Google announced last week that they are making the largest-ever corporate donation to “ending modern day slavery”: an impressive $11.5 million dollars. We applaud and support Google’s desire to fight slavery, forced trafficking, and exploitative labor conditions, but Google’s funding recipients include three NGOs that cause serious harm to sex workers around the world: International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, and Not for Sale. As front line sex worker support services struggle for funding to serve their communities, it is offensive to watch Google shower money upon a wealthy faith-based group like the International Justice Mission, which took in nearly $22 million dollars in 2009 alone. (In contrast, the St. James Infirmary, a San Francisco clinic that provides free healthcare to sex workers, operated on only $335k in 2010.)
As the Missing Women’s Inquiry continues, sex workers and supporters lit candles on the steps of a police detachment yesterday, part of a global day of action.
It’s been 22 years since the Montreal massacre. We talk violence against women, and ways to end it, with survival sex work organizer Jennifer Allan, founder of Jen’s Kitchen. She experienced violence in the survival sex industry first-hand, but today, she supports those in the trade and pushes for change. By David P. Ball.
Jennifer Allan knows first-hand what it’s like to sell one’s body in order to feed it.
About ten years ago, the 34-year old founder of Jen’s Kitchen – an advocacy, outreach and food relief service for women in Vancouver’s survival sex trade – found herself pacing the streets of Calgary and Vancouver, the pain of hunger in her belly.
Luna Allison / Ottawa / Friday, December 02, 2011
UPDATE – Nov 28: Twenty years ago Gerald Hannon described himself as a satisfier of human need, whatever that need may be, in a poetic love letter to sex work.
He read the essay on stage at his retirement party Bone Weary: A Fond Farewell to the Sex Trade at Goodhandy’s Nov 25.
“Prostitution has been the splendid discovery of my middle years,” he says.
Nov 27: As Gerald Hannon cheerily welcomed friends to his retirement party at Goodhandy’s Nov 25, video of a younger Hannon, wearing only a balaclava while masturbating, appeared on a screen behind him.
The backdrop to Hannon’s party, Bone Weary: A Fond Farewell to the Sex Trade, included a video montage of images from Hannon’s life during his years as a sex worker, put together by friend and video artist Peter Kingstone.
“They’re not all of me jerking off,” Hannon grinned. “There’s soft-core videos, art films, gay wrestling. There’s another of me on a pogo stick. I’m fully clothed in that one.”
By Niresha Velmurugiah——
I recently attended a workshop by Vancouver-based sex worker support and advocacy agency, PACE, on providing health care for sex workers. PACE is a sex-worker driven organization, and the guidelines at the workshop are based on firsthand experiences with service providers. I left the session content with the progressive care for workers in such a marginalized profession. Then my friend remarked, “Isn’t it messed up that treating people with respect has to be such a revolutionary idea?”
The advice from the workshop was a sad reflection on the status quo. Don’t treat sex workers like they’re dirty. Acknowledge the interplay between sex work and drug use, and how intertwined the two often go. Don’t brush off sex work as illegitimate. Don’t talk down to sex workers or treat them like they need saving. Respect the terms sex workers use to describe their profession. The underlying themes of respect and sensitivity to the context of a person’s life are basics of health care provision. There is, however, a discrepancy between theory and practice, because current health care fails sex workers.
In a perfectly “free” labor market, everyone theoretically has the right to exchange work for commensurate compensation. But a free market is not necessarily a just one. And when the commodity is sex, how free is too free?
Sex work, and its attendant culture wars, have moved over time from traditional brothels of urban lore to online marketplaces, raising new questions about private and public freedom. In the digital world, how should trust and power be negotiated between provider and client, both encircled by systemic gender and economic inequities?
On this slippery battlefield, anti-trafficking advocates are campaigning against Village Voice Media’s Backpage, an ad portal featuring “adult” ads notorious for facilitating sexual services involving minors.