Post from Robyn Few of Sex Workers Outreach Project.

By robynfew

I find myself going back to the video that Serpent created about the National DC March. Each time I cry. I was crying everyday for awhile, I mean months, but finally that has stopped. So I find it a bit annoying that I am crying so much now. I must admit that I am watching all the video’s created about International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers repeatedly. That could be contributing to my depression.

It’s funny that I get depressed every year about this time. Maybe it is because I regret all that I didn’t get done, or I wish that the year wasn’t over yet, or maybe I just ain’t ready for it all to start again. Another year, another dollar, blah blah. Okay, I know this sounds all negative and like I am feeling sorry for myself but I am not. That is why I am writing this. It’s funny, I wanted to post today because I feel like I have something good to say. Then I went to boundnotgagged.com, I found the swopdairies, all the places I want to speak out and I couldn’t remember how to sign in, post, any damn thing. It took me forever to get to this page. I find myself laughing at myself constantly. At least, I get enjoyment out of my old age, (I would prefer to call it stupidity but wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.)

Death changes everything, esp when you think it’s going to happen to you. It’s ridiculous really, because it is going to happen to all of us. It is just that most of us don’t dwell on it. When you are sick and things just ain’t feeling right, you positively have nothing else to think about. I have been thinking alot about the death of Norma Hotaling. Maybe because the two of us got cancer at the same time, but it freaks me out that I didn’t die. Why did she have to die? It’s the roll of the dice. She accomplished a lot in her time. A lot of which it will take us years to reverse, but she was unstoppable. She also had a great advantage over our movement, the feds, police and the DA’s loved her. I am afraid we are along way from that sort of relationship. I remember when I met Norma, I googled her when I was looking for help after my arrest. I read everything I could find on the web. Somewhere I read that she supported decriminalization. Her tune had to change after we started screaming decrim. She started saying that we had to arrest the clients, that she accomplished with the First Offenders Prostitution Project and the infamous ‘John’s School’. Norma you have left one hell of a legacy. All I can hope is that I can leave half the mark that you have. And I pray to the Almighty whoever that my legacy supports the rights of all humans to not get arrested for selling sex.

Women like Norma are right when they say that we must end the exploitation of the sex industry, but that will never happen in a criminalized system. There is exploitation in so many workplaces, workplaces from every industry. The advantage other industries have over ours is that they have the right to form unions, to fight for better working conditions. They have equal protection under the law, they are not being forced to give a blowjob to keep out of jail for the night. We need to be able to access services when we say we are proud sex workers. Sex workers who choose to use their genitals or to touch someone else’s privates to make money need equal rights, civil rights, fucking human rights. When we end the discrimination and stigma with decriminalization we will be able to fight for our rights in workplaces that are legal, ie exotic dance facilities, massage parlors and escort services.

Is this the year that people in the United States start to get pissed off that their Governor lost his job because of his sex life? Or are we gonna impeach a few republicans for fucking the wrong guy. Maybe a few more women will be found hanging from ropes in their homes because they can’t take the shame of walking out their front door everyday. What about your daughter or son that you haven’t seen in the past year? They left one day and you know they didn’t have a dime to their name, but hey they will make it somehow. What about that trans person they found behind the dumpster last night, what was their name?

It just brings me back to that thing I was talking about DEATH. It happens to all of us, we don’t dwell on it but it’s coming. I think the smart ones of us plan on the future, leaving something for their families, so forth so on. What are you going to do this year to plan for your future? I have made a few plans. I am very happy to be alive and I have decided that I need to celebrate that more. I have decided that I am going to put my efforts in a new direction. Maybe I won’t share all my plans with you but the point is I have some and they have to do with making my life and the people that I care about lives better. I hope that all of you have made some plans for the future. I hope they are positive and I hope that they support sex workers rights. I want to thank everyone for all the positive notes emails letters, cards and visits that you gave to me to make my life better. You make my life better.

Last thing I am going to say is donate your money to Sex Workers Outreach Project and thank you so much to all that have been donating. SWOP chapters everywhere are going to do tremendous things this year to end the criminalization of sex worki. They deserve your support. They are a great organization and they are going to get bigger, better and stronger then ever before. They are being led by young beautiful fantastic sex workers that need your support. Thank you SWOP for everything that you have given me. I will always be eternally grateful for what has happened to me and to the fabulous people I have met and been supported by.

Support your local sex workers. DONATE TODAY

7 Responses

  1. Can you point me to a get-out-of-prostitution program that sex worker activitsts approve? I’d like to get out but whenever I read a sex worker activit blog like this they all put down programs to help women get out. I know people writing on this blog don’t like Hotaling’s program so which one wuld you recommend then for leaving the industry?

  2. I have no suggestions for you Cindy, since most “get out” programs are run in conjuction with legal authorities or churches. But it does bring up the idea of having a program run by former sex workers. Problem is, no one would want to fund or support such a thing.

    If you search on here for Lisa Roelling, you’ll see her comments where she describes completing Hotaling’s program and it did not help her in the least. She did not gain useful skills for other employment while in the program. If a program is supposed to help a sex worker find other work and doesn’t manage that, it’s not much of a help. Idealogy aside, sex workers need practical solutions and that doesn’t often seem to be what’s offered.

    XX

  3. Educating Cindy,

    Why is it that non sex workers think they have the right to demand and dictate the agenda for the sex worker rights movement. The statement by ‘cindy’, who ever ‘she’ is, demonstrates just how white and entitled the privileged are.

    I view this disrespectful treatment as a result of the criminalization of prostitution which is why decrim is THE primary solution. Agreeing with decriminalization is what one has to do in order to become a member,. And agreeing to this primary mandate flows all the right actions of doing all the other things we do. Assisting workers in pursuing their agendas regardless of their country origin or ability to speak English or documentation status is only incidental to the larger goal of complete enfranchisement on all levels of society.

    Straitening out this white and entitled confused attitude like ‘cindy’ isn’t at the top of my agenda because this person’s statement is so far away from the human rights political policy of the sex positive worker based rights in terms of cause and effect, nothing short of going to work in a massage parlor won’t cure.

  4. The Women’s Recovery Center in Minneapolis/St Paul is the only one I would recommend. While it isn’t inherently a sex worker rights based program, it is a program for women of which most fall into the category of needing to be out of the sex industry. I’ve worked over a decade with it’s founder, Bill Nelson and others who built the program. WRC is considered on the outside of the anti movement by the anti movement. As far as exit programs go, WRC is by far the best.

  5. You leave a much greater legacy Robyn. Norma did a lot of important things. She also made a decision to trade a lot of peoples lives for the sake of politics and being on the inside of the funding stream, on the inside of the political power structure. She traded priorities from getting women out of the sex industry that perhaps shouldn’t be in it for the priority of enhancing her, her colleagues and her organization’s political power. She forgot that ends often don’t justify the means especially when peoples lives and human rights are traded for another set of people’s political and economic power. She joined oppressors and took away and took part in others taking away the rights of many. While she did some important and constructive work, her legacy is tarnished by many poor and oppressive choices as she attained power and insider status.

    Robyn you haven’t lost touch with the real reasons for activism. Constructive social change, fostering the rights of those who do not have them without taking them from others. Robyn you have never become an oppressor and have maintained your integrity and that of the movement. I’ve known both of you. Your legacy is authentic Robyn. Norma sold hers and sold hers out. Perhaps Norma Hotaling’s legacy becomes a history lesson about crossroads and making decisions that are authentic throughout the journey. Norma forgot history and repeated classic historic errors of so many of histories figures that started out with noble intentions and sold out to the allure of power and money.

  6. Cindy, our problem with SAGE has nothing to do with them providing exit services, but our problem is with coerciveness and how they are promoting anti-prostitution laws that harm sex workers. When sex workers are being given the ultimatum-either go to jail or go to SAGE-that’s coercion. If SAGE is serious about helping people who need and want their services, they can provide noncoercive drop-in and outreach services under the decriminalization of prostitution. Furthermore, Lisa Roelig posted on this board that she had gone through SAGE and she described it as a scam. She said it didn’t make her life any better.
    Also, you asked how we’re helping people exit prostitution, and one way we help people looking to exit prostitution do so is through fighting for the decriminalization of prostitution. This is not the only reason we advocate for decriminalizion, but do you think that having prostitution on your permenant record makes it easier to exit? It makes it harder. Some employers do criminal background checks. Also, there are structural issues involved as some people may work in jobs they’d prefer not to in order to to pay living expenses, or for health care or education. This is not specific just to prostitution, but affects people in various industries. Thus, there are issues beyond just prostitution which SAGE does not address. For example, SAGE doesn’t advocate for universal higher education or health care. Some people work in jobs they’d prefer not to in order to pay these expenses. However, I’m not going to overgeneralize because there are sex workers who take pride in and value their work. Also, SAGE doesn’t pay the bills or living expenses for sex workers.
    If you’re a sex worker who needs help exiting the industry on an individual level, there are harm reductionist organizations that I recommend contacting, which provide a variety of services to sex workers without promoting the criminalization of prostitution or profitting off of this. The organization Jill mentioned is one but other groups include the St. James Infirmary (San Francisco), Cal-Pep (Oakland), Sex Workers Project (New York), Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive-a.k.a. HIPS (D.C.), Different Avenues (D.C.) . All of these organizations have websites, so you can “Google” them to find the contact information. Also, certain individual sex workers’ rights activists may be able to help, so if you let us know your needs and what type of assistance you would like to achieve your goals, we may be able to help or point you toward resources that can.

  7. Sexworkeradvocate is absolutely correct there are many great orgs such as the ones she mentioned above. My discussion of the Women’s REcovery Center was me thinking of orgs that were strictly “exit based” that were doing good work. WRC is the only from that perspective that came to mind but certainly there are many orgs such as what she mentioned from many perspectives doing great work.

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