Upcoming “Sex Slavery” Conference in Macon

Amber Rhea alerted me to this upcoming conference which does not include sex worker voices. She wondered if SWOP-East had anything planned. We do not.

Her post about the conference and related issues highlights a problem I often feel — that one can end up drowing in a wave of ignorance from the public. Sex work activism often feels like beating your head against the wall. I admire those incredible long-term activists who retain their passion. Allies (like Amber), offer help and support but hit burnout too.

Every city, every state has its ongoing issues. Is it that I’m more aware of them now, or is sex work more often being thrust to the front of public policy? Either way, we’re all caught between wanting to do something and being able to do something. And sometimes there is no intersection.

30 Responses

  1. Every city, every state has its ongoing issues. Is it that I’m more aware of them now, or is sex work more often being thrust to the front of public policy?

    I think it’s a combination of the two – with one or the other being a bigger factor depending on where you live. For example, in Atlanta, there are ongoing issues that *have been* issues for 20 years in some cases; I’m aware of them now, but most people are not, and it’s because sex work is such a hush-hush topic here (except for people invoking the horror stories of Atlanta as child sex trafficking capital of the South).

  2. Also, one small correction, the conference is in Macon, not Atlanta.

  3. the opportunity here is that all the actors in the campaign are in one place at one time, and the press is bound to be there (virtually and/or really) in high numbers. to let them come and do their thing with no outcry would be tragic. (not to pressure already overloaded activists.)

  4. Opps. Corrected, thank you.

    XX

  5. Amber mentioned on her blog that somebody recommended protesting this conference, but I would be careful about doing that and I think there would be better types of advocacy to address this issue. If we protest the conference, it could come across like we’re pro-trafficking or pro-slavery. We know we’re not, but the anti’s are already using this issue against us, so protesting would just add fuel to their fire. This would be one more thing they could use against us, and they’ll point to this as an example of how we’re supposedly “pro-trafficking” and “pro-slavery.” I don’t see how protesting this conference would benefit the cause for sex workers’ rights. A better alternative would be to put on our own conference addressing human trafficking from sex workers’ rights perspectives. We did this a couple of years ago at UC-Berkeley and I believe there was another such conference about a year later at a school in New York. It takes time and effort to put on such a conference, but it has been done before, so it’s possible. We could also organize a sex workers’ rights approaches to human trafficking rally, advocating for effective solutions to fighting human trafficking and slavery, while at the same time, protesting policies that are resulting in sex workers being incarcerated under the guise of fighting trafficking. Would any individuals or organizations be interested in taking on such projects? Also, does anybody have any other ideas of how to address this issue? Human trafficking are slavery are very contentious issues, so we have to be extremely careful about what actions we take.

  6. yes, def. interested in getting behind this effort. am in the area.

  7. At the very least leaflet everyone that goes in with a fact sheet on sex work and immigration. Maybe a “sex trafficking” myths and facts sort of informational leaflet. What is the possibility of having a table outside the event?

    I just saw the speaker list which includes fascist Donna Hughes.

  8. “At the very least leaflet everyone that goes in with a fact sheet on sex work and immigration. Maybe a “sex trafficking” myths and facts sort of informational leaflet. What is the possibility of having a table outside the event?”

    I think this is a good idea.

    My sense of it is, with all the current economic meltdown and the general social and political panic, the attention turns to sex work as an “easy” group to scapegoat for political clout. Nothing is as galvanizing as sex panic!

  9. Are there any sex worker rights activists/workers that are in touch with any immigration rights activists in Macon, Georgia?

    The immigrant rights groups here in San Francisco came out in support for Prop K because immigrants and immigrant rights advocates and activists are not fooled by the bullshit rhetoric put out by the likes of CATW and Donna Hughes-not when immigrant workers (sex worker, domestic worker, restaurant worker, contstruction worker, factory or field) get arrested, detained and deported (ICE raid).

  10. I agree with Sexworkeradvocate. I believe we have to be very careful in a response to this event.

    Donna Hughes and many others would be thrilled if we do a counter protest there. Whether they will admit to it or not, Donna Hughes brand of anti trafficking activism is deeply rooted in conservatism and is very reactionary. That has a significant appeal in Macon Georgia. This is home turf for her and her views. And easy for her to exploit a protest as being protested by pro trafficking types seeking to obstruct freedom fighters. While that isn’t reality and in Donna’s case is inverse to reality, nonetheless she has the stage, the microphone, the budget, the home stadium, to work to her advantage.

    What she doesn’t have is pragmatism and diplomacy. I believe we had really successful outcomes to the Berkeley event in many ways and we have the advantage of being diverse, pragmatic, diplomatic, and actually have a much better vision of addressing trafficking than she and those like her.

    I honestly believe a counter protest at Macon could be both giving Donna and her reactionary feminist allies a lot of fodder in an area of the US in which is easy to exploit. Donna Hughes is essentially the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh on these issues and that she shares those qualities with many others. I would truly advocate that whatever we do that we take the highest possible ground approach and appeal to moderates and to those who are new to the issues and trying to find who they want to support. People tend to dislike bombastic out of touch zealots like Donna but they can be distracted if she can whip the crowd into a frenzy that the enemy is at the gate.

    I would love to take part in this event. My experiences are somewhat unique given my history and yet my strong support for rights based approaches. I would love to work on this project.

  11. In the “lodging” section of the conference website, there is this sentence:

    >A day after the conference, Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival begins amidst its 300,000 cherry blossom trees, so do book early.>

    There is a joke in there somewhere, I’m just not sure where.

  12. Check out the hate map from the Southren Povert Law Center.

    http://www.splcenter.org/intel/map/hate.jsp#s=GA

    Macon has two active hate groups.

    Their own site makes it plane that this is a rally for racists who are using the ‘faith based’ rhetoric as the means to put massage parlor workers out of work.

    http://www.mercer.edu/stop/who_we_are.htm

    These people are clearly nazis.

  13. Reposting the comment I posted on my own blog…

    Since it’s already so close to the date, I think any sort of counter event would be best in the form of letter-writing. To try and scramble and get together something in-person wouldn’t be good. I will find contact information (or maybe it’s available on the web site? need to look in more detail) and maybe a group of us can each write civil but firm and straightforward letters about why this conference is problematic.

  14. These people are clearly nazis.

    I wouldn’t go that far. I think most of them have their heart in the right place – they’re just ignorant. This is why I’m hopeful that by writing persuasive, information-filled, non-accusatory letters, we might be able to change some people’s minds.

    The faith-based approach is the norm in much of Georgia. I can see how to an outsider such groups might appear hateful, but for the most part they’re really not. Their actions have real impact that is often very negative; but I feel like most of them can be reasoned with.

  15. Here is some contact information:

    S.T.O.P. web site

    Email: stoptraffickingmacon@gmail.com

    S.T.O.P. blog

    S.T.O.P. Facebook group

    I will try to start on a letter today. It’ll be much later tonight before I’m able to start, and if I don’t get time today, I’ll work on it tomorrow. I’ll also try to get another post up in the next day or two.

  16. Oops, I left a comment w/ contact information, but it looks like it got caught by the spam filter because it had links in it.

  17. […] Upcoming “Sex Slavery” Conference in Macon « Bound, Not Gagged "Her post about the conference and related issues highlights a problem I often feel — that one can end up drowning in a wave of ignorance from the public. Sex work activism often feels like beating your head against the wall." (tags: sexwork sexworkersrights activism ignorance) […]

  18. I really like Lisa’s idea of leaftleting attendees with a fact sheet about sex work and clarification of myths. The Sex Workers Project put together a really good fact sheet that also addresses the issue of human trafficking-which would make it especially relevant to this conference. I recommend that people who are able to attend this conference print out copies of this fact sheet (if you have access to a printer) and give it to attendees and media at the conference. Here is a link: http://www.sexworkersproject.org/media-toolkit/downloads/08-Myths.pdf

  19. Thanks, sexworkeradvocate.

    Now we just have to find people in Macon or who can go to Macon.:\

    Btw, I said this in my comment that got spammed, but until it gets fished out… I will start on a letter either late tonight or tomorrow (at the rate of how my today is looking, tomorrow is more likely). I will send this letter to S.T.O.P and share it so people who want to send their own letters can get ideas if they don’t feel like starting from a totally blank template. And I will get another blog post up in the next day or two.

  20. I’d go, but I’m half way across the country. Perhaps, sex workers’ rights advocates and supporters in Atlanta can carpool down there, and maybe other sex workers, advocates, and allies in the Southeast can go.

  21. I just thought of something… Because Mercer University is private (I believe), they could kick us off campus if we start leafletting. Not that they definately would do this, but it’s a possibility. Heck, even if they do kick us off, we could still leaflet to some people before they banish us from campus.

  22. I’d go, but I’m half way across the country. Perhaps, sex workers’ rights advocates and supporters in Atlanta can carpool down there, and maybe other sex workers, advocates, and allies in the Southeast can go.

    Unfortunately one of my big points in writing my post was we don’t have such a critical mass of advocates in Atlanta.:\

  23. I realize that aren’t many sex workers’ rights advocates in Atlanta, but even if it’s a small group of supporters, it still may be worth heading down there and leafletting as well as speaking out during the “audience question and comments sections” or interacting with attendees and the media . However, it’s up to the folks in Atlanta to decide on that, of course. There are some other sex worker advocates in the Southeast outside of Georgia, but I’m not sure if they’ll make the trip to Macon.

  24. I wish I could go, but since it’s on a weekday, I can’t because I have to work. I know there are advocates in the Southeast but we do not have a cohesive group like in NY, SF, Chicago, etc. I wish we did, but so far it’s not happening. I’ve tried, but I need help.

  25. Therefore my means of interacting will be by writing a letter.

  26. I hear you…. I realize how hard and isolating it can be to try and organize on our own. Thank you for taking the time to write a letter. It may also be a good idea to submit the letter to the Mercer Student newspaper.

  27. Good point re: the Mercer student newspaper. I’ll send it to them as well.

  28. Macon Telegraph too🙂 and I’m still up for a little roadtrip. But not by myself.

  29. I noticed that one of the speakers is Dorchen Leidholdt. Jill- isn’t that one of your favorite people?😛

    My, but Justin Dillon is a juicy boy! Mmmm. Yummy!!😀

    I don’t think STOP would be open to listening to us about this somehow. It’s worth a try, but I think they6 are extremely well-funded, and their funding depends on their truth being so. In other words, the Sex Workers Project factsheet would mean less funding for them. And their line-up is clearly ideological:

    *Bradley Myles – Deputy Director of the Polaris Project
    *Dorchen Leidholdt – Director, Battered Women’s Legal Services
    *Donna Hughes – Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair Women’s Studies Program, University of Rhode Island
    *Lauran Bethell, Creator New Life Center, Thailand; Global Service Missionary (Lauran Bethell is an American Baptist Churches USA global ministry consultant based in Prague, Czech Republic)
    *Alesia Adams – Youth Development and Sexual Trafficking Prevention Coordinator, Salvation Army

    The others could concievably be reasoned with, but I have no idea. Here are their names:

    *Justin Dillon, Director, Call + Response
    *Patricia McCormick – Author of Sold
    *Kika Cerpa – Sex Trafficking Survivor (Bob Herbert wrote about her)
    *Stephanie Davis, Policy Advisor on Women’s Issues, Office of the Mayor, Atlanta
    *Rachel Sparks – Founder, Producer, Sold Project
    *Rachel Goble – Executive Director, Associate Producer, Sold Project
    *Alia El-Sawi – Anti-Human Trafficking Program Coordinator, Tapestri Inc.

    I think writing to the student newspaper and local papers is a great idea. Maybe making connections to some of the student groups? Was anyone in a sorority or campus club in college that may have a branch there? What about the sociology dept?

  30. i work at swinging richards in atlanta sometimes, but i’m not sure how far that is from macon… 2 hours maybe?? if i can be involved, i would like to be.

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