by Furry Girl

02.08.11

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I'm going to be starting a new sex workers rights project.  The name I've chosen for it is SWAAY, which stands for Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You.  Of all the names I considered, I picked this one because it best explains what I want to do in two ways: outreach for normalizing sex worker politics into people outside the ho bubble, and SWAAY also works as a descriptive for what the aim is - swaying public perceptions.  (My original idea of "SWAY" was cock-blocked because sway.org was already taken, so I'm just adding an extra "a" and going with SWAAY/swaay.org.)

The aim of the project is accessible outreach to American audiences.  As it says on the "coming soon" page on swaay.org, the tagline is,

Advocating for understanding, respect, and change by connecting the public with the people and facts behind sex work

I truly believe that the most important thing that the sex workers rights movement in the US fails to do is to real public outreach.  Before we can get to changing laws and decriminalize all of our professions, we need to start with simply humanizing ourselves and giving regular people the basic tools for understanding our issues.  Most people don't even know the term "sex worker," and many who do think that's just the PC way to say "hooker."  My goal with SWAAY is to create digestible, informative outreach for people with little or no previous experience in radical sexuality, labor, immigration, gender, or feminist issues.  (And, just to be extra ambitious, the accent colors I've chosen are grey and teal with pink highlights.  At last!  A sex worker web site that's not done in pink and red!)

Since I work full time, and also try to have a private life and eat and sleep, I can't just crank this out in a couple of weeks.  I don't want to crank it out in a couple of weeks, since it is very important to me, and I'm spending plenty of time just pondering how to structure things and how to set the tone.  I'm shooting for May 1st, but don't say that I promised, because I could well run out of time between now and then and delay the launch.  (This is why there's an activist class and a "working" class with sex work - lots of people are occupied with being full-time sex workers so we don't have tons of leftover energy for saving the world.)

Many of you have asked me how you could get involved.  Thank you!  The "disclaimer":

While I am not interested in forming a collective, I will need some wonderful collaborators and help with SWAAY, mostly from sex workers.  Frankly, I want to establish right now that SWAAY is a benevolent dictatorship - if you don't have a very similar vision to mine, I wish you the best of luck starting your own project instead.  The whole point of me starting SWAAY this way is so I don't have to get bogged down in process, meetings, infighting, and consensus.  I want to work with people who are responsible, knowledgeable, and also don't want to waste time bullshitting around with "being a part of a group."

A vast amount of effort gets wasted within many political groups because people can't even agree on the most basic stuff like the group's goals and strategy, and participants lack the common sense to just form multiple projects that better suit their needs.  It's one thing to be able to network with people who are different from you and come together on larger campaigns and coalitions, but it's another to try and constantly force square pegs into round holes - at the expense of anyone actually getting useful things accomplished.  In my experience, too much of any group's energy gets spent on squabbling over who's in charge - whether that squabbling takes the form of deciding who's on the board/steering committee in a democratic group, or the majority regularly trying to appease the sole irritating obstructionist (and power-wielder) in a consensus-based group.  I truly feel like having one person who is definitely the one delegating and making final calls is the most pragmatic way to operate most group projects.  (And I say that not as someone who's only happy if I'm the person in charge, but also totally happy if I understand what task I am supposed to be doing that has been assigned to me.  I just don't want to waste energy fighting about it.)  This is just how I roll with my loathing of group dynamics, so take it or leave it.

I have some stuff I'll post about needing help with in the near future, but for now, there are two main things I need, which are open to everyone, sex worker or not.

I need money!

Yes, yes, everyone needs money.  And I know it's a recession.  I need about $1400 right now to get things rolling in the right direction.  That money will go towards printing pro- sex worker stickers and shirts to serve as campaign materials/fundraising items to get the project self-sustaining.  I'd rather not have to pay for everything myself, since I'm already investing a lot of time in this.

If you'd like to contribute, you can do so via Paypal on swaay.org.

SWAAY will not be a tax-deductible 501c(3) organization, since that's a ton of work, requires a number of people to make their personal information public and sit on a board, and there's not going to be so much money flowing through it that it will matter to most donors.  Hassle, privacy, and ROI fail.

I also need survey participants: sex workers, already-interested allies, and complete outsiders.

As I decide how to structure the educational web site and put a lot of thought into what most needs to be conveyed (and how), I need to do some market research.  I'm looking for people who can give me 15-20 minutes of their time during the month of February.  Could this be you?  Awesome!  I would like this group to mostly be Americans, but you don't have to be.  [UPDATE: SURVEY CLOSED, THANK YOU!]





16 Comments

  1. 'Most people don't even know the term "sex worker," and many who do think that's just the PC way to say "hooker."'

    That is what I thought. Enlighten me.

    Comment by Austin — February 8, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

  2. Email at sway.org? So I'm literally going to type that into the address bar? I didn't see another email anywhere.

    Comment by Kkay — February 9, 2011 @ 11:17 pm

  3. Austin: I don't have the time and space to explain everything here (that's what SWAAY is for), but you can start checking out my links on the right sidebar to get an idea of what different sex workers do.

    Kkay: In your mail program, you type swaay [at sign] swaay.org, like you would any other email address. When one posts their full email address online as a link, spam bots pick it up, so many people spell it out to avoid that problem.

    Comment by Furry Girl — February 10, 2011 @ 6:16 am

  4. There is a website in the Uk that also comes under that name that deals with abused children, so a bit of a clash there unfortunately, as its an excellent idea.

    http://www.swaay.co.uk/

    Comment by Teegan Fox — February 13, 2011 @ 5:34 am

  5. I embrace your project and I totally agree with you and Amandas blog entry http://www.texasgoldengirl.com/afterhours/escort-bell-curve/. your thoughts reflect the exact same situation in Europe and UK (discussion about represention, privilege and discourse i.e. Douglas Fox http://harlotsparlour.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/are-you-one-of-the-in-crowd/) and my discomfort. Last autumn I was searching sexworkers to come forward, to join and to play their texts in a Berlin theatre-project LULU-die Nuttenrepublik (hookers republic). And I had only 8 days time for recruitement. And you know what happened? I was surprised, astonishing, I found sexworkers from all backgrounds, three streetgirls in a team of 12. And all we have a lots in common and I know from many talks in U.S., U.K and Germany that the majority doesnt know anything about the sexworker rights movement and their mistrust against privileged voices of ambitious sexworker voices and some cliques. I wish you a great success for your new project and I guess it will come. There a so many unheard voices out there and it depends from your speech to get response.

    Comment by Ariane — February 13, 2011 @ 7:19 am

  6. I wish you the best with this project. We need something similar here in the UK/Europe. To often sex worker rights are high jacked by those for whom the political motivation seems more important than the basic human rights issues that are at the heart of the issue. Sex workers are not clichéd caricatures but so often the characterisation of our work on both sides of the argument results in the voices of the majority being lost.
    I have mentioned you new idea on harlots Parlour and if the blog or myself can help in any way just let me know.

    Comment by Douglas Fox — February 13, 2011 @ 9:36 am

  7. OK -- let's see if I can send you a contribution; I'll try to figure out how money orders work from outside the US.

    I think I could manage 15-20 minutes at some point during February. I'm an outsider (not a sex worker, never have been; in fact I never had direct contact with sex workers, except for one prostitute who happened to be a neighbor and an acquaintance when I was in grad school and whom I never saw professionally). Would I still be useful?

    Comment by Asehpe — February 13, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

  8. Teegan: Yeah, I saw there was another group called SWAAY, but honestly, every acronym is taken. It's not like I'm using NRA or PETA or something that's likely to confuse the masses. I'm just thrilled I could actually find a 4-5 letter acronym that both made sense and had an available domain name

    Ariane: Thank you. I'm hoping to see more normal sex workers get involved (even in very small ways) in politics. I'm not a total normal myself, but I still am not a part of the punky feminist sex worker cliques in the US.

    Douglas: I have to admit, I don't follow your blog (I've only read a few posts here at there), but I'll make time to soon. We seem to have similar ideas.

    Asehpe: I'll have a proper donation method in a month or so, so don't worry if you don't want to hassle with mailing things. I just wanted to put it out there for people who don't mind. If you'd like to do a survey, whatever your background is, drop me an email.

    Comment by Furry Girl — February 13, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

  9. We need something like this in the UK. Desperately. But I'm hoping that, although SWAAY will have a US slant, a lot of the information will be transferable to a UK market. I hope. Britain has a different view on sex workers, from what I've seen... we have high-profile "out" sex workers, such as Belle de Jour (who is very successful, although still has her vociferous critics, which is despicable) and Anna Span (most people don't know who she is, but they should!). But some people are just labouring under the impression that all sex workers are just cheap whores. Wrong!

    I wish you every success, activism is cool. And, although I am well aware that you won't be making any, I'd totally wear a SWAAY T-shirt.

    Comment by Innocent Loverboy — February 16, 2011 @ 10:18 am

  10. Count me in. I'm a part timer. I work full time as an engineer, and the sex work that got me through college is now just a quiet sideline.

    You can find me at my blog, or at
    jennie(dot)erwin(at)gmail(dot)com

    Comment by Jennie — February 16, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

  11. Innocent Loverboy: The aim of the site is to cover all areas of sex work with a US slant, but I imagine that much of it is applicable to other Westernized countries like the UK.

    Jennie: I'll be posting more in the coming weeks/months about what people can do to help.

    Comment by Furry Girl — February 19, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

  12. I agree with you about obstructionist bureaucracy. However perhaps there is a way that is beyond :"benevolent dictatorship". Consider that unless and until we all overcome our ego and our drama we will be limited in our communication. Of course we may need our ego and drama in cases involving ABSOLUTE physical necessity. However, there needs to be discussion of what physical necessity really is, as opposed to the EMOTIONAL need for emotional, ie future security, etc., ie when physical necessity is ABSOLUTE vs. when it is RELATIVE. If you are interested in such a discussion please call me (973 484-1023) and/or consider googling Barbara Todish for my writing. I am a former sex worker.

    Comment by Barbara Todish — April 5, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  13. Check out my angry little expose on where the anti-prostitution money is coming from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V--n8nV9Oqo

    Comment by FeministWhore — April 5, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

  14. Comment by Trackbacks — August 22, 2017 @ 4:36 pm

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