for the documentation in the new year!

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