by Furry Girl

09.20.13

Anti-sex work activists endlessly harp on the specter of the multi-billion dollar sex industry.  They never want to talk about how individual sex workers only make fairly modest incomes, and for generally short periods of time.  It's easier to set up all of us sinners as obscenely wealthy, because it makes it easier for average people to resent us.  This contributes to a culture of disrespect for sex workers where the public thinks we're not only lazy and gauche, we also get a 6-figure check every time we disrobe.  It's a tactic of othering sex workers to a country that has been struggling a lot financially since the recession.  And it's a very successful one.

When I was making the opposition tracker on SWAAY.org, I thought about trying to create a comprehensive list of how much profit there is to be made in anti-sex worker activism.  As sex workers, we're constantly having our campaigns dismissed on the grounds that everything we say must be a lie because we have a financial stake in sex work.  It drives me crazy that it's a one-sized argument, as though only sex workers profit from sex work.  Your average sex worker makes substantially less than an anti-sex worker academic or nonprofit, so who really has a "financial incentive" to say what they say?

Some Twitter exchanges made me realize I should post the data I already collected, and I decided to update the tax returns for some popular foundations that oppose sex workers rights.  Catherine MacKinnon's base salary statement was obtained a couple of years ago with a FOIA request against her employer, the University of Michigan, a state-funded university.  (They have to disclose if you ask, google for "FOIA template" for the format.)  The other tax returns are from 501(c)3 nonprofits, which make them public information.

Catherine MacKinnon's base salary (not including bonuses, insurance, speaking engagements, writing, and tours) was $273,000 for 9 months of work in 2009 (page 386, huge file) and $280,000 for 9 months of work in 2010 (page 394, huge file).

The biggest winner is, of course, the Hunt Alternatives Fund, which took in a whopping $12,976,136 in 2012.  A 20-hour a week job at this foundation paid one "advisor" $101,562 in salary and benefits!  Under "direct charitable activities," HAF say they spent $1,409,171 "eradicating the demand for purchased sex."  While Swanee Hunt and family were the top donors, this foundation also received an even one million dollars from Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Shared Hope International (which campaigns against prostitution among other activities), which raked in $2,253,367 in 2011.

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women raked in $1,161,729 in 2012.

Fireproof Ministries, which runs XXXChurch, raked in $610,719 in 2011.  $102,350 of this went directly into the pocket of Craig Gross in the form of a salary.  (I've never netted that much as a pornographer!  I should have gotten into running anti-porn sites.)

Shelley Lubben's Pink Cross Foundation raked in $137,183 in 2012.  Shelley officially draws a modest $57,640 in salary and compensation.

Melissa Farley (who has glowingly referred to sex workers as "house niggers") heads a group called Prostitution Research and Education, which raked in a mere $81,958 in 2012.

Cite these figures when you're talking to people who think that our side is the only one with something financial to gain.  I wish I knew more about individual anti-sex worker activists. I still want to flesh out the anti-sex worker activist tracker.  Let me know if you have links to add.





by Furry Girl

04.01.12

It being tax season, I realized it would be appropriate to post a financial summary for SWAAY.  Here's a copy of what's now on swaay.org/about.html:

Are donations to SWAAY tax deductible? Where does the money go?

SWAAY is not a federally-registered 501(c)3 nonprofit, and your donations are not tax deductible. Becoming an official nonprofit costs a lot of time and money, and requires having a board of directors that disclose their legal identities. This is an additional barrier to sex worker organizing, because most sex workers do not want to publicize our legal names.

As of April 2012, SWAAY is currently $2297.32 in debt for what has been spent to establish the project. During our first year of operation, 2011, expenses broke down as follows: 65% for printing shirts, stickers, and buttons; 14% of for office supplies and shipping; 12% for web site related costs and advertising; 8% for bank fees and credit card interest; and 1% for miscellaneous expenses.

SWAAY is a genuine volunteer-based grassroots project without a paid staff. No one who has worked on SWAAY has received payment other than stickers and/or a complimentary SWAAY shirt.

I've had detractors (who've never even met me or been involved in activism themselves) accuse me of using SWAAY as a personal profit-making project, as though there must be untold riches to be made selling sex workers' rights shirts.  Nope, I've never paid myself a penny, and I have no plans to draw a salary.  My goal as an activist is always to just break even with what I spend, and I would feel weird drawing a salary for my "volunteering" endeavors.  I think it's a good thing for nonprofit and activist projects to disclose whether their organizer(s) makes their living from running the project.  (That doesn't mean they're bad people or the project is corrupt, but I favor transparency.)

So, as I said, SWAAY is about $2300 in the hole.  (It has its own credit card which I used to start the project, and am now working on paying off.)  If you'd like to donate or buy some awesome merchandise, it's appreciated.  I would love to do more public outreach projects like the sex worker billboard, but all those things take money, and I'm not willing to rack up any more credit card debt at this time.





by Furry Girl

02.21.12

One of my readers sent me Sun Tzu's classic book The Art of War, and I thought I would quote and comment on certain passages that I'd consider relevant to sex workers' rights activists.  For those unfamiliar with the small public domain book, it's considered the instruction manual on warfare strategy, written about 2200 years ago by a Chinese general, and still used today.  You've no doubt seen quotes from it before, even if you didn't recognize them as such, and you can read more about its history on Wikipedia.  Below are some snippets I especially liked, and comments on how they apply to us.

The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.

This is a blanket critique I have of a lot of activism: people focus on the acting bit without really gaming out whether what they're doing is likely to be effective, or how it fits into a long-term strategy.  Yes, action is necessary, and exciting, and makes you "feel activisty," but when it's done without a plan, it's wasting valuable time and energy that could be spent on a targeted project.

Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy.  One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own.

I've given a lot of thought to this concept this year - the basic premise of guerilla warfare that says it's smart to use one's enemies resources against them, especially when they are stronger than you.  I'm not sure how to implement this with sex workers' rights, but I think the collective "we" have done a good job with trying to use the media spotlight on Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's anti-sex worker campaign to get attention for our issues.  Another thing I pushed for earlier was that any tweet with the word trafficking shows up on the front page of the DNA Foundation's web site, which uses their celebrity web site to hopefully get some clicks and visibility for the truth behind sex trafficking hysteria.  (This still holds true, so tweet away.)  We're up against wealthy, politically-connected opponents who are experts at using emotional and fear to control conversations; using that very power and strength against them should always be a top consideration with campaign strategy.  If we aren't big enough to get much attention on our own yet, riding the media coattails of celebrities and their well-promoted events may be the best shot.

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

I like this list, most importantly the last two items.  As every sex worker activist quickly discovers, trying to change the world by immersing oneself in protracted debates with the extreme of the anti-porn and anti-sex worker crowd is pointless, emotionally taxing, and detracts from doing important things.  While some sex bloggers and pseudo-allies tirelessly promote the idea of wasting time picking fights with the opposition on Twitter and in blog comment wars, we all really need to stop wasting out time on silly battles with people who will never in a million years support us.  They have already beaten you if you spend your time with them instead of reaching out to the real public and people who are on the fence.  I am totally guilty of spending too much time in earlier years fighting with anti-porn extremists, so please learn from my mistakes.  Stop besieging walled cities.

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.  He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.  He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.  He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

Item one especially.  This comes again to the issue of knowing when and where to best spend your energies.

Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.  If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

As an author of the inventory of anti-sex worker activists, I obviously support gaining a better understanding of exactly who we are up against.  These are dangerous and often powerful assholes, but they are still people with strengths and weaknesses like anyone else.  Knowing their motivations, histories, and alliances is vital to our work.  On the flip side, knowing our own issues inside and out, including our vulnerabilities, is also vital.

Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.

Almost all sex worker activism in the US revolves around creating art, navel-gazing about "the true" meaning of feminism, and community/subculture-building.  There's very little being done to take the offensive position.  It's important to have projects that proactively get our message out there, educate people, and tackle portions of the criminal code, rather than resigning ourselves to reacting to situations like the murders of sex workers, bad laws being passed, or media campaigns from religious groups with deep pockets.

How to be more proactive is one of my top concerns.  Since public education is the area where we're the weakest, and we need public support in order to make political gains, I do my best to make sex work issues accessible and relevant to as many members of the general population as possible.  If I had actual funding for this, I'd love to do even more with public education, but since there's been little financial support, SWAAY's public outreach campaign at something of a standstill.  I don't have the the luxury to make SWAAY both my unpaid part-time job and spend lots of money on it out of my own pocket.  (I'm still something like $2500 in the hole for what I've spent on SWAAY related expenses.)

We can form a single united body, while the enemy must be split up into fractions.  Hence there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means we shall be many to the enemy's few.

I'd love to see sex workers, on a national level, come together around more projects.  The only thing that seems to unite American sex workers' rights activists is a love of pretentiously opining about "what does feminism mean, and does it mean something meaningful for us feminists who crave meaning?" nonsense.  Imagine all that could be accomplished if those countless thousands of hours were spent on something that mattered.

He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.

While anti-sex worker activists are often absolute nutjobs, that doesn't mean they're not also very cunning.  At the 2010 Desiree Alliance conference, Nina Hartley made a great comment in her keynote, which I believe was phrased, "I don't think of them as prudes, I think of them as predators."  Don't let their absurd ideas and conservative backwardness lull you into thinking they're easy to beat or not excellent strategists.

If we know that the enemy is open to attack, but are unaware that our own men are not in a condition to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory.

For me, the recent Google campaign is a great example of this.  I spent two weeks working full time on that to make it happen, ignoring all of my other responsibilities for half a month. It was a campaign that had a good chance of seeing success, but no matter how hard I was pushing, it just didn't catch on.  SWOP Bay Area and SWOP LA joined in, which was so awesome, but after lots of begging and pleading, I couldn't get any other cities to spend even one hour at a protest I'd pre-packaged for them.

We lack a national response framework for when things come up in our community like Google giving millions to anti-sex worker lobbyists.  It seems like a lot of the people who identify as "sex worker activists," for all their online bluster about whore power, are stone-cold terrified of actually being seen in public as sex workers, and handing out polite flyers about why sex workers' rights are important.  I wish I could fast-forward to the future when there's enough of a cohesive, non-closeted movement where it doesn't take hours and hours to find even one person to join me in a protest - in a major American city filled with sex workers and "sex-positives."  As I said to someone in a private exchange, it felt like I was trying to recruit people to be suicide bombers or something - the idea of attending a non-confrontational daylight demonstration was a step too far for most "activists."  (Cheers to my Seattle protest buddy @ishfery who made Google her very first protest.  We need more people willing to get offline for a little while and make a difference.)  It was a disheartening project for me to work on overall, but I am glad that it did get some news attention, and hundreds of flyers were handed out to the public in three locations.

Looking at the fizzled out Google campaign makes me worried about making much bigger plans within the next 10 years, though.  If it's too much work to show up at a location and hand out flyers that someone else wrote for you, then how the hell is anyone going to have the stamina to even file the paperwork for permission to collect signatures to begin the process of trying to chip away at bad laws through ballot initiatives?  Or if an hour of one's time is too much, then how can we afford teams of lawyers to mount constitutional challenges to anti-sex work laws?  We have to crawl before we can run marathons, and I wish there were more people ready to even attempt the crawling phase.  I know there are wonderful and hard-working ho activists around the country, but the ratio of those types to people who only (re)tweet and (re)blog about the issues is disappointing.

Anyway, get out there, and wage some (smart) war!





by Furry Girl

12.20.11

I've spent almost the entire last 5 days researching the groups that Google is now funding.  Please see the campaign page and read something I've put a lot of time info!

Why are sex workers' rights supporters upset with Google?

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 in around the world: International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, and Not for Sale. As small 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.)

Does Google know what their money is really supporting? Let's take a look at what you won't read about on the front pages these groups' glossy web sites.

Continue >>>

Also, I'll be protesting outside of Google's Seattle building on Wednesday from 2-4pm (on the bridge next to it, to be specific).  There are also protests in other locations, too, so check the campaign page.  Please join me so I don't have to feel like a lonely sad protester.





by Furry Girl

12.14.11

This morning, I saw a tweet from a nerd that I knew was going to mean bad news: Google is donating $11.5 million to "fight modern slavery".  And what have we learned that politically-loaded phrase usually means?  It means "fighting to imprison and further criminalize vulnerable sex workers in the developing world."

Looks like the next campaign idea I've been looking to find for SWAAY has just popped up.

In the next few days, I'll have a better idea for a response to Google getting into the anti-sex worker business under the banner of "stopping sex slave trafficking," but for now, I'd appreciate any more information on the groups I'm not familiar with.  For one, I'm not sure if I even have a full list of the organizations Google is funding, so if you know someone at Google, I'd appreciate having them check.  Google's own charity giving web site has the list below, but I'm not sure if it's a complete one.  It's not exclusively anti-sex worker groups, but IJM, the Polaris Project, and Not For Sale are known foes.

ActionAid India
Aide et Action
BBC World Service Trust
Slavery Footprint
International Justice Mission
La Strada International
Not for Sale
Polaris Project
GoodWeave

Please post information in my comments area, I want to flesh out this subject so we know who exactly Google is funding, and what those groups do to sex workers to "save" them.  If you're not already familiar with how Western NGOs hurt sex workers in the developing world, please browse the video collection at Sex Workers Present, which is mostly from South East Asia.





by Furry Girl

11.10.11

After 8 days of rolling around Los Angeles, the billboard run concluded yesterday.  (We were given a full bonus day because winds last week prevented the company from being able to safely deploy.  That sounded weird to me at first, but looking at the billboard trailer, I can see how wind could easily tip the thing over.)

I've posted more photos (sent by the awesome Stacey Swimme, who also handled press inquiries) here, but here's a couple that give you the basic idea of the project:

The billboard didn't get the response I would have expected from the media.  I didn't think we'd make front-page headlines, but I thought that we would garner more blurbs.  Maybe the press is burnt out on covering protesty topics because of the Occupy thing, maybe this isn't that interesting to them, or maybe having a mobile billboard made it more difficult to be able to report on.  I think the only media coverage (outside of sex worker blogs) were these four items:

* LAist covered the billboard 3 months ago when fundraising concluded.
* LA Weekly covered the story on their blog, no idea if it made it into the print issue.  The article is inexplicably illustrated with a photo of an Asian woman licking a toe.
* XBiz, a porn/novelty industry trade magazine/site covered the billboard.  This is the first time I've ever seen the phrase "sex work" on the front page of their web site, which makes me happy, because so many porn people like to think they are different/better than other sex workers.
* ABC local news in LA did a story, which was supposedly positive, but there's no video online.

But, press or no press, countless thousands of people in LA had a chance to read a definition of what a sex worker is, and I hope that the project has helped spark a lot of conversations.  I'm very proud that something I organized got off the ground, and I'm already wondering where to take a public awareness campaign next.





by Furry Girl

11.01.11

Los Angeles, CA, November 1, 2011 -- After being rejected by every billboard company in Los Angeles, the sex workers' rights project SWAAY (Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You) has launched their public awareness campaign with a mobile billboard, which will be running for eight days from November 1 to November 8, 2011.

SWAAY's text-only billboard reads, "Sex worker: a person who consensually exchanges their own sexual labor or sexual performance for compensation. Sex work is not the same as forced sex trafficking or sex slavery. Learn about the people and facts behind sex work at SWAAY.org." Any variation of the group's message was banned by Clear Channel, CBS, Lamar, Regency, Van Wagner, Avant Outdoor, LA Transit Authority, and Outdoor Solutions, but was finally picked up by a mobile billboard company.

The sex workers' rights billboard was paid for by 115 supporters on EpicStep.com, a Kickstarter-like website that allows grassroots activist groups to crowdsource the funding of a media campaign. Previous billboards successfully launched through Epic Step include messages in support of WikiLeaks and accused war crimes whistle-blower Bradley Manning.

SWAAY was founded in June of this year to address the public's misconceptions due to the lack of factual and accessible information about sex work, and to fight against the outright lies and "junk science" statistics pushed by moral and religious crusaders who advocate for further criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers.

A sex worker is a person who exchanges their own sexual labor or sexual performance for compensation, such as an escort/prostitute, porn star, stripper, dominatrix, phone sex operator, sensual masseuse, or web cam performer. Sex workers are part of the larger sex industry - which includes adult movie directors, club owners, webmasters, retail stores, and more - but are distinct because their job involves making money off of their own sexual labor, not writing about, photographing, managing, or selling the sexual labor or performances of others.

The St. James Infirmary, a San Francisco clinic that provides free healthcare to sex workers, has faced similar struggles this month with their own media campaign. Originally planning to use billboards to spread their "Someone You Know is a Sex Worker" message, the nonprofit's ads were rejected by Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor, but eventually found a home on Muni buses.

"Bad laws and hurtful social stigmas work together in a vicious cycle that makes life more dangerous and difficult for the people who engage in sex work," says Sabrina Melmoth, a volunteer with the group. "SWAAY seeks to chip away at both problems by sharing non-sensationalized, first-person information about life as a sex worker, and advocating for the full decriminalization of sex work."

A press conference will be held later this week.

###





by Furry Girl

10.13.11

At fucking last!

Despite having completed the billboard fundraiser almost two months ago - thanks to 115 awesome supporters - the SWAAY billboard campaign has been on hold.  I haven't been trying to keep anyone in the dark, but every time it seemed like headway was being made, the billboard would get shut down by someone else, which is frustrating.  Even now, after signing a contract, agreeing upon a start date, and the billboard itself having been printed, I'm still nervous to publicize that date, because it feels like jinxing things.

Every major (and many minor) outdoor advertising companies in LA rejected the pro-sex worker billboard, leaving our ad guys guys at Epic Step pretty shocked that a polite text-only billboard would encounter such a massive wall of resistance.  (San Francisco's St James Infirmary has also faced an uphill struggle lately to find a company willing to accept their money.  Their ad campaign ended up finding a home with Muni bus ads.)  I really have to hand to to Epic Step, as the small company went above and beyond to find a way to get our message out.

The billboard was rejected by Clear Channel, CBS, Lamar, Regency, Van Wagner, Avant Outdoor, LA Transit Authority, and Outdoor Solutions.  However, the big three companies are no strangers to taking money from controversial causes and campaigns.  Clear Channel, Lamar, and CBS have hosted billboards featuring racist, anti-gay, anti-church/state separation, and anti-sex worker/anti-client billboards.  On the other hand, CBS and Lamar have hosted pro-marijuana ones, and CBS had a WikiLeaks billboard, so these companies are no strangers to "weird" causes that I support, either.

You can click see a large version.

This is not to say that I think people should not be allowed to express views that differ from my own, simply to point out that the big three advertising companies have no problem with other controversial campaigns.  They are clearly making decisions with who they're willing to do business - which is their right - but they've decided that the ad dollars of religious nutjobs, the police, racists, bigots, and even those who are (potentially) breaking laws are more acceptable than the ad dollars of sex workers.  (I'm pretty flattered that sex work is even more controversial to ad companies than WikiLeaks, honestly.)

In the end, the guys at Epic Step found RoadSign Adverts for us, which is a mobile billboard company.  Mobile billboards seem to be a bit of a "last resort" option for those rejected from the mainstream, and have been favored by folk like strip clubs and anti-abortion activists.  SWAAY's billboard will (assuming nothing else goes wrong) be starting later this month, and will be driving around in LA for 7 days.  I'm hoping that maybe this will be a blessing in disguise, and that the mobile billboard, because of their rarity, will garner even more attention than a standard stationary billboard.  The mobile billboards are more expensive, so what we fundraised to pay for 4 weeks of a standard billboard only buys us 7 days of a mobile one.

Since the billboard size was a bit different than a stationary billboard - taller, but less wide - I did change the text very slightly to make it fit better. I imagine supporters wouldn't mind.  Here's what LA is going to be seeing soon:

So, three cheers for Epic Step and RoadSign Adverts!  I'll write a proper press release for distribution when the truck starts running, but for now, I wanted to bitch about the backstory and rejections.  Also, looking ahead, I've asked Epic Step to start feeling out billboard companies in New York City and Washington DC, since I would like to make this a national campaign.  I don't know if I'll start the next fundraiser in November or in the new year, since holidays have everyone vying for donations and money, but we'll see.  I'm excited to see what kind of attention this project is going to generate.





by Furry Girl

10.03.11

My sex workers' rights information project, SWAAY.org, has been up and running for nearly 4 months now.  The majority of traffic to the site has been direct type-ins, which means people are coming to the site not from clicking links on other web sites, but from hearing the URL and typing it in on their own.  I like the idea of publicity for the site being mostly word-of-mouth.

But what about people who aren't finding SWAAY.org because they heard about it or saw a sticker somewhere?  The big common theme to the search queries used to find the site is that they are questions.  Over and over, people are coming to the site because they have questions about sex work, and I'm really happy to be able to provide them with answers written by sex workers with experience in their fields.  The most common search query
used to find the site has been some variation of, "what is it like to be a prostitute/escort?"  People are curious, and curiosity is the first vital step towards learning something.

Here are a bunch of search queries that have been used lately to find SWAAY.org - many of them used more than once - I thought people might find them interesting:

Also, in looking over the search queries, the other important thing to note is that most of them seem to be coming from members of the general public (and possibly aspiring sex workers).  While most sex workers' rights projects focus on sex work issues for sex workers, my focus is on reaching regular people.  It's hard to measure, but based on looking at my web stats, I think I'm succeeding.

 





by Furry Girl

09.29.11

I'm seeking the best links about leading anti-sex worker activists and groups to add to the opposition page on SWAAY.org.  (Most of the page was already compiled from the extensive notes kept by sex-positivity rockstar Megan Andelloux.)  I'm looking for two types of things: blog posts, articles, and videos debunking them, and particularly offensive articles and videos where the person describes their politics in their own words.  (Everything some of these people say offends the shit out of me, but sometimes they sound more crazy and cruel than other times.)

So please, post your suggestions in the comments.  I am currently looking to create and expand profiles on the following people and organizations, but am open to other suggestions, too.

* Catherine MacKinnon
* Gail Dines
* Donna Hughes
* DNA Foundation
* Melissa Farley
* Michael Leahy
* Pamela Paul
* The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
* Shelley Lubben
* Shared Hope International
* Captive Daughters
* Robert Brannon
* Janice Raymond
* Craig Gross
* Lisa Thompson
* Robert Jensen
* Rebecca Whisnant
* Janice Crouse
* Karen McLaughlin

In general, I aim to use SWAAY.org to 1) get normal people interested in sex work issues and informed of the basics and terminology, and then 2) funnel them to more specific resources written for various topics.  I'm not trying to be lazy - I truly believe that someone else has already done a better job of writing about many topics than I could.  So, point me to those links!

(Also, I'm still trying to populate the "respect" section of the site with tips from an array of current and former sex workers, so check out the submissions page.)





Go back to older posts »

Furry Girl: legs now closed for business.

My adult sites

More of me online

Enjoy my writing? I enjoy presents!

Browse by topic

New to my blog? Some favorite posts

Vaguely similar blogs

Sex workers' rights info

Search

RSS