How To Be An Ally to Sex Workers – Part Two

If you run a business (a coffee shop, clothing store, restaurant, etc.) or a drop-in center:

  • Put up Sex-Work-Positive schwag in your window or with other sticker-fiti. You know how great walking into an establishment with a rainbow flag feels as an LGBTQ person? Sex-work-positive stickers, posters and art have the same effect on people working in the sex trade.
  • Include material from harm-reduction-based organizations geared towards sex workers on your pamphlet table/in your pamphlet stack. SWOP-brochures, information about the PROS network, Chicago Recovery Alliance schedules & BYC pamphlets, etc.

If you have hiring/admissions authority or the power to influence hiring/admissions:

  • SWOP-Chicago believes that people have the right to remain in, and also exit the sex industry. Many barriers, including internalized stigma, long career gaps, and criminal records, serve as barriers for people who want to exit the sex trade. Below are some suggestions on how you can help reduce those barriers.
  • Ignore prostitution convictions or arrests when they appear on applicant background checks. Work to ensure that prostitution arrests/convictions of employees remain confidential.
  • Reach out to agencies and organizations that may come into contact with individuals in the sex trade, and say that you/your organization would like to hire qualified individuals in the sex trade. If you do not have the capacity to hire new workers, consider creating low-stipend internships with transferable skills and credentials, and that will add to the resume of former workers.
  • If you are a member of a professional association: talk about eliminating licensing and hiring bans on individuals who have prostitution arrests or convictions. (It varies from state to state, but licensing in many high-growth female-dominated service professions, like nursing, health-care, massage therapy, teaching, and social work, is not available for individuals with prostitution convictions).

If you are a direct service provider (lawyer, counselor, health-care provider)

  • Include: “I provide services, regardless of current or former involvement in the sex trade” to the list of other marginalized groups you provide equal treatment to.
  • Get educated, and avoid inferring or jumping to conclusions about sex workers.
  • If you work in a group setting, discourage verbal violence and harassment of individuals working in the sex trade.
  • Tailor your services to the individual worker. Many differences exist in the mental and physical tolls of different types of workers, different workers’ goals relating to involvement in the sex trade, and services needed. (See UK Network of Sex Worker Projects for more information).

If you are an academic or a reporter:

  • Recognize the diversity of voices, experiences, and reasons for involvement in the sex trade in your work. Read ‘research’ on the sex trade critically, and look at a variety of sources when you select material to draw from when preparing a course, presentation, journal or newspaper article.
  • Refrain from generalizing the experience of being a sex worker from the narratives of one or a small group of sex workers. Recognize that while some individuals certainly have glamorous (or empowering or horrific) experiences in the sex trade, their experiences may not be representative of all individuals in the sex trade.
  • Don’t just ‘take’ the stories & experiences of the individuals you are studying — give something back in return! This can be anything from: referrals to case management, housing, drug-treatment, free or low-cost educational/professional development opportunities, academic grants; training in research methods & support on future community-participatory-action research; listing key informants as ‘research assistants’ in publications; and creating research that has the power to generate policies & laws that improve the lives of the individuals you are studying.

If you are a policy-maker:

  • Include diverse sex-worker voices in discussion when drafting laws and policies that affect them.
  • Work to eliminate policies/laws that discriminate against individuals currently or previously involved in the sex trade (including: housing discrimination, discrimination in custody cases, employment discrimination, police profiling and abuses).

One comment on “How To Be An Ally to Sex Workers – Part Two

  1. […] How to be an ally as an institution or community leader […]

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